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(725 words)

Author(s): Ruska, J.
(a.) “snake”, generic name of the ophidians, embracing all kinds of reptiles ( mā yansāḥ ) from the most poisonous to the most harmless, the viper ( afʿā ) appearing to be the most clearly distinguished species among them. Terms such as ḥanas̲h̲ , aym , t̲h̲uʿbān , aswad , raḳs̲h̲āʾ , ṣill , etc. are given in classical Arabic to species which are not always easily identifiable from the descriptions in the early zoological works, there being a certain amount of confusion in this field; and present-day terminology is still far …


(184 words)

Author(s): Ruska, J.
the planet Mars. The etymology of the name is unknown. The sphere of Mars is the fifth sphere of the planets. It is bounded on the inner side by the sphere of the sun and on the outer side by the sphere of Jupiter, and its breadth is according to Ptolemy (xx, 376) 998 miles. Its period of revolution is estimated at 1 year, 10 months and 22 days. In about 17 years, after 9 revolutions, Mars comes back to the same spot in the heavens; it spends about 40 days in each sign of the zodiac and covers about 40 minutes each day. It is said to be one-and-ahalf times the size of the earth. Astrologers call Mars al-Naḥs al-a…


(774 words)

Author(s): Ruska, J.
, also nus̲h̲ādir , naws̲h̲ādir , Sanskrit navasadara , Chin, nao-s̲h̲a , sal-ammoniac. The etymology of the word is uncertain; perhaps it comes from the Pahlavi anōs̲h̲-ādar “immortal fire” as we find the form anūs̲h̲ād̲h̲ur in Syriac. The oldest references to the occurrence of salammoniac in a natural state are in the reports of ¶ Chinese embassies of the 6th-7th centuries, which were the subject of very full investigation in connection with a geological problem, the question of volcanoes in Central Asia, by H.J. von Klaprot…


(364 words)

Author(s): Ruska, J.
(a.), the spider. Al-Ḳazwīnī and al-Damīrī mention several species, the most dangerous of which is the poisonous tarantula, al-Rutailāʾ or al-Rut̲h̲ailāʾ . Al-Damīrī also describes a fieldspider of reddish colour with fine hair on its body; at the head it has four claws with which it bites; it digs a nest in the ground, and seizes its prey by night. The weaving spiders make their webs according to mathematical rules; according to some the male spins the warp and the female the woof; according t…


(997 words)

Author(s): Ruska, J.
, the pearl. The ancient legend of its origin is found at great length in the Arabic authors, first in the Petrology ( Steinbuch , ed. Ruska) of Aristotle, then with variants in the Rasāʾil Ik̲h̲wān al-Ṣafāʾ and the later cosmographers. According to it, the aṣṭūrūs (’οστρεῖον) rises from the depths of the sea frequented by ships and goes out to the ocean. The winds there set up a shower of spray and the shells open to receive drops from This; when it has collected a few drops it goes to a secluded spot and exposes the…


(611 words)

Author(s): Ruska, J.
(a.), a time, a period of time, especially the hour. Following the custom of the Greek astronomers, a distinction is made between the equal or astronomical (sidereal) hour, sāʿa falakīya, which corresponds to a revolution of the heavens of the fixed stars through 15° and is also ¶ called mustawiya (uniform), and the unequal, curved, muʿwad̲j̲d̲j̲a, also an hour of time, zamānīya, which is the result of dividing day and night each into 12 hours and therefore varies with latitude and season and in the higher latitudes becomes quite absurd. — In the language of religion sāʿa is also the hour …


(295 words)

Author(s): Ruska, J.
, an old town between Mas̲h̲had and Marw, where the frontier between modern Persia and Russia turns from E. to S., on the lower course of the Harirūd, which is at this part filled with water for part of the year only and then disappears in the oasis of Tad̲j̲ān north of Sarak̲h̲s. Between the town and Marw lies a part of the desert of Karaḳūm [q. v.] which belongs to the area of the Teke-Turkomans. The Arab-Persian geographers ascribe the foundation of the town to Kai-Kāwūs, Afrāsiyāb or Ḏh̲u ’l…


(211 words)

Author(s): Ruska, J.
, the constellation of the Dragon. According to al-Ḳazwīnī, it consists of 31 stars none of which lies outside of the constellation. Apart from the general figure of the constellation which comes from Greek (and probably earlier from Babylonian) astronomy the Arabs have names for smaller groups of stars within it. Thus the star μ is called the Dragon’s tongue, al-rāfiḍ, “the isolated grazing camel”, the four stars (β γ ν ξ in the head al-ʿawāʾid̲h̲, “the young dam-camels”, a not very bright star between them al-rubaʿ, “the camel-foal”; the bright stars ζ η are called al-d̲h̲iʾbain, “the tw…

Ibn al-Baiṭār

(445 words)

Author(s): Ruska, J.
, Abū Muḥammad ʿAbd Allāh b. Aḥmad Ḍiyāʾ al-Dīn Ibn al-Baiṭar al-Mālaḳī, the celebrated botanist and herbalist. He probably belonged to the Ibn al-Baiṭār family of Malaga (cf. Ibn al-Abbār, al-Muʿd̲j̲am, N°. 35, 165, 241) and was born in the last quarter of the vith (xiith) century. As his teacher of botanical subjects, special mention should be made ¶ of Abu ’l-ʿAbbās al-Nabātī, with whom he used to collect plants in the vicinity of Seville. When about 20 he set out to travel through North Africa, Morocco, Algiers and Tunis to study botany. Reaching E…


(192 words)

Author(s): Ruska, J.
, S̲h̲ihāb al-Dīn Abu ’l-ʿAbbās Aḥmad b. Yūsuf, d. 651 (1253), is the author of the Kitāb Azhār al-Afkār fī Ḏj̲awāhir al-Asd̲j̲ār, one of the best known works on jewels which he describes — in all 25 kinds — according to their origin, provenance, natural and magical properties, defects and merits, price and appreciation ¶ of particular varieties. An edition and translation of the book which exists in good manuscripts is a great desideratum, as that by Count Raineri Biscia of 1818 (new edition 1906) no longer suits modern requirements. — Nothing is …


(179 words)

Author(s): Ruska, J.
, an astrological magic table common in Morocco, the making and use of which is fully described by Ibn Ḵh̲aldūn in the Muḳaddima. The word is connected with Zīd̲j̲ [q. v.]; its fuller name is Zāyird̲j̲at al-ʿĀlam. The inventor is said to have been the Ṣūfī Abū ’l-ʿAbbās al-Ṣibtī (i. e. of Ceuta) who lived in the time of the Almohad Yaʿḳūb al-Manṣūr, i. e. at the end of the vith (xiith) century. The table has on one side a system of concentric circles with divisions corresponding to the signs of the zodiac and others for telling fortunes and answering questions on i…


(159 words)

Author(s): Ruska, J.
(a.), the Ram (Aries), the first constellation of the zodiac, after the Greek κριόΣ. It contains 13 stars which make up the figure and five others outside it. The ram is represented with its body facing the west but its head is turned back. The two bright stars on, the horn (β and γ) are called al-S̲h̲araṭān, “the two signs”, because they betoken the approach of the equinoxes; the bright star α outside the ram is called al-Nāṭiḥ, “the butter” sometimes it is included with α and β under the name al-As̲h̲rāṭ, “the signs”. The stars ε, δ in the tail, which form an equilateral triangle wi…


(213 words)

Author(s): Ruska, J.
, also tilsim, tilism, tilasm etc. from the Greek τέλεσμα, a talisman, i.e. an inscription with astrological and other magic signs or an object covered with such inscriptions, especially also with figures from the zodiacal circle or the constellations and animals which were used as magic charms to protect and avert the evil eye. The Greek name is evidence of its origin in the late Hellenistic period and gnostic ideas are obviously reflected in the widespread use of such charms. The wise Balīnās is s…


(140 words)

Author(s): Ruska, J.
or Ṣabir, the aloe, the dried juice from the leaves of a group of African aloes belonging to the Liliaceae; a bitter drug and strong purgative, described as early as by Dioscurides, which is highly esteemed in Arab medicine. At the present day the aloe of Sokoṭrā is considered the best quality. Al-Dimas̲h̲ḳī ( Nuk̲h̲bat al-Dahr, ed. Mehren, p. 81) gives a good description of the plant; and a description of how the sap is obtained is given by al-Nuwairī; see also the lexicons (Lane, Lexicon, ii. 1645) (J. Ruska) Bibliography O. Warburg, Die Pflanzenwelt, iii. 448 I. Löw, Die Flora der Juden, ii. …


(382 words)

Author(s): Ruska, J.
, the domestic fowl. The chickens are covered with down when they come out of the egg, quick in their movements and able to take care of themselves (autophagous); they follow when called. After a time however they become stupid and ugly and ultimately are ¶ only useful for crowing, laying eggs and eating. They have no fear of beasts of prey; but if they see a jackal they run in front of its feet. They sleep very lightly and like best to perch on a high place such as a wall, a beam, etc. They combine the characters of birds of prey and gram…

Dūd al-Ḳazz

(534 words)

Author(s): Ruska, J.
, the Silkworm. Ḳazwīnī and Damīrī give accounts of its culture which supplement one another and may therefore be dealt with separately. According to Ḳazwīnī, the worm, when it has eaten enough, seeks a place on trees or thorns, draws thin threads out of its saliva, and weaves a ball around itself as a protection from wind and rain; it then sleeps its appointed time; all this is done through the instinct given it by God. In spring, when the leaves of the mulberry tree appear, the eggs ( bazr) are taken and placed in pieces of cloth; women carry them for a week under their breasts, s…


(259 words)

Author(s): Ruska, J.
, the constellation of Taurus, the second in the zodiacal circle. The figure is the front half of a bull whose head is turned to one side so that the horns face east. The constellation consists of 32 stars in the figure and 11 outside it. On the sector ( ḳaṭʿ, ἀποτομή) are said to be four stars in a straight line; in reality the stars f s ξ o form a curve. The bright star of the north horn also belongs to the constellation of the Steersman. The eye of the bull, ʿAin al-T̲h̲awr, the star with a red light of the first magnitude α in the centre of a thick group of smaller stars, the Hyades …


(120 words)

Author(s): Ruska, J.
(a.), a thing, anything, in Arab algebra the name for the unknown quantity in an equation. The expression is first used in the Algebra of Muḥammad b. Mūsā al-Ḵh̲wārizmī (about 820) and probably goes back to the Indian vāvat-tāvat. In the mediaeval Latin translations, it is translated by res, latterly causa, Ital. cosa, from which developed the name coss given to algebra. P. de Lagarde’s attempt to trace the x of algebra to S̲h̲aiʾ, which has found some credence among Orientalists, is untenable. (J. Ruska) Bibliography J. Ruska, Zur ält. arab. Algebra u. Rechenkunst, p. 56—60 J. Tropfke, Gesc…

Ibn al-ʿAwwām

(237 words)

Author(s): Ruska, J.
, whose full name was Abū Zakarīyā Yaḥyā b. Muḥammad b. Aḥmad b. al-ʿAwwām al-Is̲h̲bīlī, the author of a large work on agriculture, Kitāb al-Falāḥa. Practically nothing is known of the life of this author; we only know that he flourished towards to end of the xiith century and that he lived in Seville. Ibn Ḵh̲aldūn mentions him although not being acquainted with his book which he considers a recension of al-Falāḥa al-Nabaṭīya [see ibn al-waḥs̲h̲īya]; neither Ḥād̲j̲d̲j̲ī Ḵh̲alīfa non Ibn Ḵh̲allikān quote him. Casiri in his Catalogue was the first to call attention to the complete m…


(826 words)

Author(s): Ruska, J.
, the horse, whether stallion ( faḥl) or mare; as a collective al-k̲h̲ail. The horse is considered the most beautiful and noblest creature next to man. The fine proportions of its limbs, the purity of its colour, its swiftness, its obedience to the rider, whether in battle, in pursuit or in flight, its courage and strength, its intelligence and standard of good manners are renowned. A sign of the latter is the fact that a well-bred horse discharges neither urine or excrement while its rider is on its back. …
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