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7 books on The Islamic World

Ramadan, the month of the annual fast, is here again, and hundreds of millions of Muslims are abstaining from food and drink from dawn till dusk.

For Muslims and non-Muslims alike, here are seven books relating to Islam and the Islamic world.

  1. The Koran

The Qur’an, here spelled The Koran, is the holy book of Islam and is usually recited by Muslims in its original Arabic. The 114 chapters of the text each varies in length and topic, and cover a wide range of topics from mystical to legal. And as Islam is also an Abrahamic religion like Judaism and Christianity, The Quran contains stories of figures also in Biblical literature, such as Job, Moses, Jesus, Jonah, Abraham and more. This translation by Reverend J. M. Rodwell is one of the first English translations to have been widely-read, and remains so today.

2. The Life of Muhammad by Ibn Ishaq

The Life of Muhammad, Apostle of Allah, is a biography of the Prophet Muhammad, to whom The Qur’an was revealed by the Archangel Gabriel. Revered by Muslims as the last Prophet and Messenger of God, the Prophet Muhammad has been the subject of numerous biographies and devotional odes in Islamic literature. This book, written about 150 years after Muhammad’s death in 632 CE, is a hagiography that was crafted after the author collected numerous oral narrations, and was, for a long time, one of the most important biographies of Muhammad.

3. The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam was probably the most widely-read poem from any non-Western tradition, in the English-speaking world of the late 19th and early 20th century. Written between the late 11th to early 12th century CE by the Persian poet-astronomer Omar Khayyam, this collection of quatrains masquerades as a love/drinking poem but is really a poem about being intoxicated by God. Our lovely leatherbound edition is accompanied by the illustrations of Arthur Szyk, whose corpus includes some of the most important texts from the Middle East.

4. The Laments of Baba Tahir

Like Omar Khayyam, Baba Tahir was a Persian mystic, except that his life was shrouded in mystery. His Laments earned him the reputation of being Persia’s first great mystic poet, and yet, not much is known about him. It is said he was an illiterate woodcutter and a wandering dervish who could perform miracles. To this day, English translations of his Laments remains scarce; our edition is unique in that it was published in Tehran in the original Persian, with translations in English, French, and German.

5. The Awakening of the Soul by Ibn Tufail

Still remaining in the 12th century, we move from poetry to philosophical, to one of the most important works to have emerged from the Islamic world. The Awakening of the Soul, also known as The History of Hayy ibn Yaqzan, is the world’s first Arabic novel and, some say, the first precursor to the science fiction novel. Hayy ibn Yaqzan is a philosophical novel that tells the story of a child raised by a gazelle, and who has had no contact with another human being until he meets a castaway named Absal.

6. Diwan of Hafiz

Although poets such as Omar Khayyam and Rumi are better known in the West, Hafiz is undoubtedly the most revered poet of the Persian-speaking world. His poems are celebrated, recited, and set to music and performed. Among his works, his Diwan – a collection of ghazals or short love songs – is probably the most famous. In this edition, a selection of ghazals from his Diwan are compiled to form a rubaiyat, in an exclusive limited edition.

7. Arabic Thought and Its Place in History by De Lacy O’Leary

Finally, an overview of the intellectual history of the Islamic world. Arabic Thought & Its Place in History traces the transmission of Greek philosophy from ancient Greece to the Islamic world through Syriac priests, the development of philosophy from Baghdad to Andalusia, and then, the retransmission of philosophy back to the West from the Islamic world.