Orient- und Islamwissenschaft

The Alchemist Ibn Arfaʿ Raʾs

Ibn Arfaʿ Raʾs (d. 593/1197) is the author of a famous collection of alchemical poems entitled Šuḏūr aḏ-ḏahab ("The Gold Splinters"). In addition to Šuḏūr aḏ-ḏahab, he wrote several other works, including a commentary on Šuḏūr aḏ-ḏahab and stanzaic poetry on alchemy. Other works were wrongly attributed to him, most commonly one on magic.
We were able to show that the usual identification of the alchemist Ibn Arfaʿ Raʾs with a Malikite religious scholar named Ibn al-Naqirāt is questionable. References in currently unpublished manuscripts and in bio-bibliographical literature suggest that two different scholars were merged into a single person at a fairly early stage. Both were active in Morocco in the sixth/twelfth century. Taking the evidence found in the sources into consideration, we conclude that Ibn Arfaʿ Raʾs left the Islamic West and wrote at least some of his works in the East, more precisely in Egypt. This would also explain the broad reception of Šuḏūr aḏ-ḏahab in the entire Islamic world and especially in the Mašriq.