UPDATE (April 12, 2015) We have started a seven-part series of reflections on the life, influence, and philosophical foundations of the cosmology of Shaykh Aḥmad. This series is based mostly upon a chapter this author has written, in shāʾa Ãllāh to be published in an anthology on philosophy in Qajar Iran to be published by Brill (edited by Sabine Schmidtke and Reza Pourjavady).
Here is a breakdown of the seven parts of this series:
- Life, Travels, Character and Charisma
- Works: Opera Majora and Minora
- Legacy and Influence I: Students, Close Disciples, Licensees, and Other Contemporaries
- Legacy and Influence II: Shaykhism
- Major Arcs in the Philosophy of Shaykh Aḥmad I: Preliminary Considerations
- Major Arcs in the Philosophy of Shaykh Aḥmad II: Objective Logic and Dialectics
- Major Arcs in the Philosophy of Shaykh Aḥmad III: Dialectical Metaphysics and the Project of Illuminationism.
Much of this series features new research and discoveries that will not be found published elsewhere in any language. The final book chapter will be made available at a later date, inshāʾa Ãllāh.
End of Update
One of the most profound and original cosmologists and scientists produced by Muslim civilization in recent centuries is Shaykh Aḥmad ibn Zayn al-Dīn al-Aḥsāʾī (1753-1826 CE - شيخ أحمد بن زين الدين الأحسائي). The author1 of the famous biographical encyclopedia Rawḍātu ãl-Jannāt eulogized him as the
Critical Interpreter of the Divine Sages; Tongue of both the Cognizants (ʿUrafāʾ ) and of the Theologians; Blaze of the Epoch and Philosopher of the Era; Knower of the Secrets of the Foundations and of the Meanings; Our Shaykh: Aḥmad, son of Shaykh Zaynuddīn, son of Shaykh Ibrāhīm, al-Aḥsāʾī al-Baḥrānī.
Shaykh Aḥmad was an investigator seeking after knowledge; i.e., he was a scientist2 in the most general and Hermetic sense of the word ‘science’. That is, Shaykh Aḥmad operated within a dialectical framework in which the banal divisions between the universes of faith, knowledge, spiritual and physical are sublimated into a multi-dimensional and unified framework.
More generally Shaykh Aḥmad was a cosmologist (in the classical and sublime sense as revived by Alfred North Whitehead). That is, he spent his life in a deep meditation upon the questions of origin, meaning, and destiny of the world at both the macrocosmic and the microcosmic levels, while making use of all of the available scientific and revelatory resources of his time and age.
Unfortunately, Shaykh Aḥmad is not nearly as well known known in intellectual circles as he deserves. That goes for Western as well as Eastern audiences. With the exception of the philosopher Henry Corbin (d. 1978) most historians of Islamic philosophy and science fail to mention him or his profound contributions to Islamic and scientific thought.3
We are presently working on a number of projects relating to Shaykh Aḥmad. These include a critical edition and translation of his Fawāʾid Ḥikmiyyaḧ (Observations in Wisdom), a separate study of his thought in general, as well as other projects. See also the following pages:
Preliminary work has already been done in Dr. Idris Samawi Hamid's doctoral dissertation, The Metaphysics and Cosmology of Process According to Shaykh Aḥmad al-Aḥsāʾī: Critical Edition, Translation, and Analysis of Observations in Wisdom.
Dr. Idris Samawi Hamid would like to emphasize that his own research on the Shaykh has developed and grown since finishing the dissertation, and so should not be taken as an expression of his current views on the topic. On the other hand, given the historical and seminal value of this dissertation as the first philosophical investigation in the West devoted to the thought of Shaykh Aḥmad, he has agreed to make it publicly available on this website to the intellectual community.
In the coming weeks and month we will update this page with more information about Shaykh Aḥmad and related research projects.Download The Metaphysics and Cosmology of Process According to Shaykh Aḥmad al-Aḥsāʾī!
- Muhammad Baqir Khwansari (d. 1895). ↩
- Note that the word ‘science’ comes from the Latin ‘scientia’ meaning “knowledge”. ↩
- The reasons for this are rooted in part to politics within the traditional Academy in Iran and Iraq and in part to domestic politics in those same lands. In future updates to this page time we may explore some of these issues. ↩