Monday, June 9, 2014

Philosophy in Shiraz III: Mīrzā-Jān Shīrāzī and his recently publishedgloss on Ḥikmat al-ʿayn

Reza Pourjavady has done much in recent years to develop our understanding of philosophy in Shiraz in the late Timurid and early Safavid periods - see Philosophy in Shiraz II. His Encyclopaedia of Islam entry on the Shirazi Sunni thinker under 'Bāghnawī' is a good starting point for this figure. Firūze Sāʿatchīān has also made serious contributions to our understanding of Shams al-Dīn Khafrī (d. 1535) - see Philosophy in Shiraz I. Most recently Ahab Bdaiwi's Exeter PhD on the Dashtakīs further enriches our understanding of philosophy in the early Safavid period and in particular explains the singular focus on Avicenna in the Safavid period and the polemical attack on what I might term "Ashʿarising philosophy" a process that began at the very least with Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī (d. 606/1210). 

So before I say something about this new edition of his gloss on the Sharḥ Ḥikmat al-ʿayn of Mīrak Bukhārī (fl. 733/1332) on the focus text of Kātibī (d. 675/1277), what do we know generally about him? I shall draw out the headlines following Pourjavady. Born in around 930/1524, he studied in Shiraz with Jamāl al-Dīn Maḥmūd Shīrāzī (d. 962/1555), himself a student of Jalāl al-Dīn Davānī (d. 908/1502). [Shīrāzī and other figures of that generation require further research] He was very much within the Davānī tradition and after teaching in Shiraz, he later fled Iran as he came out as a Sunni Ashʿarī under Ismāʿīl II in the late 1570s. He moved to India briefly before settling in Bukhara where he died in 995/1587. He became one of the key conduits for the spread of the Davānī tradition to India and was recognised as such by Badāyunī and similar sources at the court of Akbar. Interesting Sayyid Nūrullāh Shūshtarī who was then in India heavily criticised him for plagiarising the work of Sayyid Ghiyāth al-Dīn Dashtakī (d. 1542) - and since he represented a strong teaching lineage that goes back to him, it suggests the rivalry of the adherents of Davānī and Dashtakī at the Mughal court. This episode requires some analysis - and especially the role of Shūshtarī which I hope to address perhaps in some future article. [Incidentally, Shūshtarī discusses this in his work Majālis al-muʾminīn which has recently been the subject of a new critical edition in six volumes published by the Majmaʿ-yi buḥūs-i islāmī at the shrine in Mashhad]

Bāghnawī wrote extensively on the Ashʿarī kalām tradition and on the Avicennan: on the latter, he wrote a gloss on the adjudication (muḥākama) of Quṭb al-Dīn Taḥtānī on the two famous commentaries of Rāzī and Ṭūsī on al-Ishārāt wa-l-tanbīhāt of Avicenna (published with the glosses of Ḥusayn Khwānsārī in 1999 in Tehran), and this current gloss on the commentary of Kātibī's Avicennan summa Ḥikmat al-ʿayn. The totality of the Sharḥ was published in St. Petersburg/ Kazan in 1903. There were a few commentaries on the Ḥikma especially by Kātibī himself - Baḥr al-fawāʾid - and by his younger contemporary the Shiʿi Avicennan scholar Ibn Muṭahhar al-Ḥillī (d. 725/1325) known as Īḍāḥ al-maqāṣid (edited and published in Tehran in the 1950s), and Mīrak Bukhārī which was probably the most popular. The text only covers the metaphysics and the physics - a separate work was written on the logic. Various glossators worked on the commentary of Bukhārī including Dashtakī (hence the accusation of plagiarism), Khafrī, Mullā Rafīʿā Nāʾinī in the later Safavid period, Mullā Shamsā Gīlānī (on whom I wrote a note recently), and from the late Safavid period the Khwānsārīs Ḥusayn, Jamāl and Raḍī (elements of which are included in the edition discussed below).

The present edition by ʿAlī Ḥaydar Yasāvulī published by the Majmaʿ-yi zakhāʾir-i islāmī in Qum in 2013 focuses on the first section of the ontology. The standard order of these texts with respect to their metaphysics (as Heidrun Eichner has shown in her habilitation) is: metaphysica generalis (umūr ʿāmma) including discussions of a) existence and non-existence b) essence (al-māhīya) c) modalities especially necessary and unity, and contingency d) categories of substance and accidents e) intellection f) metaphysica specialis or 'philosophical theology' on the nature of God and his attributes. This edition covers some of the elements only of a. And it appears that Bāghnawī's commentary only covered the section of the umūr ʿāmma - for a discussion which is probably identical to the introduction, see ʿAlī Ḥaydar Yasāvulī, "Ḥāshiya-yi Sharḥ-i Ḥikmat al-ʿayn", Mīrās-i Shahāb, 12.1-2 (1385 Sh/2007), 48-71. Throughout the work, he refers to key Avicennan works including the originals of the master from al-Shifāʾ and al-Taʿlīqāt as well as works that reflect the doctrine such as al-Mabāḥith al-mashriqīya of Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī. 

The topics covered are (and used by the editor as headings):
i) defining philosophy (taʿrīf al-ḥikma) - the perfection of the human soul by the acquisition of knowledge of things as they are - glossed as they are in nafs al-amr and not in actuality
ii) the homonymy of existence (ishtirāk al-wujūd) - the first actual chapter on how existence is shared across beings comprising matter and devoid of matter; on the apriority of existence (bidāhat al-wujūd); on the scope of the necessary and the contingent; Bāghnawī rejects the pure homonymy of existence but also holds back from affirming any pros hen homonymy because he denies any graded and hierarchical nature to the totality of existence
iii) on the accidentality of existence to essence (ziyādat al-wujud ʿalā l-māhīya) - drawing upon Avicenna's distinction of existence and essence in contingents, the issue is whether existence is a real predicate or merely a 'being of reason' posited in the mind with no referent in actuality
iv) on the existence of the Necessary - on the Avicennan rule that the existence and the essence of God are identical but here he tries to defend the Ashʿarī real distinction of the attributes as a means for  establishing God's volitional creative agency
v) mental existence (al-wujūd al-dhihnī) - whether there is such a mode and whether the different modes are related in a modulated manner (bi-l-tashkīk) following Ṭūsī, he broadly rejects it - and even the related issue of Platonic forms citing the Mulakhkhaṣ of Rāzī and examining a number of the theological texts influenced by Avicenna; this is a critical chapter in the history of the emergence of this concept as central to Mullā Ṣadrā's philosophy 
vi) on the goodness of existence and the privation of non-existence (khayrīyat al-wujūd wa-sharrīyat al-ʿadam) - the classic Neoplatonic discussion which links to an Ashʿarī explanation of the next issue:
vii) the non-existent is not a thing (al-maʿdūm laysa bi-shayʾ) - he starts with an important text the Sharḥ al-mulakhkhaṣ of Kātibī [there is little doubt that some serious research is required on this text of Rāzī and its commentary tradition], and the related issue of
viii) the non-existent cannot return to existence (al-maʿdūm lā yuʿād) - one of the key reasons why the philosophers felt that an Aristotelian demonstration for corporeal resurrection was impossible; and finally
ix) on whether there is any distinction between non-existents (wuqūʿ al-imtiyāz fī-l-maʿdūmāt) - the later tradition denies this but it is related to the question of how one predicates a non-existent subject of a proposition 

I hope that this brief survey suggests ways in which the reading of Bāghnawī is useful not only for those trying to make sense of the history of the interaction between Avicennan philosophy and kalām but also those, like myself, trying to piece together the making of the Safavid-Mughal traditions in ḥikma

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Sources on the North Indian Shiʿi Hierocracy: Warathat al-anbiyāʾ

In a previous post, following some recent research that I did on the ʿulamāʾ and intellectual history of Avadh, I came across a key source on the life of Sayyid Dildār ʿAlī (d. 1820), posthumously known as Ghufrān-maʾāb and progenitor of a famous family of scholars who, following his initiative to establish uṣūlī doctrine in Avadh, were known as the khāndān-e ijtihād. It was written in the earlier part of the 20th century and draws upon a number of key sources:
  • Āyīna-ye ḥaqq-numā, that well known contemporary account written by a student of Ghufrān-maʾāb in 1231/1816 of which a number of manuscripts survive primarily in Indian collections;
  • Awrāq al-dhahab of Muftī Sayyid Muḥammad ʿAbbās Shūshtarī al-Jazāʾirī (d. 1306/1889) is a history primarily of his teacher Sulṭān al-ʿulamāʾ, the eldest son of Ghufrān-maʾāb and was published in 2007 in Beirut; 
  • Another work of Muftī Muḥammad ʿAbbās is Ẓill-e mamdūd that includes his various correspondences with scholars and was lithographed in Lucknow and is available online; 
  • Tadhkirat al-ʿulamāʾ al-muḥaqqiqīn fī āthār al-fuqahāʾ wa-l-muḥaddithīn of Sayyid Mahdī Riżavī ʿAẓīmābādī written in 1263/1847 about his circle of the students of Ghufrān-maʾāb and his sons;
  • Jawhar-e ʿazīza sharḥ-e vasīṭ-e vajīza of Sayyid ʿAlī Muḥammad (d. 1316/1898) son of Sulṭān al-ʿulamāʾ - it was published in Rasāʾil fī ʿilm al-dirāya (vol.  II, pp. 349-477) published in the early 1990s by Muʾassasat Āl al-bayt in Qum;
  • The same author wrote a biography of his father entitled Ṭarāʾif u ẓarāʾif a copy of which is apparently in the library of the Raja of Mahmudabad; 
  • Shudhūr al-ʿiqyān fī tarājim al-aʿyān of Sayyid Iʿjāz Ḥusayn Mūsavī Kintūrī (d. 1286/1869), the famous bibliographer and scholar, who discusses the famous figures of the family; 
  • finally Nujūm al-samāʾ of Mīrzā Muḥammad ʿAlī Kashmīrī (d. 1309/1892) which is well known and used, published both in lithograph and then in the late 1970s by the Marʿashī library in Qum. 




Warathat al-anbiyāʾ of Sayyid Aḥmad Naqavī (ʿAllāma-yi Hindī, also a member of the family) was first published in Lucknow in 1918 by the Anjuman-i ṣadr al-ṣudūr and is a biography of the family. The author says that he completed it in Najaf in Jumāda I 1332/April 1914. Sayyid Aḥmad son of Tāj al-ʿulamāʾ Sayyid Muḥammad Ibrāhīm son of Mumtāz al-ʿulamāʾ Sayyid Muḥammad Taqī son of Sayyid Ḥusayn the youngest son of Ghufrān-maʾāb was born on the auspicious day of 18 Dhū-l-ḥijja 1295/13 December 1878. His first of many trips to the shrine cities and seminaries of Iraq was as a two-year-old with his father. He studied with his father and other scholars of his time at the Nāẓimīya. He was widely recognised as a scholar and asked to adjudicate on the management of the famous Oudh Bequest in 1326/1908 [the file reference at the National Archives in Kew is here]; from that point he was actively involved in reorganising the monies to be distributed more widely to enhance the influence of Indian ʿulamāʾ in the shrine cities of Iraq. To propagate scholarly works, he, like other members of the family established an organisation, the Anjuman-e yādgār-e ʿulamāʾ in 1328/1910 and Anjuman-e Dār al-tablīgh in 1335/1917. He spread the mission to Calcutta, already a significant Avadhi diaspora city following the exile of the old ruling family to the Matiaburj area. 

Now one of the interesting examples of how our historical consciousness tends to be presentist is to consider how Hindī's relationship with the British was seen. The modern Iranian editor of the text insists, within the tiers-mondiste and anti-imperialist context of post-revolutionary Iran that he was a figure who stood up to British power and defended the interests of the seminary and the Indian students in particular, while the contemporary British sources as cited in a recent study of North Indian Shiʿism (Justin Jones, Shia Islam in Colonial India, Cambridge, 2012) suggests someone more willing to act as a mediator for the British and one who offered to manipulate and orient opinion in the shrine cities in favour of the British. Of course, his dealings may also reflect the attempt to establish his own authority and that of the wider family network - and his works and Warathat al-anbiyāʾ fit within that aim. Litvak ('A failed manipulation: the British, the Oudh Bequest, and the Shiʿi ʿulamāʾ of Najaf and Karbala', BJMES27.1, 2000, 69-89) has shown that the British originally wanted to use the OB to influence Iranian ʿulamāʾ in the shrine cities but as the constitutionalist movement grew in prominence they shifted to focusing upon Iraq and indirectly upon India itself. And it was at this point that interaction with Sayyid Hindī began. In a conversation with political officers he claimed in 1912 that most of the ʿulamāʾ in Lucknow has no qualifications to practice ijtihād (and hence one assumes should neither be interlocutors nor be involved in the management of the Oudh Bequest) (Jones 2012, 38, n. 20). 

Similarly a few years before based in Najaf, he urged the British to consider disbursing monies in the shrine cities to curry favour and to weaken any possible support for the Ottomans (Jones 2012, 135, citing the report of the Political Resident in Turkish Arabia to the Foreign Department). This was in 1908 when the new resident Colonel Ramsay recognised the need to extend influence in the shrine cities which was largely absent before, and to avoid the growing situation among students of resentment against the ʿulamāʾ that could lead to support for the Ottomans. Already in 1907, he had Hindī had met Ramsay and suggested a sum of Rs 10,000 be disbursed to the mujtahids. The British response was alert to the fact that the OB was a political lever but also that if Hindī and other ʿulamāʾ from India were at its forefront it might affect their reputation in the seminaries and exacerbate the tensions and ill-will between the Indian and other residents of the shrine cities.  



[I haven't got around to writing my review of Justin's book for JRAS but will do shortly]

He had ijāza-s of ijtihād from the following: 
  • Mīrzā Fatḥullāh Shīrāzī known as Shaykh al-sharīʿa (d. 1329/1911);
  • the famous author of probably the first modern fiqh users' manual al-ʿUrwa al-wuthqā Sayyid Muḥammad Kāẓim Ṭabāṭabāʾī Yazdī (d. 1337/1918);
  • Shaykh Ḥusayn Māzandārānī (d. 1339/1920);
  • Sayyid Muḥammad Bāqir Ṭabāṭabāʾī 
It's worth noting that these leading figures were broadly not involved directly in the OB and critical of its political usage, insisting that the responsibility was to make sure that the monies from the OB was directly disbursed to the poor and not used to bolster the power and authority of 'lesser' ʿulamāʾ, perhaps even a jibe at people like Hindī. 

He seems to have spent most of his life in Iraq, shuttling back and forth to India and acting as a mediator between Indian Shiʿi organisations, the British government in India, and the seminaries. He died on 10 January 1947 in Lucknow. He wrote a number of works in theology in Arabic and Persian, and a serial article writer in Urdu and a public figure. It was probably his nephew Sayyid ʿAlī Naqī (d. 1988) who took up his mantle as a public intellectual and major scholar linked to the seminaries of Iraq. 

Warathat al-anbiyāʾ was edited by ʿAlī Fāżilī and published by Muʾassasa-ye kitāb-shināsī-ye shīʿa in 1389 Sh/2010 as one of the series of new editions dedicated to the Shiʿi heritage of South Asia. The author states in the introduction that he had planned two volumes, one on Ghufrān-maʾāb and his sons, and the second on their students but he never wrote the second. Not surprisingly most of the account is taken up with the biography of Sayyid al-ʿulamāʾ Sayyid Ḥusayn, the ancestor of Sayyid Aḥmad.

After that text, the editor has appended a large section of the Tadhkirat al-ʿulamāʾ of Sayyid Mahdī ʿAẓīmābādī on the family of Ghufrān-maʾāb, as well as two leading students Sayyid Aḥmad ʿAlī Muḥammadābādī (d. 1295/1878) and Muftī Sayyid Muḥammad ʿAbbās Shūshtarī (d. 1306/1889). Both texts mention one encounter that Sayyid Ḥusayn had in Karbala that led him to write an Arabic refutation of the views of the Shaykhīya, in particular Shaykh Aḥmad al-Aḥsāʾī (d. 1826) and his successor Sayyid Kāẓim Rashtī (d. 1843) entitled Ifādāt ḥusaynīya. Shaykhī sources suggest that two other sons of Ghufrān-maʾāb were followers of the movement who died in Iraq so the issue was sensitive to them. ʿAẓīmābādī quotes the text stating that Sayyid Ḥusayn wrote it following his meeting with Rashtī in which he tried to disabuse him of his theological views. In this account, Rashtī acknowledged his mistakes and even asked for an ijāza. Nevertheless, Rashtī continued to fool and mislead people and cause dissension in Karbala while 'wearing the garb of Shiʿism'. What this indicates is that, while it might seem a small footnote in history, a careful study of the interaction of the north Indian ʿulamāʾ with Shaykhīs is needed as it has a serious impact not only upon the theological debates in Iraq, Iran and South Asia (and demonstrates their continuity as a singular cultural space) but also because of its implication for the subsequent history of modern Shiʿism. 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Mullā Shamsā Gīlānī, a much neglected philosopher of the 17th century


If you’ve ever seen the famous 2002 Iranian TV serial Rowshantar az khāmūshī about Mullā Ṣadrā, you might remember one of his friends ever ready with a joke, very much the life of the party called Shamsā. This is a fictional portrayal of the philosopher-theologian Mullā Shams al-Dīn Muḥammad Gīlānī, student of Mīr Dāmād and close friend of Mullā Ṣadrā. Here in episode 12 he is moping around, lovestruck and chatting with his friends. 



Mullā Shamsā was certainly quite a serious thinker. We know very little about his life beyond the fact that he was a student of Mīr Dāmād, as he attests at many occasions in his works, and a close friend of Mullā Ṣadrā. He studied at the Madrasa-yi Shaykh Luṭfullāh in Isfahan and may have taught there later. He probably also knew Niẓām al-Dīn Aḥmad Gīlānī (the physician about whom I wrote recently because he was also a student of Mīr Dāmād and a direct contemporary). Not much is known about his whereabouts. Perhaps his own well-known student was ʿAlī-qulī b. Qarajghāy Khān (d. 1091/1680) the author of a Persian philosophical summa Iḥyāʾ-yi ḥikmat (edited by Fāṭima Fanāʾ, and published by Mīrās-i maktūb in Tehran in 1998 in two volumes) as well as a Persian gloss on the Neoplatonic classic Theologia Aristotelis (Uthūlūjiyā). He died probably before 1064/1654, a few years after his teacher and his friend. 


He was quite a prolific glossator and writer of treatises. In the former category, he wrote a gloss on Sharḥ al-ishārāt of Ṭūsī, on the gloss of Mīrzā-Jān Shīrāzī on Sharḥ Ḥikmat al-ʿayn (which has recently been published in Qum by Majmaʿ-yi zakhāʾir-i islāmī), on Sharḥ al-hidāya of Maybudī which was rather popular as an Avicennan text in this period (a number of figures in the circle of Mīr Dāmād and his teacher Sammākī wrote on it), a gloss on Khafrī's gloss on the section on proof for the existence of God in Sharḥ al-Tajrīd of Qūshchī (Sāʿatchīān edited and published the Khafrī a decade ago), and a gloss on the Shamsīya circle in logic. In the later, he wrote a number of works in metaphysics from the Avicennan concerns of the period to engaging with the thought of Mullā Ṣadrā: Risālat al-wujūd, al-Ḥikma al-mutaʿāliya, Ithbāt al-wājib, Taḥqīq aḥwāl al-mawjūdāt/maʿnā l-wujūd, as well as studies on the Neoplatonic dictum ex uno non fit nisi unum and the ontological mode of 'nafs al-amr'. 

I first came across his work in two ways: first, the famous anthology of Corbin and Āshtiyānī contains some excerpts of his Ḥudūth al-ʿālam (which I discuss below), and second, in a manuscript of his risāla on wujūd (entitled Taḥqīq maʿnā l-wujūd) in the British Library (from the Delhi Collection - a great but much under-used part of the BL's holdings) in which he criticises Mullā Ṣadrā on both the ontological primacy and gradational nature of existence providing further evidence that his metaphysical innovations took some time to be accepted (I argue in ongoing research on the 18th century that Mullā Ṣadrā began to be established as the hegemonic thinker late in that century). 

Most recently, ʿAlī-Riżā Aṣgharī (who recently produced an excellent critical edition of Muḥsin Fayż Kāshānī's Kalimāt-i maknūna and has taken it upon himself to edit all of Mullā Shamsā's corpus and make this neglected thinker better known) has edited, with Ṭūbā Kirmānī, Masālik al-yaqīn fī bayān ʿumdat uṣūl al-dīn, a theological treatise on the nature of God published by the Mullā Ṣadrā Research Institute in Tehran in 1392 Sh/2013.


Masālik is divided into an introduction and three chapters. It was completed in Jumāda I 1060/May 1650. It is broadly a defence of Mīr Dāmād's metaphysics. In the introduction he states that he sets out to analyse three questions in the chapters: first, that extra-mental existence is identical to the existence of God - what is sometimes called aṣālat al-māhīya, namely that one ascribes existence to contingents but they have no reality - it also reflects a somewhat monistic approach to reality in which all that exists is God; second, that the divine properties and names are identical to the very essence of the divine countering both the Ashʿarī theological position on realist distinction as well as the Muʿtazilī denial of the attributes per se - neither nominalism nor realism; third, affirming the reality of divine knowledge, partly motivated by the need to establish how God knows particulars by arguing that neither the Avicennan theory of representation by which God knows particulars in a universal sense, nor the illuminationist/Ṣadrian position whereby God knows particulars by their presence to him are correct. As the text was written after the Ḥudūth, he refers back to his argument on this issue in that text and his critique of Mullā Ṣadrā. The third chapter takes up most of the space and is quite a sophisticated critique of the Avicennan tradition, citing the metaphysics of the Shifāʾ and Sharḥ al-Ishārāt, and along the way rebutting the famous objection to the necessary existence known as the objection of Ibn Kammūna (in this period - there is some evidence that it was philosophers in Shiraz at the beginning of the Safavid period who associated this critique with the Jewish philosopher). 

The Ḥudūth al-ʿālam was completed in Mashhad in Dhū-l-Qaʿda 1045/April 1636 and is forthcoming in a critical edition by ʿAlī-Riżā Aṣgharī (I am grateful to him for sharing a copy of it with me - and I will reciprocate by writing an English introduction to his edition). It is a text in the tradition of the 'Yemeni philosophy' initiated by Mīr Dāmād. Mullā Shamsā in his text explicitly responds to his friend Mullā Ṣadrā’s positions in his Ḥudūth al-ʿālam, drawing upon his own glosses on Khafrī on the Sharḥ al-tajrīd and defends Mīr Dāmād’s concept of perpetual creation as well as the metaphysics of essence; he criticises Mullā Ṣadrā (baʿḍ al-fuḍalāʾ al-muʿāṣirīn) for holding that all separable beings are incipient in time but at the same time holding that higher intellects have no temporal beginning. He also refers to his son Zayn al-Dīn Muḥammad who seems to have had scholarly credentials. 

We know from Mullā Ṣadrā’s own testimony that he had sent a copy of his work to Mullā Shamsā expecting a response. Mullā Shamsā begins with a set of metaphysical propaedeutics on essentialism and the need to posit a mental mode of existence (al-wujūd al-dhihnī). He then proceeds to discussing causality and the nature of priority and posteriority citing Avicennan texts that Mīr Dāmād also uses: the result is to say that causes precede their effects essentially at the level of nafs al-amr – which he later associated with perpetuity. The next preliminary principle – consistent with Mīr Dāmād concerns the nature and unity of predication and how the higher beings contemplate. Mullā Shamsā seems to pre-empt an objection made later about the nature of perpetuity and the lack of dimensionality. Non-existence at the level of perpetuity is not absolute as such partly for the simple reason that it is not existent or a receptacle for existence. He then moves onto Mīr Dāmād’s decoupling of temporality and motion and refuting the notion of unreal time. The next step involves an extended refutation for the coarse notion of the eternity of the cosmos. The final section tackles Mullā Ṣadrā’s treatise and his position. What emerges from reading this sophisticated text is the clear sense of a learned treatise that expounds upon Mīr Dāmād’s theory in far more accessible, terminologically clear, and comprehensible language.

Mullā Shamsā deserves to be better known - and allows us to nuance our over-reliance and emphasis on Mullā Ṣadrā in the Safavid period. Aṣgharī deserves much credit for bringing him to our attention and I'm more than happy to help. The more texts we have the better we can produce a reliable account of the history of philosophy in the Safavid period, and thus understand the nature of thought on the cusp of colonialism if we wish to know what it was that the European presence in South Asia and the Middle East changed. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Some further notes on Fayż Kāshānī

Just curating some interesting sites in relation:

Here is a link to the conference back in 2008 which resulted in the publication of his collected works.
Here is a basic bio - of course it's the same picture as 'Mullā Ṣadrā'. 
Here is another bio in the context of his exegesis by Sayyid Muḥammad ʿAlī Ayāzī who has also penned a useful work on tafsīr literature. 
Here is a video of what seems to be a radio programme.
Here is a link to the text of Fayżnāma - which was printed along with the collected works a few years ago by the Madrasa-ye ʿĀlī-ye Muṭahharī - on the Noor Library site to which you need to register to access. The Noor chaps also have a CD of his works here.
Here is an interesting exchange with the Neoplatonist Qāḍī Saʿīd Qummī [d. 1696] who may have been a student - but was certainly a student of Fayyāż Lāhījī, his ham-rīsh.
Here is a link to his poetry.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Some thoughts on Fayżpažūhī

So turning to this recent hefty volume. Another review/summary is here. The volume is edited by a professor at Jāmiʿat al-Zahrāʾ in Qum. The work is prefaced by comments by ʿAlī Awjabī - who is the cultural director of Khāna-ye kitāb - and was many moons ago when I first met him in charge of publications at the Majlis library. The preface is somewhat polemical - the reasons for the volume being the need to celebrate and address the desire that the youth of Iran have for understanding their golden past of which Fayż is an important in the face of the challenges of other cultures and of course of 'westoxification' (gharbzadagī), and a realisation that engaging with that traditional is not just a theoretical interest but can also be practical and led to applications, not least a self-confidence and response to the social ills of the time. As a historian I am somewhat sceptical about this. But in a sense a lofty set of reasons I guess...

On the face of it, this is a scholarly, academic enterprise. Alongside some established names, there are plenty of contributions from younger academics including graduate students.

[The basic bibliographical details - Fayżpažūhī, ed. Shahnāz Shāyānfar, Tehran: Khāna-ye kitāb, 1392 Sh/2013, 927pp, abstracts in English of the articles, ISBN 978-600-222-114-8]

There are then seven sections of articles:

1) On his biography and bibliography

Mahdī Kumpānī Zāriʿ - on the intellectual biography of Fayż which is probably the most reliable account that we now have. There are no new sources uncovered - and while not the most critical-analytical of pieces, it demonstrates how progress in intellectual history often relies upon people re-reading the same sources and considering the relevance of works that constitute the context anew.

Saʿīd Anvarī and Sayyid Ḥusayn Mūsavīān [the latter is a quite brilliant researcher on philosophy at the Anjuman-e ḥikmat] - on an analytical presentation of his works. It would have been useful if they had provided a chronology of his works but the real contribution is to show that Fayż wrote and re-wrote versions and summaries and translations of his own works over and over again aimed at different audiences, part of which was the process of vernacularisation of the Shiʿi tradition that was central to the Safavid period.

Ḥusayn Ṣafareh - a bibliographical study of al-Wāfī. This ḥadīth collection is the first of the major Safavid compendia. The author briefly discusses its significance, then lists glosses and commentaries upon it - 18 are mentioned. Then another 12 works are mentioned that constitute summaries, Persian epitomes and so forth. Rather an indexical piece.

ʿAlī Ṣadrāʾī Khūʾī - study of the manuscripts of al-Wāfī. The famous bibliographer examines the manuscript tradition of this ḥadīth compendium. Codicological details of 192 manuscripts are discussed.

Akbar Subūt - the views of Fayż on others including issues such as the meat slaughtered by the people of the book (which was a major issue of controversy with the Ottomans).

Ṭāhirih Ghulāmī Shīrī - comparing him with Ghazālī on attitudes to philosophy, theology, and Sufism. A piece that recalls a famous old one by Surūsh (in Qiṣṣe-ye arbāb-e maʿrifat). Unsurprisingly she ignores that piece and discusses the many point of comparison including the desire of both thinkers to write and reflect upon what they were doing - if ever one sought the intentionality of the author - or at least how they fashioned themselves - they are great examples.

2) On exegesis

Muḥsin Sharīfī - on the possibility and permissibility of exegesis. By looking at the non-exegetical work, he suggests that Fayż was not an unthinking Akhbārī and did think that exegesis could not be reduced to the glosses of the Imams. Of course, the problem is that he does not do that in his exegeses.

Shahnāz Shāyānfar - a piece by the editor on the principles and method of exegesis. A thorough analysis of his hermeneutics which is rather decent including an examination of the use of ḥadīth.

Sayyid Muḥsin Mūsavī - on his borrowings from Ṣadūq. A straightforward piece that examines title by title what is cited.

Ṭāhirih Ghulāmī Shīrī - on Fayż's rejection of taḥrīf. To many who have read Ayoub, Lawson and others this will come as a surprise - also because it is considered to be a principle of Akhbārī exegesis that the Qurʾānic text has been corrupted by the enemies of the Ahl al-bayt. She argues that he affirms Ṣadūq's position that what is between the covers is the Qurʾān and nothing else. The problem is that the polemics around the issue make it difficult for a relatively dispassionate approach to the question.

3) On ḥadīth

Majīd Maʿārif - on the juridical aspects of ḥadīth in al-Wāfī. Fiqh al-ḥadīth for those who are into that.

ʿAlī-Akbar Shāyiste-nazhād - on modes of transmission in al-Wāfī. Seems like a solid piece

Ḥusayn Ṣafareh - on Arabic in the text. Linguistics, stylistics and grammar. Another solid piece.

Sayyid Muḥsin Mūsavī and Muḥsin Nūrāʾī - on his Nawādir al-akhbār.

Ḥusayn Ṣafareh - on eloquence and rhetoric in his understanding of ḥadīth.


4) On fiqh and uṣūl 

Murtażā Raḥīmī - on moderate Akhbārism. He concludes that his views changed over time, and even if he was Akhbārī he was a rather intellectual minded one influenced by the grandson of Shahīd II and of course Mullā Ṣadrā. He was not a rigid Akhbārī.

Ḥasan Jamshīdī and Samānih Tājī - on his proofs on various issues. Such as music, whether wine and beer are pure to the touch, on the purity or not of non-Muslims, and so forth.

Murtażā Raḥīmī - on comparative fiqh. A decent piece on how he deals with the genre of khilāf.

Mahdī Kumpānī Zāriʿ - on Fayż's position on music. Surprisingly little is said of how this relates to anti-Sufism.

There really is the need for a serious engagement with the question of Akhbārism needed in this section.

5) On philosophy and theology

al-Sāniḥ al-ghaybī - translated by ʿAlī Awjabī based on his own edition published before in Vaqf mīrās-e jāvīdān. Short theological treatise

Muḥsin Bīdārfar - the Riddle of Fayż. Bīdārfar is one of the best editors and scholars of philosophical texts around and proprietor of the wonderful Intishārāt-e Bīdar with its small outlet open only a few hours a days in Guzarkhān in Qum. He examines his positions on philosophy, mysticism, theology and so forth and demonstrates the shifts by looking at different versions of the same text cycle such as Kalimāt-e maknūna and Qurrat al-ʿuyūn.

Saʿīd Raḥīmīyān - on mystical and philosophical positions in Uṣūl al-maʿārif and Kalimāt-e maknūna. He establishes a useful chronology - ʿAyn al-yaqīn was written in 1036/1626-27, and its epitome ʿIlm al-yaqīn in 1042/1632-33, and Uṣūl in 1089/1678 late in life. The first and the third are based on Sadrian thought and the middle one depends on its conformity to ḥadīth. Kalimāt is a work of his youth. The author suggests that an analysis of these two works demonstrates the consistency and coherence of his approach to issues in philosophy and mysticism.

Saʿīd Riżā Rahāvī ʿIzzābādī - on his reception of Mullā Ṣadrā (ḥikmat-e mutaʿāliya). A short piece on the continuities and discontinuities.

Maryam Kiyānī Farīd - on the problem of eternity in hell. Contrary to Mullā Ṣadrā and to what is normally held to be his position, the author argues that a reading of the exegesis on the relevant verses shows that he was not an advocate of the non-eternity of punishment in hell. I think a far more expansive study would be needed to show this.

Ḥasan Murādī - on the problem of human nature and determinism (ṭīnat). The author's suggestion that the narrations concern 'inclinations' does not seem to be supported by his discussions.

Muḥammad Ghafūrī Nizhād - on human nature (fiṭrat).

Akbar Fāyidʾī - on the problem of badaʾ. Mīr Dāmād famously wrote a treatise on this refuting Naṣīr al-dīn Ṭūsī. Shows how he uses philosophy to defend the theological doctrine.

Ḥusayn Muḥammad Khānī - on God's knowledge. Shows his debt to the Mullā Ṣadrā position on being. No engagement with Mīr Dāmād's middle knowledge position nor with the Ithbāt al-wājib genre that examined the issue in kalām. Rather basic.

ʿAlī-Riżā Fārisī-Nizhād - comparison with Fakhr al-Rāzī on free will and determinism. Not clear why there should be a comparison. Detailed and solid textual study. Although the results are fairly obvious - but not sure Rāzī is a straightforward adherent to kasb qua performance of acts and Fayż is an adherent of free will (ikhtiyār).

Maḥmūd Zirāʿat-Pīshe - unity of predication in contradiction. A paper on logic (!). Really a gloss on implications of Mullā Ṣadrā - didn't really think his student had much to say about logic - neither does the master.

A satisfactory section that deals with the issues one would like to see.

6) On mysticism (ʿirfān

Ayatollah Aḥmad Bihishtī - on the secrets of Ḥajj. One of his more famous works of that genre of spiritual senses of worship.

Muḥammad Bihishtī - on spiritual significance of worship.

Mahdī Kumpānī Zāriʿ - key article on the position on Sufism. After a useful introduction setting out the anti-Sufi context, he examines Fayż's positions on mysticism and Sufism in his work, both the positive and the negative (incidentally the lack of serious paragraphing makes this article a pain to read). He suggests that there is a distinction between true and false Sufism and the former is predicated on the conception of walāya of the Imams (which has been discussed by Kamada in the Landolt festschrift and I discuss in a recent piece on the Study of Shiʿi Islam).

ʿAbd al-Ilāh Ṣalavātī - Shiʿi ʿirfān.  A rather short piece that attempts to show continuity with Sayyid Ḥaydar Āmulī and Mullā Ṣadrā.

An ok section - but is there a useful distinction to be made with Sufism? Does one see in Fayż an emergence of a distinct category of ʿirfān? Here is a link to discussion of a work that tackles the question.

7) On ethics and politics

ʿAynullāh Khādimī - attachment to the world as an obstacle to happiness. Primarily a study of al-Maḥajja al-bayḍāʾ on ethics of asceticism.

Aʿẓam Vafāʾī - on ethics and anthropology.

Farishte Abū-l-Ḥusaynī Nayyārakī and Hāshim Qurbānī - on the vice of envy.

Muḥammad Ḥusayn Jamshīdī - on his political views. Relating his biography to his politics, the author argues that politics arises from ethics and ontology and has both Platonic and Qurʾanic roots. The ʿulamāʾ who understand the outer and inner aspects of the faith (so I guess not just jurists) have authority to decide on matters under the patronage of the just ruler. But does he really have a concept of the theocracy of the ʿulamāʾ? Even if qualified by the relationship of the people and their rulers predicated on mutual rights and duties. Thankfully this is not an unequivocal espousal of valāyat-e faqīh. And I fail to understand how an important court figure who wrote Āʾīna-ye Shāhī could be anything but a defender of the Safavid monarchy as the just rule in the shadow of the Imam.

Ḥasan Jamshīdī and Javād Sharīfī - on al-Maḥajja as a correction of the Iḥyāʾ. On how the two texts differ.

8) On poetry 

Two short pieces on his importance as a poet which is a significant part of his corpus.

Alongside Fayżnāma, this volume will be the first stop for scholars interested in him. A contribution even if the volume like most is rather unbalanced. Recommended nonetheless.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Muḥsin Fayż Kāshānī - Safavid polymath


If anyone in the Safavid period truly deserves the epithet of polymath, it is Muḥsin Fayż Kāshānī [b. 14 ṣafar 1007/16 September 1598 Kāshān and d. 2 Rabīʿ II 1091/2 May 1680 Iṣfahān], exegete, Akhbārī (?), theologian, mystic, courtier, occultist, and philosopher student and son-in-law of the eminent Safavid thinker Mullā Ṣadrā Shīrāzī [d. 1045/1635]. His father Shāh Murtażā Kāshānī [d. 1009/1601] was a well known scholar, student of the exegete Mullā Fatḥullāh Kāshānī [d. 988/1580] author of Manhaj al-ṣādiqayn fī ilzām al-mukhālifīn which arguably was the first major Persian Shiʿi exegesis of the Safavid period (completed in 972/1565 - the modern edition was published in 1957 edited by the famous Qurʾan translator and philosopher-sage Sayyid Abū-l-Ḥasan Shaʿrānī), and married a daughter of Żiyāʾ al-ʿurafāʾ Rāzī - and hence Fayż's mother and Mullā Ṣadrā's wife were sisters. His uncle Nūr al-Dīn Muḥammad b. Żiyāʾ al-Dīn Rāzī Kāshānī - and hence Mullā Ṣadrā's brother-in-law - is described as Shaykh al-Islām which may signal his post in the city of Kāshān and as 'ḥakīm' suggesting his training in ḥikma. His other aunt (khāla) was married to Mullā Muḥammad Sharīf Kāshānī whose sons Shah Fażlullāh [d. 1112/1701] and Mullā ʿAllāmī obtained ijāzas from Fayż. The more we understand the networks and apparatus that constitutes the context for thinkers in Islamic intellectual history, the better we can make sense of their work. Kinship is clearly a central aspect of this. 

Born into a scholarly family, his primary training was in ḥadīth with Sayyid Mājid al-Baḥrānī [d. 1618] in Shiraz, then after his death with Shaykh Bahāʾī [d. 1621] in Isfahan, and later in Madina with Shaykh Muḥammad b. al-Ḥasan al-ʿĀmilī, grandson of Shahīd II. He was then associated with Mullā Ṣadrā, moving to Shiraz with him. At his death, he returned to Kāshān - and given that he returned to Kāshān in 1045/1635, it is further evidence - alongside the testimony of his son and hence Mullā Ṣadrā's grandson Muḥammad ʿAlam al-Hudā - that Mullā Ṣadrā died in that year and not in 1050/1641 as conventionally held. He was later patronised by ʿAbbās II and significant in Isfahan, although he turned down the post of Shaykh al-Islām of the city. He had three sons - Muḥammad ʿAlam al-Hudā was probably the most significant scholar and compiler of Maʿādin al-ḥikma, a collection of the correspondence of the Imams, Muḥammad Nūr al-Hudā who was more inclined to poetry, and Aḥmad Muʿīn al-Dīn who was inclined to mysticism. His daughters were described as having scholarly leanings, poetic and belle-lettrist tastes - Umm al-Barr Sukayna Bānū, Umm Salama Sukayna, and Umm al-Khayr ʿAlīya [according to Āqā Buzurg]. 

Three issues remain worthy of consideration further. First, what was his relationship to Sufism and especially both the Ibn ʿArabī school to which he seemed rather attached and influenced and Ghazālī on whose Iḥyāʾ ʿulūm al-dīn he wrote a Shiʿi 'correction' (tahdhīb) commissioned by the court - it was Shah Ṣafī who first requested it of Mullā Ṣadrā and he clearly passed the commission to his son-in-law. Did his association with Sufis attract the ire of the anti-Sufi groups headed by clerics such as Mullā Ṭāhir Qummī [d. 1688]? Second, to what extent and in what sense was he an Akhbārī? Did he necessarily espouse mainstream views from that school - and in particular where did he stand on the issue of the textual corruption of the Qurʾan (taḥrīf)? Third, to what extent was he the main conduit of the Mullā Ṣadrā tradition with its blend of philosophy, mysticism and a deep contemplative approach to scripture? Did it survive the attacks upon him, which Mullā Ṣadrā never suffered in his own life? How do we make sense of the fact that both Majlisī [d. 1699] and Sayyid Niʿmatullāh al-Jazāʾirī [d. 1701] narrated from him - and neither were known for their sympathy to either Sufism or philosophy? The wider question of his legacy becomes more acute for a number of reasons: his espousal of a conception of the imamate that focused on walāya takwīnīya as expressed in his Kalimāt-e maknūna among other texts, as well as his influence on later traditions that led Shaykh Yūsuf al-Baḥrānī [d. 1772] and later Shaykh Aḥmad al-Aḥsāʾī [d. 1826] to condemn him as a heretic garbed in the cloak of a tradent. Most of the existing scholarship on him - by Jaʿfarīyān, Newman, Lewisohn - has focused upon his arguments for Friday prayer, his position on music and dance, and his relationship to power at court. Lawson, Kamada and most recently Zargar have made useful contributions to our understanding of Fayż's thought. In an earlier generation Sayyid Muḥsin al-Amīn wrote a thoughtful introduction to him to the edition of al-Maḥajja al-bayḍāʾ. Zargar is apparently writing a monograph on Fayż for the Makers of the Muslim World series at Oneworld. 

Fayż was remarkably prolific and many of his works have been published. He himself wrote a list of his works. A modern attempt has been made to produce his collected works (edited by Ayatollah Muḥammad Imāmī Kāshānī in around 30 volumes) by the former Sipahsālār Madrasa now known as the Madrasa-ye ʿĀlī-ye Muṭahharī in Tehran in addition to the standard publications of his two exegeses - al-Ṣāfī, the more extensive one and al-Aṣfā, the more concise one, and his major contribution to ḥadīth al-Wāfī which became one of the 'four books' of the Safavid period to mirror and further the canonisation of the classical 'four books'.  This process of the formation of the Shiʿi canon still requires further research. 

Furthermore, unlike other thinkers he left us a number of autobiographical works that help us to make sense of his life and context. They also demonstrate his shifting approach to life and scholarship - and belie the common assumption of coherence in the career and corpus of a scholar. His early Sharḥ-e ṣadr written in 1064/1654 is a critical source for his relationship to mysticism and especially to Mullā Ṣadrā. His later more circumspect and scriptural al-Inṣāf primarily in Arabic composed in 1083/1672 is more critical of mystical ideas and practice. His Muḥākama on the question of Sufism composed in 1070/1660 still in the lifetime of ʿAbbās II the king inclined to Sufism, is somewhat more circumspect. The short mirror written for the same King Āʾīna-ye Shāhī a few years earlier has useful material - as does al-Maḥajja al-bayḍāʾ the correction of Ghazālī written for the same King. 

Another aspect of his output was the constant reworking, redacting and composing for different audiences of roughly the same work. Examples include the cycle of texts around Kalimāt-e maknūna dated 1057/1647, some with more Persian than Arabic - with versions al-Laʾālī dated 1059/1649, Qurrat al-ʿuyūn in Arabic dated 1088/1677 with extensive ḥadīth material, and al-Kalimāt al-makhzūna dated 1089/1678 all of which have been published - and Uṣūl al-maʿārif, his summary of al-Shawāhid al-rubūbīya of Mullā Ṣadrā (as noticed by its editor the late Sayyid Jalāl al-Dīn Āshtiyānī) with its version ʿAyn al-yaqīn and Anwār al-ḥikma. Kalimāt-e maknūna demonstrates elements of his interests drawing upon the work of Mullā Ṣadrā, the school of Ibn ʿArabī usually through the works of Jāmī [d. 1498] such as his Naqd al-nuṣūṣ, Lavāyiḥ and Ashiʿat al-lamaʿāt, and rare ḥadīth from ʿAwālī al-laʾālī of Ibn Abī Jumhūr al-Aḥsāʾī [d. after 1502] and Mashāriq anwār al-yaqīn fī asrār Amīr al-muʾminīn of Rajab Bursī [d. 1414]. There are plans underway to produce a translation of the text with an edition.

He is clearly a good candidate for a serious monograph in a European language. Interest in Persian has increased recently with two collections of essays: Fayżnāma, eds. Muḥsin Nājī Naṣrābādī and Sayyid Abū-l-Qāsim Naqībī, Tehran, 1387 Sh/2008-9, and Fayżpazhūhī, ed. Shahnāz Shāyānfar, Tehran, 1392 Sh/2013. I will discuss the latter in a future post.