Three Enjoyable Books

Peace, one and all…

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Alongside other reading material, I am currently reading three immensely enjoyable books.  Ma sha Allah!

The first book is The Charismatic Community: Shi`ite Identity in Early Islam (by Maria Massi Dakake).  Although I only purchased this book recently, I have enjoyed reading it immensely.  I can already see its usefulness in my teaching.  However, beyond such utilitarian concerns, I have to say that I have personally enjoyed it.  Its main aim is to explore the formation and development of identity within early Shi`ite thought. 

Book number two is entitled Neoplatonism (by Pauliina Remes).  Its aim is to explore the history and ideas of this important and influential school of ancient philosophy.  I’m reading this book for two reasons: firstly, Neoplatonic thought was deeply influential in certain parts of the later Islamic world, and so I want to understand the ideas themselves before exploring their subsequent history within Muslim thought.  Secondly, I am eager to find out more about the connections between Neoplatonism, magic and mysticism.  That is, as I understand things, Neoplatonism was not a philosophical system in the sense we might understand it today; it also had a strongly ‘spiritual’ quality to it, for want of a better word.

I took my third book out of the library this morning.  It is entitled The Search for God in Ancient Egypt (by Jan Assmann).  I have only had a chance to flick through the contents page and introduction, but I can tell it will be an interesting read.  So far, I’ve read his opening section: Religion: Divine Presence and Transcendence (which has been fascinating).  I am a complete amateur when it comes to Ancient Egypt.  I own a copy of Erik Hornung’s influential (and enjoyable) work Conceptions of God: the One and the Many.  I found his ideas interesting, though I had little to compare them with (until now that is).

Fascinating stuff indeed!  Praise be to God for the ability to read.

Ma’as salama,
Abdur Rahman

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20 thoughts on “Three Enjoyable Books

  1. The first book interests me. The majority of the limited selection of books on the Shi’a are highly polemical, both pro and con, and I have yet to find a book that gives that much insight into Shi’i Islam. As it is published by a university press is it safe to assume that book is a more academic work that avoids that problem? I am traveling to Iran later in the year and it sounds like it might be interesting to read before I go, or on the trip. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

  2. Salaam Abdur Rahman!
    Of course you have seen Raymond Nicholson’s “The Mystics of Islam” available online!It has a discussion of Neoplatonism and Sufism.
    What do you think of this book?
    S.Srinivas Rau

  3. Salams Devin,

    Yes, it’s an academic book (published by the State University of New York Press). It does not engage in religious polemic. Allah bless you always

  4. Salams Srinivas Rau,

    I have read Nicholson’s book. It was an interesting read. It’s works like these that made me want to read about Neoplatonism itself.

    One of the things I wanted to find out about is the roots of the various theories of ’emanation’, by which creation is explained according to Neoplatonic thought. A hobby of mine is the thought and history of the Isma’ilis – so this is where I’m coming from here.

  5. Salams Devin,

    Forgot to add that there are a number of other good academic books on Shi`a Islam. If you’re interested I can post some of the titles here.

  6. Salams Abdur Rahman,

    That would be much appreciated. The only books I have read that have been relatively balanced have been Allamah Tabatabai’s book “Shit’ite Islam” and Ayatollah Jafar Sobhani’s “Doctrines of Shi’i Islam”. They are both obviously pro-Shi’a, but are pretty good.

  7. Salams Devin,

    Here are some useful books:

    Momen, M. (1985), An Introduction to Shi’i Islam, London: Yale University Press

    Chittick, W. C (2006, trans.), The Psalms of Islam: al-Sahifa al-Sajjadiya, London: The Muhammadi Trust

    Amir-Moezzi, M. A. (1994), The Divine Guide in Early Shiism, New York: SUNY Press

    Arjomand, S. A. (1984), The Shadow of God and the Hidden Imam: Religion, Political Order, and Societal Change in Shiite Iran from the Beginning to 1890, Chicago: Chicago University Press

    Ayoub, M. M. (1978), Redemptive Suffering in Islam: A Study of the Devotional Aspects of `Ashura in Twelver Shi`ism, The Hague: Mouton Publsihers

    Bar-Ahser, M. M. (1999), Scripture and Exegesis in Early Imami Shiism, Leiden: EJ Brill

    Daftary, F. (1990), The Ismailis: their History and Doctrines, Cambridge: CUP

    Jafri, S. H. M. (2000), The Origins and Development of Shi’a Islam, Karachi: Oxford University Press

    Modarressi, H. (1993), Crisis and Consolidation in the Formative Period of Shiite Islam, Princeton: Princeton University Press

    Newman, A. J. (2000), The Formative Period of Twelver Shi`ism, Richmond, Surrey: Curzon Press

    Sachedina, A. A. (1981), Islamic Messianism: the Idea of the Mahdi in Twelver Shiism, New York: SUNY Press

    Although a number of these authors are Shi`i Muslims, all of these works are academic in nature and thus are not engaged in religious polemic. I enjoyed reading all of them (and most of them are readily available)

    I hope this is helpful.

    Abdur Rahman

  8. Salam Abdur Rahman,
    Again Neo platonism is very much like Vedanta but there seems to be no concept of Maya.
    “Let the Gods come to me!” Plotinus is said to have exclaimed.One has counterparts in Advaita Vedanta like Totapuri the Advaita coach of Sri Ramakrishna (Cf.Christopher Isherwood’s “Ramakrishna and his disciples”). Srinivas Rau

  9. Salam Srinivas Rau,

    I think my interest in Neoplatonism comes from, amongst other things, a recognition of some similarities – or at least apparent similarities. Moreover, truth itself is One.

  10. Salam Abdur Rahman
    In the introduction to his translation of Attar,”Muslim mystics and saints” A.J.Arberry says that Junaid gave Neoplatonic interoretations of select passages from the Quran and the Hadith to justify a “sober” approach to Reality.You will understand this better!
    Srinivas Rau

  11. Salams Devin,

    Ahlan wa sahlan. You are most welcome. 🙂 I have some useful electronic material. I’d be more than happy to send you some, insha Allah.

  12. Salams Abdur Rahman,

    That would be great if you could email me whatever you have when you have time. I think you should be able to see my email address. If not, please let me know.

    Mevlud mubarek olsun!

  13. Salam AbdurRahman!
    Just to say that Raymond Nicholson’s style is dignified and proper to his subject in “The Mystics of Islam”.I understand that some feel his translation of the Masnavi is oldish.
    S.Srinivas Rau

  14. Salams Srinivas,

    Nicholson was writing a long time ago, and so this accounts for his style (which isn’t really that bad to be honest). Moreover, his translation of the Masnavi is a work of extensive scholarship.

  15. Salam AbdurRahman!
    May I ask you about the style of E.H.Palmer? Esp his translation of the Quran,does it endure?
    Srinivas Rau

  16. Salaams dearest Abdur. I have enjoyed Nicholson’s writings in the past and have kept some of his books. I just recently finished two by different authors which were also quite pleasurable to read. If you’re interested, one is: Atom from the Sun of Knowledge by Lex Hixon Nur al Jerrahi (I had to highlight in it all over the place!), and the other is Prayers of the Cosmos by Matthew Fox. This second one explains more the meanings of the letters in Aramaic words of the Lord’s Prayer of the Christians. I find all the Abrahamic scriptures from the various Sages of times past quite fascinating, and in particular because they all come from pretty much the same area, are of the different Abrahamic traditions and Simitic languages. (In reading the Koran last night before going to bed, I happened to read how the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) mentioned the believers (and non-believers) of the Talmud, the Evangels and the Quar’an.) I tell you dearest Abdur, I (as so many others do) constantly get sleighed as a believer, but get up again.

    smiles…
    Peace to All Men of Goodwill

  17. Salams Barbara,

    I enjoy reading. I’ve heard of Lex Hixon Nur al-Jerrahi before, but have never read any of his works myself. Matthew Fox’s book sounds interesting. I too think that there is much to be gained by studying other scriptures, and the Abrahamic traditions in particular. Unfortunately, I too have had others question and deride my faith. I occasionally get the odd nasty comment here (but nothing too much, al hamdu lillah). The older I get, the less I feel the need to justify/explain myself.

    Peace to the whole of creation…

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