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  • Knowledge and Power in the Philosophies of Ḥamīd al-Dīn Kirmānī and Mullā Ṣadrā Shirazi by Sayeh Meisami
  • S. Khalil Toussi (bio)
Knowledge and Power in the Philosophies of Ḥamīd al-Dīn Kirmānī and Mullā Ṣadrā Shirazi. By Sayeh Meisami. Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan Press, 2018. Pp. 227. isbn 987-3-319-71191-1.

The book is the first dedicated volume in English on some aspects of Ḥamīd Dīn Kirmānī's (d. 412/1021) and Mullā Ṣadrā's (d. 1050/1640) political thought.Kirmānī was a key Isma'ili figure who represented and advocated "moderate" Isma'ili thought during the imamate of the Fatimid imam/caliph in Cairo, al-Ḥākim bi-Amr Allah (r.386-411/996-1021). Mullā Ṣadrā is the most eminent Shi'Imami philosopher in the last four hundred years and the founder of the school of transcendent philosophy who has received huge attention in Muslim and in Western academia.

In her extremely useful study, Sayeh Meisami addresses the philosophical link between the theoretical and practical philosophies of the two thinkers, particularly the relation between the narrative of Islamic epistemology/psychology and Shi'i authority in its complex religious and political application. While the author admits there is a difference between Kirmānī and Ṣadrā in their application of some narratives as well as the influence of the dominant religious and political ideologies of their time, she claims that the religio-political discourses of the two thinkers are similar in character and orientation and their narrative with respect to the doctrine of imamate andthe ontological link between the knowledge and political authority of imam, jurist and saint (p. 2).

Inspired by the French philosopher Michel Foucault (1926-1984), central tothis research is Meisami's hypothesis of the human knowledge-power dynamic. She demonstrates this theory within the philosophical discourse of a Shi'i background and the influence of such dynamic on contemporaryShi'i religio-political discourse.

The book comprises five chapters. The first chapter, by way of introduction, presents a useful summary of the overall discussions and claims made in the volume along with a brief literature review of Kirmānī and Ṣadrā in Persian and various European language studies.

The imamate as the primary embodiment of Shi'i authority is the major theme of the volume, so Meisami presents an overview of the earlier study of imamology in Kirmānī and the existence of any possible influence of his thought [End Page 1] on Mullā Ṣadrā as the most influential representative of philosophy of Twelver context.

The author reveals that Kirmānī's discourse of imamate is divided into proofs for the necessity for the imamate, and proofs for the particular lineage of Isma'ili imam. Kirmānī's discourse is based on tradition (hadiths) and the theological and philosophical arguments of his predecessors, Ja'far ibn Aḥmad Haythamī in Kitāb al-Munāzarāt and Nayshābūrī in Ithbāt al-Imama as well as Kirmānī's contemporary, Abu al-Fawāris. His short treatise, titled Risāla fi'l-Imama in which, like Kirmānī's al-Maṣābīh fi Ithbāt al-Imama, represents the ideological and political struggles between Sunnism and Shi'ism. After this overview of Kirmānī's intellectual career, in chapter 2, the author analyses Kirmānī's theory of knowledge and the human soul. She examines his theory of knowledge as part of his theory of the revolution of the soul in light of both Greek and Isma'ili discourse, and explains how Kirmānī uses these concepts to bridge from his view of human knowledge to the Shi'a view of the knowledge of the infallible imam and, consequently, absolute authority.

In chapter 3, after a short review of Kirmānī's background in Abu Nasr Fārābī (d. 339/950), Abu Ya'qūb Sijistānī (d. after 360/971) and Aḥmad ibn Ibrāhim Nayshabūrī, the author addresses the incorporation of human knowledge, perfection of the soul, and divine inspiration into Kirmānī's proofs for imamate. More than the aforementioned philosophers, she speaks of the...


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