• Download Introduction (165 KB)

    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 Rasa’il constitutes a paradigmatic legacy in the canonisation of philosophy and the sciences in mediaeval Muslim civilisation, as well as having shown a permeating influence in Western culture.

    The present volume is the second of this definitive series, consisting of the very first critical edition of the Rasa’il in its original Arabic, complete with the first fully annotated English translation. Prepared by Professor Carmela Baffioni, Epistles 10–14 comprise the foundations of logic, which remained a fundamental component in pedagogy until the twentieth century. The Ikhwan treat the Isagoge and the larger part of the Organon, both of which were circulating through the Islamic world at that time, as they set about detailing the ten categories of existents, the five predicables, and other such commonplaces of Aristotelian logic, including his seminal method of syllogistic inference. With the claim that logic is the noblest of man’s arts, and man the noblest of creatures, the Ikhwan cast Aristotelian tropes in a spiritual light.

  • Acknowledgements xv
    Foreword xvii
    Introduction 1
    Technical Introduction 35
    Epistle 10: On the Meaning of the Isagoge 63
    Epistle 11: On the Meaning of the Categories 85
    Epistle 12: On the Meaning of the On Interpretation 101
    Epistle 13: On the Meaning of the Prior Analytics 111
    Epistle 14: On the Meaning of the Posterior Analytics 125
    Appendix A: Additions to Epistle 10 from the Atif Manuscript 157
    Appendix B: Epistle 10 in the Bodleian Manuscripts 167
    Appendix C: Addition to Epistle 12 from the Esad Effendi 3638 Manuscript 181
    Bibliography 187
    Subject Index 191
    Index Locorum 197
    Rasa’il 10 – 14 (Arabic Text and Variants) [Arabic pagination 3–198]
    Arabic Index [Arabic pagination 199–202]


  • Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd edition, ed. H. A. R. Gibb et al. (Leiden: Brill, 1960–2004) is abbreviated as EI2.

    Published Primary Sources

    The Koran Interpreted, tr. A. J. Arberry. Oxford: Oxford University Press,1955.

    Ikhwan al-Safa’. Rasai’il Ikhwan al-Safa’ wa Khullan al-Wafa’, ed. Butrus Bustani. 4 vols. Beirut: Dar Sadir, 1957.

    −−−−−−. The Case of the Animals versus Man Before the King of the Jinn: An Arabic Critical Edition and English Translation of Epistle 22, ed. and tr. Lenn E. Goodman and Richard McGregor. Epistles of the Brethren of Purity. New York–London: Oxford University Press in association with the Institute of Ismaili Studies, 2009.

    Aristotle. The Categories; On Interpretation; Prior Analytics, tr. H. P. Cooke and H. Tredennick. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1955.

    −−−−−−. The Complete Works of Aristotle: the Revised Oxford Translation, ed. J. Barnes. 2 vols. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995.

    −−−−−−. Organon, ed. G. Colli. Repr., Milan: Adelphi, 2003.

    Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, Griechisch und Deutsch [DK], ed. Hermann Diels, rev. Walther Kranz. 3 vols. Repr., Dublin–Zurich: Weidmann, 1971–1972.

    Galen. Institutio Logica, ed. Karl Kalbfleisch. Liepzig: Teubner, 1896.

    Ibn al-Muqaffa‘, ‘Abd Allah. Kalila wa-Dimna, ed. Taha Husayn Bak and ‘Abd al-Wahhab Ghuran Repr., (1941) Cairo: Dar al-Ma‘arifinfo-icon, n.d.

    Nasir-e Khosraw. Kitab-e Jami‘ al-Hikmatain. Le livre reunissant les deux sagesses ou Harmonie de la philosophie grecque et de la theosophie ismaelienne, ed. Henry Corbin and Moh. Mo‘in. Tehran–Paris: Departement d’Iranologie de l’Institut Franco-Iranien–Librairie d’Amerique et d’Orient Adrien-Maisonneuve, 1953.

    Porphyry. Introduction, tr. (with commentary) Jonathan Barnes. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2003.

    −−−−−−. Isagoge, ed. Giuseppe Girgenti. Milan: Bompiani, 2004.

    Stoicorum veterum fragmenta [SVF], ed. Hans F. A. von Arnim. 4 vols. Repr.,Stuttgart: Teubner, 1964.

    Wensinck, A. J., et al. Concordance et indices de la tradition musulmane. Vol. 4. Leiden: Brill, 1962.

    −−−−−−. Concordance et indices de la tradition musulmane. Vol. 5. Leiden: Brill, 1965.


    Secondary Sources

    Adamson, Peter. Al-Kindi. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

    Arnaldez, Roger. ‘Mantiq’. EI2. Vol. 6. Leiden: Brill, 1991, pp. 442–452.

    Baffioni, Carmela. Atomismo e antiatomismo nel pensiero islamico. Naples: Istituto Universitario Orientale (Dipartimento di Studi Asiatici), 1982.

    −−−−−−. ‘Il “Liber introductorius in artem logicae demonstrationis”: problemi storici e filologici’. Studi filosofici, 17 (1994), pp. 6990.

    −−−−−−. ‘Fragments et temoignages d’auteurs anciens dans les Rasa’il des Ikhwan al-Safa’’, in Perspectives arabes et medievales sur la tradition scientifique et philosophique grecque. Actes du colloque de la SIHSPAI (Societe internationale d’histoire des sciences et de la philosophie arabes et islamiques) Paris, 31 mars-3 avril 1993, ed. A. Hasnawi, A. Elamrani- Jamal, and M. Aouad (preface by R. Rashed). Leuven–Paris: Peeters–Paris IMA, 1997, pp. 319–329.

    −−−−−−. ‘Sulla ricezione di due luoghi di Platone e Aristotele negli Ihwan al-Safa’. Documenti e studi sulla tradizione filosofica medievale, 8 (1997), pp. 479–492.

    −−−−−−. Appunti per un’epistemologia profetica. L’Epistola degli Ihwan al-Safa «Sulle cause e gli effetti». Naples: Universita degli Studi di Napoli “L’Orientale” (Dipartimento di Studi e Ricerche su Africa e Paesi Arabi)–Guida, 2006.

    −−−−−−. ‘Metaphors of Light and the “Verse of Light” in the Brethren of Purity’, in In the Age of al-Farabi: Arabic Philosophy in the Fourth/Tenth Century, ed. P. Adamson. London–Turin: The Warburg Institute–Nino Aragno Editore, 2008, pp. 163–177.

    Bausani, Alessandro. L’enciclopedia dei Fratelli della Purita. Riassunto, con Introduzione e breve commento, dei 52 Trattati o Epistole degli ‘Ikhwan al-Safa’. Naples: Istituto Universitario Orientale (Dipartimento di Studi Asiatici), 1978.

    Blochet, Edgar. Catalogue des manuscrits arabes des nouvelles acquisitions (1884–1924). Paris: Leroux, 1925.

    Blumenthal, David R. ‘A Comparative Table of the Bombay, Cairo, and Beirut Editions of the Rasa’il Ihwan al-Safa’. Arabica, 21/2 (1974), pp. 186–203.

    de Boer, T. J. ‘Zu Kindi und seiner Schule’. Archiv fur Geschichte der Philosophie, 13 (1899), pp. 153–178.

    −−−−−−. ‘Ikhwan al-Safa’’. E. J. Brill’s First Encyclopaedia of Islam 1913–1936, ed. M. Th. Houtsma et al. Vol. 3. Repr., Leiden: Brill, 1993, pp. 459460.

    de Callatay, Godefroid. ‘Ikhwan al-Safa’: des arts scientifiques et de leur objectif’. Le Museon, 116 (2003), pp. 231–258.

    −−−−−−. Ikhwan al-Safa’: A Brotherhood of Idealists on the Fringe of Orthodox Islam. Makers of the Muslim World. Oxford: Oneworld, 2005.

    −−−−−−. ‘Trivium et quadrivium en Islam: des trajectoires contrastees’, in Une lumiere venue d’ailleurs. Heritages et ouvertures dans les encyclopedies d’Orient et d’Occident au Moyen Age, Actes du colloque de Louvain-la-Neuve, 19-21 mai 2005, ed. G. de Callatay and B. Van den Abeele. Turnhout: Brepols, 2008, pp. 1–30.

    DeDurand, G. M. ‘L’homme raisonnable mortel: pour l’histoire d’une definition’. Phoenix, 27 (1973), pp. 328–344.

    Dieterici, Friedrich. Die Philosophie bei den Arabern im X. Jahrhundert n. Chr., Gesamtdarstellung und Quellenwerke. 1865. Repr., Hildesheim: Olms, 1969.

    −−−−−−. Die Abhandlungen der Ichwân es-Safâ in Auswahl. Zum ersten Mal aus arabischen Handschriften herausgegeben. 1883. Repr., Hildesheim: Olms, 1969.

    Dozy, Reinhart. Supplement aux dictionnaires arabes. 1881. Repr., Beirut: Librairie du Liban, 1991.

    E. J. Brill’s First Encyclopaedia of Islam 1913–1936, ed. M. Th. Houtsma et al. Vol. 3. Repr., Leiden: Brill, 1993.

    Eco, Umberto. ‘Dall’albero al labirinto’, in Dall’albero al labirinto. Studi storici sul segno e l’interpretazione. Milan: RCS Libri, 2007, pp. 13–105.

    El-Bizri, Nader. ‘Prologue’, in The Ikhwan al-Safa’info-iconand their ‘Rasa’il’, ed. N. El-Bizri. New York–London: Oxford University Press in association with the Institute of Ismaili Studies, 2008, pp. 1–32.

    Encyclopaedia of Islam, ed. H. A. R. Gibb et al. 2nd ed. 12 vols. Leiden: Brill, 1960–2004.

    Endress, Gerhard. ‘Grammatik und Logik: arabische Philologie und griechische Philosophie im Widerstreit’, in Sprachphilosophie in Antike und Mittelalter, ed. B. Mojsisch. Amsterdam: Grunert, 1986, pp. 163–299.

    Fleisch, H. ‘Ism’. EI2. Vol. 4. Leiden: Brill, 1990, pp. 181–182

    Freytag, Georg Wilhelm. Georgii Wilhelmi Freytagii Lexicon arabico-latinum. 1837. Repr., Beirut: Librairie du Liban, 1975.

    Georr, Khalil. Les Categories d’Aristote dans leurs versions syro-arabes. Beirut: Imprimerie Catholique, 1948.

    Inati, Shams. ‘Logic’, in History of Islamic Philosophy, ed. S. H. Nasr and O. Leaman. London-New York: Routledge, 1996, pp. 802–823.

    Kazimirski, Albert de Biberstein. Dictionnaire arabe-francais contenant toutes les racines de la langue arabe, leurs derives, tant dans l’idiome vulgaire que l’idiome litteral, ainsi que les dialects d’Alger et de Maroc. 1860. Repr., Beirut: Albouraq, 2004.

    Leaman, Oliver N. H. ‘Tafra’. EI2. Vol. 10. Leiden: Brill, 2000, p. 83.

    Ljubovic, Amirinfo-icon. The Works in Logic by Bosniac Authors in Arabic. Leiden-Boston: Brill, 2008.

    Marquet, Yves. La philosophie des Ihwan al-Safa’ Algiers: Societe Nationale d’Edition et de Diffusion, 1973.

    Meredith-Owens, G. ‘‘Arud’. EI2. Vol. 1. Leiden: Brill, 1986, pp. 667–677.

    Nasti de Vincentis, Mauro. ‘Atomismo e geometria nelle argomentazioni anti-atomistiche di Ibn Hazm, Shahrastani e Fakhr al-Dininfo-icon al-Razi’, in C. Baffioni, Atomismo e antiatomismo nel pensiero islamico. Naples: Istituto Universitario Orientale (Dipartimento di Studi Asiatici), 1982, pp. 277–300.

    Netton, Ian R. Muslim Neoplatonists. An Introduction to the Thought of the Brethren of Purity (Ikhwan al-Safa’). London: Allen and Unwin, 1982.

    Poonawala, Ismail K. ‘Why We Need an Arabic Critical Edition with an Annotated English Translation of the Rasa’il Ikhwan al-Safa’’, in The Ikhwan al-Safa’ and their ‘Rasa’il’, ed. N. El-Bizri. New York–London: Oxford University Press in association with the Institute of Ismaili Studies, 2008, pp. 33–57.

    Sesen, Ramazan, Cevat Izgi, and Cemil Akpinar. Catalogue of Manuscripts in the Koprulu Library. Istanbul: Research Centre for Islamic History, Art and Culture, 1406/1986.

    Stern, Samuel M. ‘Notes on al-Kindi’s Treatise on Definitions’. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1–2 (1959), pp. 3243.

    Talmon, R. ‘Sifa’. EI2. Vol. 9. Leiden: Brill, 1997, p. 551.

    [Traini, Renato]. Vocabolario arabo-italiano. Rome: Istituto per l’Oriente, 1966.

    Troupeau, Gerard. ‘Na‘t’. EI2. Vol. 7. Leiden: Brill, 1993, p. 1034.

    Ullmann, Manfred. ‘Radjaz’. EI2. Vol. 8. Leiden: Brill, 1995, pp. 375–378.

    Urvoy, Dominique. Histoire de la pensee arabe et islamique. Paris: Seuil, 2006, pp. 240–244.

    Zonta, Mauro. ‘La ricerca sulle fonti antiche della letteratura filosofica araba ed ebraica: a proposito di un libro recente’. Athenaeum, 88 (2000), pp. 597–604.

  • 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