This very rare work is an important treatise on the genealogy and classification of the Arab tribes written by Muhammad Amin Suwaydi, a prominent Iraqi theologian and historian. Published in Cairo around 1925, it features an elaborate, 90 page-long continuous genealogical table. Here Suwaydi revised and expanded upon the legendary Egyptian Medieval scholar Ahmad ibn Ali Qalqashandi’s ‘Dictionary of Arab Genealogy’, one of the greatest theoretical works on the subject; notably Suwaydi continued the genealogical profile up to modern times.
Our example is richly annotated by a 20th century Arab scholar.
The present work seeks to trace the genealogy of the Arab peoples, and the branches of their tribes, from Biblical Times, up though the age of Mohammed, and then down to the modern era. It consists of an introductory text, followed by the grand genealogical table, and finally an alphabetical dictionary and analytical section.
Suwaydi is thought to have commenced preparation the work as early as 1814, although he did not complete the treatise until 1830 or 1831, shortly before his death. Highly regarded in its time, for some years a small number of manuscript copies circulated in Islamic academic circles. The first edition was issued in Baghdad in 1864. The second edition was published in Bombay in 1877 (and is likewise rare). Our version is probably the third edition, printed in circa 1925 in Cairo.
Muhammad Amin Suwaydi [also Suveydi or Suweidi, or Muhammad Amin al-Baghdadi] (1786 – 1831) was one of the early 19th Century Arab World’s leading religious scholars and historians. Born in Baghdad, he was schooled by his father, a prominent local theologian. A pious man, he led a virtuous life and mentored many of Iraq’s leading Islamic scholars. He also mounted spirited defences of several prominent Islamic figures whom he felt were unjustly attacked by their theological or political rivals.
The present Sabāʼik al-dhahab fī maʻrifat qabāʼil al-ʻArab was Suwaydi’s most prominent work. Additionally, he wrote influential treatises on the analysis of the hadiths; Islamic mysticism; the history of science; as well as the proper timing of the Qibla. In addition to possessing an uncommonly brilliant analytical mind, he was a master of prose, as well as a virtuous poet. Sadly, he died in 1831 of the plague while visiting the Nejd.
Ahmad ibn Ali Qalqashandi (1355/6 – 1418) was one of the foremost scholars of Medieval Egypt. He was the Clerk of the Mamluk court in Cairo, and is best known for his magnum opus, the ‘Ṣubḥ al-Aʿshá’, a grand encyclopaedia. Another of his masterpieces was his نهاية الأرب في معرفة أنساب العرب [Dictionary of Arab Genealogy], which Suwaydi used as the inspiration for the present work.
The present work is not dated, but can be by the quality of the binding, paper and especially endpapers set in the early 20th century. Libraries date, possibly falsely, the book in various decades up to 1950. Dr. Muhammad bin Abdulaziz Al-Faisal, the associate professor of literature and criticism at the College for Arabic Language at the Al-Imam University, in Baladiyah al-Shemal in northern Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, dates this book in 1925 in his interview for “Al-Riyadh” on September 2nd 2021 (زيارة إلى مكتبة. محمد الفيصل: “أدب الكاتب” النواة الأولى لمكتبتي).
A Note on Rarity
The present work is very rare. Worldcat mixes various editions and eBooks, but we could trace circa 5 examples : Columbia University Library, Cornell University Library, Hamburg University Library, Niedersächsische Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Göttingen and Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen.
References: OCLC: 1103729998 (together with other editions and eBooks); İzzeddin ALEMÜDDIN, Ḫazâʾinü’l-kütübi’l-ʿArabiyye, MMİADm., VIII/8 (1928), p. 452.; [Re: Biography of Suwaydi:] https://islamansiklopedisi.org.tr/suveydi-muhammed-emin. Cf. [Re: On early lithography in Iraq:] A. AL-RAWI, Media Practice in Iraq (2012), passim.
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