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Asian Philosophy


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An Anthology of Philosophy in Persia Volume One edited by Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Mehdi Aminrazavi (Oxford University Press)

An Anthology of Philosophy in Persia Volume Two edited by Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Mehdi Aminrazavi (Oxford University Press)

 These volumes are attempting to fill a major lacuna in the contemporary representation of world philosophy. The Persian philosophical heritage is so rich that it is a shame that so little of it is known in western philosophical tradition. It is especially important as it represents an unbroken continuation of late antique philosophy, especially as religious philosophy. In this anthology we are given an important glimpse of this rich tradition. The first two volumes of this possible 4-5 volume anthology collects in one place a slight sampling of nearly 2500 years of philosophical musings. While there is no shortage of books on Islamic philosophy, the Persian tradition has been seriously under-represented in surveys of Islamic thought and also it is difficult to find accurate translations of Persian philosophical texts.

 Many of the texts selected have appeared in diverse sources. An Anthology of Philosophy in Persia Volume One  presents the Zoroastrian period, (mostly outdated translations of sacred texts and commentaries), early Persian continuation of the peripatetic tradition, (from the little known Iranshari to ibn Sina)  and early independent philosophers (like Abu Bakr Razi, Biruni, and Omar Khayyam). An Anthology of Philosophy in Persia Volume Two introduces Isma’ili and hermetico-pythagorian philosophy that is most under-represented in philosophical surveys even though it has deep roots in late and even archaic Hellenistic culture. Among the important philosophers represented is the hermetic alchemist, Jabir ibn Hayyan known in the west as Gerber; some works by the Brethren of Purity; Al-Mu'ayyadfi'1-Din Shirazi; and the philosophic poetry of the great Nasir-i Khusraw; and Nasir a1-Din Tusi, the great Shiite philosopher.

Contents Volume One

List of Reprinted Works
List of Transliterations
Prolegomenon S. H. Nasr
Part One. Early Persian Philosophy The Zoroastrian Period
Selected Readings from Zoroastrian Philosophy
Introduction M. Aminrazavi
Bundahisn E. M. West
Greater Bundahisn R. C. Zaehner
Dadistan-i Dinik F. Max Muller
Dina-i Mainog-i Khirad F. Max Muller
Selected Readings Denkard VI Sh. Shaked
Part Two. Early Islamic Philosophy
A. The Peripatetics
Introduction S. H. Nasr
Abu'l-`Abbas Muhammad Iranshahri
M. Aminrazavi Zad al-misfiring (``Provisions for Travelers'')
M. Aminrazavi Abu Nasr Farabi
Introduction S. H. Nasr
Kitab al-burhan (``Paraphrase of Aristotle's Analytica Posteriora'')
M. Fakhry Kitab al-jam `bayn ra'yay al-hakimayn, Aflatun al-ilahi wa Aristu
(``Reconciliation of the Opinions of the Two Sages, Spiritual Plato and Aristotle'') S. Inati
Mabadi' ara' ahl al-madinat al-fadilah (``The Perfect State'') R. Walzer
Abu'l-Hasan `Amiri Introduction S. H. Nasr
al-I `lam bi manaqib al-islam (``An Exposition on the Merits of Islam'')
al-Amad `ala'l-abad (``On the Soul and Its Fate'') E. K. Rowson
Abu Sulayman Sijistani
Introduction M. Aminrazavi
Musannafat (``Philosophical Treatises'') J. L. Kraemer
Ibn Sina Introduction S. H. Nasr
Danish-nama-yi `ala i (``Treatise on Knowledge, Dedicated to Prince `Ala' al-Dawlah'') T. Gaskil
al-Isharat wa'l-tanbihat (``Remarks and Admonitions'') Creation Ex Nihilo and Immediate Creation
Sh. Inati al-Shifa' (``The Healing: On Theodicy and Providence'')
Sh. Inati al-Isharat wa'l-tanbihat (``Remarks and Admonitions'') On Theodicy and Providence
Sh. Inati al-Shifa' (``The Healing: On Time'') Y. Shayegan
Fi Maqamat al-`arifin (``On the Stations of the Knowers'') Sh. Inati
Hayy ibn Yaqzan (``Living Son of the Awake'') H. Corbin
Mantiq al-mashraqiyyin (``The Logic of the Orientals'') S. H. Nasr
Abu `Ali Ahmad ibn Muhammad Miskawayh
Introduction S. H. Nasr
al-Hikmat al-khalidah or Jawidan-khirad (“Perennial Philosophy'')  A. Giese
Tahdhib al-akhlaq (``The Refinement of Character'') C. Zurayk
Bahmanyar ibn Marzban
M. Aminrazavi Kitab al-tahsil (``The Book of the Exposition'') E. K. Rowson
The Independent Philosophers Introduction S. H. Nasr
Abu Bakr Muhammad Zakariyya' Razi al-Tibb al-ruhani (``Spiritual Physick'')
al-Sirat al-falsafiyyah (``On the Philosophic Life'') A. J. Arberry
Abu Rayhan Biruni Introduction S. H. Nasr
Tahqiq ma li'l-hind (``India'')
E. C. Sachau al-As'ilah wa'l-ajwibah (``Questions and Answers'') S. H. Nasr
`Umar Khayyam Introduction M. Aminrazavi
Darurat al-tadadd fi'l-`alam wa'l-jabr wa'l-baqa' (``The Necessity of Contradiction, Free Will and Determinism'')
Kulliyyat-i wujud (``Universals of Existence'') M. W. Rahman
General Bibliography

Contents Volume Two

List of Reprinted Works
List of Transliterations
General Introduction S. H. Nasr
Umm al-kitab, Introduction M. Aminrazavi Umm al-kitab ("The Mother of Books") Latimah Parvin Peerwani
Jabir ibn Hayyan Introduction S. H. Nasr Kitab al-ahjar ("Book of Stones") Seyed Nomanul Haq
Abu Ya'qub Sijistani, Introduction M. Aminrazavi
Kashf al-mahjub ("Unveiling of the Hidden") Hermann Landolt
Kitab al-yanabr ` ("The Book of Wellsprings") Latimah Parvin Peerwani
Abu Hatim Razi, Introduction M. Aminrazavi
A`lam al-nubuwwah ("Science of Prophecy") Everett K. Rowsan
Hamid al-Din Kirmani, Introduction M. Aminrazavi Rahat al- aql ("Repose of the Intellect") Daniel G. Peterson
al-Risalat al-durriyyah ("The Brilliant Epistle") Faquir M. Hunzai
Rasa'il Ikhwan al-Safa' ("Treatises of The Brethren of Purity"), Introduction S. H. Nasr
Microcosm and Macrocosm, Latimah Parvin Peerwani
A Theory on Numbers, Bernard R. Goldstein
Man and the Animals, Lenn E. Goodman
Al-Mu'ayyadfi'1-Din Shirazi, Introduction M. Aminrazavi
Khutbah ("Sermon"), Javad M. Muscati and A. M. Moulvi
Nasir-i Khusraw, Introduction S. H. Nasr
Kitab jdmi `al-hikmatayn ("The Sum of the Two Wisdoms")
Latimah Parvin Peerwani Gushdyish wa rahayish ("Knowledge and Liberation")
Faquir M. Hunzai Diwan ("Philosophical Poetry") Peter L. Wilson and Ghulam-Reza Aavant
Nasir a1-Din Tusi, Introduction M. Aminrazavi
Sayr wa suluk ("Contemplation and Action") Sayyid J. H. Badakhchani
Rawdat al-taslim or Tasawwurat  (`The Garden of Submission, or Notions"), Latimah Parvin Peerwani
General Bibliography, 379
Index, 381

From the Introduction of S. H. Nasr

 The second volume of An Anthology of Philosophy in Persia Volume Two deals with some major schools of thought in the early history of Islamic Persia that were not treated in the first volume. In the first volume, in addition to pre-Islamic thought in Persia, special attention was paid to the Peripatetic school associated most of all with the name of Ibn Sina (Avicenna). This much better known school of Islamic philosophy is usually identified in the West as Islamic philosophy; and in most general treatments of the history of Islamic philosophy,`little attention has been paid until recently to other schools of thought of that period that are of philosophical significance. In the early centuries of Islamic history, Isma'ili philosophy and philosophies influenced by Pythagorean and Hermetic ideas-also usually associated with Shiite thought in general and Isma'ilism in particular-stand out especially as schools of great philosophical significance if philosophy be understood in its traditional and time-honored sense.

Isma'ilism, which is a branch of Shi'ism that shares the first six Imams with the mainstream form of Shi'ism known as the Ithna `ashariyyah or Twelve-Imam Shi'ism, began to formulate its philosophical and theological teachings earlier than any other form of Shi'ism with which it has always shared a common concern for the central role of aql, or intellect, in the understanding of religious doctrines. Already one can see the propensity toward intellectual discourse, the significance of aql, and use of demonstration or burhan in the Nahj al-balaghah (Path of Eloquence), which is a collection of the sayings and teachings of `A11 ibn Abi Talib, the first Shiite Imam, presented in its present form by Sayyid Sharlf al-Radt. The Shiite Imams also held occasional discourse with those knowledgeable in Greco-Alexandrian philosophies and sciences, as can be seen in the meeting between the eighth Shiite Imam of the Twelve-Imam School, 'Ali al-Rida, and `Imran al-Sabt, who belonged to the "Sabaean"community of Harran known to have been a center where more esoteric currents of Greco-Alexandrian thought were cultivated and preserved into the Islamic period. Moreover, the sixth Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq-the last person to be accepted by both Twelve-Imam Shiites and Isma'ilis as Imam-was associated with currents of Hermeticism, and Jabir ibn Hayyan, the first Muslim alchemist who is a historical figure despite having gained a "mythological" dimension, was a student of Imam Ja'far. These and many other characteristics of Shi'ism and events in Shiite sacred history created a more favorable ambience for the propagation of the intellectual sciences of which philosophy is the heart in Shiite circles than in most (but not all) climates dominated by later Sunni theological thought. The survival of Islamic philosophy during later centuries in Persia and its re-flowering during the Safavid period, when Persia had become predominantly Shiite of the Twelve-Imam School, is related to this reality as is the central significance of philosophy for the religious thought of Isma'ilism.

There is another cardinal point that must be remembered, and that is the esoteric dimension of Shi'ism that therefore links it at its very roots with Islamic esoterism as such, of which it is a manifestation along with Sufism, which is the central expression of that esoterism. Moreover, Islamic esoterism is based essentially on knowledge of a principal order (al-ma `rifahl 'Irfan) and is therefore more than anything else gnostic, if this term be understood in its original sense and not confused with the sectarian views of historical gnosticism. From the beginning Shi'ism was concerned with gnosis, and throughout history one can observe the manifestation of Shiite gnosis in various forms, with many of which we shall deal in later volumes of this series, especially those associated with Twelve-Imam Shi'ism. Meanwhile, in early Islamic history Isma'ili gnosis began to manifest itself through a number of works that are both gnostic and philosophical or one could say theosophical in nature, if this latter term be understood in its authentic sense as theosophia or al-hikmat al-ildhiyyah in Arabic and hikmat-i ildhi in Persian, terms which are its exact and literal equivalent.

Isma'ili thought associated philosophy/theosophy with the esoteric dimension of the religion and the instructions of the Imams, who according to both Twelve-Imam and Isma'ili Shi'ism possess knowledge of the esoteric (batini) truths of religion. During Islamic history many Muslims in fact referred to the Isma'ilis as batinis, sometimes in a pejorative sense accusing them of denying the outward (zadhir) form of the revelation. Without entering into this theological discussion that has had a long history, it suffices here to emphasize that for the Isma'ills philosophy possesses essentially an esoteric, gnostic, and soteriological character and is not simply meant to be mental learning. It is related to the haqiqah or truth at the heart of the Quranic revelation, and therefore can be attained only after proper training of not solely the mind but also the whole of one's being, which then makes one worthy of receiving knowledge from the representative of true gnosis who is none other than the Imam or his representatives. The role of the Imam and the hierarchy of those who know at whose head he stands is, therefore, essential in the disciple's gaining of authentic knowledge…

The subjects and themes treated by the major Isma'ili philosophers of Persia in this volume constitute the heart of Isma'ili philosophy as such and have been treasured by later Isma'ili thinkers of not only Persia itself but also of the Yemen, India, Syria, and other lands where much of the later Isma'ili writings saw the light of day. But it must be remembered that this Isma'ili philosophical tradition is not to be identified solely with the Isma'ili branch of Shi'ism. Rather, it belongs to the integral tradition of Islamic philosophy as well as Shiite thought in general. Like Sufism, Isma’ilism and Twelve-Imam Shi'ism drew their inspiration, knowledge-in fact their very existence ­from the esoteric dimension of the Islamic tradition, and their philosophy bears the imprint of that source. That is why Isma'ilism shared certain ideas with Sufism and after the Mongol invasion it went underground in Persia to appear in many places as a form of Sufism. In this context it is noteworthy that one of the greatest masterpieces of Persian Sufi poetry, the Gulshan-i rdz (The Secret Garden of Divine Mysteries) of Mahmud Shabistafs  had not only later Sufi commentators but also Isma'ili ones.

Isma'ili philosophy also shares much with later Islamic philosophy as it developed in Persia in the Twelve-Imam Shiite milieu created by the Safavids. It is true that it was most of all Mulla Sadra who, in the eleventh/seventeenth century, drew the full implications of the philosophical saying of the Shiite Imams, as one observes in his commentary upon Kulayni's Usal al-kaft (The Sufficient Principles). But long before Mulla Sadra, the early Isma'ili philosophers drew to a large extent from the teachings of the Shiite Imams whom, up to and including the sixth Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq, they shared with the Twelve-Imam Shiites. That is why they must be considered as being among the predecessors of Mulla Sadra from the point of view of the exposition of the philosophical dimension of the esoteric teachings of the Imams. It should be added that Mulla Sadra was in fact familiar with some of their writings. In any case, Isma'ili philosophy is an important manifestation of philosophical thought in Persia related in profound ways to Sufism on the one hand and the later flowering of philosophy in the Shiite Persia of the Safavid period on the other. The Isma'ili philosophical tradition also created some of the most important philosophical works in the Persian language and left an indelible mark upon the development of Persian as a vehicle for philosophical discourse, a vehicle that was to be used continuously by Persian philosophers through the centuries continuing in fact up to today.

Isma'ili philosophy provides teachings of great depth about time and eternity, cosmic cycles, the nature of the anthropos, a metaphysics based not on Being but the Absolute as Beyond-Being whose first manifestation is Being, a cosmology related to the hierarchy of spiritual beings, the relation between religion in its formal aspect and philosophy or reason and revelation and many other basic philosophical themes. It is certainly one of the major schools of Islamic philosophy associated in its early centuries nearly completely with Persia and also to a large extent with the Persian language. Although Isma’ilism went underground in Persia after the Mongol Invasion, its influence in later schools of philosophy, theology and even certain strands of Sufism is evident while the major philosophical works written by such figures as Abu Hatim Razl, Hamid al-Din Kirmani and Nasir-i Khusraw, not to speak of the Rasd'd of the Ikhwan al-Safa' written by both Arabs and Persians, are among outstanding monuments of the long tradition of philosophy in Persia.

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