By Godefroid de Callatay
An illuminating examine of the mysterious Brethren of Purity', the tenth century letter writers whose epistles, even if usually deemed heretical, exerted a profound impact at the improvement of Shi'i Islam.
Read Online or Download Ikhwan al-Safa': a Brotherhood of Idealists on the Fringe of Orthodox Islam PDF
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Extra info for Ikhwan al-Safa': a Brotherhood of Idealists on the Fringe of Orthodox Islam
These are the questions that preoccupy the Brethren from the beginning to the end of the corpus. Their answers will be discussed here. THE FORMATION OF THE UNIVERSE At the core of the Brethren’s synthesis lies the theory of emanation. indd 17 10/11/2005 12:00:29 18 IKHWAN AL-SAFA’ Unity or, more simply still, the One. Plotinus (d. 270), the founder of Neoplatonism, postulated a series of three successive principles, named hypostases, before and above matter. The first was the One, the source of all beings, that is, what a Christian, a Jew, or a Muslim would call God or the transcendent Creator, but not actually conceived as a personal being.
The World Soul communicates its influence to the entire revolution, first to the fixed stars, then to the planets and to the four elements of the world of coming-to-be and passingaway, then finally to all the creatures composed from those elements – in other words, the mineral, vegetal, and animal kingdoms with man at the top. The influence on such individuals will be favorable if, at the moment chosen for computation, the celestial configuration proves to lie on noble and harmonious relations.
The Brethren account for this superiority by stating that mankind was also the last to appear in the world of coming-to-be and passing-away. Some modern writers have been tempted to see in this view some kind of pre-Darwinian theory of evolution, but this proposal makes no sense at all, as was rightly pointed out by Nasr, for it completely overlooks the teleological perspective of the Brethren’s whole scheme. It was God’s will to create the world, the Ikhwan write, and it is fitting that His perfection and wisdom be reflected in His creation.