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Michael Kritovolous of Imbros (d. 1470) on the Fall of Constantinople (1453)

The Ottoman Turks were originally based in western Anatolia and had risen to prominence as a frontier principality on the eastern borders of the Byzantine Empire during the thirteenth and fourteenth century. By the mid-fifteenth century, the Ottoman sultanate had conquered much of Anatolia, Greece, Thrace, and the Slavic-speaking regions south of the Danube; in effect, they had replaced the Byzantine Empire as the dominant power in the Balkans and the Aegean. The culmination of Ottoman expansion in southeastern Europe was the conquest of Constantinople on May 29th 1453, which was accomplished after a fifty-four-day siege by Sultan Mehmed II (r.1451–1481), known as “the Conqueror” following his capture of the Byzantine capital.

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Translating #Cervantes400 into Arabic

Arabic Literature (in English)

Just as the world will mark the 400th year since the death of Shakespeare, so we also mark the same the number of years since the death of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra:

By Shadi Rohana

cervantesNot only did the two authors mark world literature forever, but they also died on the same day in 1616, if on different calendars. Shakespeare died on “April 23rd” before Britain adopted the Gregorian calendar. For the Catholic world, which adopted the Gregorian calendar immediately in 1582, Shakespeare died on May 3rd — that is, 10 days after the death of Cervantes.

While it’s uncertain whether Cervantes knew of Shakespeare, Shakespeare certainly knew him. The title of one of Shakespeare’s lost plays — The History of Cardenio — clearly shows it. But what of Cervantes in Arabic?

Cervantes is the author of many novels, stories, poems and plays. However, in the Arabic language, Cervantes’ name is almost a synonym for that…

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Bibliography of Translated Texts from Medieval/Early Modern Iberia and North Africa

This post is a non-exhaustive list of texts and documents from medieval/early modern Iberia and North Africa (covering roughly the period 500-1700) that have been translated into English. The list will be updated regularly with additional titles and is intended to serve as a resource for those interested in learning more about medieval Iberia but who may lack the necessary languages to access the original sources. Please let me know if you have any recommendations to add to the list. (more…)

‘Ayn al-Qudat Hamadhani: Intellectual, Mystic and Martyr

One of the many overlooked figures of the pre-modern Islamic tradition is Abū al-Ma’ālī ‘Abd Allāh b. Abī Bakr (d. 525/1131), better known as ‘Ayn al-Quḍāt Ḥamadhānī. Born in Hamadhan in Seljuk Iran around 490/1098 to a family of prominent Shāfi’ī scholars, by the age of 20 he had mastered Arabic, Persian, jurisprudence, ḥadīth, Qur’ān, poetry, kalām (dialectical theology), philosophy and various strands of mystical thought. A student of Aḥmad al-Ghazālī (d. 520/1126), the brother of the great theologian Abū Hāmid Muḥammad al-Ghazālī), he became an eminent scholar and mystic in his own right, composing various works in both Persian and Arabic, the most important of which were Tamhīdāt and the Zubdat al-Haqāʾiq fī Kashf al-Khalāʾiq. Much of his mystical philosophy was focused on the concept of divine love.

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Can the Past Save the Future? Arab Intellectuals On the Eve of the Great War

The Regional Lens

Rockefeller Center The entrance to New York’s Rockefeller Center, with an Art Deco-style frieze depicting God from William Blake’s “Book of Urizen” and a quote from Isaiah 33:6: “Wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times.”

George Santayana famously wrote that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. But is the opposite also true? Will those who cherish their political, intellectual and cultural heritage ultimately be saved by it? For Arab intellectuals a century ago, the answer is a resounding yes. In our current era of the liberal arts as a favorite whipping boy among public officials, it’s hard to imagine that only a few years after Santayana relinquished his post at Harvard, a small group of impassioned Arab educators, thinkers and poets were staking the future of a war-torn Middle East on how well it could remember its past.

For these “Neoclassical” authors as they’re…

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20 Influential Medieval/Early Modern Muslim Women

This is the second part of a previous post on the subject (https://ballandalus.wordpress.com/2014/03/08/15-important-muslim-women-in-history/), which sought to highlight the important role of women in the influencing the political, social, intellectual and military developments in the Islamic world during the medieval and early modern era. This post, like the previous one, is an attempt to introduce readers to the names of a few women who made their mark in Islamic (and world) history while providing a few sources for those interested in learning more about each.  (more…)

Al-‘Amiri’s Book of Notification of the Virtues of Islam

Mafqud wa-Mawjud

A classic rookie teaching mistake is to put on one’s syllabus a reading which has not been translated into a language one’s students can understand.  This is what I did a year ago with the Kitab al-I’lam bi-manaqib al-Islam of al-‘Amiri (d. 992).  This text is, among other things, a fascinating treatise in comparative religion (arguing, as the title suggests, for the superiority of Islam), as well as a defense of philosophy from Muslim critics.  Not having a full translation from which to choose a pungent section, however, I hurriedly made my own translation of a single small section defending the study of logic, using logical means.  I thought I’d include it here for general interest:

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