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a concise but very important Persian geography of the then known world, Islamic and non-Islamic, begun in 982-83 by an unknown author from the province of Guzgān (in northern Afghanistan).

A version of this article is available in print

Volume XII, Fascicle 4, pp. 417-418

ḤODUD AL-ʿĀLAM, a concise but very important Persian geography of the then known world, Islamic and non-Islamic, begun in 372/982-83 by an unknown author from the province of Guzgān (q.v.) in what is now northern Afghanistan. It was dedicated to the local prince of the Fariḡunid family, Abu’l-Ḥāreṯ Moḥammad b. ʿAbd-Allāh; and Vladimir Minorsky has surmised that it might have been written by the enigmatic Šaʿyā b. Fariḡun, author of a pioneer encyclopedia of the sciences, the Jawāmeʿ al-ʿolum, for an amir of Čaḡāniān on the upper Oxus in the mid-4th/10th century(see Minorsky, 1962, pp. 189-96; repr. in Minorsky, 1964, pp. 327-32). The author of the Ḥodud does not seem to have traveled beyond his native Guzgān, relying instead on earlier travel reports and geographical works, including those of Ebn Ḵordāḏbeh (q.v.) and, possibly, ʿAbd-Allāh Moḥammad Jayhāni, though he names no sources.

The Ḥodud is written in terse prose. He first enumerates, in careful and precise terms, the seas, islands, mountains, rivers, and deserts of the known world (par. 3-7), before proceeding to devote a chapter each to the different lands (par. 8-60). He divides the world as he knows it into the continents of Asia, Europe, and “Libya” (i.e., Africa), and enumerates forty-five lands (nāḥiāt) north of the equator, one of them (the Sudan) spanning it, and five of them among “the southern inhabited lands.” (Some of these last, such as Nubia and Abyssinia, are in reality north of the equator; others, like Zāba(j) and Zangestān, may be considered to be spanning it.)

Details about the habitat and local products, as well as political allegiance, are frequently mentioned. While the author naturally concentrates on the Islamic lands, and especially on his own native regions of Transoxania and what is now Afghanistan, devoting some two-thirds of the book to them, the attention given to non-Islamic territories is noteworthy, far exceeding that in previous Arab geographies. He includes Andalusia, Byzantium, the lands of the Slavs, the Russians, the Bulgarians, and the Mordvins, and also Turkish lands in Inner Asia, Tibet, and China. His information on the Turkish tribes is particularly valuable; it seems that he drew on the same source here as did the Ghaznavid historian Gardizi (q.v.) for his own survey of the Turks written some 70 years later. The archaic language and style of the Ḥodud make it a valuable linguistic document as well; these aspects have been studied by Vladimir Minorsky (1970, pp. lv-lxv) and Gilbert Lazard (pp. 53-54).


The work. The sole surviving manuscript has had an interesting history. Discovered by C. Toumansky in Bukhara in 1892, it was first edited and published by V. V. Barthold in Leningrad in 1930, with an important preface (reprinted in his Sochineniya VIII, Leningrad, 1977, pp. 504-46; an English translation of it was prefaced by Minorsky in 1937, accompanied by a commentary of stupendous erudition, Ḥudūd al-ʿĀlam, “The Regions of the World”: A Persian Geography 372 AH982 AD, Gibb Memorial Series, N.S. XI, London, 1937.

A second edition (London, 1970), includes Minorsky’s article “Addenda to the Ḥudūd al-ʿĀlam” (originally published in BSOAS 17, 1955, pp. 250-76), a few textual improvements by Manučehr Sotuda, and a second series of “Addenda” by Minorsky. The Persian text had meanwhile been published by Jalāl-al-Din Ṭehrāni (Tehran, 1935) and also by Manučehr Sotuda (Tehran, 1961).

Studies. C. Edmund Bosworth, “Ḥudūd al-ʿālam,” in EI2. Gilbert Lazard, La langue des plus anciens monuments de la prose persane, Paris, 1963.

Minorsky, Iranica: Twenty Articles, Tehran, 1964.

Idem, “Ibn Farīghūn and the Ḥudūd al-ʿālam,” in W. B. Henning, et al., eds., A Locust’s Leg: Studies in Honour of S. H. Taqizadeh, London, 1962.

André Miquel, La géographie humaine du monde musulman jusqu’au milieu du XIe siècle, Paris, 1967, I, pp. xxxiii, 398-99. Storey, II, p. 120.

Cite this page
C. Edmund Bosworth, “ḤODUD AL-ʿĀLAM”, in: Encyclopaedia Iranica Online, © Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York. Consulted online on 15 July 2024 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/2330-4804_EIRO_COM_3121>
First published online: 2020
First print edition: 20041215

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