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.

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