- Philosophy in Early Safavid Iran: Najm al-Dīn Maḥmūd al-Nayrīzī and His Writings by Reza Pourjavady
In the study of the history of Islamic philosophy, most researchers have focused on certain distinguished figures and/or periods during which some highly remarkable developments took place. It is probably for this reason that until very recently the period between Naṣīr al-Dīn Ṭūsī (597/1201–672/1274) and Mullā Ṣadrā (ca. 79/1571–1045/1636 or 1050/1640) attracted relatively little attention — it was almost commonly believed that, due to certain unfavorable historical circumstances, philosophical thought made few, if any, major breakthroughs during these three centuries. I will not say that this opinion is absolutely wrong — after all, it is evident that this period did not produce any thinker comparable in status with al-Fārābī or Mullā Ṣadrā. However, it is also evident that, in spite of the unfavorable circumstances (invasions, wars, and general instability in many parts of the Muslim world, Iran in particular), Islamic philosophy continued as a living tradition. This is attested by its renaissance during the Safavid (1501–1722) era — a renaissance that continued, some believe, throughout Qajar (1796–1925) and even Pahlavi (1925–1979) rule. [End Page 308]
Among the major philosophers of this age, one would mention ʿAllāma Ḥillī (Ṭūsī's student, 648/1250–726/1325), Quṭb al-Dīn Rāzī (d. 766/1364), Sayyid Sharīf Jurjānī (d. 816/1414), Ṣāʾin al-Dīn ʿAlī Turka Isfahānī (770/1369–835/1432), Jalāl al-Dīn Dawānī (ca. 830/1426–909/1504), and two Dashtakīs, Ṣadr al-Dīn (828/1425– 903/1498) and his son Ghiyāth al-Dīn (966/1461–949/1542). A student of the latter, Mīr Fakhr al-Dīn Sammākī (d. 984/1576), became the teacher of Mīr Dāmād (d. 1041/1631) — thus, the chain of transmission was never broken.
In his elegant book Philosophy in Early Safavid Iran: Najm al-Dīn Maḥmūd al-Nayrīzī and His Writings, Reza Pourjavady introduces us to a hitherto little known thinker of this time—Najm al-Dīn Maḥmūd Nayrīzī (d. after 943/1536), a student of the two Dashtakīs. In fact, some of his works were examined by the late H. Ritter and H. Corbin in the 1930s and 1940s, when both worked in Istanbul libraries. However, Ritter misread "Nayrīzī" as "Tabrīzī" and, what was worse, attributed two of Nayrīzī's works—namely his commentaries on Suhrawardī's Ḥikmat al-Ishrāq and Hayākil al-Nūr—to different authors, "al-Wadūd al-Tibrīzī" and "Najm al-Dīn al-Tibrīzī." Corbin then treated these two fictional characters as the principal representatives of the Ishrāqī school of Tabrīz. Pourjavady rejects these two fictional characters and, by doing so, virtually invalidates the concept of the "Illuminationist School of Tabriz" itself, demonstrating that, in Iran of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, it was Shiraz, the "fortress of knowers" (burj al- ʿurafāʾ), which served as the main seat of learning and high culture.
The book consists of an introduction, four chapters, and four appendices. The introduction (forty-four pages) deals with the philosophers of Shiraz at the turn of the tenth/sixteenth century. The first of the seven subchapters provides a brief summary of the intellectual life in Shiraz in the given period; the remaining six are devoted to six thinkers who were active in the city at that time (along with Dawānī and both Dashtakīs, these were Mīr Ḥusayn Maybudī, Shams al-Dīn Khafrī, and Kamāl al-Dīn Ilāhī Ardabīlī). The sections on the first three are particularly detailed and informative.
The first chapter begins with a short...