Hudud al-'Alam

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Ḥudūd al-ʿĀlam (Persian: حدود العالم‎; an originally Arabic phrase meaning "The Limits of The World") is a tenth-century geography book written in the Persian language by an unknown author from Jōzjān.[1]


Finished in 982 CE, it was dedicated to Abu l-Ḥārith Muḥammad bin ʿAbd-Allāh, a ruler of the local Farīghūnid dynasty. Its author is unknown, but Vladimir Minorsky has surmised that it might have been written by the enigmatic Šaʿyā bin Farīghūn, author of a pioneer encyclopedia of the sciences, the Jawāmeʿ al-ʿUlum, for an amir of Čaghāniān on the upper Oxus in the mid-10th century.[2] The Ḥudūd al-ʿĀlam is part of a larger work, consisting of:

  1. A copy of the Jahān-Nāma ("Book of The World") by Muḥammad ibn Najīb Bakrān;
  2. A short passage about music;
  3. The Ḥudūd al-ʿĀlam;
  4. The Jāmiʿ al-ʿUlūm ("Collection of Knowledge") by Faḫr ad-Din ar-Razi;

The Ḥudūd al-ʿĀlam contains information about the known world. The anonymous author reports about different countries (nāḥiyat), people, languages, clothing, food, religion, local products, towns and cities, rivers, seas, lakes, islands, the steppe, deserts, topography, politics and dynasties, as well as trade. The inhabited world is divided in Asia, Europe and "Libya" (i.e. Africa). The author counts a total of 45 different countries north of the equator.

The author never visited those countries personally, but was inspired and guided by earlier works, for example by al-Istakhri's Book of The Paths And Provinces (Arabic: كتاب المسالك والممالك‎ - kitāb al-masālik wa l-mamālik),[3] or by the works of al-Jayhānī and Ibn Ḫurradādhbih.

Rediscovery and translation[edit]

The Russian orientalist A.G. Tumanskiy found the manuscript with the unique copy of this text in 1892 in Bukhara. It was written by the Persian chronographer Abu l-Mu'ayyad ʿAbd al-Qayyūm ibn al-Ḥusain ibn 'Alī al-Farīsī in 1258.[1] The facsimile edition with introduction and index was published by W. Barthold in 1930; the thoroughly commented English translation was made by V. Minorsky in 1937, and a printed Persian text by M. Sotude in 1961.


The sections of its geographical treatise which describes the margins of Islamic world, are of the greatest historical importance. The work also includes important early descriptions of the Turkic tribes in Central Asia.[4] Also noteworthy is the archaic language and style of the Ḥudud which makes it a valuable linguistic document as well.[2]


  • V. Minorsky (Hrsg.): Hudud al-Alam. The regions of the world: a Persian geography, 372 A.H. - 982 A.D., translated and explained by V. Minorsky ; with the preface by V. V. Barthold, London 1937
  • C. E. Bosworth in: Encyclopaedia of Islam. New Edition, s.v. ḤUDŪD AL-ʿĀLAM

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b C. E. Bosworth in: Encyclopaedia of Islam. New Edition, s.v. ḤUDŪD AL-ʿĀLAM
  2. ^ a b C. E. Bosworth in: Encyclopaedia Iranica. Online ed., 2010, ḤODUD AL-ʿĀLAM
  3. ^ Fr. Taeschner in Encyclopaedia of Islam. New Edition, s.v. DJUGHRĀFĪYA
  4. ^ Maqbul Ahmad in: C. E. Bosworth and M. S. Asimov (Hrsg.): History of Civilizations of Central Asia. Vol. IV, Part II, Paris 1992, p. 221