Between Reason and Revelation Twin Wisdoms Reconciled. An Annotated English Translation of Nasir-i Khusraw’s Kitāb-i Jāmi‘ al-Ḥikmatayn By Eric Ormsby, trans. (London and New York: I.B. Tauris in association the Institute of Ismaili Studies, 2012. 292 pages.)

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Joel Richmond

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Abstract

Nasir-i Khusraw (d. 469/1077), who was appointed by the Fatimid imam al-
Mustansir bi’llah (d. 487/1094) as the ḥujjat and chief dā‘ī for the region of
Khurasan, lived the later period of his life exiled in Badakhshan due to religious
persecution. This treatise, a virtual summa of eleventh-century Ismaili
philosophical theology put forth in a question-and-answer format, deals with
almost all of the scientific and philosophical issues that occupied the minds
of the Isma‘ili mission of his time. The context is a reply to the amīr of
Badakhshan, Abu al-Ma‘ali ‘Ali ibn al-Asad (reign 462/1069), who had requested
Nasir to explain Abu al-Haytham Ahmad ibn al-Hasan al-Jurjani’s (d.
10th century) philosophical qaṣīdah. The text itself, originally edited by Henry
Corbin and Mohammed Mu‘in in 1953, offers an alternative reading to Latimah
Parvin Peerwani’s clear but partial English translation, which was recently
published in the second volume of An Anthology of Philosophy of
Persia. Ibrahim al-Dasuqi Shata had translated the 1953 edition into Arabic
in 1974, and Isabelle de Gastines’ French translation was made available in
1990.
Although the majority of the text is written in prose and not poetry, it
would still be pretentious in this short review to focus too critically on possible
alternative readings. Any reader with competence in the original language and
a concern for specific passages now has several translations, along with the
edited text, from which to make a critical comparison. The fact remains that
Ormsby has rendered a fluid and accurate translation that maintains the simplicity
required to enable a broader audience to follow the complexity of
Nasir’s ideas. An additional aid is also found in the copious footnotes, introductory
essay, index, and bibliography, all of which not only explain the
many obscure points in Nasir’s treatise, but also suggest many areas for future
research.
There is one question regarding the Persian text that does need additional
clarification: Ismail K. Poonawala pointed out in his review of Faquir M. Hunzai’s
edition and translation of Nasir’s Gushāyish va Rahāyish (translated as
Knowledge and Liberation: A Treatise on Philosophical Theology) that the ...

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