Sponsored By: Infinity Foundation

Nuzhatu-l Mushtak

Nuzhatu-l Mushtak of Al-Idrisi (b. in Ceuta, Morocco at the end of the 11th century)
In The History of India as Told by its own HistoriansThe Posthumous Papers of the Late Sir H. M. Elliot. John Dowson, ed. 1st ed. 1867. 2nd ed., Calcutta: Susil Gupta, 1956, vol. 10, pp.104-129.

  1. Overview

The full title of this work is Nuzhatu-l Mushtak fi Ikhtiraku-l Afak, “The Delight of those who seek to wander through the regions of the world”.  It is an account of the known world as of the eleventh century.  There are two manuscripts in the text in the Bodleian Library at Oxford University.  An abridged Arabic version of the text was published in Rome in 1592, and and a Latin translation of the text was published in Paris in 1619, entitled Geographia Nubiensis, id est accuratissima orbis in septem climata divisi descriptio continens, praesertim exactam universae Asiae et Africae, in Latinum versa a Gabriele Sionita et Joanne Hesronita.  A French translation of the entire work by Jaubert was published in 1836 and 1840; the extracts in English here are translated thence.

The full name of the author of this work is Abu ‘Abdullah Muhammad.  He was born toward the end of the eleventh century in Ceuta, in Morocco.  He is commonly known by the name Al ‘Idrisi, which is actually a family name, as the family descends from an ancestor names Idris.  Members of his family served as princes in Morocco in the ninth and tenth centuries, and Al Idrisi’s branch of family governed the city of Malaga.

The text has a significant section on India, focusing on Sindh, the area with which the Arabs are most familiar.  There is coverage of other portions of India not under Arab control, but these sections are less detailed, and probably less accurate, based as they are on hearsay.

  1. Excerpt

 [p. 122]

The Indians are naturally inclined to justice, and never depart from it in their actions.  Their good faith, honesty and fidelity to their engagements are well known, and they are so famous for these qualities that people flock to their country from every side; hence the country is flourishing and their condition prosperous.  Among other characteristic marks of their love of truth and horror of vice, the following is related: -When a man has a right to demand anything of another, and he happens to meet him, he has only to draw a circular line upon the ground and to make his debtor enter it, which the latter never fails to do, and the debtor cannot leave this circle without satisfying his creditor, or obtaining the remission of the debt.