Philosophy in the Land of Prophecy
Seyyed Hossein Nasr
Islamic
Philosophyfrom its
Origin Presentto
the
I S L A M I C P H I L O S O P H Y
F R O M I T S O R I G I N
T O T H E P R E S E N T
SUNY series in Islam
Seyyed Hossein Nasr, editor
I S L A M I C P H I L O S O P H Y
F R O M I T S O R I G I N
T O T H E P R E S E N T
Philosophy in the Land of Prophecy
Sey...
Published by
State University of New York Press
© 2006 State University of New York
All rights reserved
Printed in the Uni...
The Quranic revelation is the light which enables one to see.
It is like the sun which casts light lavishly. Philosophical...
Contents
Preface ix
Transliteration x
Introduction: Philosophy and Prophecy 1
PART 1. ISLAMIC PHILOSOPHY AND ITS STUDY
1. ...
viii Contents
12. Mullå S•
adrå and the Full Flowering of
Prophetic Philosophy 223
13. From the School of Isfahan to the S...
Contents ix
Preface
This book is the result of nearly fifty years of study and meditation
upon philosophy and philosophica...
Transliteration
Introduction
Philosophy and Prophecy
In the current cultural climate in the West as well as other parts of the
globe affec...
2 Introduction
two drifted apart only later and were not separated from each other
at the beginning of the Greek philosoph...
Introduction 3
Parmenides was associated with this tradition. The iatromantis journeyed
into other worlds like shamans and...
4 Introduction
In the poem of Parmenides he is told explicitly by the goddess to
take what she has taught him back to the ...
Introduction 5
phers but is again to be found especially among Islamic philosophers
from Ibn S¥nå , Nå∑ir-i Khusraw, Khayy...
6 Introduction
because there would not be another world or level of consciousness,
and any claims to their existence would...
Introduction 7
ern sciences and became more and more a handmaid of modern sci-
ence especially with Kant and culminating w...
8 Introduction
Divinity, is different in many ways from both the Jewish and the
Islamic views of the matter. This differen...
Introduction 9
gradually the main schools of philosophy, in the West ceased to be
Christian philosophy, and in fact philos...
P A R T 1
Islamic Philosophy and Its Study
13
C H A P T E R 1
The Study of Islamic Philosophy
in the West in Recent Times:
An Overview
The study of Islamic philosoph...
14 Part 1: Islamic Philosophy and Its Study
used to denote the activity of the “philosophers.” In both cases, how-
ever, t...
The Study of Islamic Philosophy in the West 15
century. The various Western approaches to the study of Islamic phi-
losoph...
16 Part 1: Islamic Philosophy and Its Study
features with Islamic thought and of course with each other. Quite
different f...
The Study of Islamic Philosophy in the West 17
this approach had had in the fields of Far Eastern and Indian meta-
physics ...
18 Part 1: Islamic Philosophy and Its Study
scene of the Western study of Islamic philosophy, because this phi-
losophy ha...
The Study of Islamic Philosophy in the West 19
lic circles with the result that the earlier approach of Catholic scholars
...
20 Part 1: Islamic Philosophy and Its Study
University being particularly notable in this process. As a result, activ-
ity...
The Study of Islamic Philosophy in the West 21
adamant in pointing out the profound distinctions between traditional
and m...
22 Part 1: Islamic Philosophy and Its Study
such as the Shifå˘ (Healing) of Ibn S¥nå or Shar÷ al-hidåyah (Commen-
tary upo...
The Study of Islamic Philosophy in the West 23
van den Bergh is in many ways exemplary. Other noteworthy trans-
lations in...
24 Part 1: Islamic Philosophy and Its Study
the knowledge of Arabic and in the case of many philosophers, Per-
sian, and f...
The Study of Islamic Philosophy in the West 25
knowledge of not only earlier Islamic works including anthologies of
saying...
26 Part 1: Islamic Philosophy and Its Study
the issue of the relation of Islamic philosophy to kalåm and the Quranic
revel...
The Study of Islamic Philosophy in the West 27
extensive works on the history of Islamic philosophy and where trans-
latio...
28 Part 1: Islamic Philosophy and Its Study
Western histories of Islamic philosophy with chapters added on cul-
ture, the ...
The Study of Islamic Philosophy in the West 29
the West continue to influence Muslims themselves and their view of
their ow...
30 Part 1: Islamic Philosophy and Its Study
and schools of philosophy seen from the point of view of the Islamic
philosoph...
31
C H A P T E R 2
The Meaning and Role
of Philosophy in Islam
As already mentioned in the preceding chapter, ‘philosophy’...
32 Part 1: Islamic Philosophy and Its Study
As for “philosophy,” the sense in which we intend to use it in
this discussion...
The Meaning and Role of Philosophy in Islam 33
Christian and Jewish philosophy and then refuse to accept the reality
of Is...
34 Part 1: Islamic Philosophy and Its Study
Idr¥s, who was identified by them with Hermes, and who was entitled
“The Father...
The Meaning and Role of Philosophy in Islam 35
vis-à-vis God. The most profound metaphysics in Islam is in fact to be
foun...
36 Part 1: Islamic Philosophy and Its Study
truth and in his practical knowledge to behave in accordance with
truth.”18
Hi...
The Meaning and Role of Philosophy in Islam 37
to mankind as a sage fulfilling a certain aspect of the prophetic func-
tion...
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
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Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
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Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
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Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
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Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
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Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
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Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
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Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
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Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
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Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
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Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
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Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
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Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
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Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
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Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
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Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
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Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.
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Nasr, seyyed hossein islamic philosophy from its origin to the present - suny 2006 - 395 págs.

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  • 1. Philosophy in the Land of Prophecy Seyyed Hossein Nasr Islamic Philosophyfrom its Origin Presentto the
  • 2. I S L A M I C P H I L O S O P H Y F R O M I T S O R I G I N T O T H E P R E S E N T
  • 3. SUNY series in Islam Seyyed Hossein Nasr, editor
  • 4. I S L A M I C P H I L O S O P H Y F R O M I T S O R I G I N T O T H E P R E S E N T Philosophy in the Land of Prophecy Seyyed Hossein Nasr State University of New York Press
  • 5. Published by State University of New York Press © 2006 State University of New York All rights reserved Printed in the United States of America No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission. No part of this book may be stored in a retrieval system or transmitte in any form or by any means including elecronic, electrostatic, magnetic tape, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without the prior permission in writing of the publisher. For information, address State University of New York Press, 194 Washington Avenue, Suite 305, Albany, NY 12210-2384 Production by Marilyn P. Semerad Marketing by Fran Keneston Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Nasr, Seyyed Hossein. Islamic philosophy from its origin to the present : philosophy in the land of prophecy / Seyyed Hossein Nasr. p. cm. — (SUNY series in Islam) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 0-7914-6799-6 (hardcover : alk. paper) — ISBN 0-7914-6800-3 (pbk. : alk. paper) 1. Philosophy, Islamic. I. Title. II. Series. B741.N384 2006 181'.07—dc22 2005023943 ISBN-13: 978-0-7914-6799-2 (hardcover : alk. paper) ISBN-13: 978-0-7914-6800-5 (pbk. : alk. paper) 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
  • 6. The Quranic revelation is the light which enables one to see. It is like the sun which casts light lavishly. Philosophical intelligence is the eye that sees this light and without this light one cannot see anything. If one closes one’s eyes, that is, if one pretends to pass by philosophical intelligence, this light itself will not be seen because there will not be any eyes to see it. —Mullå S• adrå ማሜምሞ
  • 7. Contents Preface ix Transliteration x Introduction: Philosophy and Prophecy 1 PART 1. ISLAMIC PHILOSOPHY AND ITS STUDY 1. The Study of Islamic Philosophy in the West in Recent Times: An Overview 13 2. The Meaning and Role of Philosophy in Islam 31 3. Al-¡ikmat al-Ilåhiyyah and Kalåm 49 PART 2. PHILOSOPHICAL ISSUES 4. The Question of Existence and Quiddity and Ontology in Islamic Philosophy 63 5. Post-Avicennan Islamic Philosophy and the Study of Being 85 6. Epistemological Questions: Relations among Intellect, Reason, and Intuition within Diverse Islamic Intellectual Perspectives 93 PART 3. ISLAMIC PHILOSOPHY IN HISTORY 7. A Framework for the Study of the History of Islamic Philosophy 107 8. Dimensions of the Islamic Intellectual Tradition: Kalåm, Philosophy, and Spirituality 119 9. The Poet-Scientist ‘Umar Khayyåm as Philosopher 165 10. Philosophy in Azarbaijan and the School of Shiraz 185 11. The School of Isfahan Revisited 209 vii
  • 8. viii Contents 12. Mullå S• adrå and the Full Flowering of Prophetic Philosophy 223 13. From the School of Isfahan to the School of Tehran 235 PART 4. THE CURRENT SITUATION 14. Reflections on Islam and Modern Thought 259 15. Philosophy in the Land of Prophecy Yesterday and Today 273 Notes 281 Index 343
  • 9. Contents ix Preface This book is the result of nearly fifty years of study and meditation upon philosophy and philosophical issues as seen in light of the reali- ties revealed through prophecy both objective and inward in the form of illumination. In a world in which philosophy has become so di- vorced from revealed realities and secular thought has sought to marginalize and even annihilate knowledge imbued with the sacred, it is necessary to return, whenever possible, to the theme of the rela- tion between philosophy and prophecy through different perspectives and angles of vision. Years ago we dealt with the heart of the question of the relation between knowledge and the reality of the sacred in Knowledge ad the Sacred and have returned to this subject from other angles of vision in later works such as The Need for a Sacred Science. In the present work we turn our gaze specifically upon philoso- phy and especially Islamic philosophy. We deal with over a millen- nium of Islamic philosophy, its doctrines, history, and approaches, from the angle of vision of the relation between that long philosophi- cal tradition and the realities of prophecy that have always dominated the horizon of the Islamic cosmos and the intellectual climate and space of the Islamic people. Some of the chapters of this book were written as essays over the years. They have all been thoroughly re- vised and integrated into the framework of this book. Many other chapters are new and were written specifically as integral parts of the present work in order to complete the picture that we have sought to depict in the pages that follow. We wish to thank the Radius Foundation, which provided finan- cial help to make the preparation of this text possible. We are also especially grateful to Katherine O’Brien, who prepared and readied the handwritten material and numerous alterations required patience, know- how, and energy to carry out a Herculean task. Without her help it would not have been possible to present the text for publication. ix text for the press. Having had to endure reading hundreds of pages of
  • 10. Transliteration
  • 11. Introduction Philosophy and Prophecy In the current cultural climate in the West as well as other parts of the globe affected by modernism and postmodernism, philosophy and prophecy are seen as two very different and, in the eyes of many, antithetical approaches to the understanding of the nature of reality. Such was not, however, the case in the various traditional civilizations preceding the advent of the modern world. Nor is it the case even today to the extent that the traditional worldview has survived. Need- less to say, by “prophecy” we do not mean foretelling of the future, but bringing a message from higher or deeper orders of reality to a particular human collectivity. Now the modes of this function have differed from religion to religion, but the reality of “prophecy” is evident in worlds as diverse as the ancient Egyptian, the classical Greek, and the Hindu, not to speak of the Abrahamic monotheisms in which the role of prophecy is so central. If we do not limit our under- standing of prophecy to the Abrahamic view of it, we can see the presence of prophecy in very diverse religious climes in nearly all of which it is not only of a legal, ethical, and spiritual significance but also of a sapiental one concerned with knowledge. We see this reality in the world of the rishis in India and the shamans of diverse Shamanic religions as well as in the iatromantis of the Greek religion and the immortals of Taoism, in the illumination of the Buddha and later in the Zen Buddhist masters who have experienced illumination or satori, as well as the prophets of the Iranian religions such as Zoroaster and of course in the Abrahamic prophets. Consequently in all of these worlds, whenever and wherever philosophy in its universal sense has flourished, it has been related to prophecy in numerous ways. Even if we limit the definition of philosophy to the intellectual activity in ancient Greece known by that name, an activity that the modern Western understanding of history considers to be the origin of philosophical speculation as such, the rapport between philosophy and prophecy can be seen to be a very close one at the very moment of the genesis of Greek philosophy. We also come to realize that the 1
  • 12. 2 Introduction two drifted apart only later and were not separated from each other at the beginning of the Greek philosophical tradition. Let us just con- sider the three most important figures at the origin of Greek philo- sophical speculation. Pythagoras, who is said to have coined the term philosophy, was certainly not an ordinary philosopher like Descartes or Kant. He was said to have had extraordinary prophetic powers and was himself like a prophet who founded a new religious community.1 The Muslims in fact called him a monotheist (muwa÷÷id) and some referred to him as a prophet. The person often called the “father” of Western logic and phi- losophy was Parmenides, who is usually presented as a rationalist who happened to have written a poem of mediocre quality. But as the recent brilliant studies of Peter Kingsley have clearly demonstrated, far from being a rationalist in the modern sense, he was deeply im- mersed in the world of prophecy in its Greek religious sense and was a seer and visionary.2 In his poem, which contains his philosophical message, Parmenides is led to the other world by the Daughters of the Sun who came from the Mansion of Light situated at the farthest degree of existence.3 The answer to the question as to how this journey took place is “incubation,” a spiritual practice well known in Greek religion, one in which a person would rest completely still until his or her soul would be taken to higher levels of reality, and the mysteries of existence would be revealed. Thus Parmenides undertakes the inner journey until he meets the goddess who teaches him everything of importance, that is, teaches him what is considered to be the origin of Greek philosophical specu- lation. It is remarkable that when the goddess confronts Parmenides, she addresses him as kouros, that is, young man. This fact is remark- able and fascinating because in the Islamic tradition the very term for spiritual chivalry (futuwwah in Arabic and jawånmard¥ in Persian) is associated with the word for youth (fatå/jawån), and this spiritual chiv- alry is said to have existed before Islam and to have been given new life in Islam where its source is associated with ‘Al¥,4 who received it from the Prophet of Islam and where it was integrated into Sufism. Furthermore, ‘Al¥ has been associated by traditional Islamic sources with the founding of Islamic metaphysics.5 Another Greek figure who was given the title kouros was Epimenides of Crete who also journeyed to the other world where he met Justice and who brought back laws into this world. Like Parmenides, he also wrote poetry. Now Epimenides was known as a healer-prophet or iatromantis to whom everything had been revealed through incubation while he lay motionless in a cave for years.6
  • 13. Introduction 3 Parmenides was associated with this tradition. The iatromantis journeyed into other worlds like shamans and not only described their journeys but also used language in such a way as to make this journey possible for others. They used incantations and repetitions in their poems that we also see in Parmenides. They also introduced stories and legends of the East even as far as Tibet and India, which is of great interest because the community of Parmenides in southern Italy itself hailed originally from the East in Anatolia where the god Apollo was held in special esteem as the divine model of the iatromantis whom he inspired as his prophets to compose hypnotic poetry containing knowledge of reality. Excavations in recent decades in Velia in southern Italy, which was the home of Parmenides, have revealed inscriptions that connect him directly to Apollo and the iatromantis. As Kingsley writes, “We are being shown Parmenides as a son of the god Apollo, allied to myste- rious Iatromantis figures who were experts in the use of incantory poetry and at making journeys into other worlds.”7 If we remember that, esoterically speaking, “Apollo is not the god of light but the Light of God,”8 it becomes clear how deeply philosophy as expounded by its Greek father Parmenides was related at the moment of its genesis to prophecy even conceived in Abrahamic terms provided one does not overlook the inner meaning of prophecy to which we shall turn soon. A whole tradition of healer priests was created in the service of Apollo Oulios (Apollo the Healer), and it is said that Parmenides was its founder. It is interesting to note that although these aspects of Parmenides were later forgotten in the West, they were remembered in Islamic philoso- phy where Muslim historians of philosophy associate not only Islamic but also Greek philosophy closely with prophecy.9 One must recall here the famous Arabic dictum yanba‘ al-÷ikmah min mishkåt al-nubuwwah, that is, “philosophy issues from the niche of prophecy.” It is also of interest to note that the teacher of Parmenides is said to have been obscure and poor and that what he taught above all else to his student was stillness or hesychia. This was so important that later figures such as Plato, who sought to understand Parmenides, used the term hesychia more than any other word to describe the latter’s understanding of reality. “For Parmenides it’s through stillness that we come to stillness. Through stillness we come to understand still- ness. Through the practice of stillness we come to experience a reality that exists beyond this world of the senses.”10 Again it is of remarkable interest to remember the usage of ‘hesychia’ associated with the founder of Greek logic and philosophy in Hesychasm, which embodies the esoteric teachings of the Orthodox Church, teachings whose goal is the attainment of sanctity and gnosis.
  • 14. 4 Introduction In the poem of Parmenides he is told explicitly by the goddess to take what she has taught him back to the world and to be her messen- ger. Kingsley makes clear what the term messenger means in this con- text. “There is one particular name that well describes the kind of messenger Parmenides finds himself becoming: prophet. The real mean- ing of the word ‘prophet’ has nothing to do with being able to look into the future. In origin it just meant someone whose job is to speak on behalf of a great power, of someone or something else.”11 This “pro- phetic function” of Parmenides included not only being a philosopher, poet, and healer but also, like Epimenides, a bringer of law. The relation between Parmenides and prophecy was not, how- ever, primarily social, legal, and exoteric but inward, initiatic, and esoteric. His poem, if correctly understood, is itself initiation into another world, and “all the signs that only a fool would choose to miss, are that this is a text for initiates.”12 In this he joins both Pythagoras and Empedocles whose philosophy was also addressed only to those capable of receiving its message and was properly speaking wed to the esoteric rather than exoteric dimension of the Greek religion, re- quiring initiation for its full understanding. It is remarkable how again in this question Islamic philosophy resembles so much the vision of philosophy of these pre-Socratic figures such as Pythagoras, Parmenides, and Empedocles, all of whom were deeply revered by Islamic philosophers, especially of the ishråq¥ (Illuminationist) school. Coming to the mysterious figure of Empedocles, again we see a philosopher who was also a poet as well as a healer and who was considered by many to be also a prophet. “As well as being a sorcerer, and a poet, he was also a prophet and healer: one of those healer- prophets I have already talked about.”13 Empedocles also wrote on cosmology and the sciences of nature such as physics, but even in these domains these works were not written only to provide facts but “to save souls,”14 very much like the cosmology of a number of Islamic philosophers, including Suhraward¥ and even Ibn S¥nå in his Visionary Recitals.15 What is essential is to realize most of all that Empedocles saw himself as a prophet and his poem as an esoteric work. It is of interest to mention that all three of these figures who came at the origin of the Greek philosophical tradition were also po- ets. This is a characteristic of much of philosophy that flourished over the ages under the sun of prophecy. One need only recall the ancient Hindu sages who were poets and also fathers of Hindu philosophical thought in its traditional sense or the many Chinese sages who ex- pressed themselves in poetry. In the world of Abrahamic monotheism this is to be seen among a number of Jewish and Christian philoso-
  • 15. Introduction 5 phers but is again to be found especially among Islamic philosophers from Ibn S¥nå , Nå∑ir-i Khusraw, Khayyåm, and Suhraward¥ to Af∂al al-D¥n Kåshån¥, M¥r Dåmåd, and Mullå S• adrå to ¡åjj¥ Mullå Håd¥ Sabziwår¥, who lived in the thirteenth/nineteenth century.16 In a world such as the one in which we live today where philoso- phy is reduced to rationalism or more and more irrationalism and in which not only esoterism but religion itself is either denied or marginalized, the interpretation given above of the founders of West- ern philosophy will be rejected in many circles, and the nexus be- tween philosophy and prophecy in general and philosophy, poetry and esoterism in particular will be dismissed or considered as being of little consequence. But strangely enough for the Western reader the relation among philosophy, prophecy, and esoterism, affirmed by a number of contemporary Western scholars, are found to be central to the Islamic philosophical tradition with which most of this book will be concerned. We have included the discussion of these Greek figures here in order to demonstrate that the relation between philosophy and prophecy, although severed to an ever greater de- gree in the West from the end of the Middle Ages onward, is of great significance not only for the understanding of Islamic philosophy but also for a deeper comprehension of the origins of Western phi- losophy itself, origins that Western philosophy shares with Islamic philosophy but that have come to be understood in radically differ- ent ways by these two currents of thought as Western philosophy has come to distance itself to an ever greater degree from both the perennial philosophy and Christian theology. ᪌᪍ There are of course different modes and degrees of prophecy, a fact that one realizes if one studies various religious traditions and even if one limits oneself to a single tradition as we see in Judaism and Islam where the prophetic role of Jonah or Daniel is not the same as that of Moses or the Prophet of Islam. And yet there are common elements in various understandings of prophecy as far as the challenges posed to philosophy are concerned. First of all prophecy implies levels of real- ity whether these are envisaged as an objective or a subjective hierar- chy. If there were to be only a single level of reality associated objectively with the corporeal world and subjectively with our ordinary conscious- ness considered as the only legitimate and accepted form of con- sciousness, then prophecy as the function of bringing a message from another world or another level of consciousness would be meaningless
  • 16. 6 Introduction because there would not be another world or level of consciousness, and any claims to their existence would be rejected and considered as subjective hallucinations. Such is in fact the case with modern scientism and the prevalent desacralized worldview, both of which exclude in their perspectives the transcendent Reality and even higher levels of existence vis-à-vis this world as well as the Immanent Self and levels of consciousness deeper than the ordinary. But in all the worlds in which the reality of prophecy has been operative in one mode or another, acceptance of higher levels of reality and/or deeper levels of consciousness has been taken for granted as the correct manner of understanding the nature of the total reality in which human beings live.17 Formulated in this way, this assertion includes Abrahamic monotheisms along with the Indian religions, Taoism and Confucian- ism as well as the ancient Mediterranean and Iranian religions, and Shamanism along with Buddhism, which emphasizes levels of con- sciousness rather than degrees of objective existence. In all these worlds, prophecy, which is a central reality, creates consequences with which philosophy has to deal. Prophecy provides laws and moral teachings for society that ethical, political, and legal philosophy have to consider. Moreover, prophecy claims to provide knowledge of the nature of reality, including knowledge of the Origin or Source of all things, of the creation of the cosmos and its structure or cosmogony and cosmology, of the nature of the human soul, which would include both what should properly be called “pneumatology” and traditional psychology and of the end of things, or eschatology. The fruit of prophecy is knowledge of all the major aspects of reality expe- rienced or speculated about by human beings, including the nature of time and space, form and substance, causality, destiny, and numerous other issues with which philosophy in general is also concerned. Furthermore, certain forms of prophecy have had to do with inner knowledge, with the esoteric and the mystical, with visions of other levels of reality not meant for the public at large. We have al- ready seen the relation of the origin of Greek philosophy to the eso- teric dimension of the Greek religion, and we can find many other examples in other traditions including Buddhism and especially Islam where philosophy became related more and more in later centuries to the inner dimension of the Quranic revelation. The relation between philosophy and esoterism, which is a dimension of prophecy as defined here in its universal sense, also has a long history in the West lasting until the German Romantic movement. From the seventeenth century onward Western philosophy felt forced to philosophize about the picture of the world painted by mod-
  • 17. Introduction 7 ern sciences and became more and more a handmaid of modern sci- ence especially with Kant and culminating with much of twentieth century Anglo-Saxon philosophy, which is little more than logic tied to the scientific worldview. In an analogous way, in various tradi- tional worlds in which the reality of prophecy and revelation was central, whether the embodiment of this prophecy has been a book or some other form of the message brought from heaven or the messen- ger himself as in the case of the Hindu avatårs, the Buddha, or Christ, philosophy has had no choice but to take this central reality into con- sideration. Philosophy has to philosophize about something, and in the traditional worlds in question that something has always included the realities revealed through prophecy, which have ranged in form from the illuminations of the rishis of Hinduism and the Buddha, to God speaking to Moses on Mt. Sinai or the archangel Gabriel reveal- ing the Quran to the Prophet of Islam. In the traditional worlds in question, philosophy has not been simply theology as some have contended unless one limits philosophy to its modern positivistic definition in which case there is in reality no non-Western philosophy or for that matter medieval Western philoso- phy to speak of. But if we accept the definition of philosophy given by the person who is said to have first used the term—that is, Pythagoras— and see it as love of sophia, or if we accept its definition according to Plato as “the practice of death” according to which philosophy in- cludes both intellectual activity and spiritual practice, then certainly there are many schools of philosophy in various traditional worlds, some existing until now only in oral form as among the Australian aborigines and Native Americans,18 while others having produced volumes of philosophical writings over the centuries. Even if one were to decide to deal only with written philosophi- cal works, one could compose volumes on the subject of philosophy in the land of prophecy dealing with the Taoist and Confucian Chi- nese philosophical traditions, with those of Tibetan and Mahåyåna Buddhism including the schools of Japan, all of which possess their own special characteristics, and of course with the very rich philo- sophical traditions of Hindu India. One could also turn to the Abrahamic world and write on Jewish, Christian, and Islamic philo- sophical schools from the perspective of philosophical activity in worlds dominated by prophecy. Nor would such a treatment be completely parallel for the three sister Abrahamic traditions—despite notable simi- larities—because while the Jewish and Islamic conceptions of proph- ecy and the sacred book are close together, that of Christianity, in which the founder of the religion is seen as the incarnation of the
  • 18. 8 Introduction Divinity, is different in many ways from both the Jewish and the Islamic views of the matter. This difference is especially important philosophically as we see in the philosophical treatments of the in- carnation in Christian philosophy and “prophetic philosophy” in its Islamic context.19 ᪌᪍ In this work we shall limit our discussion of philosophy in the land of prophecy primarily to Islamic philosophy. This limitation is due mostly to the nature of our own studies in philosophy over the past five decades, which have been concerned mostly with Islamic philosophy. But we have also studied other traditions enough to be able to assert that a similar work could be written for the Greek, Jewish, Christian, or for that matter Neo-Confucian and Hindu philosophical traditions with both the similarities and differences that are to be found between these traditions. In a sense the similarities would be much more fun- damental than the differences for they concern the basic metaphysical truths common between them, truths for which we use the term philosophia perennis. But there are also differences of expression of the perennial philosophy depending on the intellectual climate in which the perennial philosophy is expressed in the same way that there is an inner unity among religions along with diversity on the formal level.20 In any case our attempt in this work is to present Islamic phi- losophy in its teachings as well as history as a philosophy that func- tions in a world dominated by prophecy and, this being the world of Islam, by a sacred book. We have concentrated especially on the later periods of Islamic philosophy especially in Persia, which, after the Mongol invasion in the seventh/thirteenth century, became the main arena for the continuation of the life of Islamic philosophy and where philosophy drew even closer to the inner realities made available through prophecy. There is also the important reason that this later period is still not well known in the West despite the research carried out during the second half of the twentieth century by a number of scholars in European languages. In fact the last part of the book pre- sents many figures and ideas not known in the West at all. This em- phasis on later Islamic philosophy is also of interest from the point of view of comparative studies for it shows how two philosophical tra- ditions, the Islamic and the Christian, parted ways and followed such different destinies from the eighth/fourteenth and ninth/fifteenth centuries onward. In the West philosophy became more and more distanced from theology after the eighth/fourteenth century, and
  • 19. Introduction 9 gradually the main schools of philosophy, in the West ceased to be Christian philosophy, and in fact philosophy in many of its schools turned against religion in general and Christianity in particular, pit- ting philosophy as the main rival to religion. In contrast, in the Islamic world philosophy continued to function within a universe dominated by the reality of prophecy, and this situation has persisted to a large extent to this day despite the appearance of secular philosophies here and there in various Islamic countries. Strangely enough, while a number of secularized Muslim schol- ars of Islamic philosophy who write about it but do not belong to the Islamic philosophical tradition tend these days to criticize the very notion of “prophetic philosophy” and want to separate philosophy from prophecy à la the modern West, a notable number of American philosophers, have now joined the society of Christian philosophers, while interest in Jewish philosophy as a living philosophy is also on the rise in the West. In such a context the continued living presence of the Islamic philosophical tradition, which has always functioned in a world dominated by prophecy, can also be of interest as living philosophy to Western philosophers in quest of the resuscitation of Jewish or Christian philosophy. Furthermore, this study can perhaps also be of some help to certain Muslims who are philosophically in- clined but who have become severed from their own philosophical tradition without having forsaken the reality of prophecy.
  • 20. P A R T 1 Islamic Philosophy and Its Study
  • 21. 13 C H A P T E R 1 The Study of Islamic Philosophy in the West in Recent Times: An Overview The study of Islamic philosophy has had a long history not only in the Islamic world itself but also in the West. The tradition of the study of this philosophy in the West is nearly one thousand years old and can be divided into three phases, namely, the medieval period of transla- tion, analysis, and study of Arabic texts; the second wave of transla- tion and study in the Renaissance following the medieval effort, and finally a new attempt to study Islamic philosophy, which began in earnest in the nineteenth century and which continues to this day. There is a certain continuity in this long history and connection be- tween these three phases, but there are also discontinuities. It is, how- ever, essentially with the last period that we shall concern ourselves in this appraisal. Moreover, by ‘philosophy’ we understand al-falsafah or al-÷ikmat al-ilåhiyyah of the traditional Islamic sources as defined in the chapters that are to follow1 and not the general meaning of ‘phi- losophy’ as used in modern European languages, which would extend to many other traditional Islamic disciplines such as the Quranic com- mentary (tafs¥r and ta˘w¥l), principles of religion (u„¶l al-d¥n), the prin- ciples of jurisprudence (u„¶l al-fiqh), Sufism, the natural sciences, and the sciences, of language. In the common parlance of European languages, ‘philosophy’ evokes the idea of something having to do with general principles, governing reasoning laws, conceptual definitions, the origin, and end of things, and still to some extent wisdom, and one speaks not only of pure philosophy but also of the philosophy of art, religion, or science. In the classical Islamic languages, however, al-falsafah refers to a specific set of disciplines and to a number of distinct schools such as the mashshå˘¥ (Peripatetic) and ishråq¥ (Illuminationist), not to just any school of thought that contains “philosophical” ideas. Moreover, in later Is- lamic history in the eastern lands of Islam the term al-÷ikmat al-ilåhiyyah became common and practically synonymous with al-falsafah, whereas in the western lands of Islam the older term al-falsafah continued to be
  • 22. 14 Part 1: Islamic Philosophy and Its Study used to denote the activity of the “philosophers.” In both cases, how- ever, these terms have always been used as names for specific types of intellectual activity that Muslims came to identify with philosophy or what one could also translate in the second case, “theosophy,” whereas other disciplines cultivated within Islamic civilization and possessing notable philosophical dimensions in the Western sense of ‘philosophy’ have not been categorized in the classical period of Is- lamic history as either al-falsafah or al-÷ikmat al-ilåhiyyah. It must be added, however, that although we have limited ourselves here to the discussion of falsafah in its traditional sense, it is necessary to remem- ber its relation to various fields such as Sufism, theology (kalåm), law, the natural and mathematical sciences, and the sciences of language. But we shall not deal here with these disciplines in themselves or with the philosophy they contain in the general Western sense of the term. Just as in the context of Islamic civilization, philosophy, though a very distinct discipline, has been closely related to the sciences on the one hand and Sufism and kalåm on the other, it has also had ramifications in fields dealing with the practical aspects of human life, especially political science and jurisprudence. The classical division of the “intellectual sciences” and also philosophy by many early Islamic philosophers (and following for the most part Aristotle) into the theo- retical and the practical, the first comprised of metaphysics, physics, mathematics, and logic and the second of ethics, politics, and econom- ics (in its traditional sense), reveals its relation to various fields and sciences including in some classifications even the religious sciences such as theology, Quranic commentary, and the principles of jurispru- dence. Not only do these fields possess a “philosophy” of their own as philosophy is currently understood—the work of Harry A. Wolfson on the philosophy of the kalåm being an outstanding proof2 —but also falsafah as a separate discipline has been inextricably related to many aspects of their development. It is this second aspect that belongs to any integral treatment of the study of Islamic philosophy and that in fact calls for an interdisciplinary approach that should bear much fruit in the future. ᪌᪍ Several schools can be distinguished in the history of the study of Islamic philosophy in the West since the nineteenth century. Here we shall mention first of all these schools up to the 1960s when important changes began to take place due to diverse factors and then turn in the second part of this discussion to the last decades of the twentieth
  • 23. The Study of Islamic Philosophy in the West 15 century. The various Western approaches to the study of Islamic phi- losophy include first of all the Christian scholastic tradition cultivated mostly by Catholic scholars, who in a sense continued the medieval study of Islamic philosophy within the matrix of Thomism or Neo- Thomism, especially up to Vatican II when the study of Thomism itself became somewhat diluted in many Catholic circles. Some of these scholars such as Etienne Gilson and Maurice De Wulf relied mostly on Latin translations of Islamic texts and were interested only in the role played by Islamic philosophy in Latin scholasticism, and others were well acquainted with the Arabic material and the structure of Islamic thought in general, such as Louis Massignon, A. M. Goichon, and Louis Gardet.3 There was, moreover, a special school of Catholic schol- ars in Spain in whom a sense of “Spanish identity” and reliance upon Catholic theology were combined. This school also produced a number of scholars of repute, such as Miguel Asín Palacios, Miguel Cruz Hernández, and Gonzales Palencia, who made major contributions to the study of Islamic philosophy and related fields but were confined in their creative thought and research mostly to Spain and the Maghreb. The historians of Islamic scientific thought, Millás-Vallicrosa and Juan Vernet, were also in a sense related to this group in their Spanish ori- entation, although not closely identified with Catholic thought. Another school that parallels the Catholic in its long history and that issued from the same type of scholastic background is that of Jewish scholarship, which had its roots directly or indirectly in rab- binical training and medieval Jewish scholasticism, with which ele- ments from the Western humanist schools had sometimes become mixed. This school produced outstanding scholars in the nineteenth century, such as Moritz Steinschneider and Salomo Munk, and contin- ued to produce some of the most outstanding scholars of Islamic philosophy and of Islamic thought in general during the early part of the twentieth century, such as Ignaz Goldziher, A. J. Wensinck, Saul Horovitz, Harry Wolfson, Erwin I. J. Rosenthal, Georges Vajda, Simon van der Bergh, Shlomo Pines, Paul Kraus, and Richard Walzer. The political turmoils following the partition of Palestine, however, changed the attitude of many, but not all, scholars of this type of background toward both Islamic philosophy and traditional Jewish thought itself, making many of them less sympathetic interpreters of traditional forms of Islamic thought. Altogether the approaches of the scholars in the two groups al- ready mentioned have important similarities in that most of them drew in different degrees from traditional Christian and Jewish philoso- phy and theology, which themselves possessed certain basic common
  • 24. 16 Part 1: Islamic Philosophy and Its Study features with Islamic thought and of course with each other. Quite different from both groups was another group of scholars who ap- peared on the scene in the late nineteenth century. Their background was modern European philosophy and not Christian or Jewish scho- lasticism, and they tried to understand the contents of Islamic philoso- phy in terms of different schools of thought prevalent in the West at the time they were writing. From Ernst Renan, followed by Léon Gauthier, who sought to make Ibn Rushd the father of rationalism, to Henry Corbin, who made use of the insights of phenomenology and more esoteric currents of Western thought to penetrate into the inner meaning of Islamic philosophy, there appeared a number of scholars who approached Islamic philosophy as thinkers and scholars immersed in the various schools of Western philosophy current in their day and also in modern methods of scholarship rather than as scholars of texts or men with medieval scholastic training in philosophy. In the case of Corbin, which is unique, there was, however, in addition to his im- mersion in German philosophy especially that of Martin Heidegger, profound knowledge of medieval Christian thought which he studied under Gilson. In the category of scholars such as Renan, who were influenced by the secularist philosophies of their day, which served as background for their study of Islamic philosophy, one cannot fail to mention also the large number of Marxist thinkers and scholars dur- ing the twentieth century in both the Soviet Union and the West who produced numerous works on Islamic philosophy within the frame- work of Marxist philosophy. In contrast to these groups, there also developed from the nine- teenth century onward a large school of orientalists with primarily philological rather than theological or philosophical training who stud- ied Islamic philosophy textually and philologically without deep un- derstanding of the philosophical and theological dimensions of their study. This group was responsible for the careful edition of many important texts but produced few meaningful interpretations. From the mid-1950s training in the social sciences supplemented that of philology and history, and a certain number of works appeared on Islamic philosophy from the point of view of current theories of the social sciences in the West. Most such works were related mostly to political philosophy rather than pure philosophy, although in Islamic thought the two cannot be completely separated from each other. With the extension in the West after the Second World War of the awareness of the existence of several intellectual traditions in the world other than the Western, a school of scholarship based on the comparative method came into being. With the relative success that
  • 25. The Study of Islamic Philosophy in the West 17 this approach had had in the fields of Far Eastern and Indian meta- physics and philosophy, a group of scholars began to turn to the study of Islamic philosophy in a comparative context usually in relation to the West but also occasionally to other Oriental intellectual traditions. The works of Toshihiko Izutsu and Noriko Ushida (both Asians but writing in English), and Henry Corbin, Gardet, and others mark a beginning in this potentially fecund field of study.4 Finally, there came into being, again only during the second half of the twentieth century, a school that began to study Islamic philoso- phy as a living school of thought rather than as a matter of solely historical interest. The inner need of Western man for a new “existen- tial” knowledge of the Oriental traditions turned a number of seekers to search within the Islamic philosophical tradition for answers to questions posed by the modern world on the intellectual level. Al- ready earlier in the twentieth century Bernard Carra de Vaux, Max Horten, and a few other figures had been concerned to some degree with the philosophical content of Islamic philosophy. Now this con- cern began to increase, and such men as Corbin; Gardet; Gilbert Durand in the West; and S. H. Nasr, Toshihiko Izutsu, Mehdi Mohaghegh, and Naquib al-Attas in the East began a new type of scholarship in Islamic philosophy, which, without sacrificing in any way the scholarly aspect of such studies, turned them directly into the service of the philosophi- cal and metaphysical quest of those contemporary men and women who were aware of the profound intellectual crisis of Western civiliza- tion and were seeking authentic philosophical knowledge elsewhere. This development, if pursued more extensively and in depth, could help to overcome the excessive historicism of earlier works by treating Islamic metaphysical and philosophical ideas as something of innate philosophical value rather than being of only archaeological interest. Until now so much of the research in Islamic philosophy has been devoted to tracing historical influences that few have bothered to ask what a particular philosophical idea must have meant as philo- sophical idea to those who held it and contemplated it, whatever might have been its apparent historical origin. Somehow the significance of the saying that truth has no history has rarely been realized in the modern West in the case of Oriental philosophy in general and Islamic philosophy in particular with the result that, besides exceptions, some of which have been already cited, few European thinkers of impor- tance in modern times have been attracted to Islamic philosophy as philosophy. Nor have other non-Western philosophical traditions fared much better. The combination of philosopher and orientalist that one finds in a scholar such as Corbin has only rarely appeared on the
  • 26. 18 Part 1: Islamic Philosophy and Its Study scene of the Western study of Islamic philosophy, because this phi- losophy has been presented too often as nothing more than Greek philosophy in Arabic dress, without anything of innate philosophical value in it that could not be found in the Greek sources themselves. Only an extension of the activity of the group that considers Islamic philosophy as a living intellectual tradition worthy of study on its own basis can remedy the shortsightedness that has prevented to a large extent a true appreciation of this subject in the West. ᪌᪍ In addition to all the groups cited so far, who were mostly part of or connected in one way or another to the Western intellectual scene, the twentieth century, especially in its middle decades, produced also numerous Muslim scholars and a few non-Muslims from the Arab world such as George Anawati and Majid Fakhry who made many contributions to Islamic philosophy. This group includes scholars trained in modern methods of research, and writing often in both Islamic and Western languages, such as Mu∑†afå ‘Abd al-Råziq, Ibråh¥m Madkour, ‘Alå˘ al-D¥n Affifi, Fu˘åd El-Ahwany, Mu±ammad Ab¨ R¥dah, ‘Abd al-Ra±mån Badaw¥ (who was particularly productive in both French and Arabic), and somewhat later Muhsin Mahdi, Fazlur Rahman, S. H. Nasr, Muhammad Arkoun, Mian Muhammad Sharif, and many others, some of whom also participated in the activities of the other groups mentioned above. There were also those who contin- ued the traditional method of cultivating and studying Islamic phi- losophy. This latter group was to be found especially in Persia and included, as far as figures whose works appeared also in the West, Sayyid Mu±ammad ¡usayn abå†abå˘¥, Sayyid Jalål al-D¥n ≈shtiyån¥, Murta∂å Mu†ahhar¥, M¥rzå Mahd¥ ¡å˘ir¥, Mehdi Mohaghegh, and a number of others whose writings are only now becoming known in Europe and America.5 But a great deal more effort must be made to make the works of Muslim scholars on Islamic philosophy known to the West and to facilitate genuine cooperation between Eastern schol- ars and those in the West whose field of interest is Islamic philosophy. ᪌᪍ During the last few decades of the twentieth century a number of events took place that caused a new chapter to be written in the his- tory and methods of study of Islamic philosophy in the West. As a result of Vatican II Thomism became less emphasized in many Catho-
  • 27. The Study of Islamic Philosophy in the West 19 lic circles with the result that the earlier approach of Catholic scholars rooted in Thomism and also interested in Islamic philosophy became less common, although still a number of important scholars with such a background continue to make significant contributions to the field of Islamic philosophy as we see for example in the case of David Burrell.6 Likewise, the old rabbinical training that some Jewish scholars of Is- lamic philosophy of the earlier period had undergone became rarer, although Jewish scholars with knowledge of Hebrew and the Jewish philosophical tradition such as Lenn Goodman and Oliver Leaman have continued to make important contributions especially to earlier Islamic philosophy. Also during these decades, the philosophical scene on the Euro- pean continent and in the Anglo-Saxon world began to part ways more sharply than before with existentialism and phenomenology becoming dominant on the Continent and analytical philosophy in Britain, Canada, and the United States, with deconstructionism ap- pearing also on the scene late in the twentieth century but with differ- ent interpretations of it as far as philosophy is concerned in the two worlds. Moreover, a new generation of Western scholars of Islamic philosophy appeared who, if not strictly speaking philosophers, were nevertheless influenced by those diverse currents of thought, the influence upon them depending on their background and educational training. Also during this period as a result of the earlier efforts of Corbin, Izutsu, Nasr and others later Islamic philosophy became a subject of interest for a whole new generation of students in the West. Furthermore, during these decades the number of Muslim schol- ars of Islamic philosophy who wrote in a European language increased dramatically. Some of these figures such as Muhsin Mahdi, Fazlur Rahman, Jawåd Fala†¨r¥, ¡å˘ir¥ Yazd¥, and Nasr have taught in West- ern universities and trained numerous students, both Muslim and non- Muslim. Others such as Naquib al-Attas returned to the Islamic world but wrote mostly in English. Moreover, a number of Western students went to the Islamic world for a period to study philosophy and related subjects, and some such as Herman Landolt, James Morris, William Chittick, and John Cooper became well-known authorities on Islamic thought in general and Islamic philosophy in particular. In fact a great deal of activity in Islamic philosophy in the West by these and a number of older Muslim scholars, as well as by a later generation such as Hossein Ziai and Mehdi Aminrazavi is having an impact within the Islamic world itself. Today many students from the Arab world, Tur- key, Iran, Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, and other Muslim lands are coming to the West to study with such scholars, the case of McGill
  • 28. 20 Part 1: Islamic Philosophy and Its Study University being particularly notable in this process. As a result, activ- ity in Islamic philosophy in the West has become closely related to the life of Islamic philosophy in the Islamic world itself. The last decades of the twentieth century were also witness to the gradual penetration into and interaction with Western philosophy of the living Islamic philosophical tradition. This is evident most of all in France as a result of the influence of Corbin as can be seen in the works of such younger French philosophers as Christian Jambet. But there has also now come into being a gradual interaction between Islamic philosophy and analytical philosophy7 and semiotics as we see in the works of Ian Netton and Oliver Leaman. All of these currents led at the end of the twentieth century to the establishment of a whole center in Britain devoted to not only the dissemination of Islamic philosophy, especially in its later forms, but also to its interaction with Western philosophy, particularly the analytical school. This center publishes the journal Transcendent Philosophy, under the direction of a young Islamic philosopher Gholam Ali Safavi, among whose writers are to be found many of the younger scholars, both Muslim and Western, interested in Islamic philosophy as philosophy and also in serious comparative studies. The field of the study of Islamic philosophy in the West has become as a result a much more extensive one than it was in the early decades of the twentieth century. It is enough to consult the volumi- nous bibliography of Hans Daiber, already cited, to see the very large number of works appearing every year in European languages on this subject, works written by both Western and Muslim scholars, and to realize how scholarly activity in the field has expanded in nearly ev- ery major European country as well as in the United States and Canada. And yet the chasm between the scholarly study of Islamic philosophy as intellectual history and from a Western point of view and as living philosophy remains as does the understanding of the Islamic philo- sophical tradition as viewed by those within that tradition and as seen by most Western scholars who still for the most part seek to apply categories drawn from ever-changing philosophical fashions of the West to a philosophical tradition cultivated in the land of prophecy and concerned with truths that stand above and beyond the transient fashions of the day. This chasm can in fact be seen between all forms of traditional philosophy, which are so many expressions of the philosophia perennis,8 and various currents of modern philosophy. The traditional exponents of the philosophia perennis in the twentieth century, especially René Guénon, Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, and Frithjof Schuon9 were all
  • 29. The Study of Islamic Philosophy in the West 21 adamant in pointing out the profound distinctions between traditional and modern philosophies.10 Their criticisms of modern thought and exposition of traditional metaphysics and cosmology, which lie at the heart of the philosophia perennis, have led many of the scholars of the younger generation to the serious study of Islamic philosophy, but the works of traditional authors have not been able to eradicate completely the mental distortions and incorrect presumptions about the nature of the intellect and knowledge that still prevent many Western scholars of Islamic philosophy to grasp its real nature and its significance as a philosophy that remains aware of the realities of prophecy. ᪌᪍ Despite conceptual perspectives held by many Western scholars that are not acceptable by those who belong to the Islamic intellectual tradition and who live within its framework, Western scholars of Is- lamic philosophy have made some notable contributions to this field of study. For over a century they have cataloged many libraries in East and West and have discovered thereby numerous manuscripts of Islamic philosophy of the greatest importance. Today nearly all the major libraries in the West are fairly well cataloged, there being only a few exceptions such as parts of the Vatican Library. In any case one does not expect it to be likely that any major discoveries in the field of Islamic philosophical manuscripts will be made in these libraries, although the possibility of course always exists. The situation is not, however, the same in the Islamic world itself where almost every year new manuscripts of significance come to light even in Iran and Turkey whose holdings are better cataloged than most other Islamic countries. There is most likely much to be discovered in the way of philosophical manuscripts when libraries of India, Pakistan, Syria, Yemen, Mali and many other lands not to speak of private collections all over the Is- lamic world are better cataloged.11 Western scholars have already done much in developing scholarly methods for the cataloging of manu- scripts, methods that have been used not only by themselves but also to an ever greater degree by Muslim specialists in manuscripts such as Fu˘åd Sezgin and Mu±ammad Tåq¥ Dånishpazh¨h. Although it is often overlooked by students of philosophy, this type of scholarly activity is of the utmost importance for making the basic texts of Islamic phi- losophy available to the scholarly community for study. A closely related domain is the correction and preparation of critical editions of manuscripts. In the traditional Islamic world the major texts of Islamic philosophy that were usually taught to students,
  • 30. 22 Part 1: Islamic Philosophy and Its Study such as the Shifå˘ (Healing) of Ibn S¥nå or Shar÷ al-hidåyah (Commen- tary upon the Guidance) of Mullå Sadrå and Ath¥r al-D¥n Abhar¥, were corrected by the teachers as they went along, and the existing oral tradition was always involved as the written text was taught. With the coming of printing into the Islamic world, some texts were lithographed and later even printed in modern form by scholars trained traditionally in Islamic philosophy but in many other cases faulty texts began to appear in printed form and still do so. From the late nineteenth century onward, a number of Western scholars began to edit Arabic and Persian philosophical texts critically as such major series as the Bibliothèque Iranienne of the Institut Franco- Iranien directed by Henry Corbin bears witness.12 Long collaboration with Western scholars of manuscripts taught several generations of Muslim scholars how to edit texts critically, something that became ever more necessary as the oral tradition became less available. Today the editing of Islamic philosophical texts often appears as a thankless task, and fewer and fewer Western scholars are willing to devote much time to it. This task is now being accomplished mostly by Arab, Per- sian, Turkish, and other Muslim scholars, but it cannot be forgotten that in this area of providing critical editions of texts the work of Western scholars has been of great importance. Yet, alas, even today there is not one major Islamic philosopher all of whose works have been edited critically on the basis of all the known manuscripts. Need- less to say, this is a shortcoming that has to be overcome soon. Mean- while, the critical and dependable printed editions of works of Islamic philosophy that do exist owe much, either directly or indirectly, to Western scholars of this field. The knowledge of Islamic philosophy in the West would not of course be possible outside the small circles of scholars of Islamic lan- guages without translations of basic texts into European languages. This task has been carried out by a number of Western scholars for over a century, and they have been joined in this task during the past half century by a number of Muslim scholars with mastery of one or more European languages. Yet there is a remarkable dearth of trust- worthy translations available to the Western reader when one com- pares the case of Islamic philosophical texts with that of Hindu or Buddhist texts. As far as translation into English is concerned, the number is limited and still does not include the totality of such basic Islamic philosophical texts as the Shifå˘ and al-Ishåråt wa˘l-tanb¥håt (The Book of Directives and Remarks) of Ibn S¥nå, the Shar÷ al-ishåråt of Na∑¥r al-D¥n al-us¥, and al-Asfår al-arba‘ah (The Four Journeys) of Mullå S• adrå. Still there are notable translations by Western scholars of which the Tahåfut al-tahåfut (The Incoherence of the Incoherence) by
  • 31. The Study of Islamic Philosophy in the West 23 van den Bergh is in many ways exemplary. Other noteworthy trans- lations into English include the Metaphysics of al-Kind¥ by Alfred Ivry; several texts of Ismå‘¥l¥ philosophy by Vladimir Ivanow and Paul Walker; several works of al-Fåråb¥ by Richard Walzer and Fritz W. Zimmerman; The Spiritual Physick and The Philosophical Life of al-Råz¥ by Arthur J. Arberry; the Al-Amad ‘ala˘l-abad (On the Soul and Its Fate) of Abu˘l-¡asan al-‘≈mir¥ by Everett K. Rowson; The Life of Ibn S¥nå by William E. Gohlmann and selections of Ibn S¥nå’s philosophical theol- ogy by Arthur J. Arberry; a long epistle of the Ikhwån al-S• afå˘ by Lenn Goodman; ¡ayy ibn Yaqzån (Living Son of the Awake) of Ibn ufayl also translated by Lenn Goodman; The Mystical Treatises of Suhraward¥ by Wheeler Thackston; Averroes’ Commentary on Plato’s “Republic” by Erwin Rosenthal; Ibn Rushd’s Metaphysics by Charles Genequand; and a number of his logical works and commentaries on Aristotle by S. Kurland, Harry Blumberg, Herbert Davidson, and Charles Butterworth who has also translated his Fa„l al-maqål (The Decisive Treatise); a selective translation of the works of Af∂al al-D¥n Kashån¥ by William Chittick; the Muqaddimah (Prolegomena) of Ibn Khald¨n by Franz Rosenthal; al-¡ikmat al-‘arshiyyah (Wisdom of the Throne) of Mullå S• adrå by James Morris; Iks¥r al-‘årif¥n (The Elixir of the Gnostics) also of Mullå S• adrå by Chittick; and ¡ujjat Allåh al- bålighah (The Conclusive Argument from God) of Shåh Wal¥ Allåh of Delhi by Marcia Hermansen. There are of course many other worthy translations, and this list does not mean to be in any way complete but only illustrative.13 Furthermore, there are also many important transla- tions in other European languages especially in French,14 German, Span- ish, Italian, and Russian. There are also translations of numerous works of philosophical theology and doctrinal Sufism, which bear directly on Islamic philosophy, but which we have not cited here. As already mentioned, this effort to make works of Islamic phi- losophy available in English has been joined by a number of Islamic scholars as well as a number of Christian Arabs during the past few decades. As far as the English language is concerned, one can mention Muhsin Mahdi, a major authority as editor, commentator, and trans- lator of al-Fåråb¥, George Hourani, Michael Marmura, Majid Fakhry, Selim Kamal, M. S. Khan, Fawz¥ al-Najjår, Shams Inati, Hossein Ziai (sometimes in collaboration with John Walbridge), and Parviz Morewedge, just to cite some of the better known names. And again there are a number of scholars of Islamic background who have made important translations into French and German.15 As a result of all these efforts, some primary sources of Islamic philosophy are now available in European languages but not to the extent that one could understand Islamic philosophy in depth without
  • 32. 24 Part 1: Islamic Philosophy and Its Study the knowledge of Arabic and in the case of many philosophers, Per- sian, and for Ottoman philosophical thought also Turkish. Much re- mains to be done in this domain, but this effort is hampered by many factors, including the lack of critical editions of many important pri- mary texts, a shortage of philosophical dictionaries,16 and most of all a lack of the necessary scholars to carry out the difficult task of mak- ing competent translations. This latter factor is further aggravated by the fact that in many Western universities translation of a philosophi- cal text, which is often a daunting task, is not even considered in the scholarly works of a young scholar when he or she is being considered for academic promotion. What is needed for Islamic philosophy is something like the Loeb Library for Greek and Latin texts where the text in the original ap- pears on one side of the page and the English translation on the op- posite page. Fortunately during the last few years Brigham Young University has embarked upon such a series in which already a few important titles have appeared.17 Some other publishers in America are also beginning to produce works of this kind.18 In any case in order to have the main corpus of Islamic philosophy available to be studied in the West by those interested in philosophy, much more careful translation has to be carried out. Furthermore, the vocabulary chosen for the translation of technical philosophical terms must reflect the character of Islamic philosophy engaged with the realities mani- fested in the land of prophecy rather than the rationalistic or skeptical bent of mind of many of those who embark upon the arduous task of translation. Otherwise the Italian adage traduttore traditore, that is, a translator is a betrayer, becomes the reality as we in fact see in a number of translations in many fields of Islamic studies, including philosophy. The history of philosophy in the modern sense began in the West in the nineteenth century following certain philosophical developments, especially in Germany. Much earlier, classical Muslim scholars had written works that dealt with the lives and writings of Islamic think- ers, including philosophers. These works included not only the al- Milal wa˘l-ni÷al literature, meaning literally religious creeds and schools of philosophy or thought, by such figures as al-Båghdåd¥, Ibn ¡azm, and al-Shahrastån¥, but also well-known treatises dealing with phi- losophers, scientists, and theologians and bearing other titles such as the works of Ibn al-Nad¥m, Ibn Ab¥ U∑aybi‘ah, Ibn al-Qif†¥, Ibn Khallakån, and ¡åjj¥ Khal¥fah. There are also classical works devoted more specifically to philosophers, including pre-Islamic ones, works such as those of Mu±ammad Shams al-D¥n Shahraz¨r¥,19 Qu†b al-D¥n Ashkiwar¥, and Mu±ammad Tunakåbun¥. These treatises usually reflect
  • 33. The Study of Islamic Philosophy in the West 25 knowledge of not only earlier Islamic works including anthologies of sayings of Greek and Muslim philosophers by such figures as Ibn Fåtik and Ab¨ Sulaymån al-Sijistån¥, but also directly or indirectly of Greek works such as those of Theophrastus, Diogenes Laertius, and Galen dealing with Greek philosophers. It is of great interest in the context of the present book to note that in most of these traditional histories of Islamic philosophy, the idea that philosophy was related at the beginning to prophecy has been confirmed and emphasized, and it has been asserted that ÷ikmah began with the prophet Idr¥s identified with Hermes.20 But the works on Islamic philosophy that began to be written in the West from the nineteenth century onward were based on very different premises and methods. They were for the most part rooted in positivistic historicism and disregarded the traditional Islamic understanding of the history of philosophy nearly completely. From the middle of the nineteenth century European scholars began to write histories of Islamic philoso- phy, usually called “Arabic” philosophy following the medieval usage of this term.21 Starting with the pioneering works of Augustus Schmölders and Salomo Munk, a number of well-known works on the history of Islamic philosophy appeared in various European languages by such figures as Bernard Carra de Vaux, Miguel Cruz Hernández, De Lacy O’Leary, Gustave Dugat, Léon Gauthier, and Goffredo Quadri.22 The most influential among these works in the Islamic world itself was Tjitze De Boer’s Geschichte der Philosophie im Islam,23 which in its English version remained a standard text in Pakistani and many Indian univer- sities until the 1970s and in some places until more recently. These works, often of a scholarly nature, nevertheless looked upon Islamic philosophy from the point of view of the modern Euro- pean perspective on its own philosophical heritage. All of them disre- garded more or less later Islamic philosophy from the thirteenth century onward as if it had never existed. Most of them saw what they knew of Islamic philosophy even of the earlier period, that is, the main figures of mashshå˘¥ or Islamic Peripatetic philosophy, as being of little more value than a bridge between late medieval European philosophy and the Greek past. They disregarded for the most part the relation between Islamic philosophy and the Quranic revelation and ignored the view of Islamic philosophy itself about its origins and its relation to prophecy. During the first six or seven decades of the twentieth century, many Muslims who had become aware of Western approaches to the history of philosophy also wrote histories of Islamic philosophy but based mostly on the current Western models. Some dealt more with
  • 34. 26 Part 1: Islamic Philosophy and Its Study the issue of the relation of Islamic philosophy to kalåm and the Quranic revelation itself than their Western counterparts. Those writing in Arabic also provided much information on the original Arabic philo- sophical texts not found in the Western histories of Islamic philoso- phy. During the period in question most of the Muslim authors in this field were Arabs such as Mu∑†afå ‘Abd al-Råziq, ‘Uthmån Am¥n, Ibråh¥m Madhk¨r, ¡usåm al-≈l¨s¥, ‘Al¥ Såm¥ al-Najjår, and the very prolific ‘Abd al-Ra±mån Badaw¥, who wrote in both French and Ara- bic. Among this group ‘Abd al-¡al¥m Ma±m¨d was exceptional in his grasp of the relation of falsafah to the inner teachings of Islam. Some of the notable scholars writing on the history of Islamic philosophy were also Christian rather than Muslim Arabs. This latter category included among others Georges Anawati, ¡annå al-Fåkh¨r¥, and Khal¥l al-Jurr. The works in Arabic on the history of Islamic philosophy often contain many insights and analyses not found in the works of Euro- pean scholars, but the model of most of these works remained to a large extent the histories written by Western scholars. This is espe- cially true in their conception of Islamic philosophy as terminating with Ibn Rushd, to which Ibn Khald¨n came to be added as a kind of postscript. These works in fact disregarded, like their Western coun- terparts, the whole later tradition of Islamic philosophy, to which much of the present book is devoted, and therefore did not emphasize at all the living nature of the Islamic philosophical tradition. During this period histories of Islamic philosophy were also written by Turkish, Indo-Pakistani, and to a lesser extent Persian schol- ars. One needs only to recall Zia Ülken from Turkey and Saeed Shaikh from Pakistan, whose works became fairly popular. Although these works did not suffer from any attachment to Arab nationalistic ideol- ogy, their treatments nevertheless ignored much of later Islamic phi- losophy and were to a large extent based on European models. The only figure of this period who sought to deal with later Islamic phi- losophy, although in a truncated version, was Mu±ammad Iqbål in his The Development of Metaphysics in Persia, which contains important in- sights, although it is also very incomplete and contains certain basic errors. It is interesting to note that in Persia, where Islamic philosophy was more active as a living tradition than anywhere else, less attention was paid to the history of Islamic philosophy as cultivated in the West than in the Arab world, the reason being precisely because the tradition that always emphasized that truth stands ultimately above time and that philosophy cannot be reduced to its history was still so strong. It has been only during the past three decades that Persian scholars such as ‘Al¥ A∑ghar ¡alab¥ and Ghulåm ¡usayn Ibråh¥m D¥nån¥ have written
  • 35. The Study of Islamic Philosophy in the West 27 extensive works on the history of Islamic philosophy and where trans- lations of works on this subject from European languages and Arabic have also attracted a number of figures who belong to the authentic Islamic intellectual tradition to the modern treatment of the history of Islamic philosophy. A major turning point occurred in the writing of the history of Islamic philosophy in the 1960s. First of all Henry Corbin, who was the first Western scholar to have discovered the whole continent of later Islamic philosophy and who opposed strongly the historicism that issued from nineteenth-century European philosophy, asked myself and Osman Yahya, a Syrian expert on doctrinal and philosophical Sufism, to collaborate with him to write a history of Islamic philoso- phy for the popular encyclopedic collection Pléiades. The result of this cooperation was the Histoire de la philosophie islamique,24 which was soon translated into many European and Islamic languages and became very popular. Although this work was only the first volume of our project and ended with the life of Ibn Rushd, it treated Islamic philoso- phy and its history in a completely different way from other works in European languages and took fully into consideration the rapport be- tween philosophical speculation and revelation in Islam. Neither Yahya nor I had time to complete this project; so Corbin completed it in a somewhat more summary fashion, and it is this completed version that has been translated into English as The History of Islamic Philosophy.25 Two years before the appearance of our Histoire de la philosophie islamique, I delivered a set of three lectures at Harvard University, in which, while dealing with Ibn S¥nå, Suhraward¥, and Ibn ‘Arab¥, I sought to combine the Islamic view that philosophical truth has ulti- mately no history and that in Islamic history what was important was intellectual perspectives and not individuals with careful historical scholarship making use of both Western and Islamic sources. My lec- tures were in reality a response from within the Islamic philosophical tradition to the historiography of Islamic philosophy developed in the West. The book resulting from these lectures was entitled Three Mus- lim Sages.26 Translated into Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Urdu, Bengali, and many other languages, it remains to this day a text studied in many Islamic as well as Western universities and represents an inter- action between the living Islamic intellectual tradition and Western scholarship on the subject of the history of Islamic philosophy. Meanwhile, the government of Pakistan had created a center under the direction of Mian Mu±ammad Shar¥f to compile a major history of Islamic philosophy in which scholars from East and West would collaborate. The original plan for the book followed mostly the
  • 36. 28 Part 1: Islamic Philosophy and Its Study Western histories of Islamic philosophy with chapters added on cul- ture, the arts, and more recent developments in the Islamic world. Around 1960, I began to cooperate with M. M. Shar¥f on this project and convinced him to add chapters on later Islamic philosophy, which he accepted with the proviso that I would write them, which I did. Nevertheless, the work, which became standard reference for several decades27 and was translated into a number of languages, is a rather composite work and does not as yet represent a satisfactory integra- tion between the traditional Islamic understanding of Islamic philoso- phy and Western historiography of the subject. Since those defining years of the 1960s, a number of histories have appeared by Western scholars with greater awareness of the integral Islamic philosophical tradition. Such works include Historia del pensamiento en el mundo islámico of Miguel Cruz Hernández28 and Ian Netton’s Allåh Transcendent.29 But the most popular work in En- glish written by a single author during this period on the subject has been Majid Fakhry’s History of Islamic Philosophy,30 which in its original version followed the earlier European and Arabic works that limited Islamic philosophy to only certain schools and the earlier period of Islamic thought. But subsequent editions have continued to embrace to an ever greater degree the later Islamic philosophical tradition, al- though the section on recent schools of Islamic philosophy in Persia and India is still rather scanty. Finally, in the 1990s Routledge requested that Oliver Leaman and I edit a major two-volume work on the history of Islamic philoso- phy, which would also include a section on Jewish philosophy as part of their general series on the history of philosophy. The plan of this work was based on both a historical and a morphological treatment of the subject and taking full account of the relation of Islamic philoso- phy to the Islamic revelation, as well as the whole of the Islamic in- tellectual tradition. Again we invited scholars from both the West and the Islamic world, and, as in nearly all works in which a large number of scholars of different backgrounds participate, the result was that there are differences and sometimes discordant views expressed. But this work, entitled History of Islamic Philosophy, which first appeared in 1996, is now perhaps the most extensive work available on the subject, a work in which Western and Islamic scholarship are combined with the aim of creating a bridge between the two. There are very few fields in which Western scholarship has been as influential upon philosophical activity in the Islamic world as that of the history of Islamic philosophy. Works written on this subject in
  • 37. The Study of Islamic Philosophy in the West 29 the West continue to influence Muslims themselves and their view of their own intellectual tradition. At stake for Muslims is the meaning of philosophy and its relation to prophecy. A full history of Islamic philosophy, which would include all periods of Islamic history and all the different schools of thought with an Islamic philosophical dimen- sion and full awareness of the nexus between philosophy and proph- ecy, must await more monographic studies of figures and periods not yet fully known. But during the past few decades at least a framework for the study of the history of Islamic philosophy has been created that is deeply rooted in the nature of Islam and its intellectual tradition. Western scholarship on this subject originally opposed the Islamic view almost completely and for the most part looked upon philosophy as a secularized mental activity. However, later at least some voices in the West began to look at the subject differently often more in accordance with the Islamic view of things. In any case the Western challenge to the Muslims’ self-understanding of their own intellectual tradition has been very significant in the Muslim response of the past few decades, a re- sponse that is bound to grow in both depth and breadth in the future. Western scholars have also of course carried out many analyses of various figures and texts of Islamic thought often in total disagree- ment with the Muslims’ own understanding of the figure or subject at hand. A blatant example of this is the study by Renan, the French rationalistic and agnostic philosopher, of Ibn Rushd, a study that has had far-reaching influence. Nor have such studies, which claim to know an Ibn S¥nå or a Suhraward¥ better than those who belong to the living Islamic philosophical tradition including oral teachings that go back to these masters, ceased to appear in the West. But in this do- main also such analyses are rarely followed blindly by Western edu- cated Muslims as they were in days of old. Usually they are catalysts for philosophical deliberation, especially among younger Muslim philosophers and scholars of philosophy who are well versed in a European language. In any case Western scholarship on Islamic phi- losophy continues to have an influence upon the Islamic world itself in the domain of philosophical analysis as in the other fields men- tioned above. Moreover, this interaction, which is in reality a form of comparative philosophy, cannot but bear positive fruit if on the Is- lamic side the authentic and traditional Islamic view of philosophy is not abandoned and forgotten as was the case with an earlier genera- tion of Western-educated Muslims. In the chapters that follow we shall be discussing both philo- sophical questions and the ideas of particular Islamic philosophers
  • 38. 30 Part 1: Islamic Philosophy and Its Study and schools of philosophy seen from the point of view of the Islamic philosophical tradition itself. Yet our language and mode of presenta- tion will incorporate Western scholarship and address the Western as well as the Muslim audience. We hope to remain faithful to philoso- phy cultivated in the land of prophecy while presenting features of this philosophy in such a manner that they can speak even to those beyond the borders of this “land,” even to those who think that they do not need to heed the voice of prophecy or do not even hear it, but who are nevertheless drawn to the teachings of the ÷ikmah or wisdom contained in the Islamic philosophical tradition.
  • 39. 31 C H A P T E R 2 The Meaning and Role of Philosophy in Islam As already mentioned in the preceding chapter, ‘philosophy’ is used in so many different ways in Western languages today that in discuss- ing the meaning and role of philosophy in Islam we must turn before anything else to the exact meaning corresponding to this term in Arabic, that is, falsafah and ÷ikmah, and also to the structure of Islam in its essence and historical deployment in relation to philosophy. Islam is hierarchic when considered in its total reality and also in the way it has manifested itself in history.1 The Islamic revelation possesses within itself several dimensions and has been revealed to humanity on the basic levels of al-islåm, al-¥mån, and al-i÷sån (submission, faith, and virtue) and from another perspective as al-Shar¥‘ah, al-T• ar¥qah and al- ¡aq¥qah (the Law, the Path and the Truth).2 When we speak of the role of philosophy in Islam we must first of all ask with which aspect and dimension of Islam we are dealing. In any case we must avoid the mistake made only too often by many orientalists during the past century of identifying Islam with only the Shar¥‘ah or kalåm and then studying the relationship of “philosophy” or metaphysics with that particular dimension of Islam. Rather, in order to understand the real role of “philosophy” in Islam we must consider Islam in all its ampli- tude and depth, including especially the dimension of al-¡aq¥qah, where precisely one will find the point of intersection between “traditional philosophy” and metaphysics and that aspect of the Islamic perspec- tive into which sapientia in all its forms has been integrated through- out Islamic history.3 Likewise, the whole of Islamic civilization must be considered in its width and breadth, not only a single part of dår al-islåm, for it is one of the characteristics of Islamic civilization that the totality of its life and the richness of its arts and sciences can only be gauged by studying all of its parts. Only in unison do these parts reveal the unity of the whole that is reflected in all the genuine mani- festations of Islam. One cannot understand the role of “philosophy” or any other intellectual discipline in Islam by selecting only one dimen- sion of Islam or one particular geographical area, no matter how important that dimension or that area may be in itself.
  • 40. 32 Part 1: Islamic Philosophy and Its Study As for “philosophy,” the sense in which we intend to use it in this discussion must be defined with precision, for here we are dealing with a question of some complexity. First of all it must be remem- bered that terms dealing with the intellectual sciences have a precise meaning in the sciences of traditional civilizations such as the Islamic. We can use “philosophy” as the translation of the Arabic al-falsafah and inquire into the meaning of the latter term in Islam and its civi- lization. Or we can seek to discover how ‘philosophy’ as used today in English must be understood within the context of Islamic civiliza- tion. Or again we can seek to find all those Islamic sciences and intel- lectual disciplines which possess a “philosophical” aspect in the sense of dealing with the general worldview of man and his position in the universe. For our own part, we must begin by making the basic affirmation that if by philosophy we mean secularized philosophy as currently understood in the West, that is, the attempt of people to reach the ultimate knowledge of things only through the use of their own rational and sensuous faculties and cut off completely from both the effusion of grace and knowledge made available through proph- ecy and revelation as well as the light of the Divine Intellect, then such an activity is peripheral in the Islamic intellectual universe. It is a fruit of a humanism that did not manifest itself in Islam except for very few instances of a completely secondary nature. It is what some Persian philosophers and sages have called “mental acrobatics” or literally “weaving” (båftan), in contrast to philosophy as the gaining of cer- tainty, or literally the discovery of truth (yåftan). But if by philosophy we mean a traditional philosophy based on certainty rather than doubt, where the mind of a human being is continuously illuminated by the light of the Divine Intellect and revelation and protected from error by the grace provided by a traditional world in which he or she breathes, then we certainly do have an Islamic philosophy that possesses illim- itable horizons and is one of the richest intellectual traditions in the world, a philosophy that is of necessity concerned with religious reali- ties and prophecy as well as logic, the natural sciences, and so on, and has been often wedded to illumination (ishråq) and gnosis (‘irfån).4 If we view philosophy in this light, then the title of “philosopher” can- not be refused to those in Islam who are called the “falåsifah” as well as those known as ÷ukamå˘ and ‘urafå˘.5 Moreover, if one takes the whole of the Islamic world into ac- count, including the Persian, the Ottoman, and the Indian parts of it, one certainly cannot call Islamic philosophy a transient phenomenon that had a short-lived existence in a civilization whose intellectual structure did not permit its survival. One can no longer speak of
  • 41. The Meaning and Role of Philosophy in Islam 33 Christian and Jewish philosophy and then refuse to accept the reality of Islamic philosophy.6 One can with some logic assert, as has been done by Fernand van Steenberghen7 and certain others, that philoso- phy, as understood by the scholastics was not called specifically “Chris- tian” by them but was conceived of as philosophy as such, but that did not make it any less Christian. In the same way in classical Islamic texts one reads usually of the term al-falsafah (philosophy), but not al- falsafat al-islåmiyyah (Islamic philosophy), which is of a more current usage, just as most classical Islamic authors have usually referred to al-d¥n (the religion), when writing about Islam rather than using the term al-islåm. The homogeneity and unity of traditional civilization was such that for its members their world was the world. Western civilization certainly produced Christian art during the Middle Ages, but this art was usually called “art” as such. Islam produced some of the greatest architectural marvels in the world, which were, however, very rarely referred to as “Islamic architecture” by their own creators. They simply called them “architecture.” This characteristic is a pro- found aspect of the medieval world and of traditional civilizations in general, which must be taken into full consideration in the present discussion. But if we stand “outside” of these worlds and study them in comparison with the secular modern world or with other sacred civilizations, then in the same way that we can call Chartres “Chris- tian architecture” and St. Thomas a “Christian philosopher” we can refer to the Alhambra as “Islamic architecture” and Ibn S¥nå and Suhraward¥ as “Islamic philosophers.” In all honesty and taking into consideration the long tradition and the still living character of Islamic philosophy we cannot refuse to recognize the reality of this distinct type of traditional philosophy as being just as closely allied to the structure of Islam, and just as closely related to a particular dimension of it, as other traditional philoso- phies such as the Hindu or Neo-Confucian are related to the tradition in whose bosoms they have been cultivated. For the Islamic philoso- phers, especially those of the later period, traditional philosophy has always been a way in which the truths of revelation have been seen and discussed through intellectual and rational discourse and the philosophical significance of the message of prophecy and of reality itself as it reveals itself in the land of prophecy brought out. The truth reached by traditional philosophy is for the ÷ukamå˘, an aspect of the Truth itself, of al-¡aqq, which is a Divine Name and therefore the source of all revealed truth.8 For the Islamic ÷ukamå˘, as for Philo, philosophy was originally a form of revealed Truth, closely allied to revelation. For Muslims it was connected with the name of the prophet
  • 42. 34 Part 1: Islamic Philosophy and Its Study Idr¥s, who was identified by them with Hermes, and who was entitled “The Father of Philosophers” (Ab¨˘l-±ukamå˘). The identification of the chain of philosophy with an antediluvian prophet reveals a pro- found aspect of the concept of philosophy in Islam—far more pro- found than that any historical criticism could claim to negate.9 It was a way of confirming the legitimacy of ÷ikmah in the Islamic intellectual world and showing its relation to prophecy, a way that we also observe among certain Jewish and Christian philosophers who saw in Moses, Solomon, and other prophets the origins of their philosophical tradition. Having established the existence of Islamic philosophy as a dis- tinct type of traditional philosophy, we must now probe into its mean- ing and definition. We must first of all make a distinction between philosophy in the general sense as Weltanschauung and philosophy as a distinct intellectual discipline in the technical sense. If we think of philosophy in the general sense of Weltanschauung, then outside of falsafah and al-÷ikmah, with which philosophy has been identified by most schools, we must search within several other traditional Islamic disciplines for “philosophy,” as mentioned in the last chapter. Among these disciplines the intellectual form of Sufism which is also called al- al-‘irfån or al-ma‘rifah, that is, gnosis understood as unitive and illumi- native knowledge, is particularly significant. This fact is especially true of the later period of Islamic history when in most of the Arab world falsafah as a distinct school disappeared, and the intellectual needs corresponding to it found their fulfillment in kalåm and doctri- nal Sufism.10 As for philosophy in the technical sense, it embraces not only Peripatetic philosophy in its early phase, known in the West thanks to medieval translations and modern research following the earlier tra- dition, but also later Peripatetic philosophy after Ibn Rushd and be- ginning with Khwåjah Na∑¥r al-D¥n al-¨s¥, the school of Illumination (ishråq) founded by Suhraward¥ , metaphysical and gnostic forms of Sufism identified closely with the school of Ibn ‘Arab¥, and the “tran- scendent theosophy” (al-÷ikmat al-muta‘åliyah) of Mullå S• adrå, not to speak of philosophies with specific religious forms such as Ismå‘¥l¥ philosophy, which possesses its own long and rich history.11 We shall turn to this integral history in later chapters of this work. Because of the vastness of the subject we shall confine ourselves in this chapter to the role and meaning of falsafah or ÷ikmah, or phi- losophy in its technical sense, in Islam, always keeping in mind, how- ever, the richness of Sufism, kalåm, and some of the Islamic cosmological sciences in the domain of ideas that concern the Islamic and more generally universal views of man’s position in the universe and
  • 43. The Meaning and Role of Philosophy in Islam 35 vis-à-vis God. The most profound metaphysics in Islam is in fact to be found in the writings of the Sufi masters, especially those who have chosen to deal with the doctrinal aspects of the spiritual way, or with that scientia sacra called “gnosis” (al-‘irfån) or (al-ma‘rifah). A more gen- eral treatment of the meaning of philosophy in Islam would have to include Sufism, kalåm, u„¶l, and some of the other Islamic sciences as well, but as already mentioned, these lie outside the boundaries of the present discussion, which concerns only falsafah or ÷ikmah as these terms have been understood by the traditional Islamic authorities themselves. ᪌᪍ To understand the meaning of Islamic philosophy it is best to examine the use of the terms falsafah and ÷ikmah in various traditional sources and the definitions provided for them by the Islamic philosophers themselves.12 The term ‘÷ikmah’ appears in twenty places in the Quran, of which perhaps the most often cited, when referring to philosophy, is, “He giveth wisdom [÷ikmah] unto whom He willeth, and he unto whom wisdom is given, he truly hath received abundant good” (Quran, 2, 269, Pickthall translation).13 It also appears in the ¡ad¥th literature in such sayings as “The acquisition of ÷ikmah is incumbent upon thee: verily the good resides in ÷ikmah,”14 and “Speak not of ÷ikmah to fools.”15 Different Muslim authorities have debated as to what ‘÷ikmah’ means in such verses and sayings, and many theologians such as Fakhr al-D¥n al-Råz¥ have identified it with kalåm rather than falsafah. How- ever, throughout Islamic history many have identified it with the in- tellectual sciences (al-‘ul¶m al-‘aqliyyah) in general and traditional philosophy in particular. In fact during later centuries traditional phi- losophy came to be known, especially in Persia, as al-÷ikmat al-ilåhiyyah, or literally theosophia in its original sense. Even early in Islamic history certain authorities used ‘÷ikmah’ in the sense of the intellectual sciences and philosophy, as for example Jå±iπ, who in al-Bayån wa˘l-taby¥n (Dec- laration and Explations) refers to it in connection with Sahl ibn Hår¨n,16 and Ibn Nad¥m, who calls Khålid ibn Yaz¥d, known for his interest in the “pre-Islamic” or awå˘il sciences, the “÷ak¥m of ≈l al-Marwån.”17 The definitions given by the Islamic philosophers themselves are more revealing than those of literary figures in elucidating the mean- ing of philosophy for Islam. In his well-known definition of falsafah, the first of the great Muslim Peripatetics, al-Kind¥, writes: “Philosophy is the knowledge of the reality of things within man’s possibility, because the philosopher’s end in his theoretical knowledge is to gain
  • 44. 36 Part 1: Islamic Philosophy and Its Study truth and in his practical knowledge to behave in accordance with truth.”18 His successor al-Fåråb¥ accepted this definition in principle, making in addition a distinction between “philosophy rooted in cer- tainty” (falsafah yaq¥niyyah), which is based on demonstration (burhån),19 and “philosophy deriving from opinion” (falsafah maz• n¶nah), based upon dialectics and sophistry.20 He also gives the well-known definition of philosophy as “the knowledge of existents qua existents” and also states that “there is nothing among existents in the world with which philosophy is not concerned.”21 The master of Peripatetics, Ibn S¥nå, adds another element to the definition of ÷ikmah and relates it more closely to realization and per- fection of the being of man when he writes: “¡ikmah is the perfecting of the human soul through the conceptualization of things and the judgment of theoretical and practical truths to the measure of human capability.”22 This close accordance between knowledge and its prac- tice, so important for later Islamic philosophy, is repeated in the definition of the Ikhwån al-S• afå˘ when they say: “The beginning of philosophy is the love of the sciences; its middle is knowledge of the reality of things to the extent to which man is capable; and its end is speech and action in conformity with this knowledge.”23 With Suhraward¥ and the ishråq¥ school, the close rapport be- tween philosophy and religion or more precisely between philosophy as an aspect of the inner dimension of revealed truth and the ascetic and spiritual practices related to religious discipline, which in Islam are connected with Sufism and also Shi‘ite gnosis, becomes fully es- tablished. Not only was Suhraward¥ himself a Sufi and a ÷ak¥m at the same time, but also he conceived of a true faylas¶f or ÷ak¥m as one who possesses both theoretical knowledge and spiritual vision.24 He calls such a person “muta˘allih,” literally, one who has become “God like,” and speaks in his Partaw-nåmah (The Book of Radiance) of ÷ikmah as “The act of the soul’s becoming imprinted by the spiritual truths and the intelligibles.”25 After him philosophy and spiritual realization be- came for the most part wedded except among those who followed only the Peripatetic school, and al-÷ikmat al-ilåhiyyah became, espe- cially in Persia and other eastern lands of Islam, the bridge between the formal religious sciences and the verities of pure gnosis. The Safavid ÷ak¥ms, who brought many trends of Islamic phi- losophy to their full fruition and flowering, continued to relate phi- losophy closely to the esoteric dimension of religion, as had many earlier philosophers including Ism嘥l¥ thinkers, and considered the traditional philosopher as the person who possesses not only theoreti- cal knowledge but also a direct vision of the truth so that he speaks
  • 45. The Meaning and Role of Philosophy in Islam 37 to mankind as a sage fulfilling a certain aspect of the prophetic func- tion after the close of the cycle of prophecy. In the Twelve-Imam Shi‘ite world many an authority such as Mullå S• adrå has identified the term scholars (‘ulamå˘) in the famous prophetic saying, “The schol- ars of my community are like the prophets of the Children of Is- rael,”26 with the ÷ukamå˘, who in the later period were mostly also Sufis and gnostics. ¡ikmah, therefore, continued its close relation with Islamic esoterism and became identified in the context of Shi‘ism with the “cycle of initiation” (då˘irat al-walåyah/wilåyah) following the cycle of prophecy (då˘irat al-nubuwwah). M¥r Firdirisk¥, for example, considers the ÷ukamå˘ as standing in the class immediately below the prophets and writes: “The utmost extremity reached by the falåsifah is the point of departure for prophecy.”27 With S• adr al-D¥n Sh¥råz¥ (Mullå S• adrå), who achieved such a vast synthesis of the various schools of Islamic philosophy and intel- lectuality, the definition of ‘÷ikmah’ also reaches a fullness and syn- thetic quality that embraces much that came before him. In one of his famous definitions, which echoes in part the words of Plato, he writes: “Falsafah is the perfecting of the human soul to the extent of human possibility through knowledge of the essential realities of things as they are in themselves and through judgment concerning their exist- ence established upon demonstration and not derived from opinion or through imitation. Or if thou liketh thou canst say, it is to give intel- ligible order to the world to the extent of human possibility in order to gain ‘resemblance’ to the Creator, Transcendent is He.”28 Similarly in another definition he considers ÷ikmah as the means whereby “man becomes an intelligible world resembling the objective world and simi- lar to the order of universal existence.”29 Referring to the first prin- ciples discussed in ÷ikmah Mullå S• adrå says: “It is this ÷ikmah that the Blessed Prophet had in mind in his prayer to his Lord when he said: ‘O Lord! Show us things as they really are.’ ”30 Moreover, he gives a spiritual exegesis of the Quranic verse ‘Surely We created man of the best stature, then We reduced him to the lowest of the low, save those who believe and do good works’ (Quran, 95, 4–6) in this way: “Of the best stature” refers to the spiritual world and the angelic part of the soul, ‘the lowest of the low’ to the material world and the animal part of the soul, ‘those who believe’ to theoretical ÷ikmah and those who ‘do good works’ to practical ÷ikmah.”31 Seen in this light ÷ikmah, in its two aspects of knowledge and action, becomes the means whereby man is saved from his wretched state of the lowest of the low and enabled to regain the angelic and paradisal state in which he was originally created. ¡ikmah is, in his view, completely wedded to religion