Oxford University Press in association with the Institute of Ismaili Studies
The Ikhwān al-Ṣafāʾ (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 Rasāʾil Ikhwān al-Ṣafāʾ (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 present volume is the third of this definitive series consisting of the very first critical edition of the Rasāʾil in its original Arabic, complete with the first fully annotated English translation. Prepared by Professor Owen Wright, Epistle 5: ‘On Music’ presents technical concepts such as rhythm, tone, and metre, alongside more subtle aspects such as the psychological applications drawn from the fourfold theory of humours and the correspondence of numeric proportions, which emphasize the Ikhwān’s view of music as ultimately spiritual in nature.
Epistle 5: On Music
Risāla 5 (Arabic Text & Variants)
‘Music, in all its varieties, provides a means to make a culture understood by others, no matter how distant, and we can now listen to the music described by Ibn Kurr, thanks to the work of Owen Wright.’
– Charles Burnett, Oxford University Press Journals: Music and Letters
‘The publications that are planned within this project will no doubt rekindle the interest of scholars and students of Islam in Islam's rich cultural, educational and historical legacy . . . The work of the Ikhwan al-Safa, like many other works that make up the classical Muslim educational thought, need to be seriously studied and reflected upon. This new publication project contributes immensely towards realizing this educational aim.’
– Abdullah Sahin, Muslim World Book Review, about Epistles of the Brethren of Purity series
‘Owen Wright's new translation of and commentary on Epistle 5 of the tenth-century Rasa‘il Ikhwan al-Safa (Epistles of the Brethren of Purity) is a major contribution that, like many of Wright's other works, holds value for a wide variety of both general and specialised readers. . . . the disadvantages to those who cannot read Arabic are kept to an absolute minimum throughout this volume, further demonstrating Wright’s skill in crafting a significant contribution to the field of Arabic music studies that can enlighten and by enjoyed by many.’
– Mark Hijleh, JRAS
Owen Wright is Professor of Musicology of the Middle East at SOAS, University of London. His research interests focus on the textual sources for the history of music in the Middle East. Previously, he acted as the Editor of the SOAS Musicology Series, which is published by Ashgate (Aldershot). He has several published studies on music, and his latest publications include Demetrius Cantemir: The Collection of Notations II, and articles in various journals.