Abu Abd Allah is another name for Muhammad al-Idrisi. Muhammad al-Idrisi al-Qutubi al-Hasani al-Sabti was a Muslim mapper, geographer, traveler, and Egyptologist known for mapping the locations he visited throughout Europe, Africa, and Asia. His maps were frequently revisions of existing maps from the historical period, which represented incorrect geography of the regions in question. He came from a long line of Princes, Sufi leaders, and Caliphs all the way back to the Prophet Muhammad. He was a direct descendant of the ‘Hammudis,’ who ruled Andalusia from 1016 to 1058 AD as an offshoot of the ‘Idrisids,’ who reigned from 789 to 985 AD. He gathered geographic data by dispatching men to far-flung areas, accompanied by draftsmen. When these individuals returned with information on these lands, he updated the geographical treatise he had produced with information from Greek and Arabic geographers using the data they had gathered. He spent about eighteen years compiling all of the data and creating a globe map that was extremely accurate and had never been seen before. In the pre-modern era, this map was one of his most famous works. The lengthy essay contains a wealth of information on Europe in the 12th century.
Childhood and Adolescence
Muhammad al-Idrisi was born in 1100 AD in Ceuta, Andalusia, a Spanish colony in Morocco, where his ancestor had landed after escaping Malaga in 1057 AD.
Al-Idrisi was a direct descendant of Idrisid, Morocco’s monarch, who was a direct descendant of Hazrat Hasa, Prophet Muhammad’s grandson.
He spent several years studying at the University of Cordoba, commonly known as Al-Andalus, in Spain, which was noted for its Spanish Muslim intellectuals. He spent most of his childhood traveling through Spain and North Africa to learn about the regions’ geography.
When he was just sixteen years old, he traveled to Anatolia or Asia Minor.
In his travels, he visited Muslim regions in many parts of Europe, including the Pyrenees, the Atlantic coast of France, Portugal, Hungary, and York, England.
He could make a rough map of the entire world using the knowledge he gathered during his trips in Europe, Asia, and Africa.
Career of Muhammad al-Idrisi
At one point, Muhammad aI-Idrisi taught geography in Constanine, Algeria.
Because the climate in Andalusia was dangerous and conflict-ridden, he had to go to Palermo, Sicily. He met up with Abu al-Salt and other modern folks there. The Normans, who had toppled the Arabs loyal to the ‘Fatimids,’ welcomed him and permitted some of the Muslims to stay in exchange for their wisdom.
While journeying across Africa, the Far East, and the Indian Ocean regions, Al-Idrisi used information obtained by explorers and Islamic merchants, Islamic maps, Norman voyagers, and his own knowledge to create the most precise maps found before the modern era.
He spent eighteen years at the court of Norman king Roger II of Sicily, and in 1154 AD he made a map of the Eurasian region for the King, which included a portion of North Africa, western Asia, and southern Europe. The map was made on a pure silver disk with legends written in Arabic that measured over 80 inches in circumference and weighed nearly 300 pounds. The ‘Book of Roger’ is the title of the book that comes with the map.
He clarified the incorrect interpretation of the Indian Ocean being surrounded on all sides by land, as well as the incorrect belief that the Caspian Sea was a part of the greater ocean. In his maps, he also determined the path of the rivers Danube and Niger. His opinion was that the Southern Hemisphere was too hot to live in.
He also made an extended edition of the book for Roger’s son and successor, William I, but it was destroyed.
He departed Sicily around 1161 AD, most likely as a result of anti-Muslim riots.
Later, he created a world map on a nearly 400-pound spherical. On this globe map, which was perhaps the most precise map drawn in the Middle Ages, he recorded the seven continents with their major cities, rivers and lakes, and trade routes. In his map, he included five separate climatic zones: one arid, two temperate, and two frigid.
Unlike Christian notion that the Earth was a flat plate-like formation, Muhammad al-Idris was the first to assert that the Earth was round, that water stuck to its surface, and that it was encircled by an air blanket.
He even predicted the circumference of the Earth to be 22,900 miles, which was only 8% off from present measurements.
The maps made by Muhammad al-Idrisi inspired Islamic geographers such as Ibn Khaldun, Piri Reis, and Ibn Battula. Before embarking on their expeditions, explorers such as Vasco Da Gama and Christopher Columbus reviewed Muhammad’s charts.
His extensive treatise, ‘Rawd-Unnas wa-Nuzhat al-Nafs,’ has a wealth of precise information on Sudan, the Niger River above Timbuktu, and the Nile River. He rectified previous errors concerning the location of the lakes where the Nile began its voyage and the direction it took. His older depictions of the river are nearly identical to a modern map. For nearly three centuries, his maps were regarded the gold standard.
He discovered that not much had been added to our understanding of medicinal plants since the Greeks. Wherever he traveled, he collected medicinal herbs and put them to a list that was written in Latin, Berber, Arabic, Hindi, Greek, and Persian.
Major Projects of Muhammad al-Idrisi
In 1592 AD, an abridged version of ‘Kitab Nuzhat al-mushtaq fi dhikr al-amsar wa-al-aqtar wa-al-budan wa-al-juzurwa-al-mada in wa-al-afaq’ was published in Rome, and in 1619 AD, it was translated into French and published in Paris. In the mid-nineteenth century, Pierre Amedee Jaubert translated the entire Arabic text of the book into French. In 1970, a critical edition of the entire Arabic text was published.
His book ‘Rawd-Unnas wa-Nuzhat al-Nafs’ chronicled the Niger, Sudan, and Egypt, particularly the Nile River.
Medical plants are the subject of the book ‘Kitab al-Jami-li-Sifat Ashtat al-Nabatat.’ He was also a talented poet and author of works on flora and zoology.
Personal History and Legacy
In the year 1166 AD, Muhammad al-Idrisi died in Ceuta, Morocco. His later life is largely unknown.
Estimated Net Worth
The estimated net worth of Muhammad al-Idrisi is unknown.