1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Aṣma'ī

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AṢMA‘Ī [Abū Sa‘īd ‘Abd ul-Malik ibn Quraib] (c. 739-831), Arabian scholar, was born of pure Arab stock in Basra and was a pupil there of Abū ‘Amr ibn ul-‘Alā. He seems to have been a poor man until by the influence of the governor of Baṣra he was brought to the notice of Harūn al-Rashīd, who enjoyed his conversation at court and made him tutor of his son. He became wealthy and acquired property in Baṣra, where he again settled for a time; but returned later to Bagdad, where he died in 831. Aṣma‘ī was one of the greatest scholars of his age. From his youth he stored up in his memory the sacred words of the Koran, the traditions of the Prophet, the verses of the old poets and the stories of the ancient wars of the Arabs. He was also a student of language and a critic. It was as a critic that he was the great rival of Abū ‘Ubaida (q.v.). While the latter followed (or led) the Shu‘ūbite movement and declared for the excellence of all things not Arabian, Aṣma‘ī was the pious Moslem and avowed supporter of the superiority of the Arabs over all peoples, and of the freedom of their language and literature from all foreign influence. Some of his scholars attained high rank as literary men. Of Aṣma‘ī’s many works mentioned in the catalogue known as the Fihrist, only about half a dozen are extant. Of these the Book of Distinction has been edited by D. H. Müller (Vienna, 1876); the Book of the Wild Animals by R. Geyer (Vienna, 1887); the Book of the Horse, by A. Haffner (Vienna, 1895); the Book of the Sheep, by A. Haffner (Vienna, 1896).

For life of Aṣma‘ī, see Ibn Khallikān, Biographical Dictionary, translated from the Arabic by McG. de Slane (Paris and London, 1842), vol. ii. pp. 123-127. For his work as a grammarian, G. Flügel, Die grammatischen Schulen der Araber (Leipzig, 1862), pp. 72-80.

 (G. W. T.)