The Syrian Lightning: The Fleeting Pleasures Of Imad Al-Din Al-Isfahani

The Persian scholar and poet Imad al-Din al-Isfahani (عماد الدين الأصفهاني) was an important figure in medieval Arabic literature.  He was born in Isfahan in Persia in 1125 and studied in Baghdad.  We are told that he studied law at the Nizamiya college there, but he preferred literature and adventure.  His proficiency in letters brought him to the attention of powerful political figures, who were able to secure him government posts in Basra and Wasit.

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Be Scrupulous About What You Write: The Lesson Of Rhazes

Abū Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakariyyā al-Rāzī (known in the West by his Latinized name Rhazes) is considered one of the most original and accomplished of the medieval Muslim physicians.  An impressive list of achievements is linked to his name: he pioneered the study of pediatrics, ophthalmology, synthesized laboratory acids, composed treatises on smallpox and measles, wrote voluminously in a number of scientific fields, and had extensive practical experience with treating patients.

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The Hand Of Ibn Muqla: Do Not Envy Those Who Wield Power

There was once a government official and literary figure of the Abbasid caliphate in Baghdad named Abu Ali Muhammad ibn Ali ibn Muqla al-Shiraz.  He is known to history as Ibn Muqla, and he lived from about A.D. 885 to 940.  According to his biographer Ibn Khallikan, Ibn Muqla began his government service career as a tax collector in the city of Fars.

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Removing The Veils Of False Modesty: The Life-Affirming Philosophy Of Al-Salami

The name Muhammad al-Salami (محمد السلامي) (A.D. 948–1003) is nearly unknown in the West, but occupies a prominent position in medieval Arabic poetry.  The genius of his metaphors, the richness of his turns of phrase, and the elegance of his diction can be felt even through the fog of translation; and we will do our best to pay him homage here.  The anthologist Abu Mansur al-Tha’alibi called him:

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The Wisdom Of Ibn Zafar al-Siqilli And Abu Bakr al-Khowarizmi

The writer and scholar Ibn Zafar al-Siqilli lived from 1104 to about 1170.  The cognomen al-Siqilli (“the Sicilian”) was given to him because he was born on the island of Sicily.  There are a number of important works credited to his name, the most famous of which is a book of ethical and political philosophy called Consolation for the Master Who Suffers From the Hatred of His Servants (the brilliant Arabic title, written in the rhyming prose typical of Arabic literature, is سلوان المطاع في عدوان الأتباع‎).  In English, this work is often referred to simply as the Sulwan al-Mutaa’.  The book was composed in 1159, during the time of the second Norman king of Sicily, William the Bad.  Sicily (Sakalliya) had been an Arab emirate from A.D. 831 to 1091.

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On Meetings And Separations: The Wisdom Of Two Scholars Of Al-Andalus

We have paid a price for the media age.  Yes, it is true that we have access to huge volumes of information (or mindless trash, depending on your perspective); but the average person is now so deluged with tsunamis of inanity that it is a full-time responsibility just to sift out what is of value from what is not.  Some people are not able to do this–or do not want to do it–and swim in mental sewage.  Others are able to do it, and can ascend to the loftiest heights of knowledge and perception.  Every man makes his own choice as to which world he prefers to inhabit.

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Sometimes One Must Speak In An Indirect Way

There are times when one’s communications must be protected from the unwelcome attentions of third parties.  The richness of a language’s vocabulary, and its embedded metaphors and cultural allusions, are powerful assistants to this end.  I was recently reminded of this when reading an anecdote related by that most colorful of biographers, Ibn Khallikan.  We have related many of his stories and wise sayings here in past articles.  The story I am about to relate here is linguistically oriented; it can tell us much about the power of speech in the hands of those who can deliver it with nuanced subtlety.  It will be of interest to any enthusiast of language, philology, and culture.

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