Tomorrow is an eclipse.

For medieval people these celestial events were dramatic moments rife with anxiety.

One such eclipse was used by a prince to predict his own death.

A thread-
According to Ibn Zakariyya in the 9th century there was a prince named, Muhammad Ibn Abdallah Ibn Tahir. He was a regional governor and the commander of the elite forces of Baghdad.

He was also, like many elite and scholarly inclined Muslims of the era, an astrologer
One day while casting his annual horoscope, a solar revolution chart astrologers use to forecast the year ahead usually on their birthday, he noted a “qat”

This was a specialized technique combining calculated points known as Arabic lots, transits of planets, and the horoscope
He noted an upcoming eclipse in Cancer. Cancer was also the Ascendent of the year and the Moon was his planetary lord of the year, AND he was a Cancer himself.

Combined with the Lots, the qat was clear.

He predicted he would die.
On the appointed day he had a servant climb on the roof with some nuts with instructions to drop them at each stage of the eclipse.

The servant observed carefully.

At 1/3 of the eclipse he dropped the first nut. The prince gathered his house and told them he was to die
At 2/3 of the eclipse the servant dropped another nut.

The prince wrote his will donating his lands and wealth to endowments for the poor.
Finally when the eclipse was full and the third nut dropped, the prince readied himself.

In true emo Cancer fashion he wrapped himself in the traditional Muslim burial shroud and waited for his fate.
Shortly there after his brother came home to find all the servants waiting outside the prince’s room.

He inquired what was going on and the nervous servants informed him.

Rushing forward he burst into the room. There he found the prince on the bed.

He was dead.
Heartbroken he composed a poem for his brother:

The moon was eclipsed with the prince,
The moon disappeared and the prince fell.
The light of the moon is back,
But the light of the prince is never to come back.
The story is interesting for several reasons, firstly it gives a glimpse into how acutely aware medieval Muslims were of the heavens
It also reveals the complexity of astrology: the technique here combines observational astronomy with advanced mathematics.

These calculations were only possible thanks to the introduction of Indic mathematical concepts fused with Hellenic astrological theories
It also opens up an interesting debate among medieval Muslims.

While astrology was at times theologically contentious, it enjoyed wide support from many segments of society including religious scholars themselves
Muslim astrologers debated whether the planetary motions caused events or were omens of events in either case careful to attribute all cause to God alone
Finally it is a reminder that since time immemorial, people have looked to the heavens to try to make sense of their lives
If you want to learn more about astrology or Islamic history check out my patreon where I just released a podcast on the zodiac Gemini and its meaning from the perspective of astrologers from the Islamic world
We’ll keep exploring Islamic history in future threads

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More from @aaolomi

2 Jun
Throughout the centuries the jinn were said to inspire poets to verse and madness. As an elemental and invisible race, the jinn were master poets themselves and in turn taught their craft to others becoming mentors and muses to human poets.

A thread-
The jinn-inspired poet was a pre-Islamic feature as we have references to various poets and their invisible companions.

The “sha’ir” or poet often overlapped with the figures of the soothsayer and sorcerer.
One such figure was Fatima bint al Nu’man who was a seer and poet with a jinn lover.

Recorded by Ibn Sa’d, one day her jinn lover would not draw near her and she asked him what was the matter.

The jinn replied: the prophet who forbids adultery and wine has arrived.
Read 28 tweets
29 May
psychic phenomena in medieval Islamic writing is under more broadly spiritual powers. The things we call “psychic” are linked to either mystics or the practice of magic.

Ibn Khaldun mentions the purified heart of a mystic lifts the veil which grants them hidden knowledge
they are able to read the hearts of humans, to enter dreams, and are granted a hint of what is to come by the grace of God.

Many of these karamat are what we’d call psychic acts

We also see it in his description of magic and sorcerers
He provides several classifications of “magic” one of which is influencing the world without any tool or ritual but purely with the power of the mind

The mystic achieves spiritual and psychic power as a side effect of their purity while the magician from occult knowledge
Read 5 tweets
26 May
In Islamic cosmology, the universe is populated by angels and the earth is the home of humans and jinn alike. A race of intelligent, shape-shifting invisible beings, the djinn/jinn have a unique relationship to animals.

A thread-
The idea of jinn taking the form of animals is a pre-Islamic belief which was then Islamized.

Snakes, cats, camels, deer, and even types of birds were all linked to jinn.
A narration of Muhammad from Abu Tha’labah al Khashani relates jinn come in many forms: with wings, in the form of snakes, and those that wander.
Read 35 tweets
25 May
this was very common among medieval astrologers of the Muslim world

Caliphs frequently tested astrologers’ skills by making them discover hidden things

Two famous examples:
The Caliph Al Muwaffaq quizzed Abu Ma’shar and another astrologer asking them what he was thinking about.

Abu Ma’shar and the other astrologer cast their horoscopes and answered: he was thinking about the birth of an animal, a cow.

He affirmed they were right and then asked
What would be the color of the calf born to the cow?

Abu Ma’shar answered: black with white on the face.

The other astrologer said black with some white on the tail.

The calf was born back with white on their nose but its tail was covering the white so they both were right
Read 7 tweets
19 May
Throughout Islamic history women poets have used verse to stir the heart, memorialize their dead, make fun of their lovers, and praise the divine.

A thread-
Al-Khansa was a famous poet and early convert to Islam. Another poet said of her, “you are the finest poet of the jinn and humans.”

She composed stirring elegiac verses commemorating her fallen brothers and was reputed to be Prophet Muhammad’s favorite poet.
Upon hearing her poetry he was moved to tears.
Read 30 tweets
13 May
today Jupiter ingresses into Pisces

Jupiter the greater benefic was traditionally a fortunate omen associated with charity, learning, and good governance.

Medieval astrologers noted it meant:

-legal and political reforms
-the rise of just leaders
-power among the people
-a period of abundance

that said, at the same time Mars is in Cancer in its fall viewing Jupiter by sign

This was a marker of

-internal strife
-break up of dynasties, alliances, and power blocs
Al Rijal wrote it also meant:

-the invasion of lands
-expansion of territory and empire
-the changing and/or the death of rulers

Still Jupiter was interpreted as relief to some degree (at least until it retrogrades)
Read 4 tweets

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