This paper discusses the question of an Ismaʿili influence within the cosmology of al-Ghazālī and argues that al-Ghazālī appropriated certain features of the Ismaʿili cosmology from the Persian Ismaʿili thought of Nāṣir-i Khusraw (d. ca. 481/1088). After introducing Nāṣir-i Khusraw and his Ismaʿili Neoplatonic cosmology, the paper first examines some of the Ismaʿili doctrinal material presented in al-Ghazālī’s anti-Ismaʿili polemical work Faḍāʾiḥ al-bāṭiniyya—concerning cosmology, revelation, and taʾwīl—and traces this content back to Nāṣir-i Khusraw’s works, arguing that Nāṣir-i Khusraw was one of the sources for al-Ghazālī’s knowledge of Ismaʿili doctrines. Secondly, the paper highlights a number of commonalities and shared terminology between the cosmology, epistemology, and doctrine of prophecy in al-Ghazālī’s Mishkāt al-anwār (‘The Niche of Lights’) and the Ismaʿili doctrines of Nāṣir-i Khusraw, revealing how the two thinkers understand the cosmos as containing precisely ‘two worlds’, emphasize the correspondence (muwāzana) between the spiritual and physical realms, and conceive the faculty of prophecy as a higher supra-intellectual spirit (rūḥ) or ‘eye’ of perception. Thirdly, the paper revisits the scholarly debate concerning al-Ghazālī’s higher theology and cosmology in the Veils section of the Mishkāt. It demonstrates that al-Ghazālī’s worldview, which places the transcendent God above the First Mover of the Aristotelians and the Necessary Existent of the falāsifa using the Qurʾānic symbolism of Moon and Sun worship, has been appropriated from Nāṣir-i Khusraw’s Ismaʿili Neoplatonic cosmology.
This article continues to discuss the major scholarly issues and developments in the study of Ismaili Muslim history and thought in the post‐Fatimid and modern periods. In general, scholarly coverage of the Nizari Ismailis greatly outweighs that of the Tayyibis. Following the concealment of the Tayyibi Imams in the 12th century, the Tayyibi da‘wahcontinued in Yemen under the leadership of da‘is representing the Imams and divided into two major groups – the Sulaymanis and Da'udis. The Nizari Imamat continued in Persia until the public emergence of their recent living Imams, the Aga Khans, in modern times. The scholarly issues and themes discussed in this article include the establishment of the Tayyibi da‘wah, later Tayyibi cosmology, the 1164 Nizari declaration of qiyamah, the survival of Nizari communities in Persia and South Asia after the Mongol invasion, and modern Ismaili leadership institutions and communities. The article concludes by briefly summarizing the state of research for different periods of Ismaili history/thought and proposing some future trajectories for the progress of Ismaili studies.
Nāṣir-i Khusraw (d. 481/1088), the renowned Ismāʿīlī philosopher, poet, travel writer, and missionary (dāʿī), took on the formidable challenge of showing the essential harmony between philosophy and Ismāʿīlī doctrine in his Jāmiʿ al-ḥikmatayn (“The Reconciliation of Philosophy and Religion”). After introducing his life and works, this chapter explores this text’s central themes, and examines the manner in which Nāṣir attempts to achieve this reconciliation. Fundamental to Nāṣir’s method is a form of spiritual hermeneutics or taʾwīl through which he demonstrates that the truths of philosophy serve as iconic representations of the truths of religion, thereby restoring philosophy to its original state of union with revealed, prophetic wisdom.
This article discusses the major scholarly developments in the study of Ismaili Muslim history and thought. Scholarship on the Ismailis, the second largest branch of Shi‘i Islam, once relied on hostile depictions produced by their adversaries. With the recovery of more primary sources over the last several decades, Ismaili studies is now progressing at a rapid pace. The Ismaili movement originated from a schism in the Imami Shi‘i community over the succession to Ja‘far al‐Sadiq, the fifth Shi‘i Imam. The Ismailis upheld the succession rights of al‐Sadiq's son and designated heir, Isma‘il, and his lineal descendants. The earliest Ismailis directed a revolutionary da‘wah in the ninth century and established the Fatimid Caliphate (909‐1171). Ismaili doctrine during these periods evolved from a gnostic cosmology into a Neoplatonic metaphysics. It also featured cyclical conceptions of Prophethood and Imamat and stressed the distinction between the exoteric (zahir) and esoteric (batin) dimensions of Islam. Major scholarly debates and thematic areas in the study of the pre‐Fatimid and Fatimid periods of Ismaili history pertain to the doctrinal character of early Imami Shi‘ism, Ismaili historiography, the origins of the earliest Ismailis, the emergence of the Ismaili da‘wah, the earliest Ismaili conceptions of Imamat, the different facets of Fatimid rule, the genealogy of the Fatimid Imam‐Caliphs, and the philosophical dimensions of Fatimid Ismaili thought.