The Origin of the anwā' in Arab Tradition

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Maisonneuve & LaroseThe Origin of the anw' in Arab TraditionAuthor(s): Daniel Martin VariscoSource: Studia Islamica, No. 74 (1991), pp. 5-28Published by: Maisonneuve & LaroseStable URL: .Accessed: 24/08/2013 06:16Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . .JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range ofcontent in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact .Maisonneuve & Larose is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Studia Islamica. This content downloaded from on Sat, 24 Aug 2013 06:16:33 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and ConditionsTHE ORIGIN OF THE ANWA' IN ARAB TRADITION* In Islamic astronomy one of the standard methods of dividing the heavens into discrete reckoning units is the concept of twenty- eight lunar stations (manazil al-qamar).(1) This constitutes a lunar zodiac, the round of stars in which the moon stations (yanzilu) each night of its sidereal revolution around the earth. Since this revolution takes about 27 1/3 days, the selection of twenty-eight asterisms provides a rough guide for charting the nightly course of the moon. However, the sidereal revolution is not equivalent to a lunation, the time between phases of the moon, so this method was not applicable to the Islamic lunar calendar. The lunar stations could be used as an approximate sky clock on any given night, but the primary importance of the concept was in astrology. Early Islamic scholars argued that the twenty-eight lunar stations were known in pre-Islamic, tribal Arabia as the anwd' (naw', singular). The anwd' were described as asterisms(2) along (*) This article is based on a paper prepared for the Fourth International Symposium on the History of Arab Science (Aleppo, April, 1987). Research was conducted in part in 1983 while a fellow of the American Research Center in Egypt. I wish to thank Dr. David A. King and Dr. Paul Kunitzsch for their careful reading and comments on this study. (1) There is no complete survey of this important concept. The discussion by J. Ruska in The Encyclopaedia of Islam (Leiden: Brill, 1936, first edition), vol. 5, p. 232 is inadequate and misleading. Fortunately, this has been rewritten by Prof. Kunitzsch for the second edition. (2) The term asterism is more appropriate than star or constellation, since most of the stations consist of pairs or small groups of closely-spaced stars. This usage was suggested by W. D. Whitney, "Reply to the structures of Prof. Weber upon an essay respecting the asterismal system of the Hindus, Arabs, and Chinese", JAOS 9 (1865), p. 388. This content downloaded from on Sat, 24 Aug 2013 06:16:33 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions6 DANIEL MARTIN VARISCO the zodiacal belt, the annual risings and settings of which were used to mark times for rain, wind, heat and cold. Some of the Arabs went so far as to attribute these anwd' with power over rain, but Muhammad condemned such a "pagan" practice in no uncertain terms. The primary sources of information on the anwd' were compiled in the third and fourth centuries of the Islamic era.(3) In the Kilab al-Anwd' genre folklore, poetry and rhymed prose (saj') were collected to illustrate pre-Islamic linguistic usage and beliefs about these asterisms. While the information is at times contradictory and most often fragmentary, scholarly consensus among Muslims has long accepted the identification of the anwd' with the mandzil al-qamar.(4) The origin of the lunar zodiac, which can be documented in both India and China as early as the second millennium B.C., has not been resolved despite a spirited debate among Orientalists and historians since the late 18th century.(5) Most of the early speculation was diffusionist and assumed a primordial lunar zodiac as the base for all the historical variants. Over the years, (3) The major anwd' texts are listed by Fuat Sezgin, Geschichle des arabischen Schrifttums (Leiden: Brill, 1979), vol. 7, pp. 322-370. Among the major published texts are: Ibn Qutayba, Kitdb al-Anwd' (Hyderabad: Matba'at Majlis Da'irat al- Ma'arif al-'Uthmnliya, 1956); Ibn al-Ajdabi, Kildb al-Azmina wa-al-anwd' (Damas- cus: Wizarat al-Thaqafa wa-al-Irsh5d al-Qawmi, 1964); Abi Ish.q al-Zajjij, Kildb al-Anwd' (translated in D.M. Varisco, "The anwd' stars according to Abi Ish.q al- Zajjaj, "Zeitschrift fiir Geschichte des arabisch-islamischen Wissenschaften, 5 (1989): 145-166; AbO al-Qasim al-Zajjaji, Kildb al-Anwd' in MahmOd Shukri al-Alfisi, Buliagh al-arab ft ma'rifat ahwal al-'Arab (Beirut: Dir al-Kutub al-'Ilmiya, N.D., original A.H. 1304), vol. 3, pp. 229-235; Abfi 'All Muhammad (Qutrub), Kitdb al- Anwd' in Majallat al-Majma' al- 'Ilmi al-'Arabf 2 (1922), pt. 1, pp. 33-46. (4) Almost all the authors make this link. Cf. Abi 'Ubayd and Shamr in Lisdn .al- "Arab (article n-w-'); AbO Hanifa al-Dinawari -in Ibn Sida, Kildb al- Mukhassas (Beirut: al-Maktab al-Tijari li-al-Tibi'a wa-al-Tawzi' wa-al-Nashr, 1965), vol. 9, p. 79; Ibn al-Ajdabi, p. 134; Ibn Qutayba, p. 16. (5) The debate was mainly directed at whether the Chinese or Indian system was oldest. A review of many of the ideas proposed can be found in Friedrich Karl Ginzel, Handbuch der Mathematischen und Technischen Chronologie (Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1906), vol. 1, pp. 70-77, and William D. Whitney, "On the views of Biot and Weber respecting the relations of the Hindu and Chinese systems of asterims," JAOS 8 (1864), pp. 1-94. See especially the arguments made by William Jones, "On the antiquity of the Indian zodiack," Asiatic Researches 2 (1790), pp. 239-306; Max Mfiller, On Ancient Hindu Astronomy and Chronology (Oxford, 1862); Jean- Baptiste Biot, 1Iudes sur l'aslronomie Indienne el sur l'aslronomie Chinois (Paris, 1862); Leopold de Saussure, "La sym6trie du zodiaque lunaire asiatique", JA 14 (1919), 11th series, pp. 141-148. This content downloaded from on Sat, 24 Aug 2013 06:16:33 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and ConditionsTHE ORIGIN OF THE ANWA" IN ARAB TRADITION 7 however, it has become evident that no such prototype can be found. The lunar zodiac was not a part of Babylonian or Greek science, nor is it mentioned in the early Hermetic sources. The biblical narratives and ancient Hebrew cosmology, despite earlier claims, also offer no record of such a zodiac. Discussion of the origin of the lunar zodiac in the Arab world usually focuses on the demonstrable links with older variants in India and Sassanian Iran. Most of the Western scholars who have studied the lunar stations have concluded that the mandzil al- qamar in Islamic astronomy are clearly borrowed from India, even if authentic pre-Islamic lore is included in the formulation. While this conclusion is inescapable, given the wide variety of evidence, two questions still remain. Is there reasonable evidence in the anwd' genre and lexical sources for claiming that the anwd' were used as a lunar zodiac prior to Islam in Arabia? If the anwd' were not in fact the twenty-eight mandzil al-qamar, what do they represent? This study is an examination of the anwd' genre, particularly the lexical arguments and excerpts from pre-Islamic literature, to discover the origin of the anwd'. There is also a matter of exegesis, since the term mandzil, in reference to the moon, appears twice in the Quran and the term naw' appears in several traditions of Muhammad. In addition to the textual evidence, it is also necessary to compare descriptions of the anwd' with ethnographic data on similar star calendars used in the recent past by tribal Arab groups. If the lunar zodiac represented a reasonable reckoning system for pre-Islamic tribesmen on the Arabian Peninsula, such a system should be found in the ethnographic record. The Lunar Stations One of the most practical and widespread concepts in Islamic astronomy and astrology is the zodiac. After the beginning of the Islamic era the solar zodiac was adopted as a universal frame of reference. Many of the same stars in the zodiacal constellations could also be plotted along the nightly course of the moon, since the plane of the moon's orbit is relatively close to that of the sun when viewed from the earth. Although there are variations in its course during the month and from one month to the next, the moon more or less follows the same round of stars. Thus, the choice of twenty-eight asterisms is a result of observation and not an arbitrary or fanciful division of the heavens. From a strictly This content downloaded from on Sat, 24 Aug 2013 06:16:33 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions8 DANIEL MARTIN VARISCO scientific viewpoint, however, such a zodiac is approximate and cannot be used with ease as a calendar. Although not all of the asterisms recognized as lunar stations are from zodiacal constellations, they represent to a large extent an expansion of the solar zodiac. As shown in Table 1, there is a strong correlation between the stations and the stars of the zodiac. The choice of sharaldn as the first of the stations, as noted by the astronomer al-Sfifi, was due to it being the two horns of the Ram (hamal), the starting point of the zodiacal year.(6) The second station, butayn, is the belly of the Ram, while the third, thurayyd (the Pleiades) was considered the fat tail of the lamb (alyal al-hamal) by the Arabs. The fourth station, Aldebaran, is part of the Bull, but the following station is in Orion, which is not part of the formal zodiac. While Arab scholars claimed that each zodiacal sign comprised two and one-third stations, this was a simple mathematical deduction unrelated to actual observation and location. The twenty-eight lunar stations could be discriminated accor- ding to the actual locations of each asterism, but more commonly each station represented an equal amount of are along the moon's course; thus, each covered 12" 51' (i.e., 360" - 28). As a system of coordinates the stations were used both in navigation and in time keeping on any given night. It is also possible to plot the stations against the rising of the sun with no reference to the moon. This is in fact the usage associated with the anwd' in pre-Islamic Arabia. In such a system each station was said to rise with the sun at dawn for a period of thirteen days with the exception of one period of fourteen days to round out the year (i.e., 27 stations x 13 days + 14 days = 365 days). While these pe- riods could be used as a seasonal reckoning system, there is no compelling reason why the year should be divided into such units. The system is simply the lunar zodiac adapted to a solar year. Besides being a practical astronomical concept for the Muslim, the lunar stations also figured prominently in astrology and medieval Islamic cosmology. For the Muslim scholar these stations were a part of nature, set in place by God Himself. It was expected that the ancients would have known about this (6) Abfi al-Husayn 'Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi, Kildb Suwar al-kawakib (Hydera- bad: Matba'at Majlis Di'irat al-Ma'irif al-'Uthmaniya, 1954), p. 142. This content downloaded from on Sat, 24 Aug 2013 06:16:33 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and ConditionsTHE ORIGIN OF THE ANWA' IN ARAB TRADITION 9 Table 1 The Arabic Mandzil al-Qamar(7) Number Name Identification Date of Setting 1 sharatin pv Arietis X: 19 2 butayn e87 Arietis X: 31 3 thurayyd Pleiades XI: 11 4 dabardn m Taurus XI: 24 5 haq'a x I pI2 Orionis XII: 7 6 han'a v? Geminorum XII: 20 7 dhird' acp Geminorum I: 2 8 nathra ev8 Cancri I: 15 9 tarf Cancri, A Leonis I: 28 10 jabha ?vjo Leonis II: 10 11 zubra 8a Leonis II: 23 12 sarfa p Leonis Ill: 7 13 'awwd 3Plvsc Virginis III: 20 14 simak a Virginis IV: 3 15 ghafr LXX Virginis IV: 17 16 zubdnd p3 Librae IV: 30 17 iklFl P87 Scorpii V: 13 18 qalb m Scorpii V: 26 19 shawla Av Scorpii VI: 9 20 na'd'im apPrv3?q Sagittarii VI: 23 21 balda (vacant space) VII: 6 22 sa'd al-dhdbih p Capricorni VII: 19 23 sa'd bula' ?e Aquarii VIII: 1 24 sa'd al-su'Rd c' Capricorni, P? Aquarii VIII: 14 25 sa'd al-akhbiya yitg Aquarii VIII: 27 26 al-fargh al-muqaddam acp Pegasi IX: 10 27 al-fargh al-mu'akhkhar v Pegasi, a Andromedae IX: 23 28 baln al-hait Andromedae X: 6 system; even the prophet Daniel was credited with a book on the mandzil al-qamar and the buri~j.(8) The lunar zodiac was not seen as the scientific product of a certain generation or culture, but an evident truth about the cosmos. (7) The identification is taken from Paul Kunitzsch, Unlersuchungen zur Sternnomenklatur der Araber (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1961). The dates are from the anwd' text Abfi Ishaq al-Zajjij. The numbering here is the standard ordering of the stations and will serve as a reference for further discussion in the paper. Variant terms for the asterisms are recorded in the anwd' texts. (8) Ahmad ibn Mijid, Kildb al-Fawd'id ft usiil 'ilm al-bahr wa-al-qawd'id, translated by G.R. Tibbetts, Arab Navigation in the Indian Ocean before the Coming of the Portuguese (London: Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, 1971), p. 73. This content downloaded from on Sat, 24 Aug 2013 06:16:33 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions10 DANIEL MARTIN VARISCO The Anwa' The term anwd' is well attested in the earliest lexical sources, although there are significant differences of opinion on its meaning.(9) The primary astronomical definition of naw' is the cosmical setting of one of the twenty-eight lunar stations. Ibn Qutayba expressed this as follows: the setting of an asterism from the lunar stations to the west at dawn and simultaneous rising of another opposite it to the east (suqt. al-najm minha ft al-maghrib ma'a al-fajr wa-lul' dkhar yuqdbiluh min sd'alih fi al- mashriq).(10) Since these were primarily zodiacal stars, their risings and settings occurred at the same time each year. The term naw' is not used here for the setting of a star per se, but rather in the sense of one star rising as an opposite sets. According to Fahd, this sense of opposition is common to the root meaning in both Akkadian and Hebrew.("1) Abfu IHanifa further refined the meaning of naw' as the first setting attained in the early morning before the stars are lost from view in the light of dawn (awwal suqlt, yadrukuh ft al-afaq bi-al- ghaddl qabl inmihdq al-kawakib bi-daw' al-subh).(12) Thus, the naw' refers to the interval of time between the dawn (fajr) and the sun's actual rising (tuli`). In that one star sets as another rises, observation of either the rising or the setting would have been sufficient to determine the particular asterism at the time. As the early scholars admitted, the sense of naw' as a setting appears to contradict the root meaning of n-w-' as rising (nuhad or tulf). Abfi 'Ubayd argued that the meaning of a setting was only applied to naw' in reference to the lunar stations.(13) Several authorities suggested that in fact the original sense of naw' was for (9) For lexical discussions of the term anwd', see: Carlo Landberg, Glossaire Datinois (Leiden: Brill, 1942), vol. 3, pp. 2829-2830; Carlo Nallino, Raccolla di Scritti Editi e Inediti (Rome, 1944), vol. 5, pp. 184-186. C. Pellat, "Anwd"', The Encyclopaedia of Islam (Leiden: Brill, 1960, new edition), vol. 1, p. 523 errs in defining naw' as an acronychal setting (i.e. an evening setting in English usage) rather than a cosmical setting. (10) Ibn Qutayba, p. 6. (11) Toufic Fahd, La Divination Arabe (Paris, 1966), p. 413. (12) Quoted in Lisdn al-'Arab (article n-w-'); Ibn Sida, vol. 9, p. 13; and, Abi 'Ali Ahmad al-Marzfiqi, Kitdb al-Azmina wa-al-amkina (Hyderabad: Matba'at Majlis D5'irat al-Ma'arif al-'UthmnTiya, 1914), vol. 1, p. 180. This content downloaded from on Sat, 24 Aug 2013 06:16:33 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and ConditionsTHE ORIGIN OF THE ANWAI IN ARAB TRADITION 11 the rising, but that it was changed to mean the opposite.(14) Ibn Qutayba, for example, recorded examples of both senses, although he thought the idea of setting was more common and justified by usage of the verbal form in the Quran (surah al-Qasas 28: 27).(15) One reason for attributing the naw' to the setting star is the claim that the Arabs regarded the influence of a star from its setting, while the astronomers of other nations linked the influence to a star's rising. It is interesting to note that in the Vedic texts the dawn setting of a lunar station was said to mark the time for certain religious acts.('6) A number of lexicographers offered ingenious solutions to the apparent contradiction, but most of these are contrived. Ibn Kunasa suggested that the naw' arose, i.e. appeared, as the star itself set.("') This parallels al-Biruni's contention that naow' refers to the influence of a setting star rather than the setting per se.(18) Another explanation was provided by Abfi Ishq al-Zajjij, who claimed that the verb nd'a indicated a rising with difficulty as though it was inclined to set.(19) The key to this explanation is the usage of nd'a br al-himl, explained by al-Zamakhshari as mindia b( ild al-suqlt (it inclined me to a setting).(20) In this sense it is a rising constrained to go down again, which fits the Quranic usage of yani!'u (surah al-Qaasa 28: 27) as "to be a heavy burden". A naw' then refers to a rising under such a burden that it is inclined downward (idhd athqalah haUtd amdlah).(21) A favorite example of this is the case of a woman with buttocks so large that they cause her to rise with great difficulty as though she would sit down at any moment. Despite such usage, however, it is not clear why this sense of naw' should have been applied to the (14) Mubarrad in Mahmfid Shukri al-Alfsi, vol. 3, p. 231, and Ibn al-Ajdabi, p. 134. (15) Ibn Qutayba, pp. 7-8. (16) P. V. Kane, History of Dharmaiaitra (Poona: Bhandarkhar Oriental Research Institute, 1958), vol. 5, p. 510. (17) Quoted by Ibn Qutayba, p. 9. (18) Al-Birfini, The Chronology of Ancient Nations (London: W. H. Allen, 1879), p. 339. (19) This rationale is also given by Abfi al-Q5sim al-Zajjiji in al-Alfisi, vol. 3, p. 229, and Ahmad ibn Ffris al-Qazwini, Mujmal al-lugha (Kuwait, 1985), vol. 4, article n-w-'. (20) Abfi al-Q5sim Muhammad al-Zamakhshari, Asas al-baldgha (Beirut: Dar al- Ma'rifa, 1982), p. 475. (21) Al-Zamakhshari, al-Kashshaf (Beirut: Dir al-Ma'rifa, N.D.), vol. 3, p. 190. This content downloaded from on Sat, 24 Aug 2013 06:16:33 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions12 DANIEL MARTIN VARISCO asterisms. Lane has suggested an interesting figurative use of the term in which the rising and setting stars appear to be nearly overcome by the glimmer of dawn, but this cannot be documented in the Arabic sources.(22) It is important to stress that these early authorities on Arabic usage were not in agreement on the origin of the term, even though the astronomical definition became the standard interpretation with the development of Islamic science. The confusion over whether the naw' referred to a rising or a setting was widely recognized in later periods. Ibn Majid, for example, admitted that: "Some say nau' was its culmination, some its middle position, some its most easterly position, some its most westerly position, some make it a rising position. Some say it is when it appears at dawn and some when it appears in the twilight."(23) Al-Birfini said that naw' could refer to the rising of a station or the influence of its setting. In the Western Desert of Egypt, contemporary Bedouin use the term naw' to refer to the first appearance of certain stars in the early evening. In a variant interpretation, Mu'arrij claimed that naw' referred to the rain at the setting of a star because the rain rose up (nahada) as the star set, and that by extension the use of naw became associated with the setting star itself.(24) The identifica- tion of naw' as rain or a time of rain is found in the pre-Islamic and early Islamic poetry.(25) Some scholars assume this is by exten- sion from the astronomical definition, but in fact the sense of rain is attributed in the earliest sources. This sense of rain is further implied in the verbal form istand'a al-wasm(, i.e., the wasm( rain or first rain of the year was expected. The term naw' and its variants are used to refer to rain in various Arabian dialects on the Peninsula and elsewhere.(26) (22) Edward W. Lane, Arabic-English Lexicon (Cambridge: The Islamic Texts Society, 1984), vol. 1, p. 2861. (23) Ibn Mijid, p. 79. (24) Quoted in al-Marzfqi, vol. 1, p. 184. (25) Landberg, vol. 3, p. 2830; Nallino, vol. 5, p. 189; Ibn Qutayba, p. 111. (26) For Dathina in IHadramawt, see Landberg, vol. 3, p. 2830; for Dhofar, see T. H. Johnstone, Jibbalt Lexicon (Oxford, 1981), p. 198, and T. H. Johnstone, IHarsr- st Lexicon (London, 1977), p. 99; for North Africa, see Mohamed Ben Hadji Serradj, "L'automne et l'hiver chez les fellahs Azailis", Institut des belles-Lettres Arabes (Tunis) 16 (1953), p. 311, and H. P.J. Renaud, Le Calendrier d'Ibn al-Bannd' de Marrakech (Paris: Larose, 1948), p. 4, note 2. This content downloaded from on Sat, 24 Aug 2013 06:16:33 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and ConditionsTHE ORIGIN OF THE ANWA' IN ARAB TRADITION 13 The linkage between naw' and rain is clear, regardless of the ultimate origin of the term. Ibn al-A'rabi stated that it cannot be a naw' unless there is rain with it; if there is no rain with it, it is not a naw' (1 yakiin naw' haltt yakiin ma'ah malar wa-illa fa-ld naw').(27) Shamr observed that the Arabs did not expect rain at the risings and setting of all stars, but only with the anwC'.(28) Further, the anwd' were mentioned in the tradition literature as part of a pagan practice of rain invocation. Al- Zamakhshari went so far as to suggest that the name of the pre- Islamic goddess Manit, mentioned in surah al-Najm (53: 21), may be derived from the same root (n-w-') because people sought rain from her.(29) While such a derivation is contrived, it does show the association of naw' with the sense of rain rather than the movements of stars. According to the anwd' texts, each naw' was associated with a thirteen-day period that occurred the same time each year. The anwd' thus served as a seasonal reckoning system for marking times for rain and other meteorological phenomena, pastoral and agricultural activities, and events in nature.(") While excerpts from pre-Islamic poetry mention the anwd' as markers of rain, most of the information on the anwd' periods comes from rhymed sayings compiled for each of the twenty-eight stations, as well as a few important stars such as Sirius and Canopus which were not part of the lunar zodiac. These sayings, which begin with the word idha (when), parallel an Akkadian form in Assyro-Babylonian presages.(31) Certain of the rhymed sayings may be pre-Islamic, but there is no evidence that sayings for all of the twenty-eight stations were known among pre-Islamic Arab tribesmen as the authors of the anwd' genre imply. An example of the kind of information provided in these sayings can be noted for the rising of bulayn (station # 2), as related by Ibn Qutayba:(32) (27) Quoted in Lisan al-'Arab (article n-w-'). (28) Quoted in Lisan al-'Arab (article n-w-'). (29) Al-Zamakhshari, Al-Kashshaf, vol. 4, p. 30. (30) A similar usage is found in the folk tradition in India, although the periods are not of equal length; cf. George Grierson, Bihar Peasant Life (Bihar: Government Printing Office, 1926, second edition), p. 27. (31) T. Fahd, p. 413. The Arabic sayings recorded by Ibn Qutayba have been translated by Pellat, "Dictons rimes, anwd' et mansions lunaires chez les Arabes", Arabica 2 (1955), pp. 17-41. (32) Ibn Qutayba, p. 21. This content downloaded from on Sat, 24 Aug 2013 06:16:33 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions14 DANIEL MARTIN VARISCO When bulayn rose debts were paid. finery appeared, the perfumer and the smith were pursued. (idhc tala'a al-butayn uqludiya al-dayn wa-zahara al-zayn wa-uqlufiya bi-al-'alttlr wa-al-qayn) Ibn Qutayba explained the meaning of the saying in terms of the season in the pastoral cycle. This station rises at the beginning of May as pasture begins to dry up and the nomads are forced to return to permanent water sources and larger encampments. As the smaller herding units come together it is a time to meet obligations, such as the paying of debts. They dress in finery because they are meeting old friends. Similarly, it is the time to wear perfume and to seek out smiths to restore implements used during the year. When one examines the collection of sayings as a whole, it becomes clear that it is not relevant to a particular tribal group practicing pastoralism or agriculture. Rather, the references seem to sum up a variety of economic and ecological contexts on the Peninsula. It is also clear that these sayings refer to the risings of the anwd' and not the settings as one would expect from the astronomical definition. All of this prompts one to question whether Arab tribesmen recognized twenty-eight distinct stations or if the nature of the anwd' is not to be found in an indigenous star calendar unrelated to the lunar zodiac. Anwa' as Manazil al-Qamar: The Evidence The belief that the anwd' were equivalent to the lunar stations was taken as a universal truth by early Muslim scholars. This is nowhere more apparent than in interpretation of two Quranic passages describing the moon and the mandzil. The first reference is in surah Yfinus (10: 6), which has been rendered as follows: "He it is Who has made the sun a source of light and the moon shedding lustre, and ordained for it stages (mandzil), that you might learn the method of calculating the years and determining time".(33) The second reference is in surah Yi Sin (36: 39): "We (33) As translated by Muhammad Zafrulla Khan, The Koran (New York: This content downloaded from on Sat, 24 Aug 2013 06:16:33 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and ConditionsTHE ORIGIN OF THE ANWA' IN ARAB TRADITION 15 have appointed stages (mandzil) for the moon, till it wanes into the shape of an old dry branch of a palm tree". The authors of the anwd' genre and most Quranic commentators take the reference to mandzil, translated above as stages, as meaning the twenty-eight lunar stations, which are equivalent to the anwd' of pre-Islamic Arabia.(84) A close reading of the two passages, however, brings into question the identification with the formal lunar zodiac. Ibn Kathir, in his commentary, differed from the standard interpreta- tion by referring to the mandzil here as phases of the moon in its waxing and waning.(36) The passage in surah YA Sin seems better suited to the moon's phases in its description of the moon coming to the shape of a dried-up, old palm branch ('urjlin). The reference in surah Yfinus to the function of time keeping is also more appropriate for the phases of the moon, because these formed the basis of the Muslim lunar calendar rather than the lunar stations. The Quranic usage should thus be seen as an echo of the biblical tradition (e.g., Genesis 1:14, Psalm 104:19), where God is said to have appointed the sun and moon for marking the seasons. The origin of the usage of manazil for the lunar stations in Arabic is obscure.(36) Those who thought that the Quranic usage referred to the lunar stations argued that the moon glides through (yasbahu) the mandzil just as the sun glides through the firmament Praeger, 1971). Mandzil is also translated as "stages" by N.J. Dawood, The Koran (Middlesex; Penguin Books, 1968). Arberry translates the term as "stations". (34) Among the authors who interpret this as a reference to the lunar stations are: Abfi Hanifa al-Dinawari in Ibn Sida, vol. 9, p. 79; Ibn Qutayba, pp. 16-17; al- Marziqi, vol. 1, pp. 184-185; al-Qalqashandi, Subh al-a'sha' ft sind'al al-inshd' (Cairo: Wizarat al-Thaqafa wa-al-Irshid al-Qawmi, 1913-1919), vol. 2, p. 372; Shamr in Lisdn al-'Arab (article n-w-'); al-Zamakhshari, al-Kashshdf, vol. 2, p. 225, vol. 3, p. 323. (35) Ibn Kathir, Mukhlasar tafsrr Ibn Kather (Beirut: Dir al-Qu'rin al-Karim, A.H. 1399), vol. 2, p. 184; vol. 3, p. 123. (36) Fritz Hommel, "Ober den Ursprung und das Alter der arabischen Sternnamen und insbesondere der Mondstationen", ZDMG 45 (1891), p. 608 claimed that the term manzil was derived from the Akkadian and was used by the pre-Islamic Arabs. However, the line of poetry he quoted to prove the point refers to nazal, a term for abundant rain rather than the stations. Hommel and others also related manzil to the Hebrew mazzaloth or mazzaroth in the Biblical book of Job, but this is contrived. No examples can be found in the pre-Islamic poetry of manzil in reference to an asterism or the lunar zodiac. This content downloaded from on Sat, 24 Aug 2013 06:16:33 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions16 DANIEL MARTIN VARISCO (falak).(37) One can surmise that the sense of manzil or manzila is that of a place of alighting (mawdi' al-nuzal) in the course of a journey.(38) As a manzil is where a man and his mount stop for the night, so it is also where the moon comes to rest at night. Translation of the Arabic term manzil should thus be as "station" or "stage" in English, as suggested long ago by Sir William Jones, rather than "mansion", which is commonly found in the literature.(39) Unfortunately, there is no mention of mand- zil referring to the lunar stations in the pre-Islamic poetry. It is interesting that even the standard lexicons are strangely silent about this usage. While the term became of widespread use in later periods, it is questionable whether such usage occurred in pre- Islamic Arabia or the Quran. A second line of evidence is lexical. One finds in some of the pre-Islamic poetry the phrase nujim al-akhdh, which is generally defined as the moon taking up (akhadha fi) its place in a station.(40) There is, however, considerable disagreement on this usage. Some have mentioned that this is a reference to a Quranic passage about certain stars cast at devils who were eavesdropping on the conversation of angels.(41) In a tradition stemming back to Abfu al-QOsim al-Zajjaji this term is applied to the earth "taking" blessings from the rain.(42) Yet another interpretation was provided by Ibn Majid, who claimed that this phrase was only used for sharatdn since this was the star from which the longitude of the other stations was measured.(43) Regardless of the origin of the term, there is no reference in the poetry to the full contingent of twenty-eight lunar stations; rather the term has to do with rain and the anwd'. (37) Al-Zamakhshari, Asas, p. 453. Cf. E. W. Lane, vol. 1, p. 1289. (38) Ibn Sida, as quoted in Lisan al-'Arab (article n-w-'). None of the lexicons explicity state this as the origin of the usage in mandzil al-qamar. (39) William Jones, p. 304. In German the stations would be "Mondstationen" and in Italien "stazioni lunare". Perhaps the translation as "mansions" is by analogy to the twelve zodiacal buruij, a parallel noted by al-Qalqashandi, vol. 2, p. 372. W. M. O'Neil, Time and the Calendar (Sydney, 1975), p. 53 mistakingly calls these "the inns of the moon". (40) Abfi 'Ubayda in al-Marziqi, vol. 1, p. 185; Ibn Qutayba, pp. 5-6; Ibn Sida, vol. 9, p. 9. (41) Ibn Qutayba, p. 5; E. W. Lane, vol. 1, p. 30. The Quranic reference is to surah 37:9. (42) Al-Alfisi, vol. 3, p. 235. (43) Ibn Mijid, p. 80. This content downloaded from on Sat, 24 Aug 2013 06:16:33 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and ConditionsTHE ORIGIN OF THE ANWA' IN ARAB TRADITION 17 Apart from claims made by the compilers of the anwc' genre, the only other evidence must be retrieved from the lexical sources and excerpts recorded in the genre. The early scholars were aware of the fragmentary nature of the evidence. For example, in his discussion of each of the twenty-eight stations, Ibn Qutayba acknowledged that several (# 2, 4, 13, 20) were not mentioned in the older poetry and that several (# 5, 6, 11, 12) were only mentioned as part of a larger grouping of stars; furthermore, for some (# 12, 21, 23, 28) no poetry is in fact provided. Ibn Kunisa stated that a few stations, such as batn al-hil ($28), were not mentioned because they were overcome in importance by a preceding or following star.(") Ibn Sida noted that # 16, 17, 18, and 19 were usually referred to as 'aqrab (Scorpionis), of which they were parts.(45) If certain of the stations were not mentioned in the poetry, then the rationale for a lunar zodiac falters. While some of the stations were of little importance to pre- Islamic Arab tribesmen, other stars outside the lunar zodiac were widely used as markers. Ibn M~jid quoted a line of poetry on the fame of the Pleiades, Orion, Spica and Arcturus (simdkdn) and Sirius (mirzam); the other stars, he explained, were of little use.("4) Sirius (as shi'rd) is referred to in a verse as a naw', but Ibn Qutayba rejected the obvious identification of Sirius because it was not one of the lunar stations.(47) He was only willing to concede that the naw' might be attributed to Sirius because it rose in conjunction with one of the lunar stations. It is clear, however, that the rising of Sirius was a well-known marker of the barih wind and summer heat. Similarly, although Canopus (suhayl) is not considered a naw' in the genre, it figured prominently in the pastoral cycle of the pre-Islamic Bedouin. The rising of Canopus signalled the end of summer's heat and the beginning of the autumn rains. This use of Canopus as a marker of the autumn rains is still found among the Rwala Bedouin and in Saudi Arabia.(48) In Yemen the rising of Canopus is a primary marker (44) Quoted in al-Marziqi, vol. 1, p. 199. (45) Ibn Sida, vol. 9, p. 14. (46) Ibn Mijid, p. 85. (47) Ibn Qutayba, p. 91. (48) For the Rwala, see Alois Musil, The Manners and Customs of the Rwala Bedouins (New York: American Geographical Society, 1928), pp. 8-9. See also Saad Abdullah Sowayan, Nabatl Poetry. The Oral Poetry of Arabia (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985), p. 27, and Clinton Bailey, "Bedouin star-lore in Sinai and the Negev", BSOAS 37 (1974), p. 584. This content downloaded from on Sat, 24 Aug 2013 06:16:33 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions18 DANIEL MARTIN VARISCO of the late summer rains and consequent flooding of wadis in the coastal region.(49) Sailors in the Mediterranean and Red Sea used the term naw' to refer to a storm or tempest at sea.(50) The idea of a lunar zodiac as formalized in Islamic astronomy presupposes knowledge of the solar zodiac. Al-Stfifi noted that the pre-Islamic Arabs did not use the zodiacal signs, although he believed the lunar zodiac was part of pre-Islamic lore.(51) In that the system of stations begins with sharatdn at the vernal equinox, the order reflects a tradition from outside Arabia. One of the reasons cited for the meaning of sharaldn is that it was the first of the stations and thus a sign or marker (sharat), but the pre-Islamic tribesmen of Arabia would not have known this. It is clear from the literature and ethnographic data on contemporary Bedouin that the year for the Arabs began with the autumn rains, particularly the wasm( or first rain of the year in the pastoral cycle.(52) The classical model of the four seasons, where each season is defined according to the equinoxes and solstices, is clearly borrowed from earlier Greek science, most probably Ptolemy. Yet, early Muslim scholars made a variety of attempts to fit the twenty-eight stations into the four-season sequence.(53) Accordingly, each season is assigned seven stations, although only with sharaltdn does the beginning of a station correlate to the start of a season. Complicating the issue is a confusion on the part of some scholars about the length of each season and lack of allowance for precession of the equinoxes, a (49) D. M. Varisco, "The production of sorghum (dhurah) in highland Yemen", Arabian Studies 7 (1985), p. 64. (50) Ibn al-Ajdfbi, p. 152 mentioned the naw' of forty witnesses (arba Tn shd- hid). (51), p. 11. (52) Ibn al-Ajdfib, p. 100; Ibn Qutayba, pp. 103, 121; al-Marziiqi, vol. 1, p. 186; Shiriha ibn al-Sayyid in al-Alfisi, vol. 3, p. 244. For a discussion of the wasm( and other pre-Islamic rain periods, see my "The rain periods in pre-Islamic Arabia", Arabica 33 (1987), pp. 261-263. (53) Ibn Qutayba, pp. 100ff placed the spring equinox at 111:20, the summer solstice at VI:23, the autumn equinox at IX:24 and the winter solstice at XII:22. Cf. the accounts given by Abfi Hanifa al-Dinawari in Ibn Sida, vol. 9, p. 80 and Abfi Ishiq al-Zajjij. The four-season sequence based on the equinoxes and solstices was taken from Ptolemaic tradition, as discussed by Julio Samso, "De nuevo sobre la traducci6n arab de las 'Phaseis' de Ptolomeo y la influencia clAsica en los 'kulub al-anwd"", Al-Andalus 41 (1976), pp. 472-479. This content downloaded from on Sat, 24 Aug 2013 06:16:33 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and ConditionsTHE ORIGIN OF THE ANWA ' IN ARAB TRADITION 19 principle Arab astronomers adopted from other traditions.(") Ibn Kun~sa provided a variant scheme of the twenty-eight stations in relation to rain periods recognized in pre-Islamic Arabia.(55) His own comments, however, demonstrate that it is an arbitrary fit. Among other variants, M~lik ibn Anas is credited with a correlation of the stations to six seasons, but this requires splitting each season into four and two-thirds stations!("s) Any attempt to relate the twenty-eight stations to the seasons involves a tampering with the concept of anwd' based on the available evidence from the pre-Islamic literature. Perhaps the most damaging evidence against the presence of the lunar zodiac is the record of an alternative system of anwd' attributed to the Qushayriyfin or possibly the Qaysiyfin, both in reference to pre-Islamic tribes. Abf Zayd and Qutrub, two of the early compilers, mentioned only thirteen or fourteen asterisms, some of which are not from zodiacal constellations.(57) These anwd' are markers of six major rain periods, beginning with the autumn wasmrT rain, as noted in Table 2. The naw' here may be the dawn setting in some cases and rising in others. No attempt was made to delineate the anwd' into equal units and the system bears no relatation to a lunar zodiac. The length of a naw', commonly said to be thirteen days, is also a matter of dispute.(58) The major anwd' texts record a length of days for each naw' ranging from one to seven days. This appears to be the length of time for the influence of the naw', although it is not clearly specified. These lengths can hardly refer to rain in all cases, since several of the anwd' set when there could be no rain. A higher number is not necessarily related to the fame of the naw' for rain. While it is unclear just what these lengths were (54) Concerning precession, Ibn Mfjid, p. 160, observed: "The people who make tables and almanacs take this into account, but ignorant navigators, sailors and bedouin persist in the traditional error and they all reason to this day that the first of al-Sharaadn is the first of Aries". (55) Quoted in al-Marzfqi, vol. 1, pp. 199-200. (56) Quoted in Ibn al-Ajdabi, pp. 98-99. (57) The system of Abfl Zayd is cited in his Kildb al-Malar J.A.O.S., 16 (1895): 282-317; al-Marzfqi, vol. 1, pp. 198-199; and Lane, vol. 2, pp. 2861-2862. The rendering of Qutrub can be found in his al-Azmina wa-lalbiyat al-jdhiliya (al-ZarqW': Maktabat al-Manor, 1985), pp. 99-100, and al-Marzfqi, vol. 1, p. 198. A similar system is attributed to Abf Mansfir in Lisdn al-'Arab (article n-w-). (58) Ibn al-Ajdabi, p. 136; Ibn Qutayba, p. 9. This content downloaded from on Sat, 24 Aug 2013 06:16:33 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions20 DANIEL MARTIN VARISCO Table 2 The Anwd' of the Qushayriyfin Rain Period Anwd' Comments wasmt al-'arquwaldn 15 days for each star period at wasmt; al-mu'akhkharaldn this asterism is part of dalw sharat thurayyd shalawi jawzd' dhirddan or dhird" nathra dafa'( jabha Also part of shalawt and some say part of sayfT `awwd Not mentioned by some sarfa Not mentioned by some or perhaps a separate Season sayff simdkdn 40 day period hamrm dabardn 20 day period, but said to be no naw' at this time; some combine hamtm with khartf khariff nasrdn (Altair and Vega) akhdar al-'arquwatdn al-ilaydn used for, their presence suggests that the unit of thirteen days is an arbitrary fit introduced to make the anwd' look like a lunar zodiac. Another line of evidence which casts doubt on the association of the anwd' and the mandzil is the lack of reference in the poetry and sayings to the moon stationing with the anwd'.(59) A notable exception to this is the case of the Pleiades, which formed an important pastoral calendar according to its conjunction with the moon during the course of the year. The conjunction (from qarana rather than nazala) of the moon and the Pleiades was used as a marker of time by counting the number of days elapsed between the first of the lunar month (i.e., hildl) and the conjunction. Ibn Qutayba quoted a verse in which the arrival of winter is linked to the conjunction of these two on the fifth day of the lunar month.(s6) This Pleiades calendar has survived among (59) Al-Birini, pp. 336-337 cites several examples, but these do not appear to be pre-Islamic with the exception of references to the Pleiades. (60) Al-Bironi, p. 336; Ibn Qutayba, p. 87. This content downloaded from on Sat, 24 Aug 2013 06:16:33 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and ConditionsTHE ORIGIN OF THE ANWA' IN ARAB TRADITION 21 tribal groups in Yemen, Palestine and Afghanistan.(61) Such a system, however, is not in fact a lunar zodiac of twenty-eight distinct asterisms. Finally, there is no doubt that certain elements of the Islamic rendering of the mandzil were taken from the Hindu concept of the lunar zodiac. This borrowing has been recognized for a long time in Western scholarship and the evidence is varied.("6) There is no simple, one-to-one correspondence between the mandzil and the Hindu naksatras (i.e., stations), but the parallels are clearly seen. The choice of sharaltn parallels the start of the Indian system with Adivin(, the identical asterism. The distinction in the Islamic system of haq'a as three specific stars in Orion, a usage not found in the pre-Islamic poetry, is from the designation of the fifth station in the Indian zodiac. The later astrological prognostica- tions are taken directly from Indian sources, a fact at times noted in the Arabic texts. Furthermore, both systems regard half of the stations as auspicious and half as inauspicious. The main element borrowed, however, is the concept of a lunar zodiac in which the stations represent equal units of arc along the moon's course. Such a division is not recorded from pre-Islamic Arabia, nor would it have been a practical calendar for tribesmen. Knowledge of the lunar zodiac may have penetrated the Arabian Peninsula in the century or so before the prophet Muhammad, since the Sassanians had earlier adopted the Iranian lunar zodiac.(63) During the conquests, Arab scholars first began to assimilate the foreign sciences encountered both east and west with (61) For Palestine, see Gustav Dalman, Arbeit und Sitte in Paldstina (Gutersloh, 1928), vol. 1, p. 23; for Yemen, see Eduard Glaser, "Der Sternkunde der Siidarabischen Kabylen", Sitz. d. Akad. d. Wissenschaflen d. Wien, 91 (1885), pp. 89- 99; for Afghanistan, Alessandro Bausani, "Osservazioni sul sistema calendariale degli Hazara di Afghanistan", Oriente Moderno 54 (1974), pp. 341-354. (62) H. T. Colebrooke, "On the Indian and Arabian divisions of the Zodiac", in his Miscellaneous Essays (London: Tribner, 1873), vol. 3, p. 282; Jean Filliozat, "L'Inde et les 6changes scientifiques dans I'antiquit6", Cahiers d'Histoire Mondiale 1 (1953), p. 357; Nallino, vol. 5, pp. 180-181; Pellat, p. 523; Louis Pierre Sedillot, Maltriaux pour servir & l'histoire comparee des sciences mathematiques chez les Grecs et les Orientaux (Paris: Libraire de Firmin Didot Freres, 1849), vol. 2, p. 475. Al- Birfini, Alberuni's India (London: Tribner, 1914), vol. 1, p. 82 argued that some of the anwd' authors misunderstood the Indian lunar zodiac. (63) W. B. Henninger, "An astronomical chapter of the Bundahishn", JRAS (1942), p. 245. Cf. David Pingree, "Astronomy and astrology in India and Iran", Isis 54 (1963), p. 241. This content downloaded from on Sat, 24 Aug 2013 06:16:33 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions22 DANIEL MARTIN VARISCO traditional lore from the Peninsula. By the 2nd/8th century, before any of the known anwd' genre were compiled, the Hindu Siddhanla, which describes the stations, had been translated into Arabic. The earliest reference to the stations as a formal system appears to come from Malik ibn Anas (died 179/795) in a tradition of the Andalusian philologist 'Abd al-Malik ibn Habib (died 238/852).(") The ninth century A.D. astronomer al-Farghini, whose astronomical text was translated into Latin by John of Seville and Gerard of Cremona, listed the twenty-eight stations. Abfi Ma'shar was aware of the hemerological use of the stations in Indian astrology.(e5) Thus, the formulation of the lunar zodiac in Islamic science took place at a time when the influence of Hindu tradition was pronounced. Rain, Forlune and the Anw5' The primary evidence on the nature of the anwd' in pre-Islamic ritual comes from the traditions of Muhammad. A well-known hadith expresses Muhammad's denunciation of three pagan practi- ces: defamation of ancestry (ta'n fi al-ansab), lamentation (niyd- ha) and the anwd'. (I) The prophet condemned those who attributed the power over rain to the stars rather. than to God. As Abfi 'Ubayd explained, the Arabs in the Jdhiliyya believed the stars could influence the rain; they would commonly say "we were rained upon by the naw' of the Pleiades, Aldebaran or simdk (probably Arcturus in this context)."(67) Muhammad's condemnation of this practice echoes a major theme in the Quran that the people of his day had rejected God and were ascribing his power to idols and nature itself. The anwd' are best understood as a system for divining rain. That the prophet felt it necessary to vigorously oppose it suggests that it was firmly engrained in Mecca. Certain idols set (64) Prof. Kunitzsch is preparing an edition of the important anwd' text of Ibn Habib. (65) Abfi Ma'shar is attributed with an anwd' text translated into Latin. Cf. R. Y. Ebied and M. J. L. Young, "A treatise on hemerology ascribed to Ca' far al- .Sdiq", Arabica 23 (1976), p. 298. (66) In addition to al-Bukhari and the standard hadith collections, this tradition can be found in Ibn al-Ajdfbi, p. 136, Ibn Qutayba, p. 14, Lisan al-'Arab (article n- 7) . uoted in isdn a (67) Quoted in Lisan al-'Arab (article n-w-'). This content downloaded from on Sat, 24 Aug 2013 06:16:33 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and ConditionsTHE ORIGIN OF THE ANWA' IN ARAB TRADITION 23 up in the ka'ba were in fact prayed to for rain.(") There is an account of a rain cult associated with the sacred geography of the ka'ba in which the rain reaching a certain door of the sanctuary would indicate rain and fertility for the land in the direction of that door.(69) As David King has recently concluded, the architectural features of the ka'ba are intimately linked with astronomical and meteorological folklore of pre-Islamic Arabia.(70) Muslim authors noted that several of the stations, as well as other stars, were worshipped before Islam and that there were diviners who invoked rain from the anwd'.(71) The pre-Islamic poetry which has survived does not elaborate on the magical use of anwd', although there is mention of some anwd' being more favorable than others. The most auspicious naw' was the Pleiades, which was called al-najm, the "star" par excellence, in pre-Islamic Arabia and the Quran.(72) The reason most often given for this fortune is that it marked a time of plentiful autumn rains. Yet, the naw' of Aldebaran immediately following is deemed the most detestable of the anwd'. Clearly, Aldebaran would also have been associated with the autumn rains. It is in fact sometimes described as a star known for its rain.(73) One of the terms by which Aldebaran was known is mijdah or mujdah. The plural form, majddTh, is said to be synonymous with anwd'. When 'Umar ibn al-Khattib once referred to majddth al-samd' in a rain invocation (islisqd'), he was criticized by his fellow Muslims for referring to such a pagan practice.(74) He justified use of the term as neutral without reference to pagan divining, but the important point is that it was necessary to explain the pagan (68) Ibn al-Kalbi, translated in Nabih Faris, The Book of Idols (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1952), p. 7. (69) AbO 'Uthmin 'Umar al-Jgihiz, Kildb al-Hayawdn (Cairo: Matba'at Mustafi al-BWbi al-.Halabi wa-Awlldih, 1968), vol. 3, p. 43. (70) David A. King, "The sacred direction in Islam. A study of the interaction of religion and science in the Middle Ages", Interdisciplinary Science Reviews 10 (1985), pp. 315-328. (71) Al-Qalqashandi, vol. 2, p. 452; Abfi al-Fatah Muhammad al-Shahrastani, Kitdb al-Milal wa-al-nihal (Beirut, 1984), vol. 2, p. 241. (72) Ibn Qutayba, p. 23; Ibn Sida, vol. 9, p. 9; al-Marzoqi, vol. 1, p. 185. Al- Najm in the sense of the Pleiades is sometimes interpreted as the meaning of the Quranic surah al-Najm. (73) Al-Marzfqi, vol. 1, p. 178. Cf. Lane, vol. 1, p. 388. Ibn Qutayba, p. 37 recorded a hadith on mijdah (Aldebaran) as a naw' for rain. (74) Al-Marziqi, vol. 1, p. 179. This content downloaded from on Sat, 24 Aug 2013 06:16:33 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions24 DANIEL MARTIN VARISCO character of the term. Is it possible, then, that the contention about the ill-fortune at Aldebaran is a Muslim response to the use of this star in pre-Islamic rain invocation? Divining the rain and other weather phenomena would clearly have been an important part of pre-Islamic cults. Even among the Bedouins of the desert, knowledge of rain and pasture was vital for prosperity. The lexical evidence suggests that the seasons were divided and named in pre-Islamic Arabia by rain periods.(75) According to Ibn Qutayba the Arabs marked the arrival of the autumn rains with the dawn setting of the Pleiades.(71) At this time they enjoyed pasture in the furthest reaches of the desert. With the dawn rising of the Pleiades, six months later, the pasture was dry and it was time to return to permanent summer wells. Contemporary Bedouin tribes also use the Pleiades and other important stars to mark the periods of possible rain. (77) The anwd' came to be associated with other aspects of life. Al- MarzfiqT claimed that the Arabs exceeded proper bounds in their oaths by the anwd' and attributed events to their influence until they deluded themselves into thinking that all fortune or misfortune, good or evil, profit or loss, was according to the anwd'.(' ) It is recorded that traveling when the moon was in the stars of "aqrab (Scorpionis) was inauspicious.(79) Most of the anwd' are described as auspicious or inauspicious independently from the astrological character assigned to the stations from Hindu tradition. Thus, it is possible that the use of anwa' extended beyond rain invocation to a broader cult of divination by the stars. As such, it would have been a prime target for the prophet's invective. The conclusion is inescapable that the anwd' refer to a system of rain invocation that saw the stars as influential in intercession for rain. The origin of the term must relate to the link with rain rather than the contrived argument that a naw' was the dawn (75) See my "The rain periods in pre-Islamic Arabia", p. 255-263. (76) Ibn Qutayba, p. 30. Cf. Abi 'Abd Alluh in al-Marzfiqi, vol. 2, p. 291. (77) See the references cited in note 61. (78) Al-Marzfqi, vol. 1, p. 178. (79) This may in fact be a reference to the "aqdrib of winter, as determined by the new moon being seen in Scorpio during the cold winter months. For a discussion of this term, see my Medieval Agriculture and Islamic Science: The Almanac of a Yemeni Sultan (Seattle: University of Washington Press, in press). This content downloaded from on Sat, 24 Aug 2013 06:16:33 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and ConditionsTHE ORIGIN OF THE ANWA' IN ARAB TRADITION 25 setting of one of the twenty-eight lunar stations. It would be wrong to say that all pre-Islamic Arabs followed such a system or were willing to accept it. It would be equally wrong to assume that some Arabs developed the anwd' simply as a reckoning system for when a rain might naturally occur. In fact, the origin of the anwd' has been filtered for us by a generation of Islamic scholars who were wary of the magical and unIslamic use of stars for invoking rain in pre-Islamic Arabia. Science and Folklore The issue of the origin of the anwd' in Arab tradition highlights a fundamental problem in reconstructing the history of scientific concepts. When we slide back along the scientific scale to reach the ultimate origin of a concept, eventually we arrive at that liminal and undefined point where "science" is created from mere lore. Unfortunately, it is precisely at this point, as in the case of the anwd', that the evidence usually eludes us. As historians of science we are reliant for the most part on surviving texts, in many cases what compilers have chosen to preserve. Early Muslim authors collected excerpts of pre-Islamic poetry and lore, and other references can be found in the pre-Islamic literature, but these present a fragmented view of the anwd' as a practical concern for pre-Islamic Arabs. In a sense, we are at the mercy of the compilers of the anwd' genre, because they started from the belief that the anwd' correspond to the twenty-eight lunar stations. And for centuries, what reason was there to doubt such a belief? There is a danger in relying so much on a textual tradition that the "prehistory" of an idea-as it reverberated in men's minds and on their lips-is not only lost but ruled insignificant. The history of a concept thus becomes only the history of what learned men have recorded about it for posterity. While it is possible to refer to the earliest recorded mentioning of the anwd',(") for example, this says little about how the term came to have its accepted meaning in formal Islamic astronomy. The fact that no single, ultimate source can be identified, however, need not deter an investigation into the probable origin of the anwd' (80) The earliest reference to the anwd' is at least a hundred years after the death of Muhammad. This content downloaded from on Sat, 24 Aug 2013 06:16:33 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions26 DANIEL MARTIN VARISCO concept. The textual evidence indicates quite clearly that the anwd' could not have represented a lunar zodiac in pre-Islamic Arabia, an answer to the first question posed in this study. Although the evidence is far less complete on what the anwd' did in fact represent, it is highly probable that the usage of naw' is linked with a rite of rain invocation associated with certain stars recognized by the pre-Islamic Arabs, most notably the Pleiades and Aldebaran. In this study an attempt has been made to sift through the conflicting information and variant records of the anwd' as a pre- Islamic star calendar. There is no proof that any specific Arab tribe or cult followed a lunar zodiac of twenty-eight asterisms as defined in the formal scientific tradition. There is in fact no origin for the anwd', no distant Arab tribesman who hit upon the idea on a remote, star-lit night in the desert. There were no doubt numerous star calendars suited to particular needs, whether for monitoring the pastoral cycle, fixing agricultural activities, or for magical use. Certain stars were widely recognized because of the appropriate timing of their risings and settings. But the folklore available to the compilers of the anwd' genre was little more than an undifferentiated mass of information, a universe of particulars with no single, coherent frame of reference. Even the poetic excerpts from pre-Islamic authors do not provide an identifiable star calendar but rather only an indication of certain stars recognized across the Arabian Peninsula. It would be tempting to say that the concept of a lunar zodiac was simply borrowed from India and Arabized by a judicious incorporation of Arabic star names and lore. Yet to say that the lunar zodiac, of which there are a number of variants prior to the Islamic period elsewhere, is not indigenous to tribal Arabia is not to say that its formal definition in Arab Islamic scholarship was not distinctively Arab and Islamic. The lunar zodiac, like the solar zodiac of twelve signs, spread throughout a number of cultures as a coherent frame in astronomy. The idea of the zodiac was but the skeleton; the features which made the concept distinctive in Islamic science were the flesh and blood of Arab star lore. In defining the direction and components of Islamic science, the early scholars forged concepts by combining the legacy of previous scholars with their own distinctive traditions. Thus, the formal concept of the anwd' as an equivalent variant of the lunar zodiac came into existence only when the variations within Arab tradition were fused to the unifying frame of a lunar zodiac. This content downloaded from on Sat, 24 Aug 2013 06:16:33 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and ConditionsTHE ORIGIN OF THE ANWA' IN ARAB TRADITION 27 It is not that early Muslim scholars sought to deliberately mislead; rather, they participated in a milieu in which science was concerned with the harmonization of information within an avowedly Islamic framework. In this respect a scholar like Ibn Qutayba, one of the most famous of the compilers of anwd' texts, tried to describe the anwd' without reference to the influence of foreign philosophy or scholarly astronomy.(81) His goal was to make sense of what the Bedouins did, but this was accomplished by harmonization rather than a straightforward documentation of what particular tribes practiced. It was assumed that the conflicting information was a result of the Bedouins' ignorance of the cosmic order as set forth by God himself. It is still necessary to explain why these early scholars did not lay claim to their synthesis. Why did they insist on reading back the formal concept of the lunar zodiac into the liminal period before Muhammad? Why was it so important that the anwd' be seen as a practical star calendar apart from the acknowledged use of the anwd' by some in pagan rain invocation? Apart from general descriptions of several star calendars not considered as anwd', there is virtually no documentation for how the system evolved. In fact there is a general reluctance to probe too deeply into a system reviled by the prophet. Abfi 'Ubayd once remarked, "I asked al-Asmat (the famed lexical expert) about (the start mijdah), but he did not say anything about it and was loathe to see anything good from the anwd' system."(82) The anecdote implies that al-Asmai, who authored an anwd' work now lost, knew much more about the pagan character of the system than he cared to discuss. Similarly, the reluctance to delve into the anwd' is related in a story mentioned by al-Damiri: Ibn 'Abd al-Hakam said that when 'Umar ibn 'Abd al- Aziz left al- Madina a man from (the tribe of) al-Lakhm said to him: "I looked and saw the moon in Aldebaran, but I was loathe to tell him so. Rather I said, 'Do you see the moon, how beautiful it is tonight in its fullness?' Then 'Umar looked, seeing it in Aldebaran, and responded: 'As if you wanted to tell me that it is in Aldebaran, but we did not leave according to the sun or the moon; we left with God, the only One and the Omnipotent.' "(83) (81) Ibn Qutayba, p. 2. (82) Quoted in al-Marzuqi, vol. 1, p. 179. (83) Mulhammad ibn MiOs al-Damiri, H. aydl al-hayawdn al-kubrd (Beirut: Dgr al- Fikr, N.D., reprint), vol. 2, p. 98. This content downloaded from on Sat, 24 Aug 2013 06:16:33 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions28 DANIEL MARTIN VARISCO As is also reflected in the account of the rain invocation by 'Umar ibn al-Khattib, mentioned earlier, the early Muslims were well aware of the pagan character of the anwd' and they were determined not to perpetuate this. In order to discuss the anwd' in an Islamic framework it was necessary to cleanse the idea of its pagan, magical aura. This cleansing was accomplished in two ways. First, the variant star calendars relating to periods of rain were unified in the neutral frame of a lunar zodiac. This lunar zodiac was posited as the ideal type set in order by God himself. It represented the calendar that the tribesmen should have known rather than a particular calendar in use by any given tribe or community. Second, it was necessary to assert that the practical use of the anwd' as a time-recknoning system existed independently of the pagan practice of invoking rain from certain stars. Since the anwd' could be perceived in such a neutral sense, such a system could be redeemed as a suitable topic for Muslim scholars. The concept of the anwd' was justified as Arab because it was a harmonization of Arab lore; it became distinctively Islamic when the pagan, magical elements were exorcised. To the earliest generation of Muslim scholars it was not necessary or expedient to describe the anwd' as objective documentation in the manner sought by modern historians of such ideas. While this complicates an adequate appraisal of how the anwd' were perceived in actual usage, it is still possible to sort through the fragmentary information and answer some questions about the concept. The incorporation of traditional lore into an Islamic scientific framework provides an example of how scientific concepts were formed and communicated. In the case of the anwd' a blatant pagan practice was purified and set into an Islamic cosmology that later generations accepted without question. Daniel Martin VARISCO (New York) This content downloaded from on Sat, 24 Aug 2013 06:16:33 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and ConditionsArticle Contentsp. [5]p. 6p. 7p. 8p. 9p. 10p. 11p. 12p. 13p. 14p. 15p. 16p. 17p. 18p. 19p. 20p. 21p. 22p. 23p. 24p. 25p. 26p. 27p. 28Issue Table of ContentsStudia Islamica, No. 74 (1991), pp. 1-197Front Matter [pp. 2-3]The Origin of the anw' in Arab Tradition[pp. 5-28]A l'aube de l'historiographie arabo-musulmane: la mmoire islamique[pp. 29-41]The sam' Controversy: Sufi vs. Legalist[pp. 43-62]The Origins and Early History of the Husaynid Amirate of Madna to the End of the Ayybid Period[pp. 63-78]Badr al-Dn Lu'lu' and the Establishment of a mamluk Government in Mosul[pp. 79-103]La causalit dans la "Muqaddimah" d'Ibn Khaldn[pp. 105-142]Culture et industrie du lin en al-Andalus au Moyen ge (VIIIe-XVe s)[pp. 143-165]Notes et commentaires / Notes and CommentariesEncore au sujet de l'Asharisme d'Ab Isq Ash-Shrz[pp. 167-177]criture et rcriture de l'histoire du Maroc[pp. 178-184]Revue des livres / Book ReviewsReview: untitled [pp. 185-188]Review: untitled [pp. 189-192]Review: untitled [pp. 192-193]Review: untitled [pp. 193-197]Back Matter


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