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The Avicennian and Akbarian turn in Shiite Theology: an analysis of two sections of that ‘Ali ibn Sulaymān al-Baḥrāni’s (d. ca. 1274 CE) al-Ishārat wa-l-Tanbhīhāt
The first generation of Twelver Shiite scholars after the occultation of the Mahdī, such as al-Kulaynī [d. 941 CE], al-Shaykh al-Ṣadūq [d. 991 CE], and al-Sharīf al-Raḍī (d. 1016 CE) were on the whole traditionalist ḥadīth scholars opposed to rationalist theology and mysticism. There was, however, a shift in the 13th -14th centuries CE where Shiite scholars in Ḥilla and Bahrain began to incorporate elements of Akbari an mysticism and Avicennian philosophy into the Twelver Shiite intellectual tradition. The result was a remarkably productive synthesis of doctrine, philosophy, and mysticism that eventually came to a zenith in the Safavid period through the “theosophical” works of thinkers like Mīr Dāmād (d. 1631 CE) and Mullā Ṣadrā (d. 1636 CE). Although there has been significant scholarly interest in the Safavid thinkers, literature on the 13th-14th century Ḥilla and Bahrain thinkers remains scarce. Current scholarship has generally considered the Persian thinker Ḥaydar Āmulī (d. 1385 CE) as the pioneering figure in initiating the synthesis of philosophy, theology, and mysticism within the Twelver Shiite tradition. I call this approach into question by arguing that ‘Ali ibn Suleyman al-Baḥrānī (d. ca. 1274 CE), one of the Ḥilla-affiliated Bahraini scholars, anticipates several of Āmulī’s synthesizing tendencies by about 80 years. I analyze two sections of ‘Alī’s al-Ishrat we-l-Tanbhīhāt in order to show how ‘Ali, drawing from Avicenna (d. 1037 CE), Ibn ‘Arabī (d. 1240 CE), and al-Ghāzālī (d. 1111), anticipates Āmulī’s ideas regarding the nature of divine existence [wujūd], the importance of striking a balance between the esoteric [al-bāṭin] and the exoteric [al-ẓāhir], and, the relationship of guardianship [wilāya] to prophethood [nubuwwa]. I also identify some striking similarities between ‘Alī’s discussion of wujūd and sections of the introduction of Dāwūd al-Qayṣarī’s (d. 1350 CE) commentary on Ibn ‘Arabī’s Fuṣūṣ al-Ḥikam to be examined in future research.
Religious Studies/Theology
Geographic Area
Sub Area
19th-21st Centuries