A DARP Occasional Lecture
“The Imam Speaks about His Shi‘a”; Epistle 48 of the Rasaʾil Ikhwan al-Safaʾ
Professor Abbas Hamdani (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee)
Date: Tuesday, 10 June 2014
Time: 15:00 BST
Venue: Room 2:1 (2nd Floor)
The Institute of Ismaili Studies, 210 Euston Road, London, NW1 2DA, UK
About the Lecture
Epistle48 of the Rasaʾil Ikhwan al-Safaʾ (Encyclopaedia of the Brethren of Purity),‘Fi kayfiyyat al-daʻwa ila’llah’, is unique because it is the only epistle couched as what seems to be the speech of an Imam, partly to his Shi‘a and partly to his fellow Brethren. As such, the epistle gives us a clue to the time of the composition of the Rasaʾil.While Tawhidi’s account of the Ikhwan indicates a composition date in the late4th AH/10th CE century, there are inconsistencies between the historical context of that time, and the outlook implied in the Imam’s speech.
Moreover, the internal evidence of this speech seems to refer to the hidden Imam, suggesting that the Rasaʾil were composed between the disappearance of the twelfth Ithna ʿAshari Imam andal-Mahdi’s declaration of his caliphate, i.e. between 260 AH/873 CE and 297AH/909 CE. Composed by a group of scholars, the text was revised by many scribes during this period and until after the time of Tawhidi.
However, the actual stemma of the original work is lost because of Abbasid book-burnings and the troubles of Fatimid succession. The Rasaʾil then reappeared as a writing in Sufi garb in the post-Ghazali period.