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region Muslim scholar| era = Medieval era| color = #B0C4DE| image = File:Al-Jahiz-QatariStamp.jpg| caption = Qatari stamp of al-Jāḥiẓ| birth_date = 776| birth_place = Basra, Abbasid Caliphate| death_date = 868-9 | death_place = Basra, Abbasid Caliphate| school_tradition = | main_interests = Arabic literature| influences = | influenced = Ibn Miskawayh, al-Biruni, Ibn Tufayl, Ibn Maḍāʾ
al-Jāḥiẓ () (full name AbÅ« Ê¿Uthman Ê¿Amr ibn Baḥr al-KinānÄ« al-Baá¹£rÄ« ) (born 776, in Basra – December 868/January 869) was an Arab prose writer and author of works of literature, Mu'tazili theology, and politico-religious polemics.

Early life

Not much is known about al-Jāḥiẓ's early life, but his family was very poor. Born in Basra early in 160/February 776, he asserted in a book he wrote that he was a member of the Arabian tribe Banu Kinanah.Al-Jahiz messages, Alwarraq edition, page 188; Yāqūt, Irshād al-arīb ilá ma`rifat al-adīb, ed. Iḥsān `Abbās, 7 vols (Beirut: Dār al-Gharb al-Islāmī, 1993), 5:2102.BOOK, Chuo Kikuu cha Dar es Salaam. Chuo cha Uchunguzi wa Lugha ya Kiswahili, Kiswahili, 1974, East African Swahili Committee, 16,weblink ; Yāqūt, Irshād al-arīb ilá ma`rifat al-adīb, ed. Iḥsān `Abbās, 7 vols (Beirut: Dār al-Gharb al-Islāmī, 1993), 5:2102. His nephew also reported that al-Jāḥiẓ's grandfather was a black cameleerweblink sold fish along one of the canals in Basra in order to help his family. Financial difficulties, however, did not stop al-Jāḥiẓ from continuously seeking knowledge. He used to gather with a group of other youths at Basra's main mosque, where they would discuss different scientific subjects. He also attended various lectures given by the most learned men in philology, lexicography and poetry.Al-Jāḥiẓ continued his studies. Over a span twenty-five years, he would acquire considerable knowledge of Arabic poetry, Arabic philology, and pre-Islamic Arab history. He also studied the Qur'an and the Hadiths. Additionally, al-Jāḥiẓ read translated books on Greek sciences and Hellenistic philosophy, especially that of the Greek philosopher Aristotle. His education was highly facilitated by the fact that the Abbasid Caliphate was in a period of cultural and intellectual revolution. Books became readily available, and this made learning easily available.


(File:Al-Jahiz.jpg|thumb|A giraffe from Kitāb al-Hayawān (Book of the Animals) by al-Jāḥiẓ.)While still in Basra, al-Jāḥiẓ wrote an article about the institution of the Caliphate. This is said to have been the beginning of his career as a writer, which would become his sole source of living. It is said that his mother once offered him a tray full of notebooks and told him he would earn his living from writing. He went on to write two hundred books in his lifetime on a variety of subjects, including Arabic grammar, zoology, poetry, lexicography, and rhetoric. Of his writings, only thirty books survive. Al-Jāḥiẓ was also one of the first Arabic writers to suggest a complete overhaul of the language's grammatical system, though this would not be undertaken until his fellow linguist Ibn Maḍāʾ took up the matter two hundred years later.Shawqi Daif, Introduction to Ibn Mada's Refutation of the Grammarians, pg. 48. Cairo, 1947.Al-Jāḥiẓ moved to Baghdad, then the capital of the caliphate, in 816 AD, because the Abbasid caliphs encouraged scientists and scholars and had just founded the House of Wisdom.{{citation needed|date=April 2016}} Because of the caliphs' patronage and his eagerness to establish himself and reach a wider audience, al-Jāḥiẓ stayed in Baghdad (and later Samarra), where he wrote a huge number of his books. The caliph al-Ma'mun wanted al-Jāḥiẓ to teach his children, but then changed his mind when his children were frightened by al-Jāḥiẓ's boggle-eyes (جاحظ العينين). This is said to be the origin of his nickname.{{citation needed|date=April 2016}} He enjoyed the patronage of al-Fath ibn Khaqan, the bibliophile boon companion of Caliph al-Mutawakkil, but after his murder in December 861 he left Samarra for his native Basra.{{sfn|Kennedy|2006|p=252}} He died there in late 868, according to one story, when a pile of books from his private library collapsed on him.{{sfn|Kennedy|2006|p=252}}

Foreshadowing of Evolution

al-Jahiz writes in Kitab al-Hayawan (IV,68) "Lice are black on the head of a young man with black hair, light on that of a hoary old man." This is most clear example of micro-evolution. al-Jahiz furthermore describes the struggle for existence and natural selection.WEB,weblink Islamic Foreshadowing of Evolution {{!, Muslim Heritage||access-date=2019-06-19}}

Most important books

File:Al-Jahiz - pages from Kitaab al Hayawaan 4.jpg|thumb|A page from al-Jāḥiẓ's Kitāb al-Hayawān depicting an ostrichostrich

Kitab al-Hayawan (Book of the Animals)

The al-Hayawan is an encyclopedia of seven volume of anecdotes, poetic descriptions and proverbs describing over 350 varieties of animals. The work was considered by the 11th-century Muslim scholar Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi to be "little more than a plagiarism" of Aristotle's Kitāb al-Hayawān, a charge that was once levelled against Aristotle himself with regard to a certain "Asclepiades of Pergamum".BOOK, F. E., Peters, Aristotle and the Arabs: The Aristotelian Tradition in Islam, 1968, New York University Press, 133, Later scholars have noted that there was only a limited Aristotelian influence in al-Jāḥiẓ's work, and that al-Baghdadi may have been unacquainted with Aristotle's work.JOURNAL, Mattock, J. N., Review: Aristotle and the Arabs: The Aristotelian Tradition in Islam by F. E. Peters, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 1971, 34, 1, 147–148, 614638, ...there is much more in al-Jāḥiẓ, enough to indicate that he used a version of Aristotle (or an epitome), but still not very much. If al-Baghdadi thought that the Kitab al-hayawan was a plagiarism of the Aristotelian work he was either a fool or unacquainted with Aristotle., 10.1017/s0041977x00141722, Conway Zirkle, writing about the history of natural selection science in 1941, said that an excerpt from this work was the only relevant passage he had found from an Arabian scholar. He provided a quotation describing the struggle for existence, citing a Spanish translation of this work: The rat goes out for its food, and is clever in getting it, for it eats all animals inferior to it in strength", and in turn, it "has to avoid snakes and birds and serpents of prey, who look for it in order to devour it" and are stronger than the rat. Mosquitos "know instinctively that blood is the thing which makes them live" and when they see an animal, "they know that the skin has been fashioned to serve them as food". In turn, flies hunt the mosquito "which is the food that they like best", and predators eat the flies. "All animals, in short, can not exist without food, neither can the hunting animal escape being hunted in his turn. Every weak animal devours those weaker than itself. Strong animals cannot escape being devoured by other animals stronger than they. And in this respect, men do not differ from animals, some with respect to others, although they do not arrive at the same extremes. In short, God has disposed some human beings as a cause of life for others, and likewise, he has disposed the latter as a cause of the death of the former."JOURNAL, Zirkle, Conway, vanc, 1941, Natural Selection before the "Origin of Species", Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 84, 1, 71–123, harv,

Kitab al-Bukhala (Book of Misers) also (Avarice & the Avaricious)

A collection of stories about the greedy. Humorous and satirical, it is the best example of al-Jāḥiẓ' prose style. Al-Jāḥiẓ ridicules schoolmasters, beggars, singers and scribes for their greedy behavior. Many of the stories continue to be reprinted in magazines throughout the Arabic-speaking world. The book is considered one of the best works of al-Jāḥiẓ.{{citation needed|date=July 2013}}

Kitab al-Bayan wa al-Tabyin (The Book of eloquence and demonstration)

al-Bayan wa al-Tabyin was one of al-Jāḥiẓ's later works, in which he wrote on epiphanies, rhetorical speeches, sectarian leaders, and princes. Though he was neither a poet nor a philologist in the proper sense - al-Jāḥiẓ took a keen interest in almost any imaginable subject - the book is considered to have started Arabic literary theory in a formal, systemic fashion.G. J. H. Van Gelder, Beyond the Line: Classical Arabic Literary Critics on the Coherence and Unity of the Poem, pg. 2. Volume 8 of Studies in Arabic literature: Supplements to the Journal of Arabic Literature. Leiden: Brill Publishers, 1982. {{ISBN|9789004068544}} Al-Jāḥiẓ's defining of eloquence as the ability of the speaker to deliver an effective message while maintaining it as brief or elaborate at will was widely accepted by later Arabic literary critics.G.J. van Gelder, "Brevity in Classical Arabic Literary Theory." Taken from Proceedings of the Ninth Congress of the Union Européenne Des Arabisants et Islamisants: Amsterdam, 1 to 7 September 1978, pg. 81. Ed. Rudolph Peters. Volume 4 of Publications of the Netherlands Institute of Archaeology and Arabic Studies in Cairo. Leiden: Brill Archive, 1981. {{ISBN|9789004063808}}

On the Zanj [ "Swahili coast"]

Concerning the Zanj, he wrote:}}


Al-Jāḥiẓ returned to Basra with hemiplegia after spending more than fifty years in Baghdad. He died in Basra in the Arabic month of Muharram in AH 255/December 868-January 869 CE.BOOK, al-Ṣūlī, Muḥammad ibn Yaḥyá, Kniga listov, 1998, T͡Sentr "Peterburgskoe vostokovedenie", Sankt-Peterburg, 392, His exact cause of death is not clear, but a popular assumption is that al-Jāḥiẓ died in his private library after one of many large piles of books fell on him, killing him instantly. BOOK, Pellat, C., Al-Jahiz, Ashtiany, Julia, Johnstone, T.M., Latham, J.D., Serjeat, R.B., Rex Smith, G., Abbasid Belles Lettres
, 1990, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK,weblink 10 January 2017, "A late tradition clams that Jahiz...was smothered to death under an avalanche of books.", 81,

See also




  • BOOK, Kennedy, Hugh, Hugh N. Kennedy, When Baghdad Ruled the Muslim World: The Rise and Fall of Islam's Greatest Dynasty, Cambridge, MA, Da Capo Press, 2006, 978-0-306814808,weblink harv,

External links

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