Path of Eloquence


This manuscript is a copy of Nahj al-balāghah (Path of eloquence), the classic compendium of the sermons, writings, and aphorisms of ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib (died 661), the fourth caliph. This work is especially revered by Shia Muslims who view ‘Ali and his descendants as the legitimate successors of the Prophet Muhammad. ‘Ali’s authorial voice is filtered here through his interpreter, Muhammad ibn al-Husayn, known as al-Sharif al-Radi (969 or 970–1016), who compiled the text from many early Islamic sources. The resulting anthology has led to debate over the authenticity of ‘Ali’s words. What is not in doubt is that the work set a standard for elegant Arabic literary expression and concise declamation. Al-Sharif al-Radi was a distinguished Shia scholar at the Abbasid court. In the introduction, he writes that he has classified the contents according to the manner of presentation, that is, sermon, letter, or aphorism. From the time the work was compiled up to the present, scholars and faithful readers have reclassified and analyzed its contents according to subject, for example, the claims to leadership of ‘Ali, governance, psychology, linguistics, and gender relations. The work or portions of it have been translated into numerous languages. This 17th century manuscript shows considerable care in ornamentation and arrangement of the copious marginal notes, which are artfully arranged around the gilt-framed main text. It is written in a naskh script, with 15 lines to the page. The place of writing is not indicated.

Last updated: May 11, 2015