Shams al-Ma'arif

Shams al-Ma'arif or Shams al-Ma'arif wa Lata'if al-'Awarif (Arabic: كتاب شمس المعارف ولطائف العوارف‎, lit.'the Book of the Sun of Gnosis and the Subtleties of Elevated Things') is a 13th-century grimoire written on Arabic magic and a manual for achieving esoteric spirituality. It was written by The Algerian scholar Ahmad al-Buni who wrote it while living in Ayyubid Egypt, he died around 1225 CE (622 AH). The Shams al-Ma'arif is generally regarded as the most influential textbook of its type in the Arab world,[1] and is arguably as important as, if not more than, the Picatrix in both hemispheres.

Shams al-Ma'arif (The Book of the Sun of Gnosis)
Shams al-Ma'arif.jpg
A manuscript copy, beginning of 17th century
AuthorAhmad al-Buni
GenreOccult treatise, Grimoire
LC ClassBF1771 .B8 Arab

In contemporary form the book consists of two volumes; Shams al-Ma'arif al-Kubra and Shams al-Ma'arif al-Sughra, the former being the larger of the two.[2][3] The first few chapters introduce the reader to magic squares, and the combination of numbers and the alphabet that are believed to bring magical effect, which the author insists is the only way to communicate with jinn, angels and spirits. The table of contents that were introduced in the later printed editions of the work contain a list of unnumbered chapters (faṣl), which stretch to a number of 40. However, prior to the printing press and various other standardisations, there were three independent volumes that circulated, each one differing in length.[4]

While being popular, it also carries a reputation for being suppressed and banned for much of Islamic history,[5] but still flourishes in being read and studied up to the present day. Many Sufi orders, such as the Naqshbandi-Haqqani order have recognised its legitimacy and use as a compendium for the occult, and hold it in high regard.[6]

Another title by the same author, namely Manba' Usool al-Hikmah ("The Source of the Essentials of Wisdom"), is considered its companion text.


Although full-volume translations into English are not known, there have been numerous renditions of a few of the more popular rituals found within the main treatise, as well as those that lie in its accompanying text. Some of these rituals have had various degrees of notability, but one of recurring presence in many publications is that of the Birhatiya[7][8][9] (also known as The Ancient Oath or Red Sulphur[10]).

Outside of the Arab and Western world, several editions of the book have been published in the Urdu and Turkish languages.[11][12][13]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Owen Davies, Grimoires: A History of Magic Books, Oxford University Press, 2009, p. 27
  2. ^ Shamsu al-Ma‘aref al-Kubrah, Al Nour Library, Beirut, Lebanon: 2006.
  3. ^ Shamsu al-Ma‘aref al-Sughra, Al Nour Library, Beirut, Lebanon: 2005.
  4. ^ Francis Maddison, Emilie Savage-Smith, Ralph H. Pinder-Wilson, Tim Stanley, Science, Tools And Magic Vol. 12, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 65
  5. ^ Michael Ipgrave, Scriptures in Dialogue: Christians and Muslims Studying the Bible and the Qur'an Together, Church Publishing Inc, 2004, p. 42
  6. ^ "Shamsu'l-Ma`arif". Archived from the original on October 23, 2011. Retrieved July 9, 2011.
  7. ^ Wahid Azal, The Birhatiya Conjuration Oath & the meaning of its first 28 names, N.U.R.-Fatimiya Sufi Order, 2008
  8. ^ Nineveh Shadrach, Magic That Works: Practical Training for the Children of Light, Ishtar Publishing, 2005, p. 228
  9. ^ Nineveh Shadrach, Ancient Magick Conjuration of Power: Beginners Guide to the Berhatiah, Ishtar Publishing, 2011
  10. ^ Nineveh Shadrach, Magic That Works: Practical Training for the Children of Light, Ishtar Publishing, 2005, p. 48
  11. ^ Iqbal al-Din Ahmad, Shams al-Ma'arif al-Kubra Wa Lata'if al-'Awarif. Urdu, Darul Ishaat, Karachi, Pakistan: 1978.
  12. ^ Basir Ahmad Hadrat Kalianwala, Shams al-Ma'arif Lata'if al-'Awarif. Urdu Tarjama, Kutub Khana Shan-e-Islam, Lahore, Pakistan.
  13. ^ Selahattin Alpay, Sems’ül Maarif. Büyük Bilgiler Güneşi, P.K. 157 Beyazid, Istanbul: 1979.

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