The Perfection of Eloquence: The Letters of Shams al-Maʻali Qabus ibn Washmakir


Kamāl al-balāghah wa huwa rasāʼil Shams al-Maʻālī Qābūs ibn Washmakīr (The perfection of eloquence: The letters of Shams al-Maʻali Qabus ibn Washmakir) is a critical edition of a little-known collection of letters by Ibn Washmakir. The letters demonstrate the writer’s badi’ (virtuosity), especially in rhymed prose. They were transcribed by one ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Yazdadi, who gave the compilation the title Kamal al-balaghah. The current edition is based on two manuscripts discovered in Baghdad in the early 20th century by bookseller Nu’man al-A’zimi. The work was extensively annotated and provided with an introduction by the printer Muhibb al-Din al-Khatib. Ibn Washmakir (died 1012 or 1013) is well known in medieval history as the governor of Tabaristan, the area of Persia bordering the Caspian Sea, under the Abbasid caliphs. He was known by various names, including amir (prince) and Qabus al-Ziyari. The caliph in Baghdad conferred on him the nickname Shams al-Ma’ali (Noon-bright Sun). He ruled Tabaristan until he was deposed and assassinated. Although he is remembered by historians for his cruelty, he is nevertheless credited with mastery of Arabic and Persian prose and poetry as well as of philosophy and astronomy. Nothing has survived of his work, however, beyond Kamal al-balaghah and some scattered quotations in medieval anthologies. His court was home to outstanding literary and scientific personalities. Perhaps his most famous guest was Ibn Sina, or Avicenna (died 1037), who took refuge with him from persecution at the court of Mahmud of Ghazni (died 1030). Nothing is known about the compiler, other than that he was born into a learned family. He supplied admiring commentary on the style of the letters. The text is carefully printed, vowelled and footnoted, with occasional parenthetical explanations by the editor. The book was published (i.e., financed) by Nuʻman al-Aʻzami, proprietor of the Arabic Bookshop in Baghdad and was printed in Cairo by Muhibb al-Din al-Khatib at his Salafiyah Press. The volume includes short, unedited philosophical essays by Ibn Washmakir.

Date Created

Publication Information

Salafiyah Press, Cairo


Title in Original Language

كمال البلاغة: وهو رسائل شمس المعالي قابوس بن وشمكير

Type of Item

Physical Description

112 pages ; 24 centimeters


  1. On ibn Washmakir, his life and works: Al-Kik, Fiktur.  “Amir Qabus al-Ziyari bayna Kamal al-balaghah wa Nahj al-balaghah” (Prince Qabus al-Ziyari: between Kamal al-balaghah and Nahj al-balaghah), Al-‘Arabi, number 651, February 2013.

Last updated: February 18, 2015