Love and the Brethren of Purity: A Comparative Study of Human Intimacy in Islamic Philosophy

In: Journal of Sufi Studies
Javad Fakhkhar Toosi University of Toronto Toronto, ON Canada

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Shafique N. Virani University of Toronto Toronto, ON Canada

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This article is a study of the Brethren of Purity’s thirty-seventh epistle, The Essence of Love. It compares this work with the treatises on love written by the Muslim philosophers Ibn Sīnā, Suhrawardī, and Mullā Ṣadrā, the leading representatives of the Peripatetic, Illuminationist, and Transcendental schools of Islamic philosophy, respectively. A fundamental distinction of the Brethren’s approach is their positive impression of love between human beings, including its romantic and conjugal components. Such love is not entirely under human control; the celestial spheres also exercise their influence. The Brethren contend that society and civilization prosper because of love. Unlike several others, they are intent on reconciling divine or “real” love with love between individuals. While the Brethren praise the benefits of romantic love and conjugal relations, Ibn Sīnā judges them harmful, and Suhrawardī a distraction. Mullā Ṣadrā, though, takes an intermediate position, influenced by both the Brethren and Ibn Sīnā.

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