A Philosopher’s Tale: The Remarkable Life of Ibn Sab’in

Who would you pick given the opportunity to meet a key historical figure from the past? In his novel, “A Muslim Suicide,” translated from Arabic by Roger Allen, writer and liberal philosopher Bensalem Himmich has chosen to breathe life into Sufi philosopher, Ibn Sab’in (1217-1269). True to his independent nature, Sab’in acts as his own narrator, detailing his life and philosophy against the turbulent backdrop of 12th century Spain. The philosopher offers perspective on a wide variety of topics, from making love to the value of living a life of solitude and reflection. Himmich’s complex and engaging tale captures the essence of this brilliant and controversial figure, detailing Sab’in’s many concerns and obsessions. The novel acts as both historical fiction and a meditation, and culminates with the mystery surrounding Sab’in’s supposed suicide. Did the philosopher in fact kill himself? Was his mind perhaps clouded by illness or hallucinations? Or did one of Sab’in’s many enemies finally catch up with him? The mystery, like the book itself, which is reviewed by Frances Khairallah Noble for Al Jadid (Vol. 18, No. 67) is one to be savored. Click on the link below to read the full review:


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