Karajī’s Discourse on Hydrology

In: Oriens
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  • 1 Stanford Online High School

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The hydrological concepts presented in Inbāṭ al-miyāh al-khafīya, Muḥammad Karajī’s 11th century text on the construction of the qanāt, contain unexpected premises and theories that set this text apart from its contemporaries. Even when not straying far from the Aristotelian cosmology of the medieval world, Karajī’s hydrological discussions often represent a fresh take on the common scientific wisdom regarding the flow of water at and near the earth’s surface. These discussions serve as well to moor the practical considerations in Karajī’s engineering text to a remarkably coherent scientific framework.

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    Aly Mazaheri, La Civilisation des eaux cachées, 11. Kaykāvūs Ibn Iskandar b. Qābūs (ed. Ghulām Ḥusayn Yūsufī), Qābūsnāmah. (Tehran: Sherkat-e Enteshārāt-e ʿelmī va farhangī, 1993), 188. Completed in 1080 CE, the Qābūsnāmah postdates Karajī’s death by at most several decades. It is also worth noting that sections of Karajī’s work that treat surveying methods and instruments (some of them invented by Karajī) have been published in English. See Frans Bruin, “Surveying and surveying instruments, being chapters 26, 27, 28, 29, and 30 of the book On finding hidden water by Abū Bakr Muḥammad al-Karajī,” Bīrūnī Newsletter 31, Beirut, 1970. That Karajī’s work merits a more sustained inquiry is suggested, if by nothing else, by its nature as an engineering book written by a cutting-edge theoretician whose other surviving works are on mathematics.

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  • 12

    Munʿim al-Rāwī, “Geology and Mineralogy,” in The Different Aspects of Islamic Culture (Beirut: UNESCO Publications, 2001), 4:409.

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  • 13

    Paul Lettinck, Aristotle’s Meteorology and its Reception in the Arab World, 3–5.

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    Paul Lettinck, Aristotle’s Meteorology and its Reception in the Arab World, 29. Lettinck also notes how substantive advances in knowledge regarding the phenomena presented in the Meteorologica more often occurred within other traditions of the classical and Islamic learning, such as that of Ptolemy’s Optics which led to experimental research carried out by Ibn al-Haytham (c. 965–c. 1040 CE) and Kamāl al-Dīn al-Fārisī (1265–1318 CE) on the rainbow (ibid. 30).

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  • 48

    Dimitri Gutas, Greek Thought, Arabic Culture (London: Routledge, 1998), p. 145. See also Peter Adamson, “Al-Kindi.” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Edward N. Zalta (ed.) (Spring 2015). Retrieved Feb. 10, 2016, via http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2015/entries/al-kindi/.

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