The Merits of the Bāṭiniyya: al-Ghazālī’s Appropriation of Ismā‘īlī Cosmology


Khalil Andani. 5/1/2018. “The Merits of the Bāṭiniyya: al-Ghazālī’s Appropriation of Ismā‘īlī Cosmology.” Oxford Journal of Islamic Studies, 29, 2, Pp. 181-229. Publisher's Version


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.
Last updated on 07/07/2018