Welcome to the project “The Sultan and the Stars”

The research project ‘The Sultan and the Stars’ entails analysing the Kitāb al-Tabṣira fī ˁilm al-nujūm (“Enlightenment in the science of the stars”) written by the future Rasūlid sultan al Ashraf ˁUmar (d. 1296) in 13th century Yemen. This treatise deals, in the broadest sense, with celestial phenomena that teach more about the future and help in organizing everyday life.

Three factors make its analysis most desirable:

  • the prominent social position of its author al-Ashraf ˁUmar,
  • the didactical claim formulated in the preface of the Tabṣira, and
  • specific features of its wide range of contents, astronomical, astrological, mathematical, and geographical knowledge as well as calculating, prognostic, and magic practises.

For the first time, this source will be edited in its entirety, translated into English, and analysed including an elaborate study of the factors that make the Tabṣira most valuable. The project “The Sultan and the Stars” will realise a comprehensive study of this pivotal text that is settled among medieval studies bridging language areas, pre-modern history of science and historical Islamic studies.

Chapter by chapter, the results will be pre-published on this blog to facilitate access, simplify exchange and stimulate debate with colleagues and students interested in one or other of the many topics presented in or related to the Tabṣira. Finally, the results will be combined and published together in a printed volume.

“The Sultan and the Stars” is realised by Petra G. Schmidl who encourages all those interested in the topic to contact her. First insights of the project, she provides in “A thirteenth century Yemeni manuscript”, an academic conversation hosted by the Astra Project “Historical Research on astrological techniques and practices” in summer 2020. In episode 041 “Die Sterne deuten”, recorded in spring 2021 in the podcast series “Tell me a history – Erzähl mir eine Geschichte”, she talks with Nadja Danilenko about “The Sultan and the Stars” and first results.

The project is funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation), project no. 423760106, and was associated with the International Consortium for Research in the Humanities (IKGF) “Fate, Freedom and Prognostication” at the Friedrich-Alexander Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg. Its commencements were generously supported by the Fritz-Thyssen-Stiftung and the IKGF.

Last update 2024-05-07

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