THIRD PREFATORY DISCUSSION
The temperate and the intemperate zones. The inuence
WE 213 HAVE EXPLAINED that the cultivated region of that part of the earth which is not covered by water has its center toward the north, because of the excessive heat in the south and the excessive cold in the north. The north and the south represent opposite extremes of cold and heat. It necessarily follows that there must be a gradual decrease from the extremes toward the center, which, thus, is moderate. The fourth zone is the most temperate cultivated region.
The bordering third and fifth zones are rather close to being temperate. The sixth and second zones which are adjacent to them are far from temperate, and the first and seventh zones still less so. Therefore, the sciences, the crafts, the buildings, the clothing, the foodstuffs, the fruits, even the animals, and everything that comes into being in the three middle zones are distinguished by their temperate (well-proportioned character). The human inhabitants of these zones are more temperate (well-proportioned) in their bodies, color, character qualities, and (general) conditions214 They are found to be extremely moderate in their dwellings, clothing, foodstuffs, and crafts. They use houses that are well constructed of stone and embellished by craftsmanship. They rival each other in production of the very best tools and implements. Among them, one finds the natural minerals, such as gold, silver, iron, copper, lead, and tin. In their business dealings they use the two precious metals (gold and silver). They avoid intemperance quite generally in all their conditions. Such are the inhabitants of the Maghrib, of Syria, the two 'Iraqs, Western India (as-Sind), and China, as well as of Spain; also the European Christians nearby, the Galicians,215 and all those who live together with these peoples or near them in the three temperate zones. The 'Iraq and Syria are directly in the middle and therefore are the most temperate of all these countries.
The inhabitants of the zones that are far from temperate, such as the first, second, sixth, and seventh zones, are also farther removed from being temperate in all their conditions. Their buildings are of clay and reeds. Their foodstuffs are durra and herbs. Their clothing is the leaves of trees, which they sew together to cover themselves, or animal skins. Most of them go naked. The fruits and seasonings of their countries are strange and inclined to be intemperate. In their business dealings, they do not use the two noble metals, but copper, iron, or skins, upon which they set a value for the purpose of business dealings. Their qualities of character, moreover, are close to those of dumb animals. It has even been reported that most of the Negroes of the first zone dwell in caves and thickets, eat herbs, live in savage isolation and do not congregate, and eat each other.216 The same applies to the Slavs. The reason for this is that their remoteness from being temperate produces in them a disposition and character similar to those of the dumb animals, and they become correspondingly remote from humanity. The same also applies to their religious conditions. They are ignorant of prophecy and do not have a religious law, except for the small minority that lives near the temperate regions. (This minority includes,) for instance, the Abyssinians, who are neighbors of the Yemenites and have been Christians from pre-Islamic and Islamic times down to the present; and the Mali, the Gawgaw, and the Takrur who live close to the Maghrib and, at this time, are Muslims. They are said to have adopted Islam in the seventh [thirteenth] century. Or, in the north, there are those Slav, European Christian, and Turkish nations that have adopted Christianity. All the other inhabitants of the intemperate zones in the south and in the north are ignorant of all religion. (Religious) scholarship is lacking among them. All their conditions are remote from those of human beings and close to those of wild animals. "And He creates what you do not know." 217
The (foregoing statement) is not contradicted by the existence of the Yemen, the Hadramawt, al-Ahqaf, the Hijaz, the Yamimah, and adjacent regions of the Arabian Peninsula in the first and second zones. As we have mentioned,218 the Arabian Peninsula is surrounded by the sea on three sides. The humidity of ( the sea) influences the humidity in the air of ( the Arabian Peninsula). This diminishes the dryness and intemperance that (otherwise) the heat would cause. Because of the humidity from the sea, the Arabian Peninsula is to some degree temperate.
Genealogists who had no knowledge of the true nature of things imagined that Negroes are the children of Ham, the son of Noah, and that they were singled out to be black as the result of Noah's curse, which produced Ham's color and the slavery God inflicted upon his descendants. It is mentioned in the Torah 219 that Noah cursed his son Ham. No reference is made there to blackness. The curse included no more than that Ham's descendants should be the slaves of his brothers' descendants. To attribute the blackness of the Negroes to Ham, reveals disregard of the true nature of heat and cold and of the influence they exercise upon the air (climate) and upon the creatures that come into being in it. The black color (of skin) common to the inhabitants of the first and second zones is the result of the composition of the air in which they live, and which comes about under the influence of the greatly increased heat in the south. The sun is at the zenith there twice a year at short intervals. In (almost) all seasons, the sun is in culmination for a long time. The light of the sun, therefore, is plentiful.220 People there have (to undergo) a very severe summer, and their skins turn black because of the excessive heat. Something similar happens in the two corresponding zones to the north, the seventh and sixth zones. There, a white color (of skin) is common among the inhabitants, likewise the result of the composition of the air in which they live, and which comes about under the influence of the excessive cold in the north. The sun is always on the horizon within the visual field (of the human observer), or close to it. It never ascends to the zenith, nor even (gets) close to it. The heat, therefore, is weak in this region, and the cold severe in (almost) all seasons. In consequence, the color of the inhabitants is white, and they tend to have little body hair. Further consequences of the excessive cold are blue eyes, freckled skin, and blond hair.
The fifth, fourth, and third zones occupy an intermediate position. They have an abundant share of temperance221 which is the golden mean. The fourth zone, being the one most nearly in the center, is as temperate as can be. We have mentioned that before.222 The physique and character of its inhabitants are temperate to the (high) degree necessitated by the composition of the air in which they live. The third and fifth zones lie on either side of the fourth, but they are less centrally located. They are closer to the hot south beyond the third zone and the cold north beyond the fifth zone. However, they do not become intemperate.
The four other zones are intemperate, and the physique and character of their inhabitants show it. The first and second zones are excessively hot and black, and the sixth and seventh zones cold and white. The inhabitants of the first and second zones in the south are called the Abyssinians, the Zanj, and the Sudanese (Negroes). These are synonyms used to designate the (particular) nation that has turned black. The name "Abyssinians," however, is restricted to those Negroes who live opposite Mecca and the Yemen, and the name "Zanj" is restricted to those who live along the Indian Sea. These names are not given to them because of an (alleged) descent from a black human being, be it Ham or any one else. Negroes from the south who settle in the temperate fourth zone or in the seventh zone that tends toward whiteness, are found to produce descendants whose color gradually turns white in the course of time. Vice versa, inhabitants from the north or from the fourth zone who settle in the south produce descendants whose color turns black. This shows that color is conditioned by the composition of the air. In his rajaz poem on medicine, Avicenna said:
Where the Zanj live is a heat that changes their bodies
Until their skins are covered all over with black.
The Slavs acquire whiteness
Until their skins turn soft.223
The inhabitants of the north are not called by their color, because the people who established the conventional meanings of words were themselves white. Thus, whiteness was something usual and common (to them), and they did not see anything sufficiently remarkable in it to cause them to use it as a specific term. Therefore, the inhabitants of the north, the Turks, the Slavs, the Tughuzghuz,224 the Khazars, the Alans, most of the European Christians, the Gog and Magog are found to be separate nations 225 and numerous races called by a variety of names.
The inhabitants of the middle zones are temperate in their physique and character and in their ways of life. They have all the natural conditions necessary for a civilized life, such as ways of making a living, dwellings, crafts, sciences, political leadership, and royal authority. They thus have had (various manifestations of) prophecy, religious groups, dynasties, religious laws, sciences, countries, cities, buildings, horticulture, splendid crafts, and everything else that is temperate.
Now, among the inhabitants of these zones about whom we have historical information are, for instance, the Arabs, the Byzantines (Rum), the Persians, the Israelites, the Greeks, the Indians, and the Chinese. When 226 genealogists noted differences between these nations, their distinguishing marks and characteristics, they considered these to be due to their (different) descents. They declared all the Negro inhabitants of the south to be descendants of Ham. They had misgivings about their color and therefore undertook to report the afore-mentioned silly story. They declared all or most of the inhabitants of the north to be the descendants of Japheth, and they declared most of the temperate nations, who inhabit the central regions, who cultivate the sciences and crafts, and who possess religious groups and religious laws as well as political leadership and royal authority, to be the descendants of Shem. Even if the genealogical construction were correct, it would be the result of mere guesswork, not of cogent, logical argumentation. It would merely be a statement of fact. It would not imply that the inhabitants of the south are called "Abyssinians" and "Negroes" because they are descended from "black" Ham. The genealogists were led into this error by their belief that the only reason for differences between nations is in their descent. This is not so. Distinctions between races or nations are in some cases due to a different descent, as in the case of the Arabs, the Israelites, and the Persians. In other cases, they are caused by geographical location and (physical) marks, as in the case of the Zanj (Negroes), the Abyssinians, the Slavs, and the black (Sudanese) Negroes. Again, in other cases, they are caused by custom and distinguishing characteristics, as well as by descent, as in the case of the Arabs. Or, they may be caused by anything else among the conditions, qualities, and features peculiar to the different nations. But to generalize and say that the inhabitants of a specific geographical location in the south or in the north are the descendants of such-and-such a well-known person because they have a common color, trait, or (physical) mark which that (alleged) forefather had, is one of those errors which are caused by disregard, (both) of the true nature of created beings and of geographical facts. (There also is disregard of the fact that the physical circumstances and environment) are subject to changes that affect later generations; they do not necessarily remain unchanged.
This is how God proceeds with His servants. And verily, you will not be able to change God's way.227