MasúdI, aBul hAsan
Masúdi, Abu'l Hasan
(Ali ben-Husein ben-Ali), one of the most celebrated Arabian savants, an early writer in the department of comparative religion, from the Mussulman stand-point, was born, according to his own statement, at Bagdad in the 3d century of the Hegira, or the 9th of the Christian aera, and was the descendant of an illustrious family, who were among the early and devout followers of the Prophet of Mecca. Masudi was gifted with great talents, which he applied at an early age to learned pursuits. He gathered an immense stock of knowledge in all branches of science; and his learning was not mere book learning, but he improved it in his long travels through all parts of the East, Turkey, Eastern Russia., and Spain. In A.H. 303 he visited India, Ceylon, and the coast of China, where the Arabs had founded numerous small colonies; thence he went to Madagascar and Southern Arabia: thence through Persia to the Caspian; he also visited the Khazors in Southern Russia. In A.H. 314 he was in Palestine; from 332 to 334 in Syria and Egypt; and he says in 345, when he wrote his last book, the second edition of his Golden Meadows, he was in Egypt, and had been a long time absent from his native country, Irak. He says he traveled so far to the west (Morocco and Spain) that he forgot the east, and so far east that he forgot the west. Masudi died probably at Kahirah (Cairo), A.H. 345 (A.D. 956); and, since he visited India as early as A.H. 303, it is evident that those who say he died young are mistaken.
No Arabian writer is quoted so often, and spoken of with so much universal admiration. The variety of subjects on which he wrote astonishes even the learned, and the philosopher is surprised to see this Arab of the Middle Age resolving questions which remained problems to Europeans for many centuries after him. Masudi knew not only the history of the Eastern nations, but also ancient history, and that of the Europeans of his time. He had thoroughly studied the different religions of mankind-
Mohammedanism, Christianity, the doctrines of Zoroaster and Confucius, and the idolatry of barbarous nations. No Arabian writer call boast, like him, of learning at once profound and almost universal. Unfortunately, however, Masudi wanted method in arranging the prodigious number of facts which a rare memory never failed to supply him with while he was writing. He illustrates the history of the geography of the West with analogies or contrasts taken from China or Arabia; he avails himself of his knowledge of Christianity to elucidate the creeds of the different Mohammedan sects; and, while he informs the reader of the mysteries of the extreme North, he will all at once forget his subject, and transfer him into the Desert of Sahara. For a list of his works, which are mostly extant only in MS., see the English Cyclopaedia, s.v.