EBN ʿARABŠĀH, ŠEHĀB-AL-DĪN ABU’L-ʿABBĀS AḤMAD b. Moḥammad … Ḥanafī ʿAjamī (b. Damascus, 791/1389, d. Cairo, 854/1450), literary scholar and biographer of Tamerlane (Tīmūr). According to the autobiography quoted by Ebn Taḡrīberdī, when Tīmūr conquered Damascus in 803/1401, Ebn ʿArabšāh and his family were transported to Tīmūr’s capital, Samarkand. He spent the next eight years in Transoxiana and Chinese Turkestan, where he learned Persian and Mongolian and studied with Sayyed Šarīf Moḥammad Jorjānī, Saʿd-al-Dīn Masʿūd Taftāzānī, and Šams-al-Dīn Moḥammad Jazarī. Later, in Ḵvārazm, Sarāy, Astrakhan, and the Crimea, he associated with the ruling elite, scholars, and litterateurs. Around 815/1412, he entered the service of the Ottoman sultan Moḥammad I, holding the office of confidential secretary (kāteb al-serr). At this time, he translated several religious works from Arabic into Turkish and ʿAwfī’s Jāmeʿ al-ḥekāyāt wa lāmeʿ al-rewāyāt from Persian into Turkish. Ebn ʿArabšāh returned to Syria and reentered Damascus in 825/1422 after the death of Moḥammad I. There he occupied several minor religious posts and completed his celebrated biography of Tīmūr, ʿAjāʾeb al-maqdūr fī nawāʾeb Tīmūr (q.v.). Sometime after 841/1438, he settled in Cairo, where he became acquainted with the historians Ebn Taḡrīberdī and Saḵāwī (Saḵāwī,II, pp. 128-29, 130-31). He initially secured the favor of the Mamlūk sultan Jaqmaq and composed several works in his name, including an adaptation of the Marzbān-nāma entitled Fākehat al-ḵolafāʾ wa mofākahat al-ẓorafāʾ, written in 852/1448. In 854/1450, Jaqmaq imprisoned him for a few days as the result of a rival’s complaint. Ebn ʿArabšāh died twelve years after his release.
Bibliography: (For cited works not given in detail, see “Short References.”)
For his life, see the notices in Ebn Taḡrīberdī, al-Manhal al-ṣāfī wa’ l-mostawfī baʿd al-wāfī II, ed. M. M. Amīn, Cairo, 1984-90, pp. 131-45, and ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān Saḵāwī, al-Żawʾ al-lāmeʿ le ahl al-qarn al-tāseʿ II, Cairo, 1353-55/1934-36, pp. 126-31, from which other accounts are derived. Secondary accounts include: Browne, Lit. Hist. Persia III, pp. 181, 183, 185, 197 n., 198, 203, 321 n., 355-56; İ. Kafesoğlu, İA II, pp. 698-701; J. Pedersen, EI2 III, pp. 711-12; and DMBE IV, pp. 221-23.
For his works, see Kašf al-ẓonūn, ed. Flügel, II, pp. 128, 352, 510; IV, pp. 190-91, 345; VI, p. 544; and Brockelmann, GAL II, pp. 28-30; SII, p. 25. Published texts include: ʿAjāʾeb al-maqdūr fī nawāʾeb (or akhbār) Tīmūr (ed. most recently by ʿA. M. ʿOmar, Cairo, 1979, and A. F. al-Ḥemsī, Beirut, 1986; Fākehat al-ḵolafāʾwa mafākahat al-ẓorafāʾ, ed. G. W. Freytag, Fructus imperatorum et jocatio ingeniosorum …, 2 vols., Bonn, 1832-52; and al-Taʾlīf al-ṭāher fī šīam Šayḵ al-Malek al-Ẓāher al-qāʾem be noṣrat al-ḥaqq Abī Saʾīd Jaqmaq, partially ed. S.A. Strong, JRAS, 1907, pp. 395-96; Arabic text, pp. 1-27.
(John E. Woods)
Originally Published: December 15, 1996
Last Updated: December 2, 2011
This article is available in print.
Vol. VII, Fasc. 6, p. 670