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Abu-I-Hassan Ali ibn Abd-ar-Rahman al-Farazi al-Andalus

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Ibn Hudayl
Born ca. 1329
Genres War book
Language Arabic
Notable work(s) Kitab tuhfat al-anfus wa'si'ar sukkan al-Andalus

Abu-I-Hassan Ali ibn Abd-ar-Rahman al-Farazi al-Andalus, more famously known as Ibn Hudayl, was a 14th century Andalusian scholar and military theorist.

Little is known about him, including when he was born. Louis Mercier calculates that he wrote his first treatise Kitab tuhfat al-anfus wa'si'ar sukkan al-Andalus ("Gift of the spirit or souls of the Andalusians") under Muhammed V (who reigned twice from 1354-1359 and 1362-1391) therefore his date of birth can be estimated to 1329 (deducing he wrote he first treatise at 30 and was 70 in the year 1399).[1] What we do know is he belonged to one of the prestigious families of Granada, who were descended from the 42 tribes of the Arabian Peninsula at the time of the Islamic conquests and settled in Al-Andalus. We can also deduce that he studied under a number of well-known teachers at the time, with knowledge of various disciplines including literature, politics, veterinary studies and hippology (the study of horses), art, theology, and, of course, military matters. It is therefore sound to conclude that he was educated under the Madrasa (the religious or secular educational institutions of higher learning in the Islamic world), and like any Islamic scholar, would have assumed several professional positions in education and politics, and received patronage under various nobles. It's possible he may have worked for some of the Nasird Sultans as diwan al-insha (chancellery or official secretariat) of the Alhambre. With the rank of faqih, he assisted the court, by, for example, participating in the festivities that Yusuf III organised for the aqiqa (naming ceremony) of his newborn heir Yusuf on 19th June 1409, and recited a poem in honour of the amir'. His lack of attention is seen in his own personal work where he complains at times about this misfortune and the difficult conditions he endured, and in his poems, he requests help from Muhammed V and Yusuf III near the end of his life.

Ibn Hudayl wrote "Gala of the Knight, Blazon of the Champion" in 1392. It is a furusiya treatise which was abridged from a longer work that he produced in his youth. Despite being well-educated and coming from a prestigious Arab family, it seems his early work did not come to the attention of Muhammad V or VI (who he dedicated his work to), possibly owing to the situation the Emirate of Granada found itself in during the 14th century. During this time, there seems to have been more interest in non-military works, with a focus on the arts, coinciding with a moderate political status quo between Granada and the Christian Spanish Kingdoms.[2] This second treatise coincides with the coronation of Sultan Nazari Muhammad VII, and was probably composed in his honour. This was a time an increasingly military and deteriorating political situation in the Spanish Peninsula, and there was likely a greater demand for military treatises.

Like the treatise written in his earlier life, the purpose of "Gala of the Knight, Blazon of the Champion" was to proclaim the necessity for a Holy War against Christians in Spain and a rearmament of Islam, something that had been ignored previously but had now been bought into the fold. In many ways, the work also serves as a propaganda tool to forward the Nasrid cause.


The treatise focuses on furusiya, which means “horsemanship” but whose wider implication, as a verb, came to mean knighthood, chivalry, and the related sets of skills. These include not only horsemanship but veterinary work and hippology, polo, lance, sword, shield, spear, mace, javelin, archery, wrestling, boxing, hunting, falconry, engineering, siegecraft, and military strategy and tactics. Ibn Hudayl provides some named treatises as references in his introduction; however, it is highly likely that his work covered several unnamed treatises as well. This speaks to the state of furusiya literature at the time, which commonly rehashed older works, whereby the authors either attributed the treatises to fictional names or are left completely anonymous. (This is in contrast to earlier periods in which treatises would stringently reference or quote their source material.) This is a combination of two key factors: the demand for furusiya literature which lead to a higher supply of treatises being published (as was the case in Mamluk Egypt), and the fact Ibn Hudayl’s work was intended to be a shorter, more convenient, abridged version of his earlier treatise. With this in mind, sections of Ibn Hudayl’s work concerning weapon use are often brief, but the poems and expressions given in the work provide us with clues as to how the weapons described were used. Whether or not Ibn Hudayl had any martial or military experience himself is debatable, but his work seems to correspond and reference a myriad of other treatises. In the Islamic world, the use of furusiya and poetry in anthologies were perceived to be both prestigious product and a mark of the mastery of the Arab language, as well as a qualifier of who was truly educated and simply not a pseudo-educated charlatan. As a result, the work seems to be detailed, flowery, and well-referenced.

The treatise has a general introduction with 20 sections on different subjects; only the last six are dedicated to the use of different weapons. The first fourteen are dedicated to the horse, its maintenance, breeding, veterinary care, riding, etc. For the purpose of this translation, these chapters have been omitted. The weapons covered are sword, spear, bow (and crossbow), shield, and a final chapter of their general uses, as well as a separate chapter dedicated to the coat of mail.

This translation is based on the Spanish translation published by Maria Jesus Viguera in 1977, under the title Gala de Caballeros, Blasón de Paladines.

Additional Resources


  1. L. Mercie, La Parure des Cavaliers et l'insigne des preux, texte arabe. Edite Par Louis Mercier, ed facsimil (Paris, Librairie Paule Guenthner, 1992).
  2. Maria Jesus Viguera, Gala de Caballeros, Blason de Paladines, ed. Maria Jesus Viguera (Madrid, Editoria Nacional, 1977)
  3. Noble garments and high titles
  4. Indian sabre or cutlass
  5. the point in which a flag staff terminates
  6. Storage?
  7. Strap?
  8. Paramount
  9. At equal distances
  10. a person who interprets scripture
  11. a soft gentle breeze
  12. A thin transparent veil of silk, linen or cotton, worn by the moors
  13. protection of the back of the head to the neck, resembling hair.