Sufism, Black and White

A Critical Edition of Kitāb al-Bayāḍ wa-l-Sawād of Abū l-Ḥasan al-Sīrjānī (d. ca.470/1077)


Editors: Bilal Orfali and Nada Saab
This critical Arabic text edition of K. al-Bayāḍ wa-l-sawād min khaṣāʾiṣ ḥikam al-ʿibād fī naʿt al-murīd wa-l-murād ("The Black and White in the Words of Wisdom by Bondsmen Describing the Seeker and the Mystic Quest"), a substantial handbook of early Sufism by Abū l-Ḥasan ʿAlī b. al-Ḥasan al-Sīrjānī (d. ca. 470/1077), is based on three manuscripts and is introduced by a detailed analytical study of the author and his work. The work is written in the tone of a guiding Sufi master and collects the mystical tradition of early Sufis in the form of anecdotes and concise aphorisms to instill guiding wisdom into the hearts of aspiring Sufi adepts. K. al-Bayāḍ wa-l-sawād forms an integral part of Sufi literature and is an essential source for the intellectual history of Islam until the middle of the 5th/11th century.
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EUR €159.00USD $214.00

Biographical Note

Bilal Orfali, Ph.D. (2009), Yale University, is Assistant Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the American University of Beirut. He is the author of several articles and books on classical Arabic literature and Sufism.

Nada Saab, Ph.D. (2003), Yale University, is Assistant Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the Lebanese American University. Her research interests include medieval Sufi literature and theory, as well as the embodiments of this Sufi heritage in modern Arabic literature.

Review Quotes

“This book belongs in every library that presently includes Khargūshī, Sulamī, Hujvīrī, and Qushayrī.”
Christopher Melchert in Journal of Islamic Studies 24.2 (2013), 204-206.

"The book, which is an important Sufi manual, is highly recommended for scholars and students in the field of Islamic studies, Middle Eastern Studies, Islamic thought, Iranian studies and Sufism. It is a valuable addition to the field."
Eliza Tasbihi in The Muslim World Book Review 33.4 (2013).

“This meticulously executed critical edition of the Sufi treatise by an early Sufi master Abū l-Ḥasan al-Sīrjānī (d. ca. 470/1077), who hailed from the Iranian province of Kirmān, is a welcome addition to the body of early Sufi literature that has been growing steadily over the past few years. […]
Such a selfless dedication on the part of a scholar to making new Sufi texts available to his peers is highly commendable, to say the least. A mere look at the detailed and variegated indices appended to the critical text of Kitāb al-Bayāḍ wa-l-sawād and to Orfali’s other editions of Sufi works reveals the painstaking care and dedication that he and his co-editors have invested in their preparation.”
Alexander Knysh in Journal of Sufi Studies 3 (2014).

“Orfali and Saab are to be commended for their careful and nearly flawless Arabic text edition (pp. 1–411), which is followed by a series of useful indices citing the appropriate paragraphs for Qur’anic quotations (pp. 413–24), hadith traditions (pp. 425–34), place names (pp. 435–36), individuals mentioned in the text (pp. 438–63), verses quoted in the text (pp. 465–74), and, finally, Sufi technical terms (pp. 475–506).”
Th. Emil Homerin in Journal of Near Eastern Studies 73.2 (2014), pp. 370-371.
DOI: 10.1086/677269

“…the Orfali and Saab edition of Black and White is meticulously edited, and comes with a well-researched 50-page introduction which discusses Sirjani’s life, his style of writing, the role of the hikam in his work, the structure of the work, his sources, as well as the manuscripts that were used.”
Atif Khalili in Studies in Religion / Sciences Religieuses Vol. 45, 1 (2016), p. 79-80.

"The editors must be thanked for having put at our disposal this important source for the history of Islamic mysticism."
Francesco Chiabotti in: Al-Abhath 64 (2016)

Table of contents




1. Abū l-Ḥasan ʿAlī b. al-Ḥasan al-Kirmānī al-Sīrjānī, His Life, and Legacy

2. K. al-Bayāḍ wa-l-sawād

2.1. The Author’s Voice
2.2. Problematics of the Title of K. al-Bayāḍ wa-l-sawād
2.3. Signification of Color in K. al-Bayāḍ wa-l-sawād
2.4. Ḥikma as a Guiding and Transforming Agent
2.5. The Construction of K. al-Bayāḍ wa-l-sawād
2.6. The ‘History’ of the Sufis
2.7. Conclusion of K. al-Bayāḍ wa-l-sawād
2.8. Sources of K. al-Bayāḍ wa-l-sawād

3. The Manuscripts of K. al-Bayāḍ wa-l-sawād

3.1. MS Landberg 64 “ب”
3.2. MS Āyat Allāh Marʿashī Najafī 117 “ق”
3.3. MS British Library Board Or 12632 “ل”

4. Technical Observations about the Critical Edition of K. al-Bayāḍ wa-l-sawād

5. Illustrations


All those interested in Sufism, Islamic Studies, Arabic Studies, and intellectual and social history.

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