Zakariya al-Qazwini

Tile with two rabbits, two snakes and a tortoise. Illustration for Zakariya al-Qazwini's book, Marvels of Things Created and Miraculous Aspects of Things Existing (13th century). Earthenware, molded and underglaze-painted decoration. Iran, 19th century.
The Monster of Gog and Magog, by Zakariya al-Qazwini

Abu Yahya Zakariya' ibn Muhammad al-Qazwini (أبو یحیی زکریاء بن محمد القزویني) or Zakarya Qazvini (Persian: زکریا قزوینی) (12031283) was an Arab[1][2] or Persian[3][4][5] physician, astronomer, geographer and proto-science fiction writer. He belonged to a family of jurists who had long before settled in Qazvin. He was a descendant of the Medina sahabi Anas bin Malik.


Born in Qazvin, Iran, Zakariya Qazvini served as a legal expert and judge in several localities in Iran and at the city of Baghdad. He travelled around in Mesopotamia and the Levant, and finally entered the circle patronized by the governor of Baghdad, Ata-Malik Juvayni (d. 1283 CE).

It was to the latter that Qazvini dedicated his famous cosmography titled "Marvels of Creatures and the Strange Things Existing" (عجائب المخلوقات وغرائب الموجودات). This treatise, frequently illustrated, was immensely popular and is preserved today in many copies. It was translated into his native Persian language, and later also into Turkish.

Qazvini was also well known for his geographical dictionary "Monument of Places and History of God's Bondsmen" (آثار البلاد وأخبار العباد). Both of these treatises reflect extensive reading and learning in a wide range of disciplines.

Qazvini also wrote a futuristic proto-science fiction Arabic tale entitled Awaj bin Anfaq[6] (أوج بن أنفاق), about a man who travelled to Earth from a distant planet.[7]

Qazvini mentioned how alchemists dubbed "swindlers" claimed to have carried out the transmutation of metals into gold; he states:

…they ruined the development of the science of chemistry, by fooling powerful rulers such as Imad ad-Din Zengi and thus many scholars and various colleagues turned against alchemy thus resulting in the isolation of the science.[8]

See also


  1. Al-Qazwīnī, Zakariyā Ibn Muḥammad Ibn Maḥmūd, Abū Yaḥyā." Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. 2008. 10 Apr. 2013
  2. Al-Kazwini, T. Lewicki, The Encyclopaedia of Islam, Vol. IV, ed. E. van Donzel, B. Lewis, C. Pellat, (Brill, 1997), 865-867.
  3. ĀṮĀR AL-BELĀD, C. E. Bosworth, Encyclopaedia Iranica; "Ātar Al-Belad: the title of a geographical work composed in Arabic during the 7th/13th century by the Persian scholar Abū Yaḥyā Zakarīyāʾ b. Moḥammad Qazvīnī".
  4. Iranian Entomology: An Introduction, Volume I, ed. Cyrus Abivardi, (Springer, 2001), 495.
  5. Bernard Lewis, A Middle East Mosaic: Fragments of Life, Letters and History, (Random House, 2000), 439.
  6. Close encounters of the Arab kind BBC News, 9 October 2013
  7. Achmed A. W. Khammas, Science Fiction in Arabic Literature
  8. Houtsma, Martijn Theodoor (1993). E. J. Brill's First Encyclopaedia of Islam, 1913-1936. BRILL. ISBN 90-04-09790-2.


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