Ibn al-Qūṭiyya

Ibn al-Qūṭiyya (ابن القوطية, died 6 November 977), born Muḥammad Ibn ʿUmar Ibn ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz ibn ʾIbrāhīm ibn ʿIsā ibn Mazāḥim (محمد ابن عمر ابن عبد العزيی ابن إبراهيم ابن عيسى ابن مزاحم), also known as Abu Bakr or al-Qurtubi ("the Córdoban"), was an Andalusian historian and the greatest philologist at the Umayyad court of caliph Al-Hakam II. His magnum opus, the History of the Conquest of al-Andalus, is one of the earliest Arabic Muslim accounts of the Islamic conquest of Spain.

Legend claimed that Ibn al-Qūṭiyya ("son of the Gothic woman") was descended from Wittiza, the last king of the united Visigoths in Spain, through a granddaughter, Sara the Goth, who travelled to Damascus and married ‘Īsā ibn Muzāḥim, an Arab client of the 10th Umayyad caliph Hisham. Sara and ‘Īsā then returned to Al-Andalus. Ibn al-Qūṭiyya was born and raised in Seville. His family was under the patronage of the Qurayshi tribe, and his father was a qāḍī (judge) in Seville and Écija. The Banu Hajjaj, also of Seville, were close relatives of his family, also claiming descent from Visigothic royalty. Ibn al-Qūṭiyya's student al-Faraḍī composed a short sketch of his master for his biographical dictionary, preserved in a late medieval manuscript discovered in Tunis in 1887. Al-Faraḍī tells us Ibn al-Qūṭiyya studied first in Seville,[1] then in Córdoba.[2] Al-Faraḍī cautions that his histories were written from memory, not following the hadīth and the fiqh, and they lacked original sources, literal truth, and verification. Under Sa‘īd ibn Qāhir he studied, memorized and transmitted the great work of history known as Al-Kāmil (The Complete) by the famous Baṣriyyan philologist, al-Mubarrad. He died in old age at Córdoba.[3]

Al-Qūṭiyya's highly anecdotal history is unusual among the Arab chronicles. The influence of his royal ancestry probably lies behind his defense of treaties between the Arab Muslim conquerors and the Gothic aristocracy—both secular and ecclesiastical— that preserved them on their estates. Al-Qūṭiyya contests criticisms by historians such as Rhazes, arguing that these treaties bolstered Islamic hegemony at minimal military cost. He refutes a claim that the Umayyad emirs of Córdoba retained the fifth (quinto or khums, a tax) for the Caliph of Damascus. His history retells the legend of the part played by "the sons of Wittiza" at the Battle of Guadalete. .


  • Ta'rikh iftitāḥ al-Andalus[4] (تاريخ افتتاح الأندلس), 'History of the Conquest of al-Andalus'; found in only a single extant manuscript, Bibliothèque Nationale de France No. 1867. Speculation about a copy's existence among the rich manuscript collection at Constantine, Algeria, of Si Hamouda ben Cheikh el-Fakoun, seems unlikely according to recent scholarship.
  • Kitāb Taṣārīf al-af’āl, ('Book on the Conjugation of Verbs')—The oldest MS of an Arabic dictionary extant.[5]
  • Kitāb al-Maqṣūr wa 'l-Mamdūd ('Book on the Shortened and Extended Alif').—This title is mentioned by al-Faraḍī but no copy survives.[3]