1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Nadīm

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

NADĪM [Abulfaraj Maḥommed ibn Isḥāq ibn abī Ya‘qūb un-Nadīm] (d. 995), of Bagdad, the author of one of the most interesting works in Arabic literature, the Fihrist ul-‘Ulūm (“list of the books of all nations that were to be found in Arabic”) with notices of the authors and other particulars, carried down to the year 988. A note in the Leiden MS. places the death of the author eight years later. Of his life we know nothing. His work gives us a complete picture of the most active intellectual period of the Arabian empire. He traces the rise and growth of philology and belles-lettres, of theology, orthodox and heretical, of law and history, of mathematics and astronomy, of medicine and alchemy; he does not despise the histories of knights errant, the fables of Kalila and Dimna, the facetiae of the “boon companions,” the works of magic and divination. But to us no part of his work is more interesting than his account of the beliefs of sects and peoples beyond Islam. Here, fortunately, still more than in other parts of his work, he goes beyond the functions of the mere cataloguer; he tells what he learned of China from a Christian missionary of Nejrān, of India from a description of its religion compiled for the Barmecide Yaḥya; his full accounts of the Sabians of Harran and of the doctrines of Mani are of the first importance for the historian of Asiatic religions.

Imperfect manuscripts of the Fihrist exist in Paris, Leiden and Vienna. The text was prepared for publication by G. Flügel, and edited after his death by J. Rodiger and A. Müller (2 vols., Leipzig, 1871-1872). Flügel had already given a full analysis of the work in the Journal of the German Oriental Society, vol. xiii. (1859), pp. 559-650; cf. E. G. Browne, A Literary History of Persia (London, 1902), pp. 383-387. T. Houtsma supplied a lacuna in Flügel's edition in the Vienna Oriental Journal, vol. iv. pp. 217 sqq.