The Sufi Doctrine of Man

Ṣadr al-Dīn al-Qūnawī's Metaphysical Anthropology


Author: Richard Todd
In The Sufi Doctrine of Man, Richard Todd examines the life and thought of Ibn 'Arabī's chief disciple, Ṣadr al-Dīn al-Qūnawī (13th century C.E.). Making use of manuscript sources, he analyzes and contextualizes Qūnawī's esoteric vision of the nature and purpose of human existence, a doctrine which incorporates core elements of Qūnawī's metaphysics, cosmology, psychology, and eschatology. Qūnawī's thought is placed in relation to Ibn 'Arabī's and that of the Ikhwān al-Ṣafā', and his interaction with the Avicennian tradition is explored by focusing on his dialogue with the philosopher al-Ṭūsī. Although not as famous as his master, Qūnawī is shown to have been a sophisticated metaphysician in his own right, who had a major impact on Sufi thought.

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Richard Todd, D.Phil. (2005), University of Oxford, teaches Arabic language and literature at the University of Edinburgh. His research interests include Islamic philosophy, Sufism, and classical Arabic poetry. His latest publication focuses on esoteric interpretations of the Qur'ān.
"... an important contribution to the field of Islamic Studies as there has hitherto been no major published work about Ṣadr al-Dīn al-Qūnawī available in English. Especially for English speaking students of Islamic philosophy and Sufism, this book bridges an important gap. Todd’s analysis of al-Qūnawī’s thought, his description of his works, and sample excerpts succeed in giving a rich introduction and overview and should be a very welcome addition to the field."
Kemal Enz Argon in iIlahiyat Studies, Volume 7, No. 1, Winter/Spring 2016.

"Todd's exposition of al-Qūnawī's ideas is precise and nuanced throughout, [...]. impressive piece of scholarship."
Nicolai Sinai in Journal of Islamic Studies 27 (2): 222-225 (2016).

"...Richard Todd's monograph is a gracefully written, meticulous and thoughtful contribution to Islamic studies and a welcome addition to previously published works on late medieval Muslim Sufis. It will primarily benefit students and scholars of Sufism, Islamic philosophy and theology and offers incisive observations on the ontology and psychology of Ibn ʿArabī's school. Beyond Islamic studies, a reader who is interested in spirituality and esoteric philosophy might find it very stimulating and suggestive."
Abdessamad Belhaj in Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, 26:3, 405-406 (2015).

"Dans cette étude relativement courte mais dense, Richard Todd, rend justice à la personnalité intellectuelle et spirituelle de Ṣadr al-Dīn al-Qūnawī (m. 673/1274), principal continuateur et diffuseur de l'oeuvre de Muhyī l-Dīn Ibn ʿArabī. [...] ...ce travail a le grand mérite d'être la première étude d'ensemble sur Ṣadr al-Dīn. Il est fondé sur une lecture attentive des textes qu'il fait enter en résonance. Son annotation est précieuse et ouvre nombre de pistes de recherche. À la suite des traveux de W. Chittick, il fait entrer définitivement Qūnawī dans l' histoire du soufisme et de la pensée musulmane. Richard Todd apporte ainsi une contribution importante à notre connaissance de la première diffusion de la doctrine d'Ibn al-ʿArabī.
Denis Gril in Journal of Sufi Studies 4, 85-98 (2015).

"... eine sehr gut lesbare, bisweilen bedauerlicherweise allzu knapp gehaltene Einführung in die Lebens- und Gedankenwelt Qūnawīs...".
Elvira Walkelnig, University of Lausanne

“In spite of Qunawi’s declared preference of mysticism, Todd notes that in the end what we get of him as an overall portrait is that here we have a religious scholar, and lucid thinker actively involved in the intellectual and spiritual life of the Islamic Near East: his interpreting, systematising and disseminating Ibn Arabi’s doctrines, added to his indoctrination of some of the credos of metaphysics render him not only as mystic but a philosopher as well – albeit a philosopher aware of the limitations of philosophical methodology. Of fundamental importance and great value we think is Todd’s translation in his book of Excerpts from Qunawi’s Epistemonological Texts.”
Stavros Nikolaidis

Students and specialists in Sufism generally and the school of Ibn 'Arabī in particular, and anyone interested in medieval science, philosophy and critiques of the Avicennian tradition.