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The three extant works by Ali al-Sharafi are as follows, (plus one by his son);
1) Atlas of 14 folios containing six charts, dated 1551 and held in the BnF Paris as MS Arabe 2278. The folios are 24.5 x 20cms, with highly decorated borders as a Quran generally is.
2) Atlas of 26 folios (16 leaves) containing seven charts dated 1571 and held in the Bodleian Library Oxford as MS Marsh 294. The folios are 26.5 x 20.5 cms and quite austere.
3) World chart dated 1579 and held in the National Library Central, Rome in the section, Biblioteca IsIAO .It is drawn on two sheets of parchment glued together with the eastern part being a form of the al-Idrisi world and the western part being a basic Portolan chart.
4) World chart dated 1600/1601 held in the BnF Paris RES Ge C 5089 and is drawn by the son of Ali al-Sharafi, who is Muhammad al-Sharafi and is similar to 3), but is not a copy of his Fathers model.


The two main texts referred to are;
1) Professor Carlo A Nallino, 1916 paper, “Un Mappamondo Arabo del 1579” published in “Bollettino della Reale Societa Geografica Italiana, 53(1916) pp721-736. A note under the heading states, “con una Tavola in fototipia”. It was reprinted in 1944.


This text by Professor Nallino is obviously concerned with the 1579 World chart which is discussed in some detail, but, it also does mention the Atlases.
2) Monica Herrara-Casais, “The nautical atlases of Ali al-Sharifi” in “Suhayl 8 (2008) pp 223-263”. This text covers the whole story line as seen then of the al-Sharafi family, their atlases and world maps. It is without doubt the major reference text available today.

M. Herrara-Casais on pages 233-235 endeavours to explain that Ali al-Sharafi copied (or was his source) the1571 atlas from a work by “Abu l-‘Abbas Ahmad al-Andalusi” and questions whether it was the source of the 1551 atlas, to which I concur as in my later text here-in proves in detail.
However there are other texts which should be studied as now listed.
3) Shamima Ahmed wrote in 1978 an MA Thesis “A thesis presented for the Degree of M.A. at the Victoria University of Manchester” It is entitled “The Paris copy of the Mediterranean Sea-Atlas of Ali Ibn Ahamd Ibn Muhammad al-Sharfi of Sfax, 958/1551”. This text is available only through BnF, “Departement Images et Prestations Numeriques”, for the princely sum of 118 Euros covering 88 pages. Unfortunately the 89th page, the Bibliography is missing. It actually translates all the place-names and discusses the whole atlas.
Curiously the Victoria University Manchester, now the University of Manchester has a copy but there is an embargo attached which states it cannot be copied, only read in their Library. Nobody there knows why the embargo is in place?
4) Another text which details the 1551 atlas is, “Ali al-Sharafi’s 1551 atlas: A construct full of riddles”, by Victor de Castro Leon and Alberto Tiburcio.
On page 264 we read, “this suggests that al-Sharafi followed a widespread practice in Islamicate contexts that consisted in fusing different sources to produce a new text or a new version of an older text” and “While many anwa works reproduce a similar set of standardized information, the wording in al-Sharafi’s tables bears enough resemblance to a number of Andalusian sources to suggest that he might have relied on them for his works”
Note the M H-C comment above!
On page 266, “A third challenging textual phenomenon is contained in the transliteration of the toponyms (examples are here). Instead of using the standard Arabic renditions of these places al-Sharafi presents an approximate phonetic transliteration in Arabic Letters”
On page 268, “Iconographic Elements – They strongly resemble decorative norms used primarily in manuscripts of Andalusi and North African Qur’ans and other religious texts, including legal works from the Maliki school.”
On the 1579 World Map Ali al-Sharafi describes himself as “of the Malikite Rite”.


The sections of text in which Ali al-Sharafi explains the situation can be used to evaluate the whole oeuvre by the al-Sharafi family.
MS Marsh 294 folio 3r.
“The author of this text and manufacturer of this atlas, may God Almighty grant him success and improve his conditions and deeds- Says: I have already produced three large world maps based on the description of the author of “Nuzhat al-mushtaq fi-ikhtiraq al afaq”. They contain a description of the world with the names of all the known seas, mountains, springs, rivers, and famous cities. All wind directions are drawn in accordance with those familiar to sea captains, to enable them to sail east, west, north and south, and to learn from where and in which direction they should head for any city, mountain, river, lake, or spring as well as for renowned harbours and anchorages. Whoever wants them should look for their whereabouts for, like all worldly belongings, they change hands due to death or other vicissitudes of life.”
The last sentence is most telling in that the three world maps were obviously sold, but, it indicates also the possibility of how the al-Sharafi family obtained copies of atlases and charts enabling them to produce the copies as their own. Thus dating them could be a challenge.
MS Marsh 294 folio 13r
“As for coastal cities and harbours, they are presented on the charts that show the lands (query if it is where is drawn the land) extending from the Straits of Ceuta to Syria (Mediterranean Sea) and the lands of the Sea of al-Kafa (Black Sea). I have copied them from an atlas made by an Istanbul resident, the learned Abn l-‘Abbas Ahmad al-Andalusi who had settle there. This atlas is different (query that I know)from the work of my father and grand-father- may God have mercy upon them- but I used it as it was the only one I had with me when making my atlas.”

(At this point al-Sharafi must have decamped for Kairouan to be there before 1571)
This is a very important statement being late in the works by Ali al-Sharafi as it explains the origins of his work.
M Herrara-Casais as noted endeavours to understand who Abun l-‘Abbas Ahmad al- Andalusi is in sections of her text, There is no conclusion as to who he was or when he left Al-Andalus, except perhaps he arrived in Istanbul after the Ottoman conquest of 1453 and thus this atlas being drawn there it would be late 1460/70 and although it could have travelled to Sfax by 1530, text folio 3r suggests it would be much earlier to become second hand.
However, it appears to be a Catalan Source, Majorcan, and thus perhaps he left much earlier, as in the 13th century the Spanish are gradually encircling the Nasrid Emirate Kingdom. Thus it is possible to present a scenario where Ahmad al–Andalusi is on Majorca for a short while, departed by ship to Sicily and thence by either Genoese or Venetian ship to Istanbul ( the ship bound for the Black Sea trading post).
At this time, as far as is known Portolan cartography never existed, that is neither Andalusian nor Arabic, but there is one small chart drawn with toponyms from the Maghreb c1350, but drawn to Majorcan format. They used, as did also Castilian sailors, Catalan cartography produced in Majorca. Thus the model had to be Catalan. Given that most place names on all preserved Arabic Charts are just transliterations/transcriptions to Arabic of the Catalan or Italian form. Did al-Andalusi just purchase a Majorcan Atlas or a Portolan Chart and travel with it to Istanbul where there was a large group of cartographers? We do not know the actual make up of the Istanbul Cartographic group and thus it is speculative that he could copy an atlas (doubtful) or draw an atlas from the Portolan chart (more likely) in Istanbul. The reason for that comment is the lack of early atlases known.


In the text by M. Herrara-Casais, Page 226, is the following;
“The Sharafi family produced at least four consecutive generations of chart makers.
1) The grandfather Muhammad al-Sharafi al-Safaqusi (fl beginning of the 16th century), perhaps the earliest chart maker in the family, is known to have made a sea chart of the world, apparently lost. His grandson (Ali) and great-grandson’s (Muhammad) exemplars are based primarily on this model.
2) The father is Ahmad b. Muhammad al-Sharafi al Safaqusi (fl. first half of the 16th century). His activity (shughl) as a chart maker is suggested by his son Ali al-Sharafi in his 1571 atlas (see Arabic passage in section 5), who also says to have learned from him about the determination of prayer times by means of shadow lengths.
3) Ali b. Ahmad b. Muhammad al-Sharafi al Safaqusi al-Qayrawani al- Maliki made at least two nautical atlases in 1551 and 1571, and four sea charts of the world: three possibly earlier than 1571, which are lost, and one from 1579.
4) The son Muhammad b. Ali al-Sharafi al- Safaqusi is the author of another copy of the family sea chart of the world which he signed in 1600/1601. This is extant in Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale de France (Res. Ge. C. 5089).
That section actually concludes with notes on the Sharafi family recorded until the 18th century.

To understand the possible acquisition dates of the charts and atlases they copied, it is necessary to estimate the life span dates for the quartet. Given the typical age of adulthood at 21 and a life span of 75 years, it would appear that;
1) Grandfather—– 1470-1545
2) Father————-1500-1575
3) Son—————-1530-1605
4) Great Grandson—1560-1635

Thus it is probable that the grandson “Ali”, learnt his art from his Father c1540/1550, drew his first (?) atlas at the age of majority, 21, i.e. 1551, and his son Muhammad drew his only extant chart in 1600/1601 at the age of 40 years. That may be accounted for as it is likely that Muhammad was not the first son of Ali and thus his dates could be c1580.
That indicates “Ali” drew the lost three charts between 1552 and 1570, and trained his son 1570/1579, no doubt whilst drawing the 1579 world chart as an exemplar. This also indicates that the 1551 atlas and three charts were drawn in Sfax and the 1571 atlas and 1579 chart were drawn in Kairouan. The Sons world map was drawn in Alexandria.


The 1551 Atlas BnF Paris MS Arabe 2278. This atlas has 14 folios numbered 1v to 8r with folio 3r being the World map followed by folio’s 3v to 6v being the actual atlas of the Mediterranean Sea basin.
Folio 2v (folio8) is the Qibla diagram showing the Ka’aba, its orientation with the corners N, E, S&W; the Black Stone to the East and the original Ka’aba wall and Golden Water Spout to the NW. Around the circle of the diagram are 40 sections with place-names which supposedly can be used for those places to identify the direction of the Ka’aba in order that the supplicants pray facing it. With 40 divisions each is in fact 9 degrees of the horizon and the Islamic Scholars allow for the small fluctuation in direction as follows;
“The Qibla may be observed facing the Ka’aba accurately (ayn al-Ka’bah) or facing the general direction (Jihat al-Ka’bah). Most Islamic scholars consider that “Jihat al-Ka’bah” is acceptable if the more precise “Ayn al-Ka’bah” cannot be ascertained.”
However, that is much too simplistic, considering the research carried out as the appendix illustrates.


Therefore as a starting point it is assumed that this Qibla diagram was meant to show the direction of the Ka’Aba, and is drawn with the South at the top of the page.
But study diagrams D02 and D03 and if the scheme is as above “normal”, that is intended to facilitate persons in the groups of places named to pray five times a day towards the Ka’aba, it becomes either a matter of al-Sharafi not really knowing the geographical positions or the scheme is the “opposite” to the normal. The problem with trying to identify the directions he has used comes with not knowing if it is taken from a text, an atlas, a chart or even based upon the work of al-Idrisi. Unfortunately it could be non-geographical as is discussed later and serves only to completely confuse, and also can be to a nebulous point such as the Ka’aba wall, corners or a Star!

Diagram D02 is taken from the MA thesis and sets down the 40 sections geographically orientated, with the North orientated correctly. The second diagram D03 then indicates by the sections numbers 1 to 40 where the geographical position actually is situate. I have only drawn a few examples as when I tried to complete it all it became impossible to read. Thus diagram D03 is meant to allow readers to determine the scheme by using al -Sharafi or more probably Al-Andalusi tables, is it to or from the Ka’aba?


The first problem encountered with this operation is the mixture of place names per section and some prove to be quite ridiculous if it is a scheme looking towards the Ka’aba. The sections are numbered clockwise from S.
Section 13, Al Bahrain wa Sokotra wa Melaia, when Bahrain is ENE and Sokotra is SE.
Section 19, Safala, Aden,Jidda wa Bab al Mandab. Jidda is just west of Mecca and Aden/Bab al Mandab are SSE.
Section 21, Medina al gash wa Karaminard al jaman has Medina south of Mecca when it is North. But at section 40 we have Badr verrabig Medina tu’l raisal and the two are diametrically opposed. But, if Medina is shown as south of Mecca when it is due North, then, you look south for the Ka’aba, it becomes another way of showing directly where the Ka’aba is from the place named.

But, reverse all views along the red lines which can be projected towards the Ka’aba and the scheme becomes quite viable with just three sections of the compass being used, NW, NE, and SE. The SW sector is not used as it is Africa below the Maghreb and has no such sites.
Hence the scholarly ideas given above are only one part of a very complicated set of Qibla directions, with walls, and Ka’aba corners interacting with “Qibla” stars.
Monica Herrara-Casais and Petra G Schmidl have an excellent text written in 2008 and titled, “The earliest known schemes of Islamic Sacred Geometry” which fairly sets down the beginnings and the Qibla direction problems.
I have one small problem with it all in that the Ka’aba is built on very old foundations pre-dating the Muslim period and hence the directions of any part and the stars could be non Islamic and found after the date of 643AD.


I have attached the Al-Idrisi composite map which would indicate similar problems if it was used for the al-Sharifi charts, instead of the composite we see.

Folio 3v, Circular World map (see Diagram ChASH/1/D08)
Orientated geographically it is a beautiful small rendition of the contents of the northern hemisphere and contains the 32 wind directions. Appended is a full text as follows;
“You (should) know that the Earth is round like a sphere and the water is glued to the (Whole) Earth and naturally stands on it. It is divided into two halves by the Equator which (extends) from East to West. This is the longitude of the Earth. The Northern quarter of the Earth is inhabited, where as the rest of it is empty without people, due to the intense cold and the frost. Also, the southern quarter is uninhabited due to the intense heat and the passing of the Sun. The encompassing Sea encircles half of the Earth all around uninterrupted in a connected enclosure that girdles it like a belt; only half of it is visible like an egg submerged in the water. This inhabited quarter was divided by the scholars into 7 climates with their seas, as was mentioned by the author of the Nuzhat al-Mushtaq fi ikhtiraq al-afaq and by Ibn al-Attar in his (work) Ikhtiraq al-aqtar (that you should) consult. God is the wisest”




Indicating a style of draughtsmanship with a flourish and a penchant for flags, Granada is represented by the Fortress, two rivers, the Valley (Vega) and the mountains (M.Herrara-Casais Section 13, p254 is I am afraid to say a false statement) which was a feature of Jaume Bertram’s 1489 chart and becomes a feature on Catalan charts later.
Ali al-Sharafi (D05) aids the use of his atlas by introducing a barbed line which indicates the overlap towns/place names to the next folio, which of course may have originated from al-Andalusi?
The scale bar indicates 480 SBU’s from 37N to 43N and thus a distance of 80.0 SBU’s per degree, corresponds too many Portolan Charts of previous years. But from 36N to 37N it is 75 SBU’s and the longitude from 9W to 3W (Alboran Isle) is 480 SBU’s or 6 x 80 SBU’s. At this point it is possible to envisage a square chart precursor. Thus the original of this by Abn l’Abbas Ahmad al-Andalusi was obviously either based upon a Portolan Atlas or a Portolan Chart drawn using the scale bar representing 90 Miliaria per degree of Latitude? The Folio’s 11 to 16 then follow the same pattern with the main Mediterranean Islands given a very distinctive and not altogether geographical form.
Folio 12, (D06) Italy is drawn basically North/South when it should be set at c45 degrees to North. It also shows that the distance from 38N to 45N is drawn at 90 Miliaria per degree of Latitude. Had Ali al-Sharafi placed the North point to the NW the chart would have been correct, although the junction to the Greek area is awry.
Folio 13, the Sea of Kafa or the Black sea is named for the town on the Crimean Peninsula now Feodosiya/Theodosia and was a Greek Colony 6th BCE, then a Genoese trading colony in the 13th C and was captured by the Ottoman Turks in 1475.



This atlas is larger than the BnF atlas in that it is c27 x 21 cms, but printed at A4 it exhibits the same scale bar as the BnF atlas even though it is 1.125 larger. However the diagrams can be equated.
Folio 4b, the Qibla diagram is drawn with the Kaaba having the curved wall and triangle of the water spout on the SW face instead of the NW face as is properly drawn on the BnF Atlas. Does this show a lack of copying attention or as it is from another source their error?
The curved wall on the BnF atlas is labelled “al Hurga” (al Hajar) but on the Marsh 294 the labelling is as follows; the semi-circle is that part of the Temple of the Ka’bah named Hijr Isma’il or Hajar Isma’il on Marsh 294 supposed to be where Ishmael is buried. The arrow is labelled al-mizan, i.e. the balance scales.
Thus there is a complete disagreement between the two atlas folios for the Ka’aba, but as they were possibly originally from the same base (?) it could be that new information was obtained between 1551 and 1571. It is more likely the second is from another source.
Folio 5a, is the Wind Rose diagram naming all 32 winds and having marker circles for the eight main or primary directions.
Folio 5b, is the similar basic circular world map. Folio 6b, Italy suffers the same mis-direction as MS 2278. Folio7a, Iberia and the same for Granada and the next two folios are so very similar as not to warrant mention.
It is worth reconsidering the texts on folios 3r and 13r which are 20 years after the BnF atlas!


FOLIOS 9-5b to 10-7a
The first pair are the World map which has Folio 9 the equivalent of Folio 5b and in fact the text on folio 9 is copied/adapted on folio 3r and has been already written out. Hence folio 5b has different texts.
Folios 10-7a are of Iberia and N Africa. Geographically the same they are decorated differently with Marsh 294 having 11 wind rose roundels and only 2 flags. I have produced an overlay of them to indicate the closeness of the drawing and thus the obvious use of one original for both. The 1571 drawn in Kairouan is merely updated in its drawing.
Folios 11-7b are the western Mediterranean Sea and exhibit the same differences as above.
Folios 12-6b are the Italian Peninsula and Adriatic Sea, Again the basic setting out is identical.
Folios 13-8b are of the Black Sea, called the Sea of Kafa and are compared using matching scale bars later.
Folios 14-9a represents the eastern Mediterranean Sea and are the same chart
Folios 15-8a are the Aegean Sea, Crete and part of N Africa and are the same chart.
Folios 16-6a are of the Gulf of Surt Malta and Sicily and exhibit the islands peculiar form.






I have merely chosen to overlay two atlas pages, Iberia and the Black Sea as Diagram ChASH/1/D12 indicates. The costal profile of Iberia is virtually the same on both atlas pages, but, the coast line of N Africa although very similar has been drawn slightly north on Marsh 294.


The Black Sea is however a more varied coastal profile although still basically the same.
In both examples the scale bars are identical. The difference is accounted for by the fact that Marsh 294 is on a larger folio i.e. 1.125 larger and the scale bar is maintained which produces a conundrum. Has it been drawn 1.125 larger and the scale bar is un-altered, which would seem to be the case. If so why enlarge it by so little when you are copying the same base atlas from Istanbul. In fact could it be that the 1551 atlas was reduced in size such that the folio size matched the size of the Qur’an books? but I suspect vice versa, 1551 is Quranic.


Ali al-Sharafi tells us he has used an atlas drawn by our elusive person from Istanbul.
As he was originally from Al-Andalus I decided to search there for his name.
There are two Biblioteca’s in Spain which have records of the Morisco population from the texts they left behind. The one is “Palaccio Real (www.realbiblioteca .es)” and they kindly searched their records for me and stated that “At the Real Biblioteca there is actually no related record to Abn l-‘Abbas ahmad al-Andalusi.” Not a very good start!
Thus I contacted the second, “Real Biblioteca de El Escorial”, who responded as follows; “We appreciate that you may want to count on us for your research. Section “Bibliografia” in our website contains Aurora Cano Ledesma’s 3 volume work in PDF, with the listings of all Arab authors present in our funds. Please feel free to browse it at you own pace to double check whether the author you are seeking can be found there. If we have holdings from him, you will notice that Cano Ledesma gives two different quotes for each piece, preceded by D and C. These letters correspond to Casiri’s and Derenbourg’s catalogues of our Arab funds. While Derenbourg’s can be accessed via PDF in our website, for Casiri’s you will need to use some free on-line edition. We hope you find this information helpful, Kind regards. Jaime Sepulcre Samper”

I can only say that if every library was so kind and fulsome in their information life would be so much simpler.
The website under “Bibliografia” has the Hartwig Derenbourg and Aurora Cano Ledesma work; “Los Manuscrits arabes del’escorial” and “Indizacion de los manuscrits arabes de El Escorial”. Both are 3 volumes and having searched all pages in all volumes I can state plainly I think Ali al-Sharafi whose full name is “Ali ibn Ahmad ibn Muhammad al –Sharafi al-Safaqusi al Quyrawani al-maliki” has in all probability just used the “informal” name “Abn l-‘Abbas Ahmad al Andalusi” and thus hidden the family names and the probable place name/religious sect, that is if he even knew it?
The only names I found in the hundreds of documents mentioned in the 6 volumes are as follows;
1) Abd Allah Muhammad Yahya Ibn Muhammad IBN ABI AL-SUKR al-Magribi al- Andalusi al-Qurtubi
2) Abu l-‘Hassan ali Ibn Muhammad Ibn al-Qurasi AL-QALASADI al-Andalusi al-Basti
3) Ibrahim ibn Muhammad Ibn Fatuh al-Uqayli al-Andalusi al-Garnat (Mufti of Granada, died 867/1462)
4) Fath al-Din Abu l-‘Fath Muhammad Ibn Sayyad al-Nas al-Rabal al- Andalusi o al-Isbili

At this point in the research it was apparent a dead end had been reached and I was quite certain the name required enhancing as those above.
However, given that the al-Sharafi family talk about obtaining charts and atlases that may no longer be required, this Atlas may be an early version and sold through the system.


I have already commented upon the MS Arabe 2278 Folio 8 via the new diagram in the MA thesis of 1978. However, having them side by side diagram Ch ASH/1/D07 illustrates the differences from 1551 to 1571, the former drawn in Sfax or Sa-fa-qis and the latter in Kair-ouan, or al-Qay-ra-wan. On the 1571 folio gone is the Qur-‘an style decoration of the 1551 atlas, to a more austere and practical presentation. It is obvious that the first 1/40th division east of North does not have the same three lines of Maghribi Arabic, neither does the first to the west which has in the 1551 atlas Badr verrabig Medina tu’l rasul and on the 1571 it is El Tor, Homs and Damascus ( they being numbers 37 & 38 on the 1551).
The heading for Marsh 294 Qibla Diagram reads; “In this circle are the directions which may be travelled, and, by the knowledge of which the direction of the Qiblah may be known. They are useful for sea travellers as is well known to that group.”

However an Arab Student kindly gave me another translation taken from Marsh 294.
“A map showing the directions of the country and a destination for receiving the holy Ka’aba. It may also provide a destination for extracting the corners of the Ka’aba ( mahrip) and a destination for receiving ( workers, worshipers, or the general public ) in prayers.”

Under the Qibla circle is a text in red ink which is from the Qu’ran Chapter 2, verse 150 “wa-min haythu ma kuntum fa-wallu wa ju hakum shatrah” which is “And wherever you may be turn your faces towards it (i.e. the second Mosque). However in a 1979 translation the text is quoted differently as follows; “Turn your faces to Masjed-el Haraam (Mecca) in all circumstances, times and places when you start to travel.” And the student sent, “Allah the greater said in his wise book from whatsoever place thow issue, turn thy face towards the holy mosque and wherever you may be.”

But, they may be from different versions/copies.
Having already stated that the Arabic scholars had a plethora of ideas about the direction of the Qibla, I received this comment from an expert; “I do understand that some early Mosques were aligned with the Qiblah wall parallel with the axis of the Ka’aba or aligned towards the winter solstice and that it is not correct to try to equate medieval Qiblah directions with the modern direction of Mecca”
Of course, as already noted, that means unless you know where the Qibla was designed and chance of understanding the directions is lost.

Professor David A King in his text “The culmination of Islamic Sacred Geography” writes ( Diagram Ch ASH/1/D13) as follows; “Recently I discovered the spectacular image of a previously unknown 40-sector scheme (fig 3). It is not difficult to attribute this to the 16th century cartographer Ali al-Sharifi from Sfax Tunisia, because two 40-sector schemes by him are known already, each different from the other, and all three are in the same script. This new example is even more visually spectacular than the other two, particularly in the way the sectors are arranged around the Kaaba. The choice of localities and the order in which they are arranged sround the Kaaba are different in all three charts. (the source of this information has yet to be determined; it cannot be al-Sharifi himself, because nobody would do that to one’s own data). The care with which the Kaaba is represented, with its corners facing the cardinal directions, is therefore not matched by the accuracy of the directions assigned to different localities, but that is actually typical of Islamic folk tradition. I have no reservations in labelling this new scheme the culmination of Islamic folk geography or cartography.” “I doubt that these Tunisian diagrams were actually used by people to find the Qibla of their locality. The same holds for most of the earliest schemes of sacred geography. In each major locality there had already for centuries been a palette of Qibla-Directions that were accepted by different interest groups. These Qibla-Charts were more decorative than useful”
That of course basically negates any research into Qibla diagrams.


Thus I think we can take from that that in the early days of the Muslim Religion before and then when the Qur-‘an was read scholars were pressed to produce a Qibla diagram and in effect guessed. Bear in mind that the Muslims quickly conquered many lands and the Holy place Mecca may not have been known to them particularly as at first the Qur-‘an was a verbal being and totally new to the conquered peoples.
However, al-Sharafi used the Istanbul atlas and the BnF atlas is coherent in its construction such that the Qibla diagram probably came from that, and hence it was a copied work not by al-Sharafi. In moving to Kairouan, which has the Mosque of Uqba and is/was a centre for the Malaki school to whom we know al-Sharafi was an adherent, there is no reason at all not to consider that the Marsh 294 Qibla diagram which is actually wrong for the Kaaba, is a product of the Mosque of Uqba and the latest find of a Qibla diagram thought to be by al-Sharafi from the same place. He was in Kairouan from before 1571 and until after 1579, hence the “King” Qibla is most probably a singular work copied at the Mosque. It need not be part of an atlas but a religious item for al-Sharafi. I will add that I can only count 36 sections not 40 as Professor King stated and hence if al-Sharafi knows it should be 40 he is copying a Qibla diagram he obviously believes in and probably by a learned scholar in the Mosque. I will here add that I have tried very hard to contact the Al-Khalili Foundation to enquire as to the provenance of this latest Qibla diagram, but have had no response.
However, I was slightly perplexed when on the Black Sea chart in Arabe 2278 was studied, the North Point was set to the East and I queried this with Saudi Scholars who wrote back as per the attached diagram Ch ASH/1/D14. Hence “Makkah” being South of the Black Sea, the chart is turned through 90 degrees by the North Point, but, the residue are not affected with each including the “Qibla Diagram” having the correct North Point! It begs the question; “that if “Makkah” is South then the geographical NSEW would have been correct?


But it is worth quoting direct from the G S Hawkins/D A King text, “On the orientation of the Ka’ba” (the full text is in the appendix) It has recently (1982) become evident that astronomical alignments were widely used by Muslims over the centuries for finding the Qibla and for orienting mosques towards the Ka’ba. The Qibla walls on some medieval mosques were intended to be “parallel” to one wall of the Ka’ba, this “parallelism” being achieved by facing the mosque towards the same astronomical horizon phenomena as one would be facing when standing in front of the appropriate wall of the Ka’ba.
This foray into the Qibla Diagrams seems to have produced nothing but a series of if’s and maybe’s as to whether you could ever know what the Qibla diagram was orientated to. But it is obvious neither is actually aimed at the Ka’ba itself and geography is probably void!



The chart is held in “Biblioteca IsIAO, Sala delle Collezioni Africane e Orientali” of the “Biblioteca Nazionale Central di Roma”, but is not at present available as it is undergoing renovation/restoration which was meant to be completed by September 2022. Not being now available until at least November has meant using an earlier photograph.
I have already quoted from the Nallino text which should have contained a photo of the chart c1916, but was not included, and the Geographical Society of Rome had a copy. They published the Nallino text and it will be interesting to see any changes in over 100years.
The 1579 chart, western section analysed.

ChASH/1/D15 & ChASH/1/D16 Conjoined

Thus I have looked at the western section, the Mediterranean Sea basin and established from the charts measurement of distances that it is a standard portolan using the Miliaria scale of 90 per degree latitude and on the 36th parallel it is 72 per degree the normal ratio of the cosine of 36 degrees.
The chart itself is obviously not a direct copy of the “Majorcan” chart the Grand-Father used to draw the first. I would not expect it to be as this is now the third attempt at drawing the Portolan Chart and each chart would have had its own characteristics from the Grand-Father to the Father to Ali al-Sharafi, which makes the task of identifying the original almost impossible.
The chart by Ali al-Sharafi is adorned as one would expect from an “Arabic Maghrebi” chart with copious drawings of features, mostly guessed, but including the designation of the Granada from the 1551 Atlas representing Granada and the Caliphate.
Looking at particular features, Diagram Ch ASH/1/D17, such as the portrayal of the British Isles we can see similarities to early Catalan charts with the form of Ireland and the peculiar upward pointing promontory of western Scotland probably taken from Franceso Beccario, 1403 and others at that time. It is not the same but given the third drawing it has probably been exaggerated on each. Considering that the British Isles has been on charts and atlases since before the Catalan Atlas of c1375, the date of the original Majorcan Chart copied or rather used to draw an “Arabic” version of the Mediterranean Sea basin is now anybody’s guess.


I suggest that my text ChGME/1 is studied prior to considering from whence the original Majorcan chart came. I noticed that certain charts had a feature that is present upon the 1579 chart, those being curved Forest areas and looked at the charts from 1330 to 1464 for any matching features. The feature is just south of the N point roundel on the chart.

1) Angelino de Dulceto 1330 held in Florence
2) Angelino de Dulceto 1339 held in Paris
3) Catalan Atlas, c1375 held in Paris
4) Anon (Cresques) 1375.1400 held in Rome
5) Macia de Viladesters 1413 held in Paris
6) Battista Beccario 1426 held in Munich
7) Gabriel de Vallseca 1439 held in Barcelona
8) Anon (,,, ) c1440 held in Florence
9) Pere Russell 1464 held in Nuremburg
10) Albino de Canepa 1480 held in Rome

However it is also patently obvious that an Arabic Chart or Atlas has been used to enhance the content of this chart. Thus, one is the format of the River Nile which is similar to that seen in the Atlas produced by “Abu al-Qasim ibn Hawqal, 1445/1446, folio 13v, BnF Paris 53 (see attached diagram).


As I only have a complete (well nearly) 1600/1601 world chart, BnF Paris Res Ge C 5089 to study for the vestiges of the Majorcan chart that was copied I can do no more than attempt to find possibilities as the western portion is badly degraded.
However, in the “An Historical Atlas, 2002, 2nd edition” by Professor Hugh Kennedy of St Andrews University and published by Koninklijke Brill NV, they have used a copy of the 1579 chart which is a hand-drawn tracing of the coastlines and is available at;, and is part of the Mapping Globalization series of charts. It is unfortunate that the artistes who prepared the copy of the chart attributed it to the “Uncle”.
Thus this outline chart, Diagram Ch ASH/1/D18, is useful to compare to the 1600/1601AD chart drawn by his son, Muhammad in Alexandria. By aligning the extent of Hibernia in the west and China in the east it is possible to gauge the differences in the two charts by Father and Son, but 21 years apart.


From this comparison, Ch ASH/1/D19, it appears that the western portion, Europe, is very closely aligned, but then other features become mis-placed. On the 1579 chart the Caspian Sea is correctly placed apropos the Black Sea but both the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf are too far east. However it is obvious they both share the same antecedent drawn by the first al-Sharifi to become a cartographer, but by now probably far from being a fulsome copy.



I have decided to use the western section of the 1579 world chart for this conclusion part of the text because it clearly indicates the juxtaposition of the “Majorcan” and “Arabic” basics used to draw it. What we do not know is if the Grand-Father of Ali al-Sharafi did the same or is this a later innovation by Ali al-Sharafi?
Neither do we know if the wording by Ali al-Sharafi on the 1579 chart, “I copied this mappa mundi from another one designed by my Grand-Father Muhammad, so God have mercy on it; who had copied the coasts of the Syrian Sea and its ports from a nautical chart made by the people of Majorca. May God exterminate them” , means that Grand-Father Muhammad copied more than the coastlines of the Mediterranean Sea to include the British Isles and the coast of Europe to Jutland. Or is this part of “another one designed”, not copied as such? As it is doubtful that Ali al-Sharafi actually knew his Grand-Father from the putative dates, this could all be second hand through his Father and thus perhaps slightly awry.
It also indicates that the Grand-Fathers chart was not sold or that perhaps even the one used by Ali al-Sharafi is a second or third copy?
As already premised, the date of that “Majorcan Chart” could be in a 200 year time zone.
An example of the use of many charts is the River Nile, drawn southerly as per the Arab ideas of its layout and then includes the Majorcan Idea of Dulceto, 1330 that after the split the Nile’s western branch flows to the Atlantic. The Catalan Atlas has a similar scheme, but the Macia de Viladesters 1413 chart really shows it off. But, the timescale allows for a 1330 to 1500 and the chart being ”second hand” , thus pre 1450 and probably earlier is no doubt nearer the actuality.


Therefore I do not think a comparison to a “Majorcan” chart is really possible given the Arabic penchant for florid presentation and exaggerated coastal features.
The two Atlases are an entirely different matter as it can be shown that the actual folios of the Mediterranean Sea basin are taken from the same master copy, that of Abun L-‘Abbas Ahmad al-Andalusi . However the other details there-in are probably from two different sources. In Sfax it is probable the 1551 Atlas is a direct copy and based upon the book size of the Qur-‘an. But the 1571 atlas drawn in Kairouan and using the same charts probably uses tables etc., from the Mosque there. The Qibla diagrams being so very different, hence comments in Extant Text 4, are quite relevant.
On a more general level the atlases are well drawn and produced with the 1579 chart certainly equal to any “western” charts of the 1300’s to 1500’s. The 1600/1601 chart being degraded in the west precludes real comment, but if it was as good as the eastern section it was well drawn and equal to the 1579 chart.

The real test for the 1579 chart would be an examination similar to the MA Thesis of the 1551 atlas apropos not just the toponyms but mainly the internal place names and the short descriptions appended. Professor C A Nallino has given us the main texts. But I suspect the real storyline of this chart is in those small notes appended.