Al As‘Ad Abu Al-Faraj Hibat Allah Ibn Al-‘Assal

AL AS‘AD ABU AL-FARAJ HIBAT ALLAH IBN AL-‘ASSAL

One of three brothers, members of the same family generally known as AWLAD AL-‘ASSAL, who lived in the thirteenth century, all being notable writers on religious subjects, jurisdiction, canon law, theology, philosophy, and Coptic philology.

Al-As‘ad’s full name is Abu al-Faraj Hibat-Allah ibn Abi al-Fadl As‘ad ibn Abi Ishaq Ibrahim ibn Abi Sahl Jirjis ibn Abi al-Bishr Yuhanna ibn al-‘Assal. He enjoyed the title of Fakhr al-Dawlah (pride of the state), signifying that he occupied an important position in the administration of the Ayyubid government of Egypt. No precise date can be assigned to his life, but it is certain that he lived in the first half of the thirteenth century (Mallon, 1905, p. 518), moving between Damascus and Cairo.

Al-As‘ad’s major and enduring contribution to the field of Christian religious studies was his new translation of the Gospels into Arabic. Before his time, there were sundry Arabic versions that were uncanonical and in need of critical study to render them true to the accepted original texts in Greek, Syriac, and Coptic, which al- As‘ad collected for the purpose of rendering his recension. Copies of his translation dated between 1259 and 1280 are to be found in manuscript in London, Milan, Rome, the Vatican, Leiden, Oxford, and other places (Mallon, 1905, p. 523).

Parallel to this work, he composed an introduction to the epistles of Saint Paul consisting of eight sections subdivided into various chapters and preceded by a historical life of Saint Paul.

Beyond the field of religious studies, he composed a grammar of the Coptic language in Arabic, of which copies in manuscript are in Paris, London, Oxford, Rome, the Vatican, and the Patriarchal Library in Cairo.

The following Arabic titles are enumerated under al-As‘ad’s name in the dictionary of Arab authors compiled by ‘Umar Rida Kahhalah. They are all in the field of Christian religious studies, and all are derived from Cheikho’s catalog of Arabic manuscripts: (1) Majmu‘ Usul al-Din wa-Masmu‘ Mahsul al-Yaqin; (2) Tafsir Mar Bulus al-Rasul; (3) Tafsir al-Amanah al-Muqaddasah; (4) Al- Tabsirah al-Mukhtasarah fi al-Aqa’id al-Nasraniyyah; and (5) Tafsir ma warada fi al-Injil ‘an Alam al-Masih.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

  • Mallon, A. “Ibn al-‘Assal, Les trois écrivains de ce nom.” Journal Asiatique, 10, 6 (1905).

AZIZ S. ATIYA

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