Saturday, March 19, 2005

The World According to Dinawari

One of my Spring Break projects is reading the work of the 9th-century Persian scholar Abu Hanifa ad-Dinawari, who although most accomplished as an astronomer and botanist wrote a somewhat interesting history, as well. After briefly passing over human origins he dives into Iranian history, where according to the medieval Islamic genealogy schemes we get a man called Jamm b. Wayarnajhan b. Iran (vowels uncertain). The next clause, presumably referring to Grandpa Iran, says, "And he was Arfakhshadh b. Sam b. Nuh."

We're now in the territory of the Table of Nations, with Arphaxad, whom scholars believe originally stood for a region in northern Iraq, standing for Iran instead. Which is fine in and of itself - you have to graft yourself into the human family somehow - but why pick Arphaxad to become Iran when Elam is also available, and the eldest son at that? Was he already accounted for in some manner?

One thing I did learn was that Idris, whose name I knew as a pre-Islamic Prophet in general, is identified with Enoch. The name "Idris" allegedly came about because of his extensive studies, with the Arabic root d-r-s referring to study, as in "madrasa."

UPDATE: I should read on before I post. After hanging out in Mosul for a summer, Sam wandered down the east bank of the Tigris and the region came to be called "Sam Rah," or "Iran." Meanwhile, in the days of this "Jamm" fellow, we get to the Tower of Babel. Looking at Genesis 11 to see if a Jamm turns up in that account, I see that Arphaxad's line ultimately gives rise to a rather important fellow named Abraham. I guess it's good to be related to him. Not only that, but the sons of Sam have been reordered, so that Aram is now the eldest, followed by Arphaxad and Elam. Aram is the ancestor of the Arabs. The Iranians, meanwhile, are divided among other sons, with Khurasan as a son of Elam and Fars a son of Asshur, for example. The actual Assyrians and Elamites have passed from memory.


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