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Selected and translated by Geert Jan van Gelder
A major achievement in the field of translation, this anthology presents a rich assortment of classical Arabic poems and literary prose, from pre-Islamic times until the 18th century, with short introductions to guide non-specialist students and informative endnotes and bibliography for advanced scholars. Like many pre-modern Arabic anthologies it aims at being both entertaining and informative. It ranges from the early Bedouin poems with their evocation of desert life to refined urban lyrical verse, from tender love poetry to sonorous eulogy or vicious lampoons, and from the heights of mystical rapture to the frivolity of comic verse. The prose contains anecdotes, entertaining or edifying tales and parables, a fairy-tale, a bawdy story, samples of literary criticism, and much more.
With this anthology, distinguished Arabist Geert Jan van Gelder brings together well-known texts as well as less familiar pieces that will be new even to scholars in the field. Many recent studies and anthologies of Middle Eastern literatures are primarily interested in Islam and religious matters—an emphasis that leads to the common misconception that almost everything in the region was and is dominated by religion. Classical Arabic Literature instead brings to life the rich variety of pre-modern Arabic social and cultural life, where secular texts happily coexisted with religious ones. This masterful anthology, in English only, will introduce this vibrant literary heritage to a wide spectrum of new readers.
Geert Jan van Gelder was Laudian Professor of Arabic at the University of Oxford from 1998 to 2012. He is the author of several books on classical Arabic literature, including Beyond the Line: Classical Arabic Literary Critics on the Coherence and Unity of the Poem and Of Dishes and Discourse: Classical Arabic Literary Representations of Food.
Edited and translated by Joseph E. Lowry
The Epistle on Legal Theory is the oldest surviving Arabic work on Islamic legal theory and the foundational document of Islamic jurisprudence. Its author, Muḥammad ibn Idrīs al-Shāfiʿī (d.204H / 820AD), was the eponymous founder of the Shāfiʿī legal school, 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 situations in which legal interpretation is required. The author illustrates his theoretical claims with numerous examples drawn from nearly all areas of Islamic law, including ritual, commercial law, tort law, and criminal law.
The text thus provides an important window into both Islamic law and legal thought generally and early Islamic intellectual history in particular. The Arabic text has been established on the basis of the two most important critical editions and includes variants in the notes, while the English text is a new translation by a leading scholar of Shāfiʿī and his thought. The Epistle on Legal Theory represents 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.
Joseph E. Lowry is Associate Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. His books include Early Islamic Legal Theory: The Risāla of Muḥammad ibn Idrīs al-Shāfiʿī. His research and publications focus on the Qur’an, Islamic law, and Arabic literature. Before becoming an academic he was an attorney in private practice in Washington, D.C.
A Treasury of Virtues: Sayings, Sermons and Teachings of ʿAlī with the One Hundred Proverbs, attributed to al-Jāḥiẓ
Edited and translated by Tahe ra Qutbuddin
A Treasury of Virtues is a collection of sayings, sermons, and teachings attributed to ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib (d. 40H/661AD), cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad, and fourth caliph. ʿAlī was an acknowledged master of Arabic eloquence and a renowned sage of Islamic wisdom. Through proverbs and aphorisms, sermons and speeches, prayers and supplications, epistles and contracts, testimonials and homilies, verse and dialogues, it provides instruction on how to be a decent human being. And it combines these ethical teachings with religious exhortations and preparation for eternal life in the hereafter. Moreover, the lessons of the text are clothed in the cadenced parallelisms of a consummate oral culture, and the vivid metaphors of the Arabian desert. Appealing to the addressee’s
higher nature, they also beguile his aesthetic sensibilities, integrating art and edification in an exquisite package of verbal ingenuity.
Of the many compilations of ʿAlī’s words, A Treasury of Virtues arguably possesses the broadest compass of genres, and the largest variety of themes. The shorter One Hundred Proverbs is also a compilation of ʿAlī’s words. Attributed to al-Jāḥiẓ (“the father of Arabic prose”), it has a celebrity status in its own category and its pithy one-liners are quotable quotes of the finest order. This volume presents the first English translation of both these important texts, with a new critical edition based on several original manuscripts.
Tahe ra Qutbuddin is Associate Professor of Arabic Literature at The University of Chicago. She obtained her Ph.D. in Arabic literature from Harvard University. She is the author of Al-Mu’ayyad al-Shirazi and Fatimid Da’wa Poetry: A Case of Commitment in Classical Arabic Literature.