News story

Scholars Present on Science and Learning in the Ismaili Tradition

11th August 2011

Senior Research Fellow at the IIS, Professor Wilferd Madelung presented a paper at an interdisciplinary workshop on the traditions of science and learning in the Ismaili tradition entitled ‘Science in Context: The Dustur al-Munajjimin (Statute of the Astronomers) and its world’. The workshop was organised by Mohammad Karimi Zanjani Asl, Professor Eva Orthmann and Petra G. Schmidl at the University of Bonn in Germany.

Professor Madelung’s paper analysed the Kitab Safinat al-ahkam (Book of the Boat of Horoscopes) the title of a work on astrology by Nasir al-Din Tusi, said to be composed during his stay in the fortress of Alamut under the patronage of the Nizari Ismaili Imamat. It thus originates from the same milieu as the anonymous Ismaili work Dustur al-Munajjimin.

In the Kitab Safinat al-ahkam, Tusi expresses his scepticism about the validity of astrology. He quotes, however, from numerous earlier astrological treatises, both Muslim and non-Muslim. Most of these are no longer known to be extant, but are believed to have been available to him in the library at Alamutinfo-icon. Among the texts quoted by him is the Kitab al-Fihrist (The Book of the Index) of the famous pre-Fatimid Ismaili da‘i 'Abdan.

Science in Context Workshop, Bonn 2011.Dr Delia Cortese, Professor Daniel de Smet, Professor Verena Klemm and Professor Paul Walker were amongst the independent scholars presenting at the workshop, all of whom are frequent collaborators with the IIS in different capacities. Dr Cortese’s paper utilised previously unstudied and unpublished manuscripts of Hasan-i Sabbah’s biography, the Sarguzasht-i Sayyidna, so far only known in extracts quoted by the Mongol historian Ata Malik Juwayni. Dr Cortese’s contribution sheds new light on Hasan-i Sabbah’s residence in Egypt. Professor Daniel de Smet investigated the use of tables and diagrams as a didactical instrument in Ismaili manuscripts, and Professor Paul Walker’s paper was entitled Science in the Service of the Fatimidsinfo-icon and their Ismaili da‘wainfo-icon.

The workshop presented different facets of the history of the Ismailis and was attended by many academics, scholars and students over the course of three days.