Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Students often happen to accept and transmit absurd information

'Al-Mas udi for instance, reports such a story about Alexander.

Sea monsters prevented Alexander from building Alexandria. He took a wooden container in which a glass box was inserted, and dived it to the bottom of the sea. There he drew pictures of the devilish monsters he saw. He then had metal effigies of these animals made and set them up opposite the place where building was going on. When the monsters came out and saw the effigies, they fled. Alexander was thus able to complete the building of Alexadria.

It is a long story made up of nonsensical elements which are absurd for various reasons ...'(Khaldun lists some reasons)'... Furthermore, the jinn are not known to have specific forms and effigies. They are able to take on various forms …. All this throws suspicion upon the story.'

(my italics)


  1. Reminds me of the Malleus Maleficarum. Solemn, careful consideration of the best way to detect, prosecute, and execute witches. Scholarly discussions on why the Devil and his followers are able to create maggots and snakes, while the creation of life is normally reserved for God. Behavioral analysis of incubi. Pontifications on the nature of transmogrification. It would be endearingly stupid if it weren't for the number of people who died because of it.

    1. I am being a bit unfair to ibn Khaldun there. Almost the whole book is him being a vary careful and disctiminate thinker, who happens to belive a few crazy thing because of where he grew up. I kind of made him look like a bit of a tit in that extract. The book is not really like that in it's whole.

      Also, though he is a very conservative thinker, he's more of the steady, calm, sober kind of conservatism. There isn't any sign of the deep wells of rage and paranoia, or the belief in secret dark forces that you find in the Malleus Malleficarum.

    2. Just don't want you to go away thinkig the mans an areshole because I was snide about him on the internet.

    3. Not at all. I meant more like it is interesting to see people being careful and discriminate about the crazy things they believe. What translation/edition of the The Muqaddimah are you reading, by the way? I've seen it come up a lot recently, and I want to take a look, but all of the copies on amazon are suspiciously abridged.

    4. It's suspiciously abridged I'm afraid. An abridgement of the three-volume edition translated by Franz Rosenthal, published by the Bollingen foundation 1958.