Monday, November 16, 2009

502)The Ikhwan al-Safa Revisited: The Original Encyclopedists; Quote of Aga Khan IV.

"The Holy Qu'ran's encouragement to study nature and the physical world around us gave the original impetus to scientific enquiry among Muslims. Exchanges of knowledge between institutions and nations and the widening of man's intellectual horizons are essentially Islamic concepts. The Faith urges freedom of intellectual enquiry and this freedom does not mean that knowledge will lose its spiritual dimension. That dimension is indeed itself a field for intellectual enquiry. I can not illustrate this interdependence of spiritual inspiration and learning better than by recounting a dialogue between Ibn Sina, the philosopher, and Abu Said Abu -Khyar, the Sufi mystic. Ibn Sina remarked, "Whatever I know, he sees". To which Abu Said replied," Whatever I see, he knows"."(Aga Khan IV, Aga Khan University Inauguration Speech, Karachi, Pakistan, November 11th 1985)

Taken from:

1)Interview with Nader El-Bizri

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Publication: 'Epistles of the Brethren of Purity: Rasail Ikhawan al-Safa'
Editor: Nader El-Bizri

Questions addressed in the interview:

1) Can you briefly introduce the Ikhwan al-Safa’ to our audience.

2) Can you briefly describe what were the Rasa’il Ikhwan al-Safa’.

3) What are the major themes covered in the Rasa’il and how do they relate to the intellectual situation of their time?

4) What was the impact of the Rasa’il in the history of ideas in Islam?

5) How does the Rasa’il corpus compare with other classical encyclopaedic works?

6) Can you describe the project of publishing an Arabic edition and English translation of the Rasa’il, and what role this publication will play in public education about Muslim civilisations?

The Ikhwan al-Safa' and their Rasa'il: An Introduction
Dr Nader El-Bizri

2)Launch of The Ikhwan al-Safa’ and their Rasa’il
August 2009

The Ikhwan al-Safa’ and their Rasa’il: An Introduction, published by The Institute of Ismaili Studies, in association with Oxford University Press, was launched in Nairobi and Mombasa in June 2009. The events in Kenya, which marked the first worldwide launch of the publication, were attended by members of the local academic and Muslim communities.

The editor of the text, Dr Nader El-Bizri, a Research Associate and Coordinator of the project at the IIS, presented the key ideas discussed in this introductory volume by leading philosophers, historians and scholars of Islamic studies. Many of these contributors are also editors and translators of the first Arabic critical editions and complete English translations of the Rasa'il Ikhwan al-Safa’, which is planned to be published as a 16-volume series entitled The Epistles of the Brethren of Purity.

The Ikhwan al-Safa’ or Brethren of Purity were a group of Muslim thinkers based in Basra, Iraq, who, in the 10th century, thought seriously about the key issues of the time in a political and historical context. Consequently, they produced an encyclopaedic work of 52 epistles which treated themes in mathematics, logic, natural philosophy, psychology, metaphysics and theology, in addition to moral and didactic fables. Though the identity of the Ikhwan al-Safa’ remains a mystery, it is apparent that their agenda was primarily intellectual. Their contributions to science and philosophy were immense for their time.

In Mombasa, Dr El-Bizri was joined by Professor Azim Nanji, Senior Associate Director of the Abbasi Programme in Islamic Studies at Stanford University and former Director of the IIS. Professor Nanji highlighted that one of the key goals of the IIS is to conduct research at the highest academic level and that projects such as this enable a greater demographic to access the works of the Ikhwan al-Safa’ as well as other Muslim thinkers of past civilisations. Both scholars discussed the rationale behind the groundbreaking project of translating and publishing the 52 epistles or Rasa’il of the Ikhwan al-Safa’.

The next volume in the Epistles of the Brethren of Purity series, Epistle 22: The Case of the Animals versus Man, is due for publication by The Institute of Ismaili Studies, in association with Oxford University Press, in 2010.

Other blogposts relating to the Ikwan al-Safa:

Easy Nash

The Qur'an itself repeatedly recommends Muslims to become better educated in order better to understand God's creation: Aga Khan IV(2007)
The Quran tells us that signs of Allah's Sovereignty are found in the contemplation of His Creation: Aga Khan IV(2007)
This notion of the capacity of the human intellect to understand and to admire the creation of Allah will bring you happiness in your everyday lives: Aga Khan IV(2007)
Islam, eminently logical, placing the greatest emphasis on knowledge, purports to understand God's creation: Aga Khan IV(2006)
The Holy Qu'ran's encouragement to study nature and the physical world around us gave the original impetus to scientific enquiry among Muslims: Aga Khan IV(1985)
The first and only thing created by God was the Intellect(Aql): Prophet Muhammad(circa 632CE)