mouth for a little while, congeals and becomes hardened. It frequently
occurs in India and is brought from there. People use it in theriacsand
believe that it opens up the intestines and expels bile in the manner of
the Persian theriac.
Allah knows best!
Momya'i (pissasphalt) is like amber and is whitish. It is fragrant and
deserves to be stored with care and respect for helping restore broken
bones. In the Kitab al-A'in (The Book of the Laws) it has been classified
among the drugs which were stored in the treasuries of the Khusraws and
was off and on given to the needy. It was used both as a simple and
compound drug, and was also administered to those bitten by animals.
In the Kitab al-A'in, two kinds of pissasphalt have been described These
are the hot and cold kinds. It is indeed surprising to be told that it is
cold, since pissasphalt is a kind of pitch and it would be strange to ascribe to pitch the properties of coldness. There are many statements
about it and there are several varieties of pissasphalt. Some of them are
standard and others unverified.
The author of the Ashkal al-Aqalim (The Characteristics of Countries)
Momya'i is found in Dara Bijard in a cave. It is reserved for the king
and the mouth of the cave is guarded by sentries. At a specified time
each year officials, despatchers of letters and the courtiers of the
king gather together and unseal the mouth of the cave. Pissasphalt
collects within the crevice of a stone in the lower portion in the size
of pomegranate. It is sealed in the presence of these dignitaries and
all the officials of the government take a little of it. This is the real
pissasphalt. All the other pissasphalt varieties are counterfeit. There
is a village near the cave known as Abin. The name, momya'i, is,
therefore, an eponym, and is mom Abin (i.e., the Abin wax).
Other authors have said that, being like wax and melting facilely, it is
simulatively designated as mom (wax).
Siri Mawsili says: "The meaning of the word is the wax of water. No
one knows where it comes from or where its source lies. In Persia there
is a small room which is kept locked and is guarded by sentries. It is
opened every year at the behest of the king in the presence of his officials.
The flowing water has a catchment having a strainer like a colander. The
water passes through it. The momya'i that collects upon the colander
congeals after some time and is deposited in the royal treasury." Abu
Mu'adh Al-Jawamkani says it is of Persian origin and is a variety of pitch.
The same thing has been stated by Dimashqi.