Ethics and spirituality in Islam

97965Francesco Chiabotti, Eve Feuillebois-Pierunek, Catherine Mayeur-Jaouen et Luca Patrizi (éd.), Ethics and spirituality in Islam: Sufi adab, Brill, Leyde, 2016, 792 pages.

The notion of adab is at the heart of Arab-Islamic culture. Born in the crucible of the Arabic and Persian civilization, nourished by Greek and Indian influences, this polysemic notion could cover a variegated range of meanings: good behavior, knowledge of manners, etiquette, rules and belles-lettres and finally, literature. This collection of articles tries to explore how the formulations and reformulations of adab during the first centuries of Islam engage with the crucial period of the first great spiritual masters, exploring the importance of normativity, but also of transgression, in order to define the rules themselves. Assuming that adab is ethics, the articles analyse the genres of Sufi adab, including manuals and hagiographical accounts, from the formative period of Sufism until the modernity.

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Al-Fārābī’s “fourth philosophy”

Aziz Hilal

PhD in Arabic philosophy

icon-calendar Tuesday October 25ᵗʰ, 2016

farabi25oct2016In his Kitāb al-ǧadal, al-Fārābī (d. 339/950) mentions a “fourth philosophy”. What he intends with this expression is a philosophy that would be adapted to non-specialists, both technicians in a particular given art (medicine, grammar, poetry…) and simple people (al-ǧumhūr). Unlike the first three philosophies (metaphysics, practical philosophy and logic), this fourth philosophy relies on commonly admitted premises (al-mašhūrāt), i.e. on the common cultural and ethical heritage (“justice is better than injustice”, “usury is a sin”, “one should honor his parents”, …) In other terms, a philosopher who needs to teach truth to non-philosophers should resort to the “local sciences” that common people share. This fourth philosophy is political and changing by essence. It is fundamentally a pedagogy and thanks to it, dialectics (al-ǧadal) is not considered to be a mere preparation to philosophia perennis but indeed a self-standing philosophy.

It is only in 1986, with the publication of the three volumes of al-Fārābī’s philosophical works by Rafīq al-ʿAǧam (Dār al-Mašriq, Beirut), that the major importance of al-Fārābī as a philosopher was re-established.

Positive history and sacred history

Dominique Avon, « Histoire positive et histoire sacrée autour de la pensée de Louis Massignon » in Cahiers d’étude du religieux 16 (2016).

Louis Massignon (1883‒1962) was one of the famous orientalists during the first part of the 20th c. His PHD was based on the life of a mystic Muslim, Manṣūr al-Ḥallāj (c. 858‒922), who was prosecuted and executed. Three factors explain his influence. First, his erudition combined with an exceptional strength of work which insured him to stay at the top of the discipline. Second, his connexion with the diplomatic services, which warranted him a political support. Third, his capacity to create a new path within the Catholic Church in which he became as much famous as contested. Some of his publications are meaningful of a specific conception in religious sciences. As the example of the “Seven Sleepers of Ephesus” will show, he rejected some results of exegesis or archaeological researches, in the name of a common word crossing religious traditions.

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The reception of Sībawayh’s Kitāb in the West

Jean Druel

icon-calendar September 2015‒September 2020

Couv SibawayhIn her PhD research (1992, published in 1995 under the title Les voies de la transmission du Kitāb de Sībawayhi, Brill) Geneviève Humbert has reveaIed the existence of a North African (Kairouan?) parchment of Sībawayh’s Kitāb, probably dated 5th/11th century. It’s a very rare parchment (not paper) that roughly contains one sixth of the Kitāb (chapters 327 to 435 of Derenbourg’s edition).

Geneviève Humbert studied in great detail the history of the transmission of the Kitāb, both in the East and in the West, and according to her, this parchment contains a quite different version of the Kitāb than the “official” version circulated by al-Mubarrad (d. 285/898). In particular, it seems that the “canonical corpus of internal glosses” found in all other manuscript is not found in its matn.

Here are, always according to Geneviève Humbert, names of Andalusian grammarians who played an important role in the transmission of the Kitāb in the West.

In this research, Jean Druel wishes to focus not on the transmission of the text, as did Geneviève Humbert, but on the grammatical lessons that can be drawn from this different text. Does this peculiar parchment contain significantly different lessons? Does it bring a new light, not only on the reception of the Kitāb but on Sībawayh’s teachings?


IDEO is partner of the academic platform PLURIEL.

logo_plurielPLURIEL has been initiated by the Federation of the Catholic Universities in Europe and Lebanon. It aims to promote the link between researchers on Islam and the Muslim-Christian dialogue, in connection with Eastern Christians, and to foster the interaction between academics, social actors and economic organisations. The aim is also to open up research fields on Islam and to develop methodological tools to avoid cultural misunderstandings.

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Ibn Taymiyya (728/1328) et son Darʾ taʿāruḍ al-ʿaql wa-l-naql

Ahmad Wagih

Doctorant en théologie musulmane à Dār al-ʿUlūm (Université du Caire)

icon-calendar Mardi 19 mai 2015 à 17h00

WaguihIbn Taymiyya (m. 728/1328) occupe une place très particulière dans la tradition musulmane. Il accusait régulièrement les oulémas de son époque d’avoir une approche non critique des sciences musulmanes, ce qui lui a valu plusieurs séjours en prison. Il est paradoxalement aujourd’hui l’un des auteurs de référence des courants islamistes les plus extrêmes.