Professor Carmela Baffioni presented a lecture on Prophecy, Imamat and Sapiential Rule in the Ikhwan al-Safa' at the Institute on February 23rd. As part of its programmatic endeavours, the Institute sponsors seminars, conferences and public lectures that examine various facets of Islamic studies and themes of relevance to contemporary Muslim societies.
A specialist on the Ikhwan al-Safa’ and a Professor of History of Muslim Philosophy at the Università degli Studi di Napoli “L’Orientale” in Naples, Italy, Professor Baffioni spoke about the content of several epistles of the Ikhwan al-Safa’ (The Brethren of Purity, ca. 10th century Iraq), a collective of scholars and thinkers who produced a compendium of knowledge of their time. These 52 epistles, known as the Rasa’il, include treatises on mathematics, the natural sciences, and the intellectual and theological sciences.
Professor Baffioni noted the Ikhwan’s emphasis, in their 31st epistle, on the miracle of the Prophet’s ability to teach his message in an eloquent language that could be understood by different people according to their intellects and situations, an intrinsic part of his Prophecy. She also analysed the Ikhwan’s attitude to leadership, as discussed in epistle 42, ‘On opinions and sects’. Written several centuries after the Prophet, the Ikhwan exhorted temporal rulers to act with justice and good administration, to repress iniquity in order to create the ‘the excellent city’ known as al-madina al-fadila. Professor Baffioni pointed out that the target of the Ikhwan’s political critique was the excesses of the ‘Abbasid Caliphate of their time.
The Institute’s Department of Academic Research and Publications is working towards publishing a complete critical edition and annotated English translation of the Rasa’il Ikhwan al-Safa’. The series will provide the first comprehensive study in English of the 9th/10th century corpus and its authors.
The Rasa’il Ikhwan al-Safa’ Series is coordinated by Managing Editor, Nader El-Bizri, and supported by an Advisory Board consisting of: Carmella Baffioni, Patricia Crone, Farhad Daftary, Lenn E. Goodman, Abbas Hamdani, Hermann Landolt, Wilferd Madelung, Yves Marquet, Yahya Michot, James Montgomery, Azim Nanji, Ian Richard Netton, Ismail K. Poonawala and Roshdi Rashed.
The following scholars are also involved in the series as editors, translators and annotators: Omar Alí-de-Unzaga, Carmela Baffioni, Godefroid de Callataÿ, Nader El-Bizri, Lenn E. Goodman, Abbas Hamdani, Faquir Hunzai, Muhammad Reza Jozi, Nouha Khalife, Arzina Lalani, Hermann Landolt, Richard McGregor, Yahya Michot, James Montgomery, Ian R. Netton, Ismail K. Poonawala, F. Jamil Ragep, Wendy Robinson, David Simonowitz, Reza Shah-Kazemi and Samer Traboulsi.
The gallery of the Rasa’il Ikhwan al-Safa’ contains manuscript images and information on various editions and translations of the Rasa’il in the Institute’s Collection.
The article by Godefroid de Callataÿ entitled, The Classification of the Sciences according to the Rasa’il Ikhwan al-Safa’ is based on a paper delivered at The Institute of Ismaili Studies on May 22, 2003 as part of the Department of Academic Research and Publications Seminar Series.