Ibn Duraid

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Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn al-Hasan ibn Duraid al-Azdi, often known simply as Ibn Duraid (Arabic: ابن دريد الأزدي‎‎; 837 – 933 CE), was a famous Arab poet, lexicographer and philologist during the Abbasid era.[1][2] He is best known for his early and influential dictionary of the Arabic language, Jamhara fi 'l-lugha,[3] which was only the second attempt in history to compose a comprehensive dictionary of the language.[4][5]


Ibn Duraid was born at what was then called "Salih street" in Basra during the reign of the Abbasid caliph Al-Mu'tasim;[3][2][6][7] the year is sometimes given as 838.[8] While his immediate tribe was Azd,[3][9] he preferred to identify himself as a Qahtanite,[7] the larger confederacy of which Azd is a part. The modern-day descendants of his tribe are the Zahran tribe residing primarily in the Al Bahah Region of Saudi Arabia.[10] Here he was trained under various teachers, but fled in 871 to Oman at the time Basra was attacked by the Zanj,[7][11] under Muhallabi. Surprisingly, Ibn Duraid was also said to have been a practicing physician though no works on medical science have survived.[8][12]

After living twelve years in Oman he went to Persia,[13] then under the protection of the governor Abd-Allah Mikali and his sons, and wrote his chief works. Abd-Allah also hired Ibn Duraid as the director of the government office for Fars Province, though the latter donated the entirety of his salary to poor people each time it was paid, keeping almost nothing for himself while in Persia.[13] In 920 he went to Baghdad,[8][13] where he received a pension of fifty dinars a month from the caliph Al-Muqtadir in support of his literary activities which continued to his death.[13] While in Baghdad, Ibn Duraid was a personal acquaintance of Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari.[14]

Illness and death[edit]

By the time he was ninety years old, he was stricken with paralysis which he reportedly cured with theriac.[15] A year later the palsy returned, such that Ibn Duraid could only move his hands and would cry out in pain whenever anyone entered his room, even if they didn't approach him. Some of his students attributed this to a divine punishment for Ibn Duraid's heavy alcohol consumption.[8][12][15] He was said to have retained all his mental faculties during his final paralysis, and was frequently given to self-loathing monologues due to his previous lifestyle.[15]

Ibn Duraid died on a Wednesday in August of 933,[5][9][16][17][18] while in mid-sentence answering a question from one of his students.[19] He was buried on the east bank of the Tigris River in the Abbasiya cemetery, his tomb being right next to the old arms bazaar by the main street.[19] He died on the same day as the son of philosopher Al-Jubba'i, who was also a philosopher like his father, and some of the people of Baghdad said "philology and theology have died on this day!"[19]


The Maqsurah, a poem praising Abd-Allah and his son Abu'l-Abbas Ismail, has been edited by A. Haitsma (1773), E. Scheidius (1786), and N. Boyesen (1828). Various commentaries on the poem exist in manuscript (cf. C. Brockelmann, Gesch. der Arab. lit., i. 211 ff., Weimar, 1898). Another work is the Kitab ul-Ishtiqaq ("Etymology"), edited by F. Wüstenfeld (Göttingen, 1854); it was the first book written in opposition to the Shu'ubiyya movement to show the etymological connection of the Arabian tribal names.[18][20][21] His famed collection of forty stories have often been remarked on and parts are even contained in larger works of later authors, though the full original work is lost.[22] Perhaps drawing on his family's Omani roots, some of Ibn Duraid's poetry contained dinstinctly Omani themes.[9]

The Jamhara fi 'l-lugha is a large dictionary written in Arabic. His original handwritten work was three volumes, with the last volume consisting mostly of an extensive index.[2] It was later published in Hyderabad, India in four volumes between 1926 and 1930.[23] Ibn Duraid also broke with the tradition of Al-Khalil ibn Ahmad al-Farahidi consisting of arranging the dictionary according to the part of the throat the letters are pronounced from, instead standardizing the organization of his own dictionary based on the alphabet order of Semitic languages.[4][24][25] Due to Ibn Duraid's efforts with the second Arabic dictionary, however, historian Al-Masudi still considered him to be the intellectual heir of al-Farahidi, the author of the first Arabic dictionary.[26] While Ibn Duraid's dictionary does resemble al-Farahidi's, it also has a confusing and disorganized system of classification and locating desired words alphabetically is difficult.[23]

There was a measure of controversy surrounding the dictionary. Niftawayh, a contemporary of Ibn Duraid's, alleged that the latter's dictionary was merely a plagiarized version of al-Farahidi's dictionary Kitab al-'Ayn.[27][28]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Robert Gleave, Islam and Literalism: Literal Meaning and Interpretation in Islamic Legal Theory, pg. 126. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2012. ISBN 9780748625703
  2. ^ a b c Abit Yaşar Koçak, Handbook of Arabic Dictionaries, pg. 23. Berlin: Verlag Hans Schiler, 2002. ISBN 9783899300215
  3. ^ a b c Introduction to Early Medieval Arabic: Studies on Al-Khalīl Ibn Ahmad, pg. xii. Ed. Karin C. Ryding. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 1998. ISBN 9780878406630
  4. ^ a b John A. Haywood, "Arabic Lexicography." Taken from Dictionaries: An International Encyclopedia of Lexicography, pg. 2,441. Ed. Franz Josef Hausmann. Volume 5 of Handbooks of Linguistics & Communication Science, #5/3. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1991. ISBN 9783110124217
  5. ^ a b A. Cilardo, "Preliminary Notes on the Meaning of the Qur'anic Term Kalala." Taken from Law, Christianity and Modernism in Islamic Society: Proceedings of the Eighteenth Congress of the Union Européenne Des Arabisants Et Islamisants Held at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, pg. 3. Peeters Publishers, 1998. ISBN 9789068319798
  6. ^ Ibn Khallikan, Deaths of Eminent Men and History of the Sons of the Epoch, vol. 3, pgs. 38 and 39. Ed. William McGuckin de Slane. Paris: Benjamin Duprat, 1845. Printed for the Oriental Translation Fund of Great Britain and Ireland.
  7. ^ a b c J. Pederson, "Ibn Duraid." Encyclopaedia of Islam, 1st ed. Eds. M. Th. Houtsma, T.W. Arnold, R. Basset and R. Hartmann. Brill Online, 2013.
  8. ^ a b c d Cyril Elgood, A Medical History of Persia and the Eastern Caliphate: From the Earliest Times Until the Year A.D. 1932, pg. 247. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010. ISBN 9781108015882
  9. ^ a b c Donald Hawley, Oman, pg. 194. Jubilee edition. Kensington: Stacey International, 1995. ISBN 0905743636
  10. ^ Kathy Cuddihy, An A to Z of Places and Things Saudi, pg. 6. London: Stacey International, 2001. ISBN 9781900988407
  11. ^ Ibn Khallikan, Deaths, pg. 39 (without 38).
  12. ^ a b Harold Bowen, The Life and Times of 'Alí Ibn 'Ísà, 'the Good Vizier', pg. 277. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Archive, 1928.
  13. ^ a b c d Ibn Khallikan, Deaths, pg. 40.
  14. ^ Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari, History of the Prophets and Kings, vol. 1, pg. 79. Trns. Franz Rosenthal. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1989. ISBN 9780887065637
  15. ^ a b c Ibn Khallikan, Deaths, pg. 41.
  16. ^ Fedwa Malti-Douglas, Power, marginality, and the body in medieval Islam, pg. 416. Volume 723 of Collected studies. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing, 2001. ISBN 9780860788553
  17. ^ Gregor Schoeler, The Oral and the Written in Early Islam, pg. 154. Trsn. Uwe Vagelpohl, ed. James E Montgomery. Routledge Studies in Middle Eastern Literatures. London: Routledge, 2006. ISBN 9781134158805
  18. ^ a b Shawkat M. Toorawa, Ibn Abi Tahir Tayfur and Arabic Writerly Culture: A Ninth Century Bookman in Baghdad. Routledge Studies in Middle Eastern Literatures. Routledge eBook; published 2005, digitized 2012. ISBN 9781134430536
  19. ^ a b c Ibn Khallikan, Deaths, pg. 42.
  20. ^ Yasir Suleiman, The Arabic Language and National Identity: A Study in Ideology, pg. 60. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2003. ISBN 9780748617074
  21. ^ Yasir Suleiman, "Ideology, Grammar-Making and Standardization." Taken from In the Shadow of Arabic: The Centrality of Language to Arab Culture, Pg. 20. Ed. Bilal Orfali. Leiden: Brill Publishers, 2011. Print. ISBN 9789004215375
  22. ^ Alexander E. Elinson, Looking Back at Al-Andalus: The Poetics of Loss and Nostalgia in Medieval Arabic and Hebrew Literature, pg. 53. Volume 34 of Brill studies in Middle Eastern literatures. Ledien: Brill Publishers, 2009. ISBN 9789004166806
  23. ^ a b Abit Yaşar Koçak, Handbook, pg. 26.
  24. ^ Kees Versteegh, The Arabic Linguistic Tradition, pg. 31. Part of the Landmarks in Linguistic Thought series, vol. 3. London: Routledge, 1997. ISBN 9780415157575
  25. ^ Abit Yaşar Koçak, Handbook, pg. 24.
  26. ^ Rafael Ṭalmôn, Arabic Grammar in Its Formative Age: Kitāb Al-ʻAyn and Its Attribution to, pg. 70. Volume 25 of Studies in Semitic Languages and Linguistics. Leiden: Brill Publishers, 1997. ISBN 9789004108127
  27. ^ Ramzi Baalbaki, "Kitab al-ayn and Jamharat al-lugha". Taken from Early Medieval Arabic, pg. 44.
  28. ^ M.G. Carter, "Arabic Lexicography." Taken from Religion, Learning and Science in the 'Abbasid Period, pg. 112. Eds. M. J. L. Young, J. D. Latham and R. B. Serjeant. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. ISBN 9780521028875