Arabic Prose Literature
Arabic Prose Literature
Foundations . From early on Islam produced a broad prose literature of enduring significance. By 1500 the Muslim literary tradition—by then nearly nine hundred years old—was one of the leading traditions of the world and probably the largest in size at that time. Although Muslim literature later came to be written down in a considerable number of languages, until 1500 it was almost entirely written in just two, Arabic and Persian. Though the Muslim canon in either language was enormous by 1500, the Arabic was somewhat larger, in part because it was older, having begun in the seventh century, while Persian Muslim literature began in the tenth. Arabic is the foundational language of Muslim civilization, occupying a role similar to Greek in the classical Graeco-Roman tradition or Sanskrit in the ancient Indian civilization. Under Islam, Persian was an Arabicized form of the pre-Islamic language of Iran and written in the Arabic script. Arabic written literature begins with the foundational sacred book of Islam, the Qur’an, which came down in a series of separate revelations to the Prophet Muhammad from about 609 to 632. No other significant written literature in Arabic appears to have preceded the Qur’an; indeed, there are scarcely any examples of Arabic writing prior to it apart from a few inscriptions. Thus, the seminal role of the Qur’an in Arabic literature—a place it shares with pre-Islamic Arabic oral poetry—can hardly be underestimated. Because there is no earlier written literature, the Qur’an has informed and influenced all subsequent developments in written Arabic, much as Homer’s two epics did for Greek. It is no proof against its influence to say that the Qur’an is in a category by itself and was not subsequently imitated or reproduced. The same could be said of the Homeric poems; yet— despite their peculiar language, form, and subject matter— they exerted a pervasive influence in the classical civilizations of Greece and Rome. In fact, the language of the Qur’an has always been celebrated by Muslims as the best, most effective, and most moving of any speech.
The Rise of Prose Literature . The central role of Arabic poetry decreased after the thirteenth century and had perhaps begun to lose its dominance considerably earlier. Arabic prose in the meantime arose and flourished throughout the period 750 –1500. For about the first 150 years of Islam, the Qur’an prevailed alongside poetry and oral narratives; before 750, little prose literature was written, apart from a handful of treatises, epistles, and speeches, mostly connected with the government, such as those attributed to the Umayyad khalifal secretary Abd al-Hamid ibn Yahya (died 750). An Abbasid prime minister of Persian origin, Ibn al-Muqaffa‘ (circa 720 – circa 756), also wrote some prose treatises. Most of them are translations from Middle Persian, or Pahlavi literature, but a few of them are original or have original passages. His longest and best-known surviving work is the tale of talking animals, Kalilah wa-Dimnah, an example of a “mirror for princes” (advice book for rulers), translated from Sanskrit through Pahlavi and into Arabic, with some reworking by Ibn al-Muqaffa’ to make it acceptable
to Muslim sensibilities. After these beginnings, a never-ending stream of Arabic prose composition in various genres of literature has been unbroken to the present day. The establishment of paper mills in Turkestan shortly after 750 and in Iraq before 800 made available an inexpensive writing material and facilitated an outpouring of prose composition and compilation. Unlike the compositions of Ibn al-Muqaffa’, however, later Arabic prose literature was increasingly inspired by the religion of Islam. The Arabic reading public in that age of calligraphy and handwritten manuscripts consisted almost entirely of Muslims, and most of these readers and writers worked in the religious field. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that most of the Arabic literature of the period 750 –1500 is religious or ancillary to the religious writings. The two earliest surviving long prose works are the Qur’an commentary (tafsir) by Muqatil ibn Sulayman al-Balkhi (died 767) and the biography (sirah) of the Prophet Muhammad by Muhammad ibn Ishaq (circa 704-circa 767). Several other almost as early Qur’an commentaries also exist, and many others have been written down to the present, forming a major category of Arabic literature. The earliest commentaries were followed a short time later by the first significant treatise on Muslim law, al-Muwatta’ by Malik ibn Anas (circa 712–795), which includes many traditions attributed to the Prophet Muhammad as well as Malik’s own legal opinions. Subsequently, two major themes of Malik’s work became separate genres of Muslim religious literature, the first being fiqh (legal prescriptions, discussions, and opinions) and the second, hadiths (traditions attributed to the Prophet). Each of these earliest surviving works is a sophisticated piece of writing that is obviously not the beginning of a new genre but rather at an already advanced stage in the development of its tradition. The massive catalogue of Arabic literature by Ibn al-Nadim (circa 936–995), al-Fihrist, lists thousands of early works that were subsequently lost.
Preserving Islamic Knowledge . The motivation for writing in the genres of tafsir, sirah, fiqh, and hadith was a desire of the early Muslims in the diverse and changing Muslim khilafah to cultivate and preserve knowledge about Islam. From the beginning, Madinah, the Prophet’s city in Arabia, held pride of place as the unquestioned center of religious knowledge, and a few of the earliest Muslim writings can be traced to that city, including those by Malik and Ibn Ishaq. Yet, the real development of early Muslim scholarship and its methodologies centered in Iraq, in the large Muslim cities of Kufah and Basrah, and, after 762, in the new Abbasid capital of Baghdad. Soon the new Arabic written scholarship spread all over the khilafah, to Damascus, al-Fustat (later Cairo), al-Qayrawan, Cordoba, Marw, Balkh, Nishapur, Bukhara, and Samarqand. After Iraq, Transoxiana, or Turkestan, became the second center where much early Arabic literature was composed. Although this new Arabic literature was cultivated by Muslims of all kinds of different ethnic backgrounds, the Iranian element was dominant among authors, and Arabs were in a minority. The scholarly methodology that characterizes the influential early works of Ibn Ishaq and Malik, among others, subsequently became a signature feature of most Muslim literature, both religious and secular. In this methodology of tradition, all statements are attributed with great care and in precise detail to a chain of sources said to have transmitted that particular piece of information. In Arabic, this chain is called the isnad. An isnad might say, “A got it from B, who got it from C …” all the way back to the Prophet. Although comparable systems of tracing statements to sources occur in embryonic form in ancient Greek, Roman, and Jewish literature, such systems do not have the meticulous completeness found in the Muslim sources. As such, the Muslim scholastic method points the way to later developments of scholarly method in Europe, as has been established by the American scholar George Makdisi. In the ninth century, the genres of Qur’an commentary, law, and Prophetic tradition became voluminous. Many multivolume sets were produced that surpassed in length the largest literary monuments of the ancient world. This development has continued into the present, and these religious works with their commentaries and supercommentaries constitute the largest body of Muslim religious literature.
Creativity . Sometimes critics have stated that these early compositions and compilations lack creativity because they consist largely of statements taken from earlier works. Such disparagement of medieval Muslim literature is the result of imposing modern ideas of “originality” and “creativity” on a body of work created according to different criteria. Indeed, a Muslim religious scholar’s excellence was measured precisely by the care with which he copied the statements of his predecessors, especially in the area of hadiths. A similar respect for tradition—and lack of regard for what modern writers consider creativity—was also common in medieval Western Europe, as well as other ancient and medieval societies. The overall creativity of Muslim scholarship is unquestionable; a huge body of scholarly knowledge was brought into existence where none had existed before. Furthermore, the concept of valuing individual authorship did not exist at the beginning and arose only gradually. Abu ‘Ubaydah (728–824), a Basran philologist, and al-Jahiz (circa 776–869), a Basran essayist and satirist, are among the early writers to whom original works may be attributed. Finally, many of the early works do exhibit creativity and original authorship, and even compilations of quotations from various sources require the selection and arrangement of the material, which can be important and creative contributions to knowledge in their own right. Still, literary historians are interested in what part of a particular writer’s work is his original creation. In the case of much medieval Muslim literature, that assessment has yet to be undertaken, much less completed and agreed on, and finding out the exact sources of many ideas and contributions may prove impossible. In this respect, early Muslim literature resembles ancient classical literature, where, for example, it is impossible to ascertain how
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much of the corpus of writings attributed to Aristotle was actually written by him.
Religious Disciplines . In Arabic literature, Qur’an commentaries and the less-plentiful sirah literature seem to be the earliest genres to appear separately. Qur’an commentaries range from large encyclopedia-sized works to small single volumes and marginal notes in copies of the Qur’an. Many are comprehensive, but others cover only a part of the Qur’an, sometimes a single chapter. Although such commentaries might appear derivative and therefore not in the realm of what is usually considered to be literature, from the Muslim viewpoint they are at the center of literature and not marginal to it. The commentaries include various sorts of material, including linguistic analyses, explanations attributed to the Prophet and other early authorities, opinions of the authors, narrative details of the Qur’anic stories of the Prophets, and philosophical and theological arguments. Among the largest, most widely distributed, and best known are those of al-Tabari (839–923), exhaustively collecting early exegetical traditions; al-Zamakhshari (1075–1144), providing brilliant linguistic insights; al-Razi (1149–1209), emphasizing philosophy; al-Qurtubi (died 1273), specializing in law; and Ibn Kathir (circa 1300–1374), criticizing many traditions and establishing a kind of norm for conservative interpretation. Each of these works is a multivolume set ranging from four to thirty volumes. Among the Shi’is, the fafsir of al-Tabarsi (1075–1153) is the most famous. More than one thousand Arabic commentaries on the Qur’an have been written, most of them before 1500.
Legal Writings . The next genre of early literature to be widely cultivated was, following Malik, the fiqh works, or the compendia of Muslim practice according to the Shari’ah legal schools. These works became exceedingly long and numerous in the ninth century and have continued in like manner ever since. Among the earliest products in this area are the multivolume sets attributed to Abu Yusuf (732–798), Abd al-Razzaq al-Sanani (744–827), Muhammad ibn Hasan al-Shaybani (750 –805), al-Shafi’i (767–820), and Sahnun (777–854), the last compiled from Malik’s teachings. These writings—which include legal material, Prophetic hadiths, and other traditions—are the longest works composed in Arabic up to their time. Later, even longer juristic encyclopedias, focusing more on the law than the traditions, were written by al-Sarakhsi (died 1090), Ibn Rushd (1063–1126), al-Nawawi (1133–1177), and Ibn Qudamah (1147–1223) and dozens of others. Hundreds of shorter works were compiled and circulated, often having more influence than the longer ones, because the smaller ones were more often studied and memorized. An example of one of these short works is al-Risalah (The Treatise) by Ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawani (922–996), which was taken to America much later by enslaved African Muslims who had memorized it, some of whom left partial manuscripts of its contents in Arabic. The large law books are reference works that had a huge impact on Muslim society by setting its standards in detail, and they remain perhaps the best known embodiment of Islam, a form of literature that has contributed to the unity of Muslim beliefs and practice across space and time.
Hadith Collections . To support the pronouncements of the law books, it was necessary to quote not only the Qur’an but also hadiths, authoritative traditions reporting what the Prophet Muhammad said, did, or approved. Each hadith consists of a discrete text, often only a few words but sometimes extending to several pages in length. Each text is accompanied by its own chain of guarantors or transmitters describing who got the text from whom, extending back to the Prophet. The grading of the traditions according to their authenticity, mostly on the basis
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of the reliability of their chains of transmitters, became an exacting science because hadiths are the second primary source of legal and behavioral norms for Muslims after the Qur’an, Muslims wanted to be especially careful about the authenticity of these traditions. Therefore, a movement arose to compile books including only traditions of the Prophet Muhammad. Between roughly 775 and 1075, Muslims produced about two hundred extant original collections of hadiths, in addition to others that have not survived. These works range in size from small booklets to huge multivolume sets. Nearly all the large collections have survived. With a few exceptions this literature was compiled in Turkestan and northern Iran, or it was compiled by writers from those two regions who lived elsewhere, usually in Iraq. Also with few exceptions, the redactors of hadiths in Arabic were from Iranian ethnic groups. The most important and reliable of such works are the Sahihs (Sound Traditions) by Muhammad ibn Ismail al-Bukhari (810–870) and Abu al-Husayn Muslim (821–875), which may be viewed as entirely normative for Sunnis, who accept all the traditions collected in these two works. Thus, they are among the mostly widely read books of all Muslim literature. Four other collections considered highly reliable, in order of rank, are those of Abu Dawud (817–889), al-Tirmidhi (824–892), al-Nasa’i (830–915), and Ibn Majah (824–887). Together with al-Bukhari and Muslim, these works make up the “Six Books” of the Sunnah. All six books are organized according to subject matter and follow the same order as the books of law or fiqh.
Hadith Commentaries . Many long commentaries were subsequently written on most hadith collections. Some of these commentaries became well-known works of Muslim literature in their own right, especially that of Ibn Hajar al-’Asqalani (1372–1449) on al-Bukhari and that of al-Nawawi on Muslim. Also, many secondary compilations of the hadith were taken from the original collections, and several of these works became quite influential. In response to “the Six Books” of the Sunnis, the Shi’is created a traditional corpus of four collections that they recognize as authoritative: those of al-Kulayni (died circa 940) and Ibn Babwayh (circa 918–991) and two by al-Tusi (995–1067).
Devotional Prose . In addition to works in the categories of tafsir, fiqh, and hadith, a great body of devotional and argumentative religious literature arose. Some of this literature was written in the form of esoteric tafsir and ascetic hadith compilations. But eventually this writing became a separate genre that can be broadly described as esoteric or Sufi literature, which became as vast as other religious genres. In its early phases this writing is associated with al-Muhasibi (died 857), al-Junayd (died 910), and al-Qushayri (986–1072). Later, the teachings of Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani (1078–1166) became prominent and popular. Abd al-Qadir was a strict Hanbali legalist who emphasized the moral teachings of Islam as well as the practice of the law. Ibn ‘Ata’ Allah (died 1309) is admired for the pietistic aphorisms in his Hikam (Wise Sayings). The more philosophical trend in Sufism is represented by the controversial Andalusian Muhyi al-Din Ibn ‘Arabi (1165–1240), whose many writings include his esoteric encyclopedia of Sufi piety, al-Futuhat al-Makkiyyah (The Makkan Openings).
Philosophical Prose . Devotional and esoteric literature often dealt with philosophical issues as well, and there are also many separate philosophical writings. The best-known Muslim philosophers include al-Kindi (circa 801 -circa 866), who first systematized a Muslim philosophy that borrows from the Greeks but is also depended on the Qur’an; al-Razi (circa 854–925 or 935), a well-known physician; al-Farabi (circa 870–950), who wrote about a kind of Utopia; Ibn Sina’ (980–1037, known in the West as Avicenna), a great physician and Neoplatonist; al-Ghazali (1059–1111, known in the West as Algazel), the synthesizer of the Sunni tradition, and Ibn Rushd (1126 — 1198, known in the West as Averroes), a great defender of Aristotelianism.
Historiography . Muslims also cultivated historical writing to help explain religious texts and, perhaps, to instruct the rulers. The first writing of this kind was the Prophet’s biography, which was followed by hundreds of narrative historical works, many in multivolume sets of encyclopedic length, a body of work whose size dwarfs that of historical writings in any other language before 1500. The best-known Arabic narrative histories include those of the Qur’an commentator al-Tabari, covering the first three hundred years of Islam; al-Mas’udi (circa 890–956), who wrote extensively on non-Muslim peoples outside the khilafah; Ibn Khaldun (1332–1406), a social analyst and philosopher of history; and al-Maqrizi (1364–1442), a great political, economic, and social historian of Egypt. Indeed, with regard to al-Maqrizi and his contemporaries, the fifteenth century has often been considered the high point of Muslim historiography in Egypt and Syria. Muslim historical narratives often concern rulers and capital cities, as do other medieval chronicles. Thus, in general, they are political histories and do not concern themselves with peaceful religious developments, even when they are written by ulama’ (religious leaders) such as Ibn Kathir. Their purpose was mainly to provide the literate classes with historical information about the general course of Islam. Although the historical narratives were sometimes read to the rulers, they were often unfavorable to them, especially in describing the intrigues, scandals, and failures of past rulers with great frankness and detail. Muslim narrative histories also include much economic, social, and religious information. While medieval Muslim histories do not follow modern historical methodologies, they scrupulously document their sources, in many cases achieving a greater degree of such documentation than previous historians elsewhere. Another useful kind of Muslim history writing is local history centered on one city or province.
Biographical Works . There are also many Muslim biographical dictionaries. In fact the number of such biographies produced by medieval Muslims exceeds that of all other ancient and medieval civilizations combined. Muslim religious scholars used these works to verify the reliability of hadith transmitters and other sorts of scholars. Some of these works include only information about hadith transmitters of the first three centuries of Islam. The earliest work of this sort is by Ibn Sa’d (circa 784–845). In Ibn Hajar al-’Asqalani’s biographical dictionaries of transmitters, the biographies usually consist of short notices giving the names, dates, places of birth and death, teachers, students, and estimates of the trustworthiness of the person in question. Other biographical dictionaries have much fuller information, especially the seventy-volume work of Ibn ‘Asakir (1105–1176), detailing the lives of everyone who had anything to do with Damascus and including much of the early Syrian historical tradition. Al-Dha-habi’s (1274–1348) longer works, such as Siyar a’lam al-nubala (The Biographies of Outstanding Nobles) and Ta’rikh al-Islam (The History of Islam), also include a great deal of detail. A large number of other biographical dictionaries cover only specific fields of endeavor, including those on poets, prose writers, or Sufis.
Geography and Travel Writing . Another sort of literature useful to religious scholars and historians is geographical writing. Muslim geographers definitely surpassed all other ancient and medieval geographers in both the quantity and quality of their output. Geographical writings helped rulers, merchants, and religious scholars to understand their world. The central location of the Muslims in proximity to Europe, Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia, China, and Turkestan probably enhanced the value of their work. Two of the most important Muslim geographers were al-Muqaddasi (born 947), who based his innovative description of the world on firsthand observations, and al-Biruni (973-at least 1050), a geographer and ethnographer, especially of India, which he visited. A related genre is the travel narrative, of which there are several medieval Muslim examples. The best known is the account of the Moroccan Ibn Battuta (1304–1369), who dictated it in 1357. Ibn Battuta traveled longer and more widely than anyone before him, visiting China, India, Central Asia, East Africa, and West Africa, as well as most of the central Muslim lands.
Adab . Less strictly religious than other prose genres, adab, or cultured prose writing, tended to serve a somewhat different public than tafsir, sirah, fiqh, or hadith. While it often included poetic quotations as well, adab is basically less-religious prose writing as contrasted with poetry. The audience for adab literature included rulers and government officials, as well as religious scholars, who greatly enjoyed relief from reading serious religious books. Also, most rulers, princes, and government officials received some religious training and read religious works and commentaries as a foundation of their education. Some, such as al-Mahdi Ibn Tumart (circa 1080–1130), the founder of the messianic al-Muwahhid movement, which established a dynasty in Morocco, had extensive religious training, qualifying them as scholars in their own right. Conversely, adab literature was usually written by religious scholars. Like most Muslim poets but unlike writers of strictly religious works, adab writers tended to have rulers as patrons. The first great Muslim writer of adab or cultured, literature is usually considered to be al-Jahiz (circa 776-869) of Basrah. Although al-Jahiz wrote treatises on many subjects, including religious and political topics, he is best known for his amusing essays and treatises, such as Kitab al-bukhala (The Book of Misers). Some of his writing seems to be drawn from the works of Ibn al-Muqaffa’. Al-Jahiz had a considerable influence on the standards for courtly literature. Although his elaborate style is often deemed most appropriate for the cultivated elite, he has remained popular among various
Muslims do not view the Qur’an as literature because they believed it to be the direct Word of God, and therefore it is not subject to literary evaluation. The language of the Qur’an is considered to be inimitable, reaching the pinnacle of eloquence in Arabic. Thus, the Qur’an sets the standard for Arabic literary expression. It even includes the challenge to produce verses like it—a challenge that has never been met. Among the most-beautiful and best-known passages are “The Verse of Light, and the verses (or ayaf), that follow it.
Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The parable of His Light is as if there were a Niche and within it a lamp: the Lamp enclosed in Glass: the glass as it were a brilliant star: lit from a blessed Tree an Olive neither of the East nor of the West whose Oil is well-nigh luminous though fire scarce touched it: Light upon Light! Allah doth guide whom He will to His Light. Allah doth set forth Parables for men: and Allah doth know all things.
[Lit is such a light] in houses which Allah hath permitted to be raised to honor; for the celebration in them of His name: in them is He glorified in the mornings and in the evenings [again and again]
By men whom neither traffic nor merchandise can divert from the Remembrance of Allah nor from regular Prayer nor from the practice of regular Charity: their [only] fear is for the Day when hearts and eyes will be transformed [in a world wholly new]
That Allah may reward them according to the best of their deeds and add even more for them out of His Grace: for Allah doth provide for those whom He will without measure.
But the Unbelievers their deeds are like a mirage in sandy deserts which the man parched with thirst mistakes for water; until when he comes up to it he finds it to be nothing: but he finds Allah [ever] with him and Allah will pay him his account: and Allah is swift in taking account.
Or [the Unbelievers’ state] is like the depths of darkness in a vast deep ocean overwhelmed with billow topped by billow topped by [dark] clouds: depths of darkness one above another: if a man stretches out his hand he can hardly see it! for any to whom Allah giveth not light there is no light!
Source: Qur’an, Surah 24, ayat 35–40, Yusuf Ali translation; from The Alim for Windows Multimedia Edition 4.5 (Baltimore: ISL Software Corporation, 1996).
classes of Muslims. His successor Ibn Qutaybah (828–889) was an Iraqi religious scholar who produced strictly religious writings but is better known for his cultured literature, which includes encyclopedic compendia of curious and amusing information and stories as well as substantial books on poetry. Ibn Qutaybah brought a simpler, more popular style to bear, as Abu al-’Atahiyah had done for poetry a couple of generations earlier. Ibn Abd
Rabbih (860–940) was an Andalusian who wrote a great and popular encyclopedia of information and lore about the Muslims in the East. Abu Faraj al-Isfahani (897–967) compiled Kitab alaghani (The Book of Songs), an enormous encyclopedia on early Muslim poets, with many quotations of poetry and stories about the poets. Similar encyclopedias of cultured literature and information continued to be produced throughout the Middle Ages. Al-Qalqashandi (1355–1418) compiled a specialized encyclopedia of everything a governmental correspondence secretary was expected to know, and there were several other encyclopedias later in the medieval period.
Maqamat . A significant genre of rhymed prose (saj’() is that of the maqamat (assemblies, or occasional discourses; singular: maqamati), fictional stories told in the first person by an author as if he were narrating them from their source, who is usually an eloquent vagabond—and sometimes a scoundrel and swindler as well. Contrasting a highly classical Arabic language with plotlines about disreputable members of society and their tricks, maqamat are highly amusing and must have appealed to both the elite and the merchant class. The concept of the polished vagabond is a commonplace in literature that extends back to the story called “The Eloquent Peasant” in ancient Egypt circa 2000 B.C.E. Maqamat writers often wove into their stories much subtle but sharp social commentary and criticism. This genre was originally established by the Iranian Ahmad Badi al-Zaman al-Hamadhani (968–1008) as a story related by a narrator about a disreputable but eloquent person. The well-known writer al-Tanukhi (939–994) employed this theme slightly earlier. Al-Hamadhani adopted rhymed prose as its vehicle, producing a humorous and bouncy effect, endowing the writing with a special verve. Al-Hamadhani was said to have produced four hundred maqamat, but only fifty-two are known. The form was further popularized by al-Hariri (1054–1122) of Basrah, who heightened the effect of his stories by using a loftier vocabulary than al-Hariri. Al-Hariri’s maqamat enjoyed great popularity in his own lifetime and are still read, studied, and celebrated. Writers still employ the maqamat genre, especially when they want to engage in sly or sarcastic social criticism. In fact, no century after al-Hariri has lacked authors working in this genre.
A Muslim Robinson Crusoe . In his well-known book Hayy ibn Yaqzan (Alive, the son of Awake) the Spanish Muslim philosopher Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Tufayl (died 1185) imagines a pious Muslim, Asal, who seeks a solitary spiritual retreat on a lush island he believes to be uninhabited. To his astonishment, he discovers there a feral human man who was raised by a gazelle and knows no human language, but nonetheless has arrived through reflection at a complete philosophical system, including faith in the Creator. Asal names the man Hayy ibn Yaqzan and teaches him language and the religion of Islam. The message in the story is that faith in God is natural, and that given completely uninfluenced natural conditions, the human being will arrive at it. An English translation of Ibn Tufayl’s work was published eleven years before Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719) and—along with the true story of the 1704-1709 adventures of Scottish sailor Alexander Selkirk—may have influenced Defoe’s novel.
Muhammad ibn Ismail al-Bukhari, The Translation of the Meanings of Sahih Al-Bukhari: Arabic-English, 9 volumes, edited and translated by Muhammad Muhsin Khan (Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, 1981).
H. A. R. Gibb, Arabic Literature: An Introduction, second revised edition (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963).
James Kritzeck, Anthology of Islamic Literature, from the Rise of Islam to Modern Times (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1964).
Use Lichtenstadter, Introduction to Classical Arabic Literature (New York: Twayne, 1974).
Mustansir Mir and Jarl E. Fossum, eds., Literary Heritage of Classical Islam (Princeton: Darwin, 1993).
Abu al-Husayn Muslim, Sahih Muslim, 4 volumes, translated by Abdul Hamid Siddiqi (Lahore: Shaikh Muhammad Ashraf, 1971-1975).
Ibn al-Nadim, The Fihrist ofal-Nadim:A Tenth-Century Survey of Muslim Culture, edited and translated by Bayard Dodge, 2 volumes (New York: Columbia University Press, 1970).
John Alden Williams, The Word of Islam (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1994).