DĪNAVARĪ, ABŪ ḤANĪFA AḤMAD b. Dāwūd b. Vanand (d. between 281/894 and 290/903), grammarian, lexicographer, astronomer, mathematician, and Islamic traditionist of Persian origin, who lived at Dīnavar and in several cities in Iraq in the 9th century. There is little information on his life, but he is known to have attended the lectures of Esḥāq Sekkīt and his son Yaʿqūb b. Esḥāq, both renowned philologists.
Dīnavarī has been compared to his older contemporary Jāḥeẓ (d. 255/869), but he differed in that he was interested in mathematics and the Islamic sciences. He was the author of about fifteen works, which are enumerated by Ebn al-Nadīm (ed. Flügel, I, p. 86; cf. Brockelmann, GAL, S I, p. 187; Sezgin, GAS IV, pp. 338-43; V, pp. 262-63, 428; VI, pp. 158-59; VIII, pp. 168-70) and in later biographies. They ranged from a commentary on the Koran to treatises on arithmetic (Ketāb al-baḥṯ fī ḥesāb al-Hend), algebra (Ketāb al-jabr wa’l-moqābala), and popular astronomy (Ketāb al-anwāʾ). Dīnavarī was an adherent of the purist reaction against “errors” in language (Ketāb mā yalḥan fīh al-ʿāmma), took an interest in the history of poetry (Ketāb al-šeʿr wa’l-šoʿarāʾ), and even published a manual of erotism (Ketāb al-bāh). All these works are lost or at least have not been found, but it is not impossible that traces of them can be recognized in later writings, notably those of Ebn Qotayba Dīnavarī, whom Masʿūdī accused of having borrowed extensively from, if not actually having plagiarized (Morūj, ed. Pellat, par. 1327), Dīnavarī’s works, particularly Ketāb al-anwāʾ; several passages of various lengths from the latter work are also quoted in Moḵaṣṣaṣ by the Andalusian Ebn Sīdoh (d. 458/1066).
Otherwise, from the list of Dīnavarī’s works only one text has been preserved in its entirety; another, which is partially preserved, has been complemented from numerous quotations in the later literature. The first, entitled Ketāb al-aḵbār al-ṭewāl (ed. V. Guirgass, Leiden, 1888; preface, variants, and index by I. Yu. Krachkovsky, Leiden, 1912), is a history of Islam, although Dīnavarī has never been considered a historian; the work is written from a Persian point of view, with particular emphasis on events involving Persia. A clear idea of the second work, which has long aroused the interest of scholars, can be obtained from the preserved and restored sections. It is entitled Ketāb al-nabāt, a botanical treatise consisting of an alphabetical dictionary and a series of monographs on plants with specific uses. The portion of the dictionary from alef to zayn was edited by Bernhard Lewin (The Book of Plants of Abū Ḥanīfa ad-Dīnawarī. Part of the Alphabetical Sections (Alif-Zayn), Uppsala, 1953) and that from sīn to yā by M. Hamidullah (Le dictionnaire botanique d’Abū Ḥanīfa ad-Dīnawarī, Cairo, 1973). The monographs were also published by Lewin (The Book of Plants. Part of the Monograph Section, Wiesbaden, 1974). This work is of the greatest importance for the study of the flora of ancient Arabia; it is based on written sources, information furnished by bedouin, and the personal observations of the author. Subsequent studies and commentaries have included those by B. Silberberg and Thomas Bauer.
(For cited works not given in detail. see “Short References.”) T. Bauer, Das Pflanzenbuch des Abū Ḥanīfa ad-Dīnawarī, Wiesbaden, 1988.
B. Lewin, “al-Dīnawarī,” EI2 II, p. 300.
Kaḥḥāla, I, pp. 218-19.
Kašf al-ẓonūn, ed. Flügel, V, p. 358.
ʿAlī b. Yūsof Qefṭī, Enbāh al-rowātʿalā anbāh al-noḥāt I, Cairo, 1950, pp. 42-44.
O. Rescher, Abriss der arabischen Litteraturgeschichte II, Istanbul, 1925, pp. 198-200.
B. Silberberg, “Das Pflanzenbuch des Dinawari,” ZA 24, 1910, pp. 225-65; 25, 1911, pp. 39-88.
Jalāl-al-Dīn ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān Soyūṭī, Ketābboḡyat al-woʿāt, Cairo, 1326/1908, p. 132.
Yāqūt, Odabāʾ III, pp. 26-32.
Originally Published: December 15, 1995
Last Updated: November 28, 2011
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Vol. VII, Fasc. 4, p. 417