Workshop I: Post-Classical Islamic Philosophy

ETI had its first international workshop between 14-15 December 2017 in the Finnish Institute in Rome.

Venue: Finnish Institute in Rome, Passeggiata del Gianicolo 10



Dec 14 Thursday

9:15 Opening words

9:30 Yamina Adouhane, To what extent is al-Miklātī’s concept of ‘possible existent’ Avicennian?

10:45 Ayman Shihadeh, Arguments from contingency for creation ex nihilo

11:45 Lunch

13:30 Hadel Jarada, Free will and divine predestination in post-classical Māturīdī kalām: A broad canvassing of the debate on the creation of action

14:30 Bilal Ibrahim, Rāzī on Theories of Meaning

15:30 Coffee/tea

16:00 Jari Kaukua, Conceptual fictions or transcendental concepts? Substance and other iʿtibārāt in Suhrawardī

17:00 Wahid Amin, Avicenna and his commentators on the metaphysics of emanation: Post-classical debates on the falāsifa’s proofs for the existence of separate substances and the active intellect


Dec 15 Friday

9:30 Mukhtar Ali, On the types of knowledge in Ḥaydar Āmulī’s Jāmiʿ al-asrār wa manbaʿ al-anwār

10:45 Asad Q. Ahmed, Some reflections on the doctrine of ḥudūth dahrī and Mīr Dāmād in Muslim India

11:45 Lunch

13:30 Reza Pourjavady, Mīrzā Jān al-Baghnawī: A critic of Avicennan philosophy in Safavid Iran

14:30 Cécile Bonmariage, Ṣadr al-Dīn Shīrāzī as a reader of Fakhr al-Dīn Rāzī in the Asfār

15:30 Tea/coffee

16:00 Sajjad Rizvi, Metaphysics in the later Avicennian tradition: The case of Maḥdī Narāqī

17:00 Yusuf Daşdemir, How logical could a spiritual journey be? An assessment of Fanārī’s contribution to the formalisation/logicalisation of taṣawwuf in the Akbarian tradition

*Image taken from McGill University Archive.



Yamina Adouhane, To what extent is al-Miklātī’s concept of ‘possible existent’ Avicennian?

Abū al-Ḥajjāj al-Miklātī is a Maghribi Ash‘arite theologian who died in 1229. He wrote a treatise of kalām in which he criticizes the falāsifa and in particular Avicenna. Just like his predecessors and contemporaries from the West, he assimilated some of Avicenna’s concepts and arguments. A famous example of this integration is the mutakallimūn’s use of the concepts of “possible existent per se” and “necessary existent per se”. Recent studies have examined the complex mutual influences between falsafa and kalām on this topic. Focusing on al-Miklātī’s Kitāb Lubāb al-‘uqūl fī al-radd ‘alā al-falāsifa fī ‘ilm al-uṣūl, although also referring to his sources in Western kalām, I would like to question the extent and nature of his reappropriation of the concept of possible existent per se. The latter concept is at the core of two proofs leading to anti-Avicennian conclusions: the adventicity of the world and the establishment of an agent of the world by choice. The question I will be asking is how these conclusions are linked to the concept of possible existent and what this link implies as to the genuineness of the concept: to what extent is al-Miklātī’s concept of “possible existent” Avicennian?

Cécile Bonmariage, Ṣadr al-Dīn Shīrāzī as a reader of Fakhr al-Dīn Rāzī in the Asfār

This paper aims to show how Ṣadr al-Dīn Shīrāzī’s use of Fakhr al-Dīn Rāzī’s al-Mabāḥith al-mashriqīya is far more extensive than what a superficial reading that would only focus on explicit quotations indicates, and to explore why it matters to know, how a reading of portions of Ṣadrā’s Asfār in light of Rāzī’s Mabāḥith affects our understanding of the text, and allows us, by focusing on the passages where Ṣadrā departs from his source, to better grasp the core of Ṣadrā’s teaching.

Yusuf Daşdemir, How Logical Could a Spiritual Journey Be? An Assessment of Fanārī’s Contribution to the Formalisation/Logicalisation of Taṣawwuf in the Akbarian Tradition

Among many other things in philosophy and logic, we owe the idea of formal or demonstrative science to Aristotle. In his Posterior Analytics, Aristotle put forward for the first time an elaborated theory of nature and structure of formal science, according to which each scientific branch has a tripartite content. It takes a certain range of things or phenomena as its subject matter and a limited number of unproven definitions and propositions as its principles and it tries to demonstrate some questions related as to whether and why some attributes belong to the genus, which constitutes the subject matter of the science. Although this conception of science was initially welcomed only by philosophers in the Islamic world, after Ghazālī’s legitimisation and even encouragement of engaging with Aristotelian logic, scholars of different Islamic sciences too began to consider reconstructing their own branches in terms of Aristotelian/Avicennian concept of demonstrative science. From the 13th century on, Islamic Sufism or taṣawwuf underwent such a reconstruction process in the hands of the members of the so-called Akbarian tradition, particularly Ṣadr al-Dīn al-Qonawī and his commentators, among which the most prominent and influential figure has been Mullā Muḥammad ibn Ḥamzah al-Fanārī (1350-1431).

This paper deals with Mullā Fanārī’s attempts to reshape taṣawwuf as a demonstrative science and focuses on his role in the formation of the Akbarian strand of Sufism on the one hand and in the developing the intellectual framework of Ottoman scholars as the first Shaykh al-Islām of the Empire. It aims to set forth the epistemological characteristics of Fanārī’s understanding of taṣawwuf or al-ʿilm al-ilāhī and tries to determine to which extent it can be regarded as a ‘demonstrative science’ in the Aristotelian/Avicennian terms. In doing so, this paper also aims at shedding light on the mutual rapprochement between logic and Islamic sciences in the post-Ghazalian Islamic world.

Bilal Ibrahim, Rāzī on Theories of Meaning

In this paper, I present a preliminary analysis of Rāzī’s “theory of meaning”, which includes received problems in the tradition surrounding convention, signification, and meaning. The analysis aims to piece together Rāzī’s approach to those problems as presented in his work of legal theory (uṣūl al-fiqh), Harvest of the Science of Legal Theory (Maḥṣūl fī ʿilm al-uṣūl), as well as key discussions in his work of exegesis, Keys to the Unseen (Mafātīḥ al-Ghayb). To flesh out philosophical concept of the above accounts – specifically whether there are overarching epistemological concerns at play – I compare his views expounded in legal theory and exegesis with his analysis of related problems in his works of philosophy.  The hope is that his own views regarding the latter, which involve claims of truth value, may tell us whether his approach to problems of semantic theory involve more fundamental philosophical concerns.

Hadel Jarada, Free will and divine predestination in post-classical Māturīdī kalām: A broad canvassing of the debate on the creation of action

This paper explores Māturīdī kalām as it expressed itself on the vexed issue of free will and divine predestination, charting the predominant modes in which the issue was conceptualized beginning around the time of Ṣadr al-Ṣharīʿah al-Maḥbūbī (d. 747/1347). As noted by Daniel Gimaret in his Théories de l’Acte Humain en Théolgie Musulmane (1980), Sadr al-Shari’ah’s intervention in the debate concerning the “creation of acts” was both original and influential. Through an analysis of the reception of his works in the post-classical commentary tradition, the paper addresses the following central questions: To what extent were Māturīdī theologians committed to occasionalism, the notion that God is the true cause of events in the world? How did they reconcile the distinction between voluntary human action and unconstrained divine power? To what extent did theologians who self-identified as “Māturīdī” feel that they had to agree on such issues?

Reza Pourjavady, Mīrzā Jān al-Bāghnawī: a Critic of Avicennan Philosophy in Safavid Iran

Mīrzā Jān al-Bāghnawī (d. 995/1587) seems to have been the last Ashʿarī theologian of Safavid Iran. He was active in Shiraz in the second half of the 16th century and surprisingly he was not banned from teaching even though he held Ashʿarī positions. Late in his life, in 984/1576, Bāghnawī revealed his Sunnī affiliationopenly. Subsequently, he left Iran and spent the last years of his life in Bukhara. In his philosophical writings, such as his gloss on Quṭb al-Dīn al-Rāzī’s Muḥākamātand his commentary on Shams al-Dīn al-Bukhārī’s commentary on Najm al-Dīn al-Kātibī’s Ḥikmat al-ʿayn, Bāghnawī criticizes several aspects of Avicennan philosophy. These criticisms were responded to by several scholars of the Safavid period, including Mīrzā Ibrāhīm al-Hamadānī, Mīr Dāmād, Muḥammad Amīn al-Astarābādī, Shams al-Dīn al-Jīlānī, Āqā Ḥusayn al-Khwānsārī and Raḍī al-Dīn al- al-Khwānsārī. This paper tries to review these criticisms and the responses given to them by the Safavid scholars.

Sajjad Rizvi, Metaphysics in the Later Avicennian Tradition: The Case of Mahdī Narāqī (d. 1795)

The later Avicennian tradition was transmitted, modified and debated through the commentary cultures on three key texts (although there were others): the Ilāhīyāt of al-Šifāʾ, the metaphysics section of al-Išārāt wa-l-tanbīhāt, and the first three sections of onto-theology in Taǧrīd al-iʿtiqād of Naṣīr al-Dīn al-Ṭūsī (d. 1274). Three central topics of debate were the nature of ‘absolute existence’ (al-wuǧūd al-muṭlaq), the concept of mental existence (al-wuǧūd al-ḏihnī), and the modulation of existence (taškīk al-wuǧūd) based on al-Ṭūsī’s reading of Avicenna. In the Safavid period, this tradition was transformed by Mullā Ṣadrā’s critical reading of Avicenna through his Glosses on the Ilāhīyāt of al-Šifāʾ and his al-Asfār al-arbaʿa, and the earlier works on metaphysics by the Šīrāzī philosophers Manṣūr Daštakī (d. 1542) and Šams al-Dīn Ḫafrī (d. 1535?) such that by the end of the 18th century it was Sadrian readings of metaphysics that began to achieve a certain hegemony.

By looking at the thought of Mahdī Narāqī (d. 1795), a philosopher-theologian trained in Isfahan and teaching in one of the many new centres of learning in the 18th century, namely Kāšān, I trace the final stage of the Avicennian tradition, attempting to hold on to the Ṭūsīan reading and critically responding to the Sadrian reading of the metaphysics, by considering Narāqī’s solution to the three critical issues in metaphysics named above.


Wahid Amin, Avicenna and his commentators on the metaphysics of emanation: Post-classical debates on the falāsifa’s proofs for the existence of separate substances and the active intellect.

The number and variety of ways in which the Arabic falāsifa attempted to prove the existence of the Active Intellegences remains as yet only partially documented. While significant entries into the subject were made by modern scholars, the philosophers of the Islamic World devised not one but many individual proofs for the existence of beings which, so they claimed, are entirely separated from matter (pl. al-mufāriqāt). Of these not all of them are connected with the role of the so-called Agent Intellect (al-ʿaql al-faʿʿāl) and the role it plays in facilitating the act of human intellection (taʿaqqul), nor it seems are all of these proofs exclusively restricted to the purview and concerns of Aristotle’s and Avicenna’s De anima which, for the  most part, is where the majority of recent scholarship, owing to  some modern controversies, has focussed. Yet in spite of their multifarious character, all of the arguments apart from one have the common appearance of being inspired—whether directly or indirectly—by different parts of the Corpus Aristotelicum, especially the De anima, the Physics, the De caelo and the Metaphysics. As I shall try to show in this paper, Arabic philosophers invented the notion of the Active Intelligence through an engagement with, and subsequent development of, certain ideas already found within Aristotle, and which under the combined influence of the Neoplatonica Arabica were extended to different—and dare I say more religiously palatable—conclusions as far Islamic (and monotheistic) culture is concerned. I shall begin by first outlining the different types of proofs which the falāsifa adduced to prove the existence of the Active Intelligences by highlighting the importance of Avicenna’s prime disciple Bahmanyār b. Marzubān (d. 1067), whose treatise on the proof of the existence of immaterial beings has hitherto been mistakenly attributed to Abū Naṣr al-Fārābī (d. ca. 950). I shall then focus my attention on only one of these proofs which I believe is the main argument from Avicenna for the existence of a separated substance. Finally, I shall turn to the critique and defense of this argument as it is developed in the post-classical period in the works of Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī (d. 606/1209), Naṣīr al-Dīn al-Ṭūsī (d. 672/1274), Najm al-Dīn al-Kātibī (d. 675/1277) and other post-classical thinkers such as ʿAllāma al-Ḥillī (d. 726/1326), Quṭb al-Dīn al-Rāzī (d. 767/1365), Jalāl al-Dīn al-Davānī (d. 908/1502)  and Mullā Ṣadrā (d. 1050/1640).


Jari Kaukua, Substance (and other iʿtibārāt) in Suhrawardī

Shihāb al-Dīn al-Suhrawardī (d. 1191 CE) is famous for his critique of the iʿtibārī concepts, such as existence, substance, unity, or the modalities, in Peripatetic metaphysics. Yet the same concepts reappear in his ishrāqī alternative in the Ḥikma al-ishrāq. By looking at the concept of substance in particular, this contribution tries to elucidate the role the iʿtibārī concepts play in the broad framework of Suhrawardī’s philosophy. Should their critique be understood as a straightforward denial, or is it related to a subtler strategy of ascribing them with a more restricted metaphysical validity, not unlike that of transcendental concepts?


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