Summary of “al-Miftāḥ”


Talkhīṣ al-Miftāḥ (Summary of al-Miftāḥ) is a commentary on Miftāḥ al-ʻulum (Key to the sciences), a work of Arabic rhetoric by Yusuf ibn Abi Bakr al-Sakkaki (1160‒1229). The author of the summary is Jalal al-Din Muhammad al-Qazwini (1267 or 1268‒1338), better known as al-Khatib al-Qazwini (the Preacher al-Qazwini) and sometimes as Khatib Dimashq (the Preacher of Damascus). He was a master of Arabic grammar, eloquent expression, and the principles of Islamic law, as well as a prolific author. Talkhīṣ al-Miftāḥ is a short style manual filled with examples of good and bad composition. It covers grammatical topics, such as subject-predicate agreement, and stylistic matters, such as brevity, prolixity, and proper balance. Little is known of the author of Miftāḥ al-ʻulum except that he was born in Central Asia, in present-day Uzbekistan. Unlike the commentator, al-Qazwini, al-Sakkaki seems to have written very little, or few of his works have survived. Al-Qazwini, on the other hand, was a figure of some prominence. He was an important jurist in Cairo and Damascus as well as an authority on the Arabic language. The Talkhīṣ concentrates on various rhetorical lessons, such as interpolation and verbosity, and on reasoning, prosody, and wordplay. The work enjoyed widespread influence, as the many surviving manuscripts and editions attest, and is still the subject of scholarly attention. The book appeared in print in Calcutta in 1815 and in Istanbul in 1844. The edition presented here was printed in Beirut in 1884 or 1885 under the sponsorship of one Salim Nasrallah Daghir, about whom there is no biographical information.

Last updated: July 28, 2017