This book sheds light on one of the most-neglected fields of Islamic thought, namely the history of philosophical activity in the Ottoman Empire. The book brings to daylight an important figure of Ottoman intellectual history, Isma’il Ankaravi (d. 1631), the chief representative of the school of illumination (ishraq) in the Ottoman lands. Combining in his work the critical edition, translation and analysis of Ankaravi’s Izahu’l-Hikem, the author presents the depth of Ankaravi’s work on the one hand, and a vivid picture of the internal dynamics of Islamic thought in the seventeenth century on the other.
In his critical analysis, the author also compares Ankaravi’s commentary with that of Dawwani (d. 1502), supplying the reader with a wonderful chance of reading two different interpretations of Suhrawardi’s text at the same time. This is to be seen as another merit of the book under review, which is its ability to present the basic teachings of the school of illumination in a lucid and comparative way. Considered all in all, it would not be, I think, an exaggeration to describe Kuspinar’s work as one of the best introductions available in English to the texts of the illuminative school with sufficient historical background and philosophical clarity. Finally, the critical edition of Izahu’l-Hikem included at the end of the book is a good opportunity for the readers of classical Ottoman Turkish to follow Ankaravi’s text from its original.
In addition to being a very fine scholarly work on the school of illumination (ishraq), Kuspinar’s book is the only full-size book in the English language devoted to a figure of Ottoman intellectual history. The author no doubt feels the scholarly discovery and disclosure of the Ottoman intellectual tradition will make a substantial difference for a renewed understanding of the entire field of Islamic thought and civilisation.