Avicenna’s Deliverance: Logic, trans. and notes by Asad Q. Ahmed, 2011. (Studies in Islamic Philosophy, ed. S. Nomanul Haq.) Oxford: Oxford University Press, xxxvi + 191 pp., £9.99. ISBN: 978-0-19547-950-8.
Asad Q. Ahmed gives us a full translation into English of the logical section of Ibn Sina’s book al-Najat (Deliverance), together with notes and a glossary of technical terms. In a preface he describes his use of the manuscripts. An introduction by Tony Street summarises the main points of Ibn Sina’s logic and discusses its relation both to the earlier Aristotelian tradition and to post-Avicennan Arabic logic. The Deliverance was published after Ibn Sina’s encyclopaedic al-Shifa (Book of Healing), but for the logic section of the Deliverance Ibn Sina used an earlier work of his, known in English as the Shorter Summary on Logic. So this text represents a transitional phase of Ibn Sina’s work, fully mature but before the great works of his later years. Ibn Sina is still using Aristotle’s De Interpretatione and Prior and Posterior Analytics as a template. But he puts a strong emphasis on certain sentence forms that Aristotle had neglected – for example, ‘Every B is an A as long as it is a B’ – and he discusses where Aristotle’s logical rules break down if we extend them to these forms. The later sections of the text introduce us to characteristic teachings of Ibn Sina on scientific method. For example repeated experience allows us to refine the definitions which we use as starting points for scientific deductions; in this way Ibn Sina gives a role to scientific progress through experiment. Ahmed’s translation is a pioneering work; no other translations of the logic of the Deliverance are readily available in any Western language. It will certainly be a help and stimulus for further research.
The Nativist Prophets of Early Islamic Iran: Rural Revolt and Local Zoroastrianism by Patricia Crone, 2012. New York: Cambridge [End Page 119] University Press, xvii + 566 pp., maps, £65.00, $99.00. ISBN: 978-1-107-01879-2 (hbk).
In The Nativist Prophets of Early Islamic Iran, Patricia Crone attempts to demonstrate that significant elements of pre-Islamic beliefs – most notably, Zoroastrian and Gnostic beliefs – persisted after both the Arab conquests and the spread of Islam in Iran. These beliefs were integrated into a number of Persian Islamic sects, and influenced the entire country after the Safavids rose to power. In Part I, which is historical in nature, she explores her thesis through a study of revolts after the Arab conquests. She indicates that she is re-evaluating material which has been previously studied before via a new approach, while including some new Chinese sources and Central Asian archaeological findings in her discussion. In Part II, she focuses on the religious beliefs themselves, such as the nature of God as light (nur), dualistic and trinitarian divine cosmologies (both Christian and otherwise), reincarnation, and the transformation and manifestation (mazhar) of God. She dedicates significant attention to the relationship of these ideas with Shi‘a ghuluww, and calls special attention to her discussion of the Ahl-i Haqq sect, which she refers to as the living remnants of the Elchasai (viii). In Part III, she examines the marital and reproductive strategies of certain groups to explore allegations of wife-sharing. Finally, in the last part, she traces the continuity of these ideas from the early Islamic to the modern period. She recommends her book to Iranists and Islamists as well as specialists in early Christianity, Gnosticism, late antiquity, gender history, the comparative history of empires, and pre-modern communism (viii).
Shiism and Politics in the Middle East by Laurence Louër, trans. John King, 2012. London: C. Hurst & Co., 176 pp., $24.95. ISBN: 978-0-231-70328-4.
Translated from the original French, Shiism and Politics in the Middle East offers a layperson’s introduction to the subject indicated in the title. While the bulk of the book provides an overview of Shi‘a political history in the late twentieth century, the latter section delves into the newer subject of political...