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Products for grant RQ-266098-19

RQ-266098-19
Recovering Early Nusayri Shiism: A Critical Edition and Translation of the Manhaj al-‘ilm (The Method of Knowledge)
David Hollenberg, University of Oregon

Grant details: https://apps.neh.gov/publicquery/main.aspx?f=1&gn=RQ-266098-19

How did the militant Kufan Shīʿī ghulāt become quietist? Docetic visions of Abū l‐Khaṭṭāb’s insurrection in a fifth/eleventh century Nuṣayrī doctrinal source (Article)
Title: How did the militant Kufan Shīʿī ghulāt become quietist? Docetic visions of Abū l‐Khaṭṭāb’s insurrection in a fifth/eleventh century Nuṣayrī doctrinal source
Author: David Hollenberg
Abstract: After reviewing scholarship on the docetic themes adopted by Abū l‐Khaṭṭāb’s successors, the following pages discuss accounts of Abū l‐Khaṭṭāb’s revolt in a newly available doctrinal source for the study of Nuṣayrism, the Manhaj al‐⁽ilm wal‐bayān wa‐nuzhat al‐samā⁽ wal‐⁽iyān, a lengthy anthology of Nuṣayrī doctrine ascribed to Ibn Kayūlakh ⁽Iṣmat al‐Dawlah (thrived mid fifth/eleventh).9 The ninth chapter of the Manhaj focuses on the role of the Bāb (gate), the third manifestation of the divine triad, and includes a series of reports on Maqtal Abū l‐Khaṭṭāb (The martyrdom of Abū l‐Khaṭṭāb). The author of the Manhaj adduces several generations of proto‐Nuṣayrī and Nuṣayrī sages from the 2nd/8th to early 5th/11th centuries. In the reports ʿIṣmat al‐Dawlah compiles, traditions related to Abū l‐Khaṭṭāb’s public declaration that Jaʿfar is God and the subsequent battle and execution demonstrate that eyewitness accounts of personages and events encode an alternative reality. Rather than purely a doctrine of God, such sources betray what Corbin referred to as a fully realized “docetic tendency,”10 a hermeneutic lens which can simultaneously sustain the premise that an event happened, and yet did not happen.
Year: 2022
Format: Other
Publisher: Brepols

Expanding orthodoxy: Nuṣayrī esoteric Qur’an exegesis in the fifth/eleventh century (Article)
Title: Expanding orthodoxy: Nuṣayrī esoteric Qur’an exegesis in the fifth/eleventh century
Author: David Hollenberg
Abstract: After providing historical background and an example of the use of the Qur’an in al- Khaṣībī’s classic treatise al-Rastbāshiyya, the following pages consider the character of Nuṣayrī Qur’an exegesis several generations after al-Khaṣībī through an analysis of a chapter devoted to tafsīr in a hitherto uninvestigated Nuṣayrī doctrinal treatise, Manhaj al-ʿilm wa’l-bayān wa nuzhat al-samaʿ wa’l-ʿiyān (“The method of knowledge and clarification and the pure joy of hearing and seeing,” hereafter: the Manhaj) by Muḥammad b. ʿAlī al-Kayulakh ʿIṣmat al-Dawla (thrived mid fifth/eleventh century).7 The Manhaj is an anthology that draws from two centuries of sources, from the earliest strata of ghulāt (“exaggerator” Shīʿa) from second/eighth century Kufa to the author’s own teacher, Abū l-Fatḥ al-Baghdādī (d. 408/1018).8 Its twelfth chapter, which is devoted exclusively to tafsīr (Qur’an exegesis), provides material to consider Qur’anic exegesis several generations after al-Khaṣībī. Evidence in the Manhaj suggests that in the generations following al-Khaṣībī, rather than abandoning Islamic scripture as a key source, the Nuṣayrī sages continued to turn to the Qur’an to elaborate doctrine. The Qur’an was interpreted to sanction correct doctrines on the nature of the godhead, bring sources ascribed to seminal figures such as Mufaḍḍāl b. ʿUmar (d. before 170/795–796) into accord with the mature Nuṣayrī doctrine, and censure the misbelief of cosectarians. And, contrary to recent portrayals that the period was rife with intra-sectarian conflict, the Manhaj provides evidence that during the fifth/eleventh century members of the school of al- Khaṣībī such as ʿIṣmat al-Dawla met with Isḥāqīs, the Nuṣayrīs’ chief rival. It would seem that, as in other contexts, for the Nuṣayrīs, esoteric scriptural exegesis served both as a vehicle to exclude uninitiated outsiders, as well as to forge connections across intra-sectarian divides.
Year: 2022
Format: Other
Publisher: Oxford University Press

Parsing God: Nuṣayrī Quran exegesis as theological and communal rectification (Article)
Title: Parsing God: Nuṣayrī Quran exegesis as theological and communal rectification
Author: David Hollenberg
Abstract: This article explores how Nuṣayrī esoteric exegesis provided a vehicle for the Nuṣayrī sages to situate themselves over and against other proximate groups in fourth/tenth and fifth/eleventh centuries. A close reading of exegetical sections of the Manhaj suggests that their exegesis provided the Nuṣayrī sages a vehicle not only to expound their theology, but also to carve out their own position in relation to closely related groups. By affirming some views, condemning others in the strongest terms, and holding some interpretations that depart from that of their author, but are still redeemable, esoteric scriptural interpretation provided an instrument to establish a coherent socio-religious group identity in a period in which what would become established orthodoxies in different communities was being negotiated.
Year: 2023
Format: Other
Publisher: Brepols

"The Nusayris at the Turn of the 11th Century: A Spotlight" (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: "The Nusayris at the Turn of the 11th Century: A Spotlight"
Author: Mushegh Asatryan
Abstract: Writing the history of the Nusayris as a community has been nearly impossible safe for very broad outlines. This is because, despite the rather large corpus of Nusayri writings that are available to us today, they mostly focus on doctrine – the nature of God and humans, their relation to one another, cycles of history, etc. – while outsider sources have little more than polemical vitriol. There is tantalizingly little in all of these texts about real people and real communities. A recently discovered Nusayri text offers to fill this gap. It is written by ‘Imat al-Dawla Muhammad b. Mu’izz al-Dawla in the early 11th century in Cairo, and is entitled “Manhaj al-‘ilm wal-bayan wa nuzhat al-sam’ wal-‘iyan” (“The Path of Knowledge and Clarification and the bliss of hearing and seeing”). More than 400 manuscript pages-long, it is to date not only the longest, but the most detailed Nusayri text. Its importance lies in the fact that apart from theological and cosmological content, it provides intimate details about various aspects of life in the Nusayri community, and an emotional account of the author’s own spiritual quest, his pleading with a Nusayri elder, and his conversion into Nusayrism at the elder’s hands. The paper uses “Manhaj al-‘Ilm” to throw a micro-historical “spotlight” on the Nusayris at the turn of the eleventh century. In particular, I will discuss the author’s conversion narrative, the network of Nusayri scholars, and the nature of the Nusayri community of the time.
Date: 11/18/2023

Muhammad in Ghulat and Nusayri thought (Article)
Title: Muhammad in Ghulat and Nusayri thought
Author: Mushegh Asatryan
Abstract: The article studies the construction of Muhammad's image in Nusayri thought. Notwithstanding the notion that Ghulat and Nusayri thought are "heretical innovations," which go against true Islamic teachings (a view informed by medieval Muslim polemical literature, which is often uncritically reproduced by modern scholars), the thought of the Ghulat and Nusayris in general, and their view of Muhammad in particular, are very archaic and include elements from a number of Late Antique religious and intellectual trends, including Platonism, Neoplatonism, Manicheanism, Gnosticism, etc. The article explores how Muhammad's image is constructed in these two written traditions, while situating it in its proper (Late Antique) intellectual context. One of the central primary sources upon which the article is based in Manhaj al-'ilm, which David and Mushegh have been working on as part of the NEH-funded project.
Year: 2025
Format: Other
Publisher: in Mahomet des Historiens, eds. Mohammad Ali Amir-Moezzi and John Tolan.

Critical edition, study, and translation of an 11th century Nusayri-Christian treatise, which draws on the Manhaj and related literature (Article)
Title: Critical edition, study, and translation of an 11th century Nusayri-Christian treatise, which draws on the Manhaj and related literature
Author: Alexander Treiger
Author: David Hollenberg
Author: Mushegh Asatryan
Abstract: As part of their NEH-funded work on the Manhaj al-'Ilm, David and Mushegh cooperated with Professor Alexander Treiger of Dalhousie University (Canada). An outcome of this cooperation was the discovery of a source (near contemporary to the Manhaj), which heavily draws on the Manhaj and the Nusayri tradition in general. What makes this text particularly interesting is that it is authored not by a Nusayri (or even a Muslim), but by a Christian. Thus the three of them are now working on an article which on this text, where they will explore the connections of this text with the Manhaj al-'ilm, and Nusayrism in general.
Year: 2025
Format: Journal

An Eleventh-Century Compendium of Nusayri Doctrine: ʿIṣmat al-Dawla’s Manhaj al-ʿilm wal-bayān wa-nuzhat al-samʿ wal-ʿiyān (The Path of Knowledge and Clarification and the Bliss of Listening and Seeing) (Book)
Title: An Eleventh-Century Compendium of Nusayri Doctrine: ʿIṣmat al-Dawla’s Manhaj al-ʿilm wal-bayān wa-nuzhat al-samʿ wal-ʿiyān (The Path of Knowledge and Clarification and the Bliss of Listening and Seeing)
Author: Mushegh Asatryan
Author: David Hollenberg
Abstract: Abstract This book is a study and critical edition of the Manhaj al-ʿilm wal-bayān wa-nuzhat al-samʿ wal-ʿiyān (The Path of Knowledge and Clarification and the Bliss of Hearing and Seeing). The Manhaj is a Nusayri doctrinal treatise composed by ʻIṣmat al-Dawla Muḥammad b. Muʿizz al-Dawla ʿAlī b. ʿĪsā b. Kabūlakh during the fifth/eleventh century. The Nusayris emerged as a distinct Muslim group in Syria in the early 900s, and, within several decades, had created a rich and imaginative religious literature that adopted and expanded the esoteric Shi’i corpus associated with the Imām Jaʿfar al-Ṣādiq and his students in second-third/eighth-ninth-century Kufa. The Nusayris’ conception of God, the universe, and human nature significantly departs from mainstream Muslim beliefs, and, as a consequence, non-Nusayri Muslims have treated them as heretics. As the study of Nusayrism is still at its beginnings, and many of the group’s writings remain unpublished, this edition, the longest doctrinal source in circulation composed toward the end of Nusayrism’s formative period, makes this important source available for scholarly investigation for the first time. Like other sources in the Nusayri tradition, the Manhaj discusses the precise way of conceiving of the unicity of the divinity in its three aspects, the Maʿnā, Ism, and Bāb (the meaning, the name, the gate); the cycles of personifications of these divine aspects in history; the human spiritual ranks below them and their struggle against the cycles of demonic enemies; and the safeguarding of this special knowledge to those who had been initiated into the community. Written four generations after the sect’s founding, ʿIṣmat al-Dawla strove to be comprehensive, bringing together all the knowledge he had garnered in his life-long study into a compendium of Nusayri knowledge for followers of the faith. Of particular interest, and unique in Nusayri literature, is the author’s vivid personal and emotive account of his spiritual qu
Year: 2024
Publisher: Brill Shii Texts and Studies
Type: Multi-author monograph
Type: Scholarly Edition

Esotericist Shi’ite teaching circles from Kufa to Cairo: The Way of Knowledge and Clarification and the Bliss of Hearing and Seeing by the ‘Nusayri Sage Muhammad b. ‘Isa al-Kayulakh’s (d.ca. 1060) (An abridged translation and analysis) (Book)
Title: Esotericist Shi’ite teaching circles from Kufa to Cairo: The Way of Knowledge and Clarification and the Bliss of Hearing and Seeing by the ‘Nusayri Sage Muhammad b. ‘Isa al-Kayulakh’s (d.ca. 1060) (An abridged translation and analysis)
Author: Mushegh Asatryan
Author: David Hollenberg
Abstract: The Way of Knowledge, a key witness to esoteric Shiism’s formative period, is the most substantial Alawite-Nusayri source available to non-Arabic readers yet published. This translation and analysis will serve as an introduction to Nusayri-Shiism in its fully developed form as articulated by a communal leader. The author, the Nusayri sage ‘Ismat al-Dawlah Muhammad b. ‘Ali b. al-Kabulakh, presents the doctrines of his esoteric Shiite movement through discussions of metaphysics and entertaining anecdotes narrated by sages teaching circles of students over several generations from such cities as Kufa, Baghdad, Aleppo, and Cairo. The translators’ introduction situates the author’s doctrinal positions in their historical and intellectual context. The translators’ opening discussion of each chapter and notes provide readers context to appreciate the content under discussion. Hollenbert and Asatryan have recently completed the first Arabic critical edition of The Way of Knowledge. This, the first translation and analysis of this important source, now makes it available to a wider audience.
Year: 2026
Publisher: Routledge Gnostica Book Series
Type: Multi-author monograph
Type: Translation
Translator: Asatryan and Hollenberg
Copy sent to NEH?: No


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