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Islam

Voyage in Sufi Mysticism

Author: G. Scattolin

 

Title: The Diwan of Ibn al-Farid.

 

Reading of its Text Throughout History

 

Editor: Cairo, IDAO

 

 

The mystical poems of 'Omar Ibn al-Farid have been enjoyed by generations of readers-and not just Muslims-who have found a reflection of their own existential yearning in his passionate search for the Mystery: «O breath of the Orient, what brazier have you lit in us?» (Sa'q el-Aza'an v. 120).

 

 

Ibn al-Farid was born in Cairo in 1181. His life was full of success, crowned by his long pilgrimage in Mecca, the holy city of Islam, where he lived for 15 years. After returning to Cairo, he spent the rest of his life in seclusion on the outskirts of the great city, busying himself with the collection of odes he had written in Cairo and during his pilgrimage. The recovery of the original message of Ibn al-Farid's poetry, through the critical study of their transmission up to our day, is the main objective of Giuseppe Scattolin's work. He has prepared a critical edition of the Diwan - the collection of Ibn al-Farid's odes - by comparing the most authoritative extant manuscripts.

 

 

P. Giuseppe Scattolin is a noted scholar of Islamic mysticism and professor of Islam in Rome (Pisai) and Cairo (Dar Comboni). He has published numerous scientific works and contributes to various journals.

 

This new edition of the Diwan is published by Cairo's Institut Français d'Archéoligie Orientale. The idea of making a detailed study of the Diwan, which the book's preface calls a «perilous undertaking», came to Scattolin after he found an unpublished manuscript of the work in a library in Konya (Turkey).

 

The Diwan was previously known through a collection edited by the poet's grandson 'Ali sibt Ibn al-Farid, who, in 1333, a century after the poet's death, collected the poems together with a short biography of the poet.

 

 

The manuscript found in Konya dates back approximately to 1253, twenty years after Ibn al-Farid's death. In addition to the manuscript's antiquity, another element lends particular importance to its discovery: it only contains fifteen poems instead of twenty-three, as in the Diwan published by 'Ali sibt Ibn al-Farid.

 

The authenticity of some of the odes contained in 'Ali's edition had long been in doubt. These doubts were further strengthened when another manuscript, dating from 1302, was found in 1952, in which only fifteen odes appeared, as in the Konya manuscript.

 

 

This situation has created the need for a critical edition of the Diwan, which has been remedied by the patient work of Scattolin.

 

In this critical edition, the fifteen odes of undisputed authenticity are presented with a solid critical apparatus, in which the eight most ancient and authoritative manuscripts are compared. The other eleven are presented separately with a relative critical apparatus, «as a part of the historical and traditional inheritance surrounding Ibn al-Farid» (p. 21), even if their «authenticity should be decided only on solid linguistic and conceptual bases» (p. 22).

 

P. Scattolin believes that through «semantic analysis» of the poems of Ibn al-Farid, he has «achieved significant results which will surely help to understand the Sufic vision of Ibn al-Farid better, and especially his vocabulary» (p. 5). Ibn al-Farid's mystical vision develops in three phases: Al-farq (difference, division), Al-ittihad (unity, identification) and Al-gam` (Union), and may be described as a journey from love to the «seas of Universal and Total Union» (p. 6).

 

 

The publication of this critical edition of the Diwan of Ibn al-Farid is a welcome event, not only for the quality of the poetry written by this mystic who has left a mark on generations of Sufis, but also for the rigour and scientific methodology with which the text is interpreted and led back to its historical origins.

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