Abu al-Hasan Ali ibn al-Husayn al-Mas‘udi
NHM Bellariastraße side risalit right - Al Masudi - Emmerich Alexius Swoboda 3890.jpg
Born282–283 AH
AD 896
DiedJumadi ul-Thani, 345 AH
September, AD 956
EraIslamic golden age
CreedIraqi school
Main interest(s)History and Geography
Notable work(s)Muruj adh-dhahab wa ma'adin al-jawhar ("The Meadows of Gold and Mines of Gems") at-Tanbih wa-l-'Ashraf ("Admonition and Revision")

Al-Mas‘udi (Arabic: أبو الحسن علي بن الحسين بن علي المسعودي‎, Abu al-Ḥasan ʿAlī ibn al-Ḥusayn ibn ʿAlī al-Masʿūdī; c. 896–956) was an Arab historian, geographer and traveler. He is sometimes referred to as the "Herodotus of the Arabs".[1][2] A polymath and prolific author of over twenty works on theology, history (Islamic and universal), geography, natural science and philosophy, his celebrated magnum opus Muruj adh-dhahab wa ma'adin al-jawhar (Arabic: مروج الذهب و معادن الجوهر‎), combines universal history with scientific geography, social commentary and biography, and is published in English in a multi-volume series as 'The Meadows of Gold and Mines of Gems'.[3]

Birth, travels and literary output

Apart from what Al-Mas‘udi writes of himself little is known. Born in Baghdad he was descended from Abdullah Ibn Mas'ud, a companion of the Prophet Muhammad. He mentions many scholar associates met on his travels through many lands:

Al-Mas‘udi's travels actually occupied most of his life from at least 903/915 CE to very near the end of his life. His journeys took him to most of the Persian provinces, Armenia, Georgia and other regions of the Caspian Sea; as well as to Arabia, Syria and Egypt. He also travelled to the Indus Valley, and other parts of India, especially the western coast; and he voyaged more than once to East Africa. He also sailed on the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea, the Mediterranean and the Caspian.[4]

Al-Mas‘udi may have reached Sri Lanka and China although he is known to have met Abu Zaid al-Sirafi on the coast of the Persian Gulf and received information on China from him.[5] He presumably gathered information on Byzantium from the Byzantine admiral, Leo of Tripoli, a convert-to-Islam whom he met in Syria where his last years were divided between there and Egypt. In Egypt he found a copy of a Frankish king list from Clovis to Louis IV that had been written by an Andalusian bishop.

Little is known of his means and funding of his extensive travels within and beyond the lands of Islam, and it has been speculated that like many travelers he may have been involved in trade.[5]

Towards the end of The Meadows of Gold, al-Mas‘udi wrote:

The information we have gathered here is the fruit of long years of research and painful efforts of our voyages and journeys across the East and the West, and of the various nations that lie beyond the regions of Islam. The author of this work compares himself to a man who, having found pearls of all kinds and colours, gathers them together into a necklace and makes them into an ornament that its possessor guards with great care. My aim has been to trace the lands and the histories of many peoples, and I have no other.[6]

We know that al-Mas‘udi wrote a revised edition of Muruj adh-dhahab in 956 CE;[7] however, only a draft version from 947 is extant. Al-Mas‘udi in his Tanbih states that the revised edition of Muruj adh-dhahab contained 365 chapters.[5]