Saturday, December 14, 2013

Mullā Ṣadrā on the cosmic authority (ولاية تكوينية) of the Friends of God

In a recent piece that is about to be published on walāya takwīnīya in the Safavid period, I discuss various thinkers including Mullā Ṣadrā focusing primarily on his discussion in al-Shawāhid al-rubūbīya. Now, of course, one could have looked at other texts – and the most obvious lie in his extensive and still little studied exegesis. I recently realised I had seen an article - a useful indexical one - on Mullā Ṣadrā on the concept of walāya:

ʿAbd al-ʿAlī Shukr, 'Vilāyat dar andīsha-yi Ṣadr al-mutaʾallihīn', Khiradnāma-ye Ṣadrā, no. 66 (winter 1390 sh/March 2012), pp. 39-52

After a introductory section outlining senses of walāya, the author points out two schemes of walāya. The first distinguishes between a common sense (ʿāmm) that is open to all believers, and the second is for the select (khāṣṣ) friends of God whose selfhood dissolves in the very essence of the divine. This is indicated in his commentary on the Light Verse and in other places and clearly draws upon the Sufi exegetical tradition (probably from Ghazālī). The second scheme is found in his exegesis on the Throne Verse - God's walāya for believers means one of three things: i) his assistance in the completion of his proofs and his guidance, ii) his help for them to overcome their enemies and to manifest their faith and make it emerge above all others, and iii) his assistance for their accomplishment of their moral obligations and supererogatory acts that draw them near to him [Tafsīr, āyat al-kursī, ed. Muḥammad Khājavī, Tehran: Bunyād-e Mullā Ṣadrā, 1389 Sh/2010, V, p. 254]. Thus walāya involves both push and pull factors: acquired by the performance of spiritual exercises, but also free gifts of grace. 

Ok so what about the concepts of walāya takwīnīya and tashrīʿīya that arise from the school of Ibn ʿArabī? It's clear that the former links an early Shiʿi insistence in hadith upon the cosmic role of the Imams as the manifestation of the divine (wajhullāh) to the Akbarian idea that links to this of the Imam/Walī as the totality of the divine names, as the one who comprehensively manifests divine attributes. Once the Imam/Walī has the rank, he can act at the level of the cosmic order (al-amr al-takwīnī) - such a person is the perfect human that mediates between the divine and the cosmos [al-Asfār al-arbaʿa, ed. Aḥmad Aḥmadī, Tehran: Bunyād-e Mullā Ṣadrā, 1381 sh/2002, VI, p. 252; Mafātīḥ al-ghayb, ed. Najafqulī Ḥabībī, Tehran: Bunyād-e Mullā Ṣadrā, 1386 Sh/2007, I, p. 345]. 

The authority to define what the sharīʿa is - walāya tashrīʿīya - is a continuation of the prophetic function and is discussed in his commentary on the hadith collection al-Kāfī. In his engagement with the controversy over the seal of walāya, he sides with the Shiʿi tradition of the school of Ibn ʿArabī (starting at least with ʿAbd al-Razzāq Kāshānī d. 1336) that insists on the seal's identification with the Mahdī [Sharḥ uṣūl al-kāfī, ed. Muḥammad Khājavī, Tehran: Pazhūhishgāh-e ʿulūm-e insānī, rpt., 1383 sh/2004, II, pp. 476 and see pp. 467-68].

The real question is whether beyond the particularities such as this latter point whether Mullā Ṣadrā's concept is really a Shiʿi one or a Shiʿi version of a concept in the school of Ibn ʿArabī. The obvious place to look further more carefully is the commentary on the kitāb al-ḥujja of al-Kāfī. But beyond that, as I indicate in my article one needs to look elsewhere such as the work of his student Fayż Kāshānī (d. 1680), not least in his Kalimāt-e maknūna and other works for a more seamless bringing together of the Akbarian and the Shiʿi strands, and perhaps to figures like Qāḍī Saʿīd Qummī (d. 1696) whose magnum opus is a glorious Shiʿi Neoplatonic commentary on the hadith collection al-Tawḥīd of al-Shaykh al-Ṣadūq (d. 991). I realise that I still need to return more extensively to discuss the question of what makes Mullā Ṣadrā a Shiʿi thinker beyond the obvious. And then one slowly and surely gets entangled in the debates on the nature of authentic Shiʿi discourse..

More on Niẓām al-Dīn Gīlānī

I am grateful to Mohammad Karimi Zanjani-Asl for sending me the various volumes of treatises that he has edited of Gīlānī's.
Since I have already commented in the previous post on the collection of some of his philosophical works, I comment on the others here:

1) al-Ḥarāra al-gharīzīya - edited by Ḥakīm Sayyid Ẓill al-Raḥmān, published in 1391 Sh/2012 as volume 4 of the Mīrās-e Quṭbshāhī series. Like the Rasāʾil, they are based on a single manuscript copy held in the microfilm library Markaz-e Iḥyāʾ in Qum. The editor is an eminent specialist on traditional Muslim, Galenic medicine (ṭibb-e yūnānī), significant given Gīlānī's role as a disseminator of medical and scientific knowledge in the Deccan. The treatise itself - around 35 pages - is prefaced in Persian and English with a brief introduction to the scientific works and to the treatise. The work itself focuses on the notion of innate heat as a property that indicates life of the body and the soul. the specific case discussed is the nature of heat in humans especially in the process of the conception and incipience of the human soul in the embryo through the idea of the innate heat in semen. In the proemium, he says that he wrote the text at the request of the ruler (and his patron) ʿAbdullāh Quṭbshāh on the nature of heat and how human embryos, blood and flesh are produced through the agency of the divine. This is another facsimile edition in a very clear hand - described as nastaʿlīq although it seems rather naskhī to my eyes.

2) Dū risāla-ye falsafī-ye fārsī - this is one of two volumes published by a new press Nashr-e majmaʿ-ye dhakhāʾir-e islāmī in 1392 Sh/2013 [which seems to specialise at least in some of their publications on works from the subcontinent) - on two treatises: on the refutation of metempsychosis (dar radd-e tanāsukh), and on the reality of death and the fear of death (bayān-e ḥaqīqat-e mawt u kayfīyat-e khawf az mawt). Both texts are edited and barely a few pages each (the whole paperback booklet is around 50 pages). The texts are prefaced with a correspondence with the 'shaykh' of the Meccan precinct ʿUtāqī Afandī [based on a literary and historical majmūʿa in the Majlis Library manuscript 5996]. The editor suggests that it was on the basis of this correspondence that Gīlānī, a major courtier and vizier at the time, was bestowed the title of Ḥakīm al-mulk. Interestingly he refers to Afandī as 'ṣūfī' which suggests that at this time it was not yet a disapproved term. The treatise condemning metempsychosis is prefaced with a useful discussion on the conception in Islamic intellectual history with an excellent set of references. Karimi suggests that the text was primarily aimed at the Nuqṭavīs at court who following Pasīkhānī upheld metempsychosis. The second treatise is also rather short. Karimi - and the evidence of these texts - suggest that the Quṭbshāhī court was quite an intellectual salon in which, mirroring some ʿAbbāsid fora and the Fāṭimid court, 'majālis al-ḥikma' took place - and these works are a result of those learned sessions, summaries of the arguments that Gīlānī as an official court intellectuals put forward. So two points worth further investigation: what was the role of the Nuqṭavīs in the Deccan, and what were these salons at the Quṭbshāhī court and how common were such fora in India?

3) Finally, there is a collection of three treatises on natural philosophy also published by the Nashr-e majmaʿ-ye dhakhāʾir-e islāmī published in 1391 Sh/2012 and comprises: a treatise on the four elements (ʿanāṣir-e arbaʿa), on the nature of wind and thunder and lightning, and the creation within a week. The texts (again rather short) are prefaced with a useful introduction to Gīlānī's positions on natural philosophy. In the third text, he says that it emerged from a salon session in Jumāda II, 1055 H/July 1645 in which he defends a broadly Biblical-Qurʾanic account of creation in a period of time, broadly ex nihilo (perhaps in refutation of non-linear conceptions of time and creation posited by Indian thinkers at court). These texts further show that Gīlānī was basically an Avicennan-Galenic thinker - at the end of the final treatise, he cites Ibn Sīnā from al-Taʿlīqāt and Mīr Ṣadr al-Dīn Dashtakī (d. 1498) - on this point the editor makes a common mistake of conflating 'Sayyid Ṣadr al-Dīn Muḥammad' with Mullā Ṣadrā. The Ṣadr al-Dīn Shīrāzī mentioned here is clearly Mīr Ṣadr al-Dīn the author of a treatise on Ithbāt al-wājib, and not Mullā Ṣadrā who never wrote a treatise of that genre.

I'm looking forward to further works of Gīlānī being edited by Karimi, not least the Ḥudūth al-ʿālam. What will emerge I think is an interesting thinker who transmitted the tradition of Mīr Dāmād to the Deccan but also someone who remained an Avicennan-Galenic thinker and testified further to the enduring significance of Avicenna in the Islamic East.