I am writing to announce the publication of the first translation in English of Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani's Merits of the Plague, a project which Mairaj Syed and I spent the pandemic collaborating on.
The book was released by Penguin Classics this month!
An audiobook version, narrated by the actor Fajer Al-Kaisi, is also available and would make a wonderful resource for students.
Those of you looking to find pandemic-related primary sources to your syllabi, please consider this book!
You can learn more here... from the back cover:
Six hundred years ago, the author of this landmark work of history and religious thought—an esteemed judge, poet, and scholar in Cairo—survived the bubonic plague, which took the lives of three of his children, not to mention tens of millions of others throughout the medieval world. Holding up an eerie mirror to our own time, he reflects on the origins of plagues—from those of the Prophet Muhammad’s era to the Black Death of his own—and what it means that such catastrophes could have been willed by God, while also chronicling the fear, isolation, scapegoating, economic tumult, political failures, and crises of faith that he lived through. But in considering the meaning of suffering and mass death, he also offers a message of radical hope. Weaving together accounts of evil jinn, religious stories, medical manuals, death-count registers, poetry, and the author’s personal anecdotes, Merits of the Plague is a profound reminder that with tragedy comes one of the noblest expressions of our humanity: the practice of compassion, patience, and care for those around us.
For more on the translators you can access these links:
All the best,
Joel and Mairaj
Fellow, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, Sp '23
Associate Professor of History
The George Washington University, Washington, DC
Associate Professor of Religion
University of California, Davis