News story

New publication of Nasir al-Din Tusi’s works

7th February 2011

The IIS is pleased to announce the publication of Shi‘i Interpretations of Islam: Three Treatises on Islamic Theology and Eschatology, by the prolific 13th century Persian scholar, Nasir al-Dininfo-icon Tusi (1201-1274 CE). In this volume, Dr Sayyad Jalal Badakhchani translates three shorter but significant works of Tusi on Nizari Ismaili doctrines, namely Solidarity and Dissociation (Tawala wa tabarra), Desideratum of the Faithful (Matlub al-mu’minin)and Origin and Destination (Aghaz wa anjam). In these treatises, Tusi provides concise philosophical interpretations of key motifs in Nizari Ismaili thought, with special reference to the existential condition of human beings, their primordial origin and nature, their earthly existence in relation to the Imaminfo-icon, and their destiny in the hereafter.

Previously, the IIS has published English translations of two principal works on Ismaili doctrines by Nasir al-Din Tusi, including Contemplation and Action: The Spiritual Autobiography of a Muslim Scholar (Sayr wa suluk) and Paradise of Submission: A Medieval Treatise on Ismaili Thought (Rawda-yi taslim) in 1998 and 2005, respectively. This latest publication, Shi‘i Interpretations of Islam is in the same style, bringing together the original texts in the Persian language and in English translations.

Dr. Badakhchani describes Nasir al-Din Tusi as “one of the most prolific and outstanding scholars of the 7th/13th century Muslim world. Being a man of science, with a special interest in mathematics, astronomy, Islamic philosophy and theology, he was able to render the Ismaili theological literature in a masterly manner.” Indeed, the religious thought of the Alamutinfo-icon period of Ismaili history has only survived in the works of Nasir al-Din Tusi.Dr. Badakhchani notes that Tusi’s employment of the Persian language ensured his appreciation by the Ismaili da‘wa of the time.

The third and longest of the treatises collected in this latest volume, Origin and Destination (Aghaz wa anjam),is notable for Tusi’s spiritual and hermeneutical exegesis of the Qur’anic doctrine of Qiyama (Resurrection), including his perspectives on the sounding of the Trumpet and the in-gathering for Resurrection, the reading of the Scroll of Deeds, Heaven and Hell, angels and Satan, the rivers of Paradise, the Tree of Bliss and its counterpart the Infernal Tree, etc. Tusi’s interpretations are quite distinctive from those of the Sunni and the Twelver Shi‘i authors of his time.

Dr. Badakchani believes that the picture of Tusi’s Ismaili writings will not be complete, “without translating Muhtashamid Ethics (Akhlagh-i Muhtashami), Attributes of the Noble (Awsaf al-ashraf) and Tusi’s commentary on Ibn Sina’s most famous philosophical work, The Remarks and Admonitions (al-Isharat wa al-tanbihat).” In addition to these, he sees The Nasirean Ethics (Akhlaq-i -Nasiri) and the treatise on Free Will and Predestination(Jabrinfo-icon wa ikhtiyar)as deserving re-translation.

Shi‘i Interpretations of Islam: Three Treatises on Islamic Theology and Eschatology will be of special interest to scholars and students of Ismaili studies, Shi‘ainfo-icon literature and the tradition of Islamic eschatology in general.