CWANA Canonical Texts - List of 24

CWANA stands for Central and West Asia and North Africa.


Culturally, it is supposed to mean the area that has been mostly Islamicate (to use Marshall Hodsgon's coinage) - as such, it would include areas such as Southern Spain for several centuries in history. However, just calling this list Islamicate would not be totally accurate as in this list I also included both pre-Islamic strands that get passed down by the Islamicate culture (e.g. per-Islamic Arabic poetry, Persian legends preserved in Ferdowsi's Shahnama). In addition, Zoroastrianism, currently preserved by the Parsis community in South Asia, clearly has its texts originated in Central Asia / Eastern Iran - this I also included in this list. Furthermore, some Islamicate works written in South Asia has already been included in the South Asian Canonical Texts list - thus I call this list the CWANA list.


However, CWANA is also inaccurate in the following sense: there would clearly have been texts generated in Syria or Egypt or Maghreb in Greek or Latin (e.g. The Bible or Origen's or St. Augustine's works) that by tradition would need to be included in a Western or European list.


So there is really no good name for this list - but I hope the above explanation makes it clear what scope it covers.


The idea of this list is exactly the same as for the South Asian Canonical Texts in terms of balance.  This is a list of 24 works - current population living in this area is clearly less than in South Asia; yet in terms of global current Muslims who might treat these works as canonical, the impact of texts originating in this area might be as large as texts originated in South Asia. In terms of duration, it is the latest of the large textual traditions - Islam starts after 600A.D. (though Zoroastrianism itself might be 1000-1500 years older). All these reasonsings suggest a list of <36 texts, but more than half of that. 24 is a number as good as any. And added to the 5 Islamicate texts selected in South Asia, 24 from primarily Arabic and Persian works feel to be a reasonable - South Asian Islam probably should be accounting for <20% of total Islamicate works - thus a list of 20 texts would still feel too small.

Table Form

Traditions Genre Total
History Philosophy Literature
Zoroastrianism  1. Avesta     9. Shahnama 2
 Judaism     15. Guide for the Perplexed   1
 Pre-Islamic Arabic       3. Muallaqat 1
 Islam (General) 2. Quran 8. Meadows of Gold; 19. Jami al-Tawarikh; 20. Kitab aI-Ibar 24. Tarikh-i Naima 10. al-Shifa 4. Abu Nuwas' Diwan; 13. Maqamat al-Hariri; 22. Fuzuli's Layla and Majnun 9
 Islam - Sunni 6. Sahih al-Bukhari 7. Tarikh al-Tabari 5. al-Risala; 11. Siyasatnama; 12. Revival of Religious Sciences    5
Islam - (Sunni) Sufi      14. Hikmat al-Ishraq; 16. Meccan Revelations 17. Gulistan; 18. Rumi's  Masnavi; 21. Hafez's Divan 5
Islam - Shia      23. al-Asfar   1
Total 3 5 8 8 24

List Form

No. Title

Author or


Date (A.D.) used
for Ordering
 Language  "East"?
1 Avesta  Anonymous  400 Avestan Y
2 Quran Muhammad (reciter) 632 Arabic N
3 Muallaqat Imrul al-Qays et al
(compiled by ar-Rawiya)
661 Arabic N
4 Diwan Abu Nuwas 814 Arabic N
5 al-Risala al-Shafii 820 Arabic N
6 Sahih al-Bukhari al-Bukhari 843 Arabic Y
7 Tarikh al-Tabari al-Tabari 923 Arabic N
8 Meadows of Gold al-Masudi 947 Arabic N
9 Shahnama  Ferdowsi 1010 Persian Y
10 al-Shifa Ibn Sina 1027 Arabic Y
11 Siyasatnama Nizamulmulk 1091 Persian Y
12 Revival of Religious Sciences al-Ghazali 1111 Arabic Y
13 Maqamat al-Hariri al-Hariri 1122 Arabic N
14 Hikmat al-Ishraq al-Suhrawardi 1186 Arabic N
15 Guide for the Perplexed  Musa ibn Maymun (Maimonides) 1188 Arabic N
16 Meccan Revelations Ibn Arabi 1238 Arabic N
17 Gulistan Sadi 1258 Persian N
18 Masnavi Rumi 1273 Persian N
19 Jami al-Tawarikh Rashiduddin 1316 Persian Y
20 Kitab al-Ibar Ibn Khaldun 1382 Arabic N
21 Divan Hafez 1390 Persian Y
22 Epic of Layla and Majnun Fuzuli  1556  (Azeri) Turkish 
23 al-Asfar  Mulla Sadra  1630  Arabic 
24 Tarikh-i Naima  Mustafa Naima  1704  Turkish 


1. By "East?", I mean whether the work was written in Iran or Central Asia. In my own research, I have tried to note down the "region" in which a work is composed - Arabia Peninsula, Iraq / Syria, Egypt, Andalusia / Maghreb, Turkey, or Iran / Central Asia. It turns out many authors were born in a region, studied in the next one, and wrote the work in a third region (e.g. al-Shafii the author of the fiqh / jurisprudence work selected here, was born in Iraq / Syria, studied in Arabian Peninsula, and wrote his work in Egypt). By having this column ("East?"), I try to make sure that I have reasonable regional balance.


2. In terms of sub-traditions - Sunni, Sufi vs. Shia, it is also only a rough differentiation. I only mark some work as Sunni if the work is explicitly received to be sectarian (e.g. work about kalam or fiqh, or the author's reputation is so solidly within a sectarian tradition e.g. al-Tabari). There are authors classified as "Islam (General)" who might be Shia - e.g. al-Masudi, Ibn Sina (these are controversial even now - suggesting that the authors themselves are not highlighting their sectarianism in their works), Fuzuli. Some authors (e.g. Ibn Khaldun and Mustafa Naima) are Sunnis themselves - I didn't classify them that way though, as my current ignorance does not allow me to say whether their works are clearly sectarian.


3. Genre-balance: generally satisfactory - clearly more historical than South Asians; and religious sciences (broadly speaking, including hadith, fiqh, kalam etc.) are prominent (in my classification, all works valued for their "thoughts" are assumed to be Philosophy. Both Arabic and Persian have strong literature cultures focused on poetry, and in the literary works selected, I try to have more poetry than prose works, and include both long and short poetic works.


4. Tradition-balance: I think I might have under-represented Shi'ism, and might have over-represented Sufism. I wanted to include Ja'far al-Sadiq (the 6th Imam, supposed to be teacher of Abu Hanifa) in the list, but is not clear any work attributed to him nowadays are actually written by him (this is true for many 8th century authors - clearly a critical century for the Islamic tradition, yet not much works are extant). I also didn't include any Ismaili work (Mulla Sadra was a Twelver in the Safavid Dynasty) - mostly driven by my own ignorance. If later I find a representative Ismaili work (maybe by Nasir al-Din al-Tusi?) it might substitute a Sadi or Rumi out - clearly, not at all a easy decision to make.


5. Language-balance: Arabic - 15; Persian (incl. Avestan) - 7; Turkish -2. Persian work span genres, but most represented in Literature (as one would expect).


6. Geographic-balance: Islamic "West" - 15; "East" (Iran / Central Asia) - 9. If we include the 5 Islamic work in the South Asian Canonical Text list, we have 14 from the East and 15 from the West - a fair representation I think. In Iran / Central Asia, the selection of 9 works also spans the 4 major genres.


7. The theoretical end point in time of the list should be ~1900 (as with my other lists). However, even though the South Asian list include Shah Waliullah, in this list I failed to include say Wahhabi or al-Afghani or Muhammad Abdul. Part of the reason again is my ignorance - really don't know how to assess "influence" of fundamentalism or modernism for Muslim.