Two new IIS publications were launched in December 2005: The first of these is Approaches to the Qur’an in Contemporary Indonesia which presents the scholarly work of a wide range of Indonesian Muslim intellectuals and their varied approaches to the Qur’an. The other new title, Eagle’s Nest: Ismaili Castles in Iran and Syria, features the results of 40 years of research on Ismaili history and medieval Ismaili castles.

Scholars and guests who attended the book launches organised by the Institute at the Ismaili Centre in London heard the authors speak about the research that underpins these publications.

Professor Abdullah Saeed, editor of Approaches to the Qur’an in Contemporary Indonesia (Oxford University Press, 2005), noted that Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim country and yet much of its scholarly work on Islam was not available to a wider readership. This new volume brings together contributions by a wide range of Indonesian Muslim intellectuals, including traditionalists and modernists, for the first time making accessible to an English-speaking audience their varied approaches to the Qur’an. Topics covered in the publication range from textual interpretation and religious pluralism to debates on polygamy within the Indonesian Muslim women’s movement and the use of Qur’anic verses in contemporary Indonesian politics. This publication is an important resource for scholars and others with an interest in Qur’anic studies or Islam in Indonesia.

Abdullah Saeed is the Sultan of Oman Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies and the Director of the Centre for the Study of Contemporary Islam at the University of Melbourne, Australia. He has travelled and published widely and lectures on interfaith relations.

At the launch of The Eagle’s Nest, Major Peter Willey gave a first-hand account of the castles he discovered during the more than 20 expeditions to Iran and Syria. These castles were settled by Nizari Ismailis from 1090 CE until the Mongol invasion in 1256 CE when most were destroyed. Eagle’s Nest is well illustrated with numerous photographs, maps and plans. This publication provides a significant and timely contribution to Ismaili scholarship and history by challenging and correcting the misinformed medieval myths which still pervade in literature about the Ismailis of that era, the so-called Legends of the Assassins.

Peter Willey is an authority on the Ismaili castles of Iran and Syria, spending nearly a lifetime discovering and investigating them. Eagle’s Nest contains a wealth of information and resources; it is essential reading for scholars, students and others with an interest in medieval or Ismaili history.

The online gallery on Ismaili Castles of Iran and Syria contains pictures and information about castles of this period.