The Institute of Ismaili Studies

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Dr Omar Ali-de-Unzaga


Dr Omar Ali-de-Unzaga is the Academic Coordinator of the Qur’anic Studies Unit and a Research Associate in the Department of Academic Research and Publications. He was a recipient of the IIS PhD Scholarship in 1999, and is currently involved in a number of research programmes and publications at the IIS.

Dr Ali-de-Unzaga completed a PhD at the University of Cambridge, on the use of the Qur’an in the Epistles of the Pure Brethren (Ikhwan al-Safa). His thesis analyses the classical sources that dealt with the authorship, influence and criticsm of the Epistles, and provides a study on the exegesis of the Epistles most quoted Qur’anic verses, as well as a discussion on the hermeneutical theory of the Ikhwan al-Safa. It also includes an annotated index of more than nine hundred Qur’anic quotations found in the Epistles.

Omar obtained a BA in English Philology from the Universidad Complutense of Madrid. He graduated from the Institute's Graduate Programme in Islamic Studies and Humanities in 1997. He completed his MPhil at the University of Cambridge, writing his dissertation on the 11th century poet Abu'l-Ala' al-Ma‘arri.

Dr Ali-de-Unzaga has taught a course at the University of Cambridge on the Ethics of the Ikhwan al-Safa. He is currently preparing a publication under the working title: A Philosophical Reading of Scripture: The Qur’an in the Epistles of the Pure Brethren, as well as a critical edition of the Arabic text, and an English translation, of the Epistle on Character Traits (al-Risala fi'l-Akhlaq) of the Ikhwan al-Safa' for the IIS/OUP Brethren of Purity Series. He has recently edited the volume Fortresses of the Intellect: Ismaili and Other Islamic Studies in Honour of Farhad Daftary(2011).
His other publications include:

-'Citational Exegesis of the Qur’an: Towards a theoretical framework for the construction of meaning in classical Islamic thought. The case of the Epistles of the Pure Brethren (Rasa'il Ikhwan al-Safa)', in The Construction of Belief: Comparative Perspectives. Reflections on the Thought of Mohammed Arkoun, edited by Aziz Esmail and Abdou Filali-Ansary (London: Saqi Books), forthcoming.

-'Brethren of Purity, 'in The Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought, ed. Gerhard Bowering with Patricia Crone, Wadad Kadi, Devin J. Stewart, Muhammad Qasim Zaman, and Mahan Mirza. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011), pp. 25-26.

-'Ikhwan al-Safa', Christian-Muslim Relations. A Bibliographical History. Volume 2 (900-1050), ed. David Thomas and Alex Mallett, with Juan Pedro Monferrer Sala, Johannes Pahlitzsch, Mark Swanson, Herman Teule, and John Tolan (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2010) (The History of Christian-Muslim Relations, 14), pp. 306-311. More

-'Foreword' to An Anthology of Qur’anic Commentaries. Vol. 1: On the Nature of the Divine, ed. Feras Hamza and Sajjad Rizvi with Farhana Mayer (London: Oxford University Press in association with the Institute of Ismaili Studies, 2008), p. xi.

-Review essay of Walid Saleh:The Formation of the Classical TafsirTradition: the Qur’an Commentary of al-Tha'labi(d. 427/1035), in Journal of Qur’anic Studies,8i (2006),pp. 119-25.

-'The conversation between Moses and God (munagat Musa) in the Epistles of the Pure Brethren (Rasa'il Ihwan al-Safa)', in Al-Kitab: La sacralité du texte dans le monde de l Islam. Actes du Symposium international tenu à Leuven et Louvain-la-Neuve du 29 mai au 1 juin 2002, ed. Daniel De Smet,Godefroyde Callataÿ and JanVan Reeth, (Acta Orientalia Belgica, Subsidia III, 2004), pp. 371-87.