Ibn Al-Awwam (12th
Abu Zakariya Yahya ibn Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Al-Awwam Al-Ishbili is a
Hispano-Muslim agriculturist who flourished at Seville about the end of the twelfth
Ibn Al-Awwam wrote a treatise on agriculture, Kitab al-filaha, which is the
most important Muslim work as well as the most important mediaeval one on the
The treatise divides into two main parts, the first dealing with soils, fertilizers, water,
gardens, trees, fruits and their preservation, etc,
whilst the second deals with ploughing, the choice of seeds,
the seasons and their tasks, grain farming, leguminous plants,
small allotments, aromatic plants and industrial plants, harvesting,
farming engineering, livestock breeding, poultry, and
the treatise ends with a section devoted to veterinary subjects.
Ibn Al-Awwam's treatise covers 585 plants, and
explains the cultivation of more than fifty different fruit trees,
besides containing striking observations on the different kinds of soil and manure
and their respective properties, on various methods of grafting, on sympathies and
antipathies between plants, etc.
Ibn Al-Awwam also studies gardening, water variety, irrigation, animal husbandry
and bee keeping, the symptoms of many diseases of trees and vines are indicated, as
are also methods of cure.
His own observations and preceding quotations on different aspects of agriculture
add to the value of the book. Vegetables, cereals, millets, sugar-cane, rice, cotton and
wheat have been brought under discussion.
Among methods and manners of growing,
Crop rotation and fallowing have found special reference.
According to his observation,
Rice was being grown at places having rain without irrigation and cotton could be
successfully grown on waste land.
He especially tells about the benefits of fallowing and crop rotation which provides
Ibn al-`Awwam’s views and ideas expressed in the book show that the
Hispano-Muslim Society had great concern both for extensive and intensive
Kitāb al-filā aḥ
Ibn al-‘Awwām’s Kitāb al-filā aḥ is set out in thirty-four chapters .
A reduced summary of its chapter-headings is as follows:
The soil; assessing the type and quality of soils; soil improvement.
Manures and composts; their kinds and qualities; preparation and application.
Water; types and sources of water and their qualities; the construction of wells;
the noria; preparing and levelling the land for irrigation by means of
Garden planning; choosing a site; placement of trees.
General propagation and cultivation of trees; from seeds,
cuttings, off-shoots, roots and layers.
General planting and care of fruit trees.
The cultivation of particular species of trees, fruit-trees and flowering plants grown
in Spain, including the olive, vine, sugar cane, banana, rose and jasmine.
Grafting; methods and most suitable times; species amenable to grafting;
the Nabataean, Greek, Persian, Roman, and other types of graft.
Pruning; species that benefit from pruning and those that do not; cutting-back
shoots; rejuvenation by pruning.
Tillage of the soil; ploughing, digging, harrowing and hoeing.
Application of manures and composts.
Irrigation of fruit-trees; methods for improving their yield and flavour;
sympathies and antipathies among them.
Artificial pollination – the fig, pomegranate, date-palm, pistachio.
Treatment of ailments, diseases and pests that afflict fruit-trees.
Ingenious methods for flavouring, scenting and colouring growing fruits and flowers.
Preservation and conservation of fruits, vegetables, seeds and grains.
Qalīb or tillage: preparation of land and amelioration of the soil;
ploughing, digging, harrowing, etc.
Grains and legumes that benefit the land.
Sowing grain crops.
Sowing and cultivation of rice, millet, sesame, lentils and haricots.
Sowing and cultivation of beans, chick-peas, fenugreek, lupin, vetch, safflower, etc.
Sowing and cultivation of flax, hemp, cotton, saffron, henna, madder, poppy,
lucerne, clover, etc.
Establishing a kitchen garden; sowing, culture and care of leaf vegetables,
including lettuce, chicory, purslane, beet, orach, spinach, cabbage, cauliflower,
Sowing and cultivation of root crops, including carrot, turnip, horse-radish, onion,
leek, garlic, sekakul, colocasia, and others.
Sowing and cultivation of cucumber, gherkin, melon, aubergine, marrow, gourd
Cultivation of plants used for seasoning and medicaments including cumin,
aniseed, fennel, mustard, coriander, etc.
Cultivation of aromatic and scented plants including gillyflower, lily, water lily,
narcissus, violet, mint, lavender, basil, mallow, etc.
Cultivation of diverse kinds of garden plants such as artichoke, celery, rue, oregano,
rocket, iris, arum, sumac, asparagus, etc.
Harvesting and storing grain; location of threshing-floors and granaries; deterring
harmful insects and pests; talismans; flour milling; preserving fruits and nuts.
A miscellaneous chapter on tree-felling and construction;
olive-pressing, distillation of rose-water; preparing raisins, syrups, vinegars, etc.;
the farming calendar and agricultural seasons; weather lore.
Care and breeding of cattle, sheep and goats; feeding; treatment of their ailments
Care and breeding of horses, donkeys, mules and camels as riding and draught
animals; feeding and training; treating their ailments, infirmities and bad habits;
Equine veterinary medicine and surgery.
Poultry-keeping for profit and ornament, including pigeons, peacocks, geese, ducks
and chickens; bee-keeping.