A Treasury of Virtues

Sayings, Sermons, and Teachings of 'Ali, with the One Hundred Proverbs, attributed to al-Jahiz

306 pages

April, 2014

ISBN: 9781479826551



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Al-Qadi al-Quda'i (d. 454 H/1062 AD) was a Sunni jurist, a scholar of hadith and history, and a senior government official of the Fatimid dynasty in Cairo.

All books by al-Qadi al-Quda'i

Tahera Qutbuddin is Associate Professor of Arabic Literature at the University of Chicago. She is the author of Al-Muʾayyad al-Shirazi and Fatimid Daʿwa Poetry: A Case of Commitment in Classical Arabic Literature.

All books by Tahera Qutbuddin

A Treasury of Virtues is a collection by the Fatimid Shafi'i judge al-Quda'i (d. 454 H/1062 AD) of sayings, sermons, and teachings attributed to 'Ali ibn Abi Talib (d. 40 H/661 AD). Ali was the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad, the first Shia Imam and the fourth Sunni Caliph. An acknowledged master of Arabic eloquence and a sage of Islamic wisdom, Ali was renowned for his words, which were collected, quoted, and studied over the centuries, and extensively anthologized, excerpted, and interpreted.

Of the many compilations of 'Ali’s words, A Treasury of Virtues arguably possesses the broadest compass of genres, and the largest variety of themes. Included are aphorisms, proverbs, sermons, speeches, homilies, prayers, letters, dialogues, and verse, all of which provide instruction on how to be a morally upstanding human being. The shorter compilation included here, One Hundred Proverbs, is attributed to the eminent writer al-Jahiz (d. 255 H/869 AD). This volume presents a new critical edition of the Arabic based on several original manuscripts, the first English translation of both these important collections, and an extended introduction.


  • “Tahera Qutbuddin’s edition proves to be definitive since, unlike the previous versions, she relies on all accessible manuscript and published editions. Qutbuddin also clearly demonstrated mastery and understanding of the difficult language of ?Ali’s prose and poetry, leading to a smooth presentation of the Arabic texts and a first-rate English translation… Tahera Qutbuddin and the editorial team of the Library of Arabic Literature deserve to be congratulated for producing this exemplary volume.”

    Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies

  • "Tahera Qutbuddin, associate professor of Arabic Literature at the University of Chicago, translates a collection by the Fatimid Shafi'i judge al-Quda'i of sayings, sermons, and teachings attributed to Ali ibn Abi Talib. Ali is an acknowledged master of Arabic eloquence and a sage of Islamic wisdom. While several versions of the text exist, Qutbuddin is primarily using the Istanbul text."

    Islamic Horizons

  • "Powerful and compelling in its portrayal of the vicissitudes of fate and the inevitability of death and decay. Many of the translated aphorisms and wise sayings are equally powerful... Qutbuddin’s volume is well written and well executed—a valuable addition to any scholar’s library."

    —Emily Selove, University of Manchester

  • "The quality of the translation is superior… and the choice of maxims is well advised, as they constitute a major category of Arabic (and also medieval European) literature, a genre with which modern readers are not acquainted. This translation will introduce them to it."

    —Beatrice Gruendler, Yale University