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Ibn Arab, Les Illuminations de la Mecque/The Meccan Illuminations/Al-Futt al-Makkiyya: Textes choisis/Selected Texts Translated into French or English

by Michel Chodkiewicz; William C. Chittick; Cyrille Chodkiewicz; Denis Gril; James Morris Review by: Victor Danner Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 111, No. 2 (Apr. - Jun., 1991), pp. 399-400 Published by: American Oriental Society Stable URL: . Accessed: 23/08/2013 10:12
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Reviews of Books
tions and contradictions. Already at the end of the fifth century Lazar of P'arp had noted these puzzles. Since he assumed that "Buzand" referred to Byzantium, he was forced to explain the "falsehoods" and "absurdities"-unworthy of a Byzantine scholar-as due to the interpolations of an ignorant scribe. But modern scholarship has convincingly demonstrated that the History was not written in Greek (or Syriac); it is an original Armenian composition which dates from the latter part of the fifth century. Buzand is derived from the Parthian *bozand, "a reciter of epic poems" (as originally elucidated by Anahit Perikhanian), and -aran is a common Armenian suffix for location. So the title Buzandaran Patmutciwnk' means "Epic Histories" and the author is anonymous, since the name P'awstos is a correction to a later colophon. He is not the bishop of Greek origin named in the text, or the Faustos known to St. Basil of Caesarea. Also puzzling is the fact that the work starts at book III. Clarifying the text of the initial statement, Professor Garsoian indicates that the Epic Histories were later interpreted as a link between the accounts of the earlier evangelization of Armenia (by Thaddaeus and then Gregory the Illuminator) and a later unnamed writer. The last may have been Koriwn, who describes the invention of the Armenian script soon after the division of the kingdom (where the Epic Histories end). A later adapter added the Armenian introductory statement, changed the numbering of the books, and included tables of contents. The chapter headings in the text were probably added between the time of the original composition and this reworking. Professor Garsofan distinguishes oral and written sources for the Epic Histories. In the latter category are biblical and hagiographical texts, a version of the Agathangelos cycle earlier than the surviving Armenian text, and liturgical material. There is no evidence for direct acquaintance with nonArmenian sources. The oral sources are the most significant, given the epic character of the work. These may be conveniently divided into two groups, which Garsolan entitles the "Geste of the Argakuni"(the royal house), and the "Geste of the Maminonean." These "Gestes" are not concerned with chronological accuracy, but rather extol the heroic virtues of the aristocracy and reflect the interests of a military society. The ecclesiastical strain is not epic in origin, but rather hagiographical. So although the Epic Histories give a somewhat haphazard appearance at firstsight, the strands are interwoven with care. Garsoian explains in detail the anachronisms and interpolations, drawing out the true historical value of the book. The importance of the Epic Histories lies in their reflection of a living society. They are not a political chronicle, but an expression of the author's own engagement in the events (secular and religious) of the time. He recognizes the proRoman and pro-Iranian parties among the nobility and their struggles to retain hereditary rights. He notes the importance of the Syrian strain in Armenian Christianity, the family


rights of Gregory's descendants, and the continuing presence of pagan customs and beliefs. Despite the author's devotion to Christianity (and disapproval of Arian tendencies), more than any other Armenian historian he portrays the underlying Iranian ethos of Armenian society. Later Armenian historians fixed the tradition in a more learned fashion, but in so doing they distorted the true picture which emerges vividly from the pages of these Epic Histories. This is a fine study and a treasure of information. Essential for all interested in early Armenian history and culture, it will be of great value for Byzantinists and Iranists as well.


Ibn cArabT,Les Illuminations de la Mecquel The Meccan Illuminations/Ai-Futihdt al-Makkiyya: Textes choisis/Selected Texts Translated into French or English. Edited by CHODKIEtranslated by MICHEL MICHEL CHODKIEWICZ; CYRILLE CHODKIEWICZ, WICZ, WILLIAMC. CHITTICK, La Bibliotheque de l'Islam. MORRIS. GRIL,and JAMES DENIS Paris: SINDBAD, 1989. Pp. 656. FF 230. For years, Sufi studies in the West were confined to a few of the classical figures, such as al-Ghazal! and al-Hallaj. The great Andalusian Sufi sage, Ibn 'Arabi, was more or less avoided because of the immense quantity of his production and the abstract nature of his intellectual mysticism, with only M. Asin Palacios and Henry Corbin venturing to give some account of his life and ideas. Now, the dam has been broken and works on the Shaykh al-Akbar, as he is known in the Muslim world, are becoming numerous. The Chodkiewicz family of France, one of the most remarkable scholarly dynasties of our times, has dedicated itself to exploring the Andalusian sage's thought. In 1984, the Rothko Chapel Foundation approached Michel Chodkiewicz to seek his supervision over a project to make more accessible to researchersand the the works of Ibn 'ArabT general public. An anthology of this eminent Sufi's writings was planned as one of Chodkiewicz's tasks. This book, Les Illuminations de la Mecque/ The Meccan Illuminations, represents that anthology. It is a series of selected texts from alFutuhat al-Makkiyyah translated into French and English by five specialists. The French selections are from the pens of Michel and Cyrille Chodkiewicz and Denis Gril; the English, from those of William Chittick and James Morris. The texts selected give a fairly good and comprehensive view of Ibn 'Arab-'s thinking. Chodkiewicz provides first a necessary and lucid introduction that situates the Futihdt

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Journal of the American Oriental Society 111.2 (1991)

The Arts of Persia. Ed. by RONALD W. FERRIER. New Haven: YALE UNIVERSITY PRESS, 1989. Pp. 334, incl. 250 black and white, 170 color illustrations. $60. According to the historian Ronald W. Ferrier, the editor of this lavishly produced volume, it was conceived as "a tribute to the permanence of the Persian spirit down the ages as it is expressed in art." This is, indeed, an admirable goal, though it is not fully realized here. Encyclopedic in scope, the book consists of contributions by twenty leading scholars of Persian art and culture. Each essay is extensively illustrated, often publishing for the first time in an easily accessible form a number of important works of art. Taken individually the chapters of the book provide succinct, often very well written, encapsulations of various aspects of Iran's artistic heritage. Several of the articles, including Edward Keal's "Art of the Achaemenians," James Allan's "Metalwork," and Michael Rogers'"Ceramics," offer especially insightful comments and will be of interest to specialists as well as readers less familiar with these subjects. In the aggregate, however, the essays are more problematical. For instance, the first essay in the volume is meant to provide a brief historical overview for examining the arts of pre-Islamic and Islamic Iran. But in its brevity it provides only the briefest sketch of the rise and fall of Iran's numerous dynasties. It establishes neither an intellectual nor a social, political, or cultural framework for studying the artistic achievements of Iran, and reduces its history to a series of vignettes presented in a linear sequence. The lack of a clearly articulated approach or methodology is evident in the overall organization of the book itself, and the arrangement of the loosely related essays. Pre-Islamic Iran is treated in four essays ("Early Art," "Art of the Achaemenians," "Art of the Parthians,""Art of the Sasanians") that focus on dynastic divisions. Islamic Iran on the other hand is divided into fifteen essays that explore specific artistic genres ranging from architecture to calligraphy. The result is a kind of collapsed or condensed version of the magnificent, and for its time exhaustive, multi-volume Survey of Persian Art first published in 1938-39. Like the Survey, there is here a dichotomy in the way pre-Islamic and Islamic Iran are treated. But unlike the Survey, The Arts of Persia provides little context for "bridging"this gap. This is particularly troubling, given the latter's aim to "advance new interest and make a fresh appeal to those who desire a wider knowledge." While it is impossible to argue with the premise of this goal, the absence of a coherent historical context or interpretation means that the book never develops a structure for understanding the myriad factors that shape the arts of Iran. To be fair, some of the essays, most notably the ones on coinage, jewelry, glass, and textiles, make an effort to establish a continuum between pre-Islamic and Islamic traditions. But this is not systematic and it is done, on the whole, without

within its proper setting in the world of Sufism and Islam. There then follow eight sections, each of which has an introduction by one of the translators. Section one is on the divine names and theophanies; two, on the end of time; three, on the lesser and greater resurrection;four, on the Law and the Path; five, on the states and stations of sainthood; six, on the goal of spiritual voyage; seven, on Ibn 'Arabi's ascension; and eight, on the science of letters. Under section one, for instance, one finds themes as varied as the origin of the creation, the Perfect Man, the breath of the All Merciful, and the most beautiful Names of Allah. The translations in the anthology are, by and large, quite lively and flow smoothly, both the French and the English showing a technically exact scholarship. Chodkiewicz and the others have gone to considerable pains to put together a comprehensive selection of texts that give us an accurate notion about the thinking of Ibn 'Arabi. With this volume and Chittick's own work on Ibn 'Arabi, The Sufi Path of Knowledge, plus the recently published bio-bibliographical study of the Andalusian Sufi by Chodkiewicz's daughter, Claude Addas, Ibn 'ArabTou la quite du soufre rouge, we now have enough material available to assess the work of the Shaykh al-Akbar. Suddenly, one of the most obscure and inaccessible of the great Sufis has emerged into the limelight of Islamic history with amazing swiftness and an impact no one was prepared to experience. The appendices that follow the translation are quite impressive and of great value. In one of them, the notes to the sections are found, running to well over a hundred pages of fine print. There then follow a concise bibliography, a Koranic index, and an index/glossary, all of which contribute to the book's general worth. The introductions to the different sections are useful, and help in the understanding of Ibn 'Arabi's thinking. Chodkiewicz and his colleagues are to be congratulated on producing good translations accompanied by a first-rate scholarly apparatus that explains all abstruse points. This is only a sampling of the contents of the Futahat, but it is sufficient to allow the reader a fairly good idea of the depth and range of Ibn 'Arabi's writings. It also reveals the existence of a burgeoning school of specialists in Ibn 'ArabTwhose contributions have already been rather impressive and from whom we can expect other major works in the near future. In these days, when the image of Islam provided by modernist and fundamentalist Muslims seems so superficial and uninspiring, it is good to hear from such great traditional authorities as Ibn 'Arabi, whose ideas seem always fresh and deep.

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