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Faculty of Divinity

 

Research

Mulla Fenari’s Miṣbāḥ al-Uns: The Construction of a Platonic summa and Akbarian Critique of Avicennan and kalām Immanentism 

 

Transmission of Platonism to the Islamic world transpired most pre-eminently via the pseudo-Aristotelian corpuses, and particularly the Theology of Aristotle, a creative paraphrase of Enneads Books IV-VI, and the Kitāb al-Īḍāḥ fī al-Khayr al-Maḥḍ (Liber de Causis), incorporating a similarly creative paraphrase of selected propositions from Proclus’ Στοιχείωσις θεολογική. The exigency of harmonising Aristotle with what was really pseudo-Aristotle, introduced a pivotal aporetic tension between immanentism and transcendent exemplarism into early Islamic philosophy (notably via the pronounced ontologisation of henological language in these early translations and adaptations), which became further cemented and problematised through the philosophically hegemonic influence of the synthesis of Avicenna, which insisted on a firm, albeit systematically uneasy rejection of the Platonic Forms. The decisive theological institutionalisation of immanentism would be achieved in the 14th century, when in resisting aspects of his sceptical challenge, key post-Rāzian kalām thinkers effected the broad standardisation of a form of Avicennan realism in kalām; even less adequately studied is the simultaneous institutionalisation of Akbarian thought, often recognised by the identic kalām practitioners, especially in the Ottoman polity, as a ‘higher metaphysics’ possessing epistemological priority to kalām within widely adopted adaptations of Avicennan schemes of the subordination of the sciences. In exploring the fate of immanentism and transcendent exemplarism in the development of Islamic thought, this doctoral research will conduct the first extended study in English on the first Ottoman şeyhülislam Mulla Fenari’s (d. 1430) Miṣbāḥ al-Uns bayn al-Maʿqūl wa al-Mashhūd (‘The Lamp of Intimacy Between the Rationally-known and the Witnessed’). The major significance of this work lies in its status as the original large-scale synthesis (predating Mulla Sadra by two centuries) of the major schools of Islamic philosophy emergent in the 14th century, the post-Rāzian kalām of thinkers like Athīr al-Dīn al-Abharī and Naṣīr al-Dīn al-Ṭūsī, the post-Akbarian Sufi metaphysics of the exponents of the school of Ibn ʿArabī, such as Ṣadr al-Dīn al-Qūnawī and Dāwūd al-Qayṣarī, and the ishrāqī (‘Illuminationist’) school of followers of Suhrawardī such as Quṭb al-Dīn al-Shīrāzī. In differing ways these three schools constitute reassessments of the thought of Avicenna, the first, kalām theological school developing the Peripatetic elements of Avicenna within an immanentist ontology and abstractive epistemology which rejects the possibility of transcendent form, and the Akbarian and Suhrawardian schools developing the Neoplatonic elements of Avicenna alongside their other philosophical sources. The immanentist impasse of kalām and Islamic philosophy, and the Akbarian claim to have resolved the consequent  aporia, are both central motifs in Miṣbāḥ al-Uns, and in understanding both claims it is possible to discern the manner in which numerous doctrines only implied or presupposed in the truncated corpuses of Plotinus and Proclus, that so centrally informed the development of Islamic philosophy, nonetheless continued to be ‘reconstructed’ in different but broadly commensurate forms in later Akbarian thought, a phenomenon entailed primarily by the largely Akbarian discovery of the logical untenability of immanentism. 

 

 Hasan  Spiker
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