• The Ikhwan al-Safa and their Rasail: An Introduction

    Oxford University Press in association with The Institute of Ismaili Studies, 2008

    ISBN HardBack:
  • The Ikhwan al-Safa’ (Brethren of Purity) were the anonymous adepts of a tenth-century esoteric fraternity of lettered urbanites that was principally based in Basra and Baghdad. This brotherhood occupied a prominent station 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 contained fifty-two epistles that offered synoptic explications of the classical sciences and philosophies of the age. Divided into four classificatory parts, it treated themes in mathematics, logic, natural philosophy, psychology, metaphysics and theology, in addition to moral and didactic fables. The Ikhwan were learned compilers of scientific and philosophical knowledge, and their Rasa‘il constituted a paradigmatic legacy in the canonisation of philosophy and the sciences in mediaeval Islamic civilisation.

    This present volume gathers studies by leading philosophers, historians and scholars of Islamic studies, who are also the editors and translators of the first Arabic critical editions and first complete annotated English translations of the Rasa'il Ikhwan al-Safa’, which will be published in the OUP Series that this present volume initiates, as well as being members of the Editorial Board.

    The chapters of this present volume explore the conceptual and historical aspects of the philosophical and scientific contents of the Rasa'il and their classification, as well as investigating the authorship and dating of this corpus, and the impact that the Ikhwan’s intellectual tradition exercised in the unfolding of the history of ideas in Islam.

  • Acknowledgements
    Foreword, Farhad Daftary
    Prologue, Nader El-Bizri
    1. Why We Need an Arabic Critical Edition with an Annotated English Translation of the Rasa'il Ikhwan al-Safa'
     Ismail K. Poonawala
    2. The Classification of Knowledge in the Rasa'il Ikhwan al-Safa'
    Godefroid de Catallay

    3. The Arrangement of the Rasa'il Ikhwan al-Safa' and the Problem of Interpolations  Abbas Hamdani

    4. The Scope of the Rasa'il Ikhwan al-Safa'
    Carmela Baffioni
    5. The Rasa'il Ikhwan al-Safa' in the History of Ideas in Islam
    Ian Richard Netton
    6. Misled and Misleading... Yet Central in their Intellectual Influence: Ibn Taymiyya's Views on Ikhwan al-Safa'
    Yahya J. Michot

    7. Epistolary Prolegomena: On Arithmetic and Geometry
     Nader El-Bizri

    8. Music and Musicology in the Rasa'il Ikhwan al-Safa'
    Owen Wright
    9. Reading The Case of the Animals versus Man: Fable and Philosophy in the Essays of the Ikhwan al-Safa'
    Lenn E. Goodman


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