Two Early Arabic Sources on the Magnetic Compass


  • Petra S. Schmidl



In this paper two previously unpublished texts on the magnetic compass from the medieval Islamic world will be discussed, the first by the Yemeni Sultan al-Ashraf (ca. 1290) and the second by the Cairene astronomer Ibn Simʿūn (ca. 1300). These two treatises constitute the earliest known evidence attesting the use of the magnetic compass for the determination of the qibla, the sacred direction of Islam. A brief introduction glimpses at the history of the magnetic compass in Europe and China and mentions previously known early Arabic sources on the instrument and its use. This is followed by some remarks on the authors and the manuscripts, the Arabic texts with English translations, and comments on problems encountered while working on the texts.


How to Cite

Schmidl, P. S. (2017). Two Early Arabic Sources on the Magnetic Compass. Journal of Arabic and Islamic Studies, 1, 81–132.