Muslim religious life not only consists of belief in orthodox tenets of faith and a determined effort to follow the Sacred Law, it also requires one to scale the heights of the spiritual path. The Kitab al-Hikam of Shaykh Ibn ‘Ata’illah al-Iskandari is the inspiring explanation of the soul’s journey through this life, as determined through the Qur’an and Sunna. Along with his treatises and intimate discourses (munajat), the substantive feature of the work is the author’s 264 spiritual aphorisms (hikam)—concise, comprehensive and sublime sayings on self purification (tazkiya), and guidelines to help strengthen the relationship between humans and their Lord. These aphorisms, which have never failed to inspire, are presented in this edition according to the systematic arrangement of the great Indian scholar Shaykh ‘Ali Muttaqi (d. 975/1567), together with the indispensable commentary of the twentieth-century sage Shaykh ‘Abdullah Gangohi.
Shaykh Ibn ‘Ata’illah al-Iskandari (d. 709/1309) lived in Egypt during the reign of the Mamluks. Originally from Alexandria, he moved to Cairo, where his professional life involved teaching Sacred Law in various institutions including the Al-Azhar Mosque. He also led a concurrent existence as a Master for disciples of Islamic spirituality. The Hikam is his principal work, one that has attracted universal approval from his own time up to the present day.
Shaykh ‘Abdullah Gangohi (d. 1329/1921) was a teacher in various seminaries in the Indian Sub-Continent, during an era of great academic and spiritual achievement in the region. His main area of expertise was Arabic language, and some of his works have become part of the core syllabus in numerous seminaries. He took the spiritual path from the famous hadith scholar and sufi master Mawlana Khalil Ahmad Saharanpuri (d. 1346/1927), who instructed him to write this commentary and eventually made him a master of the path in his own right.
Victor Danner (d. 1410/1990) was an American academic noted for his beautiful translation of the Hikam. He taught various subjects, including Arabic Language, Classical Arabic Literature, and Sufism, at Indiana University