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Nasr, Seyyed Hossein 1933-

NASR, Seyyed Hossein 1933-

PERSONAL: Surname is pronounced as one syllable, the last two letters slurred; born April 7, 1933, in Tehran, Persia (now Iran); son of Valiallah (an educator) and Ashraf (Kia) Nasr; married Soussan Danechvary, November 21, 1958; children: one son, one daughter. Education: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, B.S., 1954; Harvard University, Ph.D., 1958. Religion: Muslim. Hobbies and other interests: Traditional and sacred art.

ADDRESSES: Office—Department of Religion, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA 19122.

CAREER: University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran, assistant professor of history of science and philosophy, 1958-63, professor, 1963-79; dean of letters, 1968-72, vice chancellor, 1970-71; Harvard University, visiting professor, 1962, 1965; American University of Beirut, Aga Khan Professor of Islamic Studies, 1964-65; Aryamehr University, Tehran, chancellor, 1972-75; Princeton University, visiting professor, 1975; University of Utah, Salt Lake City, visiting professor, 1979; Temple University, Philadelphia, PA, professor of Islamic studies, 1979-84; Gifford Lecturer, University of Edinburgh, 1981; George Washington University, Washington, DC, professor of Islamic studies, 1984—; Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, A. D. White professor-at-large, 1991—. Chair of governing board, Regional Cooperation for Development Institute (Iran, Pakistan, Turkey).

MEMBER: International Congress of Orientalists, Congress of Iranologists, Congress of Mediaeval Philosophy, International Institute of Philosophy, Imperial Iranian Academy of Philosophy (director, 1974-79), Sigma Xi, Harvard/M.I.T. Association of Tehran (president), Temenos Academy.

AWARDS, HONORS: Royal Book Award of Iran, for Nazar-i mutafakkiran-i islami dar barih-i tabiat; honorary doctorate, Uppsala University, 1977.

WRITINGS:

(Editor and author of introduction and notes) Sadr al- Din Shirazi, Risalah-i se asl (title means "The Three Principles"), University of Tehran Press (Tehran, Iran), 1961.

Hirmis wa niwishtihay-i hirmisi (title means "Hermes and Hermetic Writings in the Islamic World"), University of Tehran Press (Tehran, Iran), 1961.

Nazar-i mutafakkiran-i islami dar barih-i tabiat (title means "Concepts of Nature in Islamic Thought during the Fourth Century"), University of Tehran Press (Tehran, Iran), 1962.

Three Muslim Sages: Avicenna, Suhrawardi, ibn Arabi, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1964.

An Introduction to Islamic Cosmological Doctrines: Conceptions of Nature and Methods Used for Its Study by the Ikhwan al-Safa, al-Biruni, and ibn Sina, Belknap Press (Cambridge, MA), 1964.

(With H. Corbin) Histoire de la philosophie islamique, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1964.

Ideals and Realities of Islam, Allen & Unwin (Boston, MA), 1966.

Islamic Studies: Essays on Law and Society, the Science, and Philosophy and Sufism, Librairie du Liban (Kesrouwan, Lebanon), 1967.

Encounter of Man and Nature, Allen & Unwin (Boston, MA), 1968.

Science and Civilization in Islam, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1968.

Maʾarif-i islami dar jahan-i muʾasir (title means The Islamic Intellectual Heritage in the Contemporary World), Shirkat-i jihi (Tehran, Iran), 1970, 2nd edition, 1974.

(Editor) Historical Atlas of Iran, University of Tehran Press (Tehran, Iran), 1971.

Sufi Essays, Allen & Unwin (Boston, MA), 1972.

(Editor, with M. Mohaghegh, and author of introduction) Abu Rayhan Biruni and Ibn Sina, Al-Asʾilah waʾl-ajwibah (title means "Questions and Answers"), High Council of Culture and the Arts (Tehran, Iran), 1973.

Al-Biruni: An Annotated Bibliography, High Council of Culture and the Arts (Tehran, Iran), 1973.

Jalal al-Din Rumi: Supreme Persian Poet and Sage, High Council of Culture and the Arts (Tehran, Iran), 1974.

(Translator and editor) Allamah Tabatabai, Shiʾite Islam, State University of New York Press (Albany, NY), 1975.

(With R. Beny) Persia, Bridge of Turquoise, McClelland & Stewart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1975.

(With W. Chittick) An Annotated Bibliography of Islamic Science, Volume I, Imperial Iranian Academy of Philosophy (Tehran, Iran), 1975.

Islam and the Plight of Modern Man, Longman (Upper Saddle River, NJ), 1976.

Islamic Science: An Illustrated Study, World of Islam Festival Trust (London, England), 1976.

Western Science and Asian Culture, Indian Council for Cultural Relations (New Delhi, India), 1976.

(Editor) Melanges offerts à Henry Corbin, (Tehran, Iran), 1977.

Islamic Life and Thought, Allen & Unwin (Boston, MA), 1981.

(Editor) The Essential Writings of Frithjof Schuon, Amity House (Amity, NY), 1986.

(With Jaroslav Pelikan and Joseph Kitagawa) Comparative Work Ethics: Judeo-Christian, Islamic, and Eastern, Library of Congress (Washington, DC), 1985.

Islamic Art and Spirituality, State University of New York Press (Albany, NY), 1987.

(Editor) Islamic Spirituality: Foundations, Crossroad (New York, NY), 1987.

(Editor and annotator) Shiism: Doctrines, Thought, and Spirituality, State University of New York Press (Albany, NY), 1988.

Expectation of the Millennium: Shiʾism in History, State University of New York Press (Albany, NY), 1989.

Knowledge and the Sacred, State University of New York Press (Albany, NY), 1989.

Traditional Islam in the Modern World, K. Paul International (New York, NY), 1990.

(Editor) Islamic Spirituality: Manifestations, Crossroad (New York, NY), 1991.

(Editor) Religion of the Heart: Essays Presented to Frithjof Schuon on His Eightieth Birthday, Foundation for Traditional Studies (Washington, DC), 1991.

An Introduction to Islamic Cosmological Doctrines, State University of New York Press (Albany, NY), 1993.

Islamic Art and Spirituality, Mizan, 1993.

The Need for a Sacred Science, State University of New York Press (Albany, NY), 1993.

A Young Muslim's Guide to the Modern World, Library of Islam (Des Plaines, IL), 1993.

Muhammad, Man of God, KAZI Publications (Chicago, IL), 1995.

(Editor, with Oliver Leaman) History of Islamic Philosophy Routledge (New York, NY), 1996.

The Islamic Intellectual Tradition in Persia, Curzon Press (Richmond, Surrey, England), 1996.

Religion and the Order of Nature, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1996.

Sadr al-Din Shirazi and His Transcendent Theosophy: Background, Life and Works, Institute for Humanities and Cultural Studies (Tehran, Iran), 1997.

Man and Nature: The Spiritual Crisis in Modern Man, ABC International Group (Chicago, IL), 1997.

Islamic-Christian Dialogue: Problems and Obstacles to Be Pondered and Overcome, Georgetown University (Washington, DC), 1998.

The Spiritual and Religious Dimensions of the Environmental Crisis, Temenos Academy (London, England), 1999.

(Coeditor) An Anthology of Philosophy in Persia, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1999.

A Journey through Persian History and Culture, Iqbal Academy Pakistan (Lahore, Pakistan), 2000.

The Heart of Islam: Enduring Values for Humanity, Harper SanFrancisco (San Francisco, CA), 2002.

Islam: Religion, History, and Civilization, Harper SanFrancisco (San Francisco, CA), 2003.

Contributor of numerous articles in French, English, Persian, and Arabic to professional journals.

SIDELIGHTS: Prolific author and professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr is an Islamic scholar of prodigious output and deep dedication to the study of Islam. A Publishers Weekly reviewer called him "probably America's leading Islamicist" in a review of Islam: Religion, History, and Civilization, while another Publishers Weekly writer referred to Nasr as "a living legend in Islamic studies" in a review of The Heart of Islam: Enduring Values for Humanity. A career scholar and researcher, "Nasr is a leading expert on Islam, having made extraordinary contributions to the study of science, philosophy, mysticism, and Shiism over several decades," wrote Leonard T. Librande in the Journal of Ecumenical Studies.

Nasr was born on April 7, 1933, in Tehran, Iran, "into a family of distinguished scholars and physicians," wrote a biographer on the Seyyed Hossein Nasr Foundation Web site. "His father, Seyyed Valiallah, a man of great learning and piety, was a physician to the Iranian royal family, as was his father before him," the biographer wrote. Nasr received the usual Persian primary school education, and studied additional subjects such as Islam and the French language at home. "However, for Nasr, it was the long hours of discussion with his father, mostly on philosophical and theological issues, complemented by both reading and reaction to the discourses carried on by those who came to his father's house, that constituted an essential aspect of his early education and which in many ways set the pattern and tone of his intellectual development," the Nasr Foundation biographer observed.

When he was twelve years old, Nasr came to the United States and continued his education. He earned a scholarship to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and was "the first Iranian student to be admitted as an undergraduate at MIT," the Nasr Foundation biographer wrote. He embarked on a study of physics, motivated by the "desire to gain knowledge of the nature of things, at least at the level of physical reality." An intellectual and spiritual crisis in his second year led him to realize that physics would not answer the many metaphysical questions he had about the world. He sought answers in courses in the humanities, philosophy, the history of science, and related subjects. Though Nasr continued in the physics program and graduated with honors, "his heart was no longer with physics," wrote the Nasr Foundation biographer.

Nasr earned a master's degree in geology and geophysics from Harvard in 1956, and later a Ph.D. in the history of science and learning from the same institution at the age of twenty-five. He completed his first book, Science and Civilization in Islam, while studying at Harvard, and it was published by Harvard University Press in 1968. Harvard also published his doctoral dissertation in 1964. After earning his Ph.D., Nasr declined an assistant professor position at Harvard and returned to Iran, where he accepted a position as associate professor of philosophy and the history of science in the Faculty of Letters at Tehran University.

Nasr continued his academic career in Iran for many years. He created the Imperial Iranian Academy of Philosophy under the appointment of the Queen of Iran in 1973, attracting top-flight philosophers and scholars from around the world. He was visiting lecturer and professor at several American universities from the 1960s to the 1980s, including the University of Chicago, where he delivered the Rockefeller Lectures in 1966; the American University of Beirut, where he spent a year as the first Aga Khan Professor of Islamic Studies from 1964 to 1965; Princeton University and the University of Utah, where he conducted short seminars; the University of Edinburgh, where he delivered the Gifford Lectures; and the University of Toronto, where he delivered the Wiegand Lectures on the philosophy of religion. All the while, Nasr continued to write, producing books such as Knowledge and the Sacred which he called "a gift from Heaven," wrote the Nasr Foundation biographer. "He was able to write the texts of the lectures [that comprise the book] with great facility and speed and within a period of less than three months, they were completed. Nasr says it was as though he was writing from a text he had previously memorized."

Though Nasr is an exile from Iran, having left his homeland in 1979 during the Islamic Revolution, he remains one of the world's top-flight Islamic scholars. He "leads an extremely active intellectual life with a very busy schedule of teaching at the university and lecturing at many institutions in America and around the world, writing scholarly works, being involved in several intellectual projects simultaneously, and meeting individuals who are interested in traditional thought," noted the Nasr Foundation biographer. "At the same time, he leads a very intense spiritual life spent in prayer, meditation, and contemplation and also providing spiritual counsel for those who seek his advice and guidance."

Nasr's many works have consistently garnered high praise from critics and reviewers. In Religion and the Order of Nature, Nasr "shows how Western thought moved away from the idea that nature was sacred, and came to see it as something to be used and exploited by humans," wrote Margaret Barker in the Ecologist. This view has expanded around the world and has led to global-scale destruction of the environment by humans unrestrained by any ideas of the sacredness of nature that religion would provide. Barker called Religion and the Order of Nature "a magnificent book, pleading for a return to metaphysics, the knowledge of what is behind and beyond nature." William French, writing in the Journal of Religion, described it as a "superb study," while Patti H. Clayton in the Quarterly Review of Biology called it a "difficult but rewarding read." Barker concluded that the book is a "fascinating and rewarding volume."

In The Heart of Islam: Enduring Values for Humanity, a book specially commissioned by HarperCollins in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks, Nasr presents a detailed discussion of what Islam is, and is not, and how it reconciles with the world's view of Islam since the late summer of 2001. "Nasr does not sidestep the issues that non-Muslims have on their minds, but he addresses them within the context of the vitality and vision of Islam more generally," wrote Steve Young in Library Journal. In the book, Nasr "elucidates Islamic attitudes toward God, revelation, tradition, law, prayer, fasting, afterlife, and human responsibility with clarity and conviction," wrote James Carroll in the New York Times. "His vision of the complexities of Islamic history and the diversity of Islamic practice around the globe is particularly important as antidote to the crude stereotyping to which Muslims have long been subjected." Although a Publishers Weekly critic thought the book lacked a focus and "guiding thesis," Carroll concluded, "Members of the 'general Western public' will put this book down with a fuller grasp of why Islam has shaped the religious impulse of so many and why it still does. For that reason alone, The Heart of Islam should find a wide readership."

Similarly, Islam: Religion, History, and Civilization was called "a good, up-to-date introduction to Islamic faith and history" by John Green, writing in Booklist. "Nasr presents the religion of more than a billion people today without prejudice or preference," wrote a Publishers Weekly critic, concluding that the book "manages to be sweeping in scope yet accessible in style." Green deemed the book "a deep, thoughtful, sympathetic introduction" to Islam's longstanding and deeply varied history. A Kirkus Reviews critic concluded that Islam: Religion, History, and Civilization is "a useful resource for readers seeking an introduction to Islamic thought and its major schools."

Nasr is competent in French and German in addition to Persian, Arabic, and English; he has some knowledge of Italian and the classical languages.

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

periodicals

Booklist, June 15, 1991, review of Ideals and Realities of Islam, p. 1939; January 1, 2003, John Green, review of Islam: Religion, History, and Civilization, p. 812.

Choice, July, 1987, review of Islamic Art and Spirituality, p. 1684; July, 1987, review of Traditional Islam in the Modern World, p. 1711; December, 1987, review of Islamic Spirituality: Foundations, p. 638; May, 1991, review of Islamic Spirituality: Manifestations, p. 1506; February, 1994, review of An Introduction to Islamic Cosmological Doctrines, p. 949; October, 1996, review of History of Islamic Philosophy, p. 293.

Christian Century, August 21, 1991, review of Islamic Spirituality: Manifestations, p. 775.

Commonweal, January 28, 1983, review of Knowledge and the Sacred, p. 59; February 25, 1983, review of Knowledge and the Sacred, p. 117; July 17, 1988, review of Islamic Spirituality: Foundations, p. 380.

Ecologist, January, 2000, Margaret Barker, review of Religion and the Order of Nature, p. 46.

International Philosophical Quarterly, March, 1996, review of An Introduction to Islamic Cosmological Doctrines, p. 123.

Isis, September, 1994, review of An Introduction to Islamic Cosmological Doctrines, p. 504; December, 1994, review of The Need for Sacred Science, p. 681.

Journal of Ecumenical Studies, summer, 1998, Leonard T. Librande, review of Religion and the Order of Nature, p. 515.

Journal of Religion, October, 1989, review of Islamic Spirituality: Foundations, p. 589; April, 1991, review of Expectation of the Millennium, p. 298; April, 1992, review of Knowledge and the Sacred, p. 284; October, 1999, William French, review of Religion and the Order of Nature, p. 689.

Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 2002, review of Islam: Religion, History, and Civilization, p. 1680.

Library Journal, October 1, 1998, review of A Young Muslim's Guide to the Modern World, p. 61; October 1, 1998, review of Shiism: Doctrines, Thought, and Spirituality, p. 62; October 1, 2002, Steve Young, review of The Heart of Islam: Enduring Values for Humanity, p. 102.

Middle East Journal, winter, 1988, review of Traditional Islam in the Modern World, p. 130; winter, 1988, review of Islamic Art and Spirituality, p. 141; autumn, 1988, review of Islamic Spirituality: Foundations, p. 692; autumn, 1989, review of Shiism, p. 709; summer, 1990, review of Knowledge and the Sacred, p. 539; winter, 1991, review of Expectation of the Millennium, p. 160; spring, 1992, review of Islamic Spirituality: Foundations, p. 343; autumn, 1992, review of Islamic Spirituality: Manifestations, p. 713; autumn, 2002, Charles E. Butterworth, review of An Anthology of Philosophy in Persia, pp. 735-736.

New York Times, September 8, 2002, James Carroll, "Articles of Faith," review of The Heart of Islam, section 7, p. 13.

Parabola, May, 1987, review of Islamic Art and Spirituality, p. 98; November, 1987, review of Islamic Spirituality: Foundations, p. 102; February, 1995, review of The Need for Sacred Science, p. 99; May, 1997, review of Religion and the Order of Nature, p. 122; August, 1998, review of Religion and the Order of Nature, p. 102.

Philosophy East and West, July, 2003, J. E. Tiles, "The Lives and Minds of Traditions," p. 403.

Philosophy in Review, February, 1997, review of History of Islamic Philosophy, p. 58.

PR Newswire, April 27, 2003, "PNCHonors Five Giants in the Arts, Science, and Public Service."

Publishers Weekly, February 1, 1991, review of Islamic Spirituality: Manifestations and review of Islamic Spirituality: Foundations, p. 61; August 12, 2002, review of The Heart of Islam, pp. 295-296; December 23, 2002, review of Islam, p. 64.

Quarterly Review of Biology, Patti H. Clayton, review of Religion and the Order of Nature, p. 453.

Reference & Research Book News, April, 1991, review of Traditional Islam in the Modern World, p. 1; September, 1993, review of An Introduction to Islamic Cosmological Doctrines, p. 1; November, 1993, review of The Need for a Sacred Science, p. 3; November, 1996, review of History of Islamic Philosophy, p. 1.

Religious Studies Review, April, 1984, review of Knowledge and the Sacred, p. 153; October, 1984, review of Knowledge and the Sacred, p. 348; July, 1988, review of Islamic Spirituality: Foundations, p. 267; April, 1992, review of Islamic Spirituality: Manifestations, p. 159; October, 1998, review of Religion and the Order of Nature, p. 400.

Review for Religious, May, 1991, review of Islamic Spirituality: Manifestations, p. 474.

Times Literary Supplement, March 5, 1982.

University Press Book News, September, 1989, review of Knowledge and the Sacred, p. 5; April, 1992, review of Knowledge and the Sacred, p. 284.

online

Seyyed Hossein Nasr Foundation Web site, http://www.nasr.org/ (November 21, 2003), biography of Nasr.

Spirituality & Health Web site, http://www.spiritualityhealth.com/ (November 21, 2003), Frederick and Mary Ann Brussat, review of The Heart of Islam.*

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