The 2nd International Prof. Dr. Fuat Sezgin Symposium on History of Science in Islam Proceedings Book
Indian Ocean Navigation Based on al-̒Umda al-Mahriyya fī Ḍabṭ al-̒Ulūm al-Baḥriyya by Sulaymān al-MahrīRawda El Hajji
This paper introduces the life and works of a distinguished sixteenth-century Arab navigator, Sulaymān al-Mahrī, most notable for his magnum opus entitled al-‘Umda al-Mahriyya fī Ḍabṭ al-‘Ulūm al-Baḥriyya. Al-Mahrī was of an Arabian Mahara origin and born in the town of Shihr in Ğurz, belonging to Ḥadramawt in what is today eastern Yemen. Ḥadramawt was known for its shipbuilding industry and played an essential role in the spice trade in the ancient and medieval Orient. The people of Ḥadramawt were well-acquainted with life at seas and produced some of the best navigators of the Indian Ocean, like Sulaymān al-Mahrī. Al-Mahrī was not just a practicing navigator, he also wrote essential treatises on Indian Ocean navigation. Unfortunately, because Aḥmad ibn Māğid (d. 1500) was popular in Europe for his supposed role in guiding the Portuguese in the Indian Ocean, his works, particularly Kitāb al-fawāʼid fī uṣūl ‘ilm al-baḥr wa al-qawāʻid, have overshadowed equally important navigational works on the Indian Ocean. This resulted in a dearth of knowledge and studies on other navigators and their works. While ibn Māğid’s works have been studied in great detail, al-Mahrī and his works have not received the same scholarly attention. It is, therefore, the objective of this paper to introduce al-Mahrī and his works to a broader audience, including his achievements and contributions to Indian Ocean navigation.