al-Dawani (or al-Dawwani), Jalal al-Din


al-Dawani (or al-Dawwani), Jalal al-Din
(830–908/1426–1502)
   Al-Dawani is most famous for his Persian ethical treatise, Lustres of Illumination on the Noble Virtues (Lawamial-ishraq fi makarim al-akhlaq), more commonly known as the Jalalean Ethics (Akhlaq-i Jalali). Ironically this work, which is closely modeled on al-Tusi’s more substantial and original Nasirean Ethics (itself an extension of Miskawayh’s Refinement of Character, which in turn took Yahya ibn ‘Adi’s work of the same name as its template), does not really constitute al- Dawani’s most important contribution to the Islamic philosophical tradition. Arguably, it is in his commentarial writings as a representative of the School of Shiraz, e.g. The Shapes of the Houris in Commentary on [al- Suhrawardi’s] Temple of Light (Shawakil al-hur fi shahr Hayakil al-nur) and a supercommentary on al-Tusi’s Abstract of Theology (Tajrid al-kalam), that his unique significance emerges. For commentaries of this sort were the dominant vehicle for philosophical work at that time and it is there that one sees most clearly his pivotal role as one of the first thinkers to blend the two great competing currents of Islamic philosophy: Illuminationist (ishraqi) and Peripatetic (mashsha’i) thought. In this respect, he might be seen as a kind of ‘godfather’ of the School of Isfahan, which would forge a robust new synthesis from the mashsha’i, ishraqi, Sufi and Shi‘ite traditions. Of particular importance is the ongoing debate he had with other seminal figures in the School of Shiraz, Sadr al-Din al-Dashtaki and his son Ghiyath al-Din. Both were Illuminationists who espoused a kind of radical essentialism that went far beyond al-Suhrawardi’s famed insistence upon the primacy of essence. On al-Suhrawardi’s position, existence as a generality is simply a mental abstraction, with no extramental reality at all. The Dashtakis pushed this conclusion a step further, arguing that existence did not even possess mental reality. Al- Dawani defended a position whose roots can be traced back through Fakhr al-Din al-Razi (and arguably to Ibn Sina himself, insofar as the ‘modern’ Ash‘arites like al- Razi basically adopted a moderately Avicennan stance on the question of essence and existence). On his account, existence does have external or extramental reality, albeit as something singular, simple, undifferentiated and necessary – that is to say, God. It is individual entities that are not extramentally real; they are rather only contingent parts of existence conceived by the mind. The reality of the external world is thus made possible only by essences or quiddities. In this way, al-Dawani tempers Illuminationist essentialism, pushing it closer to an Avicennan model. This kind of compromise would in turn influence Mir Damad, who founded the School of Isfahan, but be subsequently rejected by Mulla Sadra, who formulated a more radical version of the primacy of existence.
   See Ibn Sina; Illuminationism; Mir Damad; al-Razi, Fakhr al-Din; al-Suhrawardi; al-Tusi
   Further reading: al-Dawani 1839/1977; Nasr 2006

Islamic Philosophy. . 2007.