"The Basics of Using the Sword and the Shield" and "The Sufficiency in the Science of Archery"


This original manuscript preserves two treatises, both written in the form of an urjuzah (type of Arabic poem) and copied by the author himself. The first one is entitled Kitāb al-Uss fī al-ʻamal bi-al-sayf wa-al-turs (The basics of using the sword and the shield), and the second al-Kifāyah fī ʻilm al-rimāyah (The sufficiency in the science of archery). The identity of that author, however, is unclear except that he was from Hamah (in present-day Syria) as his name attribute indicates. Colophon notes attribute both works to Muhhammad ibn ʻAli al-Hashimi al-Hamawi. One of these notes states that the second treatise was completed on Wednesday, 18 Shaʻban 996 AH (July 12 or 13, 1588). However, an entry in Zirikli’s al-Aʿlam biographical dictionary, an authority in the field, attributes both treatises to Abu Abdallah Muhammad ibn ʻAli ibn Ghazi al-Hamawi, nicknamed al-Asil, a Hanafi judge and poet, who sought the patronage of Ayyubid Sultan al-Kamil (known in the West as Meledin, reigned 1218−38). Both the colophon notes and Zirikli’s entry indicate that al-Hamawi was at some point a judge in Yemen, which might help explain some of the confusion about his identity. Interwoven with the history of Arabic and Islamic conquests, the two treatises discuss the use of the arms mentioned in the titles. The first treatise is divided into an introduction and a few sections. Each section discusses an aspect of swordsmanship, including the best types of swords (Yemeni and Hindi), how to draw a sword (hold the upper end of the cross-guard at the center of your waist, the scabbard pressed against your thigh), and how to train to be a good swordsman (use a horse-high tree branch). The use of a shield is also explained, and presented as complementary to that of a sword, as “a sword is useless for a knight without a shield.” The second treatise is similarly divided into topical sections but is twice as long, elaborating on specific uses of archery, including shooting from a distance, in the dark, and over the walls of a fortress. The manuscript is written in black ink with red section headings, in naskh script, and in two columns on cream laid paper. There are catchwords on rectos.


Title in Original Language

كتاب الأس في العمل بالسيف والترس. ويليه كتاب الكفاية في علم الرماية

Type of Item

Physical Description

45 leaves, bound : paper ; 20 x 15 centimeters

Last updated: August 27, 2015