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Map of the world according to Zakariya al-Qazwini showing his view of how the universe is structured and how sky and earth are supported. The Earth is considered flat and surrounded by a series of mountains —including Mount Qaf— that hold it in its place like pegs; the Earth is supported by an ox that stands on Bahamut dwelling in a cosmic ocean; the ocean is inside a bowl that sits on top of an angel or jinn.[1]

Bahamut or Bahamot (/bəˈhɑːmt/ bə-HAH-moot; Arabic: بهموت‎‎ Bahamūt) is a large fish that supports the earth in Arabian mythology.[2][3] In some sources, Bahamut is described as having a head resembling a hippopotamus or elephant.[4]


In Arabic mythology, Bahamut is a giant fish acting as one of the layers that supports the earth.[2] In Jorge Luis Borges' Book of Imaginary Beings, Bahamut is "altered and magnified"[3] from Behemoth and described as so immense that a human cannot bear its sight; "[all] the seas of the world, placed in one of the fish's nostrils, would be like a mustard seed laid in the desert."[3]

Edward William Lane cites two cosmological accounts from Ibn al-Wardi (d. 1348) that feature Bahamut. One account describes Bahamut as a fish floating in water, supported by darkness. On the fish is a bull called Kujata,[2][5][6] on the bull, a ruby mountain; on the mountain, an angel; the angel holds and supports the seven earths.[2] In another account, Bahamut supports a bed of sand, on which stands a bull, on whose back rests a rock which holds the waters in which the earth is located. Beneath the fish are layers of suffocating wind, a veil of darkness, and mist.[2] Other sources describe Behemoth as a layer in similar conceptions of Arabic cosmography.[4][3]

According to Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges, Bahamut is the giant fish that Jesus beholds in the 496th night of the One Thousand and One Nights. Bahamut in this telling is a giant fish swimming in a vast ocean. It carries a bull on its head; the bull bears a rock, and above the rock is an angel who carries the seven stages of the earths. Beneath Bahamut is an abyss of air, then fire, and beneath that a giant serpent called Falak.[7]

Upon seeing Bahamut, Jesus (Isa) passes into unconsciousness:

At this sight Isa fell down aswoon, and when he came to himself, Allah spake to him by inspiration, saying, 'O Isa, hast thou seen the fish and comprehended its length and its breadth?' He replied, 'By Thy honour and glory, O Lord, I saw no fish; but there passed me by a great bull, whose length was three days' journey, and I know not what manner of thing this bull is.' Quoth Allah, 'O Isa, this that thou sawest and which was three days in passing by thee, was but the head of the fish; and know that every day I create forty fishes like unto this.'[7]

Borges cites the idea of Bahamut as part of a layered cosmology as an illustration of the cosmological proof of the existence of God, which infers a first cause from the impossibility of infinite prior causes.[3] He also draws parallels between Bahamut and the mythical Japanese fish Jinshin-Uwo.[8]

See also[edit]

  • Makara or Kar Mahi an analogue from Indo-Iranian cultural sphere
  • Gaokerena the mythical white haoma tree being guarded by analogue mythical creatures
  • Atlas (mythology), a rough analogue from Greek mythology
  • Dandan, another large fish in Arabian mythology


  1. ^ Zakariya al-Qazwini. ʿAjā'ib al-makhlūqāt wa gharā'ib al-mawjūdāt (The Wonders of Creation). Original published in 1553 AD
  2. ^ a b c d e Lane, Edward William (1883). Arabian society in the middle ages: studies from the Thousand and one nights. London: Chatto & Windus. pp. 106–107. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Borges, Jorge Luis; Guerrero, Margarita (2002). Book of Imaginary Beings. Norman Thomas di Giovanni (trans.). London: Vintage. pp. 25–26. ISBN 0-09-944263-9. 
  4. ^ a b Rose, Carol (2001). Giants, Monsters, and Dragons: An Encyclopedia of Folklore, Legend, and Myth. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. p. 37. ISBN 0-393-32211-4. 
  5. ^ Borges, 89.
  6. ^ Sykes, Egerton; Alan Kendall (1993). Who's Who in Non-Classical Mythology. London: J. M. Dent. p. 28. ISBN 0-460-86136-0. 
  7. ^ a b Burton, Richard F. "The Book of a Thousand Nights and One, Volume 5: The Adventures of Bulukiya". Wollamshram World. Archived from the original on 5 November 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-21. 
  8. ^ Borges, 87.