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The Epistles of the Brethren of Purity Edited by the Institute of Ismaili Studies

When the Re-Edition of a Text Can Be Its Destruction
Guillaume De Vaulx d’Arcy
p. 253-330

Résumés

Trente des cinquante-deux Épîtres des Frères en Pureté (Rasāʾil Iwān al-afāʾ) ont à ce jour été éditées par The Institute of Ismaili Studies. Il est venu le temps de recenser les volumes parus et de demander plus généralement : qu’est-ce qui a d’ores et déjà changé dans les nouvelles Épîtres ? Malheureusement, l’ambitieux projet d’édition critique a donné le jour à une mosaïque incohérente d’éditions et de traductions individuelles qui met à mal la compréhension des Rasāʾil. L’analyse précise de détails tirés des éditions de Beyrouth et de Londres donne l’occasion de mettre à l’épreuve les deux thèses qui s’affrontent sur les Épîtres : la conception majoritaire qui y lit une doctrine syncrétique résultant d’une rédaction stratifiée, et notre hypothèse d’une œuvre hautement philosophique écrite par Aḥmad b. al-Ṭayyib al-Saraḫsī.

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To Emily Cottrell and Mourad Kacimi for their support; their impressive philological knowledge, their creative thinking, and their friendship.

Part 1
The New Epistles of the Brethren in Purity:
1 What is Gained … and What is Lost

  • 1 We model our translation of Iwān al-afā on the expression “brethren in faith”.

1In 2008, the Institute of Ismaili Studies initiated the project of a critical edition and an English translation of the Rasāʾil Iwān al-afā. This is one of the major works regarding Islamic philosophy in this emerging century. Three complete editions of the text had been published before (Bombay 1887, Cairo 1928, Beirut 1957) but none of them was based on a critical study of the manuscripts. The Bombay edition transcribed a hidden manuscript, and the editions of Cairo and Beirut transcribed Bombay’s edition, merely adding some grammatical corrections. Concerning the translations, two paraphrases were available, one in German by Dieterici, and the other in Italian by Bausani. A partial translation in German by Diwald, and excerpts in Italian, French, and English were made, but no complete translation appeared in any European language. Acritical edition and its translation were therefore required.

  • 2 However, Mourad Kacimi noticed that an important manuscript from the Bibliothèque Nationale du Roy (...)

2The Institute of Ismaili Studies provided all the means to accomplish this task seriously. An impressive board with major scholars was constituted, most of the existing manuscripts were gathered and analyzed,2 a group of more than twenty-five scholars was commissioned to work on the edition and the translation with full freedom of research.

3To date (December 2017), twelve volumes containing thirty of the fifty-two epistles have been published. So, we can take a first look at the new version of the Rasāʾil Iwān al-afā. How should we assess it? Does it “render service to the academic community and lay a scholarly foundation for further studies dedicated to the Brethren’s corpus” as El Bizri asserts in the foreword of each volume? Does the London edition offer a very different text in comparison to the former ones? Does it solve any hermeneutic problem? Does it create new ones? Does it even respect the nature of the text?

4In this study, we will discuss the general policy of the project, analyze the already published volumes of the series, then go back to the main manuscript, Atif Effendi 1681, for a comparative study with the Beirut edition.

5References to texts are based on the following abbreviations: the Beirut edition: volume ‒ page (for instance, I 99); the London edition: Arabic edition or English translation – page (for instance Arab. p. 99, or Eng. p. 99). BCB names Bombay/Cairo/Beirut editions, considering that the second and the third are based only on the first.

1. The Editorial Policy: Its Presupposition … and Its Self-Realization

a. The General Non-Policy

  • 3 For a Šīʿa allegiance, see de Callataÿ, Ikhwan al-Safaʾ, p. XI; for a Qarmatian affiliation, see W (...)
  • 4 Diwald, Arabische Philosophie und Wissenschaft in der Enzyklopädie, p. 10‒11; Hamdani, “Abū Ḥayyan (...)
  • 5 Among many, de Callataÿ, Ikhwan al-Safa’, p. 44 and p. 75.
  • 6 De Callataÿ, “Magia en al-Andalus: Rasāʾil Ijwān al-afāʾ, Rutbat al-akim y Gāyat al-akim (Picat (...)
  • 7 We exposed it first in a lecture at the IDEO, then in the 9th conference of the SIHSPAI. See de Va (...)

6The project was launched in 2008 in an academic context characterized both by different interpretations of the Iwān al-afā’s philosophical doctrine,3 and by a certain doubt about the authorship of the Epistles. Indeed, their attribution to the group of Basrian scholars at the end of the 10th century was already questioned, inter alia, by Diwald or Hamdani.4 But the Institute of Ismaili Studies seems to accept the loose consensus exposed by de Callataÿ in his monograph which they edited as well as his allusion to a Šīʿite context, a syncretic view, and an extended writing over more than one century.5 Unfortunately, since then, this very paradigm has been destroyed by the same de Callataÿ in 2013 when he established the existence of the entire book before 926,6 and by ourselves in building a new paradigm in 2014 on a very different basis: that the Rasāʾil Iwān al-afā was the mature work of Aḥmad b. al-Ṭayyib al-Saraḫsī, a philosophical system written during the years 880‒890 following a very precise Pythagorean doctrine.7

7Even if the project was not based on a strong hypothesis, the loose consensus influenced the editorial policy and gave the book its own statement. This policy is exposed in the foreword written by Nader El-Bizri, the general editor which contains:

  • A historical weak agreement on al-Tawḥīdī’s testimony: “The most common account regarding the presumed identity of the Ikhwān is usually related to the authority of the famed scholar Abū Ḥayyān al-Tawḥīdī” (foreword, § 2). This testimony attributes the authorship to the Basrian group from the end of the 10th century. It denies the unity of thought and introduces a multiplicity of styles in the composition.
  • A hermeneutic decision characterizing the group by “their syncretic approach” (foreword, § 6).

8Since the book is not considered as a completely unified and systematic work, it can be divided into many parts and partitioned among different editors without requiring any attempt to co-ordinate their works.

b. Volume Analysis: How to Make one Book Many? … And How to Make Many Books One?

9The Institute of Ismaili Studies sent the scholars only a few pages of each manuscript they had to edit and translate. Some complained about such working conditions, arguing that the difficulty to determine the relationship between the different manuscripts is “compounded since each of us is only dealing with a small subset of the entire work” (On Astronomy, p. 16). Also, “I only had access to the pages containing the three epistles from the respective manuscripts. Thus, any attempt to determine the filiation and genealogy of the manuscripts in general was not possible based on partial manuscripts” (On Companionship and Belief, p. 1). The scholars were then like the believers in Epistle 44 (IV 16‒17): a column of strong but blind men with no guidance, they could only lose their way. The consequence is their incapacity to determine the genealogy of the manuscripts, to have an idea of the possible Urtext, or to agree on a version. This also produced a certain carelessness about understanding the real function of the epistle in the book as a whole, by restricting the interpretation of the text to the understanding of one part of it and thus forgetting a basic hermeneutic law: to understand the part in the light of the whole. So, they made one book into many.

10That is the reason why we intend to take the opportunity of this review to restore the unity of the book and reinforce the logical succession of the epistles which is directly inherited from al-Kindī’s Epistle on the Quantity of Aristotle’s Books, beginning with the mathematical and logical propaedeutic method (1‒14), then physics considered as the science of bodies (15‒25), then noetics as the science of what is not a body but is in a body (26‒31), then metaphysics which studies what is not a body nor in a body (32‒41), and, finally, the practical sciences.

  • 8 Only Baffioni recorded it in the appendix of On Logic.

11Furthermore, and apart from a few exceptions (Epistle 32 and Epistle 52), editors were compelled to produce one text per epistle despite the diversity of versions that could be found in the manuscripts. For instance, the Bodleian version, which can radically be another text, does not appear even in the critical apparatus.8 Although the editors did not decide that one version could represent the Urtext, they did not reproduce the diversity of the actual texts, but each one chose particular manuscripts to build his own partial edition. The consequence is the reduction of the many versions to an inconsistent book.

2. The Stroboscopic Epistles. Review of the Volumes

12For each volume, we will begin by mentioning the peer-reviews that have been written. We can already notice that all the reviewers share one regret, that the Arabic text does not face the English translation but are pulled away on both sides of the volumes. We will then concentrate our remarks on highlighting its differences with the Beirut edition which were not even noticed by many editors who ignored that the Beirut edition perhaps represents the best version of the text.

13Ikhwān al-afāʾ. Epistles of the Brethren of Purity: On Arithmetic and Geometry. An Arabic Critical Edition and English Translation of Epistles 1‒2, edited by Nader El-Bizri, Oxford, Oxford University Press in association with the Institute of Ismaili Studies, 2012. 400 p., 9.2 x 6.1 inches, 99 $. ISBN 978-0-19965-560-1

Status quaestionis

  • 9 Niazi, “Review: On Arithmetic and On Geometry”.
  • 10 Brentjes, “Review: On Arithmetic and On Geometry”, p. 112.
  • 11 Idem.

14Three reviewers studied this volume. The first one, Niazi, insists on its relationship with the previous English translation, and we will come back to this below.9 The two others are very severe. Brentjes criticizes its poor scientific quality: “El-Bizri’s lack of experience in history of mathematics in Antiquity and Islamicate societies, as a translator of technical texts, and as an editor. In more than one instance he has misunderstood or misinterpreted Arabic passages and mathematical statements.”10 More specifically, she denounces “several elementary technical mistakes in the translation of the mathematical content” and that “the editor more than once provides incomplete or false historical information”.11

15Clearly referring to Brentjes’ critics, Amin concentrates on another problem:

  • 12 Amin, “Review: On Arithmetic and On Geometry”, p. 314.

Even aside from those mistakes which are only discernible to the eye of the expert historian, the translation and edition of both of the epistles in this volume abound in inaccuracies: key terms are mis-transliterated […] or transliterated inconsistently between the two parts of the text […] ; elsewhere entire paragraphs or schematics appearing in the Arabic text have not been translated or represented in the English part for no apparent reason […] ; at least one paragraph appears in the English which has no corresponding equivalent in the Arabic (i.e. the paragraph beginning ‘If the distance. . .’ on Eng. p. 141).12

16Such mistakes are legion. For example, the figures drawn in Arab. p. 35 and p. 41 are not reproduced in Eng. p. 79 and p. 83. We will give below the clue to such odd differences between the edition and the translation.

Presentation

  • 13 See Goldstein, “A Treatise on the Number Theory from a Tenth-Century Arabic Source”. He already no (...)
  • 14 Dieterici, Die Propaedeutik der Araber im zehnten Jahrhundert.
  • 15 A. A., “L’Épître des Frères de la Pureté sur les Nombres”; Brentjes, “Die erste Risâla der Rasâʾil (...)
  • 16 See de Vaulx d’Arcy, “Aḥmad b. al-Ṭayyib al-Saraḫsī, réviseur de l’Introduction arithmétique de Ni (...)
  • 17 Sonja Brentjes identified all the relations between Epistle 1 and the Introduction to Arithmetic i (...)
  • 18 See our translation of Epistles 1, 2 and 6 in Les Épîtres des Frères en Pureté. Mathématique et ph (...)
  • 19 See al-Ḫuwārizmī, al-Ǧabr wa-l-muqābala, p. 48‒49.

17El-Bizri highlights the general elements of the history of mathematics in the Islamic world (p. 2‒7). He then comments separately on both epistles, “on arithmetic” and “on geometry”. Regarding the first, he translates in contemporary formal language the arithmetical elements of Epistle 1 written in a natural language (Eng. p. 25‒29) following Goldstein’s previous translation,13 which he mentions in the presentation (Eng. p. 29, footnote 66), but omits in the bibliography. The other predecessors, I mean Dieterici’s paraphrase,14 A. A.’s French translation of Epistle 1, and Sonja Brentjes’ German one, are also omitted.15 Regarding the scientific sources of the epistle, El-Bizri gives the same importance to Euclid and Nicomachus of Gerasa and refers briefly to almost all the Arab mathematicians. Actually, the decisive book is the Introduction to Arithmetic by Nichomachus. We established that Aḥmad b. al-Ṭayyib al-Saraḫsī was not only the author of the Epistles but also the “reviser” of the first Arabic version of the Introduction to Arithmetic.16 Even if we refuse this historical assertion, it is obvious that the Pythagorean philosophy of the Epistles is based on the reading of the Introduction to Arithmetic, and Epistle 1 uses Nichomachus’ definitions in the first part of the book.17 The foundation of geometry in arithmetic is inherited from book 2, chapters 6‒7, and Epistle 6 is based on book 2, chapter 21 and further on.18 Even if El-Bizri invokes al-Ḫawarizmī (p. 4), he does not understand that his direct influence appears in Epistle 6, I 256-257 which reads very precisely Kitāb al-ǧabr on trade.19 El-Bizri prefers to mention late scholars such as al-Buzǧānī (d. ca.998 ce) and al-Uqlīdisī (d. ca.980 ce) whose relation with the Epistles cannot be proved.

  • 20 See de Vaulx d’Arcy, Les Épîtres des Frères en Pureté. Mathématique et philosophie.

18Regarding the relation of both epistles with the system of Iwān al-afā, this is shown in Eng. p. 10‒11. El-Bizri clearly understands the importance of arithmetic in the whole book and gives examples in Epistle 22 and 32. We follow his consideration that Epistle 1 is something like the book of the method, the logical structure of the whole book, the arithmetic sequence being the driving engine of the system. Concerning geometry, he demonstrates elsewhere that Epistle 2 is the propaedeutic to soteriology, and we demonstrate elsewhere that its dualist structure between sensitive and rational geometry is the model of the duality between geography and astronomy, instrumental music and harmony, etc.20

Edition

19Although El-Bizri principally used Atif Effendi 1681 for his edition, we must welcome his systematic inclusion of the Beirut variations which he sometimes prefers to Atif Effendi 1681 (for instance, I 57/Arab. p. 29 // Eng. p. 76‒77; I 67/Arab. p. 48 // Eng. p. 87, footnote 20).

20Nevertheless, concerning Epistle 1, the difference between both the Beirut and London editions is tenuous, dealing with insignificant details, as for instance the use of “ʿilm” (Arab. p. 9) instead of “ikma” (I 48). The most relevant is following:

Beirut, I 61 London, p. 37
ومن أراد أن يتبيّن هذا مستقصى ومن أراد أن يتبيّن هذا العدد أعني زوج الزوج مستقصى

21The precision “I mean powers of two”, in El-Bizri’s translation, is only a reminder of the topic, the numbers that are powers of two. We also find such a reminder two lines later in both editions. This one may then be an addition in Atif Effendi 1681.

22Concerning Epistle 2, we find more differences. Below are the meaningful ones and their comparison:

Beirut London Correct edition
1 I 79 الأشياء الكائنات في هذا العلم p. 74 الأشياء الكائنات في هذا العالم L
2 I 79 Ø p.74‒75 وحد المنطق أنه علم يتوصل به إلى اكتساب المجهولات من التصورات والتصديقات بمعلومات هي مبادئ لها B
3 I 79 ومبدأها من الجوهر p. 75 ومبدأها من العقل والنفس B
4 I 79 ومبدأ هذا العلم [وهو الإلهيات] من معرفة جوهر النفس كالملائكة والنفوس والشياطين والجن والأرواح بلا أجسام p. 75 ومبدأ هذا العلم [وهو الإلهيات] من معرفة الله عزّ وجلّ، وجوهر العقل والنفس كالملائكة والنفوس والشياطين والجن والأرواح بلا أجسام B
5 I 104 وزهدت في السكون معه p. 127 وزهدت في الكون معه B
6 I 113 على فهم كيفية تأثيرات الأشخاص الفلكية وأصوات الموسيقى في نفوس المستمعين p. 144 على فهم كيفية تأثيرات الأشخاص الفلكية في الأشخاص السفلية الطبيعية وعلى فهم تأثيرات كيفية أصوات الموسيقى في نفوس المستمعين L

23Please find below the explanation of our choice of the correct version:

  • Beings exist in the world, not in science.
  • This definition of logic is very different from the definition found in Epistle 10, I 157, on categories. It may be an addition by the copyist.
  • It deals with the logical categories, the first of which is substance. See Epistle 5, I 199: “And we demonstrated in the Epistle on Logic that substance is like the one, and the other nine categories are like the nine units.”
  • The London edition seems to be more complete, for it adds the first two metaphysical principles before the soul, i.e. God and the Intellect. But, two lines later, the Beirut identification of the principle of al-ilāhiyyāt with the substance of the soul is repeated in both editions. This means that the topic is not metaphysics but the noetic sciences, which are the science of the soul without a body, according to the quoted sentence that follows al-Kindī’s Quantity of Aristotleʼs Books.
  • The present idea deals with bodies characterized by movement and release. Atif Effendi 1681, followed by the London edition, obviously omitted a letter.
  • Both have the same meaning, but the London edition sounds more complete. The expression “al-ašā al-sufliyya” appears in other places.

Translation

24Surprisingly, although we find tenet differences between both editions, in his translation of Epistle 1, El-Bizri apparently follows... the Beirut edition and not his own edition of the text! Regarding the first difference we mentioned (I 48/Arab. p. 9), he translates: “… become easier for students to acquire the wisdom…” (Eng. p. 66). Regarding the second difference (I 61/Arab. p. 37), El-Bizri translates as follows: “Whoever wishes to understand this thoroughly” (Eng. p. 80) forgetting “I mean the powers of two”. He also did not translate (Eng. p. 98), another addition of the London edition, I 77/Arab. p. 68:

بحثوا عن علم النفس وألفوا فيه الكتب بقرائح قلوبهم الصافية
…inquired into the science of the soul with the natural talents of their pure minds

25This means that the “general editor” of the Epistles of the Brethren of Purity did not translate Epistle 1 on the basis of the London edition but on the basis of the Beirut edition.

  • 21 This epistle was previoulsy reviewed by Schmidl, “Review: On Astronomia”, and D’Ancona, “Review: O (...)

26Ikhwān al-afāʾ. Epistles of the Brethren of Purity: On Astronomia.An Arabic Critical Edition and English Translation of Epistle 3, edited by F. J. Ragep & Taro Mimura, Oxford, Oxford University Press in association with the Institute of Ismaili Studies, 2015. 368 p., 9.2 x 6.1 inches, 85 $. ISBN 978019874737621

Presentation

  • 22 Qabīṣī (356/967) and Burnett, The Introduction to Astrology, p. 18.

27Ragep and Mimura consider the epistle only as an introduction to astronomy, and that its model is al-Qabīṣī’s Introduction to Astrology (d. 380/967).22 Through this comparison, both scholars judge that the scientific level of the epistle is not only lower than that of al-Qabīṣī, but also that its method is not suitable for the teaching of astronomy. So, they conclude that the aim of the epistle has to be found elsewhere: “(The beginner they have in mind) is someone who wishes to gain moral guidance through well-chosen examples of astronomical knowledge” (p. 7). Astronomy would be a step on this moral path that has to be pursued further through other sciences. We will see below its moral relation with geography.

  • 23 This word used for astrology is surprisingly translated “science of judgements”, but indicates in (...)
  • 24 Crone, “Ungodly Cosmologies”, p. 115‒119.
  • 25 We analyze this case in de Vaulx d’Arcy, “La 17e nuit d’al-Tawḥīdī : réfutation d’une hérésie mena (...)

28The choice to take al-Qabīṣī as a reference misleads interpretation of the context. For instance, an important text on astrology (ʿilm al-akām23) (I 144/Arab. p. 111‒114) cannot be understood out of its 9th-century context. This text presents three attitudes towards astral persons (al-ašā al-falakiyya): firstly, those who consider that they are signs of future events; then, those who consider that they also have an effect on the sublunary world; and finally, those who consider that they are nothing but rocks. These three positions wrangled with each other in the 9th century. The first one was Persian astrology represented by Abū Maʿšar al-Balḫī (272/886). Against him, al-Kindī defended a judiciary astrology inspired by Ptolemy. This polemic between the Arab and Persian astrologers is staged in the fable of animals (Epistle 22, II 350‒351/Arab. p. 237‒238)in which the parrot mocks the Persian astrologers, shows the uselessness of a science which is unable to give any guidance concerning its object, and then solves the problem by praying to the vertical causes. The third position is that of the naturalists (aṣḥāb al-abīʿa) who reduce everything to the four elements.24 This materialist rationality leads to atheism and is the principle opponent against whom the Rasāʾil fights.25

29In this presentation, the Epistle is never analyzed as a step in the development of the book, although Epistle 3 cannot be understood except on the basis of Epistle 2 which introduced space and relied on the distinction between sensitive geometry and theoretical geometry, leading to the abstraction (taǧarrud) of the forms from material support. In the same way, Epistle 3 describes the celestial world in order to remind the reader of the future “abstraction of the soul (taǧarrud al-nafs)” and inspire his desire to reach the upper world (tašawwaqat nafsuhu al-uʿūda) (I 137‒140/Arab. p. 84‒89). So, the method of teaching geometry is applicable to cosmology.

Edition

30Both the editors have the humility to admit: “We make no claim that we have produced a ‘critical edition’” (p. 17). We saw before that other editors explained their failure by their condition of work. Ragep and Mimura point out a deeper problem: “The ambiguities regarding the textual transmission of the Epistles” (p.  xxi). They finally chose the manuscript from the Mahdavī Collection, Tehran MS ط on the assumption “that such an ‘uncluttered’ witness preserves an earlier version of the text” (p. 17). Then, the variations in other manuscripts are considered as additions and the editors “strove to record, as far as possible, all variants from the seven manuscripts [they] used” (p. 17). Additional chapters dealing only with technical material taken from two other manuscripts are put in an appendix.

  • 26 De Vaulx d’Arcy, Les Épîtres des Frères en Pureté. Mathématique et philosophie, p. 28.

31The end of this introduction concentrates on internal references to other epistles. Editors conclude that Epistle 3 is then of late composition since those epistles were already available when Epistle 3 was written. But they forget an important point, that those very epistles also contain references showing that Epistle 3 was already available when they were written! For instance, Epistle 3 (I 153) refers to Epistle 5 (I 215) on the application of harmonic relation to astronomy, but, at the same time, Epistle 5 (I 215) refers to Epistle 3 (I 119) on the value of the circle. This interrelationship, which we termed a “scriptural circle”,26 should have puzzled the editors. Each epistle is not an independent treatise but an element of a pre-defined philosophical system using positive sciences as its material.

32Ikhwān al-afāʾ. Epistles of the Brethren of Purity: On Geography. An Arabic Edition and English Translation of Epistle 4, edited by Ignacio Javier Sánchez Rojo & James Montgomery, Oxford, New York, Oxford University Press in association with the Institute of Ismaili Studies, 2014. 252 p., 9.2 x 6.1 inches, 50 $. ISBN 978-0-19-872822-1

Status quaestionis

33A common sin of scholars in Islamic studies is to flush out the hidden profanations. For instance, Sanchez and Montgomery conclude from the identification in Epistle 4 of the country of prophets with the fourth climate (Mesopotamia, the Levant), as indicating the exclusion of Muhammad from this family of prophets. Antrim is convincing in her rebuttal of this Orientalist fantasy:

  • 27 Antrim, “Review: On Geography”, p. 93.

Indeed ninth- and tenth-century works, such as Nuʿaym ibn Ḥammād al-Khuzāʾī’s Kitāb al-fitan and world geographies by Ibn al-Faqīh and al-Muqaddasī, all apply some version of the epithet ‘land of the prophets’ to Syria in recognition of the many prophets before Muḥammad associated with the region and thus its long sacred history.27

34That many Muslim authors give great importance to other prophets does not exclude Muḥammad from prophecy.

Presentation

35This presentation is technically very precise for the history of geography and is the only volume that puts the epistle both within the historical context of Arabic geography development and in the hermeneutical context of the Epistles as a whole.

  • 28 Lettinck, Aristotle’s Meteorology and Its Reception in the Arab World, p. 176. See also p. 9‒10 an (...)

36The historical analysis reveals that: “Although al-Farghānī is the principal source for the main text, the composition of the cartographical tables drew on a different source. The tables of the cities with their co-ordinates that accompany the description of the seven climes are based on al-Khwārismī’s reformulation of Ptolemy’s Geography” (Eng. p. 35). So, all the sources are limited to the 9th century. We can add here an element mentioned in Lettinck’s researches which established that Iwan al-afā’s meteorology exposed in Epistle 4 and Epistle 18 has a specifically Kindian affiliation: “The Iḫwān al-ṣafāʾ, al-Qazwīnī, and Najm ad-Dīn maintain with al-Kindī that wind is air which is set into motion by dry exhalations.”28 Indeed, this explanation of wind was rejected by other major thinkers like al-Ǧāḥiẓ and Ibn Sīnā, who preferred the Aristotelian views. This Kindian affiliation could explain the specificity of Epistle 4 (I 175-176/Arab. p. 41‒45) that the editors pointed out: “There is, however, a striking difference that separates this epistle by the Ikhwān al-Ṣafāʾ from al-Farghānī’s and al-Khwārizmī’s works and also the majority of Islamic geographical writings: the treatment of the fourth clime” (Eng. p. 35‒36). Unfortunately, no surviving text can confirm this claim.

37The other quality of this presentation is not to forget that Epistle 4 is only a chapter of a larger book and to request that we “read the treatise as a coherent textual unit in the holistic framework of the Rasāʾil Ikhwān al-afāʾ” (Eng. p. 43). We agree with such advice and follow it. The Epistle on Geography is not only an introduction to this science, but it also takes part in the soteriological system. The individual has to know his actual place in the world compared to the celestial destiny of his soul:

Knowledge of the Earth and of how it is stationary in the air belongs to the noble sciences, because the Earth is what our bodies stand on, it is where our bodies start their existence and grow, and whence they derive the matter for their continuance, and it is thither that they return when they are separated from our souls (Eng. p. 49/I 159).

38Geography is the brother of astronomy, just as politics is of religion. While astronomy describes the residence of the soul, geography describes the world of the body. And the elevation from geography to astronomy can be compared with the passage from sensitive geometry to theoretical geometry in Epistle 2, and from music to harmony in Epistle 5 and Epistle 6. This is the movement that prepares the ascension of the soul from its earthy life to its heavenly eternal life through separation from the body.

39Geography is also a propaedeutic to the science of the soul in another way. The method of the Rasāʾil consists in showing how proximate elements prepare us for the understanding of distant realities, not only in the theological way of the inference from the visible to the hidden (al-istidlāl min al-šāhid ʿalā al-ġāʾib), but also in the epistemological use of the duality microcosm/macrocosm, the first being a preliminary way to understand the structure of the second, exactly like the science of the self is a preparation for the science of the universe, which is a macrozoon, following Plato’s view. Similarly, the representation of the Earth (ūrat al-ar is the Arabic name for Geography) prepares us for the study of the skies (I 166‒167/Arab. p. 56‒57).

40Finally, the end of the epistle (I 181‒182/Arab. p. 77‒78) is clearly an announcement of Epistle 45 on the brotherhood that is able to prepare for the next virtuous cycle.

Edition

41The editors chose Esad Effendi 3638 after a precise analysis of the eleven manuscripts and their classification (Eng. p. 13). But they make it clear that “this edition does not seek to reconstruct a hypothetical Urtext (if it ever existed)”.

42A phenomenon concerning Esad Effendi 3637 has been noticed: it contains some additions in the margin coming from the reading of a second manuscript. The editors make a hypothesis: “A manuscript belonging to group B (ل،ك،ط،ز) seems to have been used for the marginal notes in ن” (Eng. p. 12). But one addition in the margin (Arab. p. 7, footnote 2) can only be found in the Beirut edition (I 159). So, the correction was made from the Beirut source, or from a branch of this source. It may be the same for marginal additions in Atif Effendi 1681.

43And the Beirut edition contains most of the “additions” of other manuscripts that are lacking only in Esad Effendi 3638’s. Some of them are most probably omissions by homeoteleuton in Esad Effendi 3638 (for instance I 161/Arab. p. 10, footnote 6). So, Beirut, and BNF 2304 (ز) and Köprülü 870 (ك) seem to be more complete.

44The introductory chapter of BCB which had no precise relation with the topic of the epistle has been removed. We will find the same phenomenon in the still unedited epistles, where such a summary disappeared from Atif Effendi 1681: Epistle 29, III 34/300b, and Epistle 50, IV 250/523b. This can be interpreted in two ways: BCB also contains some additions; or, each epistle being distributed separately, a summary of the doctrine was inserted at its beginning.

45Ikhwān al-afāʾ. Epistles of the Brethren of Purity: On Music. An Arabic Critical Edition and English Translation of Epistle 5, edited by Owen Wright, Oxford, Oxford University Press in association with the Institute of Ismaili Studies, 2010. 408 p., 9.2 x 6.1 inches, 98 $. ISBN 978-0199593989

Status quaestionis

  • 29 Shiloah, “Review: On Music”, p. 151.
  • 30 Shiloah, p. 153.

46This volume was reviewed by the great specialist of Epistle 5 and of Arabic music in general, Amnon Shiloah, who begins by reminding us of the relation of the Brethren’s conception of music with al-Kindī’s school.29 He acknowledges the admirable work of Owen Wright in general, and for his insistence on a precise point: his disagreement with the translation of technical terminology. In his point of view, ināʿat al-taʾlīf is not “art of composition” but “art of harmony”, ināʿat al-malāhī is not “construction of instruments” but “instrumental art”, and the distinction between al-awāt and al-naġamāt does not correspond to “rhythms” and “tones” but to “sounds” and “beats”. Shiloah concludes that “Wright’s translation is a kind of abstraction of the terms, disconnected from the musical or rhythmical context”.30

Presentation

  • 31 See Eng. p. 15, footnote 16; Eng. p. 16; Eng. p. 17, footnotes 20 and 21; Eng. p. 42; Eng. p. 58; (...)

47Wright, who had the difficult challenge of walking in Shiloah’s footsteps, as he reminds us (Eng. p. 13), offers an interesting introduction to the history of the music theory in the Arabic world, and confirms the deeply Kindian nature of the Iwān al-afā’s conception of music.31 The same theoretical Pythagorean orientation, contrary to the reality of music, can be found in al-Kindī and the Brethren in Purity:

This Pythagorean diatonic fretting, identical with that presented by al-Kindī (albeit described differently...), fails to reflect the realities of practice, which also involved the use of neutral intervals, as al-Fārābī's account makes clear (pp. 127, 500, 511), (Eng. p. 114, footnote 146).

48Their conception is clearly pre-Farabian.

49Unfortunately, this presentation does not explain the relations of the epistle with the rest of the book, and its soteriological aim is omitted. In particular, Epistle 5 has to be read in relation with Epistle 3, the human music being only an imitation initiated by Pythagoras and other wise men of the celestial music created by God between the spheres to make people yearn for the Hereafter (I, 205‒207/Arab. p. 73‒74), and also in relation with Epistle 6 which is its theoretical counterpart, just as theoretical geometry was the counterpart of sensitive geometry in Epistle 2 since music makes us aware of the arithmetical harmony that exists among all the knowledgeable beings.

  • 32 Ibn Ḫallikān (681/1282), Wafayāt al-aʿyān; al-Bayhaqī (565/1169), Tārī ukamāʾ al-islām.
  • 33 Like ʿAbd al-Rāziq, Faylasūf al-ʿArab wa-l-muʿallim al-ānī; Al-Ḥamd, ābiʾat arrān wa Iwān al-(...)
  • 34 For example, the story of the ascetic who spat on the wealthy man is also found in Abū Bakr al-Rāz (...)

50Two important problems remain unsolved in this epistle. The first is philological and concerns the status of the well-known story of the musician ascetic (I 185/Arab. p. 10‒12). This story also appears in Epistle 8 (I 289) and will be found later in Ibn Ḫallikān and al-Bayhaqī who place al-Fārābī instead of the ascetic.32 This point, which drew the attention of important scholars,33 is not even indicated in footnotes (Eng. p. 80). Personally, we tend to think that it is a Hellenistic legend like those collected by Ḥunayn b. Isḥāq in his Kitāb ādāb al-falāsifa, which was a great success in Arabic. Such a genealogy of other stories on ascetic philosophers has already been done.34

51The second problem is philosophical and deals with the concept of “best proportion (al-nisba al-afal)” (I 225/Arab. p. 138). This concept is central in the Epistles, for this proportion is the law of composition of all divine and human creation. Nonetheless, it has two different definitions: one is only mathematical, the harmonic proportion in Epistle 6 (I 247), and the other is restricted to musical use (Epistle 3, I 147, Epistle 5, I 222), i.e. 2/1, 3/2, 4/3, 5/4, 9/8. The question is then: why did God restrict his creation to these proportions which have no mathematical but only phenomenological specificity? We understand that the ontology of the Rasāʾil is at stake here. In the Epistles, divine providence is not architectonic; mathematical harmony is not a way to produce the best possible world, but is soteriological; musical harmony is a way of putting signs on Earth for the soul to understand its celestial destiny. Not only does the editor not consider this question, but he even loses the concept in his translation, naming al-nisba al-afal by five different expressions: “the ideal proportion” (Eng. p. 113 and p. 144), “perfectly proportioned” (Eng. p. 136), “the proportional ideal” (Eng. p. 139), “the most perfect proportion” (Eng. p. 141 and p. 147), “the perfect proportion” (Eng. p. 147).

Edition

52The edition is based on Atif Effendi 1681. A partial stemma is drawn, but the editor declares that “the very concept of an Urtext is questionable” (Eng. p. 7), and then reduces the book to a series of encyclopedic articles.

53Footnotes indicate variations between manuscripts, but no indications are made to the Beirut edition. Below are some variations between both editions, with an estimation of the correct version.

Beirut London Correct edition
1 I 183 وتأثيراتها كلها مظاهر روحانية p. 7 وتأثيراتها كلها روحانية L
2 I 185 غيّر نغمة الأوتار p. 8 غيّر أوتار الآلة B
3 I 202 والسرنايات والصفرات والصلباب والشواشل p. 64 والشبابات والصفرات والشلياك والشوشك ?
4 I 203 الصنائع الأول p. 65 الصنائع L

541. The term maāhir (phenomena) does not occur elsewhere in the Epistles.

  • 35 Rasāʾil Iḫwān al-Ṣafā, Beirut edition, I 289 ; Ibn Ḫallikān (681/1282), Wafayāt al-aʿyān; al-Bayha (...)

2. The sentence is taken from the first of two stories dealing with the effects of the music on nerves. It is the different ways of playing, i.e. a variation on the scales (maqāmāt), not a changing of the strings, that produces different effects. The second story, which will be found also in the Epistle 8, in Ibn Ḫallikān and al-Bayhaqī, with reference to al-Fārābī, speaks about pieces of wood combined differently.35 A late copyist could understand the first scene in the light of the second one.

  • 36 Shiloah, “L’épître sur la musique des Ikhwān al-Ṣafāʾ”; Brethren of Purity, On Music (Epistle 5).

3. Both Shiloah and Wright had some difficulties with those technical terms for musical instruments in their respective translations.36

4. The expression “the first crafts” makes no sense and has no other occurrence.

55Ikhwān al-afāʾ. Epistles of the Brethren of Purity: On Logic. An Arabic Critical Edition and English Translation of Epistles 10-14, edited by Carmela Baffioni, Oxford, Oxford University Press in association with the Institute of Ismaili Studies, 2010. 432 p., 9.2 x 6.1 inches, 83 $. ISBN 978-0199586523

Status quaestionis

  • 37 Adamson, “Review: On Logic”, p. 365.
  • 38 Netton, “Review: On Logic”, p. 154.

56This volume has already been reviewed twice. The first was by Adamson, who naturally praises Baffioni’s knowledge and accuracy in translation, quibbling only on her choosing qualities for translating “ifāt”. His only remark about the presentation is an addition and deals with the proximity of the definitions with the Greek commentators, David and Elias.37 Concerning the second by Netton, he only praises the whole project without any specific remarks on Baffioni’s work.38

Presentation

  • 39 Al-Kindī (before 256/870), “Kammiyyat kutub Arisṭū”, p. 364.

57This volume contains the five epistles on logic, more precisely the little organon (from the Isagoge to the Second Analytics). Although the long organon is mentioned by al-Kindī in the Quantity of Books of Aristotle,39 his study will not begin in Islam before al-Fārābī who studied with Mattā b. Yūnus. This indication that the Rasāʾil are pre-Farabian is not noticed by Baffioni in her presentation, which contains summaries of the five epistles, a historical account on the Greek sources, and a philological study of eulogies, perhaps giving greater importance to them than they deserve. Indeed, such expressions can change easily from one copyist to another.

58The editor also gives ancient sources of the epistles and asks about the Epistles’ success or failure in reproducing and imitating Greek logic. This concern for faithfulness makes her forget the great novelty of certain logical concepts in the logic of the Epistles.

Epistle 10 on the Isagoge

  • 40 See our article: de Vaulx d’Arcy, “Nul ne sera sauvé si tous ne le sont”. And see Epistle 2, I 99‒ (...)
  • 41 It will be found also in Epistle 31 on the diversity of tongues (III 143).

59Epistle 10 contains two elements whose importance only appears in the economy of the system. The first one is a consequence of their political theory of complementarity: that no science and no religion possesses the whole truth but only a part of it.40 This theory is based on arithmetic, more precisely on the series of cardinal numbers: each doctrine has a rank in the series, like Christians who are the people of three, Aristotelians who are the people of four, etc. The conception of language in Epistle 10 is also built on arithmetic,41 precisely on an analogy between numbers and languages. The relation between languages and things is like the relationship between numbers and things, each one correctly expresses a class of things, but we need all the numbers to express all sorts of things (I 391). The result is very original and consistent with the system of the Brethren in Purity: that no one language expresses all ideas, we need them all. This linguistic complementarity will be developed in Epistle 31 on the diversity of languages (III 153).

60The second element concerns their conception of revelation, integrated in the general epistemology of the Rasāʾil. Here is Baffioni’s translation of the text:

And the study and investigation of this language, the knowledge of how the soul perceives the concepts of existing beings in themselves by means of senses, and how the concepts penetrate its thought through intellect, that is called ‘revelation’, and the soul’s expression of these concepts through words in whatever language, all this is called the ‘science of philosophical logic’ (I 392/Eng. p. 67).

61The translation can be ambiguous, but Baffioni knows that what “is called revelation” is not the intellect, but the applications of the text “establishing a comparison between abstraction and religion” (p. 5). This does not mean that religion is “well beyond logic”, as Baffioni says (p. 5). The process of abstraction is described in this text in a very singular manner, it is an inqidā, a sparking that produces ideas from sensations. The term originally describes a natural phenomenon, like die sublimierung in Freudian psychology: in sparking, the heavy mineral becomes a light part of fire. Then, it would be more convenient to translate the sentence as follows: “… and how the sparking (inqidā) of the ideas (al-maʿānī) happens in his thought through intellect – what is called revelation (and inspiration) (al-way wa-l-ilhām) –, and their expression …”

62The science of philosophical logic is composed of three steps: perception of the ideas in re, abstraction of those ideas in intellectu through inqidā, and their expression in words. The second step is called revelation and inspiration. Is it consistent with the general view of the Iwān al-afā? Yes, and it solves an ambiguity. The Rasāʾil have two assertions on prophecy and knowledge: firstly, scholars are the heirs of the prophets; and secondly, philosophy appeared before the divine revelations of the Torah, the Gospels and the Koran. So, wise men from the Ancient world who studied reality with the purity of their soul, like Pythagoras, are already prophets. Prophecy is a universal faculty, the faculty of grasping the universal ideas in the way described by this text.

Epistle 11 on the Categories

  • 42 Crone, “Ungodly Cosmologies”, p. 107.

63Aristotle’s Categories played such an important function in theology that Patricia Crone could write: « The Categories was the disputer’s Bible ».42 We will see below that the Brethren in Purity discovered new categories and used them in religious disputation.

  • 43 Al-Fārābī (338/950), Kitāb al-urūf, p. 91‒95.
  • 44  Al-Kindī (before 256/870), “Kammiyyat Kutub Arisṭū.”, p. 370‒372; Epistle 11, I 410‒411.
  • 45 Al-Fārābī (338/950), Kitāb al-urūf, § 39, p. 83.
  • 46 See MSS Ayasofia 4855, 71a, and our article: de Vaulx d’Arcy, “Aḥmad b. al-Ṭayyib al-Saraḫsī, révi (...)

64Falsafa was also fond of classification, classification of sciences, and classification of categories, developing the Hellenistic distinction between primary and secondary categories. Al-Fārābī summarizes the different positions and puts an end to this question in his Kitāb al-urūf, § 51‒55.43 Thus Epistle 11 can also be situated between al-Kindī and al-Fārābī. While al-Kindī elects three primary categories (substance, quality and quantity), Epistle 11 makes it four, adding relation, and using the same way to combine them in secondary categories. For example, possession and position are a composition of two substances.44 One detail is very important here: al-Kindī and the translators of the Categories translate the position into “al-mawūʿ ”, al-Fārābī uses the term “al-waʿ ”,45 but Epistle 11 translates it into “al-nuba”. And the only one who also uses this term is Aḥmad b. al-Ṭayyib al-Saraḫsī. We edit and discuss the corresponding text elsewhere.46

65Different elements exposed in Epistle 11 play an important role in the whole system. Concerning the classification of categories, Baffioni concentrates on the mathematical distinction between continuous and discrete quantities as an anti-atomistic element (Eng. p. 10). Another distinction will play an important function in the system, the status of matter and form: matter and form are spiritual substances. So, how to distinguish both? “[The first wise men] called the things preceding in existence ‘matter’ and called the things succeeding in existence ‘form’” (I 405/Eng. p. 87). The distinction is relative. This concept will become important in physics. Epistle 15, (II 6/Arab. p. 6‒7) is consistent with this definition and illustrates the relativity of both concepts with the example of the shirt (II 7/Arab. p. 11‒12) which will also be found in Epistle 35 (III 234‒235).

  • 47 Al-Kindī (before 256/870), The Philosophical Works of al-Kindī, “Epistle on the Five Essences”, p. (...)
  • 48 According to the recurring expression: “… The number of which can be calculated only by God (wa-lā (...)

66That means two things. First, any difference is a formal difference. This definition has a Kindian origin: “We must therefore now define form: I say that it is the difference by which one thing is distinguished from others through vision; vision is what grasps it.”47 If the difference between individuals is formal, then real forms are singular. Then, only God can know all the particulars48 (this will change later with Ibn Sīnā). Man just classifies beings in general categories. Second, the ontological nature of matter as a spiritual substance has a soteriological implication: the movement of return to the spiritual world is universal.

67Such a function in the whole system can be proved not only for a logical category but also in the case of an image, like the metaphor of the garden of sciences described in the Introductive Epistle (I 43). In Epistle 11, this garden contains ten species of trees, symbolizing the Aristotelian categories (I 413/Arab. p. 74‒76). The same garden will be found again in Epistle 31 (III 156) in the story of the blind and the cripple. This constitutes evidence of the unity of style through all the Epistles.

Epistle 12

68The presentation of the epistle on the Peri Hermeneias focuses on the question of fidelity to the original which prevents the editor from spotting its innovations. However, an innovating idea can be found in this short epistle (only five pages long in the Beirut edition). Indeed, a consequence of the definition of matter as a spiritual substance exposed in the former epistle will be on the physical level of the nature of the primordial matter: “[The Prime Matter] is the form of being and no more” (Epistle 15, II 8/Eng. p. 112). Forms in the universal soul do not exist because matter still does not exist. This means that the existence of natural beings is only a possibility. But, what about God? Epistle 12 answers, by ending with the distinction between necessary being (al-wāǧib), possible being (al-mumkin) and impossible being (al-mumtanaʿ):

That which is necessary in being precedes in nature that which is possible, and that which is possible precedes in nature that which is impossible, because if that which is necessary did not exist, then that which is possible would not be known, and if that which is possible did not exist, then that which is impossible would not be known (Epistle 12, I 419/Eng. p. 108).

69It asserts that necessary beings come first in generation (fī al-kawn). On an ontological level, God is “the one from whom emanates (al-fāʾi) the existence of the beings” (Epistle 42, III 515). Existence is given by God to beings through the Universal Soul. Their possible existence then takes its origin in His necessary existence. That is why Epistle 26 calls Him “ǧib al-wuǧūd” (II 470‒471). We have here the logical basis of the concept of God as ǧib al-wuǧūd, which will be a central principle later on with Ibn Sīnā, a young reader of the Epistles, as his biography tells us.

Epistle 13

70Baffioni offers an interesting summary of this epistle in the First Analytics, but without considering its echoes in the rest of the Epistles. She has an excuse because Epistle 13 is the only epistle which does not contain explicit references to other epistles. However, an idea exposed here, i.e. the distinction between different ways of reasoning, will play an important function in religious and political sciences:

Know, O my brother, that when the former wise men began studying the various types of sciences and consolidated them, invented and brought to perfection wonderful arts, and, at that moment, discovered for each science and art a root from which its species spread, then they set a measure (qiyāsan) through which the various branches might be known, and a scale by which the more, the less, and the equal in them might be clarified: such as the art of prosody, which is the scale of poetry (Epistle 13, I 424/Eng. p. 117).

71This unique balance is different for each art: poetry has prosody, astronomy has the astrolabe, geometry has the ruler, etc. The same is applicable to sciences, and that is the meaning of Aristotle’s great organon: to show the logical rules of each sort of speech. This plurality of logics is clearly expressed in Epistle 42 on Opinions and Religions which mentions this very passage under the expression “the books of logic” and says:

If you meditate, O brother, on the dissensions of the scholars, you will see that most of them are related to judgments of the acquired intellect, either for the different degrees (of quality) of their mind, or for the difference of logical procedures (qiyasāt) and their various uses of them. For instance, some of them use dialectic demonstration (qiyās) in the precise scientific research, some the rhetoric demonstration, or the geometric demonstration (burhān), or the logic one, or the arithmetic one (III 467).

72That the epistles on Logic prepare the epistemology of religious opinions is also proven by the reuse of Epistle 14’s analysis of the errors in demonstration (I 432‒434) in the same Epistle 42 (III 444‒448).

Epistle 14

  • 49 The main scholars are de Boer, “Zu Kindi und seiner Schule”; Farmer, “Who was the Author of the ‘L (...)
  • 50 Farmer, “Who was the Author of the ‘Liber introductorius in artem logicae demonstrationis’?”.
  • 51 Hamdani, “The Ikhwān al-Ṣafāʾ: Between al-Kindī and al-Fārābī”, p. 195‒196.
  • 52 De Vaulx d’Arcy, Les Épîtres des Frères en Pureté. Mathématique et philosophie, p. 48.
  • 53 Rosenthal, Amad b. al-ayyib al-Sarasī. A Scholar and a Littérateur of the Ninth Century, p. 62.

73Epistle 14 on the Second Analytics has a very particular place in the history of the Rasāʾil Iwān al-afā for its independent circulation in Latin under the title Liber introductiorus in artem logicae demonstrationis, with indication of an author: “Mahometh discipulo Alquindi”. Numerous scholars wrote about this indication,49 among them Carmela Baffioni. Despite her expertise on this question, Baffioni does not expand on it and writes a single footnote here summarizing the debate (Eng. p. 6, footnote 15). To recall it, some focused on the first clue, the first name, like Farmer who read it as Muḥammad b. Taḫlān al-Fārābī or Muḥammad b. al-Maʿšar al-Busṭī.50 Others like Hamdani paid attention to the title, al-Kindī’s disciple, and dated the book “between al-Kindī and al-Fārābī”.51 Our hypothesis on the authorship attributing the Rasāʾil to Aḥmad b. al-Ṭayyib al-Saraḫsī satisfies this second condition: the only scholar who was ever called tilmī al-Kindī is al-Saraḫsī.52 What about the first condition? Aḥmad b. al-Ṭayyib is not Muḥammad. But Rosenthal noticed a text of Murūǧ al-ahab which called him “Muḥammad b. al-Ṭabīb”.53 So, even in Arabic manuscripts, Aḥmad b. al-Ṭayyib is called Muḥammad. Therefore, discipulo Alquindi, author of the Liber introductorius, is most probably al-Saraḫsī.

  • 54 Al-Kindī (before 256/870), “al-Falsafa al-ūlā”, p. 129 ; Epistle 32, III 179.

74Baffioni notices an interesting novelty in Epistle 14, the appearance of individuality as a logical category: “‘Individual’ is added to [the terms used by philosophers] in the Ikhwān’s treatise” (Eng. p. 7). An individual is what is counted as one, even if it is a plurality. It is one metaphorically (bi-l-maǧāz), while the ontological unity is restricted to God who is really one (id bi-l-aqīqa).54 An individual is counted as one because it is a singular composition, such as a mountain (Epistle 19, II 102), or a religious community (Epistle 9, I 374): “Know, O my brother, that the meaning of the word ‘individual’ is a way of referring (išāra ilā) to each whole (ǧumla), assembled from various things and aggregated of a number of parts, single and distinct from other existing beings” (Epistle 14, I 430/Eng. p. 128) The property of an individual is to be išāra ilā ǧumla. It refers to the Aristotelian τόδε τι and will become al-mušār ilayhi in al-Fārābī’s logic.

75Another important idea in the system of the Epistles, and beyond, in the history of epistemology, is the analogy between sources of knowledge and books. This metaphor of the “book of the nature” will have a still to be written history leading to Galileo’s Celestial Messenger, and the Epistles are perhaps the starting point of this metaphor. The doctrine of the four books, among them the natural books (al-kutub al-abīʿiyya), will be discussed in Epistles 45 (IV 42) and 48 (IV 167‒168), but it has logical roots in Epistle 14:

Know, O brother, that there are many relationships between the intelligible objects that man perceives by the five senses and that which is deduced from them by first senses, such as the relationship between the letters of the alphabet and the names composed of them. There are also many relationships between the intelligible objects that constitute the first principles and the sciences derived from them by demonstration and syllogisms, such as the relationship between names and the sciences and languages which come from their aggregation in propositions, conversations and dialogues (I 436/Eng. p. 136).

  • 55 Nicomachus of Gerasa (120 ce), Introduction to Arithmetic, II 21, p. 265.

76The Arabic sentence is intricate, it is based on an analogy, a comparison between two relations repeated twice, using the following construction: “The relationship of (al-nisba) … with (bi-l-iāfa ilā) … is as many as (kaīra ka…) the relationship of (al-nisba) … with (bi-l-iāfa ilā) …”. Analogy is one of the most important logical and syntactical forms in the Epistles reflecting the idea of micro- and macrocosm. Adding to that, al-nisba is a fundamental concept in the Epistles which is the object of a technical study in an entire epistle, Epistle 6. Al-nisba is the mathematical ratio, and “the ratio is the measure of a value in relation to another” (I 42). This definition is inspired by Nichomachus of Gerasa’s Introduction to Arithmetic: “A ratio is the relation of two terms to one another, and the combination of such is a proportion.”55 The text of Epistle 14 is precisely such a proportion. So, the translation needs a few modifications, as follows:

  • 56 We cannot follow Baffioni who retains against all the other manuscripts (Arabic p. 153, n. 2012) t (...)

Know, O brother, that the relation (al-nisba) between the information (al-maʿlūmāt) that man perceives by the five senses and the first principles (awāʾil al-ʿuqūl) deduced from them, is as productive as the relation between the letters of the alphabet and the names composed of them. Know also that the relation between the information (al-maʿlūmāt) coming from the first principles and the sciences derived from them by demonstration and syllogisms, is as productive as the relation between names and the language and tongues (al-kalām wa-l-luġāt)56 which come from their composition (yataʾallaf) in speeches (maqālāt), conversations and dialogues.

  • 57 See Epistle 6, I 242‒243, and Nicomachus of Gerasa, Introduction to Arithmetic, I 17.

77This proportion is more precisely a “greater inequality (al-itilāf al-aʿam)”, a relation of a greater value to a smaller.57 Both sensations and letters have the capacity to produce by combination more items than the basic elements. The technical root of the analogy is the mathematical proportion, and its philosophical result is the production of a new epistemology: sensations are mental letters, they build concepts in the same way letters compose words, and then demonstrations are mental speeches. Philosophical reasoning is composed of mental books based on sensations that are information taken from nature. This passage from Epistle 14 is indeed the logical foundation of an epistemology considering nature as a book.

Edition

78Baffioni plays an important role in the London project, editing and translating alone a great part of the Epistles, reaching the hall of fame of those, like Dieterici, Pausani, Marquet or Diwald, who dedicated their life of research to the Brethren in Purity. She definitely put her imprint on this edition. Her editing choices are nevertheless quite particular, being followed only by Poonawala in choosing one sole manuscript, Atif Effendi 1681, as a reference text. She followed it faithfully, even in the design of the text, refusing for example to add linefeed. At the same time, she edited all the important additions from other manuscripts in appendices, giving a wide view on all the possibilities. However, one source has been neglected, the Beirut version with its important specificities. Regarding the epistles on Logic, one meaningful modification was done, and three appendices added.

  • 58 Yaḥyā ibn ʿAdī (m. 363/974), “Traité sur la différence qui existe entre l’art de la logique philos (...)

79The modification concerns Epistle 10 which deals, in the Beirut edition, with “the speech (al-nuq)” and distinguishes between “the mental speech (al-nuq al-fikrī)” and “the oral speech (al-nuq al-lafī)”. In the London edition, one letter of this phrase is changed and becomes the mental and oral “logic (al-maniq)”. The Beirut edition already used al-maniq al-lafī twice in the same way it uses al-nuq al-lafī. So, the new edition seems to have erased an odd imperfection of the text. Baffioni, then, interprets this distinction as the distinction between logic and grammar in light of the ‘Logic versus Grammar’ debate in Aristotle (p. 28‒30). This could be supplemented by the Arabic context of such a discussion. Historically, al-Saraḫsī is the first philosopher in Islam who dealt with the logical-grammatical problem in his fī al-farq bayna naw al-ʿArab wa-l-maniq. This debate will become important when logic takes the place of arithmetic in Islamic founding philosophy, with Mattā b. Yūnis, al-Fārābī, Yūḥannā b. Ḥaylān, and al-Sayrāfī. Some elements close to the Iwān al-afā can also be found in Yaḥyā b. ʿAdī.58

80To come back to the editing choice, the problem is that one of the former expressions, i.e. the mental speech (al-nuq al-fikrī), can also be found in another epistle, Epistle 3 on Astronomy (I 143/Arab. p. 107), which attributes to the souls without body (the malicious jinn and the defiant devils) the possession of a mental speech (oral speech being an attribute of bodies). With Baffioni’s correction, al-nuq al-fikrī in Epistle 3 becomes a hapax, and in Ragep and Mimura’s translation in Epistle 3, the concept itself is lost, because the idea of “mental speech” becomes merely a quality translated by “articulating with consideration”.

81However, the distinction between two sorts of speech (nuq), and not only two sorts of logic (maniq), makes sense in the thought of the Brethren in Purity, who give great importance to the separation between incarnate souls, whose speech is oral, and separate souls, whose speech is mental. For instance, a consequence of the necessity for men to communicate by oral speech is their misunderstanding while they are in their earthly corporal form (Epistle 10, I 402/Arab. p. 39). Mental speech ability is thus a condition of the Epistles’ ethics based on purification of the soul: this purification is the means to get rid of corporeal links and to enable communication with celestial souls. The whole idea disappears from the London edition.

82Three appendices are added to the edition of the core text.

83Appendix A is taken from Atif Effendi 1681 itself, the passage has no direct relation with logic, and can be also found in Epistle 15 (II 8/Arab. p. 13), or, as recorded by Baffioni (p. 163), in Epistle 35, III 234-236. Her decision to remove it from the body of the epistle is reasonable.

84Appendix B is a text found in Bodleian Library MS Laud Or. 260 and MS Marsh 189 in place of the whole epistle. So, Baffioni deduces that this passage is a “summary” of Epistle 10: “The summary opens with the distinction between linguistic (lughawī) and philosophical (falsafī) logic that corresponds to the distinction between fikrī and lafī in the other versions” (p. 174). However, finding it also in the Beirut edition (I 402-403), she judges that the summary is an “addition” from the Beirut source (p. 177), which is almost unbelievable: how could one of the oldest manuscripts have taken its abstract from another manuscript and added it to this text without any effect on later manuscripts. So, let us come back to the internal analysis of the text: what is the passage on “the four genders” (I 403) about? It distinguishes among four types of categories: one contains the ten Aristotelian philosophical categories, while the three others are linguistic categories. The passage could have been removed by the copyist because of this focus on non-logical categories. These categories are those introduced by the question “Who?” and they describe the social status of a person: his original place (al-nisba), profession and genealogy. The present distinction between luġawī and falsafī has absolutely no relation to the former distinction between lafī and fikrī, for it is the distinction of two sorts of logic, and not of logic on one hand, and language on the other. It has echoes in the rest of the Epistles, and Epistle 7 (I 265‒266) already exposes the function of the question “Who?”, which will be once more distinguished with “What?”, questions in Epistle 42 (III 513‒514). Epistle 42 (III 436) also quotes the distinction between both logics, luġawī and falsafī.

85We have to understand that the present text is an absolute innovation in the field of logic and opens the doors to a non-Aristotelian logic. The Epistles make a theological use of it: “The saying of the master logician, ‘Everything existing, except the Creator, is either a substance or an accident’, belongs to (the first principles)” (Epistle 14, I 445/Eng. p. 146). So, to which category does God belong? The linguistic categories help to solve nothing less than this problem of speaking of the divine transcendence. In order to avoid the confusion between the Creator and the creations, the Epistles explain that theological speech must be made with other categories than the philosophical ones, i.e. the linguistic categories. So, one must ask about God not by the question “What?”, but rather by the question “Who?” (Epistle 42, III 413‒414).

86 Appendix C is an addition found in Esad Effendi 3638 about Epistle 12. This summary can be part of the Epistles. Firstly, we find the same link between grammatical and logical categories as in Epistle 10 and following the program of Epistle 12: “In sum, everybody aiming at studying philosophical logic should first be knowledgeable in the science of grammar” (Eng. p. 103‒104); and secondly, the types of phrases are classified according to the arithmetical series order. However, the numerological counting is quite odd, so it could also be a later Ismaili addition.

  • 59 This volume was reviewed by Loinaz.

87Ikhwān al-Ṣafāʾ. Epistles of the Brethren of Purity: On the Natural Sciences. An Arabic Critical Edition and English Translation of Epistles 15-21, edited by Carmela Baffioni, Oxford, Oxford University Press in association with the Institute of Ismaili Studies, 2013. 969 p., 9.2 x 6.1 inches, 120 $. ISBN 978-019968380259

Presentation

  • 60 Baffioni, “La science des pierres précieuses dans l’épître des Ikhwān al-Ṣafāʾ : entre les catalog (...)

88Editing and translating the epistles on natural sciences is a challenge, and is very demanding for the scholar. Baffioni was the right person for such a job, because she already published an article on the technical Epistle 21 on Minerals.60 Her skills permit her to give a precise list of all the mineral terms (Eng. p. 409‒432).

  • 61 See Halm, “The Cosmology of the Pre-Fatimid Ismāʿīliyya”.

89More widely, the presentation deals with both of the sources, “the classical heritage”, and the general principles of Iwān al-afā’s philosophy, ending with Ismaili elements (Eng. p. 54‒59), presuming that Ismaili cosmology was already philosophical and not mythological as demonstrated by Heinz Halm.61 In our view, the transformation of Ismaili cosmology is due to the influence of Abū Zayd al-Balḫī, who stands in between the philosophical system of Iwān al-afā and the religious view of the Ismaili, converting the latter’s cosmology into a conceptual one.

  • 62 See de Smet, La philosophie ismaélienne.

90In her presentation, Baffioni does not introduce each epistle separately, but considers them as a whole. Following the method used in the volume On Logic, she mentions some Greek origins, and summarizes the theory. One could also benefit from the way another scholar, Daniel de Smet, understands the succession of those epistles on Natural Beings from the simplest (the elements) to the more organized form as the “great chain of being” and the long way back of the soul to the spiritual world.62

91We would just like to add here few elements to link each epistle on Physics to the whole system.

Epistle 15

  • 63 On Music, Eng. p. 136, n. 218.
  • 64 Carmela Baffioni told us that MS Bodleien Laud Or 260 and MS Bodleien Marsh 189 had the term witho (...)

92There are five natural principles: form, matter, movement, space and time. Baffioni does not explain why, but the number recalls Abū Bakr al-Rāzī’s ontology, based on five principles: God, the soul, matter, space and time. The parallel is interesting since in the Aristotelian view, God is the principle of movement, and the soul is the form of the body. There could be some Aristotelian philosophers who limited the world to its material part and estimated that it was commanded by those five eternal principles. We think that this group is mentioned in Epistle 5, I 217, and Epistle 33, III 199, in the list of the metaphysical schools. Indeed, one can read: “… a group of naturalists preferred matters in fours; yet another group from the Ḫurramiyya favored matters with fives…” (Epistle 33, III 199/Epistle 32b, Eng. p. 27). The presence of al-urramiyya, a Mazdean sect to represent the metaphysics based on five principles is quite odd. Walker accepts the fact (p. 27, note 1), but Wright had the same feeling: “The Khurramiyya was a movement […] noted, if anything, for dualism. The association made here with the number five remains unclear.”63 So we suggest reading the Arabic text quite differently, modifying the root ḫ-r-m inǧ-r-m.64 The group, then, becomes al-ǧirmiyya, corporalists who deny the existence of incorporeal beings. The philological substitution can be historically explained by the copy being written in an Ismaili milieu. Many evocations of the corporalist position can be found in the Epistles, directly under the form “al-ǧirmiyyīn” in Epistle 1, I 76, indirectly about astrology (Epistle 3, I 144/Arab. p. 111‒114) or about the conception of man (Epistle 40, III 371‒372). Thus the Epistles, by integrating all the doctrines, accept their view, but restrict its truth to the sublunary world.

93The great novelty of the physics in the Rasāʾil, i.e. the conception of the matter, is not noticed by Baffioni. We already raised the point concerning Epistle 11. It also has reminiscences in Epistle 35, III 234‒235.

Epistle 16

94Epistle 16 Fī al-samāʾ wa-l-ʿālam is translated by Baffioni in a soteriological way: On the Heavens and the World. Indeed, physics is never independent of religious concerns in the Epistles. This is confirmed by two sections (II 39/Arab. p. 116‒123) which deal with physics and worship. Since the revolution of the planets around the earth is like the circulation of the pilgrims around the Kaaba, therefore a city has to be organized in spherical levels as the Indian king did. Those analogies are more than metaphors, according to the micro-macrocosm theory. Epistle 16 exposes the basis of a natural religion which has echoes in Epistle 19, II 125/Arab. p. 337. Baffioni’s translation of this passage is interesting: “And know, O my brother, that His worship does not consist entirely of fasting and prayer, but it is the structure (ʿimāra) of both the religion and the world” (Eng. p. 274). Indeed, the idea is to find universal worship in the structure of the world. Epistle 20, II 142‒143/Arab. p. 386‒389, replays the same comparison between the cosmological order and the Mecca pilgrimage. Epistle 50, IV 261‒271, will set out a huge comparative study of religions.

Epistle 17

95If the sky has to be understood as heaven, the world of generation and corruption is hell (II 59‒60/Arab. p. 177‒178). Then, duality between Epistles 16 and 17 repeats the duality between Epistle 3 on Astronomy and Epistle 4 on Geography.

Epistle 18

96This Epistle exposes the relation between the two worlds, the world of generation in Epistle 17, and the superlunary one in Epistle 16. The evidence that this cosmological division is thought of in a religious perspective is the constant translation of the religious vocabulary into a philosophical one. For instance:

Nature is one of the faculties of the heavenly Universal Soul, spread from it into all bodies that are under the sphere of the Moon, effused in all their part, called in the legal (sharʿī) terminology “angels charged with the preservation of the world and with the disposition of creatures”, God willing, be He exalted, and called in philosophical terminology “natural faculties” (II 63/Eng. p. 188).

Epistle 19

  • 65 Baffioni, “La science des pierres précieuses dans l’epître des Ikhwān al-afāʾ: entre les catalogu (...)

97For the technical dimension of the history of mineralogy, one has to refer to Baffioni’s previous article.65 On the philosophical level, we cannot restrict the issue to what Baffioni says:

  • 66 Baffioni, p. 88‒89.

Finally, in addition to the technical contents, specific to the subject of the Epistle, a large part deals, as usual in the encyclopedia, with the contents lato sensu “philosophical”. I refer to the pages that describe what we might define as the “sympathies” and “antipathies” of minerals (or gems).66

98Actually, the epistle contains a strong polemic. On one hand, it fights against the materialistic tendency of philosophers called al-ǧirmiyyūn, and on the other it contains a defense of the study of secondary causes against the clerics who neglect the natural sciences and their intellectual laziness which limit their knowledge to the primary cause.

Epistle 20

99Epistle 20 on the Quiddity of Nature is entirely dedicated to the equivalence of natural concepts and mythological characters in the perspective of unifying different traditions. This method, which was also used by the arrāniyyūn, is characteristic of pagan philosophy such as Stoicism.

Epistle 21

  • 67 See Marquet, La Philosophie des Ikhwân al-Safâʾ, p. 383‒403; Vallat, Fārābī et l’école d’Alexandri (...)

100Epistle 21 on Plants continues the translation between philosophical and religious vocabulary (II 152/Arab. p. 415). Then it begins with the explanation of the continuity of nature. This great theory of the Epistles will also be exposed in Epistle 34, III 224‒229/Arab. p. 91‒103, and in Epistle 51, IV 276‒277. This theory is based on the arithmetical series which controls the emanation of beings in the Epistles and will imply a theory of metempsychosis in which the universal soul climbs back to heavens through all the steps of life’s organization.67

101Ikhwān al-afāʾ. Epistles of the Brethren of Purity: The Case of the Animals versus Man before the King of the Jinn. An Arabic Critical Edition and English Translation of Epistle 22, edited by Lenn Evan Goodman & Richard J.A. McGregor, Oxford, Oxford University Press in association with the Institute of Ismaili Studies, 2009. 696 p., 9.2 x 6.1 inches, 150 $. ISBN 978-0199580163

Status quaestionis

  • 68 Nosko-Koivisto, “Review: Epistle 22”, p. 173. See also Johnson, “Review: Epistle 22”.

102In her review, Nosko-Koivisto notices that the presentation and footnotes, which constitute the commentary of the fable, are highly anachronistic, for they are built on references from outside of the Islamic context. Indeed, the fable style is related to Aesop and Orwell more than to the Indian Persian tradition, and to the philosophical views of Montaigne and Kant rather than of al- Ǧāḥiẓ or al-Kindī.68 Pliny and Isidore of Seville are perhaps the main references even if no Latin literature was translated into Arabic.

Presentation

103Epistle 22 contains two parts: an introduction to zoology, and then the famous fable which gives its title to the volume (although it is not the title of the Epistle). The presentation focuses only on the second part. It gives some useful appendices on the mythic animal names and the legendary kings of Persia.

  • 69 Goodman, The Case of the Animals versus Man before the King of the Jinn: A Tenth-Century Ecologica (...)

104The presentation, like the translation, borrows extensively from Lenn Goodman’s previous publications: his PhD dissertation and a paper from the introduction in the same series that already dealt with Epistle 22.69 It contains two principal elements of interpretation: a philosophical analysis of what is called “the ecology of the Iḫwān” (p. 31) and a literary history of fables. The problem is that both analyses are anachronistic.

  • 70 A comparison of Epistle 22 and Kitāb al-ḥayawān can be found in Benkheira, Mayeur-Jaouen and Suble (...)
  • 71 Netton, Muslim Neoplatonists, p. 92; al-Ǧāḥiẓ, Kitāb al-ayawān, p. 21‒23.

105The zoology of the Brethren in Purity has never been understood in its own context, only in the commentator’s context. That was the case of Dieterici in the 19th century with his commentary for which the title was obviously anachronistic: Der Darwinismus Im Zehnten Und Neunzehnten Jahrhundert, which in the second part describes the Epistles in terms of evolutionary theory. This time, Goodman writes in the context characterized by ecological concerns, so the meaning of Epistle 22 becomes ecological and deals with animal rights. This constitutes a profound misunderstanding of animal fables which were never meant as a way to understand animal interests by giving them a “virtual subjecthood” (p. 40‒41). On the contrary, it is a way to divide humanity into separate types by giving each character the form of an animal species. Fable is not a literary way to teach zoology, it is a zoological way to create literature. And it has its proper tradition, as we will see below. The zoology of the Epistles must be read in its own scientific context, which is the Arabic translation of Aristotle’s Parts of Animals and al-Ǧāḥiẓ’s Kitāb al-ayawān.70 On the other hand, it must be read within its philosophical framework, which is characterized neither by the evolution of species, nor by ecological problems, but by the Qur’ānic question of tasīr, the submission of the creatures to man, in the al-Ǧāḥiẓ version as noted by Netton.71

  • 72 Both in article, p. 254‒256, and in the presentation.
  • 73 The bibliography however contains Immanuel Kant, Sextus Empiricus or Baruch Spinoza but not one st (...)
  • 74 De Callataÿ, “The Two Islands Allegory in the Rasāʾil Ikhwān al-afāʾ”.
  • 75 See on one hand, Epistle 31, III 167, III 169, and III 170, and on the other hand, Epistle 2, I 10 (...)
  • 76 Sahl b. Hārūn (215/830), Kitāb al-nimr wa-l-aʿlab.
  • 77 Even when Goodman evokes the mirror for princes, p. 44‒46, he speaks about an Aesopian framing.
  • 78 We develop such an analysis in our French translation of the very Epistle 22: Du miroir des prince (...)

106Regarding this literary genre, the presentation of the volume refers to the Occidental tradition, from the “Aesopian fable” (Eng. p. 4) to Montaigne’s Apology for Raymond Sebond.72 Such an analysis just indicates the absolute ignorance of the Arabic heritage of fables. Basic introductions to Arabic fables such ʿAbd al-Razzāq Ḥamīda’s Qia al-ayawān fī al-adab al-ʿarabī are not even mentioned in the bibliography.73 But the present analysis also neglects the fact that the convenient method of contextualization must proceed by concentric circles, like the analysis of the theme of the two islands by de Callataÿ, beginning with the Epistle, and following with the Greek and the Islamic traditions.74 Regarding our present topic, the Epistles themselves contain almost twenty fables and parables which have echoes in the Case of Animals. Some of those fables are inherited from the Indo-Persian tradition, and, five fables from Kalila and Dimna are also alluded to.75 The poverty of references to this very last book, which is the source of the title of the Rasāʾil, demonstrates the ignorance of that heritage and constitutes a denial of the Oriental tradition which came from India and spread throughout the Arab world thanks to Ibn al-Muqaffaʿ (whose work is briefly referred to in two lines, Eng. p. 10). This author is indeed one of the great influences of Iwān al-afā along with al-Kindī and al-Ǧāḥiẓ. Ibn al-Muqaffaʿ’s book, Kalila and Dimna, the first Arabic mirrors for princes, was not only read and memorized, but also rewritten and imitated, by Sahl b. Hārūn for instance with his Kitāb al-nimr wa-l-aʿlab.76 That is why the Case of Animals must be read as a step in the development of the Arabic mirrors for princes.77 In one sentence, let say that the Case of Animals is a turning point of such a history, between the Indian and Persian princes’ mirrors and what we can call the Islamic “people’s mirror” represented by the One Thousand and One Nights.78

107Finally, the fable is not an independent story, no more than Plato’s cave in the Republic: both constitute an allegory of the system. Then whoever does not understand the system cannot understand the fable.

Edition

  • 79 However, the Beirut version is preferred in certain passages without any explicit reference. It co (...)
  • 80 Some of them are clearly additions from a copyist, such as II 270, l. 14‒24; II 277, l. 11‒15; II (...)
  • 81 See the presentation under the title “A Surprising Dénouement”, p. 51‒55. The existence of another (...)

108The edition is based on several manuscripts around a first group of four selected for an unknown reason. The Beirut edition is only referred to for pagination. Despite the more or less 2,000 differences between the Beirut and London editions, the IIS version did make only few comparisons with or in reference to the former and well-known edition.79 However, some entire passages can only be found in BCB.80 Above all, the final chapter (42) is radically different. Yet, concerning the sentence of the trial and the resolution of this very political case,81 this chapter is of particular importance. Indeed, the question of the legitimacy of domination, the way the case is solved, expresses a particular basis of political power.

Beirut, II 375 Transl. Garcin de Tassy, p. 117 London chap. 42, p. 312
‘How are we equal?’ demanded the Ḥijāzī. ‘How do we stand on a par, when we stay for eternity and the infinity of time, thanks to our obedience to prophets, imams, sages, poets and paragons of goodness and virtue... Comment serions-nous égaux ? répliqua l’habitant du Héjaz. Nous ne resterons pas toujours dans le même état. Si nous obéissons aux commandements de Dieu, nous irons demeurer avec les prophètes et les saints en compagnie des hommes éminents par leur mérite… ‘How are we equal?’ demanded the Ḥijāzī. ‘How do we stand on a par, when we have among us prophets and their devises, imams, sages, poets and paragons of goodness and virtue...

109The conclusion of the two versions (the Beirut and London editions) is radically different. The first gives superiority to man over animals due to the eternity of his soul, the second to the existence of prophets and imams. So, one justifies man’s domination by his nature, and this domination is the political analogy of the domination of the soul over the body, the animal part of man; the second justifies it by the political order, the superiority of prophets and imams to common people, so man’s domination over animals is just a metaphor for this human order. While the first is Platonic, the second is Ismaili.

  • 82 We consulted Istanbul, Raghab Pacha 838 (238b), Istanbul, Raghab Pacha 840 (218‒219), Istanbul, Fe (...)
  • 83 Here, more properly, delegates or deputies.

110The London edition can rely on all the listed manuscripts.82 The Beirut version would have been isolated without the old translation of Garcin de Tassy from an Urdu text. Although this version is different from the Beirut edition, it can be related to the same interpretation. In Garcin’s translation, “saints” may be used for “al-awiyāʾ (devises83)”, and “hommes éminents par leur mérite” for “al-aiyār (paragons of goodness and virtue)”.

111Then, which of both versions is the original text? The aim of the fable is to determine which virtue will manifest the superiority of man over animals. The ending should reflect the Iwān al-afā’s doctrine in anthropology and be consistent both with the previous debates in the fable and with the whole system of the Epistles.

  • 84 See Epistle 20, II 141; Epistle 27, III 111.

112The theory of prophecy must therefore be examined. Prophets are called in the Epistles, along with the sages, “doctors of the soul”.84 This theory is reused in the fable to argue for man’s superiority:

A man from Syria, a Hebrew, rose and said: ‘It was He who favored us with prophecy and inspiration, graced us with miracles and revealed books, the unshakable verses that bear His diverse permissions and prohibitions...ʼ (II 323/Eng. p. 255).

113This argument is quite similar to the London ending. But, in chapter 30 it was immediately refuted by the delegate of the birds:

You must know, O human, that prophets and emissaries are physicians and astrologers of the soul. No one but the sick needs a doctor, and no one needs an astrologer but the hapless, wretched, and forlorn (II 323/Eng. p. 255).

114The existence of prophets is, on the contrary, the evidence of human moral weakness and inferiority. The argument of the prophets cannot be the original ending of the fable.

115Concerning the argument of the eternal life of the soul, it was also alluded to before in the fable by the same delegate of man on the previous page: “We have other virtues… the promises our Lord gave us, that we of all living beings will be resurrected and raised up…” (II 374/Eng. p. 311): as before, the same nightingale, the delegate of birds, replies:

At this point the delegate of the birds, the nightingale, rose and said, ‘Yes, as you said, O human. But bear in mind the rest of the promise, O humans – chastisement in the grave, the interrogation of Nakīr and Munkar, the terrors of the Judgment Day…ʼ (II 374/Eng. p. 311).

116The hereafter is not a reward for man’s superiority, but a punishment for his moral ignominy. But the argument did not reach its end, and the same delegate of man replies: ‘How are we equal?’ demanded the Ḥiǧāzī ‘How do we stand on a par, when we stay for eternity and the infinity of time?’” (II 375).

117With the Beirut text, we have a precise reply to the objection, and not a recycling of an old argument: even in damnation, the human soul is eternal while the animal soul fades. So, man is actually superior to animals provided that he ends with spiritual attributes. This is confirmed in an additional passage taken from the London edition:

And if we were rejected, we can find salvation by Muhammad’s intercession, peace upon him, and remain in heaven with the houris, the young men, the souls and spirits, meeting the Merciful in company of the best among the best. And adding to our right, the Exalted said: ‘Peace upon you, you have done well, so enter here to abide herein. But you, O Animals, you’re excluded from all of that, because after the separation [with the body], you get corrupted, you deteriorate, you disappear, and you don’t remain. That is the proof that we are the masters and that you are our slaves and possessionsʼ (II 376).

118Goodman and McGregor judge that this end is only a modern conclusion filling out “to compensate for the seeming abruptness and surprising turn of the last few pages” (Eng. p. 315, footnote 566). They ignore that an approximately similar passage can also be found in Garcin’s version:

If even we are sinners and we do not obey him, we can obtain through the intercession of the prophets and especially through that of the unquestionable prophet, Muhammad, the prince of the heavenly envoys, ... (p. 118).

119This identity confirms our hypothesis of a common version present in BCB and Garcin’s sources. The solution that is exposed in such a version is consistent not only with the rest of the fable, but also with the purpose of the whole book in which “the noblest science is the science of resurrection” (Epistle 38, III 298) and “the goal of all of that is to make possible and to facilitate the ascension (of the soul) to the celestial world” (Epistle 25, II 454). We can then conclude that the Ismaili ending claiming the superiority of prophets and imams is contradictory to the fable itself, and that the Platonic ending inviting man to care for the salvation of his soul is consistent and may be considered as the original one.

120This analysis has two main consequences. One is philological and concerns the manuscript history of the Epistles. The choice of the London edition to put aside the BCB version constitutes a serious mistake, for the printed text preserved the oldest text whereas all the surviving manuscripts take their source in a same later version.

  • 85 That does not mean that the Beirut edition is free of any Ismaili interference. See Walker’s demon (...)
  • 86 Voir Rowson, “The Philosopher as Littérateur: al Tawḥīdīˮ.

121The second consequence concerns the immediate posterity of the text. That the Platonic version is the original and the Ismaili one a later distortion of the text constitutes an important clue for the Ismaili mark on the Rasāʾil.85 It is not an influence on the writing, nor its original identity, but an early adoption of the book by an Ismaili group who adapted the speech to its own ends. Our hypothesis is that the transmission of the Rasāʾil to the Ismaili milieu could have happened thanks to Abū Zayd al-Balḫī (d. 322/934) who is reputed to have been close to the Kindian milieu before adopting Šīʿa views.86

122Ikhwān al-afāʼ. Epistles of the Brethren of Purity: Sciences of the Soul and Intellect. Part I. An Arabic Critical Edition and English Translation of Epistles 3236, edited by Paul E. Walker, Ismail K. Poonawala, David Simonowitz, Godefroid de Callataÿ, Oxford, Oxford University Press in association with the Institute of Ismaili Studies, 2015. 434 p., 9.2 x 6.1 inches, 99 $. ISBN 9780198758280

Status quaestionis

  • 87 D’Ancona, “Review…”, p. 409‒410.
  • 88 Rizvi, “Review…”, p. 109.
  • 89  Shaker, “Review…”, p. 85.

123Their volume has been reviewed three times. Firstly, by D’Ancona who provides precise comparisons with the pseudo-Theology of Aristotle.87 Secondly, by Rizvi who questions the reasons for associating those different epistles in one volume without an attempt either by the translators, or by the general editor to give a general view of it.88 Then, by Anthony Shaker who also regrets the lack of philosophical interpretation and, overall, the “lexical shortcomings” in the translations, such as ʿālam translated either by cosmos, or by universe, but never by world. He points out that translators, by their translation choices and references to a wide Neoplatonistic philosophy, bordered on anachronism.89

124The volume combines three different works: Walker’s on Epistles 32‒33 and 35, Poonawala and Simonowitz’s on Epistle 34 and de Callataÿ’s on Epistle 36. Their philological and translation choices are different. We will focus mainly on 32‒33 which contains the most important variations from the Beirut edition.

Epistles 32‒33

125The London edition completely reorganizes the distinction between Epistle 32 on “Intellectual Principles According to the View of the Pythagoreans” and Epistle 33 on “Intellectual Principles According to the View of the Iwān al-afā on the basis of manuscript evidence.

Beirut London
Epistle 32, p.178‒186 Epistle 32a
Epistle 32, p. 187‒198 Epistle 33
Epistle 33 Epistle 32b

126The manuscripts reveal a confusion in the splitting of the three parts: Epistle 32 (32a), its second part (33), and Epistle 33 (32b), but each manuscript gives a different combination of those three texts (Eng. p. 7). Philological evidence is therefore not sufficient to select the authentic text. Once more, we must deduce the historical reality from the philosophical consistency of the text.

127Regarding the meaning of those Epistles, Walker has doubts concerning the topic of each epistle: “Further consideration of the evidence for the titles of the two Epistles shows them to be as uncertain as what they contain” (Eng. p. 6). Indeed, only seven manuscripts refer to Pythagoras regarding the doctrine exposed in Epistle 32, and only one version of Epistle 33 speaks about Iwān al-afā in its title (ن); two claim it for the Pythagoreans (أ andق ). So, do we have to reject the ancient idea that the two epistles speak respectively of Pythagorean and Iwān al-afā’ views? No. Walker only redefines them:

Assuming one version was supposed to indicate the views of the Pythagoreans and the other version, the doctrine of the Ikhwān (or the Adāth, meaning here the ‘moderns’), the rearrangement in BCB merges the two and mixes them into a disordered mess (Eng. p. 8).

128He proposes that Epistle 32 is about the view of the Ancients (qudamāʾ), and Epistle 33 is about the view of the Moderns (al-a). But what Walker rejects is the content of such a distinction. The Beirut edition of Epistle 33 cannot be the original one for “what we have as 32b looks like an expanded text of 32a with changes and additions” (Eng. p. 9). The Beirut Epistle 33 would be nothing but a rewriting (32b) of Epistle 32 (32a), and the new Epistle 33 would be found in the second part of Beirut Epistle 32.

129What does Walker’s reorganization change in both Epistles? Let us sum it up in the table below:

Beirut 32 Beirut 33
Relationship between numbers and beings in the created world Providential relationship between numbers, beings in the created world and spiritual principles
Ex. Epistle 32, III 179/Epistle 32a, p. 17‒18 “For things in triplets, examples are the three dimensions, which are length, breadth and depth, or the three magnitudes, which are line, plane, and mass, …” Ex. Epistle 33, III 203/Epistle 32b, p. 30 “As three follows after two, which follows after one, so similarly the soul follows in existence after intellect and comes to possess three kinds: vegetal, animal, and rational, indicating its rank in the order of beings that exist.”
Pythagorean Epistle Post-Pythagorean Epistle
London 32 London 33
Relationship between numbers created beings Outline of the order of creation/sections on intellect and soul/special generations of minerals
Pythagorean Epistle Neoplatonic Epistle

130The change is considerable for the doctrine of the Iwān al-afā between a post-Pythagorean (Beirut version) and a Neoplatonic (London version) system. But which one is the most congruent?

131We can admit that, in the new version, the difference between the two Epistles is much larger and more visible. But the actual difference between Epistles 32 (32a) and 33 (32b) should be understood before rejecting their distinction. The first one delves extensively into the relationships between numbers and the beings of the created world, claiming that God purposely created them in that manner, the order of things runs parallel to that of numbers (Eng. p. 9).

In the new version of Epistle 33, the Pythagorean elements in the former epistle do not reappear. Instead we have material that might well represent a later tradition, quite possibly that of the Brethren (Eng. p. 10).

  • 90 See Epistle 30, III 75.

132So, how can the Iwān al-afā’s claim to be Pythagorean be understood now that the Pythagorean elements have been removed from Epistle 33? Walker’s choice supposes that the Iwān al-afā (I personally mean Aḥmad b. al-Ṭayyib al-Saraḫsī) were aware of the distinction between Pythagorean ontology of numbers and Plotinian cosmology. That was not the case, and the philosophy of the Ancients was almost perceived as one before al-Fārābī: Kindism blended Aristotle’s books with the neo-Pythagoreanism of Nicomachus of Gerasa, and Neoplatonist writings circulated under the name of the Theology of Aristotle. Obviously, the Epistles develop a system based on both the theory of numbers and the theory of emanation.90 So the new partition between Epistle 32a/b and Epistle 33 is quite anachronistic.

133Internal evidence definitively refutes the new partition. In Epistle 33, III 206, the text recalls a passage “in a chapter of that previous epistle” (fī fal min hāihi al-risāla min mā taqaddama)” dealing with the “realities of nine”. If we follow the London edition, Epistle 33 is only 32b. So, the previous epistle would be Epistle 31. And indeed, this very epistle deals with the Indian nine letters in III 148. But the text of Epistle 33 summarizes the content: that the universal beings exist in nine ranks corresponding to the nine units. This idea cannot be found in Epistle 31, but it is clearly exposed in Epistle 32, III 181‒182, which gives to each of the nine universal principles a rank from one to nine. Then, Epistle 33 cannot be a second version of Epistle 32. The new editing choice is a mistake and a betrayal of the text of the Brethren in Purity.

134So, how can we explain the difference between Epistle 32 and Epistle 33? The distinction between Pythagoreanism and Iwān al-afā, between Ancients and Moderns may be more subtly found inside the framework of the philosophy of numbers which is common to Pythagoreanism and Iwān al-afā, according to the Epistles:

The Pythagorean sages gave all that is sound in such matters its just due, since they maintained that the existing beings accord with nature of the numbers, as we have explained in part in this treatise, and this is the doctrine of our brethren (Epistle 33, III 199/Eng. 32b, p. 27).

135How can both doctrines say in different ways that “the existing beings accord with nature of the numbers”? It is difficult to summarize this important debate inside the Pythagorean heritage in a few lines, but the example of the rank of three in the previous table can help us understand some elements. Although natural beings are in accord necessarily with the nature of the numbers in ancient Pythagoreanism according to Epistle 32, in Epistle 33 they are in accord providentially with numbers. This correspondence is of divine providence, in order that the number of elements of a being indicates its rank in the emanation, like the division of the human soul in three parts is a way for the scientist to discover from the study of the soul’s nature that it is the third emanation from the Creator. While divine organization of the beings according to numbers in Pythagoreanism is architectonic, the arithmetic order is the best order, in which divine creation of the beings according to numbers in Brethren in Purity’s view is a conventional sign addressed to thinkers to discover the hidden spiritual world.

136The fact that Walker did not understand the basis of Iwān al-afā’s system is proven by elementary mistakes presented in the table below.

Beirut London Correct version
Ranks of intelligible principles Epistle 32, III 181 al-hayūlā then al-abīʿa Epistle 32, p. 9 al-abīʿa then al-hayūlā Beirut
1st meaning of matter Epistle 32, III 184 aqrab ilā al-iss Epistle 32, p. 12 aqrab ilā al-ǧism Beirut
  • 91 Al-Kindī (256/870), “al-Falsafa al-ūlā”, p. 106.

137The first mistake is a blatant error more than a conscious choice, for the same edition indicates a few pages later: “al-hayūlā awwal maʿlūl al-nafs” (p. 12), then “umma awǧada al-nafs bi-wāsiat al-ʿaql, umma al-hayūlā” (p. 13). The second mistake is subtler. The four definitions of matter are ordered according to their distance from al-iss/al-ǧism. The second version is absurd because the body is material. The question is that of sensitive perception, al-iss. So, the fourth definition, which is the definition of Prime Matter, is not sensitive at all. This classification of realities’ definitions according to their proximity or distance with the individual has its origin in al-Kindī’s First Philosophy which distinguishes between the two existences of man: the one that is close to us but far from nature, and the other one that is far from us but close to nature.91 So, this second mistake is due to the ignorance of the Kindian context.

138A word on Walker’s translation. It can be far from the historical and religious context. For instance, al-Šām, “the Levant”, is translated as “Syria”, although Syrian was not a geographic but a religious term at that time. The translation is not consistent, since the same paragraph, which is almost repeated twice between Epistle 32a (Beirut’s 32nd) and 32b (Beirut 33rd), is translated differently. For example, the last sentence:

Epistle 32a Epistle 32b
أما الفيثاغوريون فأعطوا كلَّ ذي حقّ حقّه فـأما الحكماء الفيثاغوريّون فأعطوا كلَّ ذي حقّ من ذلك حقّه
The Pythagoreans give everything its proper due The Pythagorean sages, however, gave all that is sound in such matters its just due
  • 92 Voir Buḫārī, al-Ǧāmiʿ al-ṣaḥīḥ, vol. 12, p. 209‒210.

139Two remarks: first, the meaning is lost in its reformulation—the English reader cannot recognize the same sentence; second, it is lost because the translator himself did not recognize the connotation referring to the famous adī on Abū al-Dardāʾ and Salmān al-Farsī’s brotherhood, in which the Persian believer complains about the pious Abū al-Dardāʾ’s indifference to world affairs and to others in particular. Then, the prophet tells Abū al-Dardāʾ: “God has rights on you, but you have also rights on you, and others too. So give everyone his proper due (fa-aʿṭi kulla ī aqqin aqqahu).”92All the essence of this sentence that concentrates on the doctrine of the Iwān al-afā is lost.

Epistle 34

  • 93 For echoes in Sufism, see Gobillot, “Quelques stéréotypes cosmologiques d’origine pythagoricienne. (...)

140This interesting presentation investigates the sources and the Ismaili echoes of the macrocosm theory (which echoes go beyond the framework of Ismailism93), but it lacks a study through the other epistles. The analogy between the microcosm and the macrocosm has its foundation in Epistle 6 and the mathematical proportions (their application to cosmology is already given in Epistle 5, I 225), and is developed in many epistles with different forms, I mean not only the duality of individual/universe, but also the dualities of individual/city (Epistle 26, II 468), city/universe (Epistle 25, II 423; Synthetic Epistle, p. 401), humanity/animal (Epistle 22, II 179), etc.

Epistle 35

141The structure of Epistle 35 is based on the micro-macrocosm theory of Epistle 34. Because macrocosm and microcosm are analogical, the faculty of the human soul “whose function is to ponder, to investigate, and to deliberate” (III 232/Eng. p. 117) is analogical to the second emanation, “the simple immaterial substance enveloping all other things” (III 232/Eng. p. 117).

142In understanding this logical construction, can we really agree with Walker that “the Ikhwān al-ṣafā seem amateurish by comparison” (p. 113)? For instance, he calls for a comparison with al-Fārābī’s Risāla fī al-ʿaql. The beginning of both Epistles is similar, but the Iwān al-afā’s one is simpler. This comparison is interesting, because it reveals that al-Fārābī is a precise reader of the Rasāʾil, inheriting from them his method to found philosophical concepts in common language. Following al-Kindī, as we saw in Epistles 32‒33, the Epistles organize the definitions from the closest to experience to the most abstract one. It is very close to the Farabian distinction between first and second impositions (al-waʿ). The proximity is quite obvious, and Walker’s judgment appears a bit contemptuous.

Epistle 36

  • 94 De Callataÿ, Les révolutions et les cycles.

143De Callataÿ offers a precisely annotated translation. Epistle 36 was already the topic of his PhD published 1996 in Les révolutions et les cycles.94 After almost twenty years of research on the Epistles, he could make a few additions, in particular the philosophical and political importance of conjunctions that he had not noticed before.

144Ikhwān al-afāʼ. Epistles of the Brethren of Purity: Sciences of the Soul and Intellect. Part III. An Arabic Critical Edition and English Translation of Epistles 39‒41, edited by Paul E. Walker, Ismail K. Poonawala, David Simonowitz, Godefroid de Callataÿ, Carmela Baffioni, Oxford, Oxford University Press in association with the Institute of Ismaili Studies, 2015. 400 p., 9.2 x 6.1 inches, 80 $. ISBN 978-0198797760

145This volume combines Epistle 39 on the Quiddity of Motion, Epistle 40 on Cause and Effect, and Epistle 41 on Definitions and Descriptions. Although Epistle 41 is quite independent, being a classical volume of definitions in the tradition of al-Kindī, and beyond, Aristotle’s Metaphysics Δ, Epistles 39 and 40 cannot be understood separately from Epistle 38 on Resurrection. Indeed, the Epistle on Motion deals with the different motions under the lunar sphere, which is identified as hell. So, its topic is a natural interpretation of the idea of levels in hell. The only entity that is able to cross the sphere of the moon is the subtlest one, i.e. the soul. Epistle 40 deals with the nature of the soul which finds salvation (III 371 et sqq).

  • 95 De Callataÿ, Ikhwan al-Safaʾ, p. 29 and p. 32‒33.
  • 96 Definition is given in Epistle 16, II 49/Arab. p. 147‒148.

146The presentations are large (196 pages for 142 pages of translation). We can only regret that the presentation of Epistle 39 does not give us any clues to understand the obscure distinction between small resurrection (al-qiyāma al-ṣuġrā) and great resurrection (al-qiyāma al-kubrā) (III 333/Arab. p. 35‒36), which was the object of an unconvincing interpretation by de Callataÿ in his monograph on the Epistles in terms of individual and collective resurrection,95 although the great one is clearly the return of the universal soul and, with it, of all creation (Epistle 22, II 183).96

147The natural soteriology of the Iḫwān al-Ṣafā is justified in Epistle 40: the specificity of philosophy is to understand secondary causes while believers only consider the first cause. This conception of the relation between belief and knowledge is consistent with definitions given in Epistle 46 on Belief (IV 61‒65) and was already the preoccupation of Epistle 19 (II 130‒131/Arab. p. 350‒353). For instance, one begins by believing that the world is created, then one will study the nature of such a creation, in time or out of time (III 349‒351/Arab. p. 77‒82)

148Concerning Epistle 41, the presentation contains two important parts. The first contains a long analysis of the problem of relation between al-Kindī’s Epistle on Definitions and the present one, by summarizing the old debate on this topic. Poonawala arrives at the following conclusion: “The Ikhwān’s Epistle […] not only bears the exact title of al-Kindī’s aforementioned treatise, but also appears to have used al-Kindī’s epistle as its source” (Eng. p. 282). And to add in footnote 19: “The Rasāʾil Iḫwān al-ṣafā [are] post-Kindī but pre-Fārābī”. We must agree with such a conclusion.

  • 97 De Vaulx d’Arcy, “La 17e nuit d’al-Tawḥīdī : réfutation d’une hérésie menaçante, les Épîtres des F (...)

149The second part of the presentation analyzes the authorship hypothesis based on al-Tawḥīdī (p. 293‒303), an analysis which leads to the conclusion that “al-Tawḥīdī’s story does not stand up to close examination and must be abandoned”. We also agree with such a conclusion.97

150Concerning the edition, we can only regret that the Beirut variations were not taken into account in spite of its particularities. For instance, Epistle 40, in the Beirut edition, contains the following statement: “Understand, O Brother, those remarks and admonitions (hāḏihi al-išārāt wa-l-tanbīhāt) in order to awaken your soul from the sleep of ignorance and the slumber of negligence” (III 355). This sentence disappeared from the London edition (Arab. p. 94), although it may have been the origin of Ibn Sīnā’s title for his great opus al-Išārāt wa-l-tanbīhāt.

151Ikhwān al-afāʼ. Epistles of the Brethren of Purity: On Companionship and Belief. An Arabic Critical Edition and English Translation of Epistles 43‒45, edited by Toby Mayer, Ian Richard Netton & Samer F. Traboulsi, Oxford, Oxford University Press in association with the Institute of Ismaili Studies, 2016. 400 p., 9.2 x 6.1 inches, 99 $. ISBN 9780198784678

Presentation

152This volume is the second part on practical sciences, which are political and soteriological (because politics are means for religious aims, as the body is the instrument of the soul). It has to be read as following Epistle 42 which explained the origin of intellectual and religious diversity, and the necessity of unifying it. Epistle 43 distinguishes different groups of men regarding religious belief. Only the good believers have to be initiated in science, which is considered as the clarification and demonstration of belief and its causes (see above Epistle 40). Then, Epistle 44 explains the way to initiate those elected believers to philosophy and why fraternity between them is necessary to build the vessel of salvation (safīnat al-naǧā). And Epistle 45 exposes the structure of such an organization. Epistle 46 (which is excluded from this volume) will expose the nature of the true believer educated as one of Iwān al-afā.

153These are the core epistles for the question of fraternity which defines the political project of the Iwān al-afā. Here, no more than anywhere else, the relation with the other epistles is taken in consideration, although the following epistles cannot be understood except as a problematic consequence of Epistles 44‒45. Epistle 50, for instance, will answer the question of insertion of the brotherhood—described in Epistles 44‒45—in the city: how this community based on individual choice and led by a sincere quest for eternal happiness, can be included in the larger society based on habits and the coercion of law? Can one follow two different laws (the communautarian and the political)? To quote Epistle 50: “And the creed of your family, your progeny, your wives and children must not be different from what you show of your creed to your friends and brethren” (IV 260).

154I should say something about the edition, especially because the volume itself attributed only three pages to the technical introduction of Traboulsi (perhaps to avoid his own critics…) who, after having worked on Epistles 44 and 45, was asked many years later to work on 43. The result is an inconsistent edition using two different norms.

155Ikhwān al-afāʾ. Epistles of the Brethren of Purity: On Magic. An Arabic Critical Edition and English Translation of Epistle 52a. Part I, edited by Godefroid de Callataÿ & Bruno Halflants, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. 436 p., 9.2 x 6.1 inches, 96 $. ISBN 9780199638956

Status quaestionis

  • 98 Anthony, “Review…”, p. 386.
  • 99 Coulon, “Recension …” p. 646‒647.
  • 100 De Callataÿ, “Magia…ˮ.

156Two reviews have been written on this first publication of the series. The one by Anthony praises the translation which is said to be remarkable for its precision, accuracy and readability.98 The second by Coulon criticizes the vagueness of the concept of magic and its confusion with the science of talisman and astrology. This confusion would have come from the lack of historical sense that led the editor to put al-Būnī and Ibn Ḫaldūn on the same level whereas they belonged to different periods and conceptions of magic. This lack of historical science is confirmed by the dating of al-Maǧrīṭī who is not from the 11th but the 10th century.99 De Callataÿ will take account of Coulon’s criticism. Indeed, he will follow him in a later article.100

  • 101 Indeed, both texts explain the impossibility of external compulsion on internal faith.

157De Callataÿ chose to edit the short version that he entitles (1), although he found two long versions in the manuscripts: one found in Atif Effendi 1681 (2a), and the other in the Beirut edition (2b), the idea being to translate one of the long versions later (it will be done by Moureau). In the Beirut pagination, de Callataÿ edits only pages IV 283 to IV 312, and leaves out IV 312 to IV 463. Is the rest of Epistle 52 really a late addition without connection with the first part, or was it later cut down in order to shorten the copyist’s work? De Callataÿ does not give any clue, other than historical facts about a manuscript tradition separating 52a and 52b (p. 1‒5). The hypothesis of a late composition of 52b is quite astonishing considering that the second part contains important paragraphs consistent with the whole system, such as the final position of magic in the progression of sciences (IV 332); the explanation of the expression “Iwān al-afā”, not as a proper name but as a concept to call those who deserve it (IV 411‒412); and a commentary of the verse: “No compulsion in religion” (IV 460), which reminds us of Locke’s Letter Concerning Tolerance,101 and accords with Iwān al-afā’s complementarism. Until a precise answer is given, we prefer to consider 52b as authentic and 52a merely as an arbitrary part of it.

158De Callataÿ, who did not use the Beirut edition in this volume, has changed his mind since that time, and accepted the originalities of the Beirut version in a later article, confessing its authenticity in an understatement:

  • 102 De Callataÿ, “For Those with Eyes to See”, (p. 8 of 36).

In the printed editions of Bombay, Cairo and Beirut—all of them regrettably silent about their use of manuscripts—we even find inserted the additional lines, which can hardly have been invented by the modern editors.102

159The understatement was a way to hide the contradiction with his own editorial choices. But “those who have eyes will see.”

Partial Conclusion

160The ambition to build a critical edition of the Epistles seems to be a failure according to some editors themselves. The main reason is perhaps the lack of collaboration between the scholars. That is the height of absurdity for a philosophical system, the main message of which is a call to … collaboration!

161The presumption that the Epistles of the Brethren in Purity is a syncretic book resulted in the decomposition of the system into isolated treatises. We tried in these lines to show the consistency of the system and the narrow links between all the epistles. There are many reasons to doubt that Rasāʾil Iwān al-afā is a syncretic book written by groups of scholars over a century. What we know for sure is that the new edition is indeed syncretic in its method, offering a series of different editions based on diverse manuscripts formatted in various manners, and, as we show below, translated in inconsistent styles. For instance, the publication of different versions of the same Epistle (for both Epistles 32 and 52) rejects the idea itself of an Urtext. The philosophical system disappears from the London edition, and the Epistles become no more than an insignificant collection of scientific treatises copied from different manuscripts, presented in an inconsistent manner and, as we will see below, translated in various styles.

Part 2
Structural Problems

1. An Editorial Puzzle: How to Find One’s Way Back in the London Maze

162The editorial non-policy led to a nonsense text and reading the edition became more difficult than reading the main manuscript. A simple glance at samples from both the London edition and the Ms Atif Effendi 1681 (see samples below) makes this clear. The table that follows the pictures aims to show some of the editorial differences between the volumes of the series. We can then propose a basic comparison between the London edition and the simple facsimile of Atif Effendi 1681 published in 2014.

Overview on London Edition. How to find his way back in the London Maze (The edition respecting no common standard, we present here the choices of each particular editor).

Overview on London Edition. How to find his way back in the London Maze (The edition respecting no common standard, we present here the choices of each particular editor).

Key and Reading
The table exposes:
(1) The eleven volumes already published (the inexistence of series number shows that the final number of volumes in the series is not planned). The given number indicates the chronological order of publication. No importance was given to the logical order of the Epistles, in spite of their emphasis of such an order.
(2) Their editors and translators’ names.
(3) The number of the epistle as written on the cover and the English translation.
(4) The number as written inside the Arabic text.
Whereas the first is generally the epistle’s rank in the whole book, the second is its rank in the part (propaedeutic and mathematical sciences, ­natural sciences, …) as it is indicated in MS Atif Effendi 1681, which most of the editors follow. The result is the inconstancy of numeration in half ­the volumes (15‒21, 34‒36, 39‒41, 43‒45, 52).
(5) The manuscripts on which the edition is based. The Arabic letters correspond to the symbolism used in the series. We can notice with surprise that the manuscripts’ selection by editors is not consistent. Some based their edition on Atif Effendi 1681 because it is the oldest or because it contains Ismaili views,2 some excluded it. So, the London edition adds a degree of complexity and confusion regarding the text.
(6) The reference in the Arabic text to the manuscript’s folios or to the former edition, in order to compare between both.
(7) The reference in the English translation to be able to find the passage in the Arabic text.
(8) The existence or not of chapter numbers to allow the reader to move back and forth between the English and the Arabic.
(9) The continuity or reinitialization on each page of the footnotes numbers. The incredible extent of philological footnote pages can make the reading very hard (see Appendix 1).
For example, Epistle 5 contains 2625 footnotes in 186 pages, and the last number is 2625. The result is the pollution of the text with more than 9 000 numbers. It’s very surprising when the comparative analysis shows a text very close to Beirut edition. See p. 190 as a sample.
(10) Another editing difference is the choice between editing the plain text as it is in the manuscripts, that’s Baffioni’s choice for instance, and cutting paragraphs by regular linefeeds which constitute a part of interpretation of the text. Wright chose this way in an extreme manner for the edition of epistle 5 (for instance, p. 130, p. 171).
(11) We indicated the specialty of the editors and translators, which is mainly philosophical.

1. The title of the book is here fī tahīb al-nafs wa-i al-alāq min kalām al-ūfiyya.
2. Ikhwān al-Ṣafāʾ, On Logic (epistles 10‒14), Appendix A, p. 157.

Samples of the London Edition.

Sample of Atif Effendi 1681.

The Two New Editions: London (2008 et seq.) and Frankfurt (2015).103

  • 103 Sezgin, Kitāb Iwān a-afā Ms Atif Effendi 1681.

163The publication of Ms Atif Effendi 1681 would surely not have been done without the inquiry by the Institute of Ismaili Studies on the majority of the existing manuscripts all over the world. They did the main work: selecting the best manuscripts and establishing their dating. Sezgin did the decisive one. Now two additional editions can be consulted, the London edition and the Frankfurt edition. We can compare it quickly:

Frankfurt (2015) London (2008 et seq.)
Facsimile of Ms Atif Effendi 1681 Semi-critical edition
Arabic text Arabic text + translation
Consistent Inconsistent
2 volumes Around 15 volumes
Manuscript text Printed text
Entirely vocalized Partially vocalized
Difficulty of reading: parts in margins Difficulty of reading: too many references to footnotes
230 euros Around 1.200 dollars

164Sezgin, Fuat, ed. Kitāb Iḫwān Aṣ-ṣafā - Ms Atif Effendi 1681, Frankfurt am Main, Goethe University, 2015.
Ikhwān al-Ṣafāʾ. Epistles of the Brethren of Purity: On Arithmetic and Geometry: An Arabic Critical Edition and English Translation of Epistles 1-2, edited by Nader El-Bizri, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2012, etc. The edition of Atif Effendi would surely not have been done without inquiry by the Institute of Ismaili Studies on all the manuscripts all over the world. They did the main work: selecting the best manuscripts, and establishing their datation.

2. A Philological Irony: That the Oldest Manuscript is not the Oldest Text. A Partial Analysis of Ms Atif Effendi 1681 (ع)

  • 104 For instance, concerning Kalīla wa-Dimna the oldest manuscript dates from the 13th century (Aya So (...)

165It is certain that the Institute of Ismaili Studies’ project provides a great service to the academic community by its preliminary work consisting of gathering and selecting manuscripts. According to El-Bizri (foreword, footnote 3), it consists of more than a hundred extant manuscripts preserved in thirty-nine libraries and collections that were bought by the IIS and nineteen of them were selected. This operation led to distinguishing Atif Effendi 1681 as the oldest known manuscript (ad 1182). This manuscript was elected by a committee without the scholars in charge of the edition and before they entered the project. So, the choice is not the result of the text analysis, but only of the presumption that the oldest complete available manuscript is the best, although all philologists know that this equation is often wrong.104

  • 105 Sezgin, Kitāb Iḫwān al-Ṣafā ‒ Ms Atif Effendi 1681.

166The principal result was the decision by Sezgin to edit this manuscript in facsimile. The clarity of the regular naskh handwriting and the full vocalization prevents any confusion. Without the London project, we would not have had this manuscript published.105

167One last remark about the manuscripts listed in the foreword of the London edition: Feyzullah 2130 (ف) and Feyzullah 2131 (ق) are not two different manuscripts, but two parts of the same manuscript.

The Stemma(e) Problem

  • 106 On Astronomia, Eng. p. 12.

168The committee did not prepare a stemma and each particular editor only received the very epistle that he was in charge of. However, four editors tried to do the codicological job: Montgomery and Sanchez with Epistle 4’s material (p. 11‒12), Owen Wright with Epistle 5 (p. 6), Traboulsi with Epistles 43‒45, and de Callataÿ-Halflands with Epistle 52a (p. 77). Some of their conclusions are the same, such as the proximity between Atif Effendi 3638 (أ) and Feyzollah 2131 (ق), which is also confirmed by Ragep and Mimura.106 The main results of their philological study is unfortunately inconsistent. De Callataÿ’s stemma is the most complete, but his decision to rely on Ms Kröpülü 871 (ل), because of its proximity with an unknown source, contradicts Wright who estimates that Ms Kröpülü 871 (ل) is quite far from this same source. Traboulsi finds a same origin to BNF Ms 6.647-8 (د) and (ك\ل), while de Callataÿ distinguishes them radically. Both scholars also differ completely on the origin of Ms Esad Effendi 3637 (ن) which is on the same branch of the stemma with Atif Effendi 3638 (أ) and Feyzollah 2131 (ق) in Traboulsi, and on the opposite branch in de Callataÿ. So it is impossible to know which side is up.

  • 107 He used precisely two criteria, as below:

169Why such an inconsistency became possible? Not only because each scholar studied a different material, but also because they chose different criteria to build his stemma: the rank of the epistle (4th, 5th or 6th) for Montgomery and Sanchez, a passage not included by BCB for Wright, the version of Epistles 51‒52 for de Callataÿ,107 and an inversion in the order of the text for Traboulsi.

170Concerning the source of the Beirut edition, only de Callataÿ tried to estimate its position, but the result is clearly wrong. Regarding our analysis of the end of Epistle 22 (see above): there is no filiation between what de Callataÿ called y’/z branches and the Beirut edition. Our analysis shows a strong originality in the Beirut edition shared only with the Urdu version used by Garcin de Tassy.

The Quest for the Authoritative Text: Beirut Version versus Atif Effendi 1681

  • 108 El-Bizri and Institute of Ismaili Studies, Epistles of the Brethren of Purity: The Ikhwān al-afāʾ(...)

171In the presentation of the IIS’ project, Poonawala compared Atif Effendi’s manuscript with the Bombay edition (which is the basis for the later editions of Cairo and Beirut). But he actually compared only a few pages, those of the table of contents, where he found seven passages of the Bombay edition that could not be found in Atif Effendi 1681. He called them “additions” or “extras” from the copyist of the manuscript read by Nūr al-Dīn Ǧīwāḫān, Bombay’s editor, and attributed them to the Sufi milieu in which the copyist lived. On Atif Effendi 1681, he only said that: “It cannot be considered exempt from interpolation.”108 But, why did he call the seven passages of the Bombay edition “additions” and why did he refuse to call their absence in Atif Effendi 1681, “omissions”? Only on account that it was the oldest known manuscript, even if nothing is known about the manuscript copied by Nūr al-Dīn Ǧīwāḫān. However, some of the editors will assert the anteriority of the Bombay source to Atif Effendi 1681.

172If Atif Effendi 1681 was really the oldest source on the Rasāʾil Iwān al-afā, why did the IIS not prepare its own edition? That is what Sezgin decided, who simply had the facsimile edited with the Goethe Institute of Frankfurt, offering the public a new complete edition in 2014, long before the completion of the London edition. We present a short comparison of both the London and Frankfurt editions below (Appendix 3).

173We would like here to make a real comparative philological analysis between the Beirut edition and Atif Effendi 1681. We chose to concentrate on the still unpublished parts in order to stay away from the London edition and to take examples from different parts of the text.

174How can we determine which of two versions of the same text is better than the other? Codicology is useless here, since no physical manuscript is available for the BCB version. But text criticism also provides philological tools which can be used here. We will not try alone to determine the place of Atif Effendi 1681 in the stemma of manuscripts. It can be quite tricky since the copyist declared that he had access to different versions of the text: “Waǧadtu fī baʿ al-nusa” (577b). We can well understand the difficulty of the editor who ignored that fact (the manuscript of Epistle 50 where this sentence can be read, was available only later for this Epistle’s editor). Some characteristics may have been acquired by horizontal transfer, and not by heritage from an older version. We will then concentrate in our analysis on two analytical tools. Firstly, the existence of homeoteleuton (when a copyist’s eyes skipped from one word to the same word on a later line, leaving out a line or two in the transcription) can indicate whether a passage found only in one of the texts is an addition by the first copyist or, on the contrary, an omission by the second. Secondly, variations on technical passages, like mathematical ones, show which copyist understood the text and which one did not, and that errors were due to the copyist’s incomprehension. We selected three different Epistles for such a comparative analysis: a technical one, Epistle 6 on Composition, a simple one, Epistle 29on Wisdom of Death, and one full of traditional references, the 50th on the forms of government.

Case 1. Epistle 6. BCB’s source is more trustworthy than Atif Effendi

175This Epistle is contained in Atif Effendi 1681 (ع), folios 67a‒73b, and in Beirut, I 242‒257. We can find 112 meaningful differences. Let us analyze the most significant ones.

176Ex1: A range of examples of multiples

(ع) 67b I 243 Correct version
Ø وكذلك الخمسة خمسة أضعافه Beirut

> Atif Effendi could omit it, Beirut could add it, but it is probably the first, because examples are usually numerous in this Epistle, so one could want to shorten the list.

177Ex2: A range of numbers

(ع) 67b I 243 Correct version
3,4,5,6,7,8,9 3,4,5,6,7,8,9 2,3,4,5,6,7,8 Beirut

> Atif Effendi is incorrect, because this is a range of examples for the relation of the same with an additional part. So, the two lines are not independent, but have to be read as proportions: 3/2, 4/3, etc.

178Ex3: 67b/I 243: First number

(ع) 67b I 243 Correct version
فهو مِثْل نسبة سائر الأعداد المبتدأة من الخمسة فهو مِثْل نسبة سائر الأعداد المبتدأة من الثلاثة (ع)

> Atif Effendi is correct in respecting the following table presented in the text, the first proportion of which is 5/3. The BCB’s source read the number below.

179Ex4: Current expression

(ع) 68a I 244 Correct version
المبتدأ من الثلاثة المنظّمة على النظام الطبيعي المبتدأ من الثلاثة على النظام الطبيعي (ع)

> Atif Effendi is correct in respecting other occurrences of the same expression in many passages. The omission in BCB is meaningless.

180Ex5: Technical meaning

(ع) 68b I 245 Correct version
تحت الثلاثة والزائد جزءًا تحت المِثْل والزائد جزءًا Beirut

> Atif Effendi is incorrect and combines two sentences to create a new expression, which gives a wrong meaning, because 3/2 is the same with one additional part, 1.5, and not 3+n/3. So, Atif Effendi 1681 did not grasp the meaning.

181Ex6: Omissions by homeoteleuton in Atif Effendi

(ع) 71b/I 251 (see Appendix 4)

> Two omissions by homeoteleuton in Atif Effendi, one of the missing is referred to in the margin (like before in 68a/I 244, “al-mubtadaʾa min al-inayn/al-amsa”, and then, later, in 68b/I 245-246, “… inān inān” where the omitted paragraph is added in the margin), and the other is definitely omitted.

182To conclude the case on Epistle 6, we can say that the copyist of Atif Effendi clearly made many mistakes in this technical Epistle. The omissions by homeoteleuton corrected in the margin show that the mistakes were not inherited from a previous erroneous copy. The BCB’s version neither makes such mistakes, nor such omissions.

Case 2. Epistle 29. That Bombay’s source is also deficient

183Epistle 29 is simple to understand, so a copyist could be tempted to hurry and make multiple mistakes. But in that case, each copyist made different mistakes at different places.

184Ex1: Reading the archetype

(ع) 301a III 37 Correct version
فيكون سبب بعث الأنفس الجزئية الإنسانية الكاملة... فيكون سبب بعث الأنفس الجزئية الإنسانية الكلية... (ع)

> Atif Effendi is certainly correct, because the particular souls are not the universal soul. In fact, the passage is about the elected souls which are the complete ones. Elsewhere, the Epistles speak about “al-nufūs al-tāmma al-kāmila” (Epistle 40, IV 371).

185Ex2: Omission by homeoteleuton in BCB

(ع) 301b III 38 Correct version
[الأعصاب] المنشأة من الدماغ الكائنة منها العدلات الصلبة المحرّكة للمفاصل والأعضاء المنشأة منها الأوتاد [الأعصاب] المنشأة منها الأوتاد (ع)

> The meaning of the Beirut edition here is incomplete, while that of Atif Effendi is clear. This is a case of omission by homeoteleuton in the BCB’s source: the copyist skipped a part of the anatomic description.

186Ex3: Omission by homeoteleuton in Atif Effendi

(ع) 303b III 42 Correct version
[إذا] كملت خلقته هناك، انتفع بعد الولادة [إذا] كملت هناك خلقته، لم ينتفع في الرحم بل ينتفع بعد الولادة Beirut

> Both make sense, but BCB’s meaning is more precise and logical in the context. This is an omission by homeoteleuton in Atif Effendi.

187We can conclude that the meaning of Epistle 29 on the Wisdom of Death is quite easy to grasp. The copyist of Atif Effendi, who is not a scientist according to the analysis of Epistle 6, made fewer mistakes here, because he understood the text better. The Beirut source hurried up and made some omissions by homeoteleuton. In this Epistle, we can assume that Atif Effendi is more faithful to its source. Then, when a sentence is missing in BCB, it may indicate that the BCB’s source made an omission. And we can conclude that the reading of Atif Effendi is useful to target the BCB’s omissions and complete the text.

Case 3. Epistle 50

188Epistle 50 on different sorts of government describes Ḥarrānian and Islamic forms of worship. So, regarding the second one, it deals with information shared by all Muslims.

Omitted entire passages in Atif Effendi

189If Atif Effendi saved this passage, it forgot others and cut almost the whole chapter on Spiritual Leadership (fī al-siyāsa al-nafsāniyya) (IV 258‒259) where an entire page is summarized in one sentence: “That and what is similar belong to the management of the soul, and it is an obligation for you and in your interest to use it.”

Here are the main other omitted paragraphs:

IV 250‒251. “Wa-qad laḫḫanā … min fawāʾidinā

IV 255. “Wa-ʿlam ayyuhā al-a al-bārr al-raīm annaka… al-asqām. Wa-maʿa ālika

IV 258‒259. “Wa-turīd li-l-ġayr mā turīd li-nafsik …” to the end.

Surrogate passages

190We also find some surrogate sentences and variations on the same meaning (indicated by =)

IV 251. “Fa-ʿalayka bi-l-iḥtifāẓ … bal talqīhā ilayhi”

it contains

523b. “Amarnāka bi-l-itifā bihi wa-l-iyāna lahu wa-nurīdu an naifa laka ifat alladīna yaluu laka an talqī ilayhim wa-nanu bihi ilayhim

IV 252. “Wa-lam yabqa minhu illā maslak waʿr dāir al-ʿalāmāt…

=

524a. “Wa-lam yura minhā illā uruq waʿira wa-ʿalāmāt dāira

IV 252. “Al-āya

524a. “Sīmāhum fī wuǧuhihim min aar al-suǧūd” (Q IIL, 29)

IV 257. “fa-inna zāda bihim al-amr attā yabaa al-safīna mā yaksiruhā wa-yakūna minhā mā qaā, kānū mumaʾinnī al-nufūs

=

525b. “fa-inna zāda bihim al-amr attā tankasira al-muiyya wa-tahaba minhum mā kāna min amrihim mā quiya ʿalayhim wa-hum ayyabū

IV 262. “Ammā al-duʿāʾ wa-l-qurbān al-maqbūl al-mustaǧāb, fa-ʿlam yā aī…”

527a. “Ammā al-duʿāʾ wa-l-qurbān, fa-innā aarnāhu li-hāā al-fal yā aī...”

Some are concerned by the description of the Islamic rituals: numerous variations on a well-known topic

IV 263. “wa-ʿinda muʿāyinat hilāl al-fir

=

527a. “wa-fī ʿīd al-fir ʿinda muġāyabat al-qamar baʿda al-urūǧ min al-iyām

IV 269. ʿīd al-aḍḥā wa-ʿīd al-ġadīr

=

529a. ʿīd al-nar wa-yawm al-waiyya

and others… Those are mainly different formulations of the very same idea.

Additional passages in Atif Effendi

191IV 256 (last line) “al-ǧariyān, <...> kaḏālika”

525b “al-ǧariyān, wa-lā yanquṣu min ālatihā illā ḏahāb al-rīḥ fa-qaṭ kaḏālika”

IV 264. (last line) “šukran lahu … bi-mā manna”

527b. “šukranlahu naḥwahā bi-l-istiġfār wa-ḥasanāt afʿālihi bi-mā manna”

Omission by homeoteleuton in Atif Effendi

525b IV 257
wa-l-burhān anna al-rīḥ muḥarrik lahā wa-l-burhān anna al-rīḥ laysa min ǧawhar al-safīna, wa-lā al-safīna ḥāmila, bal al-rīḥ muḥarrik lahā
525b IV 257
Fa-in kāna allaḏīn man fihi ahluhā ʿārifīn mawǧib al-maqdar aṭmaʾnat Fa-in kāna allaḏīn man fīhā min ahlihā ʿārifīn ǧab ḏalika al-amr min nuzūl ḏalika al-ʿāṣif wa-annahu bi-ǧab al-maqdar iṭmaʾannat nufūsuhum

Conclusion on Epistle 50

192It contains not only omissions and additions, but also variations: 15 sentences and even paragraphs differ entirely, and numerous ideas are expressed in a different way. Why? It deals with the Islamic rituals. So, copyists could easily substitute the original descriptions by their own way of naming and explaining those rituals.

Partial Conclusion on Atif Effendi 1681

  • 109 On Companionship and Belief, Arab. p. 32, footnote 13.

193We must mention the omissions in Atif Effendi mainly because the additions of the missing parts in the margin show the copyist’s tendency to omit. His distraction appears also in repetitions as noticed in the edition of Epistle 43.109 We especially find numerous omissions by homeoteleuton in Atif Effendi 1681, which characterize a deficient copy. Therefore, we have to refuse Poonawala’ statement about the Bombay’s additions and to speak about Atif Effendi’s omissions. Although Atif Effendi 1681 is the oldest available manuscript, it is newer than the BCB source. So, by choosing Atif Effendi and neglecting the BCB text, the London edition built a deficient text. The Beirut edition is still the most trustworthy available version of the Epistles of Brethren in Purity.

3. Creation in Translation: all the Different Ways to Translate the Same Sentences.

194We must welcome this project of complete translation, for it will give access to the Epistles for the non-Arabic speakers. But what is given to them to read? Are translation choices convenient for the Arabic meaning? Are they consistent between different translators? We gave a partial answer to the first question in our study of the different volumes. We would like here to show that the answer to the second question is unfortunately: No.

195We took examples of the many recurring expressions which appear throughout the Epistles and gave them a unity of style. We noted the way each translator translated the same expression and put a sign at the beginning and the end of the expression to distinguish the different ways.

196Ex 1

Translator Translation Recurring expression
El-Bizri 1- O righteous and compassionate brother الأخ البار الرحيم
Baffioni 2- O pious and merciful brother
De Callataÿ 3- My dutiful and compassionate brother
Sanchez 4- Dear esteemed Brother
Poonawala 5- O reverent and merciful brother
Mayer Ø
Netton 1- O righteous and compassionate brother
Wright 6- O dear virtuous and compassionate brother
Goodman/McGregor Ø
Ragep/Mimura 7- O pious and compassionate brother
Walker 2- O pious and merciful brother

197Ex 2

Translator Translation Recurring expression
El-Bizri 1- May God aid us and you with a spirit from Him أيدك الله وإيانا بروح منه
Baffioni 2- May God help you and us through a spirit coming from Him
De Callataÿ 3- May God stand by you and by ourselves with a spirit coming from Him
Sanchez 4- May God aid you and us with a spirit of Him
Poonawala 5- May God help you and us with His spirit
Mayer 6- May God support us and you with a spirit from Him
Netton 1- May God aid us and you with a spirit from Him
Wright 4- May God aid you and us with a spirit of Him
Goodman/ McGregor 7- God aid you and us with His sustaining spirit
Ragep/Mimura 8- May God strengthen you and us with a spirit from Him
Walker 9- May God aid you and us with a spirit from Him

198Ex3

Translator Translation Recurring expression
El-Bizri 1- It is alert to the slumber of the inattentiveness and wakeful from the slothfulness of ignorance انتبه من نوم الغفلة واستيقظ من رقدة الجهالة
Baffioni 2- To awaken from the sleep of negligence…
3- awakened from the sleep of their carelessness and woken up from the slumber of their ignorance
De Callataÿ 4- Be woken up from the torpor of negligence and the slumber of ignorance
Sanchez 5- To awaken from the sleep of negligence and the slumber of ignorance
Poonawala 6- The vigilance of the soul from the slumber of negligence and the sleep of ignorance
Mayer Ø
Netton 5- … from the sleep of negligence and the slumber of ignorance
Wright 6- To arouse you from the slumber of forgetfulness…
Goodman/ McGregor II 327 (passage not edited)
Ragep/Mimura 7- Is aroused from the sleep of the heedless and awakens from the slumber of ignorance
Walker Ø

199It is amazing how such simple expressions can be translated in so many ways. If they intended to do it purposely, they could not have done it any better. The problem is that the unity of style of the original text disappears from the English versions. The non-Arabic speaker cannot understand that all those forms refer to one expression. The hypothesis of a stratified composition is self-fulfilled, and the English translation finally gives the evidence it needed.

200But more seriously, it gives an experimental argument against this same stratified or even collective composition. The fact that, the dozens of scholars who shared the IISʼ project and who could communicate their work every second through the Internet were unable to find a consistent translation even for the most usual and obvious expressions, reinforces the thesis of a unique author for the whole book.

General Conclusion

201This article was intended primarily to understand the new Epistles of the Brethren in Purity underlying the London edition. It required a precise comparison between the text offered by the Beirut edition and the new one. Numerous differences can indeed be found. But unfortunately, despite the high quality of the particular volumes, our internal study of those innovations demonstrates a certain inconsistency between the different volumes of the project, the choice of manuscript Atif Effendi 1681 misleading the reader on the meaning of the Epistles. It also confirms the Beirut edition as the reference edition.

  • 110 “Il est impossible et indésirable de réduire la richesse des variations de Kalīla wa-Dimna à un se (...)

202The core problem of the London edition lies both on an historical mistake about the authorship which led to a disregard of the internal consistency of the Epistles, and the lack of a real editing policy. Indeed, the general editor had two choices: whether to establish the best form of the text in the philological tradition of critical editions, or to reproduce the variety of variations for highlighting the historical metamorphosis and the ideological struggles. This second solution is permitted by digitalization and already gave strong results in Arabic studies, such as the project “Kalila wa-Dimna ‒ Wisdom Encoded” under the leadership of Prof. Beatrice Gründler who jumped into such a new venture.110

203Since the publishers refuse to revise their project, new volumes continue to get published with the same problems. Despite the certitude of the falseness of the historical hypothesis based on al-Tawḥīdī’s testimony, the Institute of Ismaili Studies goes on talking on its website about “the anonymous adepts of a tenth-century esoteric fraternity based in Basra and Baghdad”.

204Despite these limits, the London edition will become the dominant one in the West. Scholars will then lean on the English translation first, but the complexity of the editorial questions will prevent most of them from going further in the investigation. At the same time, the possibility of testing the London edition and producing a real critical edition will become quite difficult for the Institute of Ismaili Studies has entered into a copyright agreement with the relevant institutions. For better or for worse, the London edition may be the seal of the Epistles’ editions.

205So finally, we can only claim our profound need of a real comprehension and application of the system of the Brethren in Purity, whose idea of mutual cooperation between scholars was not realized even by those who dedicated their lives to studying them. We still have a lot to learn from the Epistles.

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Callataÿ, Godefroid de, Les Révolutions et les cycles, Beyrouth, al-Bouraq, 1996.

Callataÿ, Godefroid de, Ikhwan al-Safaʾ: A Brotherhood of Idealists on the Fringe of Orthodox Islam, Makers of the Muslim World, Oxford, Oneworld, 2005.

Callataÿ, Godefroid de, “Magia en al-Andalus: Rasāʾil Ijwān al-afāʾ, Rutbat al-akīm y yat al-akīm (Picatrix)”, al-Qantara 34, no. 2, 2013, p. 297‒344.

Callataÿ, Godefroid de, “The Two Islands Allegory in the Rasāʾil Ikhwān al-afāʾ”, Išrāq 4, 2013, p. 71‒81.

Callataÿ, Godefroid de, “‘For Those with Eyes to See’: On the Hidden Meaning of the Animal Fable in the Rasāʾil Ikhwān al-afāʾ.” Magic and the Occult in Islam and Beyond, conference organized by Travis Zadeh, New Haven, Yale University, 02 March 2017.

D’Ancona, Christina, “Review: On Astronomia”, Studia graeco-arabica 6, 2016, p. 265‒266.

D’Ancona, Christina, “Review: Sciences of the Soul and Intellect”, Studia graeco-arabica 7, 2017, p. 406‒413.

De Smet, Daniel, La philosophie ismaélienne: un ésotérisme chiite entre néoplatonisme et gnose, Les conférences de l’École Pratique des Hautes Études 6, Paris, Cerf, 2012.

Dieterici, Friedrich, Die Propaedeutik der Araber im zehnten Jahrhundert, Berlin, Mittler & Sohn, 1865.

Diwald, Susanne, Arabische Philosophie und Wissenschaft in der Enzyklopädie Kitāb Iwān a-afāʾ (III), Die Lehre von Seele und Intellekt, Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Literatur, Mainz, Wiesbaden, Otto Harrassowitz, 1975.

El-Bizri, Nader & Institute of Ismaili Studies (eds.), Epistles of the Brethren of Purity: The Ikhwān al-afāʾ and Their Rasāʾil: An Introduction, Oxford, New York, Oxford University Press, 2008.

Farmer, Henry George, “Who was the Author of the ‘Liber introductorius in artem logicae demonstrationis’?”, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 3, 1934, p. 553‒556.

Gobillot, Geneviève, “Quelques stéréotypes cosmologiques d’origine pythagoricienne chez les penseurs musulmans au Moyen Âge (I)”, Revue de l’histoire des religions 219, no. 1, 2002, p. 55‒87.

Gobillot, Geneviève, “Quelques stéréotypes cosmologiques d’origine pythagoricienne chez les penseurs musulmans au Moyen Âge (II)”, Revue de l’histoire des religions 219, no. 2, 2002, p. 161‒192.

Goldstein, Bernard R., “A Treatise on the Number Theory from a Tenth-Century Arabic Source”, Centaurus 10, no. 3, 1964, p. 129‒160.

Goodman, Lenn Evan, The Case of the Animals versus Man Before the King of the Jinn: A Tenth-Century Ecological Fable of the Pure Brethren of Basra, Woodbridge, Twayne Publishers, 1978.

Goodman, Lenn Evan, “Reading the Case of the Animals versus Man : Fable and Philosophy in the Essays of the ‘Ikhwān al-ṣafāʾ’”, in Nader El-Bizri, The Ikhwān al-afāʾ and Their “Rasāʾil”: An Introduction, London, The Institute of Ismaili Studies, 2008, p. 248–274.

Gruendler, Beatrice, « Les versions arabes de Kalīla wa-Dimna : une transmission et une circulation mouvantes », in Marie-Christine Bornes-Varol, Marie-Sol Ortola (dir.), Énoncés sapientels et littérature exemplaire: une intertextualité complexe, Nancy, PUN-Presses Universitaires de Lorraine, 2013, p. 387‒418.

Halm, Heinz, “The Cosmology of the pre-Fatimid Ismāʿīliyya”, in Farhad Daftary (ed.), Mediaeval Ismaʿili History and Thought, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1996, p. 75‒84.

Hamdani, Abbas, “Abū Ḥayyan al-Tawḥīdī and the Brethren of Purity”, International Journal of Middle East Studies 9, no. 3, 1978, p. 345‒353.

Hamdani, Abbas, “The Ikhwān al-Ṣafāʾ : Between al-Kindī and al-Fārābī”, in Omar Alí-de-Unzaga (ed.), Forteresses of the Intellect : Ismaili and Other Islamic Studies in Honour of Farhad Daftary, London, Tauris Publishers, Institute of Islamic Studies, 2011, p. 189‒212.

Ḥamīda, ʿAbd al-Razzāq, Qia al-ayawān fī al-adab al-ʿarabī, Cairo, Maktabat al-Anǧlū al-Miṣriyya, 1951.

Lettinck, Paul, Aristotle’s Meteorology and Its Reception in the Arab World, Aristoteles Semitico-Latinus, v. 10, Leiden, Boston, Brill, 1999.

Loinaz, Theo, “Review: On Magic I”, Suhayl 14, 2015, p. 191‒194

Loinaz, Theo, “Review: On the Natural Sciences”, Suhayl 14, 2015, p. 194‒195.

Marquet, Yves, La philosophie des Ikhwân al-Safâʾ, Paris, Milan, S.E.H.A, ARCHE, 1999.

Netton, Ian Richard, Muslim Neoplatonists: An Introduction to the Thought of the Brethren of Purity (Ikhwān al-afāʾ), London, Routledge Curzon, 2002.

Netton, Ian Richard, “Review: On Logic”, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 75, no. 1, 2012, p. 153–154.

Niazi, Kaveh, “Review: On Arithmetic and On Geometry”, Aestimatio 12, 2015, p. 152–156.

Nosko-Koivisto, Inka, “Review: The Case of Animals versus Man”, Philosophy in Review XXXI, no. 3, 2011, p. 171-173.

Rizvi, Sajjad, “Review: Sciences of the Soul and Intellect. Part 1”, The American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences 4, vol. 33, 2016, p. 106‒109.

Rosenthal, Franz, Amad B. al-ayyib al-Sarasī. A Scholar and a Littérateur of the Ninth Century, New Heaven, American Oriental Society, 1943.

Rowson, Everett K., « The Philosopher as Littérateur: al Tawḥīdī », Fuat Sezgin (ed.), Zeitschrift für Geschichte der Arabisch-Islamischen Wissenschaften, vol. 6, 1990, p. 50‒92.

Schmidl, Petra, “Review: On Astronomia”, Early Science and Medecine 21, 2016, p. 357–359.

Sezgin, Fuat (ed.), Kitāb Iwān a-afā Ms Atif Efendi 1681, Manšūrāt Maʿhad Tārīḫ al-ʿUlūm al-ʿArabiyya wa-l-Islāmiyya, ʿUyūn al-Turāṯ, al-muǧallad 86, Frankfurt am Main, Goethe University, 2015.

Shaker, Anthony, “Review: Sciences of the Soul and Intellect. Part 1”, Journal of Islamic Studies, vol. 29, no. 1, 2018, p. 84-87.

Shiloah, Amnon, “L’épître sur la musique des Ikhwān al-Safāʾ”, Revue des études islamiques 32, 1964, p. 125‒162.

Shiloah, Amnon, “Review: On Music”, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 75, no. 1, 2012, p. 151–153.

Vallat, Philippe, Fārābī et l’École d’Alexandrie, Paris, Vrin, 2004.

Vaulx d’Arcy, Guillaume de, “Nul ne sera sauvé si tous ne le sont. Le complémentarisme des Iwān al-afā. Contribution à la théologie des religions”, MIDÉO 33, 2018, p. 137‒181.

Vaulx d’Arcy, Guillaume de, “Aḥmad b. al-Tayyib al-Saraḫsī, réviseur de l’Introduction arithmétique de Nicomaque de Gérase, et rédacteur des Rasāʾil Iwān al-afā”, Arabic Sciences and Philosophy 29, no. 2,  2019 (à paraître).

Vaulx d’Arcy, Guillaume de, “La 17e nuit d’al-Tawḥīdī : réfutation d’une hérésie menaçante, les Épîtres des Frères en Pureté”, ReMMM, (à paraître).

Widengren, Geo, “The Pure Brethren and the Philosophical Structure of Their System”, in Alford T. Welch, Pierre Cachia (eds.), Islam: Past Influence and Present Challenge, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 1979, p. 57‒69.

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Notes

1 We model our translation of Iwān al-afā on the expression “brethren in faith”.

2 However, Mourad Kacimi noticed that an important manuscript from the Bibliothèque Nationale du Royaume du Maroc was not taken into account: BNRM ك 365, which is the third oldest manuscript, for it dates from 1222 while Atif Effendi 1681 dates from 1182, and MS 5038 from the Königliche Bibliothek im Berlin from 1203. We got hold of it and analyzed it. We will not mention it in this article, but we can say that it confirms the hypothesis on the manuscript tradition developped below.

3 For a Šīʿa allegiance, see de Callataÿ, Ikhwan al-Safaʾ, p. XI; for a Qarmatian affiliation, see Widengren, “The Pure Brethren and the Philosophical Structure of Their System”; for a Muʿtazilite view, see Awa, L’esprit critique des Frères de la Pureté, p. 300‒301. G. Zaïdan, Ed. G. Browne, Nicholson, Asín Palacios, and Ṭibāwī share this opinion. For a Sufi identity, see Diwald, Arabische Philosophie und Wissenschaft in der Enzyklopädie, p. 21‒23; and last but not least for an Ismailian production, see for example Abbas Hamdani, “Brethren of Purity, a Secret Society for the Establishment of the Fāṭimid Caliphate : New Evidence for the Early Dating of their Encyclopaediaˮ, p. 81; Abbas Hamdani, “The Ikhwān al-Safāʾ: between al-Kindī and al-Fārābī ”, p. 201. But, other Ismailian scholars like Muṣṭafā Ġālib or ʿĀrif Tāmir, and Carmela Baffioni also, can be consulted.

4 Diwald, Arabische Philosophie und Wissenschaft in der Enzyklopädie, p. 10‒11; Hamdani, “Abū Ḥayyan al-Tawḥīdī and the Brethren of Purity”.

5 Among many, de Callataÿ, Ikhwan al-Safa’, p. 44 and p. 75.

6 De Callataÿ, “Magia en al-Andalus: Rasāʾil Ijwān al-afāʾ, Rutbat al-akim y Gāyat al-akim (Picatrix)”.

7 We exposed it first in a lecture at the IDEO, then in the 9th conference of the SIHSPAI. See de Vaulx d’Arcy, Les Épîtres des Frères en Pureté. Mathématique et philosophie, p. 13-63.

8 Only Baffioni recorded it in the appendix of On Logic.

9 Niazi, “Review: On Arithmetic and On Geometry”.

10 Brentjes, “Review: On Arithmetic and On Geometry”, p. 112.

11 Idem.

12 Amin, “Review: On Arithmetic and On Geometry”, p. 314.

13 See Goldstein, “A Treatise on the Number Theory from a Tenth-Century Arabic Source”. He already noticed the great proximity between the Rasāʾil and Nichomachus, p. 130‒131.

14 Dieterici, Die Propaedeutik der Araber im zehnten Jahrhundert.

15 A. A., “L’Épître des Frères de la Pureté sur les Nombres”; Brentjes, “Die erste Risâla der Rasâʾil Iḫwân al-Ṣafâʾ über elementare Zahlentheorie ‒ Ihr mathematisher Gehalt und ihre Beziehungen zu spätantiken arithmetischen Schriften”.

16 See de Vaulx d’Arcy, “Aḥmad b. al-Ṭayyib al-Saraḫsī, réviseur de l’Introduction arithmétique de Nicomaque de Gérase, et rédacteur des Rasāʾil Iḫwān al-Ṣafā”.

17 Sonja Brentjes identified all the relations between Epistle 1 and the Introduction to Arithmetic in Brentjes, “Die erste Risâla…”, p. 236‒237.

18 See our translation of Epistles 1, 2 and 6 in Les Épîtres des Frères en Pureté. Mathématique et philosophie.

19 See al-Ḫuwārizmī, al-Ǧabr wa-l-muqābala, p. 48‒49.

20 See de Vaulx d’Arcy, Les Épîtres des Frères en Pureté. Mathématique et philosophie.

21 This epistle was previoulsy reviewed by Schmidl, “Review: On Astronomia”, and D’Ancona, “Review: On Astronomia”.

22 Qabīṣī (356/967) and Burnett, The Introduction to Astrology, p. 18.

23 This word used for astrology is surprisingly translated “science of judgements”, but indicates in fact the science of the divine decrees (if we wish to have a literal translation).

24 Crone, “Ungodly Cosmologies”, p. 115‒119.

25 We analyze this case in de Vaulx d’Arcy, “La 17e nuit d’al-Tawḥīdī : réfutation d’une hérésie menaçante, les Épîtres des Frères en Pureté”.

26 De Vaulx d’Arcy, Les Épîtres des Frères en Pureté. Mathématique et philosophie, p. 28.

27 Antrim, “Review: On Geography”, p. 93.

28 Lettinck, Aristotle’s Meteorology and Its Reception in the Arab World, p. 176. See also p. 9‒10 and 107‒111.

29 Shiloah, “Review: On Music”, p. 151.

30 Shiloah, p. 153.

31 See Eng. p. 15, footnote 16; Eng. p. 16; Eng. p. 17, footnotes 20 and 21; Eng. p. 42; Eng. p. 58; Eng. p. 69; Eng. p. 83, footnote 28; Eng. p. 155, footnote 23; Eng. p. 160, footnote 311; Eng. p. 162, footnote 315.

32 Ibn Ḫallikān (681/1282), Wafayāt al-aʿyān; al-Bayhaqī (565/1169), Tārī ukamāʾ al-islām.

33 Like ʿAbd al-Rāziq, Faylasūf al-ʿArab wa-l-muʿallim al-ānī; Al-Ḥamd, ābiʾat arrān wa Iwān al-afā.

34 For example, the story of the ascetic who spat on the wealthy man is also found in Abū Bakr al-Rāzī (313/926) and Miskawayh (421/1030). Its Hellenistic origins are explained by Rémi Brague in al-Rāzī (313/926), La Médecine Spirituelle, p. 105, footnote 115.

35 Rasāʾil Iḫwān al-Ṣafā, Beirut edition, I 289 ; Ibn Ḫallikān (681/1282), Wafayāt al-aʿyān; al-Bayhaqī (565/1169), Tārīḫ ḥukamāʾ al-islām, p. 42‒43 and p. 153‒157, no. 706.

36 Shiloah, “L’épître sur la musique des Ikhwān al-Ṣafāʾ”; Brethren of Purity, On Music (Epistle 5).

37 Adamson, “Review: On Logic”, p. 365.

38 Netton, “Review: On Logic”, p. 154.

39 Al-Kindī (before 256/870), “Kammiyyat kutub Arisṭū”, p. 364.

40 See our article: de Vaulx d’Arcy, “Nul ne sera sauvé si tous ne le sont”. And see Epistle 2, I 99‒100; Epistle 22, II 283‒284; Epistle 33, III 199; Epistle 42, III 425‒426.

41 It will be found also in Epistle 31 on the diversity of tongues (III 143).

42 Crone, “Ungodly Cosmologies”, p. 107.

43 Al-Fārābī (338/950), Kitāb al-urūf, p. 91‒95.

44  Al-Kindī (before 256/870), “Kammiyyat Kutub Arisṭū.”, p. 370‒372; Epistle 11, I 410‒411.

45 Al-Fārābī (338/950), Kitāb al-urūf, § 39, p. 83.

46 See MSS Ayasofia 4855, 71a, and our article: de Vaulx d’Arcy, “Aḥmad b. al-Ṭayyib al-Saraḫsī, réviseur de l’Introduction arithmétique de Nicomaque de Gérase, et rédacteur des Rasāʾil Iwān a-afā”.

47 Al-Kindī (before 256/870), The Philosophical Works of al-Kindī, “Epistle on the Five Essences”, p. 316.

48 According to the recurring expression: “… The number of which can be calculated only by God (wa-lā yuḥṣī ʿadadaha illā Allāh (68 occurrences).

49 The main scholars are de Boer, “Zu Kindi und seiner Schule”; Farmer, “Who was the Author of the ‘Liber introductorius in artem logicae demonstrationis’?”; Baffioni, “Il ‘Liber introductorius in artem logicae demonstrationis’: problemi storici e filologici”.

50 Farmer, “Who was the Author of the ‘Liber introductorius in artem logicae demonstrationis’?”.

51 Hamdani, “The Ikhwān al-Ṣafāʾ: Between al-Kindī and al-Fārābī”, p. 195‒196.

52 De Vaulx d’Arcy, Les Épîtres des Frères en Pureté. Mathématique et philosophie, p. 48.

53 Rosenthal, Amad b. al-ayyib al-Sarasī. A Scholar and a Littérateur of the Ninth Century, p. 62.

54 Al-Kindī (before 256/870), “al-Falsafa al-ūlā”, p. 129 ; Epistle 32, III 179.

55 Nicomachus of Gerasa (120 ce), Introduction to Arithmetic, II 21, p. 265.

56 We cannot follow Baffioni who retains against all the other manuscripts (Arabic p. 153, n. 2012) the Atif Effendi version: al-ʿulūm wa-l-luġāt. Such a choice destroys the analogy between language and tongues on one hand, and sciences on the other.

57 See Epistle 6, I 242‒243, and Nicomachus of Gerasa, Introduction to Arithmetic, I 17.

58 Yaḥyā ibn ʿAdī (m. 363/974), “Traité sur la différence qui existe entre l’art de la logique philosophique et l’art de la grammaire arabe”, p. 194, § 18‒19.

59 This volume was reviewed by Loinaz.

60 Baffioni, “La science des pierres précieuses dans l’épître des Ikhwān al-Ṣafāʾ : entre les catalogues encyclopédiques et le commentaire philosophique”.

61 See Halm, “The Cosmology of the Pre-Fatimid Ismāʿīliyya”.

62 See de Smet, La philosophie ismaélienne.

63 On Music, Eng. p. 136, n. 218.

64 Carmela Baffioni told us that MS Bodleien Laud Or 260 and MS Bodleien Marsh 189 had the term without the consonant pointing which permits the reading ǧirmiyya.

65 Baffioni, “La science des pierres précieuses dans l’epître des Ikhwān al-afāʾ: entre les catalogues encyclopédiques et le commentaire philosophique”.

66 Baffioni, p. 88‒89.

67 See Marquet, La Philosophie des Ikhwân al-Safâʾ, p. 383‒403; Vallat, Fārābī et l’école d’Alexandrie, p. 120‒121.

68 Nosko-Koivisto, “Review: Epistle 22”, p. 173. See also Johnson, “Review: Epistle 22”.

69 Goodman, The Case of the Animals versus Man before the King of the Jinn: A Tenth-Century Ecological Fable of the Pure Brethren of Basra. Goodman, “Reading the Case of the Animals versus Man : Fable and Philosophy in the Essays of the ‘Ikhwān al-Ṣafāʾ’”.

70 A comparison of Epistle 22 and Kitāb al-ḥayawān can be found in Benkheira, Mayeur-Jaouen and Sublet, L’animal en islam. In particular, see p. 28.

71 Netton, Muslim Neoplatonists, p. 92; al-Ǧāḥiẓ, Kitāb al-ayawān, p. 21‒23.

72 Both in article, p. 254‒256, and in the presentation.

73 The bibliography however contains Immanuel Kant, Sextus Empiricus or Baruch Spinoza but not one study on the Arabic fables.

74 De Callataÿ, “The Two Islands Allegory in the Rasāʾil Ikhwān al-afāʾ”.

75 See on one hand, Epistle 31, III 167, III 169, and III 170, and on the other hand, Epistle 2, I 100, Epistle 26, II 474, Epistle 42, III 456 and III 499.

76 Sahl b. Hārūn (215/830), Kitāb al-nimr wa-l-aʿlab.

77 Even when Goodman evokes the mirror for princes, p. 44‒46, he speaks about an Aesopian framing.

78 We develop such an analysis in our French translation of the very Epistle 22: Du miroir des princes au miroir des peuples: l’épître des Frères en Pureté sur les animaux (upcoming).

79 However, the Beirut version is preferred in certain passages without any explicit reference. It concerns all the expression noted (*).

80 Some of them are clearly additions from a copyist, such as II 270, l. 14‒24; II 277, l. 11‒15; II 278, l. 12‒19. Some cannot be additions from a later copyist like II 276, l. 3‒7; II 376, l. 1‒7; II 377, l. 6‒12; II 376, l. 1‒7; II 377, l. 6‒21.

81 See the presentation under the title “A Surprising Dénouement”, p. 51‒55. The existence of another ending in the Beirut edition is denied.

82 We consulted Istanbul, Raghab Pacha 838 (238b), Istanbul, Raghab Pacha 840 (218‒219), Istanbul, Feyzullah 2130 (136b), Istanbul, Köprülü 870 (153b), Istanbul, Köprülü 871 (257b), Istanbul, Anouar Othmani 2683 (202b), Istanbul, Atif Effendi 1681 (251a).

83 Here, more properly, delegates or deputies.

84 See Epistle 20, II 141; Epistle 27, III 111.

85 That does not mean that the Beirut edition is free of any Ismaili interference. See Walker’s demonstration in Sciences of the Soul and Intellect, Part I, English p. 3. But this interference is lighter than the other manuscripts, for it concerns only the eulogy.

86 Voir Rowson, “The Philosopher as Littérateur: al Tawḥīdīˮ.

87 D’Ancona, “Review…”, p. 409‒410.

88 Rizvi, “Review…”, p. 109.

89  Shaker, “Review…”, p. 85.

90 See Epistle 30, III 75.

91 Al-Kindī (256/870), “al-Falsafa al-ūlā”, p. 106.

92 Voir Buḫārī, al-Ǧāmiʿ al-ṣaḥīḥ, vol. 12, p. 209‒210.

93 For echoes in Sufism, see Gobillot, “Quelques stéréotypes cosmologiques d’origine pythagoricienne. I.”; Gobillot, “Quelques stéréotypes cosmologiques d’origine pythagoricienne. II.” An important philosophical influence of this doctrine is Ibn Ǧabīrūl (around 450/1058).

94 De Callataÿ, Les révolutions et les cycles.

95 De Callataÿ, Ikhwan al-Safaʾ, p. 29 and p. 32‒33.

96 Definition is given in Epistle 16, II 49/Arab. p. 147‒148.

97 De Vaulx d’Arcy, “La 17e nuit d’al-Tawḥīdī : réfutation d’une hérésie menaçante, les Épîtres des Frères en Pureté”.

98 Anthony, “Review…”, p. 386.

99 Coulon, “Recension …” p. 646‒647.

100 De Callataÿ, “Magia…ˮ.

101 Indeed, both texts explain the impossibility of external compulsion on internal faith.

102 De Callataÿ, “For Those with Eyes to See”, (p. 8 of 36).

103 Sezgin, Kitāb Iwān a-afā Ms Atif Effendi 1681.

104 For instance, concerning Kalīla wa-Dimna the oldest manuscript dates from the 13th century (Aya Sofya 1221), but the best ones date from the 15th century (London 4044) and the 16‒17th century (Paris 3469). The London edition reproduced the mistake of de Sacy concerning Kalīla wa-Dimna. More than two centuries of philological progress were ignored. See Gruendler, “Les versions arabes de Kalīla wa-Dimna : une transmission et une circulation mouvantes”, p. 396‒397 and p. 399.

105 Sezgin, Kitāb Iḫwān al-Ṣafā ‒ Ms Atif Effendi 1681.

106 On Astronomia, Eng. p. 12.

107 He used precisely two criteria, as below:

51‒1 51‒2
52-1 (short) Branch z
52-2a (long version) Branch x
52-2b (long version) Branch y

On branch z, de Callataÿ puts two manuscripts, Esad Effendi and Köprülü 871 to edit the short version of Epistle 52 (the long one will be edited by Sébastien Moureau).

108 El-Bizri and Institute of Ismaili Studies, Epistles of the Brethren of Purity: The Ikhwān al-afāʾ and Their Rasāʾil: An Introduction, p. 47.

109 On Companionship and Belief, Arab. p. 32, footnote 13.

110 “Il est impossible et indésirable de réduire la richesse des variations de Kalīla wa-Dimna à un seul texte. Il est beaucoup plus pertinent d’identifier les variantes majeures existantes et de tenter de découvrir leurs histoires et métamorphoses transculturelles”, Gruendler, “Les versions arabes de Kalīla wa-Dimna : une transmission et une circulation mouvantes”, p. 413‒414.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Overview on London Edition. How to find his way back in the London Maze (The edition respecting no common standard, we present here the choices of each particular editor).
Légende Key and ReadingThe table exposes: (1) The eleven volumes already published (the inexistence of series number shows that the final number of volumes in the series is not planned). The given number indicates the chronological order of publication. No importance was given to the logical order of the Epistles, in spite of their emphasis of such an order.(2) Their editors and translators’ names. (3) The number of the epistle as written on the cover and the English translation.(4) The number as written inside the Arabic text. Whereas the first is generally the epistle’s rank in the whole book, the second is its rank in the part (propaedeutic and mathematical sciences, ­natural sciences, …) as it is indicated in MS Atif Effendi 1681, which most of the editors follow. The result is the inconstancy of numeration in half ­the volumes (15‒21, 34‒36, 39‒41, 43‒45, 52).(5) The manuscripts on which the edition is based. The Arabic letters correspond to the symbolism used in the series. We can notice with surprise that the manuscripts’ selection by editors is not consistent. Some based their edition on Atif Effendi 1681 because it is the oldest or because it contains Ismaili views,2 some excluded it. So, the London edition adds a degree of complexity and confusion regarding the text.(6) The reference in the Arabic text to the manuscript’s folios or to the former edition, in order to compare between both.(7) The reference in the English translation to be able to find the passage in the Arabic text. (8) The existence or not of chapter numbers to allow the reader to move back and forth between the English and the Arabic. (9) The continuity or reinitialization on each page of the footnotes numbers. The incredible extent of philological footnote pages can make the reading very hard (see Appendix 1). For example, Epistle 5 contains 2625 footnotes in 186 pages, and the last number is 2625. The result is the pollution of the text with more than 9 000 numbers. It’s very surprising when the comparative analysis shows a text very close to Beirut edition. See p. 190 as a sample.(10) Another editing difference is the choice between editing the plain text as it is in the manuscripts, that’s Baffioni’s choice for instance, and cutting paragraphs by regular linefeeds which constitute a part of interpretation of the text. Wright chose this way in an extreme manner for the edition of epistle 5 (for instance, p. 130, p. 171).(11) We indicated the specialty of the editors and translators, which is mainly philosophical.1. The title of the book is here fī tahīb al-nafs wa-i al-alāq min kalām al-ūfiyya.2. Ikhwān al-Ṣafāʾ, On Logic (epistles 10‒14), Appendix A, p. 157.
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Légende Samples of the London Edition.
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Légende Sample of Atif Effendi 1681.
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Guillaume De Vaulx d’Arcy, « The Epistles of the Brethren of Purity Edited by the Institute of Ismaili Studies », MIDÉO, 34 | 2019, 253-330.

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Guillaume De Vaulx d’Arcy, « The Epistles of the Brethren of Purity Edited by the Institute of Ismaili Studies », MIDÉO [En ligne], 34 | 2019, mis en ligne le 10 juin 2019, consulté le 21 novembre 2019. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/mideo/3397

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Guillaume De Vaulx d’Arcy

Institut Français du Proche-Orient

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Institut Dominicain d'Études Orientales

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