Saturday, December 14, 2013

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.

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