Hudud al-'Alam

The Ḥudūd al-ʿĀlam (Arabic: حدود العالم "Boundaries of the World" or "Limits of the World") is a 10th-century geography book written in Persian by an unknown author from Guzgan (present day northern Afghanistan).[1] The title in full is حدود العالم من المشرق الی المغرب (Ḥudūd al-ʿĀlam min al-Mashriq ilá l-Maghrib, "The Boundaries of The World from The East to the West").

In English, the title is also translated as "The Regions of the World" following Vladimir Minorsky's 1937 translation, in which he commented on the title as follows: "The word ḥudūd (properly 'boundaries') in our case evidently refers to the 'regions within definite boundaries' into which the world is divided in the Ḥ.-'Ā., the author indicating with special care the frontiers of each one of these areas, v.i., p. 30. [As I use the word "region" mostly for nāḥiyat it would have been better, perhaps, to translate Ḥudūd al-Ālam as "The limited areas of the World".]"[2]


Finished in 982 CE, it was dedicated to Abu'l Haret Muhammad, the ruler of the Farighunids. Its author is unknown, but Vladimir Minorsky has surmised that it might have been written by the enigmatic Šaʿyā bin Farīghūn, author of a pioneer encyclopedia of the sciences, the Jawāmeʿ al-ʿUlum, for an amir of Čaghāniān on the upper Amu Darya in the mid-10th century.[3] The available text of Ḥudūd al-ʿĀlam is part of a larger manuscript which contains other works:

  1. A copy of the Jahān-Nāma ("Book of The World") by Muḥammad ibn Najīb Bakrān
  2. A short passage about music
  3. The Ḥudūd al-ʿĀlam
  4. The Jāmiʿ al-ʿUlūm ("Collection of Knowledge") by Fakhr al-Din al-Razi;

The Ḥudūd al-ʿĀlam contains information about the known world. The anonymous author reports about different countries (nāḥiyat), people, languages, clothing, food, religion, local products, towns and cities, rivers, seas, lakes, islands, the steppe, deserts, topography, politics and dynasties, as well as trade. The inhabited world is divided in Asia, Europe and "Libya" (i.e. the Maghreb). The author counts a total of 45 different countries north of the equator.

The author never visited those countries personally, but rather compiled the book from earlier works and tales. He did not indicate his sources, but researchers deduced some, for example Estakhri Book of the Paths and Provinces (Arabic: كتاب المسالك والممالك),[4] or the works of Abu Abdallah al-Jayhani and Ibn Khordadbeh.

Among other things, Hudud al-Alam appears to mention Rus' Khaganate; it refers to the Rus' king as "Khāqān-i Rus".[5] The unknown author is believed to have relied on several 9th-century sources.[6]

Rediscovery and translation

The Orientalist Russian scholar Alexander Tumansky found a manuscript with a copy of this text in 1892 in Bukhara. The copy from the original was made by the Persian chronographer Abu l-Mu'ayyad ʿAbd al-Qayyūm ibn al-Ḥusain ibn 'Alī al-Farīsī in 1258.[1] The facsimile edition with introduction and index was published by Vasily Bartold in 1930; a thoroughly commented English translation was made by Vladmir Minorsky in 1937, and a printed Persian text by Manouchehr Sotudeh in 1962[7] .


The sections of its geographical treatise which describes the margins of Islamic world, are of the greatest historical importance. The work also includes important early descriptions of the Turkic peoples in Central Asia.[8] Also noteworthy is the archaic language and style of the Ḥudud, which makes it a valuable Persian linguistic document as well.[3]


  • V. Minorsky (Hrsg.): Hudud al-Alam. The regions of the world: a Persian geography, 372 A.H. / 982 A.D., translated and explained by V. Minorsky ; with the preface by V. V. Barthold, London 1937
  • C. E. Bosworth in: Encyclopaedia of Islam. New Edition, s.v. ḤUDŪD AL-ʿĀLAM

See also


  1. C. E. Bosworth in: Encyclopaedia of Islam. New Edition, s.v. ḤUDŪD AL-ʿĀLAM
  2. Hudud al-'Alam at Encyclopædia Iranica
  3. Fr. Taeschner in Encyclopaedia of Islam. New Edition, s.v. Djughrāfīya
  4. Minorsky 159.
  5. Minorsky xvi.
  6. The Hejri-ye Shamsi date on the title page of Sotudeh's edition reads in Persian "esfand-mah 1340"; on the 4. cover page, which is in English, the year "1962" is written.
  7. Maqbul Ahmad in: C. E. Bosworth and M. S. Asimov (Hrsg.): History of Civilizations of Central Asia. Vol. IV, Part II, Paris 1992, p. 221