This volume includes a fully annotated English translation and critical edition of the Arabic text of the Kitāb al-ʿAlīm wa’l-ghulām (The Book of the Master and the Disciple), one of the earliest Ismaili Shiʿi writings, by the famous fourth/tenth century Yemeni author Jaʿfar b. Manṣūr al-Yaman.

In addition to being a key source for pre-Fatimid Ismaili thought and history, this work is uniquely important as the most elaborate example of the narrated dialogue form in Arabic literature. The work also vividly illustrates the processes by which early esoteric Shiʿi ideas and institutions eventually contributed to the evolution of more familiar forms of Sufism in the Muslim world.

Finally, the author’s reputation as a master of taʾwīl (esoteric interpretation of the Qurʾan) is reflected in the complex integration and existential elaboration of Qurʾanic themes illustrated throughout this dialogue – a distinctive feature which makes this book of wider interest to students of Islamic studies and comparative religions.