al-Sijistani, Abu Sulayman Muhammad


al-Sijistani, Abu Sulayman Muhammad
(d. c. 375/985)
   The foremost figure of the much-celebrated ‘humanist’ movement during the Buyid dynasty in Baghdad, al-Sijistani formed a circle of intellectuals whose lively meetings (majalis) ranged over philosophy, religion, science, politics and cultural issues. His own philosophical lineage traces back to al-Farabi and Abu Bishr Matta by way of the Christian logician Yahya ibnAdi. Only a few of his own works are extant, most notably the Cupboard of Wisdom (Siwan al-hikma), although he is said to have produced numerous commentaries on Aristotelian logic as well (hence his nickname, al-mantiqi, the ‘Logician’). On the whole, however, al-Sijistani favored teaching and discussion over writing. Thus, most of what we know about him comes down to us from his student al-Tawhidi, who acted as a secretary of sorts at the sessions and recorded his teacher’s ideas in the books Borrowed Lights (al-Muqabasat) and Book of Pleasure and Conviviality (al-Imtawa al-mu’anasa). From these works we get a picture of al-Sijistani’s quasi-Aristotelian and Neoplatonic views on God, the soul and reason. His primary concern was the relation between philosophy and religion, which he saw as independent and irreconcilable sources of truth, characterized by different methods and aims. He was consequently scornful of attempts to harmonize the two (e.g. by the Brethren of Purity) and saw the kalam theologians as crypto-dogmatists, whose selfproclaimed commitment to reason was at best disingenuous.
   Although a deeply religious man himself, al-Sijistani was convinced that reason was capable of leading us to knowledge, virtue, salvation and happiness. Al-Sijistani’s importance in the Islamic philosophical tradition lies less with his own profundity or originality than with the fact that, perhaps more than any other figure of the fourth/tenth century, he consolidated, epitomized and disseminated the collective wisdom of his time.
   See al-Farabi; humanism; Ibn ‘Adi; philosophy; rationalism; al-Tawhidi; theology
   Further reading: Kraemer 1986a/93, 1986b; Nasr with Aminrazavi 1999; Netton 1992/99

Islamic Philosophy. . 2007.

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