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.