Life of Animals


This manuscript is a copy of the long version of al-Damīrī’s Hayāt al-hayawān (Life of animals), an encyclopedic work that was widely disseminated in the Islamic world in three versions or recensions—long, intermediate, and short. Muhammad ibn Musā ibn Isā Kamāl al-Din Ibn Ilyās ibn Abd-Allāh al-Damīrī (circa 1342–1405) was an Egyptian tailor who became an author and scholar. Building upon earlier work on animals by Jāhith (780–868), al-Damiri combined the Arabic and Persian literary tradition of animal tales with the legacy of Greece and Rome to offer a comprehensive, taxonomic presentation of the animal lore of his time. Arranged alphabetically by the names of the animals, the work contains more than 1,000 articles and quotes from 807 authors. Included is information on the etymology of animal names, the physical characteristics and habits of animals, and Islamic traditions and proverbs about various animals. Al-Damiri’s work exists in multiple editions in Arabic, as well as in Persian and Ottoman Turkish translations. It also was translated into Latin, and its contents were partially incorporated into the Hierozoïcon sive bipartitum Opus de Animalibus Sacrae Scripturae (Work on the animals of the sacred scriptures), published in London in 1663. The present manuscript was completed in 1459 (AH 863), only a half century after the death of al-Damiri. The manuscript is in two parts. In the last folio of the second part a legal question about divorce is posed and answered according to the Shāfiī school of law.

Last updated: July 23, 2012