EBN AL-FOWAṬĪ, KAMĀL-AL-DĪN ʿABD-AL-RAZZĀQ b. Aḥmad, librarian and historian (b. 642/1244; d. Baghdad, 723/1323). His family originated in Marv-al-Rūd in Khorasan; the name Fowaṭī derives from the occupation either of his or his father’s mother as a seller of waist wraps (Ar. fūṭa, pl. fowaṭ). He was enslaved by the Mongols at the siege of Baghdad (656/1258) and taken to Azerbaijan. Two years later Naṣīr-al-Dīn Ṭūsī appointed him librarian of the Marāḡa observatory. There he wrote the now lost Taḏkerat man qaṣada’l-raṣad (a biographical dictionary of astronomers; the notices it contained were probably incorporated into the Talḵīṣ; see Modaress Rażawī, esp. pp. 126-330). Ebn al-Fowaṭī remained at Marāḡa with Ṭūsī’s son and successor, Aṣīl-al-Dīn. In 679/1281 Ebn al-Fowaṭī returned to Baghdad at the request of ʿAṭā Malek Jovaynī, and was appointed librarian of the Mostanṣerīya (Talḵīṣ IV/2, p. 1035). Between 704/1304 and 716/1316 he visited Azerbaijan at least three times (Talḵīṣ IV/1, p. 336, IV/2, pp. 706, 1212; M. Jawād, introd. , pp. 30-38). He had retired to Baghdad by the time Rašīd-al-Dīn Fażl-Allāh fell from power and was put to death (718/1318); some of his works may have been lost in the ensuing destruction of the Rašīdīya quarter. In keeping with the times, his personal religious affiliations defy strict categorization, and he is variously claimed as a Hanbalite, Shafiʿite, Shiʿite, and Sufi. He drank wine (Ḏahabī, IV, p. 1494) and was well known for his calligraphy (Ebn Šāker, II, p. 320).

Ebn al-Fowaṭī wrote a number of works of history and biography. His most important surviving work is the Talḵīṣ (written in 712-21/1312-21), a biographical dictionary arranged by nickname (laqab). Some doubt exists as to whether the Majmaʿal-ādāb fī moʿjam al-alqāb, of which the Talḵīṣ is presumed to be an abridgment, ever existed; if so, it seems never to have been completed. The Talḵīṣ itself is clearly a work in progress, with many entries blank or unfinished. It is an unusual amalgam of snippets of information about all sorts of people whose names Ebn al-Fōwaṭī had come across. The scope of the work is not clearly defined, but most of his subjects are from Iraq and western and central Persia, notably Isfahan. Though it contains biographies of earlier persons, the Talḵīṣ is most valuable for the 7th/13th century. His association with two main centers of learning in his day, Marāḡa and Baghdad, and his connection with the Mongol court equipped him to write the biographies of the leading men of the period, many of whom he mentions meeting in person. The Talḵīṣ is a mine of information about the intellectual and cultural life of the Il-khanate, containing accounts of many jurists, scholars, scribes, astronomers, poets, ḵaṭībs, calligraphers, and Sufis. Among many other items of interest is his notice of the poet Saʿdī of Shiraz (under his laqab Moṣleḥ-al-Dīn; V, pp. 551-52). Only the portions covering ʿEzz through mīm have survived (in autograph manuscripts) in Damascus and Lahore.

Apart from the Talḵīṣ, a valuable annalistic history of Iraq entitled al-Ḥawādeṯ al-jāmeʿa, covering the period 626-700/1229-1300, has been published under Ebn al-Fowaṭī’s name (ed. Jawād, Baghdad, 1351/1932), but this attribution is now recognized to be false (Rosenthal; Jawād, introd., pp. 64-66). He wrote several other works, which are mentioned in the Talḵīṣ (Jawād, 1960, p. 440; Raḥīmlū, pp. 425-26).

He evidently studied Mongolian and Persian; although he wrote no books in Persian, he did have a commonplace book (majmūʿa) for Persian poetry and occasionally quotes Persian poetry in the Talḵīṣ.


Bibliography: (For cited works not given in detail, see “Short References.”)

Most of the information about his life can be gleaned from the Talḵīṣ majmaʿ al-ādāb fī moʿjam al-alqāb; IV/1-4, ed. M. Jawād, Damascus, 1962-67, pp. ix-lii; also, in part, ed. M. ʿA. Qāsemī, Oriental College Magazine (Lahore), Suppl., 1956, and vol. 34, 1958; V, ed. M. ʿA. Qāsemī, Oriental College Magazine (Lahore), Suppl., 1939, and vols. 16-24, 1940-47.

Other biographies include Ḏahabī, Taḏkerat al-ḥoffāzá, Hyderabad, 1377/1958, IV, pp. 1493-94, and Ebn Šāker, Fawāt al-wafayāt II, ed. E. ʿAbbās, Beirut, 1973, pp. 319-20.

Modern accounts include Y. Raḥīmlū, “Ebn-e Fowaṭī” in DMBE IV, pp. 422-27; F. Rosenthal, “Ibn al-Fuwaṭī” in EI ² III, pp. 425-26; M.-T. Modarres Rażawī, Aḥwāl wa āṯār-e Naṣīr-al-Dīn, Tehran, 1354 Š./1975, pp. 252-57 and passim; M. R. Šabībī, Moʾarreḵ al-ʿErāq, Ebn al-Fūaṭī, 2 vols., Baghdad, 1370-78/1950-58.

(Charles Melville)

Originally Published: December 15, 1997

Last Updated: December 6, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. VIII, Fasc. 1, pp. 25-26

Cite this entry:

Charles Melville, “EBN AL-FOWAṬĪ, KAMĀL-AL-DĪN ʿABD-AL-RAZZĀQ,” Encyclopaedia Iranica, VIII/1, pp. 25-26, available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/ebn-al-fowati (accessed on 30 December 2012).