Abu Abdallah Muhammad Ibn Muhammad Ibn Abdallah Ibn Idris al-Qurtubi
al-Hasani, was born in Ceuta, Spain, in 1099 C.E. He was educated in Cordova.
Later he traveled far and wide in connection with his studies and then
flourished at the Norman court in Palermo. The date of his death is
controversial, being either 1166 or 1180 C.E.
Biographical notes on him are to be found rather rarely, and according to F.
Pons Boigues the underlying reason is the fact that the Arab biographers
considered al-Idrisi to be a renegade, since he had been associated with the
court of a Christian king and written in praise of him, in his work. The
circumstances which led him to settle in Sicily at the court of Roger II are not
His major contribution lies in medicinal plants as presented in his several
books, specially Kitab al-Jami-li-Sifat Ashtat al-Nabatat. He studied and
reviewed all the literature on the subject of medicinal plants and formed the
opinion that very little original material had been added to this branch of
knowledge since the early Greek work. He, therefore, collected plants and data
not reported earlier and added this to the subject of botany, with special
reference to medicinal plants. Thus, a large number of new drugs plants together
with their evaluation became available to the medical practitioners. He has
given the names of the drugs in six languages: Syriac, Greek, Persian, Hindi,
Latin and Berber.
In addition to the above, he made original contributions to geography,
especially as related to economics, physical factors and cultural aspects. He
made a planishere in silver for King Roger II, and described the world in
Al-Kitab al-Rujari (Roger's Book), also entitled Nuzhat al-Mushtaq fi
Ikhtiraq al-Afaq (The delight of him who desires to journey through the
climates). This is practically a geographical encyclopaedia of the time,
containing information not only on Asia and Africa, but also Western
Al-Idrisi, later on, also compiled another geographical encyclopedia,
larger than the former entitled Rawd-Unnas wa-Nuzhat al-Nafs (Pleasure of
men and delight of souls) also known as Kitab al- Mamalik wa
Apart from botany and geography, Idrisi also wrote on fauna, zoology and
therapeutical aspects. His work was soon translated into Latin and, especially,
his books on geography remained popular both in the East and the West for