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Home > Books > Arab Archery > IV. On the different kinds of bows and the most desirable of them
IV. On the different kinds of bows and the most desirable of them

Bows are of two kinds: the hand bow and the foot bow. The hand bow is of three varieties: Hijāzi[3] Arab, composite (maṣnū‘ah), and Persian, which is also the Turkish. The Arab bow was so called by Ishmael, the father of all the Arabs, who was the first to introduce archery among them.

The bows of the Hijāzi Arabs are also of three kinds. One is made of a single stave (qaḍīb); another is made of a stave or two staves divided lengthwise; and the third is backed, or reinforced (mu‘aqqabah). All these three kinds are made of the nab‘, shawḥat, and shiryān wood. The method is that of shaving the wood down[4]. It is held that these three kinds of wood are in reality one, the names of which vary with the locale of growth. That which grows on the mountain top is the nab‘, that which grows on the mountainside is the shiryān, and that which grows at the foot of the mountain is the shawḥat.

The bow which is made of a single stave is called qaḍīb; that which is made of a single stave split lengthwise is called filq; and that which is made of two staves split lengthwise is called sharīj[5].

The reinforced bows[6] are those which have the horn of goats placed in the belly and sinew on the back. They are used only by experts or those who live near water.

The second variety of hand bow is the composite (maṣnū‘ah, murakkabah). It is composed of four different materials: wood, horn, sinew, and glue. It has two siyahs [sing.: siyah, dual: siyatān ], and a handle or grip (miqbaḍ) and is similar to the one now in use. It is called composite because of the manner of its construction. It is also described as separated, because of the disconnected nature of its parts before they are put together. Often it is called intermediate (wāsiṭīyah), not after the city of Wāṣt[7], which it antedates, but because it occupies an intermediate position between the Hijāzi Arab reinforced bow and the Persian bow.

The third variety of hand bows—the Persian and Turkish—are made in the same way as the Arab composite bow. They have, however, long siyahs and short arms[8], the siyahs and arms being almost, if not quite, equal to each other in size.

The central point is either in the middle of the grip or at one third of the grip from its top. Such a bow was used by both the Persians and the Turks. The Turks and most of the Persians make this bow heavy, and set it on a grooved stock (majra), which they fit with lock and trigger and to the end affix a stirrup, thus making it a foot bow.

Foot bows are of numerous varieties, one of which we have just described as having a lock and trigger and as being used among the Persians. Another foot bow is used by the people of Andalusia. It is, however, of no value because the Prophet has declared it accursed. This has led some learned men to maintain that all bows which are set on a stock are accursed because they resemble the cross in shape. Others maintain that such bows were condemned because they were used by the Persians, who were pagan infidels. The truth of the matter, however, is that such bows are undependable, being heavy, unwieldy, and clumsy. Upon loosing, the stock on which they are set interferes with the string and dissipates the greater part of its force[9].

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