A Medieval Muslim Scholar at Work: Ibn Tawus and His Library

The book A Medieval Muslim Scholar at Work: Ibn Tawus and His Library provides a detailed picture of the intellectual world of a medieval Muslim scholar.

A Medieval Muslim Scholar at Work: Ibn Tawus and His Library
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AuthorEtan Kohlberg

About the authorEdit

Kohlberg (1943 in Tel-Aviv ) is an Israeli professor emeritus of Arabic language and literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem . He is one of the best experts on the Shi’a , especially the Twelve Shi’a , and Sufi literature. He spent his school days in Tel Aviv and New York and began studying Arabic as a teenager. From 1963 he studied English and Arabic at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, with Meir Jacob Kister , David Ayalon and Joshua Blau , among others . After obtaining the first and the second academic degree (both with summa cum laude ) he received his doctorate from 1969–1971 at Oxford University with a dissertation on the relationship between the Twelve Shia and the companions of Muhammad. From 1972 until his retirement in 2006 he was a member of the faculty, since 1991 as a full professor , at the Department of Arabic Language and Literature at the Hebrew University. 1978-1979 he held a teaching position at Yale University and was twice research assistant at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey . In 1993 he became a member of the Israel Academy of Sciences appointed. In 2008 he was awarded the Rothschild Prize for Humanities and the EMET Prize for Oriental Studies. In his books and articles, Etan Kohlberg deals, among other things, with the thinking, history and religious literature of the Twelve Shi’ahs and the Imamites , with Taqiya in Shiite theology and religion. He has written several articles for the Encyclopedia Iranica and the Encyclopedia of Islam.

About the bookEdit

This book published in ‎ Brill (January 1, 1992), has 472 pages.

The book is divided into two main parts and author tries to carry this work further, in the hope of providing as comprehensive a picture as is presently feasible of Ibn Tawus and his world. The works cover a wide range of subjects, including Qur'anic exegesis, tradition, history, theology, astronomy and genealogy, and provides a detailed picture of the intellectual world of a medieval Muslim scholar.

Abstract of chaptersEdit


Chapter I: Life and Thought

This chapter introduces Raḍi al-Din Ibn Tawus (IT) and expresses his school of thought. The author examines his life from childhood to adulthood, his education, marriage and his children in details.

Chapter II: works

In this chapter the author informs the readers about Ibn Tawus’s working methods. IT has an impressive number of writings on a variety of subjects, the most prominent being hadith, supplications, polemics, history and biography. The earliest list of his literary output is found in his Kashf; it includes the titles of twelve works. A longer list appears in the Ijazat, where he enumerates many of the works which he composed many years ago. IT declares that he wrote numerous abridgements (mukhtasarat) whose titles escape him and that he composed various epistles and sermons which together would take up a number of volumes, as well as innumerable responsa and exhortations (mawaiz), none of which appear in the Ijazat.

Chapter III: Library

This chapter offers an extended analysis of Ibn Tawus’s library. IT was introduced to the world of books by his grandfather Warram. A number of law books from Warram's library which passed to 11' via his mother were among his early possessions. Throughout his adult life 11' continued to enlarge his library, both 'by copying (or having someone copy) texts and by purchasing books. He was ready to spend large sums on valuable works. In describing his library to his son Muhammad, IT says that it contains numerous works on the principles of religion (usul), on prophecy and the imamate, on zuhd, fiqh, history, Qur'an exegesis, supplications (da’awat) (more than sixty volumes), genealogy, medicine, grammar, poetry, alchemy, talismans, geomancy and astrology.


Chapter IV: List of Works

In this chapter the author provides an annotated list of all the works (some 660 in number) cited by Ibn Tawus in his available writings.