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Book of Gifts and Rarities (Kitāb al-Hadāyā wa al-Tuḥaf)

Book of Gifts and Rarities (Kitāb al-Hadāyā wa al-Tuḥaf)

Selections Compiled in the Fifteenth Century from an Eleventh-Century Manuscript on Gifts and Treasures

ISBN 9780932885135

Publication date: 09/01/1996

This work is a translation and study of a ninth- through fifteenth-century manuscript, a selection from a medieval book, Kitāb al-Hadāyā wa al-Tuḥaf (Book of Gifts and Rarities), edited by Muhammad Hamidullah. The manuscript furnishes a wealth of varied information offering insights into the period immediately preceding Islam and extending through the first four centuries of Islamic rule. The book provides valuable information on “gifts” exchanged on various occasions between Islamic rulers and their foreign counterparts. “Rarities” form a part of the gifts; some of them are marvels, others are mythical.

The manuscript is an invaluable source of information in many fields. It abounds with technical references and details in various areas of Islamic art, which renders it unique as a reference. The extensive detailed treatment, in the context of the overall material culture, provides a particularly rich source of information for those working both in the specific field of Islamic art and in that of Islamic culture as a whole.


  • This is a magnificent book on the fascinating subject of exchange of gifts between different strata of society involving élite and commoners, including Muslim rulers and their foreign counterparts, courtiers, governors, ministers, chieftains and army commanders, on a variety of occasions...The translator's attempt to define the Arabic terms for various things and gifts alone should merit wider recognition. It has been a labour of love to bring Book of Gifts and Rarities to print and to give the flavour of the original. As a critical edition and translation it has few parallels in contemporary Arabic scholarship...Ghada al-Qaddumi's version of Gifts and Rarities illustrates refined taste in high society under Islamic rule, besides shedding light on related historical topics, such as estates owned by the Prophet's Companions, the enviable inheritances of Muslim ladies famous in Islamic history, and the booty won by Muslim armies in historic battles...This book gives the reader a feeling of pride and joy in the Islamic heritage...It is a treasure of cultural history.

    —Muhammad Abdul Jabbar Beg, Muslim World Book Review


  • Ghada Hijjawi-Qaddumi (Ghāda al Ḥijjāwī al-Qaddūmī), an independent scholar based in Kuwait, is President of the World Crafts Council, Asia Pacific Region.
  • Oleg Grabar was Professor Emeritus of Islamic Art and Architecture at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey.

Book Details

  • 551 pages
  • 1-5/16 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University
  • Translated with commentary by Ghada Hijjawi-Qaddumi
  • Foreword by Oleg Grabar