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Arabic Intellectual and Religious History


Al-Jāḥiẓ  Jahiz.jpg

(Prof James E. Montgomery, Sir Thomas Adams's Professor of Arabic)

This long-term project exploring the third/ninth century through the writings of ʿAmr ibn Baḥr al-Jāḥiẓ (d. 255/868-9) continues. As a follow up to Al-Jāḥiẓ: In Praise of Books (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2013), a companion volume Al-Jāḥiẓ: In Censure of Books has been begun, also to be published by Edinburgh. There will be a third volume, adapted from materials in the first of these monographs, and aimed at students: Al-Jāḥiẓ: Creationism in Ninth Century Baghdad. Alongside these monographs the first draft has been completed of an edition and translation of six epistles by al-Jāḥiẓ for The Library of Arabic Literature: al-Jāḥiẓ, Rasāʾil Kalāmiyyah. This collection includes those compositions which are devoted explicitly to the major theological movements and issues of the third/ninth century: Fī Khalq al-Qurʾān; al-Jawābāt fī al-Maʿrifah; Kitāb al-Nābitah; Fī Nafy al-Tashbīh; al-Radd ʿalā al-Mushabihhah; Kitāb Ḥujaj al-Nubuwwah; al-Radd ʿalā al-Naṣārā. A forthcoming article ‘Al-Jāḥiẓ and the Hippocratic Corpus’ will explore the centrality of medical semiology to al-Jāḥiẓ’s decoding of creation. 


Science, Cosmology and Medicine

Ikhwān al-Ṣafāʾ 

(Prof James E. Montgomery, Sir Thomas Adams's Professor of Arabic)

Montgomery is on the Advisory Board of this project run by the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London. He has two projects for the series:  

  1. Epistle 4: Geography, edited and translated with Ignacio Sanchez (Humbolt University Berlin) (in press).
  2. Epistle 49: Angels and Planets, edited and translated with CJ UY (Cambridge University) (in progress).

Geographical Determinism in ʿAbbāsid Thought

(Joshua Olsson, PhD Student)

Josh is studying how the relationship between an individual’s psychology and physiognomy and their physical environment was understood by medieval Muslims. This largely involves studying the more humanist aspects of medieval Islamic thought about humoral pathology, geographical determinism, and climatic theory. In an attempt to look at the influence of these ideas outside of the standard medical and geographical works, Josh is also looking at local histories, travel narratives, faḑā‘il literature, slave manuals, and other genres, in order to see how these ideas were employed in various contexts.

It is hoped that such an approach will shed greater insight both on how medieval Muslims viewed those outside Islamic lands, and, perhaps more interestingly, on how regional identities within the Islamic world drew upon these ideas. To this end he is giving a lot of thought to how partisans of Baghdad and Isfahan in particular, drew upon geographical determinism in their attempts to establish the superiority of their favoured city.'


Greek Medicine in the Islamic World and Chinese Medicine in Japan

(Mujeeb Khan, PhD Student)

This research investigates how civilisations negotiate foreign intellectual traditions, and studies the normalisation process of content. In particular, it looks at medieval medical traditions in two case studies: Greek medicine in the Islamic world and Chinese medicine in Japan. As the Graeco-Arabic translation movement coincides with the acquisition of Chinese medicine by Japan during the medieval period, this research investigates what happened after the initial arrival of these works, in order to demonstrate how two of the three great rational medical traditions developed in foreign cultures. The first part of the project investigates two early syntheses: al-Rāzī and his medical works in the Islamic world and the Ishimpō in Japan.