On Divine Providence

From Avicenna to Naṣīr al-Dīn al-Ṭūsī and Nizārī Ismailism

in Intellectual History of the Islamicate World
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Abstract

Naṣīr al-Dīn al-Ṭūsī (1201–1274), the most eminent Muslim thinker of thirteenth-century Iran occupies a unique place among the Muslim polymaths of the Middle Ages who have gained recognition both in the East and West. In the West, he is recognised as a scientist whose contribution to astronomy, trigonometry and mathematics influenced the course of scientific developments, and in the East as a supreme teacher who contributed significantly to the application of metaphysical argumentation and philosophical terminology in Sufism, Ismaili and Twelver Shiʿi theology, bringing the Ismaili humanistic and ethical tradition of philosophers into the centre of Islamic ethical discourse. The renown of his commentary on Avicenna’s “Hints and Indications” (al-Išārāt wa-l-tanbīhāt) seems to have gained him the position of the foremost master of Avicennian philosophy. From another aspect al-Ṭūsī can be considered a partisan of Nizārī Ismaili theological thinking, a doctrine that in his opinion was somehow in harmony with Avicennan philosophy when he equates Necessary Existence with God. However, while commenting on Avicenna’s theorem of Divine Providence, al-Ṭūsī finds the Avicennan position unacceptable. The conclusions reached in this paper uphold the influence of Nizārī Ismaili philosophical deliberations on the nature of the Divine and His knowledge, not only on al-Ṭūsī and al-Šahrastānī but also on Avicenna himself. Needless to say, the wide scope of the subject prevents us from reaching definitive answers to all the questions raised and this attempt endeavours to lay the ground for further investigations to reach a clearer understanding of the subject.

On Divine Providence

From Avicenna to Naṣīr al-Dīn al-Ṭūsī and Nizārī Ismailism

in Intellectual History of the Islamicate World

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References

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