The Islamic historian, geographer, scientist, and traveller, al-Mas'udi
Compiled By: Syed Ali Shahbaz
On 23rd of the Islamic month of Zil-Hijjah in 345 AH, the Islamic historian, geographer, scientist, and traveller, Abu'l-Hassan Ali ibn al-Hussain al-Mas'udi, passed away at the age of 60 near the then Egyptian capital Fustat in what would later become the city of Cairo. He was born in Baghdad and traced his lineage to the Prophet's companion, Abdullah Ibn Mas'ud. In his homeland he mastered the sciences of the day including theology, history, philosophy, and geology, in addition to learning the Persian, Sanskrit, Greek, Latin and Syriac languages.
In his mid-twenties, he embarked on voyages to many Islamic and other lands that lasted almost till the end of his life. His journeys took him to most of the Persian provinces, including Armenia, Azerbaijan 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 sailed the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean, visiting Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia and China.
After careful observations, he wrote his works and was one of the first to combine history and scientific geography in a large-scale work. His surviving masterpiece, titled “Murouj az-Zahab wa Ma'aden al-Jawhar” (Meadows of Gold and Mines of Gems), is a universal geographical history. The titles of more than twenty books attributed to him are known, including several on Islamic beliefs, but most of his writings have been lost. His major work was “Akhbār az-Zamaan” (The History of Time) in 30 volumes. It was an encyclopedic world history, taking in not only political history but also many facets of human knowledge and activities.