The Book of Elegance in the Science of Agriculture


‘Abd al-Ghani ibn Isma’il al-Nabulusi (1641‒1731, 1050‒1143 AH) was an influential Syrian author whose corpus of at least 150 known works primarily treat mystical and other theological matters. After losing his father at a young age, al-Nabulusi developed an interest in mysticism and joined the Qadiriyya and Naqsbandiyya Sufi orders. Residing near the great Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, al-Nabulusi appears to have immersed himself for long periods in the works of Ibn al-‘Arabi and other mystical writers, indifferent to worldly habits such as the trimming of his beard and hair. In his mature years, al-Nabulusi travelled widely in the eastern Mediterranean, visiting Istanbul, Jerusalem, Hebron, Egypt, and Tripoli. In 1702 al-Nabulusi returned to Damascus, where he lived in the Salihiya quarter for the rest of his life. Al-Nabulusi’s ‘Alam al-malāḥah fī ‘ilm al-filāḥah (The book of elegance in the science of agriculture) is unusual in that its topic falls outside those favored by al-Nabulusi, namely mysticism and poetry. In the introduction, the author refers to his work as an abridgment of an agricultural work by the Syrian author Radi al-Din al-Gazzi al-‘Amiri (died 1529). Al-Nabulusi’s work consists of ten chapters treating such topics as various types of soils, irrigation, and the cultivation of trees, flowering plants, and grain crops. In the conclusion al-Nabulusi discusses the manner in which agricultural produce can be preserved and stored for future use. The manuscript was completed on 8 Shawwāl, 1127 AH (October 7, 1715).

Last updated: December 29, 2015