Tuesday, June 7, 2011

On some more books from Iran

First, I should mention Muḥammad Mujtahid Shabistarī’s Taʾammulātī dar qarāʾat-i insānī az dīn (first published by the famous Tehrani press Ṭarḥ-i naw in 2004). A key theme of reformist thinking is to propose humanist(ic) hermeneutics of the text and of reality. The slim volume contains some of his papers from the last decade and follows on the theme that he introduced at the end of his critique of the ‘official reading/interpretation’ of religion (naqd bar qarāʾat-i rasmī az dīn). Not surprisingly around half of the papers are concerned with matters of politics or governance (siyāsat, ḥukūmat, mardumsālārī). It wil be of particular interest to a student of mine writing his MA dissertation on Mujtahid Shabistarī and then going onto to write his PhD on the relationship between faith and freedom.

Second, on the visit to the impressive Dānishgāh-i adyān va madhāhib in the new town of Pardisan in Qum, I met some of the faculty and was introduced to some of their publications including their journals. One of the faculty, Shihāb al-Dīn Vaḥīdī presented me with a copy of his ʿAql dar sāḥat-i dīn: rābiṭa-yi ʿaql u īmān dar āthār-i Mullā Ṣadrā (published in 2008 by the University). This is yet another study of aspects of MS’s thought and focuses on a sort of conceptual history of the terms.

Third, from Bustān-i kitāb, I picked up an interesting study of the debate on whether philosophy is a pure pursuit or is compromised by its historical and intellectual context. Is there such a thing as ‘pure philosophy’ (ḥikmat-i nāb)? This is the title of the study by Muḥammad Riżā Irshādī-niyā that considers the question through an analysis of MS’s ethics both theoretical and practical (virtue ethics and applied) and then moves on to an examination of the hermeneutics and epistemology of mystical experience finally ending with a chapter on whether our understanding of reality is primarily mediated through scriptural tradition or reason (in some sense). In some ways the book is a bit more disappointing than my expectation when I picked it up. I was expecting some analysis of the MS school and tafkīk debate on the nature of philosophy and the foundations of our metaphysical knowledge as well as engaging more deeply with the argument on the nature of philosophy as such as interrogates whether the notion of Islamic philosophy obviates its being ‘philosophy’.

Another purchase from the same official outlet of the ḥawzeh was Muḥammad Ḥusayn Khalīlī’s Mabānī-yi falsafī-yi ʿishq az manẓar-i Ibn Sīnā va Mullā Ṣadrā. Another volume in the comparative genre so beloved of recent ḥawzeh outputs, the starting point is the Risālat al-ʿishq of the former that establishes the principle of erotic motion that underlies the cosmos and is taken up as another one of the ‘sisters of being’ by MS (i.e. ʿishq = wujūd). Anyway I haven’t finished it yet so cannot make a final assessment of it.

Finally, two volumes that I picked up from the Marʿashī bookshop next to the library – which remains one of the best places in Qum to pick up real gems including some old books. They usually stock publications of the major libraries and publishers including the Majlis Library in Tehran. Now one excellent publishing series of the Majlis Library is their Ganjīna-yi Bahāristān edition of risālas divided into subjects. Since I already had volume I of their ḥikmat and ʿulūm-i qurānī va ravāʾī series I was happy to find volume II of both. These works are of great interest because they publish treatises often by major figures from the Timurid/Safavid/Qajar periods. The volume on Qurʾānic and ḥadīth topics includes a collection of 40 ḥadīth by the famous figure of the school of Shiraz Shams al-Dīn Khafrī and a commentary on a ḥadīth by the Sufi and ḥakīm Quṭb al-Dīn Nayrīzī. The volume on ḥikmat includes a number of treatises on logic including al-Sharīf Jurjānī on propositions, a treatise attributed to Mīr Dāmād on the nature of logic and al-Fārābī on Zeno’s paradox. Another treatise of interest is a short work by Muḥsin Fayż on motion in the category of substance that is such a central metaphysical concern of MS.

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