TāJ AL-DīN ABū AL-FATH MUHAMMAD IBN `ABD AL-KARīM
ASH-SHAHRASTāNī (1086–1153 CE ), also known as MUHAMMAD
AL-SHAHRASTāNī, was an influential Persian historian of religions, a
* 1 Life
* 2 Works
* 2.1 Religious belief
* 3 Notes * 4 Bibliography * 5 See also * 6 References * 7 External links
Very few things are known about al-Shahrastānī's life. He was born
in 1086 CE A.H. , in the town of Shahristān, (Khorasan , province of
Persia) where he acquired his early traditional education. Later, he
was sent to Nīshāpūr where he studied under different masters who
were all disciples of the Ash`ari theologian al-Juwaynī (d. 1085). At
the age of thirty, al-Shahrastānī went to
Al-Shahrastani distinguished himself by his desire to describe in the most objective way the universal religious history of humanity.
This is reflected in his
Kitab al-Milal wa al-Nihal (The Book of
Sects and Creeds), a monumental work, which presents the doctrinal
points of view of all the religions and philosophies which existed up
to his time. The book was one of the earliest systematic studies of
religion , and is noted for its non-polemical style and scientific
approach. A French translation of the book by Gimaret, Monnot and
Jolivet was sponsored by
Al-Shahrastani's philosophical and theological thoughts manifested in his other major works, which include:
* The Nihayat al-aqdam fi 'ilm al-kalam (The End of Steps in the Science of Theology) presents different theological discussions and shows the limits of Muslim theology (kalam ). * The Majlis is a discourse, written during the mature period of his life, delivered to a Twelver Shi`ite audience. * The Musara`at al-Falasifa (The Struggle with Philosophers) criticizes Ibn Sina (Avicenna)’s doctrines by emphasizing some peculiar Isma\'ili arguments on the division of beings. * The Mafatih al-Asrar wa-masabih al-abrar (The Keys of the Mysteries and the Lamps of the Righteous) introduces the Qur’an and gives a complete commentary on the first two chapters of the Qur’an.
Al-Shahrastani's own beliefs are difficult to categorize because he juggled many different philosophical and theological vocabularies. He was a clever thinker, demonstrated by the intricacies of many traditions and the Shi`ite notion of the 'Guide' (Imam ) found in his thoughts. Al-Shahrastani had many reasons to speak somewhat allegorically. He was a very subtle author who often spoke indirectly by means of symbols. He preferred his own personal vocabulary to the traditional one. For this reason, his position is hard to determine. It may well be that ideological considerations led him to speak indirectly; he perhaps assumed those familiar with the symbols would be able to unravel his elusive ideas. For all these reasons, many scholars who have studied al-Shahrastani were misled concerning his religious identity.
Though al-Shahrastani is generally regarded as an
As opposed to Ash\'arites , al-Shahrastani presents a gradation in
the creation (khalq). He gives a definition of the Prophetic
Impeccability (`Isma) opposed to the Ash`arite tradition, maintaining
that it subsists in the
As for the theory of creation, in the Nihaya, al-Shahrastani insists that God is the only Creator and the only Agent. He also develops a different interpretation of ex-nihilo creation which does not mean creation out of nothing, but creation made only by God. In the Majlis and the Mafatih al-Asrar, the angels play a dominant role in the physical creation. His theory of the Divine Word (Kalima) has a convincing Isma'ili imprint; for example, his hierarchy of angels and Divine Words (Kalimat ) are conceived as being the causes of spiritual beings. Al-Shahrastani in the Nihaya writes:
"... his Command (Amr) is pre-existent and his multiple Kalimat are eternal. By his Command, Kalimat become the manifestation of it. Spiritual beings are the manifestation of Kalimat and bodies are the manifestation of spiritual beings. The Ibda` (Origination beyond time and space) and khalq (physical creation) become manifested spiritual beings and bodies. As for Kalimat and letters (huruf), they are eternal and pre-existent. Since his Command is not similar to our command, his Kalimat and his letters are not similar to our Kalimat. Since letters are elements of Kalimat which are the causes of spiritual beings who govern corporeal beings; all existence subsists in the Kalimat Allah preserved in his Command."
In the Majlis, al-Shahrastani divides the creation into two worlds – the spiritual world (i.e. the world of the Origination of spirits (Ibda'-i arwah)) in an achieved (mafrugh) state and the world of physical creation (khalq) in becoming (musta'naf). He shares an Isma`ili cosmology in which God has built his religion in the image of creation.
The conception of Prophecy developed in the Nihaya is closer to that
of Isma`ilis and Falasifa (
Al-Shahrastani was an able and learned man of great personal charm. The real nature of his thought is best referred to by the term theosophy , in the older sense of "divine wisdom". However, al-Shahrastani was certainly not totally against theology or philosophy, even if he was very harsh against the theologians and the philosophers. As he explained in the Majlis, in order to remain on the right path, one must preserve a perfect equilibrium between intellect (`aql) and audition (sam`). A philosopher or a theologian must use his intellect until he reaches the rational limit. Beyond this limit, he must listen to the teaching of Prophets and Imams.
His works reflect a complex interweaving of intellectual strands, and his thought is a synthesis of this fruitful historical period. In his conception of God, Creation, Prophecy, and Imama , al Shahrastani adopted many doctrinal elements that are reconcilable with Nizari Isma'ilism. The necessity of a Guide, belonging both to the spiritual and the physical world, is primordial in his scheme since the Imam is manifested in this physical world.
“The Christians. (They are) the community (umma ) of the Christ,
Jesus , son of Mary (peace upon him). He it is who was truly sent (as
prophet; mab'uth) after
“They affirmed that God has three hypostases (aqanim). They said that the Creator (may he be exalted) is one substance (jawhar), meaning by this what is self-subsistent (al-qa'im bi-n-nafs), not (what is characterized by) spatial location and physical magnitude; and he is one in substantiality, three in hypostaticity (uqnumiyya). By the hypostases they mean the attributes (sifat), such as existence, life and knowledge, and the father, the son and the holy spirit (ruh al-qudus ). The (hypostasis of) knowledge clothes itself and was incarnated, but not the other hypostases.”
* ^ Schimmel, Annemarie (1992). Islam: An Introduction (Translation of: Der Islam). SUNY Press. ISBN 0-7914-1327-6 . OCLC 25201546 . p. 86 * ^ Watt, William Montgomery (1991). Muslim-Christian Encounters: Perceptions and Misperceptions. London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 0415054109 . * ^ Watt 1991, p. 68. * ^ Watt 1991, p. 68. * ^ (Steigerwald 1997 , pp. 298–307) * ^ (al-Shahrastani 1934 , pp. 18–9) * ^ (al-Shahrastani 1998 , p. 82); (al-Shahrastani 1989 , vol. I: 109 verso line 24 to 110 recto line 1) * ^ (al-Shahrastani 1934 , p. 316) * ^ (al-Shahrastani 1934 , pp. 444–5) * ^ Watt 1991, p. 68. * ^ Watt 1991, p. 69.
Works and studies in English
* al-Shahrastānī, The Summa philosophiae, (Kitāb Nihāyatu
ʼl-Iqdām fī ʽIlmi ʼl –Kalām), edited with a translation by
Alfred Guillaume , London, Oxford University Press 1934.
* Muhammad b. 'Abd al-Karim Shahrastani, Muslim Sects and Divisions.
The Section on Muslim Sects in Kitab al-Milal wa 'l-Nibal, translated
by A. K.Kazi and J. G.Flynn, London, Kegan Paul International 1984
(reprint New York, Routledge 2013).
* al-Shahrastānī, Struggling with the Philosopher: A Refutation of
Avicenna's Metaphysics, translation by
Wilferd Madelung and Toby Mayer
of Kitāb Muṣāraʿat al-falāsifa, London, Tauris, 2001.
* al-Shahrastānī, Keys to the Arcana: Shahrastānī's Esoteric
Commentary on the Qurʼan: A Translation of the Commentary on Sūrat
al-Fātiḥa, by Toby Mayer; with the Arabic text reproduced from the
edition by M.A. Adharshab, New York, Oxford University Press, 2009.
* Bruce B. Lawrence, Shahrastani on the Indian Religions, Preface by
Franz Rosenthal, The Hague, Mouton, 1976 (with the translation of
Shahrastânï's Kitäb al-milal wan-nihal Part II, Book III, Section
Β 'Ära al-hind'l, The Views of the Indians, pp. 33–62).
* Steigerwald, Diana, "The Divine Word (Kalima) in Shahrastani's
Majlis." In Studies in Religion/Sciences religieuses, vol. 25.3, 1996,
* Steigerwald, Diana, "Al-Shahrastānī’s Contribution to Medieval
Works and studies in French
* Al-Shahrastānī, Livre des religions et des sectes, traduction par Daniel Gimaret, Guy Monnot, Jean Jolivet, Louvain, Peeters et UNESCO, 1986-1993 (two volumes) * Al-Shahrastānī, Majlis: Discours sur l'ordre et la création. (Majlis-i maktub-i Shahrastāni-i munʿaqid dar Khwārazm. Edited by Muḥammad Riżā R. Jalāli Naʾini) traduction française de Diane Steigerwald), Sainte-Foy (Québec): Les Presses de l'Université Laval 1999. * Jolivet, Jean, "Al-Shahrastânî critique d'Avicenne dans la lutte contre les philosophes (quelques aspects)," Arabic Sciences and Philosophy, 2000, vol. 10, pp. 275–292.
* Monnot, Guy, "Islam: exégèse coranique." Annuaire de l'École Pratique des Hautes Études. Section des sciences religieuses, sur Shahrastani:
* "L'Introduction de Shahrastâni à son commentaire coranique inédit", Tome 92, 1983-1984. 1983. pp. 305–316; * "La Sourate d'ouverture dans le commentaire coranique inédit de Shahrastânï", Tome 93, 1984-1985. 1984. pp. 293–303; * "Le commentaire coranique inédit de Shahrastânî (suite)", Tome 94, 1985-1986. 1985. pp. 347–351; * "La Sourate de la Vache dans le commentaire coranique inédit de Shahrastânî", Tome 95, 1986-1987. 1986. pp. 253–259; * "« Les clefs des mystères » de Shahrastânî", Tome 96, 1987-1988. 1987. pp. 237–243; * "« Les clefs des mystères > de Sharastânî (suite)", Tome 97, 1988-1989. 1988. pp. 249–255.
* Monnot, Guy, 1996 «Shahrastani», su: Encyclopédie de l'islam, 1996, vol. 9, pp. 220–22. * Monnot, Guy, 1999 Book review of La pensée philosophique et théologique de Shahrastani (m. 548/1153) by Diane Steigerwald in: Bulletin critique des annales islamologiques, vol. 15, pp. 79–81. * Monnot, Guy, 2001 Book review of Majlis-i maktub-i Shahrastani-i mun'aqid dar Khwarazm. Ed. Muhammad Rida R. Jalali Na'ini and translated into French by Diane Steigerwald in Majlis: Discours sur l'ordre et la création. Sainte-Foy (Québec): Les Presses de l'Université Laval in Bulletin critique des annales islamologiques, vol. 17. * Steigerwald, Diana, 1995 "L'Ordre (Amr) et la création (khalq) chez Shahrastani." Folia Orientalia, vol. 31, pp. 163–75. * Steigerwald, Diana, 1997 La pensée philosophique et théologique de Shahrastani (m. 548/1153). Sainte-Foy (Québec): Les Presses de l'Université Laval. * Steigerwald, Diana, 1998 "La dissimulation (taqiyya) de la foi dans le shi'isme ismaélien." Studies in Religion/Sciences religieuses, vol. 27.1, pp. 39–59.
Works and studies in German
* Al-Shahrastānī, Abū al-Fatḥ Ibn ʿAbd al-Karīm, Religionspartheien und Philosophen-Schulen, traduzione di Kitāb al-Milal wa al-Niḥal a cura di Theodor Haarbrücker, Halle, Schwetschke, 1850-1851 (due volumi). * Madelung, Wilferd, "Ash-Shahrastanis Streitschrift gegen Avicenna und ihre Widerlegung durch Nasir ad-din at-Tusi." Akten des VII. Kongresses für Arabistik und Islamwissenschaft, Abhandlungen der Akademie des Wissenschaften in Göttingen, 1976, vol. 98, pp. 250–9.
Works in Arabic
* Al-Shahrastānī, Abū al-Fatḥ Ibn ʿAbd al-Karīm, 1923 Kitāb al-Milal wa al-Niḥal. Ed. William Cureton in Books of Religions and Philosophical Sects. 2 vols. Leipzig : Otto Harrassowitz (reprint of the edition of London 1846). * Danish-Pazhuh, Muhammad Taqi, "Dāʿi al-duʿāt Taj al-din-i Shahrastana." Nama-yi astan-i quds, 1968. vol. 7, pp. 77–80. * Danish-Pazhuh, Muhammad Taqi, "Dāʿi al-duʿāt Taj al-din-i Shahrastana." Nama-yi astan-i quds, 1969, vol. 8, pp. 61–71. * Naʿini, Jalāli, 1964 Sharh-i Ḥāl wa Athar-i Ḥujjat al-Ḥaqq Abu al-Fatḥ Muḥammad b. ʿAbd al-Karim b. Aḥmad Shahrastāni. Tehran. * al-Nuʿmān, Abū Ḥanīfa, 1956 Al-Risāla al-Mudhhiba. In: Khams Rasāʾil Ismāʿīliyya. Ed. ʿĀrif Tāmir, Beirut. * Al-Shahrastānī, Abū al-Fatḥ Ibn ʿAbd al-Karīm, 1366-1375/1947-1955 Kitāb al-Milal wa al-Niḥal. Ed. Muḥammad Fatḥ Allāh Badrān, 2 vols. Cairo. * Al-Shahrastānī, Abū al-Fatḥ Ibn ʿAbd al-Karīm, 1396/1976 Muṣāraʿat al-falāsifa. Ed. Suhayr M. Mukhtār. Cairo. * Al-Shahrastānī, Abū al-Fatḥ Ibn ʿAbd al-Karīm, 1989 Mafātīḥ al-asrār wa-masābīḥ al-abrār. Tehran.
* Schimmel, Annemarie (1992). Islam: An Introduction (Translation of: Der Islam). SUNY Press. ISBN 0-7914-1327-6 . OCLC 25201546 .