- Book Notes
The Misty Land of Ideas and the Light of Dialogue: An Anthology of Comparative Philosophy: Western and Islamic, ed. Ali Paya, 2013. London: ICAS Press, 406 pp., £25/$30 (pbk). isbn: 978-1-90406-353-7 (pbk).
Comparative philosophy, as explained in this book, is a dialogue among philosophers who need not be contemporaneous, nor must they speak the same language or belong to the same tradition. From a critical rationalist’s point of view, this type of dialogue does not aim to produce consensus, although this may emerge as one of its by-products. Rather, it helps each of the participants to transverse the boundaries of otherwise distinct philosophical traditions and to understand the Other.
Through this collection of brilliant and insightful essays by thinkers from the West and the Islamic world, Ali Paya has contributed in a significant way to the literature on comparative philosophy. Each and every one of the essays in this volume thoroughly address specific problems in the works of Muslim and Western philosophers. These problems are discussed in ways which not only highlight their historical significance but more importantly their relevance to contemporary philosophical debates.
The book’s twelve chapters address topics such as, ‘Aquinas and Mulla Sadra on the Primacy of Existing’; ‘Ghazzali and the Philosophers: The Defence of Causality’, ‘Averroes’ Aristotelian Soul’, and ‘Ibn al-Haytham and the European Renaissance: A Question of Influence’. Some of the essays, such as ‘On Being “Useless” yet “True”: Plato, Farabi, and Ibn Bajja on the Condition of Philosophers in the Context of a Corrupt State’, would not only be of interest to the students of comparative philosophy but also should serve as a valuable resource for researchers whose expertise and interest lies in other philosophical fields. [End Page 119]
The Islamic College, London, UK
Sectarian Gulf: Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the Arab Spring That Wasn’t by Toby Matthiesen, 2013. Stanford: Stanford University Press, xiv + 192 pp., $12.99. isbn: 978-0-8047-8573-0.
During the Arab Spring, many people wondered how the Persian Gulf monarchies would be affected. Although none of the said monarchies lost their authority during the Arab Spring, they were not untouched. In Sectarian Gulf, Matthiesen analyses the protests in Bahrain’s Pearl Roundabout, the uprisings in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, and the Orange Movement in Kuwait, as well as the demonstrations and calls for reform in Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. The common denominator between these movements is that the monarchies are Sunni (with the exception of Oman) and the protestors are Shi‘a. Matthiesen examines the protestors’ motives and the responses of these monarchies to their demands, the most strategically used response being the fostering of sectarianism. This book looks at the tactics used by the monarchies to justify their suppression of the uprisings, including accusing their Shi‘a communities of being agents of Iran. By using rhetoric rife with sectarianism, the Persian Gulf monarchies widened the sectarian division between the Shi‘as and the Sunnis, not only in their own kingdoms, but throughout the entire region, creating what Matthiesen calls the ‘sectarian Gulf’. Sectarian Gulf provides a country-by-country look at the events that shook this region as part of the Arab Spring and how these events changed the landscape of the Persian Gulf. Photographs from the protests are included, providing the reader with a visual of the events discussed throughout the book.
The Shi‘i Imamate: A Fatimid Interpretation, ed. & trans. Sami Makarem, 2013. (Ismaili Texts and Translations, 20) London: I.B. Tauris, xiii + 129 (English) + 128 (Arabic) pp., £29.50. isbn: 978-1-78076-679-9.
The Shi‘i Imamate: A Fatimid Interpretation consists of both the original Arabic and the translated English version of the Tathbit al-Imamah, a [End Page 120] treatise composed by the Fatimid Imam-Caliph al-Mansur bi-Allah Isma‘il in the tenth century ce. In this treatise, al-Mansur discusses ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib’s legitimisation as Imam. In writing the Tathbit al-Imamah, al-Mansur sought to gain the support of the different factions under his rule, such...