Ibn al-Khatib

Coordinates: 34°03′45″N 4°59′9.8″W / 34.06250°N 4.986056°W / 34.06250; -4.986056
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Ibn al-Khatib
ابن الخطيب
An inscription in the Court of the Myrtles of the Alhambra, where poetry by Ibn al-Khatib is inscribed.[1]
BornNovember 16, 1313 Rajab 26 713 AH
Died1374 AD, 776 AH
Cause of deathStrangulation
Resting placeBab Mahruq
34°03′45″N 4°59′9.8″W / 34.06250°N 4.986056°W / 34.06250; -4.986056
Alma materMadrasa Yusufiyya
Occupation(s)Poet, historian, statesman, physician
EraIslamic golden age
Ibn al-Khatib studied at the Madrasa Yusufia in Granada.[2]

Lisan ad-Din Ibn al-Khatib[note 1] (Arabic: لسان الدين ابن الخطيب; 16 November 1313 - 1374) was an Arab[3] Andalusi polymath,[4] poet, writer, historian, philosopher, physician and politician from Emirate of Granada.[5] Being one of the most notable poets from Granada, his poems decorate the walls of the palace of Alhambra. He is known for composing the muwashahs entitled "Jadaka al-Ghaithu" and "Lamma Bada Yatathanna."

Ibn al-Khatib memorial

Ibn Al-Khatib is highly esteemed both as an historian and as a poet. He was a contemporary and acquaintance of Ibn Khaldun.[6]

His greatest historical work, al-Ihata fi akhbar Gharnata الإحاطة في أخبار غرناطة (The Complete Source on the History of Granada),[7][8] written in 1369 AD, which includes his autobiography, has yet to be translated into English.


Ibn al-Khatib was born at Loja, near Granada.[6] Shortly after his birth, his father was appointed to a high post at the court of Emir Ismail I in Granada.[6] After his father and older brother were killed in the Battle of Río Salado in 1340, Ibn al-Khatib was hired to work as a secretary for his former teacher Ibn al-Jayyab, vizier to Emir Yusuf I.[6] Following Ibn al-Jayyab's early death from the plague, Ibn al-Khatib became vizier and head of the emiri chancery, serving also in diplomatic roles in the courts of Andalusi and Maghrebi rulers.[6]

Bab Mahrouk in Fes, where Ibn al-Khatib was buried, photographed in 1982.

For much of his life he was vizier at the court of the Sultan of Granada, Muhammed V. He spent two periods in exile in the Marinid empire; (between 1360 and 1362, and 1371–74, he resided variously at Ceuta, Tlemcen and Fes). In 1374, he was imprisoned for 'Zandaqa (heresy). He was sentenced to death by suffocation. Earlier and modern historians have speculated that his many private and political feuds with the Emirs of Granada belonging to the Nasrid dynasty were probably the main factors in his treatment and execution. His body was burned before being buried at Bab Mahruq, a city gate in Fes.[9]


His poetry was influenced by court poets from the Mashreq, or Islamic east, especially Abū Nuwās, Abū Tammām, and al-Mutanabbī.[6] Ibn al-Khatib was a master of saj'(سجع), or rhymed prose, especially in his maqamaat.[6]

On the Plague[edit]

In his treatise about the plague (Muqni'at al-Sā'il 'an al-Maraḍ al-Hā'il), (ca.753/1362), Ibn al-Khatib explores the idea of transmission of disease through contagion, centuries before Louis Pasteur conducted his experiments in Europe. The original Arabic text is preserved in the Zaydani Collection at the Biblioteca del Real Monasterio de El Escorial, MS Arabic 1785.[10] Of the estimated deaths due to the outbreak of bubonic plague, known as the Black Death, that swept through al-Andalus in the 14th century, the numbers range to as high as a third of the Muslim population worldwide.[11]

In his treatise On the Plague, Ibn al-Khatib writes:[12]

"The existence of contagion is established by experience [and] by trustworthy reports on transmission by garments, vessels, ear-rings; by the spread of it by persons from one house, by infection of a healthy sea-port by an arrival from an infected land [and] by the immunity of isolated individuals."

While the plague hadith indicated that the Prophet suggested otherwise,

"a proof taken from the traditions has to undergo modification when in manifest contradiction with the evidence of the perception of the senses."[11][13][14]


A detailed account of his demise was written down by Ibn Khaldun, a friend and admirer of his.[15] As a loyal courtier of Muhammed V of Granada, Ibn al-Khatib was arrested in the wake of a 1359 coup by Muhammed's half-brother Ismail, and had his property confiscated. He was soon released due to interference by the Marinid sultan of Morocco and joined a host of Andalusian refugees in Morocco, where he settled in the Atlantic town of Salé. Here, he immersed himself in Sufi mysticism and writing. It was during this stay in Morocco that he first met Ibn Khaldun, as well as other important North African intellectuals, such as Ibn Marzuq.

In 1362, the former emir of Granada, Muhammed V, was able to regain the throne with help from the Moroccan sultan. This allowed Ibn al-Khatib to return to Granada and resume the office of Great Vizier (dhu al-wizaratayn, i.e. 'possessor of the two vizierates', meaning 'head of both the civil and military authority'). He soon ran afoul of severe political intrigue. He was eventually able to strengthen his own position while organizing the expulsion of a number of his North African political rivals from Granada. His political successes caused friction within Granada between supporters of the expelled North Africans and the politically savvy Ibn al-Khatib. When Ibn Khaldun had some diplomatic success at Granada's court, Ibn al-Khatib, fearing him as a rival, organized his expulsion.

His intrigues had made him an unpopular figure in some circles, causing two of his own students, Ibn Zamrak and Ibn Farkun, to join hands with his most powerful enemy in Granada, the Grand Qadi al-Nubahi, a man who had long held a grudge against Ibn al-Khatib. More importantly, emir Muhammed V had grown distrustful of Ibn al-Khatib for his overbearing control of the Granadan state and his strict loyalty to the Marinids of Morocco. Feeling the heat rise, in 1371 Ibn al-Khatib left for North Africa, where he was well received by the Marinid sultan Abu Faris Abdul Aziz I of Morocco. During his refuge, the Grand Qadi al-Nubahi issued a fatwa in which Ibn al-Khatib's work on Sufism and philosophy were branded heretical and his work ordered to be burned. The ad hominem nature of al-Nubahi's legal decision strongly suggest that he had a personal grudge against Ibn al-Khatib. Ibn al-Khatib wrote a refutation of the fatwa, in which he harshly attacked al-Nubahi. Numerous attempts by Granada to get Ibn al-Khatib either extradited or executed were fruitless, as the Moroccan sultan Abu Faris Abdul Aziz I refused to do so. Though the Moroccan sultan soon died, Ibn al-Khatib was ensured of protection from Ibn Ghazi, Morocco's main vizier.

Ibn al-Khatib's future turned bleak when a Granada-supported coup removed Ibn Ghazi from office and brought a new sultan to power, Abu'l-Abbas Ahmad al-Mustansir. Indebted to Granada, the new sultan ordered Ibn al-Khatib arrested and a trial be held in the Moroccan capital city of Fes, in which a Granadan group of emissaries, including his former student Ibn Zamrak, was actively involved. Despite intimidation and torture, Ibn al-Khatib kept protesting his innocence throughout the trial and denied the accusations of heresy. The final vote was far from unanimous and a council of Islamic scholars were unable to reach a conclusive decision. Ibn al-Khatib was said to have been strangled on the night of his trial, as the people couldn't reach a conclusion on his alleged heresy and thus didn't want him to receive an unjust verdict. On the next morning his body was buried near Fes' Bab al-Mahruq city gate. Unsatisfied, his enemies ordered his body dug up and thrown in a bonfire.

List of works[edit]

  • The Appearance of a Ghost During a Trip of Winter and Summer (خطرة الطيف في رحلة الشتاء والصيف): a description of a 21-day journey from Granada to Almería with Yusuf I, Sultan of Granada, composed in rhyming couplets[16]
  • The Measurement of Choice in the Conditions of Places and Buildings (معيار الاختيار في ذكر المعاهد والديار): a muqama in which Ibn al-Khatib describes 34 Andalusi cities, including Malaga, Granada, and Ronda, comparing them to the Moroccan cities Tangier, Meknes, Fes, and Sebta, which he visited while exiled in Morocco[16]
  • The Shaking of the Bag for Entertainment While Abroad (نفاضة الجراب في علالة الاغتراب): a collection of praise poetry, writings on history and geography, and personal narrative on his journey from the High Atlas back to Al-Andalus[16]
  • The Badr View in the Nasirian State - Al-Lamhat al-Badriya fi al-Dawla al-Nasriya, ed. Arab & Latin transl. M.Casiri, Biblioteca arabico-hispana escurialensis, II, Madrid 1770.
  • Compendium on Granada (in 5 vols.) - Al'Ihatat fi 'Akhbar Ghurnata (Arabic)[17]
  • Muqni'at al-Sā'il 'an al-Maraḍ al-Hā'il (مقنعة السائل عن المرض الهائل), a treatise on the Black Death and contagion, Zaydani Collection at the Biblioteca del Real Monasterio de El Escorial, MS Arabic 1785.[10]
  • The Scholars' Recitations of Dreams of the Kings of Islam
  • Biographies, Dates and Connections - 'Awsaf an-Naas fi al-Tawarikh wa'l-Salaat (Arabic)[18]
  • A Clerk after the People Move (Politics of Granada & Morocco) - Kanasat al-Dukan baad Intaqal as-Sakan[19]
  • Calibrate Selection in Institutes of Mind
  • Views of Sanseddin Ben Khatib in Morocco and Andalusia
  • Malaga and Sala
  • The Masterpiece of the Book and the Purity of the Elect
  • Manuscripts
  • Magic and Poetry
  • The Book of Rehana and the sorrow of the Creator
  • Garden Definition of Sharif Love[20]
  • A Message in Politics


  1. ^ Arabic: لسان الدين ابن الخطيب, romanizedLisān ad-Dīn Ibn al-Khaṭīb, full name in Arabic: محمد بن عبد الله بن سعيد بن عبد الله بن سعيد بن علي بن أحمد السّلماني, romanized: Muḥammad ibn ʿAbdallāh ibn Saʿīd ibn ʿAbdallāh ibn Saʿīd ibn ʿAlī ibn Aḥmad as-Salmānī


  • Jaysh Al-Tawshih of Lisan Al-Din Ibn Al-Khatib (Arabic), An Anthology of Andalusian Arabic Muwashshahat, Alan Jones (Editor), 1997 - ISBN 978-0-906094-42-6
  • Lisan ad-Din Ibn al-Khatib, Tarikh Isbaniya Al Islamiya (history of Muslim Spain), ed. by Levi-Provençal, new edition, Cairo, 2004
  • Lisan ad-Din Ibn al-Khatib, Awsaf Al Nas (description of peoples), Cairo, 2002
  • Lisan ad-Din Ibn al-Khatib, Khaṭrat al-ṭayf : riḥlāt fī al-Maghrib wa-al-Andalus, 1347–1362, 2003
  • Lisan ad-Din Ibn al-Khatib, Nafadhat al-jirab (the Ashtray of the Socks)
  • Lisan al-Din ibn al-Khatib homme de lettres et historien, by Abdelbaqui Benjamaa, (French) thesis, Universite de la Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris III, 1992 (microform).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Travelers of Al-Andalus, Part VI: The Double Lives of Ibn al-Khatib - AramcoWorld". www.aramcoworld.com. Retrieved 2021-04-21.
  2. ^ Antonio Santo Orcero, Ibn al-Jatib, Diverso Variable, p. 5. Undated. Accessed online 2010-01-24. "al-Jatib" is the Spanish transliteration of "al-Khatib".
  3. ^ Farhad Daftary, The Assassin Legends: Myths of the Isma'ilis, (I.B.Tauris, 1994), 160.
  4. ^ Alexander Knysh, Ibn 'Arabi in the Later Islamic Tradition, SUNY Press (1999), p. 172
  5. ^ Encyclopedia of Medieval Iberia, ed. Michael Gerli. (New York: Routledge, 2003), 416–417
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Knysh, Alexander (2000-08-31), "Ibn al-Khaṭīb", The Literature of Al-Andalus, Cambridge University Press, pp. 358–372, doi:10.1017/chol9780521471596.023, ISBN 978-0-521-47159-6, retrieved 2021-04-21
  7. ^ ed. Muhammad Abd Allah Inan (Cairo: Maktabat al-Khanji, 1978)
  8. ^ "الإحاطة في أخبار غرناطة - المجلد الأول" – via Internet Archive.
  9. ^ Awasaf an-Nas fi Tawarikh wa Silat, pp19, Mohamed Kamal Chabana
  10. ^ a b M. W. Dols, The black death in the Middle East, New Jersey, 1977, 322. M. Aguiar Aguilar, "Aproximación al léxico árabe medieval de la epidemia y de la peste", Medicina e Historia (2014) http://issuu.com/fundacionuriach/docs/m_h_2_2014_v7_r
  11. ^ a b Kadri, Sadakat (2012). Heaven on Earth: A Journey Through Shari'a Law from the Deserts of Ancient Arabia ... macmillan. p. 185. ISBN 9780099523277.
  12. ^ Byrne, Joseph P. (2012-01-31). Encyclopedia of the Black Death. ABC-CLIO. p. 182. ISBN 978-1598842531.
  13. ^ Arnold, Thomas W. and A. Guillaume, Legacy of Islam, Oxford, 1931, p.340
  14. ^ c.f. Ober, William B., and Nabil Alloush, "Plague at Granada, 1348-1349: Ibn al-Khatib and Ideas of Contagion." Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine, v.58, n.4 (1982), pp.422
  15. ^ c.f. Ober, William B., and Nabil Alloush, "Plague at Granada, 1348-1349: Ibn al-Khatib and Ideas of Contagion.", pp.175
  16. ^ a b c "Travelers of Al-Andalus, Part VI: The Double Lives of Ibn al-Khatib - AramcoWorld". www.aramcoworld.com. Retrieved 2019-04-08.
  17. ^ "الإحاطة في أخبار غرناطة - لسان الدين بن الخطيب - تحقيق: بوزياني الدراجي". 28 September 2013.
  18. ^ "أوصاف الناس في التواريخ و الصلات - لسان الدين بن الخطيب - نسخة منسقة -".
  19. ^ "كناسة الدكان - لسان الدين بن الخطيب" – via Internet Archive.
  20. ^ "النسخة المعتمدة من كتاب روضة التعريف بالحب الشريف - لسان الدين ابن الخطيب تحقيق محمد الكتاني" – via Internet Archive.

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