Tusi, Qunawi and tashkik al-wujud

By Rosabel Ansari
Submitted to Session P5274 (Encounters of falsafa and Sufism in the Persianate world, 1200-1900, 2018 Annual Meeting
All Middle East;
Islamic Studies;
LCD Projector without Audio;
Discussions of wuj?d (being) permeate both Arabic philosophical and Sufi texts. Thus, it should be no surprise that Na??r al-D?n al-??s? (1201-1274), the famous philosopher, astronomer and Avicennan exegete was engaged in a correspondence with the leading Akbarian Sufi of his day, ?adr al-D?n al-Q?naw? (1207-1274) regarding this subject. Yet, this correspondence has been little studied and its importance for Islamic intellectual history under appreciated. I will examine some of the discussions contained therein as a way to highlight the intellectual peerage of both traditions and to show some of their common theoretical discussions.
In specific, I will focus on ??s?'s criticisms of Akbarian metaphysics based on the doctrine of tashk?k al-wuj?d (the ambiguity of being). I will show how he employs this important doctrine to refute the notion of wa?dat al-wuj?d (the unity of being) attributed to the Akbarians in a way that is both transformative and meticulous. ??s? takes the doctrine from his predecessor Ab? Na?r al-F?r?b? (872-950) whose genesis of the idea was a crossroads of metaphysics and the philosophy of language. ??s? is meticulous and true to F?r?b?'s spirit in this way, but simultaneously transforms the doctrine by shifting the focus away from the ambiguity of being as it applies to mawj?d?t (individual beings) towards the ambiguity of wuj?d as a concept. This theoretical leap forms part of a move common to both the philosophical and Sufi traditions after Ibn S?n? (980-1037) and Ibn al-?Arab? (1165-1240) to theorize wuj?d as an abstraction, and represents a shift from a more properly Aristotelian metaphysics towards something uniquely Islamic.
T?s? uses the doctrine of tashk?k al-wuj?d in a number of other philosophical texts (such as the Shar? al-Ish?r?t and the Mu??ri? al-mu??ri?), thereby transforming it from a marginal aspect of Arabic philosophy into a central doctrine that would eventually be incorporated by the Akbarian Sufi tradition as well as that of the Ash?ar?s and Mull? ?adr?. Looking at how he uses this concept to respond to Q?naw?'s metaphysical challenges will be paramount to understanding the mechanisms of post-classical metaphysics in the Islamic world.