Al-Muqaddasi of Palestine : The greatest geographer of all time

muk pMuhammad Ibn Ahmad Shams al-Din Al-Muqaddasi, also known as Al-Maqdisi (born ca. 945-46-died ca. 1000) was a notable early Arab geographer. A traveller, geographer, and author, he is by far one of the most instructive of early Islamic social scientists. He was originally from Al-Quds (Jerusalem) in Palestine, hence his name. He is best known for his treatise entitled Ahsan at-Taqasim fi Ma’arifat Al-Aqalim (The Best Classification for the Knowledge of the Climes (or Regions) which was completed in 375 H/985 CE. A revised edition was produced three years later . According to Al-Muqaddasi himself, his grandfather (al-Bana) was a revered architect employed by Ibn Tulun to build the Acre seaport.

In his early years, Al-Muqaddasi had the advantage of an excellent education and after having made the Pilgrimage to Makkah at twenty years of age, he determined to devote himself to the study of geography. For the purpose of acquiring the necessary information, he undertook a series of journeys which lasted two decades, and setting out from Jerusalem, carried him in turn throughout the Muslim world. It was only in 985 CE that he set himself to write his book Ahsan a-Taqasim fi Ma’rifat al-Aqalim, a systematic account of all the places and regions he had visited.

The book is an epic geographical treatise and also a great work of literature. This treatise was based on some twenty years of personal experiences and observations noted in his survey of the realm of Islam, from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean. Early in the second half of the nineteenth century the German orientalist Aloys Sprenger, brought to the attention of the West, a manuscript of Al-Muqaddasi’s work. Sprenger’s enthusiasm over the content of the manuscript is reflected in his judgment that its author is the greatest geographer of all time – this view is shared by many scholars.

10th-century Palestinian geographer Al-Muqaddasi, also touched on various subjects of interest to the social sciences in his book Ahsan al-taqasim fi ma’rifat al-aqalim. The full name of our scholar is Shams al-Din Abu ‘Abd Allah Muhammadb. Ahmad b. Abi Bakr al-Banna’ al-Shami al-Muqaddasi. His name Al-Muqaddasi is also transliterated as Al-Maqdisi and al-Mukaddasi.. Al-Muqaddasi performed two pilgrimages to the holy shrines in Makkah and Madina in 356 H/967 CE and 367 H/978 CE.