Orient- und Islamwissenschaft

Between Religion and Alchemy

The scholar Ibn Arfa‘ Ra’s (d. 593/1197) as a model for an integrative Arabic literary and cultural history

The project investigates the life of Moroccan scholar and alchemist Ibn Arfaʿ Raʾs (d. 593/1197), his numerous works and their broad reception in the Arab-Islamic world. Its main focus lies on the question how traditional religious scholarship in the Arab-Islamic world was reconciled with a "secret science" such as alchemy. Ibn Arfaʿ Raʾs and his most influential work, a collection of alchemical poems entitled Šuḏūr aḏ-ḏahab ("The Gold Splinters"), form the starting point of this investigarion. The project reconstructs the life and work of Ibn Arfaʿ Raʾs as well as the social and intellectual networks that acquired and spread his work. It examines the reception of his works and the influence of the doctrines within. Notably, Šuḏūr aḏ-ḏahab will be published for the first time in a critical edition and translated into German.

Between 2016 and 2020, the project was funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation within the framework of an assistant professorship and was located at the University of Zurich (Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies, Department of Islamic Studies).

We will continuously publish further findings on this website.

Collaborators of the SNSF-Project "2016-2020"

The Project in the Media