From Wavell's A Modern Pilgrim in Mecca (1913), p. 138:

Sir Richard Burton got into hot water with many people for translating literally and without expurgation the “Arabian Nights.” A perusal of his work will give the reader an idea of how strange a medley of grave and gay, religion and superstition, high moral precepts and cynically immoral episodes is Arabic literature. The “Arabian Nights,” however, even in its most unrestrained passages, is petite bière compared with some other well-known books. One in my possession, entitled very inappropriately “Flowers of the Spring,” was written by a learned doctor of sacred law for the purpose, so he says in his introduction, of affording entertainment and distraction to his pupils when wearied by their arduous theological studies. It begins with a page or two devoted to praise of God and His Prophet—the indispensable hors d'oeuvre to an Arabic book on any subject whatsoever. A couple of stories from the "traditions," tending to prove that a joke is a good thing in its proper place, are followed by a little commentary on certain obscure passages in the Koran bearing no relation whatever to what has gone before. This is succeeded by an utterly irrelevant anecdote and some verses that would probably have been considered unduly coarse in a pothouse of Gomorrah. Before the reader has had time to recover from this outrage he is back again in some religious controversy, and so the reverend author drags his bewildered followers through four hundred and forty pages of the wildest jumble of theology, history, philosophy, eroticism, and many other subjects; the whole interlarded freely with passages from the Koran, quoted, of course, verbatim, and furnished with all the diacritical marks. Once written he evidently did not trouble to read through his manuscript, for the book abounds in repetition, and one anecdote of an unusually revolting character, which had evidently tickled him considerably, occurs no less than five times.

Is this book "Flowers of the Spring" available in a modern edition?

Casual googling did not turn up anything likely-looking.

1 Answer 1


A search of the OCLC WorldCat catalogue for an Arabic language book with the title Flowers of the Spring returns six results, of which Zahr al-rabi by Niʻmat Allāh ibn ʻAbd Allāh Jazāʼirī seems promising (although clicking on that title reveals there are multiple variations on the author's name).

A further WorldCat search just for that title offers 74 items, including 56 printed books, four articles and a thesis/dissertation. Some of these items are dated in the 19th century, which corresponds to the timeframe for Wavell's library.

A broader internet search for Zahr al-rabi leads to a WikiShia entry for the author Al-Sayyid Ni'mat Allah al-Jaza'iri, which starts with the following:

Al-Sayyid Niʿmat Allāh al-Jazāʾirī (Arabic:السيد نعمة الله الجزائري) (b. 1050/1640-41 d.1112/1701), known as **al-Muḥaddith al-Jazāʾirī* (المحدث الجزائري), was a Shiite scholar and the head of the well-known scholarly and religious household of Jaza'iri whose lineage goes back to Imam al-Kazim (a). Al-Sayyid Ni'mat Allah was a student of scholars such as al-'Allama al-Majlisi, Jamal al-Din Khwansari, Mulla Muhsin al-Fayd al-Kashani, and al-Shaykh al-Hurr al-'Amili. He wrote many works; in fact, he is known as a prolific author. His works include al-Anwar al-nu'maniyya, Qisas al-anbiya', and the anthology, Zahr al-rabi'. He counts as a prominent high-ranking Akhbari scholar.

I note that in the WikiShia entry the author is referred to variously as al-Sayyid Ni'mat Allah or al-Jaza'iri, although the latter simply means someone from the al-Jaza'ir (where he was born: it's a district of Basra in what is now known as Iraq).

Hopefully this provides a springboard for further investigation...

  • al-Jaza'ir is the Arabic word for Algeria/Algiers.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented May 27, 2019 at 8:53
  • @Randal'Thor exclusively so? The note on the author says he was from the "well-known household of Jaza'iri who served as religious scholars in the last three centuries in Khuzestan, and particularly in Shushtar, a city in southwest Iran. ... According to al-Sayyid Ni'mat Allah himself, he was born in (1050/1640-41) in the village, Sabbaghiyya, in the district of al-Jaza'ir in Basra, located between Euphrates and Tigris." [my emphasis] Commented May 27, 2019 at 12:09
  • That's interesting. It does seem to be a district in Basra as well, but I wonder how it got that name? Maybe a lot of Algerians settled there at some point.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented May 27, 2019 at 12:53
  • 1
    I asked an Algerian who told me that the district of Basra was named al-Jaza'ir in the 20th century as a gesture of respect to Algeria upon gaining their independence from France. However, Ni'mat Allah's autobiography does apparently (secondary source) say that he was born in "al-Jaza'ir, the marshland region along the lower Tigris and Euphrates in southern Iraq around Qurnah, where the two rivers join to form the Shatt al-'Arab." Confusing!
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Jun 12, 2019 at 16:00
  • 1
    See also for example this famous Algerian: "El Djezairi just means "the Algerian"".
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Jun 12, 2019 at 16:04

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