Disagreements of the Jurists

Author: al-Qadi al-Numan,
Publisher: NYU Press
ISBN: 9780814771426
Release Date: 2015-01-19
Genre: Religion

Al-Qadi al-Nuʿman was the chief legal theorist and ideologue of the North African Fatimid dynasty in the tenth century. This translation makes available in English for the first time his major work on Islamic legal theory, which presents a legal model in support of the Fatimids’ principle of legitimate rule over the Islamic community. Composed as part of a grand project to establish the theoretical bases of the official Fatimid legal school, Disagreements of the Jurists expounds a distinctly Shiʿi system of hermeneutics, which refutes the methods of legal interpretation adopted by Sunni jurists. The work begins with a discussion of the historical causes of jurisprudential divergence in the first Islamic centuries, and goes on to address, point by point, the specific interpretive methods of Sunni legal theory, arguing that they are both illegitimate and ineffective. While its immediate mission is to pave the foundation of the legal Ismaʿili tradition, the text also preserves several Islamic legal theoretical works no longer extant—including Ibn Dawud’s manual, al-Wusul ila maʿrifat al-usul—and thus throws light on a critical stage in the historical development of Islamic legal theory (usul al-fiqh) that would otherwise be lost to history.

Disagreements of the Jurists

Author: Devin Stewart
Publisher: NYU Press
ISBN: 9781479808076
Release Date: 2017-10-03
Genre: Literary Collections

Paves the foundation of Islamic legal tradition Al-Qadi al-Nu'man was the chief legal theorist and ideologue of the North African Fatimid dynasty in the tenth century. This translation makes available for the first time in English his major work on Islamic legal theory (usul al-fiqh), which presents a legal model in support of the Fatimid claim to legitimate rule. Composed as part of a grand project to establish the theoretical bases of the official Fatimid legal school, Disagreements of the Jurists expounds a distinctly Shi'i system of hermeneutics. The work begins with a discussion of the historical causes of jurisprudential divergence in the first Islamic centuries and goes on to engage, point by point, with the specific interpretive methods of Sunni legal theory. The text thus preserves important passages from several Islamic legal theoretical works no longer extant, and in the process throws light on a critical stage in the development of Islamic legal theory that would otherwise be lost to history.

Consorts of the Caliphs

Author:
Publisher: NYU Press
ISBN: 9781479804771
Release Date: 2017-09-05
Genre: History

Lyrical biographical sketches of the concubines of ancient Baghdad Consorts of the Caliphs is a seventh/thirteenth-century compilation of anecdotes about thirty-eight women who were consorts to those in power, most of them concubines of the early Abbasid caliphs and wives of latter-day caliphs and sultans. This slim but illuminating volume is one of the few surviving texts by the prolific Baghdadi scholar Ibn al-Sa'i, who chronicled the academic and political elites of his city in the final years of the Abbasid dynasty and the period following the cataclysmic Mongol invasion of 656 H/1258 AD. In this work, Ibn al-Sa'i is keen to forge a connection between the munificent wives of his time and the storied lovers of the so-called golden age of Baghdad. Thus, from the earlier period, we find Harun al-Rashid pining for his brother’s beautiful slave, Ghadir, and the artistry of such musical and literary celebrities as Arib and Fadl, who bested the male poets and singers of their day. From times closer to Ibn al-Sa?i’s own, we meet women such as Banafsha, who endowed law colleges, had bridges built, and provisioned pilgrims bound for Mecca; slave women whose funeral services were led by caliphs; and noble Saljuq princesses from Afghanistan. Informed by the author’s own sources, his insider knowledge, and well-known literary materials, these singular biographical sketches bring the belletristic culture of the Baghdad court to life, particularly in the personal narratives and poetry of culture heroines otherwise lost to history.

The Excellence of the Arabs

Author: Ibn Qutaybah,
Publisher: NYU Press
ISBN: 9781479809578
Release Date: 2017-04-04
Genre: History

The Excellence of the Arabs is a spirited defense of Arab identity—its merits, values, and origins—at a time of political unrest and fragmentation, written by one of the most important scholars of the early Abbasid era. In the cosmopolitan milieu of Baghdad, the social prestige attached to claims of being Arab had begun to decline. Although his own family originally hailed from Merv in the east, Ibn Qutaybah (213-76 H/828-89 AD) locks horns with those members of his society who belittled Arabness and vaunted the glories of Persian heritage and culture. Instead, he upholds the status of Arabs and their heritage in the face of criticism and uncertainty. The Excellence of the Arabs is in two parts. In the first, Arab Preeminence, which takes the form of an extended argument for Arab privilege, Ibn Qutaybah accuses his opponents of blasphemous envy. In the second, The Excellence of Arab Learning, he describes the fields of knowledge in which he believed pre-Islamic Arabians excelled, including knowledge of the stars, divination, horse husbandry, and poetry. And by incorporating extensive excerpts from the poetic heritage—“the archive of the Arabs”—Ibn Qutaybah aims to demonstrate that poetry is itself sufficient corroboration of Arab superiority. Eloquent and forceful, The Excellence of the Arabs addresses a central question at a time of great social flux at the dawn of classical Muslim civilization: what did it mean to be Arab?

Scents and Flavors

Author:
Publisher: NYU Press
ISBN: 9781479843930
Release Date: 2017-05-02
Genre: Literary Collections

This popular 13th-century Syrian cookbook is an ode to what its anonymous author calls the “greater part of the pleasure of this life,” namely the consumption of food and drink, as well as the fragrances that garnish the meals and the diners who enjoy them. Collecting 635 meticulous recipes, Scents and Flavors invites us to savor an inventive cuisine that elevates simple ingredients by combining the sundry aromas of herbs, spices, fruits, and flower essences. Organized like a meal, it opens with appetizers and juices and proceeds through main courses, side dishes, and desserts, including such confections as candies based on the higher densities of sugar syrup—an innovation unique to the medieval Arab world. Apricot beverages, stuffed eggplant, pistachio chicken, coriander stew, melon crepes, and almond pudding are seasoned with nutmeg, rose, cloves, saffron, and the occasional rare ingredient like ambergris to delight and surprise the banqueter. Bookended by chapters on preparatory perfumes, incenses, medicinal oils, antiperspirant powders, and after-meal hand soaps, this comprehensive culinary journey is a feast for all the senses. With the exception of four extant Babylonian and Roman specimens, cookbooks did not appear on the world literary scene until Arabic speakers began compiling their recipe collections in the tenth century, peaking in popularity in the thirteenth century. Scents and Flavors quickly became a bestseller during this golden age of cookbooks, and remains today a delectable read for epicures and cultural historians alike.

A Treasury of Virtues

Author:
Publisher: NYU Press
ISBN: 9781479896530
Release Date: 2016-10-04
Genre: History

A Treasury of Virtues is a collection of sayings, sermons, and teachings attributed to Ali ibn Abi Talib (d. 40 H/661 AD), the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad, the first Shia Imam and the fourth Sunni Caliph. An acknowledged master of Arabic eloquence and a sage of Islamic wisdom, Ali was renowned for his eloquence: his words were collected, quoted, and studied over the centuries, and extensively anthologized, excerpted, and interpreted. Of the many compilations of Ali’s words, A Treasury of Virtues, compiled by the Fatimid Shafi'i judge al-Quda'i (d. 454 H/1062 AD), arguably possesses the broadest compass of genres and the largest variety of themes. Included are aphorisms, proverbs, sermons, speeches, homilies, prayers, letters, dialogues, and verse, all of which provide instruction on how to be a morally upstanding human being. The shorter compilation included here, One Hundred Proverbs, is attributed to the eminent writer al-Jaziz (d. 255 H/869 AD). This volume presents the first English translation of both of these important collections.

Light in the Heavens

Author: Tahera Qutbuddin
Publisher: NYU Press
ISBN: 9781479871469
Release Date: 2016-11-08
Genre: Literary Collections

The words of Muhammad (d. 11 H/632 AD), God's messenger and prophet of Islam, have a special place in the hearts of his followers. Wielding an authority second only to the Qur'an, Muhammad’s hadith are cited by scholars as testimonial texts in a vast array of disciplines—including law, theology, metaphysics, poetry, grammar, history, and medicine—and are quoted by Muslims to one another in their daily lives. Assembling Muhammad’s words has been a major preoccupation for scholars throughout the fourteen centuries since his death, resulting in an abundance of compilations. Among the legally-grounded collections, which aimed to guide the community in its practice of religious law and ritual worship, one which stands out in particular is Light in the Heavens (Kitab al-Shihab) by al-Qadi al-Quda'i (d. 454 H/1062 AD), a Shafi'i judge in the Fatimid court in Egypt. The collection’s overall conceptualization is distinctively ethical and pragmatic, and offers humanitarian lessons and practical insights with universal appeal. From North Africa to India, generations have used Light in the Heavens as a teaching text for children as well as adults, and many of its 1200 sayings are familiar to individuals of diverse denominations and ethnicities. For Muslims—who consider Muhammad’s teachings the fount of wisdom and the beacon of guidance in all things, mundane and sublime—these sayings provide a direct window into the inspired vision of one of the most influential humans to have walked the Earth.

Risible Rhymes

Author: Muhammad ibn Mahfuz al-Sanhuri
Publisher: NYU Press
ISBN: 9781479857524
Release Date: 2016-10-04
Genre: Literary Collections

Written in mid-17th century Egypt, Risible Rhymes is in part a short, comic disquisition on “rural” verse, mocking the pretensions and absurdities of uneducated poets from Egypt’s countryside. The interest in the countryside as a cultural, social, economic, and religious locus in its own right that is hinted at in this work may be unique in pre-twentieth-century Arabic literature. As such, the work provides a companion piece to its slightly younger contemporary, Yusuf al-Shirbini’s Brains Confounded by the Ode of Abu Shaduf Expounded, which also takes examples of mock-rural poems and subjects them to grammatical analysis. The overlap between the two texts may indicate that they both emanate from a common corpus of pseudo-rural verse that circulated in Ottoman Egypt. Risible Rhymes also examines various kinds of puzzle poems—another popular genre of the day—and presents a debate between scholars over a line of verse by the tenth-century poet al-Mutanabbi. Taken as a whole, Risible Rhymes offers intriguing insight into the critical concerns of mid-Ottoman Egypt, showcasing the intense preoccupation with wordplay, grammar, and stylistics that dominated discussions of poetry in al-Sanhuri’s day and shedding light on the literature of this understudied era.

A Hundred and One Nights

Author:
Publisher: NYU Press
ISBN: 9781479808526
Release Date: 2017-09-05
Genre: Literary Collections

A luminous translation of Arabic tales of enchantment and wonder Translated into English for the very first time, A Hundred and One Nights is a marvelous example of the rich tradition of popular Arabic storytelling. Like the celebrated Thousand and One Nights, this collection opens with the frame story of Scheherazade, the vizier’s gifted daughter who recounts imaginative tales night after night in an effort to distract the murderous king from taking her life. A Hundred and One Nights features an almost entirely different set of stories, however, each one more thrilling, amusing, and disturbing than the last. Here, we encounter tales of epic warriors, buried treasure, disappearing brides, cannibal demon-women, fatal shipwrecks, and clever ruses, where human strength and ingenuity play out against a backdrop of inexorable, inscrutable fate. Distinctly rooted in Arabic literary culture and the Islamic tradition, these tales draw on motifs and story elements that circulated across cultures, including Indian and Chinese antecedents, and features a frame story possibly older than its more famous sibling. This vibrant translation of A Hundred and One Nights promises to transport readers, new and veteran alike, into its fantastical realms of magic and wonder.

Accounts of China and India

Author: Abu Zayd al-Sirafi
Publisher: NYU Press
ISBN: 9781479830596
Release Date: 2017-04-04
Genre: Literary Collections

“These accounts are full of fascination and wonder… [and] continue the contribution this excellent series is making towards integrating classics of Arabic into the global canon.” —Times Literary Supplement The ninth and tenth centuries witnessed the establishment of a substantial network of maritime trade across the Indian Ocean, providing the real-life background to the Sinbad tales. An exceptional exemplar of Arabic travel writing, Accounts of China and India is a compilation of reports and anecdotes about the lands and peoples of this diverse territory, from the Somali headlands of Africa to the far eastern shores of China and Korea. Traveling eastward, we discover a vivid human landscape—from Chinese society to Hindu religious practices—as well as a colorful range of natural wilderness—from flying fish to Tibetan musk-deer and Sri Lankan gems. The juxtaposed accounts create a kaleidoscope of a world not unlike our own, a world on the road to globalization. In its ports, we find a priceless cargo of information. Here are the first foreign descriptions of tea and porcelain, a panorama of unusual social practices, cannibal islands, and Indian holy men—a marvelous, mundane world, contained in the compass of a novella.

Mission to the Volga

Author: Ahmad Ibn Fadlan
Publisher: NYU Press
ISBN: 9781479829750
Release Date: 2017-04-04
Genre: Literary Collections

Earliest surviving instance of sustained first-person travel narrative in Arabic. “A compelling account which is, among other things, the earliest first-hand description of travel from the Muslim world.” —Times Literary Supplement A pioneering text of peerless historical and literary value. In its pages, we move north on a diplomatic mission from Baghdad to the upper reaches of the Volga River in what is now central Russia. In this colorful documentary from the tenth century, the enigmatic Ibn Fa?lan relates his experiences as part of an embassy sent by Caliph al-Muqtadir to deliver political and religious instruction to the recently-converted King of the Bulghars. During eleven months of grueling travel, Ibn Fa?lan records the marvels he witnesses on his journey, including an aurora borealis and the white nights of the North. Crucially, he offers a description of the Viking Rus, including their customs, clothing, body painting, and a striking account of a ship funeral. Together, these anecdotes illuminate a vibrant world of diversity during the heyday of the Abbasid Empire, narrated with as much curiosity and zeal as they were perceived by its observant beholder.

Virtues of the Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal

Author: Ibn al-Jawzi
Publisher: NYU Press
ISBN: 9780814771952
Release Date: 2015-01-02
Genre: Literary Collections

First Prize, Arabic to English Category, for the Sheikh Hamad Award for Translation and International Understanding (Doha, Qatar) Ahmad ibn Hanbal (d. 241 H/855 AD), renowned for his profound knowledge of hadith—the reports of the Prophet’s sayings and deeds—is a major figure in the history of Islam. Ibn Hanbal’s piety and austerity made him a folk hero, especially after his principled resistance to the attempts of two Abbasid caliphs to force him to accept rationalist doctrine. His subsequent imprisonment and flogging became one of the most dramatic episodes of medieval Islamic history. Ibn Hanbal’s resistance influenced the course of Islamic law, the rise of Sunnism, and the legislative authority of the caliphate. Virtues of the Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal is a translation of the biography of Ibn Hanbal penned by the Baghdad preacher, scholar, and storyteller, Ibn al-Jawzi (d. 597 H/1201 AD). It includes insights into Ibn Hanbal’s childhood, travels, and teachings, as well as descriptions of his way of life. This second and final volume gives a vivid account of Ibn Hanbal’s legendary confrontation with the caliphal Inquisition, including his imprisonment, trial, and flogging. Ultimately, it recounts how the people of Baghdad came to admire him as a symbol of Sunni Islam.

The Epistle on Legal Theory

Author: Muhammad ibn Idris al-Shafii
Publisher: NYU Press
ISBN: 9781479855445
Release Date: 2015-10-01
Genre: Law

The Epistle on Legal Theory is the oldest surviving Arabic work on Islamic legal theory and the foundational document of Islamic jurisprudence. Its author, Muhammad ibn Idris al-Shafi?i (d. 204 H/820 AD), was the eponym of the Shafi?i school of legal thought, one of the four rites in Sunni Islam. This fascinating work offers the first systematic treatment in Arabic of key issues in Islamic legal thought. These include a survey of the importance of Arabic as the language of revelation, principles of textual interpretation to be applied to the Qur?an and prophetic Traditions, techniques for harmonizing apparently contradictory precedents, legal epistemology, rules of inference, and discussions of when legal interpretation is required. The author illustrates his theoretical claims with numerous examples drawn from nearly all areas of Islamic law, including ritual law, commercial law, tort law, and criminal law. The text thus provides an important window into both Islamic law and legal thought in particular and early Islamic intellectual history in general . This new translation by a leading scholar of Shafi?i and his thought makes available in lucid, modern English one of the earliest complete works on Islamic law—one that is centrally important for the formation of Islamic legal thought and the Islamic legal tradition.