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Al-Shaykh al-Ṭūsī: His Writings on Theology and Their Reception

Whereas most of the theological works by al-Sharīf al-Murtaḍā (d. 436/1044) have been preserved and are now available in critical editions and have partly been studied, only some of the kalām  writings by his most prominent student, the Shaykh al-ṭāʾifa  Muḥammad b. al-Ḥasan al-Ṭūsī (d. 460/1067), are extant.

While the theological thought of Twelver Shiʿism during the 3rd/9th and 4th/10th centuries has been studied relatively well (as much as is possible on the basis of the few, mostly secondary sources that are preserved), little is known about its doctrinal developments from the early 5th/11th century on wards. Whereas most of the theological works by al-Sharīf al-Murtaḍā (d. 436/1044) have been preserved and are now available in critical editions and have partly been studied, only some of the kalām  writings by his most prominent student, the Shaykh al-ṭāʾifa  Muḥammad b. al-Ḥasan al-Ṭūsī (d. 460/1067), are extant. Al-Murtaḍā had departed from the theological views of his teacher al-Shaykh al-Mufīd, who had maintained in many issues the doctrines of the Muʿtazilī School of Baghdad, in favour of those of the school of Abū Hāshim al-Jubbāʾī (d. 321/933),   the Bahshamiyya, due to the influence of his teacher ʿAbd al-Jabbār al-Hamadhānī (d. 415/1025), head of the Bahshamiyya of his time. Quṭb al-Dīn Saʿīd b. Hibat Allāh al-Rāwandī (d.573/1177–1178) enumerates more than 90 doctrinal differences between al-Mufīd and al-Murtaḍā in his lost work al-Khilāf alladhī tajaddada bayna’l-Shaykh al-Mufīd wa’l-Murtaḍā.

As was the case with al-Shaykh al-Ṭūsī, virtually all leading Twelver Shiʿi scholars who flourished during the first half of the 5th/11th century had studied either with the Shaykh al-Mufīd, with al-Sharīf al-Murtaḍā or both. These include Abu’l-Ḥasan Muḥammad b. Muḥammad b. Aḥmad al-Buṣrawī (d. 443/1051), author of al-Mufīd fi’l-taklīf  , a work that presumably dealt with theology and legal issues (lost);  Abu’l-Ṣalāḥ Taqī b. Najm b. ʿUbayd Allāh al-Ḥalabī (d. 447/1055), author of al-Kāfī fi’l-taklīf  , on theology and legal issues,  and Taqrīb al-maʿārif  ;  Abū Yaʿlā Sallār [Sālār] b. ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz al-Daylamī (d. 448/1057 [?]), who wrote al-Tadhkira fī ḥaqīqat al-jawhar wa’l-ʿaraḍ   and apparently a work entitled Tatmīm al-mulakhkhaṣ , completing al-Murtaḍā’s al-Mulakhkhaṣ  (both are lost);  Abu’l-Fatḥ Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b. ʿUthmān al-Khaymī al-Karājikī (d. 449/1057), who wrote extensively on theology, including a commentary on al-Murtaḍā’s  Jumal al-ʿilm  (apparently lost); Abū Yaʿlā Muḥammad b. Ḥasan b. Ḥamza al-Jaʿfarī (d. 463/1070 [?]),  and qāḍī   ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz b. Niḥrīr b. ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz b. al-Barrāj al-Ṭarābulusī (b. ca. 400/1009, d. 481/1088–1089).  Mention should also be made of Abū ʿAlī al-Ḥasan b. Aḥmad b. ʿAlī b. al-Muʿallim al-Ḥalabī (d. after 453/1061), who was a student of Abu’l-Ṣalāḥ al-Ḥalabī and wrote a commentary on al-Murtaḍā’s  Mulakhkhaṣ. While al-Karājikī, Abū Yaʿlā al-Jaʿfarī and possibly Abu’l-Ḥasan al-Buṣrawī remained faithful to al-Mufīd, maintaining as a rule the Baghdādī positions, all other theologians of this generation apparently followed al-Murtaḍā in their preference for the doctrines of the Bahshamiyya. Some of these theologians were also familiar with at least some aspects of Abu’l-Ḥusayn al-Baṣrī’s (d. 436/1044) theological thought, albeit in a negative manner. It was mostly the latter’s criticism of the Twelver Shiʿi notion of the imamate, expressed for example in his refutation (naqḍ) of al-Murtaḍā’s Kitāb al-shāfī  , that was known to and refuted by Sallār [Sālār] b. ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz   and by al-Karājikī.  None of these refutations is extant.

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The Article was written by Hassan Farhang Ansari. Ansari, PhD, earned his doctorate at the EPHE of the Sorbonne, Paris. He has also studied at Hawza Ilmiyya, Tehran and Qom, where his work focused on the study of philosophy, theology, canon law, and principles of jurisprudence. He is Member at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. His publications include (with Sabine Schmidtke) Khulāṣat al-naẓar. An anonymous Imāmī-Muʿtazilī Treatise (late 6th/12th or early 7th/13th century) (Tehran 2006) and, together with Wilferd Madelung, a critical edition of Ibn al-Malāḥimī’s Tuḥfat al-mutakallimīn fī l-radd ʿalā l-falāsifa (Tehran 2008).

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