English-speaking Muslims have a dire need to connect with the sources of Islamic knowledge: the Qur’an and the traditions of Prophet Muhammad and the Imams who succeeded him. Effective translation is one step toward this goal. But without methodical, well-reasoned commentary, an individual text cannot be coherently placed in the larger context of Islamic thought and understood as it was intended. We strive to produce outstanding translation and commentary of these texts to fill this niche.
Rather than relying on the mind of a single translator and his interpretation of the source texts, we have augmented the translator’s function by engaging a team of highly-trained scholars. Their task is to discover the intended meaning of the text through an analysis of its diction, grammar, and literary devices; by researching its historical context; and by deconstructing and reconstructing the circumstances of the tradition and plausible motives and meanings of the divine guides it is quoting. As a result, we have enhanced the translator’s function, and significantly raised the likelihood that he has correctly understood, and correctly conveyed, the meaning of the source text.
The purpose of our commentary is to guide the non-specialist through the text, because translation alone is never enough. Traditionally, commentary has been written by a single scholar, or at most, a scholar and his students. We have turned this model on its head. Because it is vital that the commentary be attuned to the situation and the needs of our non-specialist, English-speaking reader, we let the scholar with the best understanding of that situation and those needs lead the discussion and decide what issues take priority and how they are most effectively addressed. With priorities set, the team follows his lead. This dynamic allows for latitudinal cooperation among scholars, instead of the precedent of solitary or, at best longitudinal, cooperation.
From day one, ITI set its sites on al-Kafi by Shaykh Abu Ja’far Muhammad ibn Ya’qub al-Kulayni, especially the first eight of its thirty-five books, known as Usul al-Kafi. To date, we have published the first three books, Intellect & Foolishness, Knowledge & Its Merits, and God & His Oneness.
We have also engaged the following small-scale projects: