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Alchemical Poetry in Almohad Morocco: The Shudhūr al-dhahab of Ibn Arfaʿ Raʾs*

In: Oriens
Author: Richard Todd1
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Although historically recognised as one of the major landmarks in post-Jābirian Arabic alchemy, the Shudhūr al-dhahab (Shards of Gold)—a dīwān of alchemical verse by the sixth/twelfth-century Moroccan poet and preacher, Ibn Arfaʿ Raʾs—has hitherto received little scholarly attention. The present article aims firstly to place the Shudhūr within its literary context, identifying those features which—unusually for Arabic didactic verse—earned it praise for its style as well as its content. Then some of the key alchemical theories set forth in the Shudhūr are both analysed and contextualised. In particular, Ibn Arfaʿ Raʾs’s thought is placed in relation to Jābirian theory, and possible links with Andalusī alchemy are also explored. Finally, his work and public career are examined against the backdrop of the philosophical climate fostered by the Almohads. Also included, for the first time, are a critical edition and annotated translation of one of the Shudhūr’s constituent odes.

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