Cosimo's Middle East Bookshelf contains works by a wide range of respected historians and world-famous writers from the region. Read below for brief descriptions of each author.
ABID IBN AL-ABRAS was a pre-Islamic Arabic poet, known for his association with the "Mu'allaqāt," or "The Hanging Poems." This was a collection of seven works of renowned poetry, compiled by the scholar Hammad Ar-Rawiya. While al-Abras is included in the group of seven great poets only some of the time, he is recognized as a contemporary of Imru' al-Qais (who lived during the 6th century), considered the greatest of all the poets in the "Mu'allaqāt." The quality of his work was recognized by celebrated Persian scholar Ibn Qutaybah, who named him among the "Seven" in the 9th Century, after it had been discovered that early versions of the "Mu'allaqāt" had been misrepresented, and two of the seven poems were sometimes replaced with others.
AHMAD BIN YAHYA BIN JABIR AL BILADURI (d. 892) was a Persian historian from the Ninth Century, considered today as a reliable source of early Arabic and Islamic history, particularly of the Muslim expansion. He lived at the court of the caliphs Al-Mutawakkil and Al-Musta'in in Baghdad, and served as tutor to al-Mutazz's son. He died in 892 from an overdose of the drug baladhur (from which Al Biladuri's name is derived).
ABU HAMED MUHAMMAD IBN MUHAMMAD AL-GHAZZALI (1058–1111) was a Persian Islamic philosopher, theologian, psychologist, and mystic, known today as one of the most famous Sunni scholars in history, sometimes cited as next in importance only to Muhammad. Born in Tus, Al-Ghazzali was a pioneer of methodic doubt; his work "The Incoherence of Philosophers" shifted early Islamic philosophy from metaphysics to the theory of occasionalism, an Islamic doctrine that states cause-and-effect is controlled by God. He also succeeded in bringing orthodox Islam in contact with Sufism. The author of more than 70 books on various subjects, his influence continues to stretch far and wide even today.
SYED AMEER ALI (1849-1928) was an Indian Muslim who wrote several books about Islamic history and practice, as well as Islamic law. A respected jurist himself, and a descendant of Mohammad, Ali's words were extremely influential. He achieved honors in school, began a legal practice in Calcutta, and was one of the most accomplished Muslims of his time before he moved to London at age 20. When he returned to Calcutta in 1873, he continued his law practice, became a law professor at Calcutta University, and founded the Central National Mohammedan Association in 1877, a political organization central to promoting modern Muslim thought. Ali moved back to London in 1904, establishing the London Muslim League in 1908 and the first London mosque in 1910. Ali continued to write and make breakthroughs for Muslims until his death in 1928.
MUHAMMAD IBN ALI IBN SULAYMAN AR-RAWANDI belonged to a family of scholars and professors in Rawand, a small neighboring town to Kashan. As a young boy, severe famine in Isfahan and the death of his father interrupted his studies. Eventually, his uncle Taj-ud-din became his guardian and teacher, and Ar-Rawandi became proficient in calligraphy, book-binding, gilding, law, and theology. His talents brought him favor with the last Sultan of the Saljuq family, who valued education and the art of calligraphy and gilding. This connection helped him write *The Rahat-Us-Sudur Wa Ayat-Us-Surur*, an extensive Saljuq history.
KARL BAEDEKER (1801–1859) was a German publisher who had been born as the son of a print-maker in Prussia. His publishing company, Baedeker, set the gold standard for travel and guidebooks of his time. Influenced by the style of English publisher John Murray (who had published Romantic greats like Jane Austen, Charles Darwin, Lord Byron, and Sir Aurthur Conan Doyle, among others), his books became known for their accuracy and detail, which not only included price and transportation information, but also starred ratings for tourist attractions.
RICHARD ARNOLD BERMANN (1883–1939), an Austrian journalist, is also the author of "Home from the Sea: Robert Louis Stevenson in Samoa."
JAMES HENRY BREASTED (1865-1935) was an American historian and archaeologist, as well as the first American to receive a Ph.D. in Egyptology. Breasted studied at North-Central College, Chicago Theological Seminary, Yale University, and the University of Berlin. Breasted is most well-known for his coinage of the term "fertile crescent" to describe the region in western Asia that is considered the cradle of civilization. He was also a teacher at the University of Chicago, served as the Director of the Haskell Oriental Museum, helped found the Oriental Institute, boosted the collections of several museums, and wrote several books on ancient Near East civilizations.
SIR ERNEST ALFRED THOMPSON WALLIS BUDGE (1857–1934) was born in Bodmin, Cornwall in the UK and discovered an interest in languages at a very early age. Budge spent all his free time learning and discovering Semitic languages, including Assyrian, Syriac, and Hebrew. Eventually, through a close contact, he was able to acquire a job working with Egyptian and Iraqi artifacts at the British Museum. Budge excavated and deciphered numerous cuneiform and hieroglyphic documents, contributing vastly to the museum’s collection. Eventually, he became the Keeper of his department, specializing in Egyptology. Budge wrote many books during his lifetime, most specializing in Egyptian life, religion, and language.
CAPTAIN SIR RICHARD FRANCIS BURTON (1821–1890), a British author, soldier, and adventurer, was notoriously remembered for his scandalously unexpurgated translations of "The Arabian Nights" and the "Kama Sutra," which scandalized and titillated Victorian readers. Other works of his include the translation of classic Hindu stories of magic and romance, "Vikram and the Vampire or Tales of "Hindu Devilry," journals of his globetrotting exploits through Africa and the Middle East, such as "The Lake Regions of Central Africa," and his history on the sword, "The Book of the Sword," written out of his love for fencing and weaponry.
SIR JOHN CHARDIN (1643–1713), also known as Jean Chardin, was a French jeweler and traveler who authored the ten-volume book "The Travels of Sir John Chardin," one of the most well-regarded early scholarly works on the Near East and Persia by a Westerner. Chardin was trained to be a jeweler like his father, but instead set out with a fellow merchant for Persia and India in 1664 at the ripe age of 21. He spent most of his time traveling in Persia from 1664–1673, before finally settling in England to escape the French prosecution of Protestants in 1681. It was there that he published the first part of "The Travels of Sir John Chardin" in 1686, which was presented in full in Amsterdam in 1711, two years before his death.
STANLEY ARTHUR COOK (1837–1949) was born in King's Lynn, Norfolk. He was the Regius Professor of Hebrew at Cambridge University from 1932–1938, where he also received his Bachelor's and Master's degrees. He was on the editorial staff of the Encyclopedia Biblica from 1896–1903, as well as an editorial advisor on Biblical subjects for the Encyclopedia Britannica. He edited Palestine Exploration Fund publications from 1902–1932 and authored many of his own books on ancient Hebrew and Middle East culture.
W.W. DAVIES was one of several translators of the famous "Code of Hammurabi and the Law of Moses." Little to no information is known about him other than his work with the ancient text. A professor of Hebrew at Ohio Wesleyan University, Davies's translation was published in 1905 by Jennings and Graham in Cincinnati, Ohio.
CHARLES MONTAGU DOUGHTY (1843–1926) was an English poet and writer born in Theberton Hall, Saxmundham, Suffolk. He attended King's College London and graduated from Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge in 1864. Among this author's works are an epic poem in six volumes titled "The Dawn in Britain," published in 1906, and his well-known "Travels in Arabia Deserta," for which he received much praise.
CLAUD FIELD (1863–1941) was an author and translator of Arabic literature. His most well-known translations are the works of Abu Hamid al-Ghazālī, namely "The Alchemy of Happiness" and "The Confessions of Al Ghazzali." He is the author of "Mystics and Saints of Islam," "Heroes of Missionary Enterprise," "The Charm of India," and "Persian Literature", among others.
SIR WILLIAM M. FLINDERS PETRIE (1853–1942) was a British Egyptologist who helped pioneer the systematic methodology in archaeology. Born in Charlton, Kent, England, Petrie had no formal education, but instead learned the art of excavation and surveying from his father. He began traveling and studying archaeology at a young age, hitting the high point of his career with the discovery of the Merneptah Stele in 1896. In addition to excavating at some of the most important archaeological sites in Egypt, including Naukratis, Tanis, and Abydos, he also held the first chair of Edwards Professor of Egyptian Archaeology and Philology at University College, England.
ARCHIBALD FORBES (1838–1900) was a British war correspondent born in Morayshire, Scotland. He attended the University of Aberdeen before entering the Royal Dragoons as a private. He was injured and released from his regiment; he was working as a journalist in London when the Franco-Prussian War began in 1870 and he was drafted to the front lines as a correspondent. He became a representative for the Daily News which publicized his work in intelligence transmission. After the war, he traveled to Spain, India, Serbia, Cyprus, and South Africa, working for the Daily News and reporting on various wars and campaigns. Forbes also authored several books, including an autobiography, about his experiences.
MARGARET DUNLOP GIBSON (1843‒1920) was twin sister to AGNES SMITH LEWIS (1843‒1926); the Semitic scholars were often referred to as the Westminster sisters for their donations to the Presbyterian Church of England and especially Westminster College, Cambridge. Between the two of them, the women learned 12 languages and became pioneers in their field. While both sisters traveled throughout Europe and the Middle East, as well as to Mount Sinai to study the earliest Syriac version of the Gospels, most of their written works are attributed to Agnes. The only written work Margaret authored was "How the Codex was Found," a narrative from Agnes's journals of their two trips to Mount Sinai.
MUHAMMAD IQBAL (1877–1938) was a poet, prophet, and politician in British India. Born in Sialkot, Punjab, Iqbal converted to Islam with his family as a child. He studied literature and law at Cambridge, Munich, and Heidelberg before starting his own law practice and concentrating on his scholarly writing, which he authored primarily in Persian. Many of Iqbal's works promote Islamic revival, especially in South Asia, and he was a well-known leader of the All India Muslim League. Today, he is recognized as the official poet of Pakistan, and his birthday is celebrated as a national holiday.
ADELINA P. IRBY (1831–1911) traveled across the Slavonic provinces, educating girls and women and studying the Christian Slavs in the Ottoman Empire. She traveled with Georgina Muir Mackenzie in six separate trips until her friend died in 1874. Soon after, Irby traveled for the last time to Southern Europe, this time with Priscilla Johnston, establishing a girls' school in Sarajevo and becoming involved in relief work. Altogether, Irby visited at least 13 provinces, and co-wrote a travel journal of her experiences with Mackenzie.
KABIR (1440–1518) was a Hindu mystic, poet and saint, blessed with the name of God as a baby by his teacher, the bhakti saint Ramananda (Kabir is the 37th name of God in Koran, meaning "The Great"). Influenced by both Hindu and Muslim theologies, Kabir's teachings produced solutions that were said to put believers of both religions in harmony, creating a path that all could follow. Kabir authored dozens of poems and songs, the most famous being Bijak, or "The Seedling," espousing his view on universal spirituality. Today, he has almost 10 million followers known as kabir panthis who spread his ideologies throughout India.
IBN KHALLIKAN (1211-1282) was a thirteenth century Arabic scholar who studied in Damascus, Mosul and Aleppo, specializing in the fields of language, theology, and law, including jurisprudence. He became a well-respected judge in Cairo, eventually becoming a chief judge in Damascus in 1261. Khallikan wrote several books, but his most well known was "Deaths of Eminent Men and History of the Sons of the Epoch," often referred to as the "Biographical Dictionary," which took him almost 20 years to complete. Khallikan retired from his position as judge just before his death in 1282. He was one of the most well-known historians and theologians in Egypt.
HAZRAT INAYAT KHAN (1882–1927) was a Sufi teacher and writer who founded the "Sufi Order in the West" in London in 1914. Born into a Muslim-Indian noble family, he was initiated into several Sufi orders before leaving India in 1910 as a traveling musician at the encouragement of his sheik. Once arriving in the West, Khan turned from music to spreading Sufi thought and practice throughout three continents. He returned to India in 1926 to choose a site for his burial. Today, he is remembered for his call to man to awake to "Truth of Divine Guidance and Love," which is resonant in his many works on Universal Sufism.
LEONARD W. KING (1869–1919), a British classical scholar, was Assistant Keeper of Egyptian and Assyrian Antiquities at the British Museum and professor of Assyrian and Babylonian archaeology at the University of London, King's College. He also wrote "Babylonian Magic and Sorcery" (1896) and "A History of Sumer and Akkad" (1910).
STANLEY LANE-POOLE was a British historian, orientalist, and archaeologist. Lane-Poole worked in the British Museum from 1874 to 1892, thereafter researching Egyptian archaeology in Egypt. From 1897 to 1904 he was a professor of Arabic studies at Dublin University. Before his death in 1931, Lane-Poole authored dozens of books, including the first book of the Arabic-English Lexicon started by his uncle, E.W. Lane.
GUY LE STRANGE (1854–1933) was born in Hunstanton, Norfolk, England, as the youngest son of Henry L'Estrange Styleman. He studied Arabic and Persian at the College de France in Paris, after which he spent many years traveling and living abroad in Persia, Florence, and Palestine. He settled in Cambridge in 1907, where he contributed to "The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland", of which he was a member until his death. Le Strange was the editor and translator of several well-known books on the Middle East and Islam, establishing him as one of the most recognized historical geographers of medieval Islam to write in English.
AGNES SMITH LEWIS (1843‒1926) was twin sister to MARGARET DUNLOP GIBSON (1843‒1920); the Semitic scholars were often referred to as the Westminster sisters for their donations to the Presbyterian Church of England and especially Westminster College, Cambridge. Between the two of them, the women learned 12 languages and became pioneers in their field. While both sisters traveled throughout Europe and the Middle East, as well as to Mount Sinai to study the earliest Syriac version of the Gospels, most of their written works are attributed to Agnes, who wrote more than fifteen books about their studies and travels.
MAJOR H.O. LOCK was a major in the British Army, Dorsetshire Regiment, who served in Palestine from 1917–1918. He wrote "The Conquerors of Palestine," a comprehensive account of the history of the invasions of Palestine, and "With the British Army in the Holy Land," a book about his experiences during the British invasions of Sinai and Palestine.
DAVID S. MARGOLIOUTH (1858–1940), a professor of Arabic at Oxford University, worked from primary Arabic texts and omitted “all anecdotes that are obviously or most probably fabulous,” resulting in a clear-headed history of a highly contentious moment in time.
REYNOLD ALLEYNE NICHOLSON (1868-1945) was an English scholar of Islamic literature and mysticism. Born in Yorkshire, England, Nicholson attended Aberdeen University and the University of Cambridge for Arabic studies. He taught Persian language and Arabic culture at Cambridge and was considered a leading scholar in Islamic studies. Not only did Nicholson translate major texts from various Arabic languages, he also wrote two widely-regarded books on Islam: "A Literary History of The Arabs" and "The Mystics of Islam." In addition, Nicholson produced the first English translation and commentary of Rumi's "Masnavi," an impressive and respected feat.
WALTER MELVILLE PATTON (1863–1928) was born in Montreal, Province of Canada, to James Patton and Margaret Mathewson. In addition to writing a biography of the Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, he also wrote a short history of the beginning of Israel, following the first eleven chapters of Genesis in the Bible.
Little is known about author JOHN PENRICE except that he is the author of "A Dictionary and Glossary of the Koran."
JALAL AD-DIN MUHAMMAD RUMI (1207–1273) was a Persian Muslim theologian, poet, jurist, and Sufi mystic who taught peace between all religions, promoting tolerance and harmony. Born in the village of Wakhsh in greater Balkh (now Tajikistan), Rumi lived out most of his life in the Anatolian city of Konya. After his father's death, Rumi became the head of a madrassa, or religious school, and continued to learn and preach his father's mystical doctrines. Rumi taught that man had been separated from God, but his greatest desire was to reach God once more through music, dance, poetry and art. His most famous work is the Matanwiye Manawi, or Spiritual Couplets, regarded by many as the Persian Qu'ran. Rumi's grave is still a place of pilgrimage in present-day Turkey.
LEWIS SPENCE (1874–1955) was a Scottish journalist who recorded Scottish folklore, myths and legends from around the world, histories and legends about the lost world of Atlantis, and works on the occult. Spence graduated from Edinburgh University and was the editor of three magazines, "The Scotsman," "The Edinburgh Magazine," and "The British Weekly." He also founded the Scottish National Movement, now known as the Scottish National Party.
JOHN LLOYD STEPHENS (1805–1852) was an important part of the reintroduction of Mayan Civilization to middle America. He was an explorer, diplomat, and writer, who specialized in Mesoamerican studies. He incorporated the Ocean Steam Navigation Company at a time when the British controlled travel to and from the United States. In 1849 he was appointed the Vice President of the Panama Railroad Company, later becoming the president. He supervised the project until his death from a liver disease at age 46.
WILLIAM WRIGHT (1830-1889) was a British Orientalist and professor of Arabic at Cambridge University. His works are still researched and studied today by students of Arabic and Syriac. His most popular works remain "A Grammar of the Arabic Language" and the "Short History of Syriac Literature." His writings are held today by the British Library and Cambridge University.
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