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A Medieval Muslim Scholar at Work: Ibn Ṭāwūs and His Library

Raḍī al-Dī Ibn ṭāwūs (d. 664/1266 in Bagdad) was a major figure in the history of Shī’ī thought. He published works on subjects ranging from tradition (ḥadīth) and polemics to history and astrology. Ibn ṭāwūs was an avid bibliophile, and his various writings contain remarkably detailed information about the books that he owned or read.

Kohlberg’s book is divided into two main parts. The first surveys the life, working methods and literary output of Ibn ṭāwūs and offers an extended analysis of his library. The second part is an annotated list of all the works (some 660 in number) cited by Ibn ṭāwūs in his available writings. About a third of these works (both Sunnī and Shī’ī) are not extant, and even the existence of some of them has hitherto not been known. The works cover a wide range of subjects, including Qur’ānic exegesis, tradition, history, theology, astronomy and genealogy, and provides a detailed picture of the intellectual world of a medieval Muslim scholar.

In the literary history of Twelver Shiʻism, the figure of Raḍī aI-Dīn ʻAlī b. Mūṣā Ibn Tāwūs occupies a prominent place. He hailed from a distinguished Shīʻī family, was a pious man of great learning, and played a small but not insignificant role in one of the most momentous events in Muslim history. Yet Ibn Tāwūs importance goes beyond this. He represents the last generation in which much of early Shīʻī literature, soon to be irretrievably lost, was still available in its original form. His extant works enable us partially to reconstruct his library and thus learn about the literary interests and horizons of a Muslim scholar in the waning years of the Abbasid era. Moreover, the large number of Shīʻī and Sunni texts cited in his works, many of which have not come down to us, provide invaluable, and sometimes unique, information about medieval Arabic literature in general. The technical data he supplies are unparalleled for his time and place and include such details as the age, size and format of manuscripts which he perused. In IT we thus have a rare example of a particular person with a particular library whose methods of work can be followed and through whom a whole environment can be gauged.

About the Author

Etan Kohlberg, Ph.D. (1971) Oxford University, is Professor of Arabic language and literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His publications deal mainly with Shī’ī literature, doctrine and history. Studies include Immam and Community in the Pre-Ghayba Period, Aspects of Akhbārī Thought in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, and Western Studies of Shī’a Islam.

Bibliographic Information

Title: A Medieval Muslim Scholar at Work: Ibn Ṭāwūs and His Library

Author(s): Etan Kohlberg

Publisher: Brill

Language: English

Length: 772 pages

ISBN: 978-9004095496

Pub. Date: January 1, 1992

A Medieval Muslim Scholar at Work Ibn Ṭāwūs and His Library

About Ali Teymoori

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