IBN al-QIFTI, Djamal al-Din Abu 'l-Hasan 'Ali b. Yusuf b. Ibrahim b. 'Abd al-Wahid
al-Shaybani, versatile Arab writer, born in 568/1172 at qift in Upper Egypt. He received his
early education in Cairo and in 583/1187 went to Jerusalem, where his father had been
appointed as deputy to the qadi al-Fadil, the famous chancellor and adviser of ‘alah al-Din
(Saladin). During the many years which he spent as a student there he was already collecting
the material for his later works. He was forced by the disturbances which followed ‘alah al-Din's
death to go in 598/1201 to Aleppo, where, under the protection and with the encouragement
of a friend of his father, he was able again to pursue his scholarly interests for several years, until
the Atabeg of Aleppo, al-Malik al-Zahir, placed him in charge of the diwan of the finances, a task
which he undertook only reluctantly, but which brought him the honorific title of al-qadi
al-Akram. After al-Zahir's death (613/1216) he resigned, but three years later was appointed by
al-Zahir's successor to the same post, which he then held without interruption until 628/1230.
There is no doubt that Ibn al-qifti had used his influential position in order to further the cause
of scholarship, for during these years he gave shelter in Aleppo to Yaqut, who had fled from the
Mongols, and gave him much help in the compilation of his great geographical dictionary.
Dismissed at his own request in 628/1230, Ibn al-qifti was able to devote a few years to his own
studies until he was appointed vizier by al-Malik al-'Aziz in 633/1236. He remained in this office
until his death in 646/1248.
Of the 26 works of Ibn al-qifti of which the titles are known only two survive: (1) The Kitab Ikhbar al-'ulama' bi-akhbar al-hukama', usually referred to simply as Ta'rikh al-hukama', which exists in an epitome by al-Zawzani (written in 647/1249), ed. J. Lippert, Leipzig 1903; it contains 414 biographies of physicians, philosophers and astronomers with many statements from Greek writers which have not survived in the original; (2) Inbah al-ruwat 'ala anbah al-nuhat, parts i-iii ed. by Muh. Abu 'l-Fadl Ibrahim, Cairo 1369-74, which contains about a thousand biographies of scholars. Of the posthumous Akhbar al-Muhammadin min al-shu'ara' there exist only fragments in Ms. Paris arab. 3335. The remaining titles are mainly of historical works: a history of Cairo until the reign of ‘alah al-Din, a history of the Seljuqs, of the Mirdasids, of the Buyids, of Mahmud b. Sabuktakin, of the Maghrib, of the Yemen; a comprehensive Ta'rikh al-qifti in the epitome of Ibn Maktum (d. 749/1348) is evidently identical with the history of Cairo mentioned above. Other titles indicate individual biographies (of Ibn Rashiq, Abu Sa'id al-Sirafi), the history of scholarship (the Shaykhs of al-Kindi), a supplement to the Ansab of al-Baladhuri, etc.
Kutubi, Fawat, Cairo 1951, ii, 191-3
Yaqut, Mu'jam al-udaba', Cairo, xv, 175-204 = Irshad, ed. Margoliouth, v, 477-94
idem, Mu'jam al-buldan, iv, 152
Ibn Abi Usaybi'a, 'Uyun al-anba', index
Barhebraeus, Ta'rikh mukhtasar al-duwal, ed. ‘alhani, 476
Suyuti, Bughya, Cairo 1326, 358
idem, Husn al-muhadara, Cairo 1321, i, 265
Ibn al-'Imad, Shadharat, v, 236
Adfawi, al-Tali' al-sa'id, Cairo 1333, 237 f.
Ibn Taghribirdi, Nujum, vi, Cairo 1355, 361
A. Müller in Actes du 8e Congres Internat. des Orientalistes, Section i, Leiden 1890, 15-36
Brockelmann, I2, 396 f., S I, 559
R. Sellheim, in Oriens, viii (1955), 348-52.
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Source: from the Encyclopedia of Islam --© 1999 Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands