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The Precedence of the Shi’ah in Geography

By: Allamah Sayyid Hasan al-Sadr
We have already seen that Hisham ibn Muhammad al–Kalbi, a disciple of Imam al–Baqir has written Kitab al–Aqalim (On Regions), Kitab al–Buldan al–Kabir and Kitab al–Buldan al–Saghir, Kitab Tasmiyat al–Aradin, Kitab al–Anhar, Kitab al–Hira, Kitab Manazil al–Yaman (Book of Yemeni Houses), Kitab al–Aja’ib al–Arba’ah (Book of the Four Wonders), Kitab Aswaq al–Arab (Book of Arabian Markets) and Kitab al–Hira wa Tasmiyat al–Biya’ wa al–Diyarat (Book of the City of al–Hira and the Enumeration of its Churches and Monasteries). This is all mentioned by Ibn al–Nadim under the section on al–Kalbi’s works in Al–Fihrist, as we are aware. It is therefore, rather amazing that al–Hamwi had only this to say about Hisham in his Mu’jam al–Buldan: “And Hisham ibn Muhammad al–Kalbi: I know a book of his with the title Ishtiqaq al–Buldan” although he claims to have explored the whole range of Muslim geographers who sought to name the lands and kingdoms and mention the distances along roads and highways. All the people he mentioned came after Hisham ibn Muhammad al–Kalbi.
The men of letters who sought to list different regions of Arabia including Bedouin settlements hardly faired any better. This fact could not have been hidden from people like al–Hamwi and it is out of the question that he might have meant that he mentioned only the works he saw. This is because al–Hamawi said in another passage, “And Abu Sa’id al–Sayrafi: I heard that he had a book on the Arabian peninsular.”
In addition, he explicitly names other books on this subject that he saw while ignoring (due to his bias?) a number of works by Shi’ah scholars, such as Kitab al–Aradin and Kitab al–Buldan which are written by Abu Jafar Muhammad ibn Khalid al–Barqi who was a disciple of Imam al–Kazim, -’aIbn al–Nadim observes in Al–Fihrist that the latter’s son, Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Khalid also had a work with the title Kitab al–Buldan and noted that it was larger than his father’s.
Other works on geography by Shi'ah authors include: Kitab al–Buldan written by al–Yaqubi who died circa 278 A. H. It is printed in Leiden. Kitab al–Kharaj (Book of Land Tax) written by Qudamah ibn Ja’far al–Katib who died in 310. It is also printed in Leiden. Kitab Asma al–Jibal wa al–Miyah wa al–Awdiyah a work of Hamdun, the teacher of Taghlib and Ibn al–A’rabi who were second century scholars.
Besides these we have Kitab al–Adriyah wa al–A’mal fi al–Buldan wa al–Aqtar (Book of Homelands and Provinces of Countries and Regions). It is a large book. Thirty odd homelands and provinces are enumerated in it. The author of this work was Abu al–Hasan al–Simsati, the grammarian who was the master of our companions in the Arabian peninsular during the third century; Al–Masalik wa al–Mamalik (Routes and Kingdoms) written by al–Mas’udi, Ali ibn al–Hasan (d. 346); and lastly, Kitab al–Diyarat (Book of Localities), a sizeable work also written by Abu al–Hasan Ali ibn Muhammad al–Simsati.

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