The Eastern Traditions

This series brings to an end our look at philosophy in the Islamic world, beginning with influential thinkers of the twelfth century like Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī and Suhrawardī, focusing on their legacy in the Eastern realms of central Asia and Persia, moving on to the Ottoman, Safavid and Mughal empires, and ending with developments in twentieth century philosophy. These centuries are often dismissed as a time of intellectual and scientific decline in Islamic civilization, but it was in fact a time of remarkable achievement in fields like logic and astronomy as well as the various disciplines of philosophy. Throughout, Avicenna looms over the tradition, or rather traditions, with the so-called "Peripatetic" or Avicennan style of thought interacting with Sufism, Islamic theology (kalām) and Illuminationism, as made clear in the synthesis of the Safavid philosopher Mullā Ṣadrā. Interviews with Mohammed Rustom, Rob Wisnovsky, Sajjad Rizvi and Anke von Kügelgen.

Peter would like to thank a number of scholars for their invaluable input on this under-studied period of philosophy, including Heidrun Eichner, Frank Griffel, Jan-Peter Hartung, Christof Neumann, Reza Pourjavady, Mohammed Rustom, Sajjad Rizvi, and Riccardo Strobino.

book version of these podcasts is available from Oxford University Press.

Further Reading

• P. Adamson, Philosophy in the Islamic World: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: 2015).

• P. Adamson (ed.), In the Age of Averroes: Arabic Philosophy in the Sixth/Twelfth Century (London: 2011).

• S.F. Dale, The Muslim Empires of the Ottomans, Safavids, and Mughals (Cambridge: 2010).

• G. Endress, “Reading Avicenna in the Madrasa: Intellectual Genealogies and Chains of Transmission of Philosophy and the Sciences in the Islamic East,” in J.E. Montgomery (ed.), Arabic Theology, Arabic Philosophy: From the Many to the One(Leuven: 2006), 371-422.

• D. Gutas, “The Heritage of Avicenna: the Golden Age of Arabic Philosophy, 900-ca.1350,” in J. Janssens and D. De Smet (eds), Avicenna and his Heritage (Leuven: 2002).

• F. Griffel, The Formation of Post-Classical Philosophy in Islam (Oxford: 2021).

• J. Kaukua, Self-Awareness in Islamic Philosophy: Avicenna and Beyond (Cambridge: 2015).

• Y.T. Langermann (ed.), Avicenna and His Legacy: a Golden Age of Science and Philosophy (Turnhout: 2009).

• S.H. Nasr and M. Aminrazavi (eds), An Anthology of Philosophy in Persia, vol.4: From the School of Illumination to Philosophical Mysticism (New York: 2012).

• S.H. Nasr and O. Leaman (eds), History of Islamic Philosophy (London: 1996).

• F. Robinson, “Ottomans-Safavids-Mughals: Shared Knowledge and Connective Systems,” Journal of Islamic Studies 8 (1997), 151-84.

• S. Schmidtke (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Islamic Theology (Oxford: 2016).

• A. Shihadeh, “From al-Ghazālī to al-Rāzī: 6th/12th Century Developments in Muslim Philosophical Theology,” Arabic Sciences and Philosophy 15 (2005), 141-79.

• H. Ziai, “Recent Trends in Arabic and Persian Philosophy,” in P. Adamson and R.C. Taylor (eds), The Cambridge Companion to Arabic Philosophy (Cambridge: 2005).

Episodes 171 - 195: Eastern Traditions

171 - Golden Ages: The Later Eastern Traditions

Posted on 13 April 2014

An introduction to later developments in philosophical theology, sufism, and Illuminationism, focusing on the reception and critique of Avicenna.

11 comments
172 - All Things Considered: Abū l-Barakāt al-Baghdādī

Posted on 20 April 2014

Abū l-Barakāt al-Baghdādī makes up his own mind about physics and the soul, and along the way inaugurates a new style of doing philosophy.

13 comments
173 - For the Sake of Argument: Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī

Posted on 27 April 2014

The hugely influential Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī weaves Avicenna and Islamic theology into complex dialectical treatments of time, God, the soul, and ethics.

26 comments
174 - Leading Light: Suhrawardī

Posted on 4 May 2014

Suhrawardī, founder of the Illuminationist (ishrāqī) tradition, proposes a metaphysics of light on the basis of his theory of knowledge by presence.

27 comments
175 - Bright Ideas: Illuminationism

Posted on 11 May 2014

The Illuminationists carry on Suhrawardī’s critique of “Peripatetic” philosophy and wonder if they will be reborn as giraffes.

5 comments
176 - A Man for all Seasons: al-Ṭūsī

Posted on 18 May 2014

Naṣīr al-Dīn al-Ṭūsī’s controversial career sees him adopt and then abandon Ismā'īlism, team up with the Mongols, and offer a staunch defense of Avicenna.

5 comments
177 - To Be or Not to Be: Debating Avicenna’s Metaphysics

Posted on 25 May 2014

Avicenna’s distinction between essence and existence triggers a running debate among philosophers and theologians.

11 comments
178 - Eyes Wide Shut: Rūmī and Philosophical Sufism

Posted on 1 June 2014

The Persian poet Rūmī and mystical philosopher al-Qūnawī carry on the legacy of Sufism.

16 comments
179 - Mohammed Rustom on Philosophical Sufism

Posted on 7 June 2014

Peter is joined by Mohammed Rustom in a discussion about Sufi authors including Ibn 'Arabī, al-Qūnawī, and Rūmī.

19 comments
180 - Proof Positive: The Logical Tradition

Posted on 15 June 2014

Logicians ply their trade across a millennium of Islamic history, considering such issues as the status of logic itself and the Liar Paradox.

13 comments
181 - By the Book: Ibn Taymiyya

Posted on 22 June 2014

The controversial jurist Ibn Taymiyya sets forth an originalist theory of law and a searching criticism of the philosophers’ logic.

28 comments
182 - Aftermath: Philosophy and Science in the Mongol Age

Posted on 28 June 2014

Philosophy and science survive and even thrive through the coming of the Mongols.

5 comments
183 - Family Feud: Philosophy at Shiraz

Posted on 6 July 2014

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

7 comments
184 - Robert Wisnovsky on Commentary Culture

Posted on 13 July 2014

Robert Wisnovsky joins Peter to discuss the enormous body of unstudied philosophical commentaries in the later Eastern Islamic world.

6 comments
185 - Follow the Leader: Philosophy under the Safavids

Posted on 20 July 2014

Philosophy in Safavid Iran, and a look back at earlier philosophy among Shiites.

4 comments
186 - To Be, Continued: Mullā Ṣadrā on Existence

Posted on 27 July 2014

Mullā Ṣadrā, the greatest thinker of early modern Iran, unveils a radical new understanding of existence.

16 comments
187 - Return to Sender: Mullā Ṣadrā on Motion and Knowledge

Posted on 3 August 2014

Mullā Ṣadrā proposes that all things are like sharks: in constant motion.

17 comments
188 - Sajjad Rizvi on Mullā Ṣadrā

Posted on 10 August 2014

Sajjad Rizvi talks to Peter about Mullā Ṣadrā's views on eternity, God's knowledge and the afterlife.

7 comments
189 - Subcontinental Drift: Philosophy in Islamic India

Posted on 17 August 2014

Ideas spread to Mughal India from Iran, and prince Dārā Shikūh seeks to unite the wisdom of the Upanishads with the Koran.

9 comments
190 - Turkish Delights - Philosophy under the Ottomans

Posted on 24 August 2014

Kātib Çelebi defends cigarettes and coffee and Khojozāda wins a prize for evaluating the Incoherence of the Philosophers, along with several other philosophical and religious debates in the Ottoman empire.

12 comments
191 - The Young Ones: Encounters with European Thought

Posted on 28 September 2014

18th and 19th century intellectuals in India and the Ottoman empire, from Shāh Walī Allāhto the Young Turks, continue Islamic traditions and grapple with European science.

3 comments
192 - The Stronger Sex: Women Scholars and Islam

Posted on 5 October 2014

Fatema Mernissi and others challenge the long-standing (but not complete) exclusion of women from the intellectual traditions of Islam.

12 comments
193 - All for One and One for All: Muḥammad 'Abduh and Muḥammad Iqbāl

Posted on 12 October 2014

Muḥammad 'Abdūh and Muḥammad Iqbāl challenge colonialism and the traditional religious scholars of Islam.

16 comments
194 - Iran So Far: After Ṣadrā

Posted on 19 October 2014

From Sabzawārī in the 19th century to Seyyed Hossein Nasr today, Iranian thinkers promote and respond to the thought of Mullā Ṣadrā.

26 comments
195 - Anke von Kügelgen on Contemporary Islamic Thought

Posted on 26 October 2014

Anke von Kügelgen joins Peter to discuss developments over the last century or so, including attitudes towards past thinkers like Avicenna, Averroes and Ibn Taymiyya.

14 comments