Al-Masudi Contribution to Geography Notes By NETSET CORNER

Al-Masudi Contribution to Geography

[3] Al-Masudi (896 – 956 AD)

He was born in Baghdad at the end of the ninth century and died in 956 AD at Fustat in Egypt. He was a trader, who travelled in the different parts of South-West Asia, northern Africa, Persia, Sham (Syria), Armenia, Azaerbaijan, Volga region, Central Asia, Sri Lanka, Madagascar (Qanbalu), Spain, and Egypt. He made an in-depth study of the Greek and Roman sources.

Al-Masudi had a clear conception of the sphericity of the Earth. He believed that the surface of the sea is curved, since when a ship approached the land, the coast and the objects there on gradually become more and more visible. He took Japan as the eastern limit of the land and the Eternal Islands (Atlantic Ocean) as the western limit. He named the seven seas while going from the Persian Gulf to China for trade. The names of the seven seas are:

[i] Sea of Persia,

[ii] Sea of Larvey (Delta of Indus to Kanniyakumari),

[iii] Sea of Harkend (Bay of Bengal),

[iv] Sea of Shalahet or Kalabar (Sea of Malacca),

[v] Sea of Kendrej (Gulf of Siam-Thailand),

[vi] Sea of Senf (Cochin China), and

[vii] Sea of Senj (Sea of China).

He navigated into the Caspian Sea and declared it as a lake. He was the first to establish that the Oxus flows into the Aral Lake. Volga river was described by him as an active commercial highway.

To the Atlantic Ocean, he gave the name of Dark-Green Sea. In Geomorphology, he visualised that landforms pass through a cycle of development from the youthful stage to maturity and finally to the old stage-the stage of peneplanation. He appreciated the role of cycle of erosion and adjustment of streams to structure in the evolution of landforms when he says, “there is no place on Earth that is always covered with water, nor one that is always land, but constant revolution takes place. The Earth grows and decline part by part.”

Al-Masudi gave a good account of the Indian Monsoon. He had a better idea than Ptolemy of Indian Ocean, Al-Masudi held that the Indian Ocean is connected with the Atlantic Ocean. He opined that salt in the sea and oceans comes from the land.

In the field of Human Geography, he tried to correlate man with environment. While describing the effect of environment on man, Al-Masudi said, “The power of the Earth varies in its influence on man on account of three factors i.e. water, natural vegetation, and topography”. Describing the lifestyle of nomads he said that life in the city changed man’s characters and therefore, they preferred life in the open where the air is free from pollution. The nomads are marked by the strength of resolution, wisdom, and physical fitness. The Turks, in his opinion, who migrated to India lost their national characteristics and acquired new characteristics suited to the new environment.

He gave a fairly reliable account of Sham (Syria), Persia, Central Asia, Georgia, Mesopotamia, Volga region and parts of India, China, and South-East Asian countries, he visited.

On the basis of language, he divided the habitable world into seven nationalities:

[i] Persia,

[ii] Chaldaeans (Arabs)

[iii] Greeks

[iv] Egyptian and Libyans

[v] Turks,

[vi] Hindus, and

[vii] Chinese.

In brief, Al-Masudi was such a geographer who examined the real document of Geography. The following books were written by him:

[1] Mura-al-Dahab (Golden Meadows),

[2] Kitab-al-Tanbhwal-Ishraf

[3] Kitab-al-Ausat, and

[4] Kitab-Akhbar-al-Zaman (in 30 volumes).

Most of these works, except Kitab-Muraj-al-Dahab (Golden Meadows) have been lost.


Key Points on Al-Masudi:

[i] Al-Masudi advocated that Earth has a spherical shape.

[ii] He believed that the surface of the sea is curved.

[iii] He named the seven seas while going from the Persian Gulf to China for trade.

[iv] He gave the name of Atlantic Ocean as Dark-Green Sea.

[v] Al-Masudi gave a good account of the Indian Monsoon.

[vi] He divided the world into seven regios on the basis of languages.

[vii] Books of Al-Masudi: [a] Mura-al-Dahab (Golden Meadows), [b] Kitab-al-Tanbhwal-Ishraf [c] Kitab-al-Ausat, and [d] Kitab-Akhbar-al-Zaman.


N.B- Notes will be updated time to time

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