The Ikhwan al-Safa (Brethren of Purity), the anonymous adepts of a tenth-century esoteric fraternity based in Basra and Baghdad, hold an eminent position in the history of science and philosophy in Islam due to the wide reception and assimilation of their monumental encyclopaedia, the Rasa'il Ikhwan al-Safa (Epistles of the Brethren of Purity). This compendium contains fifty-two epistles offering synoptic accounts of the classical sciences and philosophies of the age; divided into four classificatory parts, it treats themes in mathematics, logic, natural philosophy, psychology, metaphysics, and theology, in addition to didactic fables. The Rasa'il constitutes a paradigmatic legacy in the canonization of philosophy and the sciences in mediaeval Islamic civilization, as well as having shown a permeating influence in Western culture.
This is the fifth volume in a series presenting the very first critical edition of the Rasa'il in its original Arabic, complete with the first fully annotated English translation. Epistle 52: On Magic is the last in the corpus, and presents the short version of the 'Epistle on Magic, Incantations, and the Evil Eye'. Within its pages the authors of the epistle argue for the legitimacy of magic and the other occult sciences, and seek confirmation of their views in authorities as diverse as Plato, the Qur'ân, the Torah, the astrologer Abû Ma'shâr, and the mysterious sect of pagan star-worshippers known as the Sabians of Harrân. As in all other volumes of the series, this volume provides the first critical edition of the Arabic text, together with an English translation and a substantial range of notes. An extensive introduction highlights the unique relevance of this treatise within the framework of the Brethren's encyclopaedia itself, and to the history of science in general.