A Compendium of Knowledge from the Classical Islamic World
Author: Shihab al-Din al-Nuwayri
For the first time in English, a catalog of the world through fourteenth-century Arab eyes—a kind of Schott’s Miscellany for the Islamic Golden Age An astonishing record of the knowledge of a civilization, The Ultimate Ambition in the Arts of Erudition catalogs everything known to exist from the perspective of a fourteenth-century Egyptian scholar and litterateur. More than 9,000 pages and thirty volumes—here abridged to one volume, and translated into English for the first time—it contains entries on everything from medieval moon-worshipping cults, sexual aphrodisiacs, and the substance of clouds, to how to get the smell of alcohol off one’s breath, the deliciousness of cheese made from buffalo milk, and the nesting habits of flamingos. Similar works by Western authors, including Pliny’s Natural History, have been available in English for centuries. This groundbreaking translation of a remarkable Arabic text—expertly abridged and annotated—offers a look at the world through the highly literary and impressively knowledgeable societies of the classical Islamic world. Meticulously arranged and delightfully eclectic, it is a compendium to be treasured—a true monument of erudition. For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.
Shihab al-Din al-Nuwayri was a fourteenth-century Egyptian polymath and the author of one of the greatest encyclopedias of the medieval Islamic world—a thirty-one-volume work entitled The Ultimate Ambition in the Arts of Erudition. A storehouse of knowledge, this enormous book brought together materials on nearly every conceivable subject, from cosmology, zoology, and botany to philosophy, poetry, ethics, statecraft, and history. Composed in Cairo during the golden age of Islamic encyclopedic activity, the Ultimate Ambition was one of hundreds of large-scale compendia, literary anthologies, dictionaries, and chronicles produced at this time—an effort that was instrumental in organizing the archive of medieval Islamic thought. In the first study of this landmark work in a European language, Elias Muhanna explores its structure and contents, sources and influences, and reception and impact in the Islamic world and Europe. He sheds new light on the rise of encyclopedic literature in the learned cities of the Mamluk Empire and situates this intellectual movement alongside other encyclopedic traditions in the ancient, medieval, Renaissance, and Enlightenment periods. He also uncovers al-Nuwayri’s world: a scene of bustling colleges, imperial chanceries, crowded libraries, and religious politics. Based on award-winning scholarship, The World in a Book opens up new areas in the comparative study of encyclopedic production and the transmission of knowledge.
Originally published in 1964, this volume gathers together extracts from many of Arberry’s best-known works and supplements them with a selection of previously unpublished translations. The material therefore presents a vivid picture of the richness and variety of Islamic civilization from its origins to the late twentieth century.
During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the Ottoman Empire endured long periods of warfare, facing intense financial pressures and new international mercantile and monetary trends. The Empire also experienced major political-administrative restructuring and socioeconomic transformations. In the context of this tumultuous change, The Economics of Ottoman Justice examines Ottoman legal practices and the sharia court's operations to reflect on the judicial system and provincial relationships. Metin Coşgel and Boğaç Ergene provide a systematic depiction of socio-legal interactions, identifying how different social, economic, gender and religious groups used the court, how they settled their disputes, and which factors contributed to their success at trial. Using an economic approach, Coşgel and Ergene offer rare insights into the role of power differences in judicial interactions, the reproduction of communal hierarchies in court, and demonstrate how court use patterns changed over time.
Court and Performance in the Pre-Modern Middle East
Author: Maurice A. Pomerantz,Evelyn Birge Vitz
Publisher: NYU Press
Category: Literary Collections
Insights into power, spectacle, and performance in the courts of Middle Eastern rulers In recent decades, scholars have produced much new research on courtly life in medieval Europe, but studies on imperial and royal courts across the Middle East have received much less attention, particularly for courts before 1500AD. In the Presence of Power, however, sheds new light on courtly life across the region. This insightful, exploratory collection of essays uncovers surprising commonalities across a broad swath of cultures. The pre-modern period in this volume includes roughly seven centuries, opening with the first dynasty of Islam, the Umayyads, whose reign marked an important watershed for Late Antique culture, and closing with the rule of the so-called “gunpowder” empires of the Ottomans and Safavids over much of the Near East in the sixteenth century. In between, this volume locates similarities across the Western Medieval, Byzantine and Islamicate courtly cultures, spanning a vast history and geography to demonstrate the important cross-pollinations that occurred between their literary and cultural legacies. This study does not presume the presence of one shared courtly institution across time and space, but rather seeks to understand the different ways in which contemporaries experienced and spoke about these places of power and performance. Adopting a very broad view of performances, In the Presence of Power includes exuberant expressions of love in Arabic stories, shadow plays in Mamluk Cairo, Byzantine storytelling, religious food traditions in Christian Cyprus, advice, and political and ethnographic performances of power.
An Arab-centric perspective dominates the West’s understanding of Islam. Purohit presses for a view of Islam as a heterogeneous religion that has found a variety of expressions in local contexts. The Ismaili community in colonial India illustrates how much more complex Muslim identity is, and always has been, than the media would have us believe.
The first collection of poetry and prose from a rich and all too unfamiliar literary tradition. Spanning the fifth to the sixteenthcenturies, from Afghanistan to Spain, Night and Horses and the Desert includes translated extracts from all the major classics in an invaluable introduction to the subject. Robert Irwin has selected a wide range of Arabic poetry and prose in translation, from the most important and typical texts to the very obscure.Alongside the extracts, Irwin s copious commentary and notes provide an explanatory history of Arabic literature. What were the various genres and to what extent were they constrained by rules What were the canons of traditional Arabic literary criticism How were Arabic prose and poetry recited and written down Irwin explores the literary environments of the desert, salon, mosque, and bookshop and provides brief biographies of the caliphs, princesses, warriors, scribes, dandies, and mystics who created such a rich and diverse literary culture. Night and Horses and the Desert gives western readers a unique taste of the sheer vitality and depth of the medieval Arabpast.
In The Medieval Islamic Republic of Letters: Arabic Knowledge Construction, Muhsin J. al-Musawi offers a groundbreaking study of literary heritage in the medieval and premodern Islamic period. Al-Musawi challenges the paradigm that considers the period from the fall of Baghdad in 1258 to the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1919 as an "Age of Decay" followed by an "Awakening" (al-nahdah). His sweeping synthesis debunks this view by carefully documenting a "republic of letters" in the Islamic Near East and South Asia that was vibrant and dynamic, one varying considerably from the generally accepted image of a centuries-long period of intellectual and literary stagnation. Al-Musawi argues that the massive cultural production of the period was not a random enterprise: instead, it arose due to an emerging and growing body of readers across Islamic lands who needed compendiums, lexicons, and commentaries to engage with scholars and writers. Scholars, too, developed their own networks to respond to each other and to their readers. Rather than addressing only the elite, this culture industry supported a common readership that enlarged the creative space and audience for prose and poetry in standard and colloquial Arabic. Works by craftsmen, artisans, and women appeared side by side with those by distinguished scholars and poets. Through careful exploration of these networks, The Medieval Islamic Republic of Letters makes use of relevant theoretical frameworks to situate this culture in the ongoing discussion of non-Islamic and European efforts. Thorough, theoretically rigorous, and nuanced, al-Musawi's book is an original contribution to a range of fields in Arabic and Islamic cultural history of the twelfth to eighteenth centuries.
In 922 AD, an Arab envoy from Baghdad named Ibn Fadlan encountered a party of Viking traders on the upper reaches of the Volga River. In his subsequent report on his mission he gave a meticulous and astonishingly objective description of Viking customs, dress, table manners, religion and sexual practices, as well as the only eyewitness account ever written of a Viking ship cremation. Between the ninth and fourteenth centuries, Arab travellers such as Ibn Fadlan journeyed widely and frequently into the far north, crossing territories that now include Russia, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Their fascinating accounts describe how the numerous tribes and peoples they encountered traded furs, paid tribute and waged wars. This accessible new translation offers an illuminating insight into the world of the Arab geographers, and the medieval lands of the far north.
'. . . as when iron is drawn to a magnet, camphor is sucked into hot air, crystal lights up in the Sun, sulfur and a volatile liquid are kindled by flame, an empty eggshell filled with dew is raised towards the Sun . . .' The Bible is full of stories featuring forms of magic and possession - from Moses battling with Pharaoh's wizards to the supernatural actions of Jesus and his disciples. As, over the following centuries, the Christian church attempted to stamp out 'deviant' practices, a persistent interest in magic drew strength from this Biblical validation. A strange blend of mumbo-jumbo, fear, fraud and deeply serious study, magic was at the heart of the European Renaissance, fascinating many of its greatest figures. This is a book filled with incantations, charms, curses, summonings, cures and descriptions of extraordinary, shadowy, only half-understood happenings from long ago. It features writers as various as Thomas Aquinas, John Milton, John Dee, Ptolemy and Paracelsus along with anonymous ancient and medieval works which were, in some cases, viewed as simply too dangerous even to open. Brian Copenhaver's wonderful anthology will be welcomed by everyone from those with the most casual interest in the magical tradition to anyone drawn to the Renaissance and the tangled, arcane roots of the scientific tradition.
On the shrouded corpse hung a tablet of green topaz with the inscription: 'I am Shaddad the Great. I conquered a thousand cities; a thousand white elephants were collected for me; I lived for a thousand years and my kingdom covered both east and west, but when death came to me nothing of all that I had gathered was of any avail. You who see me take heed: for Time is not to be trusted.' Dating from at least a millennium ago, these are the earliest known Arabic short stories, surviving in a single, ragged manuscript in a library in Istanbul. Some found their way into The Arabian Nights but most have never been read in English before. Tales of the Marvellous and News of the Strange has monsters, lost princes, jewels beyond price, a princess turned into a gazelle, sword-wielding statues and shocking reversals of fortune.
In despair at having no son to succeed him, the King of Turkey leaves his palace to live in seclusion. Soon after, however, he encounters four wandering dervishes - three princes and a rich merchant from Persia, Yemen and China - who have been guided to Turkey by a supernatural force that prophesied their meeting. The five men sit together in the dead of night, each in turn telling the tale of lost love that led him to renounce the world. As their stories within stories unfold, a magnificent world is revealed of courtly intrigue and romance, fairies and djinn, oriental gardens and lavish feasts, adventures and mishaps. A Tale of Four Dervishes (1803) is an exquisite example of Urdu fiction that provides a fascinating glimpse into the customs, beliefs and people of the time.
People in Western societies have long been interested in their dreams and what they mean. However, few non-Muslims in the West are likely to seek interpretation of those dreams to help them make life-changing decisions. In the Islamic world the situation is quite different. Dreaming and the import of visions are here of enormous significance, to the degree that many Muslims believe that in their dreams they are receiving divine guidance: for example, on whether or not to accept a marriage proposal, or a new job opportunity. In her authoritative new book, Elizabeth Sirriyeh offers the first concerted history of the rise of dream interpretation in Islamic culture, from medieval times to the present. Central to the book is the figure of the Prophet Muhammad - seen to represent for Muslims the perfect dreamer, visionary and interpreter of dreams. Less benignly, dreams have been exploited in the propaganda of Islamic militants in Afghanistan, and in apocalyptic visions relating to the 9/11 attacks. This timely volume gives an important, fascinating and overlooked subject the exploration it has long deserved.
The religious thinkers, political leaders, law-makers, writers and philosophers of the early Muslim world helped to shape the 1,400-year-long development of today's secondlargest world religion. But who were these people? What do we know of their lives, and the ways in which they influenced their societies? Chase F. Robinson draws on the long tradition in Muslim scholarship of commemorating in writing the biographies of notable figures, but weaves these ambitious lives together to create a rich narrative of early Islamic civilization, from the Prophet Muhammad to fearsome Tamerlane. Beginning in Islam's heartland, Mecca, we move across Arabia to follow Islam's journey across North Africa, as far as Spain in the West, and eastwards through Central and East Asia; we see the rise and fall of Islamic states through the political and military leaders working to secure peace or expand their power, and, within this political climate, the development of Islamic law, scientific thought and literature through the words of the scholars who devoted themselves to these pursuits. Alongside the famous characters who coloured this landscape, including Muhammad's controversial cousin, 'Ali; the first Sultan of Egypt, Saladin; and the poet Rumi, the reader will also meet less wellknown figures, such as Shajar al-Durr, slave-turned-Sultana of Egypt, and Ibn Fadlan, whose travels in Eurasia brought first-hand accounts of the Volka Vikings to the Abbasid Caliph.
A Study in the Philosophic Foundation of the Science of Culture
Author: Muhsin Mahdi
This book, first published in 1957, is the study of 14th-century Arab historian Ibn Khaldun, who founded a special science to consider history and culture, based on the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle and their Muslim followers. In no other field has the revolt of modern Western thought against traditional philosophy been so far-reaching in its consequences as in the field of history. Ibn Khaldun realized that history is more immediately related to action than political philosophy because it studies the actual state of man and society. He found that the ancients had not made history the object of an independent science, and thought it was important to fill this gap. A factual acquaintance with the conclusions of Ibn Khaldun’s reflections on history is not the same as the full comprehension of their theoretical significance. When these fundamental questions are answered, it becomes possible to pose the specific question of the relation of Ibn Khaldun’s philosophy of history, or his new science of culture, to other practical sciences and, particularly, to the art of history. After an exposition of the major trends of Islamic historiography, part of this book attempts to answer this question through the analysis of the method and intention of the sections of the ‘History’ where Ibn Khaldun himself examines the works of major Muslim historians, shows the necessity of the new science of culture, and distinguishes it from other practical sciences.
Selected as a Financial Times Best Book of 2013 In Strategy: A History, Sir Lawrence Freedman, one of the world's leading authorities on war and international politics, captures the vast history of strategic thinking, in a consistently engaging and insightful account of how strategy came to pervade every aspect of our lives. The range of Freedman's narrative is extraordinary, moving from the surprisingly advanced strategy practiced in primate groups, to the opposing strategies of Achilles and Odysseus in The Iliad, the strategic advice of Sun Tzu and Machiavelli, the great military innovations of Baron Henri de Jomini and Carl von Clausewitz, the grounding of revolutionary strategy in class struggles by Marx, the insights into corporate strategy found in Peter Drucker and Alfred Sloan, and the contributions of the leading social scientists working on strategy today. The core issue at the heart of strategy, the author notes, is whether it is possible to manipulate and shape our environment rather than simply become the victim of forces beyond one's control. Time and again, Freedman demonstrates that the inherent unpredictability of this environment-subject to chance events, the efforts of opponents, the missteps of friends-provides strategy with its challenge and its drama. Armies or corporations or nations rarely move from one predictable state of affairs to another, but instead feel their way through a series of states, each one not quite what was anticipated, requiring a reappraisal of the original strategy, including its ultimate objective. Thus the picture of strategy that emerges in this book is one that is fluid and flexible, governed by the starting point, not the end point. A brilliant overview of the most prominent strategic theories in history, from David's use of deception against Goliath, to the modern use of game theory in economics, this masterful volume sums up a lifetime of reflection on strategy.
Extreme Capitalism, Market Populism and the End of Economic Democracy
Author: Tom Frank
Publisher: Random House
Category: Business & Economics
At no other moment in history have the values of business and the corporation been more nakedly and arrogantly in the ascendant. Combining popular intellectual history with a survey of recent business culture, Thomas Frank traces an idea he calls 'market populism' - the notion that markets are, in some transcendent way, identifiable with democracy and the will of the people. The idea that any criticism of things as they are is -litist can be seen in management literature, where downsizing and ceaseless, chaotic change are celebrated as victories for democracy; in advertising, where an endless array of brands seek to position themselves as symbols of authenticity and rebellion; on Wall street, where the stock market is identified as the domain of the small investor and common man; and in the right-wing politics of the 1990s and the popular theories of Tom Peters, Charles Handy and Thomas Friedman. One Market Under God is Frank's counterattack against the onslaught of market propaganda. Mounted with the weapons of common sense it is lucid and tinged with anger, betrayal and a certain hope for the future.
Written in the second century AD by a Greek traveller for a predominantly Roman audience, Pausanias' Guide to Greece is an extraordinarily literate and well-informed guidebook. A study of buildings, traditions and myth, it describes with precision and eloquence the glory of classical Greece shortly before its ultimate decline in the third century. This volume, the first of two, concerns the five provinces of central Greece, with an account of cities including Athens, Corinth and Thebes and a compelling depiction of the Oracle at Delphi. Along the way, Pausanias recounts Greek legends that are unknown from any other source and quotes a wealth of classical literature and poetry that would otherwise have been lost. An inspiration to Byron and Shelley, the Guide to Greece remains one of the most influential travel books ever written.
A Tenth-century Traveler from Baghad to the Volga River
Author: Aḥmad Ibn Faḍlān
Publisher: Markus Wiener Pub
This is an English translation of the Risala, letters by the 10th century scholar Ibn Fadlan, one of the great medieval travellers. He journeyed from Baghdad to Bukhara in Central Asia and then continued across the desert to the town of Bulghar, near present Kazan. He describes the tribes he met on his way.