Clues in the Science of Interpreting Dreams


Ghars al-Din Khalil Ibn Shahin al-Zahiri was born in 1410−11, probably in Jerusalem (or perhaps Cairo). His father was a mamluk of the first Burji sultan (al-Malik al-Zahir) Sayf al-Din Barquq, from whom the nisba (name indicating provenance) al-Zahiri derives. Ghars al-Din Khalil studied in Cairo and—under the Mamluk sultans Barsbay and Jaqmaq—achieved a remarkable career as an administrator, serving at Cairo (as vizier), as well as at Alexandria, Karak, Safed, and Aleppo (as nazir, or overseer). Al-Ishārāt fī ʻilm al-ʻibārāt(Clues in the science of interpreting dreams) is divided into 80 chapters on visions of God Almighty. Some examples are: Allāh taʻālā wa al-ʻarsh wa al-kursī (The throne and power of God) in chapter one; al-Malā’ika wa al-waḥy wa al-samāwāt wa al-aflāk (Of angels, the revelation, and the heavens) in chapter two; al-Saḥāb wa al-maṭar wa al-thulj (Of clouds, rain, and snow) in chapter five; al-Anibīyā’ wa al-āl wa al-ṣahāba wa al-tābiʻīn wa al-khulafa’ wa ansābihim (Of prophets, and their family and companions, and those who followed them and of caliphs and their kin) in chapter seven; Iblīs wa al-shayātīn wa al-jinn wa al-kahāna wa al-siḥr (Of Satan, the jinn, and divination and sorcery) in chapter 79; and Nawādir yataʻayyan bihā al-insān ʻalā al-tauba (Of wonders through which man [is led] to repentance) in chapter 80. In his introduction to his book, Ghars al-Din takes pains to set his work in the framework of sharia law, quoting the Qurʼan (34:14) and numerous instances from hadith literature, providing as well a list of books upon which his work is based. A prolific author and poet, Ghars al-Din wrote approximately 30 works, the most celebrated of which is probably Kashf al-mamālik wa bayān al-ṭuruq wa al-masālik (An exploration of kingdoms and an explication of roads and paths), written in about 1453, in which he provides a vivid picture of Egypt under the Mamluks. Sadly, this work has only survived in its abridged form, Zubdat kashf al-mamālik (Selections from the Kashf al-mamālik). He died in 1468−69 in Tripoli.

Last updated: August 15, 2016