Ṭūsī, Naṣīr Al-Dīn
ṬŪSĪ, NAṢĪR AL-DĪN
ṬŪSĪ, NAṢĪR AL-DĪN . Naṣīr al-Dīn Ṭūsī (Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad ibn Ḥasan, ah 597–672/1201–1274 ce), addressed in general Islamic literature as khawājah (master) and the muḥaqqiq (scholar) of Ṭūs, was a Persian Shīʿī philosopher, theologian, mathematician, astronomer, and statesman. He is by far the most celebrated scholar of the thirteenth century in eastern Islamic lands. Very little is known about his childhood and early education, apart from what he reveals in his autobiography, the Sayr wa sulūk. He was born in Ṭūs, in northeastern Iran into an Ithnā ʿasharī (Twelver) Shīʿī family and died in Baghdad. He lost his father at a young age. Fulfilling the wish of his father, Ṭūsī took learning and scholarship very seriously and traveled far and wide to attend the lectures of the renowned scholars of the time. In a relatively short period, Ṭūsī mastered a number of disciplines. At a time when religious education was a priority, especially in his own family, which was associated with Twelver Shīʿī scholars, Ṭūsī seems to have shown great interest in mathematics, astronomy, and intellectual sciences.
In the Sayr wa sulūk, Ṭūsī gives a brief account of his theological and philosophical education, but he does not go into details about the scholars with whom he became acquainted, nor of his studies in mathematics and astronomy, which latter became important areas of investigation for him. But we know from other sources that Ṭūsī was a precocious learner and by the time he was seventeen he had studied the philosophy of Ibn Sīnā (d. 1037) with Farīd al-Dīn Dāmād (d. c. 1246) and attended the lectures of Quṭb al-Dīn Sarakhsī (d. 1221) in Nīshāpūr, where he is said to have met the famous poet and mystic Farīd al-Dīn ʿAṭṭār (d. 1220). At around this time, it is also certain that he studied jurisprudence.
At the age of twenty-two, Ṭūsī joined the court of Nāṣir al-Dīn Muḥtashim (d. 1257), the Ismāʿīlī governor of Quhistān, in northeast Iran, where in his own words he was accepted into the Ismāʿīlī community. It is probable that in Nīshāpūr, which at the time was an active center of Ismāʿīlī preaching, he had become acquainted with its teachings. Later, in a journey from Iraq to Khurāsān, he met Shihāb al-Dīn Muḥtashim (d. c. 1245), a highly renowned Ismāʿīlī scholar, and gradually he became more acquainted with Ismāʿīlī teachings through the religious writings of the Nizārī Ismāʿīlī Imām Ḥasan ʿAlāʾ Dhikrihī al-Salām (d. 1166).
In Quhistān, Ṭūsī developed a close personal relationship with the governor and dedicated to him and his family a number of scholarly works, such as the Akhlāq-i Nāṣirī, Akhlāq-i Muḥtashimī, and Risāla-yi muʿīniyya, which ultimately paved the way for his move to Alamūṭ, the seat of Ismāʿīlī political power in Iran.
Apart from editing, translating, and composing a variety of philosophical and scientific works, Ṭūsī produced a number of Ismāʿīlī texts, adding his scholarly background and talents to the unique collection of literature and archival materials in Alamūṭ. An example of this genre is his strong philosophical and esoteric interpretation of Ismāʿīlī thought, as represented in the Rawda-yi taslīm in particular.
The Mongol invasions of western Asia led to the collapse of Ismāʿīlī political power and the massacre of Ismāʿīlīs, who were perceived by the Mongols as a serious threat. Under these circumstances, Ṭūsī sought alternative patronage and was able to obtain employment in the emerging court of the Mongol conquerors, who wished to show support for learning and science. He also embarked on writing a series of Twelver Shīʿī works.
In the Mongol court, Ṭūsī witnessed the fall of the Abbasid caliphate, and after securing the trust of Hūlegū (d. 1265), he was given the full authority of administering the awqāf (religious foundations). His primary concern during this period was to protect the life of scholars and their freedom to pursue learning. He also established probably the most important observatory and center of scientific learning of his time in Marāghah, in the northwest of Iran. Under these circumstances Ṭūsī acted as a senior advisor to Hūlegū and continued his scholarly activities and writing on various aspects of Shīʿī thought.
The corpus of Ṭūsī's writings comprise approximately 135 titles on a wide variety of subjects, including astronomy, ethics, logic, mathematics, philosophy, theology, Sufism, poetry and popular sciences. Some of these works—for example, his commentary on Ibn Sīnā's al-Ishārāt wa-al-tanbīhāt on philosophy and the Akhlāq-i Nāṣirī on theoretical and practical ethics—are still used as textbooks in many centers of learning in the Muslim world.
Ṭūsī's interest in ethical writings begun in Quhistān when, in answer to the request of Nāṣir al-Dīn Muḥtashim, he produced a number of ethical works, namely the Persian translations of Ibn Muqaffah's (d. 759) al-Adab al-wajīz lil-walad al-ṣaqīr, Akhlāq-i Muḥtashimī, and Akhlāq-i Nāṣirī, as well as the twenty-second chapter of the Rawda-yi taslīm, which, in line with the content of Akhlāq-i Nāṣirī, could be classified as a text on philosophical ethics.
A proper scholarly investigation into Ṭūsī's contribution to philosophy, astronomy, trigonometry, and mathematics has only recently begun. His importance in religion lies partly in his being one of the subtlest and most learned of the Shīʿī theologians, and partly in his application of philosophical ideas and methods to Islamic contexts and problems, as well as his active involvement in the politico-religious debates of his time. Within the overall domain of Islamic philosophical thinking, by defending Ibn Sīnā's philosophy, Ṭūsī should be considered as representing a revival of philosophical thinking in the eastern Islamic lands. For him, differences between Muslim sects and persuasions were merely theological debates, allowing the partisans to move freely from one stand to another without necessarily having to take parochial positions. It is from such a perspective that his ideas contributed to the development of ḥikmah mutaʿāliyah (higher wisdom), later developed by Mullā Ṣadrā (d. 1641) and the school of Isfahan.
There are still no comprehensive studies on Ṭūsī in European languages. See H. Daiber and F. G. Ragep, "al-Ṭūsī, Naṣīr al-Dīn," in Encyclopaedia of Islam, new edition (Leiden, 1999), vol. X, pp. 747–757; as well as Wilferd Madelung, "Naṣīr al-Dīn Ṭūsī's Ethics between Philosophy: Shiʿism and Sufism," in Ethics in Islam (Ninth Giorgio Levi Della Vida Conference, May 6–8, 1983; Malibu, Calif., 1985), edited by Richard G. Hovannisian, pp. 85–101; Hamid Dabashi, "Khwāja Naṣīr al-Dīn al-Ṭūsī: The Philosopher/Vizier and the Intellectual Climate of His Times," in History of Islamic Philosophy, edited by Seyyed Hossein Nasr and Oliver Leaman (London, 1996), pp. 527–584; Herman Landolt, "Khwāja Naṣīr al-Dīn Ṭūsī, Ismāʿīlīsm and Ishrāqī Philosophy," and Farhad Daftary, "Naṣīr al-Dīn al-Ṭūsī and the Ismailis of the Alamut Period," in Naṣīr al-Dīn Ṭūsī, ed. N. Pourjavady and ž. Vesel (Tehran, 2000), pp. 13–30 and 59–67, respectively. Translations of some of Ṭūsī's works include: Taṣawwurāt, edited and translated into English by Vladimir A. Ivanow as Rawãatuʾt-Taslīm, Commonly Called Taṣawwurāt (Leiden, 1950), and into French by Christian Jambet as La convocation d'Alamūt: Somme de philosophie ismaélienne (Lagrasse, France, 1996); Akhlāq-i Nāṣirī, translated in English as The Nasirean Ethics by G. M. Wickens (London, 1964); al-Tadhkirah fīʿilm al-hayʾa, edited and translated into English by F. G. Ragep in Naṣīr al-Dīn Ṭūsī's Memoir on Astronomy (New York, 1993), and the Sayr wa sulūk, edited and translated into English by S. J. Badakhchani as Contemplation and Action: The Spiritual Autobiography of a Muslim Scholar (London, 1998).
S. J. Badakhchani (2005)