Philosophy in Early Safavid Iran: Najm al-Din Mahmud al-Nayrizi and His Writings.

Author:Rizvi, Sajjad
Position:Book review
 
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Philosophy in Early Safavid Iran: Najm al-Din Mahmud al-Nayrizi and His Writings. By REZA POURJAVADY. Islamic Philosophy, Theology and Science, vol. 82. Leiden: BRILL, 2011. Pp. vii + 224. $136.

Over four decades ago, Mian Muhammad Sharif collected a serious of articles in two volumes entitled A History of Muslim Philosophy, which, especially given its provenance from South Asia, insisted upon the continuity of philosophical inquiry and tradition throughout the ages and comprised studies of the Aristotelian tradition as well as the non-Aristotelian developments of the early modern period. Significantly, the collection not only included articles on Mulla Sadra Shirazi (d. 1635) and later thinkers in the Qajar period, but also included the likes of Sharif Ali al-Jurjani (d. 1413) and Jalal al-Din Davani (d. 1501), integrating philosophical theology (ilm al-kalam) into the story of philosophy in Islam. The breadth of interest in that collection and the depth of some of the contributions have yet to be surpassed. While Henry Corbin and Seyyed Hossein Nasr published work at the same time in the 1960s that did much to encourage research on thinkers of the Safavid and Qajar periods, they also recognized the important transitional role and influence of thinkers at the cusp of the new Safavid age in the transmission and transformation of the Neoplatonizing Aristotelianisms of the medieval period. They dubbed that period the "school of Shiraz" by analogy to the "school of Isfahan," which they coined for Mulla Sadra, his teachers, and his students. While the concept of school is much debated, and may be rejected if we assume a singular body of doctrines and teachings, there can be little doubt of clear common intellectual inheritances and of the common teaching space that rendered Shiraz central to the study of philosophy from the Timurid to the Safavid periods.

If we want to understand the course of the history of philosophical traditions in Islam, we need a number of studies of themes and thinkers between Avicenna and Mulla Sadra to understand the ethical turn toward philosophy as a way of life that became central to the later traditions without being entirely absent from the earlier ones. Recent research has not only enriched our understanding of the subsequent course of Avicennan thought, including philosophical theology--and here the writings of Robert Wisnovsky, Meryem Sebti, Ayman Shihadeh, Rudiger Arnzen, Asad Ahmed, Ahmed al-Rahim, and Heidrun Eichner are significant--but also clarified the ways in which alternative traditions interrogated and debated Avicennism not least through the Illuminationism (ishraq) of Suhrawardi (d. 1191) and his followers, as exemplified in the work of the late Hossein Ziai, John Walbridge, Lukas Muehlethaler, Hermann Landolt, Tzvi Langermann, and Roxanne Marcotte. For that crucial period from the fourteenth century, Josef van Ess contributed a study on some decades ago, and more recently Sabine Schmidtke has not only focused on theology and philosophy from Allama al-Hilli (d. 1325) to Ibn Abi Jumhur al-Ahsai (d. after 1501) but also organized around...

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