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1 Toward a Definition of the Ages of Man

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Chapter Summary

Shabāb is the word most commonly used for youth in classical and modern Arabic, the other terms being shabība, shabābiyya, fatāʾ, ḥadātha and ṣibā. Ibn al-Quff (13th century) begins his long discussion of ages by saying that the dictionary definition of al-sinn is al-ʿumr, while according to physicians it is the time measured in terms of the proportion of innate moisture to innate heat in the body. Abū Zayd al-Balkhī (d. 322/934), following the medieval tradition, associates the four ages with their corresponding humors, seasons, elements, and temperament. In modern Western tradition, to take a well known example, E. Erikson divides the life cycle into eight stages but he sets no age boundaries for them: infancy, early childhood, play age, school age, adolescence, young adult, adulthood, and mature age. Women are generally thought to live longer than men.

Keywords: Abū Zayd al-Balkhī; E.Erikson; Ibn al-Quff; Shabāb; Western tradition; youth



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