Curiosity Abated by Wonders of Old Related


This manuscript, Mushtaha al-‘Uqul fi Muntaha al-Nuqul (Curiosity abated by wonders of old related), is a list of extraordinary facts, or marvels, compiled by al-Suyuti (1445−1505), one of the most prolific Muslim authors of late medieval times. The facts concern religion and history. The first entries cover the wondrous size and power of angels. These are followed by entries on such disparate topics as a census of Baghdad, the size and expense of the Umayyad army, the feats of learning and preaching of early Muslim scholars, and short extracts from the Qurʼan about Moses and Aaron. One entry reveals that Satan served the Lord for 90,000 years before pride earned him his eternal punishment. Modern scholars have concluded that al-Suyuti compiled his “facts” to amaze and entertain the reader. He usually did not see fit to provide sources for his claims. Although al-Suyuti was born in Cairo, his family roots were in the Upper Egyptian town of Asyut. He was orphaned at age five and raised by a foster father who directed him toward religious studies. In his autobiography, al-Suyuti states that by the age of eight he had memorized the Qurʼan and wrote his first book at 17. He is credited with nearly 700 works, only a fraction of which are mentioned in his autobiography. Many of his works have been reprinted in scholarly and popular editions. This is a 24-page manuscript without colophon. It is bound with two other titles, The Path of the Vexed towards Achievement by al-Athari, and Fundamentals and Rules by Nawawi. Also bound in the same volume is the first page of a manuscript ascribed to the Sufi saint ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani (died 1166).

Last updated: August 24, 2016