Encyclopedia of Medieval Philosophy

2011 Edition
| Editors: Henrik Lagerlund

al-Balkhī, Abū Zayd

  • Hans Hinrich Biesterfeldt
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-9729-4_73

Abstract

Despite Abū Zayd al-Balkhī’s (d. 934 CE) extensive and multifarious bibliography, he is known today almost exclusively as an author of geographical works and the founder of the so-called Balkhī School, a type of geographical writing that combines – highly stylized – regional maps of the Islamic world with detailed descriptions of its provinces, including information on climate, agriculture, etc. Regrettably, Abū Zayd’s geographical work is lost, surviving only in later adaptations, as are almost all his works dealing with the Hellenistic scholarly, particularly philosophical, heritage on the one hand and with Islamic theology and Qurʾānic scholarship on the other – the latter an object of some praise from his contemporaries and later biographers. Abū Zayd’s wide-ranging interests (which include topics of traditional Arabic culture) are shared by al-Sarakhsī (d. 899 CE), and both their “encyclopedic” outlooks belong to the tradition of the “philosopher of the Arabs,” al-Kindī (d. soon after 870). Three fragments of works by Abū Zayd that are preserved as quotations – first on the definition of politics, second on the question of free will vis-à-vis divine determination, third on the typology of religious idols – show his independence of thought and ability to apply adequate categories; his one surviving monograph on the Welfare of Body and Soul is a witness to his limpid, elegant style and his virtuosity in integrating the Arabic–Islamic heritage, distinct elements of Sasanian political and ethical thought, and the Hellenistic philosophical and scientific tradition.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access

Bibliography

Primary Sources

  1. al-Balkhī Abū Zayd (1984) Sustenance for body and soul, ed. Sezgin F. Maṣāliḥ al-abdān wa’l-anfus. Series C: Facsimile editions, vol 2 (reproduced from MS 3741, Ayasofya Library, Istanbul). Institute for the History of Arabic-Islamic Science at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, Frankfurt am MainGoogle Scholar
  2. al-Balkhī Abū Zayd Aḥmad b. Sahl (2005) Maṣāliḥ al-abdān wa-l-anfus, taḥqīq wa-dirāsat Maḥmūd Miṣrī. Maʿhad al-makhṭūṭāt al-ʿarabiyya, al-QāhiraGoogle Scholar
  3. Zahide Özkan (1990) Die Psychosomatik bei Abū Zaid al-Balḫī […]. In: Sezgin F (ed) Veröffentlichungen des Institutes für Geschichte der Arabisch-Islamischen Wissenschaften. Reihe A: Texte und Studien, Bd. 4 (translation of part 2 of the Maṣāliḥ dealing with mental diseases). Institut für Geschichte der Arabisch-Islamischen Wissenschaften an der Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt am MainGoogle Scholar
  4. Primary Fragmentary Sources in TranslationGoogle Scholar
  5. Monnot Guy (1986) Islam et religions. Maisonneuve et Larose, Paris, pp 213–219 (on heathen idols)Google Scholar
  6. Rosenthal Franz (1975) Gambling in Islam. Brill, Leiden, pp 165–167 (on chess and backgammon)Google Scholar
  7. Rosenthal F (1989) Abū Zayd al-Balkhī on Politics. In: Bosworth CE et al (eds) The Islamic world, from classical to modern times. Essays in honor of Bernard Lewis. Darwin Press, Princeton, pp 287–301Google Scholar

Secondary Sources

  1. Reference WorksGoogle Scholar
  2. Brockelmann C (1937) Geschichte der arabischen Litteratur, Erster Supplementband. Brill, Leiden, p 408Google Scholar
  3. Kutluer İ (1992) Belhî, Ebû Zeyd. In: Türkiye Diyanet Vakfı İslam Ansiklopedisi, cilt 5. Türkiye Diyanet Vakfı, İstanbul, pp 412–414Google Scholar
  4. Watt WM (1985) Abū Zayd […] Balḵī. In: Yarshater E (ed) Encyclopaedia Iranica, vol 1. Routledge & Kegan Paul, London/Boston/Henley, pp 399–400Google Scholar
  5. Articles in Journals and Collective VolumesGoogle Scholar
  6. Biesterfeldt HH (1978) Notes on Abû Zayd al-Balḫî’s medico-ethical treatise Maṣâliḥ al-abdân wa-l-anfus. In: La signification du bas moyen âge dans l’histoire et la culture du monde musulman. Actes du 8me congrès de l’Union Européenne des Arabisants et Islamisants. Edisud, Aix-en-Provence, pp 29–34Google Scholar
  7. Biesterfeldt H (2005) Ein Philosoph trinkt Wein. In: Alltagsleben und materielle Kultur in der arabischen Sprache und Literatur. Festschrift für Heinz Grotzfeld zum 70. Geburtstag, […]. Steiner, Wiesbaden, pp 89–103Google Scholar
  8. De Goeje MJ (1871) Die Iṣṭaḫrī-Balḫī-Frage. Z Dtsch Morgenl Ges 25:42–58Google Scholar
  9. Hau FR (1975) Razis Gutachten über Rosenschnupfen. Medizin J 10:94–102Google Scholar
  10. Kramers JH (1932) La question Balḫī – Iṣṭaḫrī – Ibn Ḥawqal et l’atlas de l’Islam. Acta Orientalia 10:9–30Google Scholar
  11. Rowson EK (1990) The philosopher as littérateur: al-Tawḥīdī and his predecessors. Z Gesch Arab-Islam Wiss 6:50–92 (for Abū Zayd see pp 61–71)Google Scholar
  12. Savage-Smith E (2003) Memory and maps. In: Daftary F, Meri JW (eds) Culture and memory in medieval Islam. Essays in honour of Wilferd Madelung. Tauris, London/New York, pp 109–127Google Scholar
  13. Tibbets GR (1992) The Balkhī school of geographers. In: Harley JB, Woodward D (eds) The history of cartography, vol 2. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp 108–136Google Scholar
  14. Waines D (1994) Abū Zayd al-Balkhī on the nature of a forbidden drink: a medieval Islamic controversy. In: Marín M, Waines D (eds) La alimentación en las culturas islámicas. Agencia Española de Cooperación Internacional, Madrid, pp 111–127 (repr. Waines D (ed) Patterns of everyday life. Ashgate-Variorum, Aldershot, pp 329–344)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hans Hinrich Biesterfeldt
    • 1
  1. 1.Seminar für OrientalistikBochum UniversityBochumGermany