Abstract

The Ifrīqiyan cum Cairene Sufi Aḥmad al-Būnī (d. c. 622/1225) is a key figure in the history of the Islamic occult sciences, particularly with regard to the "science of letters and names" (ʿilm al-ḥurūf wa-l-asmāʾ). This paper examines his lettrist treatise Laṭāʾif al-ishārāt fī al-ḥurūf al-ʿulwīyāt (The Subtleties of the Allusions regarding the Superior Letters) to argue that parts of it amount to an esotericist unveiling of the hidden realities underlying "profane" astrology. Al-Būnī identifies the world-shaping efflux of forces from the celestial spheres with the continuous flow of the letters of God's creative speech, and implies a central role for Sufi saints and adepts in mediating these astral-lettristic radiations. He thereby adds an occult-scientific twist to views deeply embedded in Sufi tradition of the saints as key executors of God's word and will on earth. Al-Būnī's approach to astrology can be seen as part of a transconfessional wave of esotericism in the late-medieval Mediterranean that heralded shifting ideas about the order of nature and the relationship between divine and human agency.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1940-5111
Print ISSN
1556-8547
Pages
pp. 39-65
Launched on MUSE
2017-04-17
Open Access
No
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