Al-Idrisi, Abu 'Abd Allah Muhammad

(1099- ca. 1164)

Abu Abdallah Muhammad Ibn Muhammad Ibn Abdallah Ibn Idris al-Qurtubi al-Hasani, was born Ceuta,
Morocco. He studied in Cordoba, which at the time was a center for learning. He served in the court of Roger II of Sicily, for whom he produced al-Kitab al¬-Rujari (Roger’s Book), a geographical treatise which included the first scientific map of the world. It is also known in Arabic as Nuzhat al-Mushtaq fi Ikhtiraq al-Afaq (the delight in choosing the horizons of the journey)

He is a descendant of Idris bin Abdallah, the founder of the Idrisi dynasty in the Maghreb during Harun al Rashid’s caliphate in Baghdad.

As a young man, al-Idrisi traveled in North Africa and the Andalus and to parts of France, Asia Minor,
Egypt and the eastern Mediterranean region. His fame brought him to the Court of the Norman King Roger II in Sicily in 1154.

As the court geographer in Sicily he drew the map of the world on a silver planisphere. Al-Idrisi believed that only the northern hemisphere was inhabited, and that the southern hemisphere was lifeless, and that the equator divided the planet into two equal parts For his map he divided the north into 7 climatic zones of equal width, each of which was subdivided into 10 equal parts by lines of longitude, resulting in 70 sections. He copied the map from the silver planisphere to paper for his book. This treatise combined his own findings from first hand observations with the knowledge from Arabic and Greek geographic works.
He called it al-Kitab al-Rujari in honor of his patron.

Al-Idrisi compiled another geographical encyclopedia, entitled Rawd-Unnas wa-Nuzhat al-Nafs (Pleasure of men and delight of souls) also known as Kitab al- Mamalik wa al-Masalik.

His wrote several books on medicinal plants, the most famous being Kitab al-Jami-li-Sifat Ashtat al-Nabatat (Compendium of plants and their properties). This book introduced large number of new medicinal plants and their properties to the medical practitioners.

Apart from botany and geography, al-Idrisi wrote on fauna and zoology. Several of his books were translated into Latin and his books on geography were popular for several centuries.  His world map was used in Europe extensively during the era of explorations.