ARBERRY, ARTHUR JOHN, British orientalist. Born at Portsmouth on 12 May 1905, he went to Cambridge University in 1924 with a classics scholarship and subsequently studied Persian and Arabic with R. A. Nicholson and other noted scholars. After graduation and a study year in Cairo, during which time he also visited Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria, he was appointed head of the classics department at Cairo University in 1932, but returned to London in 1934 as assistant librarian at the India Office. With the outbreak of war in 1939 he was transferred to the War Office and then to the Ministry of Information in London. It was during this period that he edited the highly successful Persian monthly journal Rūzgār-e now (The new age) as well as other publications in Persian and Arabic. In 1944, his war work finished, he was appointed to succeed V. M. Minorsky in the chair of Persian at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London University; two years later he transferred to the chair of Arabic. In 1947 he was appointed to the Sir Thomas Adams professorship of Arabic at Cambridge, where he remained until his death on 2 October 1969.

Arberry’s academic honors included the Nešān-e Dāneš First Class awarded by the shah of Iran in 1964, an honorary doctorate from the University of Malta (1963), and membership in the Iranian Academy, the Academy of the Arabic Language in Cairo, and the Arab Academy of Damascus. His complete bibliography shows a total of some ninety books that he wrote, translated, or edited, a similar number of scholarly articles, and many reviews and other short contributions. His writings include edited texts of Persian and Arabic works, translations of classical Persian and Arabic poetry, Koranic studies, Islamic theology and philosophy, Sufism, Persian and Arabic language, bibliography and library catalogues, readers and anthologies for students, Maltese literature, and popular works on such varied subjects as modern Islam, British orientalism, and ʿOmar Ḵayyām and Fitzgerald. His most outstanding work was the English translation of the Koran, which superseded all previous efforts in this field. His catalogues of the oriental manuscripts in the India Office, Cambridge University, and Chester Beatty libraries provide an essential tool for all scholars working in the Islamic field. It is Arberry’s principal achievement to have made the fruits of his own scholarship available not only to students following in his footsteps, but also to the general public.



Arberry’s selected works: Aḥmad Šawqī, Maǰnūn Laylā, verse tr., Cairo, 1933.

Al-Kalābāḏī, Ketāb al-taʿarrof, Cairo, 1934.

The Mawāqif and Mukhātabāt of al-Niffarī, ed. and tr., London, 1935.

The Doctrine of the Sufis, tr. from al-Kalābāḏī, Cambridge, 1935.

A Catalogue of the Arabic Manuscripts in the Library of the India Office II, pt. 2 (Sufism and ethics), London, 1936.

Al-Ḵarrāǰ, The Book of Truthfulness—Kitāb al-Ṣidq, ed. and tr., Bombay, 1937.

Poems of a Persian Sufi, Being the Quatrains of Bābā Ṭāhir Rendered into English Verse, Cambridge, 1937.

Al-Moḥāsebī, Ketāb al-tawahhom, ed., Cairo, 1937.

Catalogue of the Library of the India Office II, pt. 6 (Persian books), London, 1937.

The Library of the India Office, London, 1938.

ʿIraqi, The Song of Lovers, ed. and tr., Bombay, 1939.

Specimens of Arabic and Persian Palaeography, London, 1939.

British Contributions to Persian Studies, London, 1942.

British Orientalists, London, 1943.

Introduction to the History of Sufism, Calcutta, 1943.

Islam Today, ed. (with Rom Landau), London, 1943.

Modern Persian Reader, Cambridge, 1944.

Saʿdī, Kings and Beggars, tr., London, 1945.

Asiatic Jones, the Life and Influence of Sir William Jones, London, 1946.

Pages from the Kitāb al-Lumaʿ of . . . al-Sarrāǰ, London, 1947.

Muhammad Iqbal, The Tulip of Sinai, tr., London, 1947.

Fifty Poems of Hafiz, Cambridge, 1947.

Al-Termeḏī, Ketāb al-rīāża, Cairo, 1947.

The Cambridge School of Arabic, Cambridge, 1948.

Immortal Rose, An Anthology of Persian Lyrics, London, 1948.

Muhammad Iqbal, Persian Psalms, Lahore, 1948.

The Rubaiyat of Jalal al-Din Rumi, Select Translations into English Verse, London, 1949.

The Rubaʾiyat of Omar Khayyam, Edited from a Newly Discovered Manuscript, London, 1949.

The Spiritual Physic of Rhazes, tr., London, 1950.

Modern Arabic Poetry, An Anthology, with English Verse Translations, London, 1950.

Sufism, An Account of the Mystics of Islam, London, 1950.

A Twelfth Century Reading List, A chapter in Arab Bibliography, London, 1951.

W. B. Hunt, “Lateres Fitzgeraldi,”With a Literal Translation of the Persian Text by A. J. Arberry, Bedford, 1951.

Avicenna on Theology, ed. and tr., London, 1951.

Sakhawiana, A Study based on the Chester Beatty Manuscript Arab. 773, London, 1951.

A Volume in the Autograph of Yāqūt the Geographer, London, 1951.

The Mystical Poems of Ibn al-Fāriḍ, Edited in Transcription, London, 1952.

Ibn al-Fāriḍ, The Poem of the Way, Translated into English Verse, London, 1952.

Omar Khayyam, A New Version Based upon Recent Discoveries, London, 1952.

A Second Supplementary Hand-List of the Muhammadan Manuscripts in the University and Colleges of Cambridge, Cambridge, 1952.

The Ring of the Dove, by Ibn Hazm, tr., London, 1953.

Scheherezade, Tales from the Thousand and One Nights, London, 1953.

Moorish Poetry, A translation, Cambridge, 1953.

Muhammad Iqbal, The Mysteries of Selflessness, London, 1953.

The Holy Koran, An introduction, London, 1953. The Legacy of Persia, ed., Oxford, 1953.

Persian Poems, An Anthology of Verse Translations, London, 1954.

The Koran Interpreted, London, 1955.

FitzGerald’s Salaman and Absal, A Study, Cambridge, 1956.

The Mystical Poems of Ibn al-Fāriḍ, Translated and annotated, Dublin, 1956.

The Seven Odes, tr., London, 1957.

Revelation and Reason in Islam, London, 1957.

Classical Persian Literature, London, 1958.

The Romance of the Rubaiyat, London, 1959.

Omar Khayyam and FitzGerald, London, 1959.

A Catalogue of the Persian Manuscripts and Miniatures in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, 1959.

A Maltese Anthology, Oxford, 1960.

Oriental Essays, Portraits of Seven Scholars, London, 1960.

Shiraz, Persian City of Saints and Poets, Norman, Okla., 1960.

Discourses of Rumi, tr., London, 1961.

Tales from the Masnavi, tr., London, 1961.

Dun Karm, Poet of Malta, Texts Chosen and Translated, Cambridge, 1962.

Humāy-Nāma, ed. with introd., London, 1963.

More Tales from the Masnavi, tr., London, 1963.

Aspects of Islamic Civilizatian as Depicted in the Original Texts, London, 1964.

Arabic Poetry, A Primer for Students, Cambridge, 1965.

A Hand-List of the Arabic Manuscripts in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, 1966.

Muhammad Iqbal, Jāvīd-Nāma, tr., London, 1966.

ʿAṭṭār, Muslim Saints and Mystics, Episodes from the Tadhkirat al-Auliyā, tr., London, 1966.

Poems of al-Mutanabbi, A selection with Introduction, Translation and Notes, Cambridge, 1967.

The Koran Illuminated, A Hand-List of the Korans in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, 1967.

Mystical Poems of Rumi, First Selection, Translated, Chicago and London, 1966.

Religion in the Middle East, ed., London, 1969.

A Sufi Martyr, The Apologia of ʿAin al-Quḍāt al-Hamadhānī, London, 1969.

(E. P. Elwell-Sutton)

Originally Published: December 15, 1986

Last Updated: August 11, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. II, Fasc. 3, pp. 278-279