Sibuya

The Iranian Brain Who Later Became The Father Of Arabic Literature

Amr ibn Uthman ibn Qambar, popularly known as Sibuya was a master of Arabic syntax and is accepted as the father of this field.

Ibn Nadim says that Sibuya was a slave of a person of Bani Harith ibn Kaab tribe and he was connected to Bayda a hamlet near Shiraz but was born in Basra . Some people say that he was born in Bayda itself but came to Iraq during his childhood and resided at Basra .

Sibuya started learning Arabic syntax, which was the most important field of study in those days. His first teacher in the subject was Khalil ibn Ahmed an expert of Arabic syntax. He also studied under Isa Ibn Umar, Yunus Ibn Habib and Akhfash and also gained from the teachings of Asami. But the fact was that he reached the pinnacle of perfection in his particular field due to his own merits, divinely gifted intelligence and hard work. According to Ibn Nadim, if anyone has the proficiency to judge the books written in the past he would indeed admit that the book

written by Sibuya is such that none like it has ever been authored before and none shall ever be compiled like it.

Ibn Khallikan writes that Sibuya is among the ancient scholars of Arabic syntax and grammar and he was the most intelligent and expert in the field of Arabic language. Till date he is the final authority on the subject. After the Al-Kitab no book has ever been written of the same caliber. All the books compiled after it owe everything to this book.

Jahiz, himself a reputed Arabic grammarian says, “One day I thought of going to meet the vizier of Abdul Malik. I deliberated on what gift I should take for him and decided that nothing was worthier in my view than Al-Kitab. After I presented him with the book I mentioned my view also.” The scholarly vizier replied, “Indeed, you could not have given me a better present.”

Ibn Khallikan narrates from Ibn Natah that he said, “A gentleman was sitting with Khalil ibn Ahmad when Sibuya arrived. Khalil said, “Welcome to the one who is never tired of taking classes.” Abu Amr Mahzumi narrates that Sibuya was not as much fond of any of his teachers as he was of Khalil. “I never saw Khalil according such a welcome to any other student.”

All the experts of the Arabic language have unanimously without any difference of opinion remembered Sibuya as “The Teacher”. They all benefited from his writings and explanations.

The most surprising thing is that an Iranian youth had scaled these heights of expertise in Arabic grammar and he became a teacher to the Arabs and taught them the intricacies of their own tongue. All the Arabic scholars

accept the prominence of Sibuya. It is not that being an Iranian himself the writer of this book is heaping undeserving praises on this young man.

But when we contemplate, the closest companion of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) was Salman Farsi, the leader of the greatest school of Sunni jurisprudence was Abu Hanifah, also an Iranian, the compiler of the most important book of Ahle Sunnat Sahih Bukhari was Muhammad Ibn Ismail Bukhari, an Iranian. The greatest philosophers of the Islamic world Abu Farabi and Ibn Sina were Persians. The father of gnosticism, Imam Ghazzali was an Iranian and so on…

It is an admitted fact that Iran has greatly contributed to the expansion of the study of Arabic.

The book of Sibuya gained such prominence that it was also published from Berlin , Germany , India and Cairo , Egypt .

It is said that Sibuya was once engaged in a debate with Hamzah Kasai the tutor of Amin the son of Harun Rashid and that Sibuya was defeated in this debate. Sibuya could not bear the defeat hence he developed tuberculosis fever and died due to it. Some however say the Sibuya surrendered willingly, considering that Hamzah was the tutor of Harun’s child. In any case he developed the aforesaid illness and passed away when he was only thirty-two years of age.

After his debate with Hamzah, Sibuya came to Shiraz from Baghdad , and passed away after some days. He is buried in Shiraz . According to the writer of Athaarul Ajam his tomb is in the Sang Siyah locality.

We should however remember that the debate of Sibuya with Hamzah did not conclude with Sibuya’s defeat. The facts were in support of Sibuya but the unscrupulous opponents distorted the arguments and ruled in favor of Hamzah.

This episode is recorded in detail in History of Ibn Khallikan under the heading of “Qaziya-e-Zamboor” and according to this author Sibuya expired at the age of thirty.[1]

As far as his importance is concerned, his book Al-Kitab is sufficient because we know that Abu Hayyan Gharnati, the famous Arab grammarian of Spain relied on the books of Sibuya and he had memorized them all.


[1] Fihrist, Ibn Nadim, Persian translation,pg. 89, Wafayatul Ayan of Ibn Khallikan, Vol. 3, pg. 133, DanishmandanSukhan Sarapan-e-Fars, Vol. 3, pg. 211

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