Encyclopedia of the Brethren of Purity
Overview
 
The Encyclopedia of the Brethren of Purity ( Rasa'il ikhwan as-safa' wa khillan al-wafa; also variously known as the "Epistles of the Brethren of Sincerity", "Epistles of the Brethren of Purity" and "Epistles of the Brethren of Purity and Loyal Friends") was a large encyclopedia
Encyclopedia
An encyclopedia is a type of reference work, a compendium holding a summary of information from either all branches of knowledge or a particular branch of knowledge....

 in 52 treatise
Treatise
A treatise is a formal and systematic written discourse on some subject, generally longer and treating it in greater depth than an essay, and more concerned with investigating or exposing the principles of the subject.-Noteworthy treatises:...

s (or "rasa'il") written by the mysterious Brethren of Purity
Brethren of Purity
The Brethren of Purity were a secret society of Muslim philosophers in Basra, Iraq, in the 10th century CE....

 of Basra, Iraq sometime in the second half of the 10th century CE
Common Era
Common Era ,abbreviated as CE, is an alternative designation for the calendar era originally introduced by Dionysius Exiguus in the 6th century, traditionally identified with Anno Domini .Dates before the year 1 CE are indicated by the usage of BCE, short for Before the Common Era Common Era...

 (or possibly later, in the 11th century).
Encyclopedia
The Encyclopedia of the Brethren of Purity ( Rasa'il ikhwan as-safa' wa khillan al-wafa; also variously known as the "Epistles of the Brethren of Sincerity", "Epistles of the Brethren of Purity" and "Epistles of the Brethren of Purity and Loyal Friends") was a large encyclopedia
Encyclopedia
An encyclopedia is a type of reference work, a compendium holding a summary of information from either all branches of knowledge or a particular branch of knowledge....

 in 52 treatise
Treatise
A treatise is a formal and systematic written discourse on some subject, generally longer and treating it in greater depth than an essay, and more concerned with investigating or exposing the principles of the subject.-Noteworthy treatises:...

s (or "rasa'il") written by the mysterious Brethren of Purity
Brethren of Purity
The Brethren of Purity were a secret society of Muslim philosophers in Basra, Iraq, in the 10th century CE....

 of Basra, Iraq sometime in the second half of the 10th century CE
Common Era
Common Era ,abbreviated as CE, is an alternative designation for the calendar era originally introduced by Dionysius Exiguus in the 6th century, traditionally identified with Anno Domini .Dates before the year 1 CE are indicated by the usage of BCE, short for Before the Common Era Common Era...

 (or possibly later, in the 11th century). It had a great influence on later intellectual leading lights of the Muslim world, such as Ibn Arabi
Ibn Arabi
Ibn ʿArabī was an Andalusian Moorish Sufi mystic and philosopher. His full name was Abū 'Abdillāh Muḥammad ibn 'Alī ibn Muḥammad ibn `Arabī .-Biography:...

, and was transmitted as far abroad within the Muslim world
Muslim world
The term Muslim world has several meanings. In a religious sense, it refers to those who adhere to the teachings of Islam, referred to as Muslims. In a cultural sense, it refers to Islamic civilization, inclusive of non-Muslims living in that civilization...

 as Al-Andalus
Al-Andalus
Al-Andalus was the Arabic name given to a nation and territorial region also commonly referred to as Moorish Iberia. The name describes parts of the Iberian Peninsula and Septimania governed by Muslims , at various times in the period between 711 and 1492, although the territorial boundaries...

. The Encyclopedia contributed to the popularization and legitimization of Platonism
Platonism
Platonism is the philosophy of Plato or the name of other philosophical systems considered closely derived from it. In a narrower sense the term might indicate the doctrine of Platonic realism...

 in the Arabic world.

The identity and period of the authors of the Encyclopedia have not been conclusively established, though the work has been linked with as varied groups as the Isma'ili, Sufi, Sunni, Mu'tazili
Mu'tazili
' is an Islamic school of speculative theology that flourished in the cities of Basra and Baghdad, both in present-day Iraq, during the 8th–10th centuries. The adherents of the Mu'tazili school are best known for their having asserted that, because of the perfect unity and eternal nature of God,...

, Nusairi, Rosicrucians, etc.

Authorship

Authorship of the Encyclopedia is usually ascribed to the mysterious "Brethren of Purity
Brethren of Purity
The Brethren of Purity were a secret society of Muslim philosophers in Basra, Iraq, in the 10th century CE....

" (Arabic: Ikhwan al-Safa), a group of Arab
Arab
Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

 scholars placed in Basra
Basra
Basra is the capital of Basra Governorate, in southern Iraq near Kuwait and Iran. It had an estimated population of two million as of 2009...

, Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

 sometime around 10th century CE
Common Era
Common Era ,abbreviated as CE, is an alternative designation for the calendar era originally introduced by Dionysius Exiguus in the 6th century, traditionally identified with Anno Domini .Dates before the year 1 CE are indicated by the usage of BCE, short for Before the Common Era Common Era...

. While it is generally accepted that it was the group who authored at least the 52 rasa'il, the authorship of the "Summary" (al-Risalat al-Jami'a) is uncertain; it has been ascribed to the later Majriti but this has been disproved by Yves Marquet (see the Risalat al-Jami'a section).

Further perplexities abound; the use of pronouns for the authorial "sender" of the rasa'il is not consistent, with the writer occasionally slipping from third person
Grammatical person
Grammatical person, in linguistics, is deictic reference to a participant in an event; such as the speaker, the addressee, or others. Grammatical person typically defines a language's set of personal pronouns...

 to first-person (for example, in Epistle 44, "The Doctrine of the Sincere Brethren"). This has led some to suggest that the rasa'il were not in fact written co-operatively by a group or consolidated notes from lectures and discussions, but were actually the work of a single person. Of course, if one accepts the longer time spans proposed for the composition of the Encyclopedia, or the simpler possibility that each risala was written by a separate person, sole authorship would be impossible.

Contents

The subject matter of the Rasa'il is vast and ranges from mathematics, music, logic, astronomy, the physical and natural sciences, as well as exploring the nature of the soul and investigating associated matters in ethics, revelation, and spirituality.

Its philosophical outlook was Neoplatonic
Neoplatonism
Neoplatonism , is the modern term for a school of religious and mystical philosophy that took shape in the 3rd century AD, based on the teachings of Plato and earlier Platonists, with its earliest contributor believed to be Plotinus, and his teacher Ammonius Saccas...

 and it tried to integrate Greek philosophy
Greek philosophy
Ancient Greek philosophy arose in the 6th century BCE and continued through the Hellenistic period, at which point Ancient Greece was incorporated in the Roman Empire...

 (and especially the dialectical reasoning
Dialectic
Dialectic is a method of argument for resolving disagreement that has been central to Indic and European philosophy since antiquity. The word dialectic originated in Ancient Greece, and was made popular by Plato in the Socratic dialogues...

 and logic
Logic
In philosophy, Logic is the formal systematic study of the principles of valid inference and correct reasoning. Logic is used in most intellectual activities, but is studied primarily in the disciplines of philosophy, mathematics, semantics, and computer science...

 of Aristotelianism
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

) with various astrological
Astrology
Astrology consists of a number of belief systems which hold that there is a relationship between astronomical phenomena and events in the human world...

, Hermetic
Hermeticism
Hermeticism or the Western Hermetic Tradition is a set of philosophical and religious beliefs based primarily upon the pseudepigraphical writings attributed to Hermes Trismegistus...

, Gnostic
Gnosticism
Gnosticism is a scholarly term for a set of religious beliefs and spiritual practices common to early Christianity, Hellenistic Judaism, Greco-Roman mystery religions, Zoroastrianism , and Neoplatonism.A common characteristic of some of these groups was the teaching that the realisation of Gnosis...

 and Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

ic schools of thought. Scholars have seen Ismaili
Ismaili
' is a branch of Shia Islam. It is the second largest branch of Shia Islam, after the Twelvers...

 and Sufi
Sufism
Sufism or ' is defined by its adherents as the inner, mystical dimension of Islam. A practitioner of this tradition is generally known as a '...

 influences in the religious content, and Mu'tazili
Mu'tazili
' is an Islamic school of speculative theology that flourished in the cities of Basra and Baghdad, both in present-day Iraq, during the 8th–10th centuries. The adherents of the Mu'tazili school are best known for their having asserted that, because of the perfect unity and eternal nature of God,...

te acceptance of reasoning in the work. Others, however, hold the Brethren to be "free-thinkers" who transcended sectarian divisions and were not bound by the doctrines of any specific creed.

Their unabashed eclecticism
Eclecticism
Eclecticism is a conceptual approach that does not hold rigidly to a single paradigm or set of assumptions, but instead draws upon multiple theories, styles, or ideas to gain complementary insights into a subject, or applies different theories in particular cases.It can sometimes seem inelegant or...

 is fairly unusual in this period of Arabic thought, characterised by fierce theological disputes; they refused to condemn rival schools of thought or religions, instead insisting that they be examined fairly and open-mindedly for what truth they may contain:
In total, they cover most of the areas an educated person was expected to understand in that era. The epistles (or "rasa'il") generally increase in abstractness, finally dealing with the Brethren's somewhat pantheistic
Pantheism
Pantheism is the view that the Universe and God are identical. Pantheists thus do not believe in a personal, anthropomorphic or creator god. The word derives from the Greek meaning "all" and the Greek meaning "God". As such, Pantheism denotes the idea that "God" is best seen as a process of...

 philosophy, in which each soul is an emanation, a fragment of a universal soul with which it will reunite at death; in turn, the universal soul will reunite with Allah
Allah
Allah is a word for God used in the context of Islam. In Arabic, the word means simply "God". It is used primarily by Muslims and Bahá'ís, and often, albeit not exclusively, used by Arabic-speaking Eastern Catholic Christians, Maltese Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Mizrahi Jews and...

 on Doomsday
Qiyamah
In Islam, Yawm al-Qiyāmah or Yawm ad-Din is believed to be God's final assessment of humanity as it exists. The sequence of events is the annihilation of all creatures allowable, resurrection of the body, and the judgment of all sentient creatures.The exact time when these events are to occur...

. The epistles are intended to transmit right knowledge, leading to harmony with the universe and happiness.

Organization

Organizationally, it is divided into 52 epistles. The 52 rasa'il are subdivided into four sections, sometimes called books (indeed, some complete editions of the Encyclopedia are in four volumes); in order, they are: 14 on the Mathematical Sciences, 17 on the Natural Sciences, 10 on the Psychological and Rational Sciences, 11 on Theological Sciences.

The division into four sections is no accident; the number four held great importance in Neoplatonic numerology
Numerology
Numerology is any study of the purported mystical relationship between a count or measurement and life. It has many systems and traditions and beliefs...

, being the first square number
Square number
In mathematics, a square number, sometimes also called a perfect square, is an integer that is the square of an integer; in other words, it is the product of some integer with itself...

 and for being even. Reputedly, Pythagoras
Pythagoras
Pythagoras of Samos was an Ionian Greek philosopher, mathematician, and founder of the religious movement called Pythagoreanism. Most of the information about Pythagoras was written down centuries after he lived, so very little reliable information is known about him...

 held that a man's life was divided into four sections, much like a year was divided into four seasons. The Brethren divided mathematics itself into four sections: arithmetic
Arithmetic
Arithmetic or arithmetics is the oldest and most elementary branch of mathematics, used by almost everyone, for tasks ranging from simple day-to-day counting to advanced science and business calculations. It involves the study of quantity, especially as the result of combining numbers...

 was Pythagoras and Nicomachus
Nicomachus
Nicomachus was an important mathematician in the ancient world and is best known for his works Introduction to Arithmetic and Manual of Harmonics in Greek. He was born in Gerasa, in the Roman province of Syria , and was strongly influenced by Aristotle...

' domain; Ptolemy
Ptolemy
Claudius Ptolemy , was a Roman citizen of Egypt who wrote in Greek. He was a mathematician, astronomer, geographer, astrologer, and poet of a single epigram in the Greek Anthology. He lived in Egypt under Roman rule, and is believed to have been born in the town of Ptolemais Hermiou in the...

 ruled over astronomy
Astronomy
Astronomy is a natural science that deals with the study of celestial objects and phenomena that originate outside the atmosphere of Earth...

 with his Almagest
Almagest
The Almagest is a 2nd-century mathematical and astronomical treatise on the apparent motions of the stars and planetary paths. Written in Greek by Claudius Ptolemy, a Roman era scholar of Egypt,...

; geometry
Geometry
Geometry arose as the field of knowledge dealing with spatial relationships. Geometry was one of the two fields of pre-modern mathematics, the other being the study of numbers ....

 was associated with Euclid
Euclid
Euclid , fl. 300 BC, also known as Euclid of Alexandria, was a Greek mathematician, often referred to as the "Father of Geometry". He was active in Alexandria during the reign of Ptolemy I...

, naturally; and the fourth and last division was that of music
Music
Music is an art form whose medium is sound and silence. Its common elements are pitch , rhythm , dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture...

. The fours did not cease there- the Brethren observed that four was crucial to a decimal system
Decimal system
Decimal system may refer to:* The decimal number system, used in mathematics for writing numbers and performing arithmetic.* The Dewey Decimal System, a subject classification system used in libraries....

, as ; numbers themselves were broken down into four orders of magnitude: the ones, tens, hundreds, and thousands; there were four winds from the four directions (north, south, east, west); medicine concerned itself with the four humours
Four humours
Four Temperaments is a theory of proto-psychology that stems from the ancient medical concept of humorism and suggests that four bodily fluids affect human personality traits and behaviors.- History and development :...

, and natural philosophers with the four elements
Classical element
Many philosophies and worldviews have a set of classical elements believed to reflect the simplest essential parts and principles of which anything consists or upon which the constitution and fundamental powers of anything are based. Most frequently, classical elements refer to ancient beliefs...

 of Empedocles
Empedocles
Empedocles was a Greek pre-Socratic philosopher and a citizen of Agrigentum, a Greek city in Sicily. Empedocles' philosophy is best known for being the originator of the cosmogenic theory of the four Classical elements...

.

Another possibility, suggested by Netton is that the veneration for four stems instead from the Brethren's great interest in the Corpus Hermeticum of Hermes Trismegistus
Hermes Trismegistus
Hermes Trismegistus is the eponymous author of the Hermetic Corpus, a sacred text belonging to the genre of divine revelation.-Origin and identity:...

 (identified with the god Hermes
Hermes
Hermes is the great messenger of the gods in Greek mythology and a guide to the Underworld. Hermes was born on Mount Kyllini in Arcadia. An Olympian god, he is also the patron of boundaries and of the travelers who cross them, of shepherds and cowherds, of the cunning of thieves, of orators and...

, to whom the number four was sacred); that hermetic tradition's magical lore was the main subject of the 51st rasa'il.

Netton mentions that there are suggestions that the 52nd rasa'il (on talismans and magic) is a later addition to the Encyclopedia, because of intertextual evidence: a number of the rasa'ils claim that the total of rasa'ils is 51. However, the 52nd rasa'il itself claims to be number 51 in one area, and number 52 in another, leading to the possibility that the Brethren's attraction for the number 51 (or 17 times 3; there were 17 rasa'ils on natural science
Natural science
The natural sciences are branches of science that seek to elucidate the rules that govern the natural world by using empirical and scientific methods...

s) is responsible for the confusion. Seyyed Hossein Nasr suggests that the origin of the preference for 17 stemmed from the alchemist
Alchemy
Alchemy is an influential philosophical tradition whose early practitioners’ claims to profound powers were known from antiquity. The defining objectives of alchemy are varied; these include the creation of the fabled philosopher's stone possessing powers including the capability of turning base...

 Jābir ibn Hayyān's numerological symbolism.

Risalat al-Jami'a

Besides the fifty-odd epistles, there exists what claims to be overarching summary of the work, which is not counted in the 52, called "The Summary" (al-Risalat al-Jami'a) which exists in two versions. The Summary, interestingly enough, has been claimed to have been the work of Majriti
Maslamah Ibn Ahmad al-Majriti
Maslama al-Majriti or Abu al-Qasim al-Qurtubi al-Majriti was a Muslim astronomer, chemist, mathematician, economist and Scholar in Islamic Spain...

 (d. circa 1008), although Netton states Majriti could not have composed it, and that Yves Marquet concludes from a philological analysis of the vocabulary and style in his La Philosophie des Ihwan al-Safa (1975) that it had to have been composed at the same time as the main corpus.

Style

Like conventional Arabic Islamic works, the Epistles have no lack of time-worn honorifics and quotations from the Qur'an, but the Encyclopedia is also famous for some of the didactic
Didacticism
Didacticism is an artistic philosophy that emphasizes instructional and informative qualities in literature and other types of art. The term has its origin in the Ancient Greek word διδακτικός , "related to education/teaching." Originally, signifying learning in a fascinating and intriguing...

 fable
Fable
A fable is a succinct fictional story, in prose or verse, that features animals, mythical creatures, plants, inanimate objects or forces of nature which are anthropomorphized , and that illustrates a moral lesson , which may at the end be expressed explicitly in a pithy maxim.A fable differs from...

s it sprinkled throughout the text; a particular one, the "Island of Animals" or the "Debate of Animals" (embedded within the 22nd rasa'il, titled "On How The Animals and their Kinds are Formed"), is one of the most popular animal fables in Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

. The fable concerns how 70 men, nearly shipwrecked, discover an island where animals ruled, and began to settle on it. They oppressed and killed the animals, who unused to such harsh treatment, complained to the King (or Shah) of Djinns. The King arranged a series of debates between the humans and various representatives of the animals, such as the nightingale, the bee, and the jackal. The animals nearly defeat the humans, but an Arabian ends the series by pointing out that there was one way in which humans were superior to animals and so worthy of making animals their servants: they were the only ones Allah had offered the chance of eternal life to. The King was convinced by this argument, and granted his judgement to them, but strongly cautioned them that the same Qur'an that supported them also promised them hellfire should they mistreat their animals.

Philosophy

More metaphysical were the four ranks (or "spiritual principles"), which apparently were an elaboration of Plotinus
Plotinus
Plotinus was a major philosopher of the ancient world. In his system of theory there are the three principles: the One, the Intellect, and the Soul. His teacher was Ammonius Saccas and he is of the Platonic tradition...

' triad of Thought, Soul, and the One, known to the Brethren through the Theologia of Aristotle (a version of Plotinus' Enneads
Enneads
The Six Enneads, sometimes abbreviated to The Enneads or Enneads , is the collection of writings of Plotinus, edited and compiled by his student Porphyry . Plotinus was a student of Ammonius Saccas and they were founders of Neoplatonism...

 in Arabic, modified with changes and paraphrases, and attributed to Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

); first, the Creator (al-Bārī) emanated down to Universal Intellect (al-'Aql al-Kullī), then to Universal Soul (al-Nafs), and through Prime Matter (al-Hayūlā al-Ūlā), which emanated still further down through (and creating) the mundane hierarchy. The mundane hierarchy consisted of Nature (al-Tabī'a), the Absolute Body (al-Jism al-Mutlaq), the Sphere (al-Falak), the Four Elements (al-Arkān), and the Beings of this world (al-Muwalladāt) in their three varieties of animals, minerals, and vegetables, for a total hierarchy of nine members. Furthermore, each member increased in subdivisions proportional to how far down in the hierarchy it was, for instance, Sphere, being number seven has the seven planet
Planet
A planet is a celestial body orbiting a star or stellar remnant that is massive enough to be rounded by its own gravity, is not massive enough to cause thermonuclear fusion, and has cleared its neighbouring region of planetesimals.The term planet is ancient, with ties to history, science,...

s as its members.
Another area in which the Brethren differed was in their conceptions of nature, in which they rejected the emanation of Forms that characterized Platonic philosophy for a quasi-Aristotelian system of substances
Substance theory
Substance theory, or substance attribute theory, is an ontological theory about objecthood, positing that a substance is distinct from its properties. A thing-in-itself is a property-bearer that must be distinguished from the properties it bears....

:

The 14th edition (EB-2:187a; 14th Ed., 1930) of the Encyclopædia Britannica
Encyclopædia Britannica
The Encyclopædia Britannica , published by Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., is a general knowledge English-language encyclopaedia that is available in print, as a DVD, and on the Internet. It is written and continuously updated by about 100 full-time editors and more than 4,000 expert...

 described the mingling of Neoplatonism and Aristotelianism this way:

Evolution

The text in the "Encyclopedia of the Brethren of Purity" demonstrates references to our modern day theory of evolution. The contexts of such passages are interpreted differently by scholars.

In this document some modern day scholars note that “chain of being described by the Ikhwan possess a temporal aspect which has led certain scholars to view that the authors of the Rasai’l believed in the modern theory of evolution”. According to the Rasa’il “But individuals are in perpetual flow; they are neither definite nor preserved. The reason for the conservation of forms, genus and species in matter is fixity of their celestial cause because their efficient cause is the Universal Soul of the spheres instead of the change and continuous flux of individuals which is due to the variability of their cause”. This statement is supporting the concept that species and individuals are not static, and that when they change it is due to a new purpose given. In the Ikhwan doctrine there are similarities between that and the theory of evolution. Both believe that “the time of existence of terrestrial plants precedes that of animals, minerals precede plants, and organism adapt to their environment”, but asserts that everything exists for a purpose.

Muhammad Hamidullah
Muhammad Hamidullah
Muhammad Hamidullah or Muhammad Hameedullah, D. Phil., D. Litt., HI., was a Hyderabadi from Hyderabad State , Muhaddith, Faqih, scholar of Islam and International Law, and foremost a prolific academic author Muhammad Hamidullah or Muhammad Hameedullah, D. Phil., D. Litt., HI., (Urdu: محمد...

 describes the ideas on evolution
Evolution
Evolution is any change across successive generations in the heritable characteristics of biological populations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organisation, including species, individual organisms and molecules such as DNA and proteins.Life on Earth...

 found in the Encyclopedia of the Brethren of Purity (The Epistles of Ikhwan al-Safa) as follows:
English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 translations of the Encyclopedia of the Brethren of Purity were available from 1812, hence this work may have had an influence on Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin FRS was an English naturalist. He established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestry, and proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection.He published his theory...

 and his inception of Darwinism
Darwinism
Darwinism is a set of movements and concepts related to ideas of transmutation of species or of evolution, including some ideas with no connection to the work of Charles Darwin....

.

Literature

The 48th epistle of the Encyclopedia of the Brethren of Purity features a fictional Arabic narrative
Arabic literature
Arabic literature is the writing produced, both prose and poetry, by writers in the Arabic language. The Arabic word used for literature is adab which is derived from a meaning of etiquette, and implies politeness, culture and enrichment....

. It is an anecdote of a "prince who strays from his palace during his wedding feast and, drunk, spends the night in a cemetery, confusing a corpse with his bride. The story is used as a gnostic parable of the soul's pre-existence
Pre-existence
Pre-existence , beforelife, or pre-mortal existence refers to the belief that each individual human soul existed before conception, and at conception one of these pre-existent souls enters, or is placed by God, in the body...

 and return from its terrestrial sojourn".

Editions & translations

Complete editions of the encyclopedia have been printed at least thrice:
  1. Kitāb Ikhwān al-Ṣafā' (edited by Wilayat Husayn, Bombay 1888)
  2. Rasā'il Ikhwān al-Ṣafā' (edited by Khayr al-din al-Zarkali with introductions by Tāha Ḥusayn and Aḥmad Zakī Pasha, in 4 volumes, Cairo 1928)
  3. Rasā'il Ikhwān al-Ṣafā' (4 volumes, Beirut: Dār Ṣādir 1957)


The Encyclopedia has been widely translated, appearing not merely in its original Arabic, but in German, English, Persian, Turkish, and Hindustani. Although portions of the Encyclopedia were translated into English as early as 1812, with the Rev. T. Thomason's prose English introduction to Shaikh Ahmad b. Muhammed Shurwan's Arabic edition of the "Debate of Animals" published in Calcutta translated excerpt, a complete translation of the Encyclopedia into English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 does not exist as of 2006, although Friedrich Dieterici
Friedrich Dieterici
Friedrich Heinrich Dieterici was a German orientalist and historian.-Biography:He studied at the universities of Halle and Berlin, traveled extensively in the East, and in 1856 was appointed professor of Semitic literature in the University of Berlin. He won particular distinction by his...

 (Professor of Arabic in Berlin) translated the first 40 of the epistles into German; presumably, the remainder have since been translated. The "Island of Animals" have been translated several times in differing completion; the fifth rasa'il, on music, has been translated into English as have the 43rd through the 47th epistles.

See also

  • The Qur'an
    Qur'an
    The Quran , also transliterated Qur'an, Koran, Alcoran, Qur’ān, Coran, Kuran, and al-Qur’ān, is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God . It is regarded widely as the finest piece of literature in the Arabic language...

     - (in most studies and this article, the Greek base of the Encyclopedia is emphasized; but the foundation of the Brethren's beliefs and writings is still fundamentally Islamic and deeply Qur'anic)
  • Magic square
    Magic square
    In recreational mathematics, a magic square of order n is an arrangement of n2 numbers, usually distinct integers, in a square, such that the n numbers in all rows, all columns, and both diagonals sum to the same constant. A normal magic square contains the integers from 1 to n2...

    s - (apparently within the Ikhwan was recorded the first nine magic squares, including the first known example of a 6 by 6 magic square)
  • Socrates
    Socrates
    Socrates was a classical Greek Athenian philosopher. Credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, he is an enigmatic figure known chiefly through the accounts of later classical writers, especially the writings of his students Plato and Xenophon, and the plays of his contemporary ...

     - (The Brethren venerated Socrates' stoic self-sacrifice)

Further reading

La philosophie des Ihwan al-Safa' ("The philosophy of the Brethren of Purity"), Yves Marquet, 1975. Published in Algiers
Algiers
' is the capital and largest city of Algeria. According to the 1998 census, the population of the city proper was 1,519,570 and that of the urban agglomeration was 2,135,630. In 2009, the population was about 3,500,000...

 by the Société Nationale d'Édition et de Diffusion

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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