In this book, Picken has presented an erudite study of the famous spiritual exponent and scholar Abū ʿAbd Allāh al-Ḥārith b. Asad al-Muḥāsibī (d. 243/857) as well as in-depth analysis of tazkiyat al-nafs (“purification of the soul”), a concept of great importance for wider traditions of Islamic spirituality. The book consists of an introduction, five chapters, and a brief, yet insightful summative conclusion. Two appendices containing maps appear afterwards, each providing spatial context to Picken’s treatment of Abbasid Iraq as well as Baghdad. Overall, the study is systemic with each chapter structured to lead into later ones resulting in a cogent and well-rounded biography of a prominent, early Muslim scholar. The author’s methodical approach is immediately apparent in the introduction. Here, Picken provides a detailed review of the literature on Muḥāsibī, which consists of twenty-four preceding studies. Not only does the author duly note the significance of the scholarly contributions produced in European languages, like the works of Margaret Smith and Josef van Ess, he also includes the Arabic secondary literature, which is a valuable but often-neglected body of research. This extensive accounting prepares the reader well for Picken’s own foray into the study of Muḥāsibī. For the
Journal of Sufi Studies – Brill
Published: Jan 1, 2012
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