1. Ibn-Taymiyya: GAL, ii.125-7; GALS, ii.119-26; EI2, art. Ibn-Tay-miyya (Laoust); Henri Laoust, Essai sur les doctrines sociales et politiques de Takï-d-dîn Ahmad b. Taimîya, Cairo 1939; do., 'La biographie d'Ibn-Taymiyya d'après Ibn Kathîr', Bulletin d'études orientales, ix(i943), 115-62; do., 'Le hanbalisme sous les Mamlüks Bahriyya', Revue des Études Islamiques, xxviii (i960), 1-71 ¡ do., in Welch and Cachia (eds.), Islam (n.i 1/4), 'L'influence d'Ibn-Taymiyya', 15-33, with brief notices of later Hanbalites; Cl. Wein, Die islamische Glaubenslehre ÇAqîda) des Ibn Taimîya, Bonn 1973, with translation of the Wàsitiyya creed.

2. Ibn-Qayyim-al-Iawziyya: GAL, ii.127-9; GALS, ii.126-8; EI2, art. Ibn Kayyim al-Djawziyya (Laoust).

3. Wahhàbism: GAL, ii.512; GALS, ii.530-2; El1, art. Wahhâbïya(D. S. Margoliouth) ; Laoust, Essai (n.18/1), 506-40.

4. Shah Walï-Allâli: GAL, ii.550; GALS, ii.6i4f.; Aziz Ahmad, Studies in Islamic Culture in the Indian Environment, Oxford 1964, 201-17; Wilfred C. Smith, Islam in Modem History, Princeton 1957, 44-7.

5. Usuman dan-Fodio : GAL, ii.656 -, GALS, ii.894 ¡ Murray Last, The Sokoto Caliphate, London 1967, 237-54.


In the period between 1250 and 1850 the two main forms of ShI'ism, the Imamite and the Isma'ilite, underwent a complete transformation. Their main dogmatic position remained the same, but there was a great change in their function in the life of the Islamic community as a whole. The Zaydite community in the Yemen maintained itself, although its imamate was under a cloud from the end of the thirteenth century until the end of the sixteenth. It continued to produce some literature, but nothing, it would seem, of theological significance.

(a) The Imamites Until the year 1501 the Imamites were simply a theological party intermingled with the Sunnites in a single community of Muslims. There were towns where the Imamites were dominant, and others where they were hardly represented at all; but on the whole it is correct to say that the Imamites and the Sunnites were living side by side. Some of their theologians were in the main stream of Islamic thought, certainly being influenced by it and perhaps to some extent influencing it; like the Sunnites they were producing short creeds and lengthy commentaries, and introducing much philosophy into theology. In 1501, however, Shah Isma'il, who was already mler of much of Iran, made Imamism the official religion of his kingdom. The result was that Iran became almost wholly Imamite, while, though Imamites continued to live elsewhere, notably in Iraq, they were probably fewer in numbers and less dispersed.

The most notable Imamite thinker of the thirteenth century was Nasir-ad-din at-TusI (1201-74).1 He has also some connections with Isma'ilism, since prior to 12 5 6 he was for a number of years an official in the service of the Isma'ilite mler of Quhistan (a region of eastern Persia to the south of Khurasan), and then subsequently resided in the Isma'ilite 'capital', the fortress of Alamut; but his relation to the Isma'ilites is not clear. He may have had some sympathy with their views; on the other hand, Alamut in the year before its destruction had the reputation of cultivating 'a broad Islamic outlook'. He is accused, however, of advising the Isma'ilite leader to surrender Alamut in 125 6; and the surrender led to the execution of the leader and the massacre of his followers. Yet this, like the story of his advising Hulagu, the Mongol general, to put the 'Abbasid caliph to death in 1358, may be a libel of his opponents. What is certain is that before 12,58 he had gained the favour of Hulagu, and that for the rest of his life he held various high appointments in the Mongol administration. This may have been due in part to his skill as an astrologer, since the Mongols seem to have consulted him about auspicious dates for important occasions.

Nasir-ad-din at-Tusi was more a philosopher than a theologian. Indeed he was well versed in all the Greek sciences, especially mathematics and astronomy. His philosophy was not the pure philosophy of Avicenna, but was ostensibly a preliminary to theology. He lived in much the same world of thought as Fakhr-ad-din ar-Razi (d. 1209), on whose Muhassal he composed a commentary, largely positive and expository, but where necessary showing his disagreements. This and other of his works were freely studied by philosophically-minded Sunnites; as noted above, his Persian ethical work Akhlaq-i Nasiri was revised and adapted for Sunnites by ad-Dawani.

In the period up to 1500 the only other important Imamite theologian was a pupil of Nasir-ad-din called Ibn-al-Mutahhar al-Hilli, mostly known as 'Allama-i Hilli (1250-1325 ).2 Hilla, a town some 110 km south of Baghdad, was an important Imamite centre for centuries, and produced many noted scholars. The 'Allama was not much interested in the more philosophical aspects of theology, though he made use of some philosophical concepts. A short creed of his has been translated into English, along with a fifteenth-century commentary, under the title Al-Babu l-hadi 'ashai, 'the eleventh chapter'. This is still regarded by many Imamites as one of their standard texts, as is also his commentary on Nasir-ad-dln's Tajrid al-'aqa'id, 'the Summary of the Doctrines'. A less well-known work of his, Minhaj al-kaiama, found its way into the hands of Ibn-Tay-miyya and influenced him considerably. It is primarily a defence of the Imamite theory of the imamate, but it also contains a critique of Sunnite jurisprudence,- and to both these matters Ibn-Taymiyya made a vigorous response in his Minhaj as-sunna.

About half a century later a different type of Shi'ite theologian was represented by Sayyid Haydar al-Amuli, who was bom in 13 20 in Amul near the Caspian Sea, who made the pilgrimage to Mecca about 1350, who lived at least until 1385 in various cities of Iran and Iraq, but whose date of death is unknown.3 The distinctive character of the thought of al-Amuli arises from the fact that he was attracted to sufism, especially as expounded in the writings of Muhyi-d-din ibn-al-'Arabi, on at least one of whose books he wrote a commentary. A recent student of his work has concluded that his philosophico-theo-logical method is one of pious sufistic meditation rather than of pure speculation.

With the crowning of Shah Isma'il in Tabriz in 1501, steps were taken to make Imamism the official religion of his realm. He soon completed the conquest of Iran, and with the impetus derived from his political successes Imamism eventually became not merely the state religion, but in effect the only tolerated religion. In 1501, however, Imamism was by no means the dominant religion; in Tabriz, for example, two-thirds of the population are said to have been Sunnites; and religious teachers for law and theology were apparently scarce in Iran, though some existed elsewhere in Imamite centres such as Hilla (Iraq), Bahrein and Mount 'Amila (Lebanon). The problem of how Iran became almost wholly Shi'ite and how Imamite law and theology were elaborated is now realized to be a complex one, but scholars have begun to devote attention to it and in due course matters should become clearer.

One of the main differences between Imamite (or fa'f ante) jurisprudence and that of the Sunnites is that among Imamites duly qualified jurists give decisions that are based directly (that is, by then-own arguments) on the general principles contained in Quran and Hadith, whereas among the Sunnites by the sixteenth century (apart from some Hanbalites) it was held that even the most learned jurist had to base his decisions on those of earlier jurists. The giving of independent decisions was known as ijtihad, and the person qualified to do so was a mujtahid. The main Sunnite position came to be expressed (but perhaps not until the nineteenth century) by saying that 'the gate of ijtihad is closed'. The Imamite belief in the continuing right of ijtihad presumably helped in the adaptation of the existing legal system to the needs of the new state; but in the last century the Imamites have not been noticeably more successful than Sunnites in adapting their rules to modem conditions.

The questions of ijtihad led to a split within Imamism which came to be of serious proportions in the seventeenth century, though there are traces of it earlier. Muhammad Amln al-Astarabadhi (d. 1624) is regarded as the leader of the attack on the mujtahids and the believers in ijtihad, and the founder of the subdivision of the Imamites known as the Akhbarites.4 Their distinctive view was that legal opinions should not be derived from general principles (usul) by analogical or other reasoning, but should be based on akhbar, 'accounts', of the Imams,- and by this they meant primarily Hadith (of the Prophet) where an Imam was one in the chain of authorities, though other sayings of the Imams were also included. The holders of the more usual Imamite views were known as Usulites and Mujtahid-ites. After a century and a half of activity the Akhbarites dwindled away and disappeared almost completely.

A noteworthy feature of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Iran was an outburst of intellectual activity in the fields of theology and philosophy. This did not attract much interest outside Imamite circles, but in recent years Henry Corbin tried to bring it to the attention of Western scholars.

One of the earliest theologians of this type was Baha'-ad-din al-'Amili (1546-1622), mostly known in Iran as Shaykh-i-Baha'i.5 The name al-'Amili indicates that he came from Mount 'Amila in Syria; and his father was one of the Imamite scholars who had to flee from Syria because the Sunnite Ottoman regime regarded all Imam-ites as a 'third column' acting on behalf of the Safavids. Among his teachers in Iran was one who had been a pupil of ad-Dawani. He was a prolific writer on many subjects in both Arabic and Persian, and was noted for works not only in jurisprudence and theology but also in astronomy and mathematics, as well as for a literary anthology.

Mir Damad, more fully Mir Muhammad Baqir b. Muhammad-i-Damad (d.1630), was bom in Astarabadh, studied in Meshhed, and spent most of his life in Ispahan, where al-'Amili was also active.6 Like the latter he wrote in Arabic in many fields, including logic and metaphysics, and he also wrote poetry in Persian.

A pupil of these two scholars and son-in-law of the latter was Sadr-ad-din Muhammad ibn-Ibrahim ash-Shirazi (d.1640), mostly known as Mulla Sadra.7 Bom in Shiraz, he went to study in Ispahan, then withdrew to the neighbourhood of Qumm to live in seclusion. He devoted his writings chiefly to philosophy and for this reason incurred vehement criticism from the theologians. He is said to have seen Mir Damad in a dream and complained that, though their views were similar, he alone was attacked as an infidel, and then to have received the explanation that he wrote plainly for all to understand, whereas his teacher had written in such a way that only the philosophers could understand, not the theologians. The efforts of Max Horten early this century to interest Western scholars in his philosophy did not have much success. The reason may be that the theo-sophical aspect of Mulla Sadra's thought was felt to make it other than philosophy in the strict sense. It was in fact considerably influenced by the theosophy of Suhrawardi Maqtul (d.1191), which he spoke of as hikmat al-ishiaq, 'the philosophy of illumination'. Another similar influence was that of Muhyi-d-din ibn-al-'Arabi (d. 1240), but further study is required to determine the relative importance of these two influences.

The mystical element found in Mulla §adra is present to an even greater extent in the writings of Mulla Muhsin-i-Fayd al-Kashi or al-Káshání (d.1679 ).8 Though a pupil and son-in-law of Mulla §adrá, he showed much less interest in philosophy than in mysticism. In contrast to him another pupil and son-in-law followed rather the philosophical side of Mulla Sadrá. This was al-Láhijí (Mullá 'Abd-ar-Razzáq), the date of whose death varies between 1640 and 167o.9 A work of his commenting on Tajñd al-'aqá'id of Nasír-ad-dín at-Tüsi was studied by Max Horten.

This period of the flowering of theosophical philosophy came to an end about this point. It is usually held, however, that about two centuries later the tradition of Mullá Sadrá was revived by another thinker, Hajji Mullá Hádí as-Sabzawári (1797-1878).10 In a recent scholarly edition of one of his works Toyohiko Izutsu contributes a long introduction in English on 'The Fundamental Structure of Sab-zawari's Metaphysics'.

The thought of Mullá $adrá was also influential in a slightly different direction, namely, in the development of Shaykhism. This was the movement founded by Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsá'í (1753— 1826), an Arab from al-Ahsá' who spent most of his life in Iraq and Iran.11 He was widely respected as a religious thinker, but towards the end of his life was criticized by the Imámite mujtahids and excommunicated, apparently because he was alleged to believe in a purely spiritual and incorporeal resurrection. He attached great importance to the Imams in his metaphysics, regarding them as hypostases of the supreme Being. In the end Shaykhism became very different from the philosphy of Mullá §adra and contributed to the emergence of Bábism and Bahá'ism, which developed into separate religions.

The most interesting aspect of Imámite thought in recent centuries is undoubtedly the philosophical movement round Mullá §adrá, but it is difficult to make an objective assessment of it. Iranian scholars, supported by enthusiasts like Henry Corbin, have tried to convince the world of the importance of the Iranian national contribution to world philosophy; but the world has not yet been convinced, and has seen the Iranian achievement not as philosophy and metaphysics in an Aristotelian sense but as a kind of late-classical sapientia or 'theosophy' comparable to that of Proclus and Iamb-lichus. This has deterred general philosophers from studying it. In the future, however, if, as is not impossible, the concepts of incarnation and christology come to attract the attention of general philosophers, they will find useful parallels and resemblances in the imamology of the Imámite 'philosophers'.

(b) the Ismailites The transformation of Ismá'ilism may be dealt with more briefly.12 The fall of Alamut to the Mongols in 1256 was followed by massacres, but many Ismá'Ilites survived and the son of the last imam was preserved safely in hiding. The subsequent history is complex and is adequately known in general outline, but it is political rather than theological, and so need not be described in detail here. The division, already mentioned, which took place in 1094, into Nizarites and Musta'lians has persisted, and each group has become further subdivided, though some of the subdivisions are now of slight importance, and there have also been amalgamations. The Musta'lians disappeared from Egypt and came to have their main base first in the Yemen and then in Gujerat. The Nizarites, though maintaining themselves in Syria and Iran, eventually also came to be strongest in India (where Isma'ilite propaganda had begun in the ninth century). The main body of the Nizarites is now the community which has as its head the Aga Khan. Theological writing has mostly been the work of the Imams, and some idea may be gained of its quality and content from a short Persian treatise, composed by a son of the 47th Imam who died prematurely in 1885, which was published with an English translation by W. Ivanow.

The most interesting thing about the Nizarites is the transformation of their community. Their Isma'ilism, which was at one time the revolutionary faith of rebellious mountaineers, has become the binding force of a closely knit and prosperous community of merchants and men in other urban or industrial occupations. Under the leadership of recent Imams they have given other Muslims an example of how Islamic faith may be adapted to the modem world and may lead to effective action in it.

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