SINCERE BRETHREN (Ar. Ikhtean al-Safi the Sincere Brethren and True Friends). A transcendental and scientific order of esoteric nature in Islam, existing at Basra, on the Lower Euphrates. about 1000. (See Slums.) Little is known of the personality of the members, the leader of whom may have been one Zayd ibn Rifaa. It was a constituent part of their philosophy that perfection could only be reached through the cotiperation of souls, each contributing its share to the common treasury of goodness and knowledge: hence logically their association took the form of an esoteric society with a simple organization into which any sin cere and helpful-spirited man could enter. The order was divided into four ideal grades: the first for the younger members, and for those of practical ability: the second for those over thirty years, who could fulfill the office of teachers; the third for those over forty, who could rule in the society, their authority being one of mildness and admonition: the fourth for those who were fit to attain the vision of God. The Epistles of the Sincere Brethren (Basiiil Ikloran consists of fifty-one treatises and is an eucyclo pfedia of the Arabic philosophy of the age, methodically arranged. and bound together by the philosophy of the order. This is based upon Neo-Platonie and other late Greek philosophies, with evident contributions from Oriental mysti cism. the authors being Shiite. The doctrine
is that of an All-Soul, which first projects mat ter from itself, and contimmusly spiritualizes it by emanations: on the other hand, these soul parts naturally yearn for return to their origin. But this redemption is hampered by the opposi tion of spirit and matter. The ethics of the encyclopfedia, therefore, inculcates the gradual self-purification of those who recognize their spiritual birthright away from sense to God. But while ethically dualistic, the eneyclopa-dia has a pantheistic metaphysics, and is interested in all created things as being immediately de rived from God. Hence the work becomes an encyclopmdia of all knowledge. The work has been made known to modern Europe through the labors of Dieterici in a series of translations of Llmost all but the last quarter of the book, pub lished between 1861 and 1872 (Berlin and Leip zig), concluding with a general survey in Dic Philosophic der Arabce (Leipzig, 1876-79). Ile has also published as a translation one of the episodes, Der Streit zwischen llrnsch und Th icr (Berlin. MS), and its original lib., 1879) ; also a selection of the original texts in Abhond Innyen dcr Ic1erf7n cs-Snfii (ib.. 1883-80). Con sult also: Fliigel, in Zcitschrift der dentschen morycnbindischen Gescllschaft, vol. and Lane-Poole. Studies in o8qut. (London, 1883).