• Download Pdf of the Foreward by Nadir el-Bizri  

    The Ikhwan al-Safa’ (Brethren of Purity), the anonymous adepts of a tenth-century esoteric fraternity based in Basra and Baghdad, hold an eminent position in the history of science and philosophy in Islam due to the wide reception and assimilation of their monumental encyclopaedia, the Rasa‘il Ikhwan al-Safa’ (Epistles of the Brethren of Purity). This compendium contains fifty-two epistles offering synoptic accounts of the classical sciences and philosophies of the age; divided into four classificatory parts, it treats themes in mathematics, logic, natural philosophy, psychology, metaphysics, and theology, in addition to didactic fables. 

    The texts presented here, from the section on divine and legal sciences, work towards the conclusion of the world-view of the Epistles. In Epistle 49, the Brethren of Purity utilise their usual array of sources - Islamic, Hellenic, and far beyond - in probing the entire hierarchy of existence, from the nature of God to the most basic elements. Epistle 50 describes the 'proper attitudes' towards body and soul, for the attainment of wellness in this world and the hereafter, before addressing religious and philosophical worship. Finally, in Epistle 51, the Brethren consider the arrangement of the world as a whole, restating the Pythagorean theory that all existents are analogous to numbers, knowledge of the characteristics of which is therefore necessary for understanding the world. In advance of the final epistle, on magic, the vast encyclopedic project thus comes full-circle, directing the reader back to the topic of numbers with which the corpus begins.

  • eps_49-51_toc.pdf

    (44.09 KB)

    Technical Introduction to Epistle 49
    Introduction to Epistle 49
    Epistle 49: Translation
    Technical Introduction to Epistle 50
    Introduction to Epistle 50
    Epistle 50: Translation
    Technical Introduction to Epistle 51
    Introduction to Epistle 51
    Epistle 51: Translation
    Rasa'il 49-51: Arabic Edition
    Arabic Index

  • Prof. Wilferd Madelung

    A leading contemporary Islamicist, Wilferd Madelung has made significant contributions to modern scholarship on mediaeval Islamic communities and movements, including Twelver Shi'ism, Zaydism and Ismailism. Educated at the Universities of Cairo and Hamburg, he became Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Chicago in 1969 and the Laudian Professor of Arabic at the University of Oxford from 1978. Professor Madelung is at present Senior Research Fellow with The Institute of Ismaili Studies. Among his recent publications are Religious Schools and Sects in Mediaeval Islam (London, 1985...Read more

    Prof. Carmela Baffioni

    Carmela Baffioni is a Senior Research Associate at the Institute of Ismaili Studies, having previously been Professor of the History of Islamic Philosophy and of the History of Muslim Philosophies and Sciences at the University of Naples ‘L’Orientale’ until 2012. Her publications include several monographs on the transmission of Greek thought into Islam; translations of works by the Ikhwan al-Safaʾ, al-Farabi, and Ibn Rushd (Averroes), as well as al-Shahrastani; in addition, she has written a monograph on Aristotle’s Meteorologica IV (1981) and books on the history of Muslim philosophy...Read more

    Cyril Uy

    Cyril Uy holds a BA in Religious Studies from Yale University and an MPhil in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Cambridge. He is currently pursuing a PhD at Brown University, where his research focuses on mystics and philosophers in the medieval Islamic world.Read more

    Dr Nuha Al-Shaar

    Dr Nuha al-Sha‘ar has a PhD in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Cambridge, MPhil in Educational Research from the University of Cambridge and an MA in African and Asian History the School of African and Asian Studies, SOAS. She has taught at various academic institutions in the UK, and the Arab world. Dr Al-Sha'ar’s current research interests include the social and intellectual history of Muslim political thought, particularly in the 9 th – 10 th centuries CE. She is interested in how udaba' or litterateurs used the Holy Qur’an to develop certain cultural concepts,...Read more