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  • An Introduction to Islamic Philosophy: Based on the Works of Murtada Mutahhari by Abd al-Rasul Obudiyyat
  • Oliver Leaman (bio)
An Introduction to Islamic Philosophy: Based on the Works of Murtada Mutahhari. By Abd al-Rasul Obudiyyat. Translated by Hussein Valeh. London: MIU Press, 2012. Paper £12.00, isbn 978-1-907905-05-6.

An Introduction to Islamic Philosophy: Based on the Works of Murtada Mutahhari, by Abd al-Rasul Obudiyyat, is a useful guide to the ways in which philosophy is taught in much of the Islamic world, and in particular in what is surely the center of Islamic philosophy, Iran. Mutahhari is an important twentieth-century thinker and his grasp of Islamic philosophy is displayed nicely in this volume, although it has to be said it is not actually by him. It is a selection of his writings from various places, and [End Page 1307] the author makes it clear that he has gathered together Mutahhari's views and arguments and put them together here in a concise and clear way. To a large extent the style of the text reflects the fact that it is a selection and rather leaves out the verve of the thinker himself. That is not a huge problem, although it does make the writing appear rather lapidary. Students could use this sort of text as they do in Iran: to work through the various moves in classical philosophical arguments and how they might want to pursue them further or object to aspects of them as the arguments are currently formulated. There is not a lot of reference to other thinkers, although there are general acknowledgments of where these arguments are to be found—in Ibn Sina, Suhrawardi, Mulla Sadra, and Sabziwari—so we do get the idea of the long tradition of Islamic philosophy in the classical sense and how it is being carried on today.

A problem with this approach is that it gives the impression that Islamic philosophy is entirely cut off from philosophy as a whole and carries on in its traditional way ignoring everything else that goes on elsewhere. This is certainly true of some versions of Islamic philosophy as practiced within theological circles in Iran, but not true of much of it, even within Iran. Some of the arguments in this book are so remote from modern developments in philosophy, even philosophy of religion, that one wonders what the point of them is. It is quite entertaining to rehearse the arguments of the past, like playing a traditional board game perhaps, and we have a lot to learn from arguments of the past. Philosophy has moved on from there though, and it would be useful to extend and develop those hoary arguments using more modern philosophical methodology. One has to admire the way in which Mutahhari can produce quite simply a complex argument and express it in terms that allow the reader to take it up and think about it. He or she might even be encouraged to use it to work out the implications of a relevant issue surrounding the topic under discussion. On the other hand, if these classical discussions were linked with modern work in the area, the reader would be in an even stronger position to be creative with the material.

None of these remarks are a criticism of the book. Rather, they are comments on the limitations of seeing philosophy as something fixed and unchanging, as though everything worth saying had been said and we should stick with the past and what we know about how people used argument then. This is in no way a criticism of the great Islamic philosophers of the past. If they had been acquainted with more modern ways of looking at the problems on which they worked so assiduously they would have been delighted and would have used them to extend their arguments and ideas. It is a bit like the way that we no longer play classical music on the original instruments except as a curiosity. We assume that the classical composers would have been intrigued by the range and versatility of modern instruments as we play their music on them. Similarly, the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-1898
Print ISSN
0031-8221
Pages
pp. 1307-1308
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-20
Open Access
No
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