183 - Family Feud: Philosophy at Shiraz

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Ill-tempered debates in early modern Iran, as we examine the rivalry between Dawānī and the Dashtakīs at Shīrāz.



Further Reading

• A. Bdaiwi, “Some Remarks on the Confessional Identity of the Philosophers of Shiraz: Ṣadr al-Dīn Dashtakī (d. 1498) and his Students Mullā Shams al-Dīn Khafrī (d. 1535) and Najm al-Dīn Maḥmūd Nayrīzī (d. 1541),” Ishrāq: Islamic Philosophy Yearbook 1 (2014), 61-85.

• A. Bdaiwi, "Late Antique Intellectualism in Medieval Islam: the Shiraz Circle and the Revival of Ancient and Islamic Knowledge," Journal of Late Antique, Islamic and Byzantine Studies 2 (2023), 128-71.

• R. Pourjavady, Philosophy in Early Safavid Iran: Najm al-Dīn Maḥmūd al-Nayrīzī and his Writings (Leiden: 2011).

My thanks to Reza Pourjavady and Ahab Bdaiwi for help with this episode.


Ortega on 13 July 2014


Listening to this podcast, I'm beginning to get the impression that al-Ghazali wasn't as influential as he is often made out to be. Ibn Sina has been mentioned dozens of times since the episodes that focused primarily on him, but I'm not sure al-Ghazali has been mentioned in any other episodes.

In reply to by Ortega

Peter Adamson on 15 July 2014

Ghazali's influence

That's a very perceptive comment. My feeling is that (a) Avicenna is clearly more influential than anyone else in the later tradition, by a wide margin, but (b) the extent of influence from others, including al-Ghazali, is not yet established. It may actually be that Ghazali had an indirect role in helping establish Avicenna as "the" philosopher in place of Aristotle, by taking him so seriously. But I know expert colleagues who are on both sides of this debate. I do tend to think, on balance, that he is less influential in the period we've now reached, not only than Avicenna, but also than Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, al-Iji, and perhaps some others too. But as I say more research is needed into this.

bear in mind by the way that Ghazali was influential on Averroes (provoking the Incoherence of the Incoherence) and on Latin philosophy where several of his works were available in Latin translation. So it's really only the extent of his influence in the Islamic world that is at issue here; of course nowadays he is widely acknowledged as a major figure from the tradition and as a theological authority.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Ortega on 17 July 2014

Thanks for the

Thanks for the response.

Until quite recently I accepted the theory that al-Ghazali destroyed Islamic philosophy and every muslim scholar since has followed his lead. Based on what I've learned here and elsewhere, this doesn't seem to have any basis what so ever.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Joe on 3 August 2014


thanks to the first commenter for asking my question for me. I would like to ask a followup:

does al Ghazali relate to the endowment of Madrasa which specifically banned the teaching of philosophy (as mentioned either in this episode or one of the next few ones). And should we see those bans in endowments as really conflicting with an ability to study philosophy (your podcast comments seem to suggest that there was no real impediment). A final related question: how prevalent were those bans and how should those bans be seen?

In reply to by Joe

Peter Adamson on 6 August 2014

bans on philosophy

That's a very good question; unfortunately I don't know the answer really, nor do I even know whether anyone has done a systematic study of the issue of how common this was or what factors underlay such bans. I do know that it was common for philosophy to be taught informally, like in private homes or at mosques rather than in the madrasa, to avoid such bans. I don't think Ghazali did have any personal connection to a ban on philosophy in any madrasa, in any case.

By the way the best thing to read on the rise and culture of the madrasas is probably Makdisi's book The Rise of Colleges.

A.H. on 19 May 2017

Was there really a school of Shiraz?

I'm doubtful as to the extent to which there really was a 'school of Shiraz' and a 'school of Isfahan'. They don't seem to be self designations, and the individuals who comprised these 'schools' seemed to differ from each other in significant and important ways. How do we not know that these 'schools' are not just terms of convenience artificially constructed by scholars, such as Henry Corbin and his students, and have no actual bearing in the past? 

In reply to by A.H.

Peter Adamson on 19 May 2017


Yes, I agree, in fact that's why the episode isn't called "school of Shiraz." Actually I do make exactly your point in the episode. ("Some scholars have referred to these philosophers as forming a “school of Shīrāz.” But in light of the deep hostility between Dawānī and the two Dashtakīs, a more appropriate expression might be the “duel of Shīrāz,” fought not with swords, but with sharply honed syllogisms.")

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