Book Review: ‘The Book of Wisdoms’ by Shaykh Abdullah al-Gangohi translated by Andrew Booso
‘The Book of Wisdoms’ presents The Aphorisms (al-Hikam) of Ibn Ata’illah al-Iskandari in Arabic accompanied with the English translations of Victor Danner and the translated commentary of Shaykh Abdullah Gangohi. As The Hikam gains popularity in English speaking countries the number of its translations is slowly increasing, but given the abstract nature of some of the wisdoms translating the main text itself is no easy task, let alone a commentary. Andrew Booso has kept an exhaustive piece of work as simple as possible by keeping Danner’s translation and sticking to translating Gangohi’s commentary. What we end up with is a text that for many first time readers can be quite daunting becoming more accessible. Gangohi’s commentary explains in simple language the meaning of every single wisdom, the few exceptions that were missing from the original text Booso has taken from Ibn Ajiba’s commentary.
The book has an in-depth introduction focusing on the individuals who were behind the original work, and gives an informative insight into the culture and times of the Deobandi tradition and Islam in pre-partition India, particularly their scholastic regimes and their approach to Sufism.
As the number of Arabists in the west slowly increase, and before the Muslim communities become familiar with Arabic, this is hopefully be the first of many translations of commentaries of the Hikam into English. While although this one is highly beneficial, the nature of the Hikam is like that of a sea, it can be interpreted, viewed and analysed in any number of ways without end. Shaykha Aisha Bewley already has a translation of Ibn Ajiba’s available for free online, the late Shaykh Muhammad Sa’id Ramadan al-Buti also had a series of televised lectures on the Hikam which he compiled into a four volume series of books, some of the classes are available online with English subtitles. For those looking to read the Hikam and may not be ready to understand the subtle meanings of some of them, this text is recommended to offer a clear insight and understanding and prove a useful aid.