Articles

Jesus, Christians and Christianity in the Thought of the Ikhwan al-Safa’ The pen-name Ikhwan al-Safa’ (‘Brethren of Purity’) was used by the otherwise anonymous authors of the compendium of 52 treatises on various disciplines entitled Rasa’il ikhwan al-safa’ wa-khullan al-wafa’ (‘Epistles of the brethren of purity and friends of loyalty’). The date of the Epistles...
Loving Compassion in Islam and Buddhism: Rahma and Karuna In this article the author intends to show ways in which the Islamic conception of Rahma can be seen to serve a function similar to compassion in Mahayana Buddhism, which comes to play a determinative role, elevated as the very principle, cosmological and not simply ethical, which motivates...
Governing Diverse Communities: A Medieval Muslim Illustration  Abstract The unfoldingof the recent, people-led demonstrations across the Middle East brings to the fore the perennial question of what constitutes good governance and how the quest for good order is to be fulfilled. One way to respond to this question is to examine models of authority and...
A Destructive Vacuum: The Marginalisation of Local Knowledge and the Reassertion of Local Identities In this chapter, the author examines the implications of two contemporary trends: increasing homogenisation of higher education across many parts of the world and the reassertion of affiliations to local identities. It is argued that in some cases such homogenisation has resulted in the...
The Quran in Muslim Life and Practice Much has been said and written about the Qur’an – that it is sacred scripture, a forgery, a concoction of disparate ideas, great literature, or a confused piece dreamed by a primitive mind. While the Qur’an has been a source of bewilderment for Western understanding, it has been for Muslims a...
Concepts of Time Classical concepts of time confronted philosophers with perplexing paradoxes. Some wondered whether time altogether was nonexistent, whereas others doubted the reality of its divisibility into parts by arguing that the past ceased to be, the future does not yet exist, and the present as a...
Al-Nu‘man, Al-Qadi (d. 363 AH/ 974 CE) The foremost Ismaili jurist and founder of Fatimid Ismaili jurisprudence, Abu Hanifa al-Nu‘man b. Muhammad al-Tamimi, better known as al-Qadi al-Nu‘man, was born around 290 AH/ 903 CE into a learned family in Qayrawan, in North Africa. Very little is known about his family, childhood and...
Ibn Sina or Avicenna Abu ‘Ali Ibn Sina (ca. 980-1037 CE), known in Latin as Avicenna, was a physician, natural philosopher, mathematician, poetic mystic, and princely minister. Of Persian descent, he was born in Afshana in the province of Bukhara. His chief philosophical work,Kitab al-shifa’ (Book of Healing), ...
Husayni, Shah Tahir b. Radi al-Din (d. 956 AH/ 1549 CE) A learned theologian, poet, stylist and an accomplished diplomat, Shah Tahir Husayni was also the most famous Imam of the Muhammad-Shahi branch of Nizari Ismailism. He was born in the final decades of the 9th AH/ 15th CE century in the village of Khund, near Qazwin in northern Persia, where...
Nasir Khusraw: a Living Tradition The Ismailis of the Badkahshan region of Tajikistan and Afghanitan constitute an important part of the Shi‘a Ismaili Muslim community today, with a distinctive socio-cultural heritage of their own. This heritage, shaped by both history and geography, has preserved their faith for more than a...
Khayrkhah Harati: Nizari Ismaili da‘i, author, and poet (15th-16th CE centuries) Khayrkhah Harati, Muhammad Reza b. Sultan Husayn Ghuriani, Nizari Ismaili da‘i, author, and poet. He was born into a prominent Nizari Ismaili family in Ghurian near Harat, in present day western Afghanistan, in the final decades of the 15th century CE and died not long after 960 AH/1553 CE,...
Ethics and Aesthetics in Islamic Arts The arts rise above the limitations of language and texts to offer a window onto other cultures. Artistic beauty and aesthetics can travel across time and place, and transcend cultural and ethnic boundaries. But at the same time, the arts can reflect values and ideals of a particular culture...
The Philosophy of Mediation: Questions and Responses from Diverse Parts of the World and Especially from the Islamic Tradition In this paper, the author highlights the fact that the concept of mediation exists in many cultures and traditions in the world and that, unfortunately, its centrality as a dispute resolution mechanism in Islam is obfuscated by a negative image of the faith shaped largely by media images...
Shabistari, Mahmud The celebrated Persian Sufi poet, Sa‘d al-Din Mahmud Ibn ‘Abd al-Karim Yahya Shabistari (d. after 1340 CE) was born in the last half of the thirteenth century at Shabistar, a small village northwest of Tabriz, located a few miles inland from Lake Urumiya in present-day province of eastern...
Approaches to the Qur’an In order to understand the Qur’an, this scripture has to be looked at in the context in which it was revealed, as well as the purpose it serves and how it is interpreted by different sects of Muslims. This is what this article does; the author starts by looking briefly at the life of Prophet...
Abu Ishaq Quhistani Few biographical details are available on Abu Ishaq Ibrahim Quhistani, a prominent Nizari Ismaili author and missionary (da‘i), who flourished in the second half of the 9th AH / 15th CE century and died not too long after 904 AH/1498 CE. He was born in the district of Mu’minabad, to the east...
Kahak Kahak is a village located about 35 km northeast of Anjudan and northwest of Mahallat in central Iran, with the ruins of a fairly large caravanserai. Kahak was an important locality in the late medieval period for the Qasemshahi Nizari Ismaili community in Iran, but now it is a small and...
Hamdan Qarmat Hamdan Qarmat b. al-As‘at (d. 321 AH / 933 CE), was an Ismaili da‘i and founder of the Ismaili movement in Iraq. He came from a village in the tassuj of Badaqla, east of Kufa, and is described as working as a carter when he was converted by the Ismaili da‘i Husayn Ahwazi sometime between the...
Shi‘i Ismaili Interpretations of the Holy Qur’an Given the whole spectrum of views that have developed throughout Ismaili history, it is not easy to define any one of these as representing an exclusive form of Ismaili interpretation. Focusing on the Fatimid period, this article attempts to develop a basis for understanding Shi’i Ismaili...
My First Meeting with the Ismailis in Persia I came in touch with the Ismailis for the first time in Persia, in February 1912. The world was quite different then. No one imagined that the Great World War I, with all its misery and suffering, was just around the corner. Persia was still living in her ancestral mediaeval style, and her...