Ahmad al-Buni

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Shams al-Ma'arif al-Kubra, a manuscript copy, beginning of 17th century

Ahmad ibn ‘Ali al-Buni (Arabic: أحمد البوني‎), also called Sharaf al-Din or Shihab al-Din Ahmad ibn Ali ibn Yusuf al-Buni al-Maliki al-ifriqi (born in Annaba, Algeria died 1225) was an Arab[1] mathematician and philosopher and a well known Sufi and writer on the esoteric value of letters and topics relating to mathematics, sihr (sorcery) and spirituality, but very little is known about him. Al-Buni lived in Egypt and learned from many eminent Sufi masters of his time.[2]

A contemporary of Ibn Arabi,[3] he is best known for writing one of the most important books of his era; the Shams al-Ma'arif, a book that is still regarded as the foremost occult text on talismans and divination. It was to be banned soon after as heretical.

His Contribution[edit]

In Theurgy[edit]

Table of associations between letters, the mansions of the moon, the constellations of the standard zodiac, and the seasons by Al-Buni

Instead of sihr (Sorcery), this kind of magic was called Ilm al-Hikmah (Knowledge of the Wisdom), Ilm al-simiyah (Study of the Divine Names) and Ruhaniyat (Spirituality). Most of the so-called mujarrabât ("time-tested methods") books on sorcery in the Muslim world are simplified excerpts from the Shams al-ma`ârif.[4] The book remains the seminal work on Theurgy and esoteric arts to this day.

In Mathematics and Science[edit]

In c. 1200, Ahmad al-Buni showed how to construct magic squares using a simple bordering technique, but he may not have discovered the method himself. Al-Buni wrote about Latin squares and constructed, for example, 4 x 4 Latin squares using letters from one of the 99 names of Allah. His works on traditional healing remains a point of reference among Yoruba Muslim healers in Nigeria and other areas of the Muslim world.[5]

Sources of his knowledge[edit]

Ahmad al-Buni also left a list of other titles that he wrote. Unfortunately, very few of them have survived.

Source of the Essentials of Wisdom[edit]

It is stated in his work Manba’ Usul al-Hikmah (Source of the Essentials of Wisdom) that he acquired his knowledge of the esoteric properties of the letters from his personal teacher Abu Abdillah Shams al-Din al-Asfahâni. He in turn received it from Jalal al-Din Abdullah al-Bistami, who in turn received it from Shaykh al-Sarajani, who received it from Qasim al-Sarajani, who received it from Abdullah al-Babani, who received it from Asîl al-Din al-Shirazi, who received it from Abu al-Najîb al-Sahruwardi, who received it from, Mohammad ibn Mohammad Al-Ghazali al-Tusi, who received it from Ahmad al-Aswad, who received it from Hamad al-Dînuri, who received it from the master Junayd of Baghdad, who received it from Sirri Saqti, who received it from Ma’ruf al-Karkhi, who received it from Dawud Tai, who received it from Habib al Ajami, who received it from Imam Hasan al-Basri.

Magical Square[edit]

Al-Buni states in the same work that he acquired his knowledge of magical squares from Sirâj al-Dîn al-Hanafi, who acquired it from Shihab al-Dîn al-Muqaddasi, who acquired it from Shams al-Dîn al-Farisi, who acquired it from Shihab al-Dîn al-Hamadani, who acquired it from Qutb al-Dîn al-Diyâ’i, who acquired it from Muhyiddîn Ibn Arabi, who acquired it from Abu al-'Abbas Ahmad ibn al-Turîzi, who acquired it from Abu Abdillah al-Qurashi, who acquired it from Abu Madîn al-Andalusi.

Art of Letters[edit]

He also states that he acquired additional knowledge about the esoteric art of letters and the magical squares from Mohammad 'Izz al-Dîn ibn Jam’a, who acquired it from Mohammad al-Sirani, who acquired it from Shihab al-Dîn al-Hamadani, who acquired it from Qutb al-Dîn al-Dhiya’i, who acquired it from Muhyiddîn Ibn Arabi.

Occult Knowledge[edit]

Al-Buni also states that he acquired his occult knowledge from Abu al-'Abbas Ahmad ibn Maymûn al-Qastalâni, who acquired it from Abu Abdillah Mohammed al-Qurashi, who acquired it from Abu Madîn Shu'ayb ibn Hasan al-Ansari al-Andalusi, who received it from Abu Ayyub ibn Abi Sa'id al-Sanhaji al-Armuzi, who received it from Abi Muhammad ibn Nur, who received it from Abu al-Fadhl Abdullah ibn Bashr, who received it from Abu Bashr al-Hasan al-Jujari, who received it from Sirri Saqti, who received it from Dawûd al-Tâ’i, who received it from Habîb al-A'jami, who received it from Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Sîrîn, who received it from Malik ibn Anas.

Emerald Tablet[edit]

Al-Buni also made regular mention in his work of Plato, Aristotle, Hermes, Alexander the Great, and obscure Chaldean magicians. In one of his works, he recounted a story of his discovery of a cache of manuscripts buried under the pyramids, that included a work of Hermetic thinkers.

His influence[edit]

His work is said to have influenced the Hurufis and the New Lettrist International.[6]

Denis MacEoin in a 1985 article in Studia Iranica said that Al-Buni may also have indirectly influenced the late Shi'i movement of Babism. MacEoin said that Babis made widespread use of talismans and magical letters.[7]

Writings[edit]

  • Shams al-Maʿārif al-Kubrā[8] (The Great Sun of Gnoses), Cairo, 1928.
  • Sharḥ Ism Allāh al-aʿẓam fī al-rūḥānī, printed in 1357 AH or in Egypt al-Maṭbaʿa al-Maḥmudiyya al-Tujjariyya bi'l-Azhar.
  • Kabs al-iktidā, Oriental Manuscripts in Durham University Library.
  • Berhatiah, Ancient Magick Conjuration Of Power.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Gould, Ronald J. (2015). Mathematics in Games, Sports, and Gambling: The Games People Play, Second Edition. CRC Press. p. 215.
  2. ^ By C. J. Bleeker, G. Widengren, Historia Religionum, Volume 2 Religions of the Present, p.156,
  3. ^ Vincent J. Cornell, Realm of the Saint: Power and Authority in Moroccan Sufism, University of Texas Press, 1998, p. 221
  4. ^ Martin van Bruinessen, "Global and local in Indonesian Islam", Southeast Asian Studies (Kyoto) vol. 37, no.2 (1999), 46-63
  5. ^ Diagnosis through rosary and sand: Islamic elements in the healing custom of the Yoruba (Nigeria). Sanni A. Lagos State University, Nigeria
  6. ^ Shams al-Ma'arif al-Kubra ۞ The Sun of Great Knowledge.
  7. ^ Denis MacEoin, ‘Nineteenth-Century Babi Talismans’, Studia Iranica 14:1 (1985), pp.77-98.]
  8. ^ https://quranwahadith.com/product/shams-ul-maarif-ul-kubra-urdu/

Notes[edit]

  • Edgar W. Francis, Mapping the Boundaries between Magic. The Names of God in the Writings of Ahmad ibn Ali al-Buni

External links[edit]