Nine Celebrated Ascetics
A Critical Edition of an Extract of Abū Nuʿaym al-Iṣfahānī’s Ḥilyat al-awliyāʾ wa-ṭabaqāt al-aṣfiyāʾ
Meis Al-Kaisi [+–]
American University of Sharjah
This book is the first critical edition and study of an important biographical dictionary, using the oldest available manuscripts.
The focus of this study is more mystical than historical or structural. The Ḥilya is addressed from the perspective of Sufi apologetic literature with emphasis on its structure and sources as much as the message its author aimed to convey. The author proposes that Abū Nuʿaym’s main intention was not to provide general information about those who figure in his work, but to give an account of certain aspects of their lives. He attempted to collect all the narratives that corroborate the message he aimed to convey. Chronology within the individual biography was perhaps of no relevance, and segments were grouped together according to thematic association. Moreover, an interesting common feature to most of the individual introductions in the Ḥilya is that they offer no factual details, such as the full name, origins and date of death of the subject, which suggests that perhaps the significance of these biographies lies in their function, rather than in their historicity. This feature also suggests that perhaps Abū Nuʿaym’s main intention was to draw the reader’s attention to something much deeper and more spiritual than factual details about these eminent figures of Islam.
The book offers a substantial study of the fundamental principles of Islamic asceticism and mysticism and explains the base for the spiritual movement in Islam.
Table of Contents
Part One: The Study
Part Two: The Edited Text