The mystical cosmology set forth by Abu-l-ʿAbbās Aḥmad b. ʿAlī b. Yūsuf al-Qurashī al-Būnī (d. 622 / 1225) is of tremendous importance for understanding the development and application of the medieval Islamic occult sciences. In this thesis, we explore the concept and purpose of medieval Islamic theurgy as it is presented by al-Būnī. We will attempt to contextualize it within its complex and nuanced cosmology. His widely distributed and often banned work Shams al-maʿārif presents a challenge to even the most adept reader as it requires advanced understanding in an array of seemingly disparate subjects. This and other of al-Būnī’s works represent a comprehensive, albeit roundabout, guide to medieval Islamic occult philosophy and theurgic rites. The body of work as whole, dubbed the ‘Corpus Bunianum’ by Jan Just Witkam, problematically suffers from lack of critical scholarship and confusion within its textual tradition. We will offer an introductory analysis of the textual tradition and a list of titles which can be reasonably attributed to al-Būnī, along with some information regarding their manuscript tradition


Arab & Islamic Civilizations Department

Degree Name

MA in Arabic Studies

Graduation Date


Submission Date

December 2011

First Advisor

Ahmad, Saiyad Nizamuddin



Document Type

Master's Thesis

Library of Congress Subject Heading 1

Būnī, Aḥmad ibn ʻAlī, -1225.

Library of Congress Subject Heading 2



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There are a few people without whose suggestions, interventions and other efforts this thesis would never have come to fruition. First, I wish to thank my colleagues and compatriots Jeffery Wardwell, Paul Anderson and Amanda Propst, who listened enthusiastically and at great length (or at least pretended convincingly) while I talked my way through the more problematic aspects of this project. They are truly dear and genuine friends. I am further thankful to all my friends in Cairo and abroad who listened while I digested aloud some of the minutiae being synthesized here. They are too numerous to list, but I appreciate their patience. I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Terri Peszle for her efforts in the fil proofreading and editing of this thesis. I would like to thank least a few individuals whose suggestions set off a chain of events which ended in the writing of this thesis, mely: Stacey Pollard, who taught me the difference between talent and expertise and made me feel comfortable being squarely situated in the humanities; Lenrt Sundelin, who gave me the semir paper assignment which led directly to my interest in the topic at hand; and Mo Mikhail, for introducing me to the advisor of this project and for whose advice I will always be grateful. This would have been a very different project indeed if not for a research support grant from the American University in Cairo and for those members of the Arab and Islamic Civilizations department who saw fit to recommend me for support. The grant allowed me to travel to Istanbul to conduct research in the Süleymaniye Library on several occasions which resulted in the second chapter and appendix contained herein. I am most grateful for the help of the staff of the Süleymaniye Library, particularly Amir Bey, for making me feel very much at home as a researcher and providing me with a great deal of digital copies of manuscripts. I wish to thank my readers dya Chishty Mujahid and Ami Elbendary for taking the time to read and critique this work. Their efforts, commentary and suggestions are endlessly appreciated. It is my hope that I did them justice in my fil revision. Filly, I cannot muster sufficient gratitude for my advisor, Saiyad Nizamuddin Ahmad. Without his unfaltering guidance as a mentor, the writing of this thesis would not only have been impossible, but I would also be a different person today. His encouragement and enthusiasm allowed me to grow as a scholar in ways that I had not considered plausible. I am eterlly grateful for his willingness, his unbounded interest in the project and, perhaps most of all, his friendship.