Recent Publications – 2013
The Story of Islamic Philosophy
Salman Bashier, SUNY, New York, 2011
This excellent book takes an innovative approach to the whole tradition of Islamic philosophy. Whilst it is usually regarded as an attempt to reconcile Aristotelean philosophy, as transmitted from the ancient world, with the Islamic revelation, Bashier argues that equal emphasis should be put on Plato's philosophical mysticism, highlighting the importance of Ibn Ṭufayl, author of the famous Ḥayy Ibn Yaqzān and Ibn ʿArabī for mainstream Islamic philosophy. Following on from the themes he developed in his important first book Ibn ʿArabī's Barzakh (SUNY 2004), he maintains that:
"The story of Islamic philosophy is the story of the development of the human intellect from the rationalistic phases, represented... by al-Fārābī (d. 950) to an illuminative phase represented by Ibn Tufayl and Ibn ʿArabī... The central tenet of this model is that following a rigorous and thorough exercise of the rational faculty, the human reason reaches a certain limit and is flooded with light. The thinker who is brought to this liminal situation becomes aware of the limitations of his rational faculty and the possibility of obtaining knowledge by means of mystical illumination rather than mere rational conceptualization. This epistemological awareness is then extended to a comprehensive, liminal depiction of the ontological status of the world..." (p.1)
Thinking in the Language of Reality: Ṣadr al-dīn al-Qūnavī and the Mystical Philosophy of Reason
Anthony Shaker, Privately published, 2012, Kindle Version only available, from Amazon
This ground-breaking book is the first to undertake a systematic investigation into the thought of Sadr al-Dīn Qūnavī (1207-74 CE). The 'blurb' gives such an excellent summary of its main thrust that I quote it pretty much in full: "Ṣadr al-dīn Qūnavī was pivotal to the development of systematic philosophy, and indirectly contributed to the rise of fields of inquiry considered fundamental to our modern scientific outlook. He formed part of a wider critique of traditional Aristotelian epistemology which, Dr. Shaker argues, culminated in two historic "epistemological openings." The first stretched from the 10th to 15th centuries under the aegis of Islamic civilization (in a non-confessional sense). The second occurred on the continent of Europe between the 18th and mid-20th centuries. Dr.Shaker compares these two periods in his introduction, identifying key points of convergence and placing Qūnavī in a broad historical context. In his magnum opus, Kitāb Ijāza al bayān, Qūnavī takes as his point of departure the age-old problem of knowledge. Ibn Sīnā (Avicenna) had pithily declared man incapable of truly knowing 'the realities of things,' much less God, by theoretical reasoning alone. Taking up the challenge, Qūnavī shows under what conditions one may lay claim to such knowledge. He develops a paradigm that draws on the logical, linguistic and exegetical insights of his predecessors, especially Ibn ʿArabī. The resulting synthesis, which takes the unfolding Book of self-manifestation as the root of all knowledge, opens up the infinite possibilities offered by language for talking and thinking about 'reality.' More specifically, linguistic construction and meaning formation are coloured by an experiential dimension that has been hidden from formal logic."
Key Concepts in the Writings of Ibn Arabi and Hans-Georg Gadamer
el Habib Louai, Lap Lambert, Morocco, 2012
This short work undertakes a comparison between the ideas of Ibn ʿArabī and those of Hans-Georg Gadamer, (1900-2002), whose major work Truth and Method (Wahrheit und Methode) was an exploration of hermeneutics.
Divine Love: Islamic Literature and the Path to God
By William Chittick, Yale University Press, Cambridge, 2013
This magnum opus, running to nearly 500 pages, is concerned solely with drawing out the importance of love in the Islamic tradition. William Chittick is one of the best contemporary scholars of Jalāl al-dīn Rūmi and Ibn ʿArabī, who are considered to be the great exponents of Sufi "religion of love", but in this book he has unexpectedly concentrated on the early period of Islam, aiming to show that most of the ideas that they express so powerfully in poetry and prose were already established by the 13th century.
The book is divided into three main sections: The Origin of Love, the Life of Love and the Goal of Love, ending with a chapter on The Realisation of Tawḥīd. Although the subtitle Islamic Literature and the Path to God might lead to the expectation that the book will draw heavily upon the great tradition of Islamic mystical love poetry, Chittick has deliberately focussed upon other writers whose works have hitherto been little known in the west: Persian commentators upon the Qurʾān such as Rashīd aldīn Maybūdī and Aḥmad b. Manṣūr Samʿānī (d. 1140), the Ikhwān al-Ṣafāʾ, and Sufi writers such as ʿAbd Allah Anṣārī (d. 1088) and Aḥmad Ghazzālī (d.1126). There is thus a huge volume of new translation in this book, organised, as we have come to expect from Chittick, according to clear principles and accompanied by a wealth of scholarly commentary. The result is a wonderfully rich exploration of spirituality – not limited in its relevance to followers of Islam – which should be essential reading for any serious scholar of Ibn ʿArabī.
The Seljuks of Anatolia
Ed. A C S Peacock and Sara Nur Yildiz, IO B Taurus, London, 2013
This series of essays derives from a workshop held in Istanbul in 2009, and is a rare source of information on the political and cultural context within which Ibn ʿArabī, Rūmī and Ṣadr al-dīn al-Qunawī lived in the most productive periods of their lives. As the editors explain in their excellent introduction, the Great Seljuks have been the subject of much scholarship over the last few decades, but for various reasons much less has been known the particular dynasty of the Seljuks of Anatolia, or the Seljuks of Rūm as they are often called. This volume draws together leading contemporary researchers who are at last starting to piece together a coherent picture of this unique dynasty, whose distinguishing feature seems to have been an extremely close relationship with the Christian Byzantine state based in Constantinople. All the Seljuk rulers married Byzantine princesses, and Rustom Shukarov, in his article on the Seljuk harem, goes so far as to suggest that consequently, all the princes grew up with a dual Christian/Muslim identity.
Members of MIAS will be particularly interested in chapters seven and eight, which discuss. respectively, the relations of Majd al-dīn Iṣḥāq (father of Ṣadr al-dīn) and Ibn ʿArabī with their Seljuk rulers, and Rūmī's relationship with the Mongol overlords who succeeded them. Yidiz and Ṣahin make the interesting point that there were very few ʿulama in Anatolia at this time, which meant that on the one hand, there were fewer restrictions upon what could be said publicly, and on the other, that it was left to the Sufi thinkers to fill the gap and provide the intellectual underpinnings of the newly-founded Islamic state.
Mysticism in East and West: The Concept of the Unity of Being
Ed. Heike Stamer, Multi Media Affairs, Lahore, 2013
The proceedings of the First Loyola Hall Symposium, held 20-21st February 2013 in Lahore. It draws together speakers from the Christian and Muslim traditions around the theme of unity, waḥdat al-wujūd.
Hamid Algar, Oneworld Publication, Oxford, 2013
A short but comprehensive introduction to the life and works of ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al- Jāmī (1414-1492), one of the most brilliant and influential figures of the akbarian tradition. Algar's account is biographical and factual rather than analytical. He discusses Jami's education both in the Islamic sciences and arts, and in the mystical sciences through his spiritual teacher Saʿd al-Dīn al-Kās̲h̲g̲h̲arī of the Naḳs̲h̲bandī order as well as his study of the works of Ibn ʿArabī and his successors. His life was relatively uneventful, being spent, apart from two short pilgrimages, in Herat under the patronage of the Timurid court, but his work was wide-ranging. He was most famous as a great poet, but he also wrote works of metaphysics, a commentary upon Ibn ʿArabī's Naqsh al-Fuṣūṣ, and a Sufi compendium, Nafaḥāt al-Uns which is one of the most important biographical sources for the early akbarian tradition.
Freewill and Predestination in Islamic Thought
Maria De Cillis, Routledge, London, 2014
An investigation into the issue of free-will (ikhtiyār) versus predestination (qadāʿ wal qadar) in the writings of Ibn Sīna, al-Ghazālī and Ibn ʿArabī. The author takes each thinker in turn, going back to original sources, to show how the ideas on this, and many other related issues, developed during the formative period of Islamic thought between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries. As with Salman Bashier's 'The Story of Islamic Philosophy', De Cillis treats Ibn ʿArabī as part of the philosophical mainstream of Islam, but she also has a good grasp of the unique nature of his vision; i.e. its being founded, as she puts it, upon "the experiential source of spiritual taste (dhawq)" and the principle of waḥdat al-wujūd.
Mysticism and Philosophy in al-Andalus – Ibn ʿArabī, Ibn Massara and the Ismāʿilī Tradition
Michael Ebstein, Brill, Leiden and Boston, 2014
The main thrust of this excellent and scholarly work is to investigate the contribution of the Ismāʿilī tradition, and in particular the writings of the Ikhwān al-Ṣafāʾ, to the development of mystical-philosophical thought in medieval Andalusia. It focuses on the writings of Ibn Massara (269/883-319/931) and Ibn ʿArabī (560/1165-638/1240), and looks in detail at five main main topics; the word of God and Divine; the science of letters; the idea of walāya "friendship with God" and the nature of the awliyāʾ "the friends of God"; the concept of the perfect man (al-insān al-kāmil) and the notion of parallel words (microcosm/macrocosm).
In all five areas, Ebstein concludes that there are clear parallels between Neoplatonism of the Ismāʿilī tradition and the Sufi spirituality developed by these two great Andalusian mystics, which is significantly different from that developed by writers in the central and eastern parts of the Islamic world. Whether this is a matter of direct influence or parallel development, however, is left as an open question, although Ebstein himself clearly favours the former.
Ebstein has a very good grasp of the underlying issues, and even if the historical question is not of interest, the book is well worth reading because of the excellent summary he gives of Ibn ʿArabī's thought, particularly as regards the perfect man and the hitherto little discussed science of letters.
K. al-Isfār ʿan natāʾij al-asfār ( The book of Journeying and the Fruits of Unveiling)
Ibn ʿArabī, edited by Abrar Aḥmed Shāhī, Ibn Arabi Foundation, Rawalpindi (Pakistan), 2011
A translation into Urdu of this important Ibn ʿArabī work alongside an updated version of the critical edition of the Arabic text. This latter was produced originally by Denis Gril alongside his French translation in Le Dévoilement des Effets du Voyage (Paris, 1994). This did not have include the holograph (Yusuf Ağa 4859), which this new version does.
K. Rūḥ al-quds fī munāṣaḥat al-nafs (The Holy Spirit in the Counselling of the Soul)
Edited by Abrar Aḥmed Shāhī, Ibn Arabi Foundation, Rawalpindi (Pakistan), 2012
The first full critical edition of one of Ibn ʿArabī's most important and groundbreaking works, alongside an Urdu translation. The best early texts were used for the edition, which takes the autograph manuscript, University A79 as its base. Written in 600H, this is the transmission of Ibn ʿArabī's close companion, al-Habashī and carries two authenticating signatures by the author, making this edition an excellent text upon which to base translations and studies.
Sharḥ Kitåb Khalʿ al-Naʿlayn (Commentary upon the book "The Doffing of the Sandals")
Edited by Muhammad Mrānī, Marrakesh, 2013
This is a welcome new edition of Ibn ʿArabī's long commentary on the famous work of the Andalusian mystic, Abū al-Qāsim b. Qasiy, (d. 546/1151, Marrakesh). It is a critical edition based upon five manuscripts, including two historic, Shehit Ali 1174 (741H, copied from an original riwāya Ibn Sawdakīn) and Yusufd Ağa 7838 (old numbering 5624) (from Ṣadr a-dīn awl-Qūnawī's library). Dr Mrānī, who is a lecturer at the University of Qāḍī ʿAyāḍ in Marrakesh, give a comprehensive introduction to the work and its context.
K. al-Tadbīrāt al-ilāhiyya (Divine Governance of the Human Kingdom)
Edited by Abrar Aḥmed Shāhī, Ibn Arabi Foundation, Rawalpindi (Pakistan), 2013
A new critical edition and translation into Urdu of Ibn ʿArabī's early treatise on correct governance both of the external world and the interior world of the self. It is based upon the best early manuscripts drawn from MIAS's digital archive, including Yusuf Ağa 4859, which was written during Ibn ʿArabī's lifetime.
101 Aḥādith (101 Haḍīths)
Edited by Abrar Aḥmed Shāhī, Ibn Arabi Foundation, Rawalpindi (Pakistan), 2013
An Urdu translation of Ibn ʿArabī's Mishkāt al-Anwār, presented alongside the Arabic text. This latter reproduces the critical edition produced by Hirtenstein, alongside the English translation, in Divine Sayings (Oxford, 2004).