Ibn Hawqal’s travel book : Kurds in 10th century

Posted on February 27th, 2007 by piling

One of the greatest muslim Geographer and traveler is Ibn Hawqal, borned in 10th century/4th H, in Nisibîn, in Jazîra, where he grew until May 15th 943/7th Ramadan 331, when he started to travel and explore all the islamic world. He was both a trader and a missionary shiite militant (he suported the fatimid Caliph). He has written his wonderful and huge book : “al Kitab al Surat al Ard”, in which he described all the countries and the cities he visited, and made maps of the islamic world.

Jazira map, 10th century, Ibn Hawqal.

He let then very interesting and early descriptions of Kurdish tribes in Jazîrah, Jibal, Farsn and draw a map with Kurdish territories which is perhaps the oldest map of a Kurdish region.

Around Mosul he mentionned many nomadic groups, Arabs and Kurds who lived in winter and in summer, and 3 Kurdish tribes are listed : Hadhbaniya, Humaydiya, Lariya. Between bot Zab rivers, there are meadows for cattles, occupied by the Arab Banu Shayban tribe in summer, and by the Kurdish Hadhbaniya in winter. Then we could guess that Bedouins went to the North in summer searching for a colder place, while Kurds were in their zozan, and in winter, Arab went to the South while Kurds came bach from mountains with their cattles.

In Khuzistan, Luristan and Fars, numerous Kurdish tribes were spred. It seems then that at this time Ibn hawqal made no difference between Kurds and Lurs, for he mentionned that most of people in Luristan are Kurds.

In Fars (Persia province) he indicated that “there are 5 Kurdish camps and the biggest is Jilawayh or Ramijan camp ; then the Lawalijan or Ahmad ibn Laith’s camp ; Diwan camp, belonged to Husain ibn Salih ; – Shahryar ‘s camp called Mazinjan : “it is the name of a Kurdish tribe living around Ispahan ; Kariyan camp, belonged to Ahmad ibn Hasan or Ardashi camp.”

Ibn Hawqal said that it is difficult to give an exact estimation of their number, but there are probably more than 500.000 tents. These Kurds are shepherds, “like Arabs”. He precised that in each tent live from one to ten men : lords, servants, gardeners, shepherds, etc. Then life under great tents seemed to be very fastuous, these nomades lived like lords and perhaps princes, not like poor nomads…  For these “Kurdish camps” were not only a gathering of tents and cattles indeed, but ruled also cities and villages, collected taxes, were in charge of safety and roads and assume the fontions of governors in their camp-district. As Berbers in Norther Africa and Turks and Mongols in Asia, Kurdish confederations were very wealthy and powerful, we could call they way of live the “Civilization of tents”. Ibn Hawqal insists ont the fact that these huge camps are administrated exactly in the same way that the others provinces of the Abbasid Empire.
And he gave the list of the most important and famous Kurdish tribes living in the Fars :

Kirmaniya ; Ramaniya ; Madin ; Muhammad ibn Bishr’s tribe ; Baqiliya ; Bundahmahriya ; Muhammad ibn Ishaq’s tribe ; Sabbahiya ; Ishaqiya ; Adharkaniya ; Sahrakiya ; Tahmadahniya ; Ziyadiya ; Shahyariya ; Mihrakiya ; Mubarakiya ; Istamhariya ; Shahrawiya ; Bundadhakiya ; Khusrawiya ; Zanjiya ; Safariya ; Shahawiya ; Furatiya ; Salmuniya ; Siriya ; Azadhdukhtiya ; Mutallabiya ; Mamaliya ; Lariya ; Barazdukhtiya ; Shahkaniya ; Jaliliya.

He valued that all these tribes have more than 500.000 tents and that each tribe had about 1000 riders (warriors). They bred sheeps and horses, but not camels.
In Armenia, Azerbayjan and Arran, he mentionned the presence of Hadhbaniya tribe (Saladin’s tribe), who lived around Urmiah and Ushnu (Shino) during summer.

Jibal. The square at the center of the map, “at left of Hamdan-Rayy Road” is the summer and wintered camps of Kurds (written by Ibn Hawqal’s hand).

The city of Shahrazur is described as inhabited by Kurds in majority. And they lived as a total independance. Ibn Hawqal said that no State officials nor tax-administrator controled the place. Perhaps for that reason, he indicated also that life is easy and welathy in Shahrazur, and the cost of life is low, prices are not expansive. He praised the place, its beautiful and fertile landscape.

In the same way, the city of Suhraward is mostly inhabitated by Kurds.

According to Ibn Hawqal, all the moutains of Nothern Mesopotamia are Kurds’ land :

“Most of the cities and regions that I have mentionned are surrounded by very high moutains, terrible and unreachable abbysses, except the orad from Hamadan to Rayy and Qumm, which passes through plains, rarely cut by mountains. Territories occupied by abrupt moutains spred from the limites of Shaharazur to Amid, then between Azerbaidjan, Upper Mesopotamia and the region of Mosul : here is its lengh. Its width is quite 30 to 40 fersengs, and during a day of journey, no one can do it entirely on a flat ground. These moutains are very populated, inhabited by Kurds : The Hamidiya, Lariya, Hadhbaniya, and by other groups of Kurds from Shahrazur and Suhraward. The mountaineous country spred until Shahrazur and to Hulwan, Saimara, Sirawan, Lur, Ispahan, and the Fars border, then come back toward Qashan and Hamadan ; it ends at Qazwin and Dailam.”

All these maps could be seen in larger size on our Map Sections.


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