Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Philosopher's lament

It is commonplace for intellectuals to lament the stupidity of their times. As I'm working on an article on philosophy in the Qajar period and especially on Mulla Hadi Sabzavari (d. 1873), the last 'great Islamic philosopher', I was reminded of this famous quotation from his main work Sharh-i manzumeh:

This age is devoid of wisdom and suffers from a dearth of grace of faith from the clouds of Mercy and from a multitude of sins committed by those who are negligent and ignorant. The gates of the heavens of the intellect have been barred to them, and true understanding of the Lord of Heaven has been made forbidden to them and deceit has contaminated their love. They have forsaken the Truth for falsehoods and have become addicted to ornamentation and affectation. They no longer traverse the land of absolutes nor swim in the seas of the realities of Revelation; they have exchanged everlasting, righteous deeds (al-bāqiyyāt al-ṣāliḥāt) for partial, transient deeds that will become obsolete. Their deeds reveal the conjectural nature of their aims, and the purpose of their desires is self-centred and mal-intended…

When I saw philosophy, it was woven by spiders of forgetfulness, and its character and dominance had been discarded to a corner where it languished, exiled.[1]

[1] Hādī Sabzavārī, Sharḥ al-manẓūma: qism al-ḥikma, ed. Masʽūd Ṭālibī, Tehran: Nashr-i nāb, 1374s./1995, I, 37–8.

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