Der Eine und das Andere: Beobachtungen an haresiographischen Texten. By JOSEF VAN Ess. Studien zur Geschichte und Kultur des islamischen Orients/Beihefte zur Zeitschrift Der Islam, n.s., vol. 23. Berlin: WALTER DE GRLIYTER, 2011. 2 vols. Pp. xliv + 1510. $280.
This massive two-volume work, modestly described by the author in the subtitle as "Observations on Islamic heresiographical texts,"will surely be appreciated by most readers as a comprehensive handbook of the history of Islamic doxographical and heresiographical literature. It is obviously a worthy companion to van Ess's monumental Theologie und Gesellschaft im 2. und 3. Jahrhundert Hidschra, now widely relied upon by scholars and students as a prime reference work in the field. In the present work van Ess begins his presentation with an analysis of the early history of the famous ljadith of the seventy-two sects into which Islam will be split. He pursues its later history throughout the main part of the book, the discussion of Islamic heresiographical texts and their authors chronologically arranged from the beginnings to the modern age. Many of these works are not yet edited and have been consulted by van Ess in manuscript, while some are not known to be extant. In the final part he examines Islamic heresiography as a literary genre, probes some of the technical terminology employed in it, and discusses its Sitz im Leben.
The literature of primary sources as well as of directly or indirectly relevant secondary studies concerning the subject of Islamic heresiography is immense. Like van Ess's earlier works, the present book abounds with footnotes providing references on virtually every page. The tightly printed bibliography, which excludes titles quoted only once throughout the book, stretches over seventy pages. Fortunately for the reader, van Ess has the gift of sailing over oceans of source material with ease and presenting his interpretations and inferences attractively and persuasively, even where the results must remain questionable. The study of oceans proverbially can never be exhaustive, and the present ocean of relevant literature keeps growing steadily as new sources are discovered and investigated. The critical reviewer, who might be tempted to add den Einen und das Andere to the book, would find himself quickly exceeding the limits of space set for reviews.
It remains to note a major aspect where van Ess's judgments seem distinctly questionable. Readers familiar with his...