by Reynold A Nicholson
The Encyclopedia Britannica tells us that Reynold Alleyne Nicholson born on August 18, 1868, at Keighley, Yorkshire, England and died on August 27, 1945, at Chester, Cheshire, and that he was an orientalist who exercised a lasting influence on Islamic studies. Educated at Aberdeen University and the University of Cambridge, Nicholson was lecturer in Persian (190226) and Sir Thomas Adams professor of Arabic (192633) at Cambridge. He was a leading scholar in Islamic literature and mysticism. His Literary History of the Arabs (1907) remains a standard work on that subject in English; while his many text editions and translations of Sufi writings, culminating in his eight-volume Mathnawi of Jalalu'ddin Rumi (192540), eminently advanced the study of Muslim mystics. He combined exact scholarship with notable literary gifts; some of his versions of Arabic and Persian poetry entitle him to be considered a poet in his own right. His profound understanding of Islam and of the Muslim peoples was the more remarkable in that he never travelled outside Europe. A shy and retiring man, he proved himself an inspiring teacher and an original thinker.
The Editor of the first edition, published by George Bell & Sons Ltd in 1914, writes:
"If Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no little in common in spite of their deep dogmatic differences, the spiritual content of thet common element can best be appreciated in Jewish, Christian and Islamic mysticism, which bears equal testimony to that ever-deepening experience of the soul when the spiritual worshipper, whether he be follower of Moses or Jesus or Mohammed, turns whole-heartedly to God.
"Not only have we in the following pages all that the general reader requires to be told at first about Sufism; we have also a large amount of material that will be new even to professional Orientalists. Dr Nicholson sets before us the results of twenty years' unremitting labour with remarkable simplicity and clarity for such a subject. At the same time, he lets the mystics mostly speak for themselves and mainly in his own fine versions from the original Arabic and Persian."
Readers of the Ardue Web site will find that this book illuminates much that is written in the other works in the Ardue Library, and makes its own unique contribution to what may be subsumed under the heading of Hermetic Philosophy.
DM December, 2005.