Publication

  • 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 Rasa‘il 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.

    Epistles 32 to 36 constitute the first five treatises in the third division of the Rasa‘il, on the sciences of the soul and intellect. Combining Islamic revelation with Hellenistic philosophy, the Ikhwan delineate herein their metaphysical system. Epistles 32 and 33 present adaptations of Pythagorean doctrines, and of Neoplatonist leitmotifs, whereby a numerical analogy is applied to the unique and transcendent God, or the One, from whom all existence emanates. Epistle 34 takes up the pervasive theme of the correspondence between microcosm and macrocosm, situating the human being as the central link between the celestial and terrestrial realms. In Epistle 35, we find an explanation of the intellectual faculties of the individual human soul, whose ultimate aim is ascension to the timeless reality of pure intellect. Finally, Epistle 36 presents itself as the astrological epistle par excellence of the Rasail, from the coming-to-be of worms, to the emergence of religions and empires, nothing in the sub-lunar sphere escapes the determining influence of the celestial cycles.

  • Foreword

    Paul E. Walker

     

     

    Introduction to Epistles 32 and 33

    xv

    1

     

    Epistle 32a

    15

     

    Epistle 32b

    25

     

    Epistle 33

    39

    Ismail K. Poonawala

    Introduction to Epistle 34

    53

    David Simonowitz

    Epistle 34

    81

    Paul E. Walker

    Introduction to Epistle 35

    109

     

    Epistle 35

    115

    Godefroid de Callataÿ

    Introduction to Epistle 36

    137

     

    Epistle 36

    191

    Bibliography

     

    235

    Index

     

    249

    Index Locorum

     

    269

    ARABIC PART

     

     

    Paul E. Walker

    Risala 32a

    Risala 32b

    Risāla 33

    [Arabic pagination 5–15]

    [Arabic pagination 16–33] [Arabic pagination 35–50]

    Ismail K. Poonawala

    Risala 34

    [Arabic pagination 51–103]

    Paul E. Walker

    Risala 35

    [Arabic pagination 105–129]

    Godefroid de Callataÿ

    Risala 36

    [Arabic pagination 131–196]

    Arabic Subject Index

     

    [Arabic pagination 197–202]

     

  • Paul E. Walker

    English
    An historian of ideas with a focus on Mediaeval Islamic History, Paul E. Walker has taught at McGill University, Columbia University and the University of Michigan. For several years Dr Walker was the Director of the American Research Centre in Egypt, and is currently a Visiting Scholar with the University of Chicago's Center for Middle Eastern Studies. He has authored and edited many books on Fatimid history and the formative period of Ismaili thought including Early Philosophical Shi'ism (Cambridge University Press, 1993), The Wellsprings of Wisdom: A Study of Abu Yaqub al-Sijistani's Kitab...Read more

    Godefroid de Callataÿ

    English
    Godefroid de Callataÿ is Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the Oriental Institute of the University of Louvain. He received his doctorate from The Warburg Institute, University of London and is the author of numerous monographs and articles dealing with science and philosophy. He has specialised in the history of Arabic sciences and philosophy, and the role played by Islam in the transmission of knowledge from Greek Antiquity to the Latin West during the Middle Ages. Amongst other subjects, he is the author of numerous articles and books on the Brethren of Purity, including his...Read more