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The Emergence of Early Sufi Piety and Sunnī Scholasticism

ʿAbdallāh b. al-Mubārak and the Formation of Sunnī Identity in the Second Islamic Century

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Feryal Salem

In the figure of ʿAbdallāh b. al-Mubārak (118–181/736–797), we find a paragon of the fields of ḥadīth, zuhd, and jihād, as attested to by the large number of references to him in the classical Islamic texts. His superior rank as a ḥadīth transmitter earned him the title “commander of the faithful” in ḥadīth. He contributed to Islamic law at its early phases of development, practiced jihād, composed poetry, and participated in various theological discussions. In addition, Ibn al-Mubārak was a pioneer in writing on piety and was later regarded by many mystics as one of the earliest figures of Sufism. Ibn al-Mubārak’s position during the formative period of Islamic thought illustrates the unique evolution of zuhd, ḥadīth, and jihād; these form a junction in the biography of Ibn al-Mubārak in a way that distinctively illuminates the second/eighth-century dynamics of nascent Sunnī identity. Furthermore, Ibn al-Mubārak’s status as a fighter and pious figure of the Late Antique period reveals a great deal about the complex relationship between the early Muslim community and the religiously diverse setting which it inhabited. This critical and comprehensive monograph of ʿAbdallāh b. al-Mubārak situates him within the larger context of the social and religious milieu of Late Antiquity. It explores the formation of Sunnī identity in the second Islamic century and demonstrates the way in which it manifested itself through networks of pious scholars who defined, preserved, and passed on what they understood to be normative Islamic practice and beliefs from one generation of Muslim intellectuals to another.

The Mongols' Middle East

Continuity and Transformation in Ilkhanid Iran

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Edited by Bruno De Nicola and Charles Melville

The Mongols’ Middle East: Continuity and Transformation in Ilkhanid Iran offers a collection of academic articles that investigate different aspects of Mongol rule in 13th- and 14th-century Iran. Sometimes treated only as part of the larger Mongol Empire, the volume focuses on the Ilkhanate (1258-1335) with particular reference to its relations with its immediate neighbours. It is divided into four parts, looking at the establishment, the internal and external dynamics of the realm, and its end. The different chapters, covering several topics that have received little attention before, aim to contribute to a better understanding of Mongol rule in the Middle East and its role in the broader medieval Eurasian world and its links with China.

With contributions by: Reuven Amitai, Michal Biran, Bayarsaikhan Dashdondog, Bruno De Nicola, Florence Hodous, Boris James, Aptin Khanbaghi, Judith Kolbas, George Lane, Timothy May, Charles Melville, Esther Ravalde, Karin Rührdanz

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Alexandra Dunietz

In The Cosmic Perils of Qadi Ḥusayn Maybudī in Fifteenth-Century Iran Alexandra Dunietz explores the life and works of a provincial judge during a time of tribal rivalries and millennial expectations. During the decades preceding the rise of the Safavid regime and the establishment of Shiʿism throughout Iran, Maybudī participated in a network of intellectuals, administrators, and mystics, wrote prolifically, and worked as a judge within the Ak Koyunlu sphere. Drawing upon Maybudī’s commentaries and correspondence, the work focuses on the judge’s education, complex commentary on the poetry of ʿAlī, the foundational figure of Shiʿism, his professional life, and his death during a rebellion against Safavid control of his hometown. Maybudī exemplified the natural development of relations between Sunnis and Shiis, provincial elites and central authorities, rationalist philosophers and devotees of the esoteric.

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Edited by Christian Lange

Islam is often seen as a religious tradition in which hell does not play a particularly prominent role. This volume challenges this hackneyed view. Locating Hell in Islamic Traditions is the first book-length analytic study of the Muslim hell. It maps out a broad spectrum of Islamic attitudes toward hell, from the Quranic vision(s) of hell to the pious cultivation of the fear of the afterlife, theological speculations, metaphorical and psychological understandings, and the modern transformations of hell.

Contributors: Frederick Colby, Daniel de Smet, Christiane Gruber, Jon Hoover, Mohammad Hassan Khalil, Christian Lange, Christopher Melchert, Simon O’Meara, Samuela Pagani, Tommaso Tesei, Roberto Tottoli, Wim Raven, and Richard van Leeuwen.

Islam and Rationality

The Impact of al-Ghazālī. Papers collected on his 900th Anniversary. Vol. 2

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Frank Griffel

Al-Ghazālī (d. 505/1111) is one of the most influential thinkers of Islam. There is hardly a genre of Islamic literature where he is not regarded as a major authority. Islamic Law, Sufism, ethics, philosophy, and theology are all deeply shaped by him. Yet in the past thirty years, the field of Ghazālī-studies has been shaken by the realization that Avicenna (Ibn Sīnā, d. 428/1037) and other philosophers had a strong influence on him. Now, after the 900th anniversary at his death, the field emerges stronger than ever. This second volume of Islam and Rationality: The Impact of al-Ghazālī brings together twelve leading experts on al-Ghazālī who write about his thought and the impact it had on later Muslim thinkers.

Contributors are: Anna Ayşe Akasoy, Ahmed El Shamsy, Kenneth Garden, Frank Griffel, Jules Janssens, Damien Janos, Taneli Kukkonen, Stephen Ogden, M. Sait Özervarlı, Martin Riexinger, Ulrich Rudolph, and Ayman Shihadeh.

Majd al-Dīn al-Fīrūzābādī (1329-1415)

A Polymath on the Eve of the Early Modern Period

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Vivian Strotmann

In Majd al-Dīn al-Fīrūzābādī (1329-1415): A Polymath on the Eve of the Early Modern Period, Vivian Strotmann provides a detailed reconstruction of the famous lexicographer’s and travelling scholar’s life and works. The ‘author of the Qāmūs al-muḥīṭ’ is widely known for his Arabic lexicon, which overshadows the astounding breadth of his writing. This polymathic aspect is elucidated through detailed reconstruction of al-Fīrūzābādī’s corpus, including examination of works that were considered lost and misapprehensions concerning ascriptions of authorship. Through minute analysis of biographical sources, the book shows al-Fīrūzābādī’s development as a scholar, his central role in the defence of Ibn al-ʿArabī’s teachings and thereby his importance as a powerful intellectual in Timurid times and for developments during the Early Modern Period.

A Qurʾān Commentary by Ibn Barrajān of Seville (d. 536/1141)

Īḍāḥ al-ḥikma bi-aḥkām al-ʿibra (Wisdom Deciphered, the Unseen Discovered)

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Gerhard Böwering and Yousef Casewit

A Qurʾān Commentary by Ibn Barrajān of Seville (d. 536/1141) is a critical Arabic text edition of a medieval Muslim Qurʾān commentary entitled, Īḍāḥ al-ḥikma bi-aḥkām al-ʿibra ( Wisdom Deciphered, the Unseen Discovered). The annotated Arabic text is accompanied by an analytical introduction and an extensive subject index.

This Qurʾān commentary is Ibn Barrajān’s last and most esoteric work, and as such offers the most explicit articulation of his mystical and philosophical doctrines. It synthesizes his teachings, drawn from a wide array of Islamic disciplines, and provides a link between early Sufism and Muslim mysticism in medieval Spain (Andalusia). The Īḍāḥ moreover is the earliest known work of its kind to make extensive use of Arabic Biblical material as proof texts for Qurʾānic doctrines.

The Mystery of Prayer

The Ascension of the Wayfarers and the Prayer of the Gnostics

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Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini

Edited by Sayyid Amjad Hussain Shah Naqavi

Sayyid Amjad Hussain Shah Naqavi’s introduction and annotated scholarly translation of Ayatollah Khomeini’s The Mystery of Prayer brings to light a rarely studied dimension of an author better known for his revolutionary politics.

Writing forty years before the Islamic revolution, Khomeini shows a formidable level of insight into the spiritual aspects of Islamic prayer. Through discussions on topics such as spiritual purity, the presence of the heart before God, and the stations of the spiritual wayfarer, Khomeini elucidates upon the nature of reality as the countenance of the divine. Drawing upon scriptural sources and the Shīʿah intellectual and mystical tradition, the subtlety of the work has led to it being appreciated as one of Khomeini’s most original works in the field of gnosis.


Islam and Rationality

The Impact of al-Ghazālī. Papers Collected on His 900th Anniversary. Vol. I

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Edited by Georges Tamer

This volume offers an account of Abū Ḥāmid al-Ghazālī (d. 505/1111) as a rational theologian who created a symbiosis of philosophy and theology and infused rationality into Sufism. The majority of the papers herein deal with important topics of al-Ghazālī’s work, which demonstrate his rational treatment of the Qurʾān and major subjects of Islamic theology and everyday life of Muslims. Some other contributions address al-Ghazālī’s sources and how his intellectual endeavors were later received by scholars who had the same concern of reconciling religion and rationality within Islam, Christianity and Judaism.

With contributions by Binyamin Abrahamov, Hans Daiber, Ken Garden, Avner Giladi, Scott Girdner, Frank Griffel, Steven Harvey, Alfred Ivry, Jules Janssens, Taneli Kukkonen, Luis Xavier López-Farjeat, Wilferd Madelung, Yahya M. Michot, Yasien Mohamed, Eric Ormsby, M. Sait Özervarlı, and Hidemi Takahashi.

Living Knowledge in West African Islam

The Sufi Community of Ibrāhīm Niasse

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Zachary Valentine Wright

Living Knowledge in West African Islam examines the actualization of religious identity in the community of Ibrāhīm Niasse (d.1975, Senegal). With millions of followers throughout Africa and the world, the community arguably represents one of the twentieth century’s most successful Islamic revivals. Niasse’s followers, members of the Tijāniyya Sufi order, gave particular attention to the widespread transmission of the experiential knowledge (maʿrifa) of God. They also worked to articulate a global Islamic identity in the crucible of African decolonization.

The central argument of this book is that West African Sufism is legible only with an appreciation of centuries of Islamic knowledge specialization in the region. Sufi masters and disciples reenacted and deepened preexisting teacher-student relationships surrounding the learning of core Islamic disciplines, such as the Qurʾān and jurisprudence. Learning Islam meant the transformative inscription of sacred knowledge in the student’s very being, a disposition acquired in the master’s exemplary physical presence. Sufism did not undermine traditional Islamic orthodoxy: the continued transmission of Sufi knowledge has in fact preserved and revived traditional Islamic learning in West Africa.