In spite of the
bitter accusations hurled at Tusi for the role he was believed to have played
in the fall of
As an outstanding Islamic scholar who may be placed beside distinguished thinkers like al-Fārābi, Ibn Sinā, and al-Biruni, Tusi was an exception in a highly crucial period. His significant role in holding and reviving the Islamic civilization by obtaining the favor of Hulāku should not be ignored. Despite his critical evaluation of Tusi, Arberry gives the following account of Tusiís cultural role:
The Mongols, like their twentieth century disciples, knew how to handle and exploit to their own ends men of that caliber; and in the end, whether out of conviction or statecraft, the Ilkhāns accepted Islam and Muslim civilization was revived in Persia and Iraq.
That such a renaissance could take place at all, after the chaos and slaughter of the preceding years, was in large measure due to the collaboration of such as Nasir al-Din Tusi and Shams al-Din Juvaini, brother of the well-known historian and head of the administration of Persia under Mongol rule in the reigns of Hulāku (to 1265), Abākā (1265-82) and Ahmad (1282-4).
numerous writings in various fields of Islamic scholarship, Tusi made unique
contributions in astronomy. After the fall of
In addition to
Muslim scholars, philosophers and scientists, Chinese astronomers were invited
to work at the
a. Tusi and the
socio-political role he was forced to play by circumstances, Tusiís main
contributions and interests were intellectual. After Jundi Shāpur with its
legacy of a pre-Islamic university and the Nizāmiyya established by
Nizām al-Mulk in
By the end of
the third century A.H. other observatories had been founded in
astronomy were called from as far away as
The main source
of the income to pay these expenses was the Awqāf under Tusiís
supervision. The distinguishing characteristic of the
One of Tusiís outstanding characteristics was that although most of his life was spent among either Assassins or Mongols, surrounded by wars, attacks and retaliations, all of which were conditions unsuitable for study and research, he had an effective influence on intellectual development. This influence was most prominent in astrology, mathematics, philosophy and theology.
According to Strothmann, Tusiís fame outside Shiʻi circles was due to his books and research in the exact sciences, namely medicine, physics, mathematics and particularly astrology and astronomy. Another important aspect of Tusi was his flexibility and openness in his intellectual relations with all Muslim scholars even non- Shiʻa.
He did not allow his devotion to his own sect to cut him off from scholarly connections with non-Imāmi ʻulamā. This unique characteristic enabled him to influence and be influenced by many contemporary scholars.
b. Reviving the Imāmi theology (particularly the issue of the Imāmate)
One of the most important aspects of Tusiís intellectual career was his significant role in reformulating the Shiʻi theology, combining the Peripatetic style with what he had grasped from his Shiʻi ideology to give new understanding to the issue of the Imamate. For example, Tajrid al-ʻAqāíid, commented on by several Shiʻi scholars, and Qawāʻid† al-ʻAqāid were written based on an Imāmi point of view.
In Fusul Nasiriyya he explicitly disagreed with the philosophic and determinative Ashʻarite point of view while in Talkhis al-Muhassal he critiqued the K. al-Muhassal of Fakhr al-Din al-Rāzi. His Masāriʻ al-Masāriʻ was a critical commentary on K. al-Musāriʻa of M. ʻAbd al-Karim† al-Shahrastāni which refuted Ibn Sināís ideas. Several other treatises were written based on either the Imāmi or the Ismāʻili points of view.
More important is a treatise on the issue of the Imāmate republished on the occasion of the commemoration of his 7th anniversary. His main goal in these works was to rationalize what previously had been presented by other Imāmi scholars in a more or less traditionalist point of view. This characteristic will be clearer if his method is compared with that of Nawbakhti in K. al-Yāqut and those of Shaykh al-Mufid (336-413) and Seyyed Murtazā (355-436) against Bāqilāni.
In the history of Imāmi theology, Tusi reformulated this branch of thought from traditionalism to rationalism. His doctrines put him in a position distinct from both Ismāʻilis and Sunnis. Tajrid al-Iʻtiqād, Fusul Nasiriyya and the Treatise on the Imamate were written using an Imāmi methodology. In his Qawāʻid, particularly on the issue of the Imamate, he tried to present various ideas according to Imāmis, Zaydis, Extremists (Ghulāt), Kaysānis and Sunnis without insisting on any particular idea.
c. Tusi and philosophy, mysticism and ethics
As a philosopher, Tusi was greatly influenced by Ibn Sinā (980-1037). He supported Ibn Sināís ideas by refuting critiques written against him. He spent about twenty years writing a commentary on the Al-Ishārāt wa al-Tanbihāt (Safadi, Al-Wāfi bi al-Wafayāt).
However, he disagreed with Ibn Sinā on the issue of Godís knowledge and approached it from an illuminationist (Ishrāqi) point of view. Like Suhrawardi al-Maqtul (d. 587/1191), he believed that Godís knowledge is a kind of illuminational relation (izāfa ishrāqiyya).
background goes back to his early learning period in Nishāpur when he
first visited Farid al-Din Saʻid Ibn Yusif Ibn ʻAli ʻAttār
(513-617A.H) and was attracted to his ideas.
He treated mystics with respect and honor. At the time of the conquest of
al-Fazl Jaʻfar b. ʻAli, known as al-Muítaman al-Sufi
al-Baghdādi, went to Marāgha to visit Tusi, Tusi assigned 100 dinārs
to him each year from the awqāf of
In the meantime, Tusi himself wrote mystical treatises. His Awsāf al-Ashrāf written at the request of Hulākuís vizier Shams al-Din Muhammad Juvayni (d. 681) is a written price with a mystical methodology about the spiritual journey (Sayr wa Suluk).
In spite of his considerable devotion to the twelve Imāms, his deep respect for Hallāj distinguished him from most of the other Shiʻa. R. Āghāz va Anjām, also entitled as Tadhkira, has an Ismāʻili basis and deals with demonstrating the principles of beliefs in a mystical way.
Why was the intellectual atmosphere of Tusiís time dominated by mystical thought and the Ismāʻili esoteric understanding of Islamic belief?† Although this current of mystical thought was mainly centered at the court of the Saljuks of Rum, other parts of the Islamic world were not totally exempt from this trend.
doctrines of the Ismāʻilis might have been a reaction against Sunni
orthodox Islam, first formed by the Fatimids of Egypt and then by the
Nazāri Ismāʻilis of
Nonetheless, this pole of esoteric thought collapsed officially upon the destruction of the Ismāʻili fortresses. As far as an extension of pure mystical thought is concerned, one can find various interpretations. Some believe that mystical tendencies are rooted in a weakness of the political authority or material disadvantages.
When the people are deprived of worldly advantages, they tend to focus on the afterlife. However, the very core of mystical thought and its flourishing took place at the powerful and wealthy court of the Saljuks of Rum. By the time of the Mongol invasion, the Saljuks of Rum were the only shelter for Muslim scholars under the pressure of Mongol attacks. Since the most dominant figure at this court was Sadr al-Din Qunyawi, the immediate disciple of Ibn ʻArabi, his colleagues were mostly mystics.
main reason for the spread of mystical thought at this time was the immigration
of Ibn ʻArabi from Andalusia to
On the other hand, he may have wanted to leave Islamic lands dominated by Māliki ideas and the Peripatetic philosophy which denied an esoteric interpretation of Islamic knowledge. What was it about the eastern part of the Islamic world which attracted Ibn ʻArabi and encouraged him to establish his own school of thought there? What was the real background in the eastern part of the Islamic lands which caused the development of mystical thought? Can we find any socio-political reason for this flourishing mysticism? These questions remain unanswered.
Tusiís writings in ethics were written mainly while he was living among the Ismāʻilis. At the request of Nāsir al-Din ʻAbd al-Rahim Ibn Abi Mansur, the ruler (muhtasham) of Quhistān, he rewrote and corrected Tahdhib al-Akhlāq wa Tathir al-Aʻrāq by Abu ʻAli Miskawayh (d.421/1029) and called it as Akhlāq-i Nāsiri. Then he translated the K. Adab al-Saghir of Ibn al-Muqaffaʻ into Persian.