More than a century has passed since the first appearance in 1901 of De Boer’s History of Philosophy in Islam, and since then a large number of works on the subject have been presented to Western readers. So, whether there is need for a new one is a natural question that must be quickly answered. At the beginning of their introduction, the editors explain this as follows: ‘The study of Islamic philosophy has entered a new and exciting phase in the last few years. Both the received canon of Islamic philosophers and the narrative of the course of Islamic philosophy are in the process of being radically questioned and revised. The bulk of twentieth-century Western scholarship on Arabic or Islamic philosophy focused on the period from the ninth century to the twelfth. It is a measure of the transformation that is currently underway in the field that the present Oxford Handbook has striven to give roughly equal weight to every century from the ninth to the twentieth’ (p. 1). In accordance with their rationale, the editors selected roughly the same number of major figures to represent each century and different regions of the Islamic world and asked the contributors to focus on one identified work of the selected thinker. The intention was to allow for the attention to detail and sustained exposition that are often sacrificed in surveys of the thinkers’ whole oeuvre. The handbook consists of thirty chapters. In the first fifteen chapters the reader finds the philosophers more or less familiar to most students of Islamic philosophy. Hence, we find respectively chapters on the Theology attributed to Aristotle, al-Kindī’s On First Philosophy, Abū Bakr al-Rāzī’s The Spiritual Medicine, a lost work of Ibn Masarra, al-Fārābī’s On the One and Oneness, Yaḥyā b. ‘Adī’s Kitāb Tahdhīb al-akhlāq, ‘The Metaphysics’ of Ibn Sīnā’s al-Shifā’, Nāṣir-i Khusraw’s Jāmi‘ al-ḥikmatayn, al-Ghazālī’s The Incoherence of the Philosophers, Shahrastānī’s Wrestling Match with the Philosophers, Ibn Ṭufayl’s Ḥayy ibn Yaqẓān, Suhrawardī’s Intimations of the Tablet and the Throne, Averroes’s The Decisive Treatise, and in selected chapters of the commentary of Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī and Naṣīr al-Dīn al-Ṭūsī on Avicenna’s Pointers. In the following fifteen chapters the reader will find less familiar thinkers from the post-classical period to the present. For that reason, it will be useful to describe these thinkers and their particular work in detail. There are a number of chapters allocated to works on logic. Hence in ch. 16, Tony Street evaluates Kātibī’s (d. 1277) Shamsiyya, one of the most widely read logic texts in the Islamic world, and its commentaries, in particular, that of Taḥtānī (d. 1365). In ch. 22, Asad Q. Ahmed discusses Muḥibb Allāh al-Bihārī’s (d. 1707) Sullam al-‘ulūm, the first complete Arabic textbook on logic written by a scholar of South Asia, and shows that it departed from earlier traditional books, such as Shamsiyya, in significant ways. In ch. 23, Khaled El-Rouayheb examines Egyptian scholar Aḥmad al-Mallawī’s (d. 1767) Commentary on the Versification of the Immediate Implications of Hypothetical Propositions, to show that Mallawī reflected critically on received views and explored novel issues not treated by his predecessors. In ch. 28, Saleh J. Agha examines Muḥammad Bāqir al-Ṣadr’s (d. 1979) work on the logical foundations of induction. These chapters provide deeper analyses of niche issues and appear especially to address experts in the field. Some contributions give wider description of the subject work rather than concentrating on a specific issue in detail. Thus, in ch. 17, Alnoor Dhanani takes al-Mawāqif fī ‘Ilm al-kalām of Ījī (d. 1355) and its commentaries, and describes its content with a discussion of kalām as a discipline of knowledge, and then delves into ontology, essence and existence, atomism, celestial spheres, and concludes with a section on the soul and intellects. In ch. 18, Sabine Schmidtke examines an interesting thinker Ibn Abī Jumhūr al-Aḥsāʾī (d. 1491), who tried to harmonize Mu‘tazili and Ash‘ari kalām, Peripatetic and Illuminationist philosophy and philosophical mysticism in his Kitāb Mujlī Mir’āt al-Munjī, creating an apparently unprecedented synthesis of these strands. In ch. 19, Reza Pourjawady examines Dashtakī’s (d. 1498) and Dawwānī’s (d. 1502) glosses on ʿAli al-Qūshji’s commentary on Naṣīr al-Dīn al-Ṭūsī’s Tajrīd al-i‘tiqād. In ch. 20, Sajjad Rizvi examines the problem of the eternity of the cosmos with reference to Mīr Dāmād’s (d. 1631) al-Qabasāt, in which he establishes the theory of perpetual creation. In ch. 21, the reader finds Cécile Bonmariage’s wider description of Ṣadr al-Dīn al-Shirāzī’s (d. 1635) Shawāhid al-rubūbiyya, starting with Ṣadrā’s methodology, then continuing successively with his concept of being, the one and many, being in this world, man, afterlife, prophecy and guardianship. Such broad-brush analyses seem to go against the above-mentioned general principles of the editors. In two chapters the reader finds interesting discussions on physics. In ch. 24, Asad Q. Ahmed and Jon McGinnis examine Indian scholar Faḍl-i Haqq Khayrābādī’s (d. 1861) al-Hadiyya al-sa‘īdiyya, perhaps the last independent work written within the Arabic-Islamic tradition of physics. The work is significant, for despite post-Copernican development, Khayrābādī offers a geocentric planetary model. In ch. 26, Nazif Muhtaroğlu examines Ottoman scholar Ali Sedad’s (d. 1990) Kavâidu’t-taḥavvülât fî ḥarekâti’z-zerrât, in which he introduced modern European natural sciences into the Ottoman world and interpreted them from an Ashʿari perspective. For Muhtaroğlu, the work is important as the first attempt to examine modern science in relation to Islamic occasionalism. In ch. 25, the reader again finds a broad-brush description of a thinker’s entire contribution in Fatemeh Fana’s study of Ḥājī Mullā Hādī Sabzawārī’s (d. 1878) Ghurar al-farāʾid. In ch. 27, Mustansir Mir examines Muḥammad Iqbāl’s (d. 1938) The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam. Despite its small size, Iqbāl discusses several profound issues in the work, all of which Mir examines only briefly, leaving the expectation of deeper analysis unfulfilled. In ch. 29, Sajjad H. Rizvi and Ahab Bdaiwi examine ‘Allāma Ṭabāṭabā’ī’s (d.1981) Nihāyat al-ḥikma. Following the structure of the Asfār of Ṣadrā and Sharḥ-i Manẓūma of Sabzawārī, Ṭabāṭabā’ī produced this important seminary textbook that presents old philosophical issues in a new style. In ch. 30, Muhammad Ali Khalidi examines Zakī Najīb Maḥmūd’s (d. 1993) Naḥwa falsafa ʿilmiyya. In this work, the Egyptian thinker introduces logical empiricism to the Arab intellectual world. In general, the work can be considered a successful new attempt showing that many of the old assumptions about Islamic philosophy are no longer tenable; Islamic philosophy was not a preserver, interpreter and transmitter of Greek philosophy that died out in the twelfth century, but a living and creative tradition coming down to the present. But how much this book succeeds in applying the new approach of focusing on one specific work of a given philosopher and examining in detail a single philosophical issue addressed therein is questionable. © The Author (2017). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Journal of Islamic Studies – Oxford University Press
Published: Jan 1, 2018
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