Zakariya al-Qazwini

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Tile with two rabbits, two snakes and a tortoise. Illustration for Zakariya al-Qazwini’s book, Marvels of Things Created and Miraculous Aspects of Things Existing (13th century). Earthenware, molded and underglaze-painted decoration. Iran, 19th century.

 

Abu Yahya Zakariya’ ibn Muhammad al-Qazwini (أبو یحیی زکریاء بن محمد القزویني) or Zakarya Qazvini (Persian: زکریا قزوینی) ‎(1203–1283) was a Persian[1][2][3] physician, astronomer, geographer and proto-science fiction writer of Arab descent.[4][5] He belonged to a family of jurists who had long before settled in Qazvin. He was a descendant of the Medinian Sahabi (Companion of the Prophet Muhammad) Anas bin Malik

The Monster of Gog and Magog, by Zakariya al-Qazwini

Career

Born in Qazvin, Iran, Zakariya Qazvini served as a legal expert and judge in several localities in Iran and at the city of Baghdad. He travelled around in Mesopotamia and the Levant, and finally entered the circle patronized by the governor of Baghdad, Ata-Malik Juvayni (d. 1283 CE).

It was to the latter that Qazvini dedicated his famous cosmography titled “The Wonders of Creation” (عجائب المخلوقات وغرائب الموجودات, Marvels of Creatures and Strange Things Existing). This treatise, frequently illustrated, was immensely popular and is preserved today in many copies. It was translated into his native Persian language, and later also into Turkish.

Qazvini was also well known for his geographical dictionary “Monument of Places and History of God’s Bondsmen” (آثار البلاد وأخبار العباد). Both of these treatises reflect extensive reading and learning in a wide range of disciplines.

Qazvini also wrote a futuristic proto-science fiction Arabic tale entitled Awaj bin Anfaq[6] (أوج بن أنفاق), about a man who travelled to Earth from a distant planet.[7]

Qazvini mentioned how alchemists dubbed “swindlers” claimed to have carried out the transmutation of metals into gold; he states:

…they ruined the development of the science of chemistry, by fooling powerful rulers such as Imad ad-Din Zengi and thus many scholars and various colleagues turned against alchemy thus resulting in the isolation of the science.[8]

 

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