Shams al-Ma'arif

Shams al-Ma'arif

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Shams al-Ma'arif or Shams al-Ma'arif wa Lata'if al-'Awarif (Arabic: كتاب شمس المعارف ولطائف العوارف‎, lit. "The Book of the Sun of Gnosis and the Subtleties of Elevated Things") is a 13th-century grimoire written on Arabic magic and a manual for achieving esoteric spirituality. It was written by Ahmad al-Buni in Ayyubid Egypt, who died around 1225 CE (622 AH). The Shams al-Ma'arif is generally regarded as the most influential textbook of its type in the Arab and Muslim worlds,[1] and is arguably as important as, if not more than, the Picatrix in both hemispheres.

In contemporary form the book consists of two volumes; Shams al-Ma'arif al-Kubra and Shams al-Ma'arif al-Sughra, the former being the larger of the two.[2][3] The first few chapters introduce the reader to magic squares, and the combination of numbers and the alphabet that are believed to bring magical effect, which the author insists is the only way to communicate with jinn, angels and spirits. The table of contents that were introduced in the later printed editions of the work contain a list of unnumbered chapters (faṣl), which stretch to a number of 40. However, prior to the printing press and various other standardisations, there were three independent volumes that circulated, each one differing in length.[4]

While being popular, it also carries a reputation for being suppressed and banned for much of Islamic history,[5] but still flourishes in being read and studied up to the present day. Many Sufi orders, such as the Naqshbandi-Haqqani order have recognised its legitimacy and use as a compendium for the occult, and hold it in high regard.[6]

Another title by the same author, namely Manba' Usool al-Hikmah ("The Source of the Essentials of Wisdom"), is considered its companion text.