The Case of the Animals versus Man Before the King of the Jinn: An Arabic Critical Edition and English Translation of Epistle 22
Professor Lenn Goodman
Dr Richard McGregor
Oxford University Press in Association with The Institute of Ismaili Studies, 2010
ISBN (Hardback): 978 0 19958 016 3
Publication page on Google Books
Author Interview with Professor Lenn Goodman
The Brethren of Purity (Ikhwan al-Safa’) were the anonymous members of a fourth-century AH (tenth-century CE) esoteric fraternity of lettered urbanites that was principally based in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, while also having a significant active branch in the capital of the ‘Abbasid caliphate, Baghdad. This secretive coterie occupied a prominent station in the history of scientific and philosophical ideas in Islam due to the wide intellectual reception and dissemination of diverse manuscripts of their famed philosophically oriented compendium, the Epistles of the Brethren of Purity (Rasa’il Ikhwan al-Safa’). The exact dating of this corpus, the identity of its authors, and their doctrinal affiliation remain unsettled questions that are hitherto shrouded with mystery. Some situate the historic activities of this brotherhood at the eve of the Fatimid conquest of Egypt (ca. 358/969), while others identify the organization with an earlier period that is set chronologically around the founding of the Fatimid dynasty in North Africa (ca. 297/909).
Encountering ‘veracity in every religion’, and grasping knowledge as ‘pure nourishment for the soul’, the Ikhwan associated soteriological hope and the attainment of happiness with the scrupulous development of rational pursuits and intellectual quests. Besides the filial observance of the teachings of the Qur’an and hadith, the Brethren also reverently appealed to the Torah of Judaism and to the Gospels of Christianity. Moreover, they heeded the legacies of the Stoics and of Pythagoras, Hermes Trismegistus, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, Nicomachus of Gerasa, Euclid, Ptolemy, Galen, Proclus, Porphyry, and Iamblichus.
In general, fifty-two epistles are enumerated as belonging to the Rasa’il Ikhwan al-Safa‘, and these are divided into the following four parts: Mathematics, Natural Philosophy, Sciences of the Soul and Intellect, and Theology. The first part consists of fourteen epistles, and it deals with ‘the mathematical sciences’, treating a variety of topics in arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, geography, and music. The second part of the corpus groups together seventeen epistles on ‘the physical qua natural sciences’. It thus treats themes on matter and form, generation and corruption, metallurgy, meteorology, a study of the essence of nature, the classes of plants and animals (the latter being also set as a fable), the composition of the human body and its embryological constitution, a cosmic grasp of the human being as microcosm, and also the investigation of the phonetic and structural properties of languages and their differences. The third part of the compendium comprises ten tracts on ‘the psychical and intellective sciences’, setting forth the ‘opinions of the Pythagoreans and of the Brethren of Purity’, and accounting also for the world as a ‘macroanthropos’. In this part the Brethren also examined the distinction between the intellect and the intelligible, and they offered explications of the symbolic significance of temporal dimensions, epochal cycles, and the mystical expression of the essence of love, together with an investigation of resurrection, causes and effects, definitions and descriptions, and the various types of motions. The fourth and last part of the Rasa’il deals with ‘the nomic qua legal and theological sciences’ in eleven epistles. These address the differences between the varieties of religious opinions and sects, as well as delineating the ‘Pathway to God’, the virtues of the Ikhwan’s companionship, the characteristics of genuine believers, the nature of the divine nomos, the call to God, the actions of spiritualists, of jinn, angels, and recalcitrant demons, the species of politics, the layered ordering of the world, and, finally, the essence of magic and talismanic incantations. Besides the fifty-two tracts that constitute the Rasa’il Ikhwan al-Safa’, this compendium was accompanied by a treatise entitled al-Risala al-jami‘a (The Comprehensive Epistle), which acted as the summa summarum for the whole corpus, and was itself supplemented by a further abridged appendage known as the Risalat jami‘at al-jami‘a (The Condensed Comprehensive Epistle).
‘The Case of the Animals versus Man Before the King of the Jinn’ (Epistle 22) is the longest of the fifty-two epistles, and in this one, widely read and translated in the Middle Ages and since, the Brethren break away from their usual expository format and fly up into the realm of fable. Their aim, as they explain, is ‘to survey the merits and fine points of animals, their admirable traits and wholesome natures, and to touch on man’s overreaching, oppression, and injustice against the creatures that serve him — the beasts and cattle — and his heedless ingratitude for God’s blessings.’
Once given words, the animals have much to say, both about their own plight and about the human condition. They present themselves not as mere objects of study but as subjects with an outlook and interests of their own. That casts the essay into a moral mode: the animals warmly appreciate the bounty of Creation but passionately criticize human domination and systematically indict its underlying rationales as the products of human arrogance. The ingenious and insightful design of every creature, say the animals, testifies to God’s creative and providential beneficence. But the natural piety, generosity, courage, and trust of the animals model virtues that human beings too often lack. The animals become living, speaking rebukes of human waywardness, faithlessness, negligence, and insensitivity.
Although it is actually the animals that have brought their case before Biwarasp the Wise, King of the Jinn, the humans see themselves as the plaintiffs. They expect animals simply to serve their needs. Outside the precincts of the court, in their own domains, they readily berate and belabour any domestic beasts that seem to shirk that role. Some even question God for creating beasts that they find useless, noxious, or repulsive. All creatures, the animals argue, have a place in God’s plan. All play their roles in Nature. But, beyond such merely defensive remarks, the animals turn the tables on their adversaries, goaded to a wide-ranging denunciation of human weaknesses. Their aim is to discredit the claim that man’s innate superiority makes humans the owners of Nature and gives them a perfect right to treat all creatures as they please. Much of the fable is taken up with the animals’ ripostes to such arrogance. In the end, most but not all of the claims the humans make are found groundless.
The zoological and ethological information that the Ikhwan table, whether scientific in the Galenic and Aristotelian mode or fanciful in the manner of midrashic tales and ancient bestiaries, is never dry or merely technical. By allowing the animals to speak, the Ikhwan clearly hope to sweeten the didactic pill. But by letting them speak critically, they add a bit of salt as well. The method that serves their moral aim is Aesopian. But the fable embedded in the essay form rapidly bursts the bounds of the familiar Aesopian tale. It is longer, broader in scope, and more varied in focus. Without the great battle scenes or stagey clinches of the epic, the fable’s narrative is far more arresting to the interests of a grown-up than any simple allegory or morality play; and the narrative ends with no single pithy punchline but by integrating its insights into a single thesis, promised at the outset: ‘Man at his best, we shall show, is a noble angel, the finest of creatures; but at his worst, an accursed devil, the bane of creation.’ To this the Ikhwan add: ‘We’ve put these themes into the mouths of animals, to make the case clearer and more compelling — more striking in the telling, wittier, livelier, more useful to the listener, and more poignant and thought-provoking in its moral.’
Video: Interview with Professor Lenn Goodman
Publication: The Case of the Animals versus Man Before the King of the Jinn: An Arabic Critical Edition and English Translation of Epistle 22
Editors and Translators: Professor Lenn Goodman and Dr Richard McGregor
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Questions addressed in the interview:
1. What drew you to devote 7 years to translating The Case of the Animals vs Man and then to spend another 7 years collaborating with Richard McGregor on preparing a new translation, manuscript based critical edition, and expanded commentary on this ancient text?
2. I notice that you call this risala an essay. What is it that you mean by that? Isn't the work a piece of fiction?
3. Why do you call The Case of the Animals vs Man an Aesopian fable, and what do you mean by calling it an ecological fable?
4. How do you understand the role of the jinn (or genies) in this work? What makes it different from a fairy tale or a romance like the Thousand and One Nights or the Antar cycle?
5. Beyond the animals’ complaints of mistreatment by human beings, what other themes do you find in this work?
6. What do you mean in saying that the Ikhwan al-Safa voice cosmopolitan values in The Case of the Animals vs Man before the King of the Jinn?
7. What do you think is the contemporary relevance of a work of this kind in today's scientific, technological and multicultural age?
An Anthology of Qur’anic Commentaries: Volume I – On the Nature of the Divine
An Anthology of Qur’anic Commentaries: Volume I – On the Nature of the DivineThe IIS is pleased to announce the paperback edition of An Anthology of Qur’anic Commentaries: Volume I – On the Nature of the Divine. Edited by Feras Hamza, Sajjad Rizvi and Farhana Mayer, the Anthology analyses the works of Sunni, Shi‘i, Ibadi, Mu‘tazili and Sufi commentators on six Qur’anic verses, revealing varied approaches to the scripture and its meaning. Contextual introductions and annotated translations allow the reader to follow the genesis of key intellectual debates and religio-political attitudes still relevant to the lives of Muslims today.
On the Nature of the Divine is the first of the Anthology of Qur’anic Commentaries Series, which aims to make the reception and interpretation of the Qur’an accessible to anyone interested in cultural and religious studies. The main research question underlying the Series is: how do historical, intellectual and social circumstances affect interpretation? The multiple volumes of the Anthology will, collectively, emphasise the historicity of tafsir, the fact that each commentator and commentary is a product of his own time. The volumes are designed as a standard reference work and textbook for university courses, but they also contribute towards a ‘mapping’ of how ideas, concepts, dogmas and fields of knowledge have evolved along a fluid history to the present time. The Anthology is a reflection of the plurality of meanings that the Qur’an itself allows for, and which have produced a vast and venerable tradition of diverse interpretations.
This multi-volume work hopes to add to our understanding of the evolutionary and context-dependent character of many Islamic religious and theological concepts, and to the Muslim Ummah’s conception of its own intellectual history. Such an approach calls for an examination of Muslim thought as an evolving phenomenon which responded, and continues to respond, to the circumstances of each period. This research supports the conception of Islam as a fluid intellectual civilisation with internal variety, in contrast to the view of Islam as a rigid, monolithic and unchanging community and set of norms.
In his review of An Anthology of Qur’anic Commentaries: Volume I – On the Nature of the Divine, Professor Andrew Rippin of University of Victoria stated that it is “a marvellous piece of work that brings the tafsir tradition alive... [A] true masterpiece of translation, editing and annotation.” Dr Scott Lucas, Associate Professor of Near Eastern Studies and Religious Studies Programme at University of Arizona refers to it as a “sumptuous book that is copiously annotated and immensely rewarding... [T]his anthology is as rich, if not richer, than any single tafsir work, and provides an unparalleled journey through the entire gamut of Qur’anic commentaries.” With regard to this series of publications, Dr. Walid Saleh, Associate Professor in the Department and Centre for the Study of Religion at University of Toronto noted that this is “a significant advance in the field of tafsir studies... [by] a first rate specialist team. It repositions tafsir as a central discipline in Islamic studies, an overdue development and a major achievement.”
Related Pages on the IIS Website
# IIS Publication Page: An Anthology of Qur’anic Commentaries - Volume I: On the Nature of the Divine
# Video: Author Interview with Dr Feras Hamza
Shi'i Interpretations of Islam: Three Treatises on Theology and Eschatology [Hardcover]
S. J Badakhchani (Author), S. J. Badakhchani (Editor)
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One of the most prominent Muslim scholars and scientists of the medieval era, the Persian polymath Nasir al-Din Tusi (1201-1274) joined the Shi‘a Nizari Ismaili community at a young age, as the armies of Genghis Khan poured across his homeland. In the course of a long and eminent career, first under the patronage of the Ismailis at the fortress of Alamut, and later with the conquering Mongols, he produced over 150 works on diverse subjects from theology and philosophy to mathematics and astronomy. His principal works on Ismaili doctrine, the Rawda-yi taslim (The Paradise of Submission) and the autobiographical Sayr wa suluk (Contemplation and Action), are already available in English translation by S. J. Badakhchani. In this volume, he offers new critical editions and translations of three shorter Ismaili works by Tusi, namely Aghaz wa anjam (The Beginning and the End), Tawalla wa tabarra (Solidarity and Dissociation), and Matlub al-mu’minin (Desideratum of the Faithful). In these three treatises, Tusi provides concise interpretations of key motifs in Ismaili doctrine, with special reference to the primordial nature of man, his earthly existence in relation to the imam, and his destiny in the hereafter.
About the Author
S. J. Badakhchani is a Research Associate at The Institute of Ismaili Studies. His publications include Contemplation and Action: The Spiritual Autobiography of a Muslim Scholar(1998) and Paradise of Submission: A Medieval Treatise on Ismaili Thought(2005), both published by I.B.Tauris.
The IIS is pleased to announce the publication of Shi‘i Interpretations of Islam: Three Treatises on Islamic Theology and Eschatology, by the prolific 13th century Persian scholar, Nasir al-Din Tusi (1201-1274 CE). In this volume, Dr Sayyad Jalal Badakhchani translates three shorter but significant works of Tusi on Nizari Ismaili doctrines, namely Solidarity and Dissociation (Tawala wa tabarra), Desideratum of the Faithful (Matlub al-mu’minin)and Origin and Destination (Aghaz wa anjam). In these treatises, Tusi provides concise philosophical interpretations of key motifs in Nizari Ismaili thought, with special reference to the existential condition of human beings, their primordial origin and nature, their earthly existence in relation to the Imam, and their destiny in the hereafter.
Previously, the IIS has published English translations of two principal works on Ismaili doctrines by Nasir al-Din Tusi, including Contemplation and Action: The Spiritual Autobiography of a Muslim Scholar (Sayr wa suluk) and Paradise of Submission: A Medieval Treatise on Ismaili Thought (Rawda-yi taslim)in 1998 and 2005, respectively. This latest publication, Shi‘i Interpretations of Islam is in the same style, bringing together the original texts in the Persian language and in English translations.
Dr. Badakhchani describes Nasir al-Din Tusi as “one of the most prolific and outstanding scholars of the 7th/13th century Muslim world. Being a man of science, with a special interest in mathematics, astronomy, Islamic philosophy and theology, he was able to render the Ismaili theological literature in a masterly manner.” Indeed, the religious thought of the Alamut period of Ismaili history has only survived in the works of Nasir al-Din Tusi.Dr. Badakhchani notes that Tusi’s employment of the Persian language ensured his appreciation by the Ismaili da‘wa of the time.
The third and longest of the treatises collected in this latest volume, Origin and Destination (Aghaz wa anjam),is notable for Tusi’s spiritual and hermeneutical exegesis of the Qur’anic doctrine of Qiyama (Resurrection), including his perspectives on the sounding of the Trumpet and the in-gathering for Resurrection, the reading of the Scroll of Deeds, Heaven and Hell, angels and Satan, the rivers of Paradise, the Tree of Bliss and its counterpart the Infernal Tree, etc. Tusi’s interpretations are quite distinctive from those of the Sunni and the Twelver Shi‘i authors of his time.
Dr. Badakchani believes that the picture of Tusi’s Ismaili writings will not be complete, “without translating Muhtashamid Ethics (Akhlagh-i Muhtashami), Attributes of the Noble (Awsaf al-ashraf) and Tusi’s commentary on Ibn Sina’s most famous philosophical work, The Remarks and Admonitions (al-Isharat wa al-tanbihat).” In addition to these, he sees The Nasirean Ethics (Akhlaq-i -Nasiri) and the treatise on Free Will and Predestination(Jabr wa ikhtiyar)as deserving re-translation.
Shi‘i Interpretations of Islam: Three Treatises on Islamic Theology and Eschatology will be of special interest to scholars and students of Ismaili studies, Shi‘a literature and the tradition of Islamic eschatology in general.
Spiritual Quest: Reflections on Daily Prayers in the Traditions of Shi'i Islam (I.I.S. Occasional Papers) [Paperback]
R. Shah Kazemi (Author)
The Qur'an is the sacramental foundation of prayer in Islam. Its inspirational power is perpetually renewed through being recited and meditated upon by Muslims on a daily basis throughout their lives. This succinct and readable study offers unique contemporary insights into the spiritual, intellectual and moral interplay set in motion by the short Qur'anic chapters that are recited in their prayers by Muslims of all traditions, but which are particularly recommended within Shi'i Islam. Reza Shah-Kazemi engages closely and creatively with the Qur'anic chapters, basing his philosophical reflections on traditional exegetical principles, and focusing in particular on the relationship between the moral and the mystical aspects of the texts. The result is a stimulating meditation that probes the depths of meaning contained within the verses of a revelation by which the spiritual life of Muslims has for many centuries been nourished and fulfilled.
About the Author
Reza Shah-Kazemi is a Research Associate at the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London, where he specializes in Sufism, Shi'ism and comparative mysticism. His books include Justice and Remembrance: Introducing the Spirituality of Imam Ali (I.B.Tauris, 2007), Doctrines of Shi'i Islam (I.B.Tauris, 2001), and Avicenna (1997). He has published numerous articles in academic journals.
IIS Publishes The Spirituality of Shi`i Islam
rightAs part of its on-going commitment to the field of Shi`i Studies, the IIS is pleased to announce the publication of The Spirituality of Shi`i Islam: Beliefs and Practices, a study that illuminates the centrality and creativity of the very nature of spirituality to the development of Shi`i Islam, as well as to classical Muslim civilisation as a whole.
Despite critical studies on Shi`i Islam having increased in scope in the last few decades, to this day most Shi`i beliefs and practices remain relatively unknown and poorly understood. One reason for this is that Western specialists in this field make up no more than thirty in number, in addition to a few rare Shi`i scholars who apply historico-critical methodology and publish only in languages of Muslim-majority countries. This depicts a limited scope when compared with the hundreds of scholars specialising in Sunni Islam who, for more than a century and a half, have been studying a wide range of disciplines in the relevant areas of Arabic and Islamic studies. As a result, one of the richest intellectual and spiritual traditions in Islam, made up of the lives and work of thousands of brilliant theologians, exegetes, philosophers, artists, scholars, jurists, mystics and men of letters has remained largely obscured.
Professor of Classical Islamic Theology and Qur'anic Studies at the Ecole Pratique des hautes Etudes, Sorbonne (Paris) and Senior Research Fellow at The Institute of Ismaili Studies (London), Mohammad Ali Amir-Moezzi is one of few scholars who has managed to bridge the gap between East and West, and is widely recognised as one of the most distinguished scholars of Shi`i history and theology currently at work. With The Spirituality of Shi`i Islam he has provided an introduction to the spiritual and veiled aspects of Shi`ism.
These aspects have contributed significantly to the dearth of scholarship on Shi`i Islam because it has historically defined itself in its core sources as an essentially mystical and spiritual doctrine that does not reveal itself easily. In a tradition that is traced back to many of the Shi`i imams, it is stated: `Our teaching is secret, it is a secret about a secret. It includes an exoteric (zahir), esoteric (batin) and esoteric of the esoteric (batin al-batin) dimension.' Mohammad Ali Amir-Moezzi has written a work that is pioneering in its import and an invaluable contribution to the field of Shi`i Studies, for academics, students and laypersons alike.
Shi'ism is the second most numerous branch of Islam in the modern world, with between 130 and 190 million adherents across the globe. Shi'i Islam is becoming an increasingly significant and resurgent force in contemporary politics, especially in the Middle East. This makes a good and informed treatment of its fundamental spiritual beliefs and practices both necessary and timely. Mohammad Ali Amir-Moezzi is one of the most distinguished scholars of Shi'i history and theology currently at work, and in this volume he offers precisely such a wide-ranging and engaging survey of the core texts of Shi'i Islam. Examining in turn the origins and later developments of Shi'i spirituality, the author reveals the profoundly esoteric nature of the beliefs which accrued to the figures of the Imams, and which became associated with the latters' interaction between material and spiritual worlds. These beliefs were often designated as being ghulat, or "extreme," by other Muslims, and as a result of such criticisms from within the tradition they have remained little known and much misunderstood. Furthermore, Western scholarship has tended to follow the lead of the earlier Islamic critics, viewing these concepts as deviant and marginal. The author shows, by contrast, how central an imaginative and creative spirituality was to the development of Shi'i Islam, as well as to classical Islamic civilization, as a whole. In this comprehensive treatment, the esoteric nature of Shi'i spirituality is an essential factor in understanding Shi'ism.
About the Author
Mohammad Ali Amir-Moezzi is a Director of Studies at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes at the Sorbonne, where he is Professor of Shi'i Muslim Exegesis and Theology, and joint Director of the Centre d'Etude des Religions du Livre/Laboratoire d'Etudes sur les Monotheismes (CNRS-EPHE).
Last edited by kmaherali on Wed May 04, 2011 11:06 am, edited 1 time in total
On Music: An Arabic Critical Edition and English Translation of Epistle 5
Professor Owen Wright
Oxford University Press in Association with The Institute of Ismaili Studies, 2011
ISBN (Hardback): 9780199593989
Download Introduction (434 KB)
The Ikhwan al-Safa (Brethren of Purity), the anonymous adepts of a tenth-century esoteric fraternity based in Basra and Baghdad, hold an eminent position in the history of science and philosophy in Islam due to the wide reception and assimilation of their monumental encyclopaedia, the Rasail Ikhwan al-Safa (Epistles of the Brethren of Purity). This compendium contains fifty-two epistles offering synoptic accounts of the classical sciences and philosophies of the age; divided into four classificatory parts, it treats themes in mathematics, logic, natural philosophy, psychology, metaphysics, and theology, in addition to didactic fables. The Rasail constitutes a paradigmatic legacy in the canonization of philosophy and the sciences in mediaeval Islamic civilization, as well as having shown a permeating influence in Western culture.
The present volume is the third of this definitive series consisting of the very first critical edition of the Rasail Arabic, complete with the first fully annotated English translation. Prepared by Professor Owen Wright, Epistle 5: ‘On Music’ presents technical concepts such as rhythm, tone, and metre, alongside more subtle aspects such as the psychological applications drawn from the fourfold theory of humours and the correspondence of numeric proportions, which emphasize the Ikhwan’s view of music as ultimately spiritual in nature.
IIS Publishes Nasir Khusraw’s Zad al-Musafirin in Tajik
The Central Asian Studies unit of the IIS, in collaboration with the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts of the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Tajikistan (AST), has published a new Tajik edition of Nasir Khusraw’s Zad al-Musafirin: The Nourishment of the Wayfarers.
This is the second publication in Tajik after Nasir Khusraw’s Diwan of poetry which was published in 2009. The present volume incorporates a comprehensive glossary of archaic and philosophical terms which make the edition accessible to Tajik readership.
A celebrated philosopher, poet and traveller, Nasir Khusraw has captivated the hearts and minds of many generations of scholars, thinkers and philosophers for almost a thousand years. In addition to his Diwan of poetry, six doctrinal treatises in Persian prose have survived. He has been known in Tajikistan as a great Tajik and Persian poet and philosopher, but it is only in the post-Soviet period that his philosophical and doctrinal works have become accessible to the Tajik readership. Since the celebration in 2003 of the millennium anniversary of Nasir Khusraw’s birth, the intellectual legacy of the philosopher is increasingly gaining prominence and draws the interest of scholars in Tajikistan and elsewhere.
Zad al-Musafirin is among the earliest works of Nasir Khusraw, written after his return from Cairo and settlement in the Yumgan valley of Badakhshan. The treatise is considered his most significant work in terms of coverage of his philosophical and theoretical framework as well as his worldview. This work also touches upon many philosophical and historical issues while introducing and exploring various philosophical schools of his time.
The treatise comprises an introduction and 27 chapters. Describing the purpose of composing Zad al-Musafirin, Nasir Khusraw states in the introduction:
The wise traveller should explore where he came from and where he will go. And when he understands where he came from and where he would end up, he will know what is required for the journey. Therefore, a human being should acquire provision for the journey, because a traveller without food is prone to death, and the Almighty Allah has said: ‘Take a provision with you for the journey, but the best of the provisions is piety.’ (2:197)
Publication of the original works of Nasir Khusraw provides an important resource for the understanding and exploration of the philosophical issues which he grappled with in the 10th century. His works depict the formidable debate amongst philosophers and theologians on a range of themes, some of which retain their significance even today.
Zad al-Musafirin was edited by scholars from the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts of AST, Dr. Amriyazdon Alimardonov, Dr. Saidanvar Shokhumorov, and Dr. Tojiniso Murodova. Regrettably, the first two of these scholars passed away before the publication of the volume, which is dedicated to their memory.
A Modern History of the Ismailis: Continuity and Change in a Muslim Community (Ismaili Heritage Series) [Hardcover]
Farhad Daftary (Editor)
The Ismailis have enjoyed a long, eventful and complex history dating back to the 8eigth century CE and originating in the Shi'i tradition of Islam. During the medieval period, Ismailis of different regions--especially in central Asia, south Asia, Iran and Syria--developed and elaborated their own distinctive literary and intellectual traditions, which have made an outstanding contribution to the culture of Islam as a whole. At the same time, the Ismailis in the Middle Ages split into two main groups who followed different spiritual leaders. The Nizari Ismailis came to have a line of imams now represented by the Agha Khans, while the Tayyibi Ismailis – known in South Asia as the Bohras – came to be led by da'is (vicegerents of the concealed imams).
This collection is the first scholarly attempt to survey the modern history of both Ismaili groupings since the middle of the 19th century. It covers a variety of topical issues and themes, such as the modernizing policies of the Aga Khans, and also includes original studies of regional developments in Ismaili communities worldwide. The contributors focus too on how the Ismailis as a religious community have responded to the twin challenges of modernity and emigration to the West.
A Modern History of the Ismailis will be welcomed as the most complete assessment yet published of the recent trajectory of this fascinating and influential Shi'i community.
About the Author
Farhad Daftary is Associate Director and Head of the Department of Academic Research and Publications at the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London. An international authority on Ismaili studies, his many acclaimed books in the field include The Ismailis: Their History and Doctrines, The Assassin Legends: Myths of the Ismailis, and A Short History of the Ismailis.
A Modern History of the Ismailis: Continuity and Change in a Muslim Community
Dr Farhad Daftary
I. B. Tauris Publishers in association with The Institute of Ismaili Studies, London 2010.
ISBN (Hardback): Hardback
Publication page on Google Books
The second largest Shi‘i Muslim community after the Ithna‘ashari or Twelvers, the Ismailis have had a long and complex history dating back to the formative period of Islam. Subsequently, they became subdivided into a number of major branches and minor groups. However, since the beginning of the 12th century CE, the Ismailis have existed in terms of two main branches, the Nizaris and the Tayyibi Must‘alians, who have been respectively designated as Khojas and Bohras in South Asia. The Tayyibis themselves were in due course split into the dominant Da’udi and minority Sulaymani and ‘Alavi communities. Currently, the Ismailis of different communities are dispersed as religious minorities in more than 25 countries of Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and North America.
Numbering several millions, the Ismailis represent a diversity of ethnicities and literary traditions, and speak a variety of languages and dialects. The majoritarian Nizari Ismaili community now recognises His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan IV as their 49th hereditary Imam or spiritual leader. The Da’udi, Sulaymani and ‘Alavi Tayyibi Ismailis are led by different lines of da‘is with supreme authority while all the Tayyibi Imams have remained in concealment and are inaccessible to their followers.
Until the middle of the 20th century, the Ismailis were by and large misrepresented with a variety of myths and legends circulating about their teachings and practices. This was due to the fact that they were almost exclusively studied and evaluated, in both Western and Muslim countries, on the basis of evidence collected or fabricated by their detractors. These perceptions of the Ismailis have been drastically revised, however, by the results of modern scholarship in Ismaili studies, based on an increasing number of manuscript sources produced in different phases of Ismaili history. The rich and varied Ismaili literature recovered and studied in modern times, especially since the 1940s, has particularly enhanced our knowledge of the mediaeval history and traditions of the Ismailis.
But the modern period in Ismaili history, covering approximately the last two centuries, has not received its deserved share of benefit from the recent progress in Ismaili studies. A major reason for this stems from the fact that adequate textual sources on the modern history of the Ismailis in various regions have not always been available, while it remains extremely difficult for non-Ismaili scholars who do not have the relevant language skills to tap into the rich oral traditions existing in the regions where the Ismailis have lived for centuries.
In sum, it seems that a suitable modern history of the Ismailis still awaits much preparatory work. Only then may we begin to have a better understanding of the evolution of the Ismaili communities of various regions together with their heritage and literary traditions. A Modern History of the Ismailis represents a first attempt in that direction.
This book contains chapters on the modern history of the Nizari Ismailis of several regions where these communities have traditionally lived. These chapters are mostly written by Ismaili scholars, both young and well established, who have the necessary language skills as well as familiarity with these communities’ oral and literary traditions. There is a chapter devoted to the issue of Nizari settlement in the West, an important phenomenon since the mid-twentieth century. A few chapters also deal with the reforms and institutional initiatives of the last two Nizari Imams, Aga Khan III and Aga Khan IV, and their achievements.
A separate section is devoted to the modern history of the Tayyibi Must‘alian Ismailis, now dominated by the Da’udi Bohras of South Asia. The authors of the Tayyibi chapters too are well placed as young scholars belonging to a prominent family within the leadership hierarchy of the Da’udi Bohra community and, as such, have had access to the sources of information required for approaching their subjects.
These collected studies should not be taken to represent the final word on their subject matters. Several chapters, in fact, may reflect work in progress, as the state of our knowledge on modern Ismaili history is still continuously undergoing revision and enhancement. One main aim here, as with all research and publications at the Institute, has been to facilitate scholarship and to contribute to further progress in the field of Ismaili studies.
Mount of Knowledge, Sword of Eloquence: Collected Poems of an Ismaili Muslim Scholar in Fatimid Egypt (Ismaili Texts and Translations)
A distinguished scholar, author and statesman, al-Mu'ayyad fi'l-Din al-Shirazi (1000-1078 CE) lived during one of the most turbulent periods in Islamic history. The 11th-century was characterized, among other things, by an acute struggle for supremacy between the Sunni and Shi'a braches of Islam, represented politically by the 'Abbasid and Fatimid caliphates. Al-Mu'ayyad was originally a Fatimid missionary; but his outstanding intellectual and literary skills eventually gained him important positions in the Fatimid administration. Eventually he attained the highest ranks in the religious hierarchy, and won widespead acclaim for his scholarship and sagacity. "The Diwan", the work here translated, is notable for its exceptional poetic quality and covers a wide range of facinating political and religious issues, from al-Mu'ayyad's intellectual disputations to devotions in praise of the Prophet Muhammad and his family. This first complete English translation seeks to recapture some of the poetic power and flavour of one of the undoubted masterpieces of medieval Arabic literature.
About the Author
Mohamed Adra is an independent scholar of Ismaili literature based in Salmiyya, Syria. A graduate of Damascus University, he is currently preparing an English translation of the first volume of al-Mu'ayyad's al-Majalis al-Mu'ayaddiya (The Counsels of al-Mu'ayyad).
I. B. Tauris Publishers in association with The Institute of Ismaili Studies, London 2011.
ISBN (Hardback): 978 1 84885 626 4
Publication page on Google Books
Dedicated to the achievements of Dr Farhad Daftary, a leading authority on Ismaili Studies and eminent scholar of Islamic history, this volume brings together a number of studies on Islamic intellectual and political history, particularly in the three areas where his scholarship has had the greatest impact – Ismaili Studies, Persian Studies and the wider context of Shi‘i Studies.
The volume covers issues in the fields of history, thought and language focusing, though not exclusively, on the intellectual contributions of the Ismailis and their role in broader Islamic history. It includes discussions on subjects ranging from early Ismaili texts, the scholars of the Fatimid and Alamut eras of Ismaili history, Persian contributions to Islamic culture and literature, the presence of the Central Asian Turks and the Franks in lands under Muslim dominion, and aspects of Shi‘i thought in the Safavid era.
Edited by Omar Ali-de-Unzaga
The contributors include:
I. Afshar, H. Algar, M. A. Amir-Moezzi, S. J. Badakhchani, C. Baffioni, C. E. Bosworth, D. Cortese, P. Crone, D. De Smet, R. Gleave, H. Haji, I. Hajnal, A. H. Hamdani, C. Hillenbrand, A. C. Hunsberger, H. Landolt, L. Lewisohn, W. Madelung, A. Nanji, A. J. Newman, I. K. Poonawala and P. E. Walker.
Fortresses of the Intellect: Ismaili and Other Islamic Studies in Honour of Farhad Daftary (Hardback)
(ISBN: 1848856261 )
Brand New Book with Free Worldwide Delivery. Dedicated to the achievements of Farhad Daftary, the foremost authority in Ismaili Studies of our time, this volume gathers together a number of studies on intellectual and political history, particularly in the three main areas where the significance of Daftary's scholarship has had the largest impact-Ismaili Studies as well as Persian Studies and Shi'i Studies in a wider context. It focuses, but not exclusively, on the intellectual production of the Ismailis and their role in history, with discussions ranging from some of the earliest Ismaili texts, to thinkers from the Fatimid and the Alamut periods as well as relations of the Fatimids with other dynasties. Containing essays from some of the most respected scholars in Ismaili, Shi'i and Persian Studies (including Patricia Crone, M A Amir-Moezzi, C Edmund Bosworth and Robert Gleave), the book makes a significant contribution to wider scholarship in philosophical theology and medieval Islam. Bookseller Inventory # AA79781848856264
Dedicated to the achievements of Farhad Daftary, the foremost authority in Ismaili Studies of our time, this volume gathers together a number of studies on intellectual and political history, particularly in the three main areas where the significance of Daftary's scholarship More...
IIS Publishes Arabic Critical Edition of al-Maqrizi’s Itti‘az al-hunafa’
The IIS is pleased to announce the publication of Itti‘az al-hunafa’ bi-akhbar al-a’imma al-Fatimiyyin al-khulafa’ (Lessons for the Seekers of Truth on the History of the Fatimid Imams and Caliphs) by the great Mamluk-era historian Taqi al-Din al-Maqrizi (d.1442 CE).
The Itti‘az is perhaps the most important single primary source for the history of the Fatimids. Although the Fatimids had long ceased to exist by the time of al-Maqrizi, he nonetheless endeavoured to investigate this Shi‘i dynasty and its reign with care and sympathy, although he was himself a Sunni Muslim. He tried to avoid sectarian partisanship whilst seeking accuracy and fairness in historical documentation. The Itti‘az is also unique amongst al-Maqrizi’s writings in the sense that it was devoted exclusively to Fatimid historiography.
This classical source in historiography is presented in a four-volume Arabic critical edition that is primarily based on manuscripts from the collections housed at the IIS Library, and forms part of the Institute’s Ismaili Texts and Translations Series. This edition of the Itti‘az was edited by the distinguished Egyptian scholar, Professor Ayman Fu’ad Sayyid, who is one of the foremost authorities on Fatimid history in Egypt as well as on al-Maqrizi’s corpus. The volumes are also prefaced with a synoptic English introduction by Professor Paul E. Walker.
Al-Maqrizi’s Itti‘az presents comprehensive historical accounts from the earliest periods of Muslim history until the end of the Fatimid epoch. The first volume includes biographies of the early Ismaili Imams and traces their genealogy to the first Shi‘i Imam, ‘Ali b. Abi Talib (d. 661 CE), taking into account key periods in Ismaili history such as the dawr al-satr, or period of concealment, the initiation of the Ismaili da‘wa in Yemen and North Africa, the establishment of the Fatimid state in 909 CE, and the era of the Fatimid Imam-Caliphs al-Mu‘izz li-Din Allah and al-‘Aziz bi’llah (d.996 CE).
The second volume deals with the rule of the Fatimid Imam-Caliphs al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah (d. 1021 CE), al-Zahir li-I‘zaz Din Allah (d. 1035 CE), and al-Mustansir bi’llah (d. 1094 CE). The dispute over Imam al-Mustansir’s succession, which revolved around the claims of the eldest son Abu Mansur Nizar, who had been designated as the successor, and his much younger half-brother Abu’l Qasim Ahmad al-Musta‘li bi’llah, caused a split in the Ismaili community. The third volume focuses on the eras of al-Musta‘li bi’llah (d.1101 CE) whose followers continued in Egypt as the Fatimids and then successive Musta‘lian imams in this line, al-Amir bi-Ahkam Allah (d.1130 CE), al-Hafiz li-Din-Allah (d.1149 CE), al-Zafir bi-Amr Allah (d.1154 CE), al-Fa‘iz bi- Nasr Allah (d.1160 CE), and al-‘Adid li-Din Allah (d.1171 CE). Finally, the fourth volume presents detailed indexes covering names, terms, places and urban sites in Fatimid Cairo, including specific topographies and architectural settings, the particulars of governmental offices, ranks and titles of nobility, tribal affiliations, inventories of palatial possessions and even types of food and diets. Supported by an extensive bibliography, this volume also includes Qur’anic and poetic verses, names of manuscript authors and book titles.
This publication represents a major achievement in scholarship on the history of Egypt in its Fatimid period (969 –1171 CE), and is the outcome of an ongoing institutional collaboration between the Institut Français du Proche Orient (IFPO) in Damascus, Syria and the IIS. The Itti‘az also complements the joint IIS-IFPO publication of ‘Uyun al-akhbar, published in seven volumes. Both projects were coordinated by Dr Nader El-Bizri and Dr Sarab Atassi-Khattab.
Related Pages on the IIS website:
Publication Content: Towards a Shi‘i Mediterranean Empire: Fatimid Egypt and the Founding of Cairo
News Archive: IIS Publishes an Account of Imam –Caliph al-Mui ‘zz’s Reign
Gallery: ‘Uyun al-akhbar from the Sayyidi Muhammad ‘Ali Hamdani Collection
IIS Publishes A Companion to Muslim Cultures
The IIS is pleased to announce the publication of A Companion to Muslim Cultures, edited by Dr Amyn B. Sajoo. The third in the Muslim Heritage Series, this volume embarks on a journey that celebrates the many ways in which Muslims live and understand their faith.
At the heart of A Companion to Muslim Cultures is the idea that culture frames the relationship between God and the believer, as well as how believers relate to one another and to those amongst whom they live. The book takes the reader into the creative realms of architecture and book arts, music, technology and cosmopolitanism, the richly textured nature of the shari‘a and even culinary styles and etiquette. With numerous images, it locates these themes in their historical context as well as in today’s Muslim landscapes, including the Western diaspora. Pluralism emerges as a core reality of what Islam has fostered in civilisations and communities across time — even as the umma seeks avenues of solidarity in an age of global dispersal.
An accomplished group of writers have strived to make the chapters in this Companion accessible in style, yet firmly grounded in sound scholarship. The book will appeal to both academics and students with an interest in how culture and faith have intertwined in shaping one of the world’s great religious traditions and indeed their shared experience of modernity.
The contributors include Abdullahi An-Na’im, Jonathan Bloom, Elena Caprioni, Morgan Clarke, Carl Ernst, Karim H. Karim, Hussein Keshani, Eva Sajoo, Amyn B. Sajoo, Jonathan Shannon, Earle Waugh and Mai Yamani.
Related Pages on the IIS website:
News Story: IIS Launches A Companion to Muslim Ethics in Canada and the UK
Video: Interview with Dr Amyn Sajoo
Publication Content: A Companion to the Muslim World
IIS Launches Hamdani Collection Catalogue in London
The IIS launched one of its new publications, Arabic, Persian and Gujarati Manuscripts: The Hamdani Collection, at the Ismaili Centre in London. The publication is a catalogue of rare and unique manuscripts generously donated by Professor Abbas Hamdani to the Library of the IIS.
These manuscripts were compiled by several generations of Indian religious scholars from the Hamdani family, and reflect important doctrinal and cultural changes through the centuries as well as the social history of the family from the Da’udi Bohra community in India and the Yemen.
The event began with Opening Remarks by Professor Eric Ormsby, Deputy Head of the Department of Academic Research and Publications at the IIS, who facilitated the receipt of the Hamdani collection and its transfer to the IIS. He introduced Professor Abbas Hamdani, one of the main speakers at the launch event, along with the editor of the catalogue, Professor François de Blois.
Professor Hamdani provided an insightful account of his family’s collection of manuscripts through the centuries describing the challenge of accumulating this collection from various members of the family world-wide. In this regard, he also discussed a second collection of manuscripts that he was hoping to gather and also donate to the IIS. Professor Hamdani thanked Professor de Blois for his efforts in cataloguing the complex collection with care and attention.
Professor François de Blois then made an in-depth presentation on the seven generations of scholars in the Hamdani family who were instrumental in putting the collection together. He also detailed the contents of the collection and discussed several manuscripts in detail, explaining their provenance and symbolism and using images of the originals to illustrate his points.
Professor de Blois emphasised the significance of the Hamdani collection for both the preservation of Ismaili heritage and for the wider field of Shi‘i studies. The presentation was followed by questions from the audience, which included scholars in the field and members of the local Ismaili community. Professors de Blois and Hamdani also signed copies of the catalogue for members of the audience.
Arabic, Persian and Gujarati Manuscripts: The Hamdani Collection follows on from other catalogues of manuscripts in the Institute’s collection:
Catalogue of Arabic Manuscripts Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 by Adam Gacek
Ismaili and Other Arabic Manuscripts by Delia Cortese
Arabic Ismaili Manuscripts: The Zahid ‘Ali Collection by Delia Cortese
Related Pages on the IIS Website:
News Archive, 2011: IIS Publishes a Catalogue of the Hamdani Collection
Gallery: The Sayyidi Muhammad ‘Ali Hamdani Collection
News Archive, 2007: IIS Receives the Hamdani Collection of Rare Manuscripts
Lifelong Learning Articles
Ethics in Action: The Role of Waqf in Early Muslim Society
Mr Hasan Al-Khoee
This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared in issues of The Ismaili magazine in December 2010 and March 2011.
In this article the author references certain key hadiths of Prophet Muhammad, Qur’anic verses and examples from the Prophet’s sunna to highlight the importance in Islam of an ethical standpoint in all walks of life including giving charity, helping the poor and needy, and aiding those who are unable to care for themselves. The article also explores the importance, particularly in Shi‘i Islam, of the waqf, a legal document that sets aside certain property or resources for the purpose of a perpetual endowment, to be used for the betterment of the community.
The Vernacular Qur’an: Translation and the Rise of Persian Exegesis
Oxford University Press in Association with The Institute of Ismaili Studies, London 2012.
ISBN (Hardback): 978-0-19-726512-3
This book examines how early juridical and theological debates on translatability and the nature of revelation and language informed the development of Persian translations and commentaries of the Qur’an. While it is generally believed that Muslims were averse to translating the Qur’an, the historical record proves to be much more nuanced. Through a study of a range of sources, spanning from the eighth to thirteenth centuries CE, this book re-evaluates the role of translation in spheres of ritual praxis, religious conversion and Qur’anic hermeneutics.
The Vernacular Qur’an explores the history behind the juridical resistance to translating the Qur’an, the theological debates concerning the nature of the divine speech and the rise of Persian exegetical translations. These early translations retained the original Arabic text of the Qur’an through the interlinear and marginal presentation of the vernacular, thereby preserving the sacred script while expanding the text, making it accessible to a wider audience.
Travis Zadeh gives a thorough overview of the development of Persian exegetical writing, from rhyming translations to major commentaries. He begins with the emergence of New Persian literature in the tenth century CE and traces its development over the ensuing centuries as the use of Persian came to rival Arabic in courts and in institutions of religious education.
Through a series of detailed case studies, this book explores the relationship between Qur’anic hermeneutics and vernacular cultures, the religious elite, institutions of education and dynastic authority. It presents for the first time to an English readership a broad array of archival material, drawn from the Middle East, Central Asia and South Asia, covering several centuries of Islamic history.
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