Books belonging to adab literature present material about a variety of subjects, considered from various points of view, such as religious, scientific, historical, literary, etc. They contain knowledge and at the same time entertainment for educated people. Here we consider the content of two adab works, insofar as they discuss subjects from the scientific point of view: (an extract of) Faṣl al-Khiṭāb by al-Tīfāshī (d. 1253) and Mabāhij al-fikar wa-manāhij al-ʿibar by al-Waṭwāṭ (d. 1318).
Al-Tīfāshī's work discusses astronomical and meteorological subjects. The passages on astronomy give the usual Aristotelian cosmological picture of the world in a simplified version for non-specialists. The passages on meteorological subjects explain these phenomena in agreement with Aristotle's theory of the double exhalation, and it appears that they are based to a large extent on Ibn Sīnā's interpretation of this theory.
The book of al-Waṭwāṭ consists of four sections, which deal with the heaven, the earth, animals and plants respectively. One chapter of the first section deals with meteorological phenomena and presents a survey of the explanations current in his time, such as may be found in the works of al-Kindī and Ibn Sīnā.
One will probably not find new and original scientific ideas in the adab literature, but one gets an impression of how besides knowledge of Qurʾān, ḥadīth, poetry and literary prose scientific knowledge was a part of the education of a certain class of people, also of those whose special interest was not science. It also appears that the subjects of science were not restricted to those which were useful for religion and Muslim society. Science was an integrated activity in society, pursued for intellectual satisfaction and pleasure in knowledge, and most groups in that society held that there was nothing in it that would be incompatible with Islam as a religion. This would support the ‘appropriation thesis’ defended by Sabra, that science in medieval Islamic society was well assimilated and widely accepted, as opposed to the the ‘marginality thesis’ adopted by von Grünebaum, that science was a marginal activity, restricted to small elite circles and not rooted in society.