Encyclopedia of Medieval Philosophy

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Afḍal al-Dīn al-Kāshānī (Bābā Afḍal)

  • Mathieu TerrierEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-024-1151-5_582-1


Afḍal al-Dīn al-Kāshānī, known as Bābā Afḍal (d. ca 610/1213), was an Iranian philosopher and poet. Little is known about his life except that he had a lot of students and entertained relationships with princes. Although the term ‘Bābā ’ is often used in the Persian world to refer to a Sufi master, it cannot be affirmed that he was a Sufi in the narrowest sense. Yet, he is to be seen as a philosopher in the ancient sense, as both a professor and a spiritual guide. He wrote most of his works in Persian, probably with the intention of establishing Persian as a philosophical language alongside Arabic. Combining freely Peripatetic and Neoplatonic tendencies, he can hardly be classified as belonging to a specific school of though. All his concerns tend to the knowledge of the human soul or the “self” (khūd), and its progress towards perfection. He regarded self-knowledge as superior to all other sciences, being the unique access to immortality and eternity. In this respect, he set himself apart all other Muslim medieval philosophers and had some influence on the “philosophical renaissance” of the eleventh/seventeenth-century Safavid Iran.

Afḍal al-Dīn Muḥammad b. Ḥasan Maraqī al-Kāshānī, known as Bābā Afḍal (d. ca 610/1213), was an Iranian philosopher and poet born during the second half of the sixth/twelfth century and died in the seventh/thirteenth century. According to an anonymous prosopography composed at the end of the seventh/thirteenth or the early eighth/fourteenth century, he died circa 610/1213 (Mukhtaṣar, pp. 322–323; Zaryāb, p. 31; Rypka, pp. 838–39). As he speaks in one of his letters of having pursued the quest for wisdom for 60 years (Bābā Afḍal, Muṣannafāt, 698; Chittick, 140), we can assume that he was born before 550/1155 and had been at least 70 when he died.

The name of Bābā Afḍal Kāshānī appears for the first time in the works of the great Shī‘i philosopher, theologian, astronomer, and vizier, Naṣīr al-Dīn al-Ṭūsī (d. 672/1273). In his commentary on Avicenna’s al-Ishārāt wa l-tanbīhāt, composed before 644/1247, Ṭūsī refers to an opinion of Bābā Afḍal on a point of logic (Ṭūsī, I, p. 283). In his Sayr wa sulūk, Ṭūsī also mentions having studied mathematics with Kamāl al-Dīn Muḥammad al-Ḥāsib, a student of Bābā Afḍal (Zaryāb, pp. 31–32).

As his letters and introductions indicate, Bābā Afḍal had children, family members, and a lot of students. He also entertained relationships with a number of princes. Yet practically nothing is known about his life. The only event mentioned by biographers is that he was briefly imprisoned by a local governor on charges of sorcery (siḥr). The evidence is given by a poem he wrote in prison (Muṣannafāt, pp. 731–732; Chittick, p. 142).

As regards his religious affiliation, Mujtabā Mīnuwī and Yaḥyā Mahdawī, the Iranian editors of Bābā Afḍal’s collected Persian works, are of the opinion that he belonged to the Ismā‘īli branch of Shī‘ism, which was powerful at his time. The only fact that supports this assumption is that Kamāl al-Dīn al-Ḥāsib, a student of Bābā Afḍal and Ṭūsī’s master in mathematics, was a reputed Ismā‘īli figure and probably the one who converted Ṭūsī to Ismā‘īlism (Muṣannafāt, introduction, xxii). Furthermore, it is said that certain ideas developed in the Jāmi‘ al-ḥikma (The Sum of Wisdom), attributed to Bābā Afḍal, echo Ismā‘īli teachings, but this attribution remains very dubious (Chittick, p. 27). Bābā Afḍal himself alludes to Sunnism as the best path (Muṣannafāt, p. 297; Chittick, p. 219), but this is not conclusive, since many Shī‘i thinkers were observing “pious dissimulation” (taqiyya) by keeping their faith secret. More convincingly, his conception of intelligence (khirad) is not only unrelated with the Ismā‘īlī doctrine but also contradictory with it as it will be seen.

Seyyed Hossein Nasr has assumed that Bābā Afḍal was a Sufi (Nasr, p. 251). In the Persian world the term “Bābā,” which literally means “father,” is often used to refer to a Sufi master. Moreover, Bābā Afḍal refers to his students as his “religious brothers” (barādarān-i dīnī) and his “true companions” (yārān-i ḥaqīqī), which suggests very particular students, if not disciples (Chittick, p. 5). His pedagogical style of composition, as well as his choosing to write in Persian, indicates that these “companions” were neither trained in Islamic sciences nor at ease with philosophical Arabic, as a group of Persian Sufis could have been. This surely enables us to see him as a spiritual master and a Sufi in the broadest sense, since he prioritized the inner dimension of the Islamic teachings over its external and legalistic dimension. However, Chittick argues, as he was not formally affiliated to a spiritual guide (murshid) nor to a chain of transmission (silsila) tracing back to the Prophet nor was teaching the path to a direct perception of the divine, it cannot be affirmed that Bābā Afḍal was a Sufi in the narrowest sense (Chittick, p. 8). Ultimately, it would be vain to seek the origin of the ideas of Bābā Afḍal in a sectarian affiliation.

Bābā Afḍal is buried in Maraq, a mountain village north-west of Kāshān, in Central Iran. His tomb has been integrated in a mud-brick building surmounted by a pyramidal dome which is said to have been built in the Mongol period. The building contains a miḥrab in stucco dating from the Mongol period and two wooden frames delicately carved from the Safavid era. The building is said to have been built by an Ilkhanid prince, a devoted disciple of Bābā Afḍal, who is buried next to him and designated as “the king of Zanzibar.” This unverifiable affirmation is further evidence of the mystery of Bābā Afḍal’s life as well as of his popularity (Qarā’ī Gurgānī, p. 735).

His Thought

What sets Bābā Afḍal apart among Muslim medieval philosophers is the fact that he wrote most of his works in Persian. Iranian philosophers such as Avicenna (d. 428/1037), Suhrawardī (d. 587/1191), and Naṣīr al-Dīn al-Ṭūsī also wrote in Persian but composed their major works in Arabic. Bābā Afḍal not only chose to write his major works in Persian; he also translated into Persian some of his own works first composed in Arabic – only the Persian versions of these works have survived – as well as some Arabic writings reputed to be translations from Greek sources. This linguistic choice may have been for a pedagogical need, as most of his students were unskilled in Arabic; however, it may well denote the general intention of establishing Persian as a philosophical language alongside Arabic. His effort to find Persian equivalents to philosophical terms in Arabic can be compared with Avicenna’s in his Dānishnāma-yi ‘alā’ī, but, in contrast with Avicenna, Bābā Afḍal devoted all his works to this undertaking.

As a philosopher, Bābā Afḍal can hardly be classified as belonging to a specific school of thought. He does not even use the word falsafa in his own compositions, nor does he refer to any philosopher other than “Hermes Trismegistus” and Aristotle. A contemporary of Ibn Rushd, alias Averroes (d. 595/1198) and Suhrawardī (d. 587/1191), Bābā Afḍal combines Peripatetic and Neoplatonic tendencies. More than for the originality of his views, he merits attention for the way he focused his reflections sharply on the goals he defined. Bābā Afḍal’s intellectual research does not deal with the classical questions of Arabic medieval philosophy, such as the proofs of the Necessary Being, nor with mathematics, astronomy, or medicine, as did Muslim philosophers of the medieval period. The very center of gravity of his thought is “humanness”; his major goal is to determine the right path through life to become truly and perfectly, human. All his metaphysical, ontological, and logical considerations lead ultimately to ethical conclusions. He is in this respect heir to the Socratic attitude, as well as a representative, after Ibn Miskawayh (d. 421/1030) – an Iranian thinker writing in Arabic – of “humanism in Islamic context” (Arkoun).

More precisely, all Bābā Afḍal’s concerns tend to the knowledge of the human soul (nafs), typically designated as the “self” (khūd), and its progress toward perfection. The question of the self-knowledge – its enablement, its methods, its goals, and its fruits – lies at the heart of all his works, be they his own compositions or translations of others. Seyyed Hossein Nasr has rightly maintained that Bābā Afḍal’s philosophy is primarily an “autology” in the sense of an exposé of the nature of the human self (Nasr, p. 260). This autology is not to be confused with psychology in the modern sense, as it is founded on metaphysical principles. On the other hand, nor should it be understood as a detached philosophical analysis of the human soul.

Bābā Afḍal’s conception of humanness is situated within the framework of “anthropocosmism,” an Islamic philosophical tradition which considers the human and the natural world to be one. The idea that a human being is a microcosmos (‘ālam ṣaghīr) while the whole world is a macranthropos (insān kabīr) can be traced back to the Neo-Pythagorean school and was especially developed in the Epistles of the Brethren of Purity (Ikhwān al-ṣafā) (fourth/tenth century) as well as in the writings of Bābā Afḍal’s contemporary Muḥyī al-Dīn Ibn ‘Arabī (d. 638/1240). According to Bābā Afḍal, when the self (khūd) or the human soul reaches the ultimate limit of its intellectual improvement, it finds and knows everything that is within in that “the human soul is general and encompasses all things, for they are within it” and that “all things are in the human” (Rāhanjām-nāma, in Muṣannafāt, p. 69; Chittick, p. 281). That is to say, “Whatever is of use and indispensable to humans is with them and in them. Its mine and fountainhead is the self (khūd). Whatever is outside them is similar to (shibh) and an image (mithāl) of their soul’s forms. All the roots and realities are with them” (‘Arḍ-nāma, in Muṣannafāt, p. 241; Chittick, p. 242).

In contrast with the Brethren of Purity, who were mostly concerned with the sciences of nature, and with Ibn ‘Arabī, who was deeply oriented toward theosophy, Bābā Afḍal dwelt upon the sufficiency of self-knowledge and its superiority over all other sciences. When the human soul knows itself, the nature of the whole of creation becomes clearly manifest to it (Nasr, p. 260). And this self-knowledge gives access to a higher plane of being and of perception: “When humans know that all things, whether apparent or hidden, exist within them, then the rank of their existence is much higher than those who know the existent things as outside of self” (‘Arḍ-nāma, pp. 238–239 Chittick, p. 240). Unlike disciplines such as astronomy, mathematics, medicine, or even Islamic law (sharī‘a), whose fruits and benefits are of no avail beyond the grave, self-knowledge provides real and enduring profit (‘Arḍ-nāma, p. 239; Chittick, p. 240). Bābā Afḍal’s critical attitude toward the most estimated sciences of his time, whether natural or religious, is noteworthy here. However, the passage that immediately follows expresses a deeper, if more implicit, opposition to a certain Sufism which endorses the annihilation (fanā’) of individual consciousness: “The hope in this explication was that knowledge-seeking humans would wake up and become aware of their own existence, subsistence, and sempiternity through certainty and plain-seeing, and of universal security from perishment, annihilation (fanā’), alteration, disappearance, unconsciousness, and without-self-ness” (‘Arḍ-nāma, p. 240; Chittick, p. 241).

Bābā Afḍal appears to follow Aristotle’s and Avicenna’s efforts to surpass Platonic dualism while conceiving the human being to be the substantial union of soul and body:

the human has two faces – one bodily, passing face, and one lasting, endless, soulish face that finds life from its own Nurturer. It is this of which [God] talks in the Divine Book: ‘Everyone upon [the earth] is undergoing annihilation, and there subsists the face of thy Lord, Possessor of Majesty and Generous Giving’ [Quran, 55:26-27]. The bodily face lasts through this soulish face, and every good and excellence that appears from it comes from the soulish face (…). So, when you seek the beginning and origin of humans, you must seek out the origin and beginning of both substances. (Jāwidān-nāma, in Muṣannafāt, p. 303; Chittick, pp. 222–223; Mullā Ṣadrā, p. 51)

Bābā Afḍal adds that “The joinedness of these two substances (…) occurs because they are one in substance and essence.” Here, he clearly understands and adopts Aristotle’s hylemorphism as defined in the De Anima. Even more, Bābā Afḍal stresses the ontological precedence of the united substance: “the joining belongs to the root, and the difference and separation belongs to the branch” (Jāwidān-nāma, p. 305; Chittick, p. 223).

On these naturalist and non-dualistic premises, Bābā Afḍal elaborates an intellectualist definition of man: “the human is not human through bodily shape and guise” or “because he has soul, sensation, and movement,” but because he has intelligence – which Bābā Afḍal refers to both as khirad (Persian) and ‘aql (Arabic). A human being is fully or perfectly human when the intellectual virtues such as correct thoughts, right seeing, knowledge of certainty, and truthful talking are actual or nearly actual in him. Anyone who cannot reach this rank only “has the name human by borrowing and sharing” (Madārij al-kamāl, in Muṣannafāt, pp. 9–10; Chittick, pp. 246–247). Elsewhere, he says that the completeness of humans is showed by the equilibrium of the animal potencies, especially appetite and wrath, between intensity and weakness, under the command of intelligence (Madārij al-kamāl, pp. 44–45, 94; Chittick, p. 184). Nevertheless, the ultimate rank of perfection of the human soul is the awareness (agāhī) of the self as being “the universal of the universals” (kullī-yi kulliyāt). This pure act of intellection is the perfection of life, and its own perfection lies in “the unification of the intellecter, the intellect, and the intellected” (ittiḥād-i ‘āqil wa ‘aql wa ma‘qūl). This perfect intellection is identical to “complete being, perpetual joy, and subsistent enjoyment” (Madārij al-kamāl, p. 51; Chittick, p. 270). This anthropological and epistemological doctrine, rooted in Aristotelian ethics (Nicomachean Ethics, X) and noetics (De Anima, III), eventually underwent considerable development in the eleventh-/seventeenth-century Safavid Iran, in the teaching of Mīr Dāmād (d. 1040/1631) and Ṣadr al-Dīn al-Shīrāzī (d. 1050/1640), alias Mullā Ṣadrā.

For Bābā Afḍal, intelligence (khirad) is neither the body nor the soul, because both body and soul are subject to opposition and incompatibility, while intelligence is beyond all opposition and contradiction, becoming one with everything beyond itself through the knowledge of it. Thus, intelligence is not a potency of the soul, but a superior entity which encompasses the soul, and it is only through a return to intelligence that humanity can overcome its own mortality: “Hence the path of release and security from perishment and ruin is for humans to seek refuge in intelligence and to enter under its guardianship” (Īmanī az buṭlān-i nafs, in Muṣannafāt, pp. 604–607; Chittick, pp. 172–173).

Like many Arabic and Muslim philosophers, Bābā Afḍal embraces the Platonic division of worlds: below, the created things (makhlūqāt), sensory and passive, and above, the intellective forms, innovated and beginningless (azaliyyāt). He adopts the Arabic terminology of many Muslim Neoplatonists distinguishing within God’s creative activity between “creation” (khalq) by means of a preexistent something and “innovation” or “instauration” (ibdā‘) without intermediary, calling “innovated” the spiritual existents and “created” the bodily or natural things. In his turn, Bābā Afḍal identifies “the realm of the created things” (makhlūqāt), “the world of engendering” (‘ālam-i takwīn), “the world of nature” (ṭab‘), and “the particular world” (jahān-i jūzī) on one hand and the “realm of the innovated things” (mubda‘āt), “the world of the beginningless” (jahān-i azal), “the world of intelligence” (jahān-i khirad), and “the universal world” (jahān-i kullī) on the other hand.

There are two worlds. One is reality (ḥaqīqat), the other image (mithāl). The reality is the root, and the image is the branch. The reality is the universal world, and the image the particular world. The existents of the particular world are the images of the existents of the universal world (…). The sensory awareness of this world – I mean the world of generation – is the image of the intellective awareness of that world. The bodily world (jismānī) is an image and an imitation (ḥikāyat) of the spiritual world (rūḥāni). (‘Arḍ-nāma, pp. 191–192; Chittick, p. 78)

Such a Platonic manifesto is obviously inspired by the Theology of the Pseudo-Aristotle, alias Plotinus Arabus (Badawī, pp. 56, 93). Even more, Bābā Afḍal seems to be a hyper-Platonist when he claims that the corporal world is the realm of all dissimulation, just as the spiritual world and the intelligence are the realm of all manifestation or revelation (‘Arḍ-nāma, p. 198).

However, it is noteworthy that Bābā Afḍal did not adopt the idealist meaning of the term mithāl, pl. muthul, for “model,” “archetype,” and, finally, of “Platonic forms” (muthul aflāṭūniyya), as employed in some of Fārābī’s and Avicenna’s works. Likewise, he ignored the status of images as intermediaries between intellective forms and corporal things. He was probably unaware of Ishrāqi doctrines about mundus imaginalis (‘ālam al-mithāl) and Ibn ‘Arabī’s speculations on creative “separated imagination” (al-khayāl al-munfaṣil). But more decisively, he intentionally relegated images into the realm of the senses and of the corruptible; his psychology – or “autology” – does not recognize role for the creative imagination, nor do his metaphysics allows for an intermediary world between the realms of sense and of intellect.

Nevertheless, the idealism of Bābā Afḍal does not limit itself to purely metaphysical and ontological speculations but brings us back again to humanism. In the world of intelligence or in the universal world, all the elements of the particular world are subsumed into universals. Although human beings, in the corporal world, are individuals from various kinds, the essential reality of “being human” is unique in the world of intelligence (‘Arḍ-nāma, p. 198). That allows us to reflect on the universality of human nature and of reason beyond the multiplicity of cultures and historical contexts.

Like many other Muslim philosophers, Bābā Afḍal resumes the homology between the Quranic topics of the “Origin from God” (mabdā’) and the “Return to God” (ma‘ād) on the one hand and the Plotinian concepts of procession (πρὁοδος) and conversion (ἑπιστροφᾑ) on the other. In his Sāz wa pirāya-yi shāhān purmāya, he describes the hierarchies of the origin and return applicable to all existence (wujūd) with a special focus on humanity. The hierarchy of origin, which is the path of descent, goes from the First Intellect, called “a viceregent of God” (khalīfa-īst khudā-yi rā), to the four elements. The hierarchy of return, or the path of ascent, goes from Nature – comprising the ranks of minerals, plants, and animals – to human beings, also called “a viceregent of God” (Sāz wa pirāya, in Muṣannafāt, pp. 90–91; Chittick, p. 182). The return of the human being, conceived as a microcosm, is to gain perfection by effecting the passage of all the degrees of the macrocosm from potentiality to actuality, one after the other, in himself. By governing themselves with intelligence (khirad), human beings attain and unite with the first soul (or the universal soul) and finally with the radiance of the First Intellect (‘aql-i awwal) (Sāz wa pirāya, pp. 93–94; Chittick, p. 184).

In his Jāwidān-nāma, Bābā Afḍal proposes a detailed description of the degrees passed through by both the “bodily I” (man-i jismānī) and the “soulish I” (man-i nafsānī) on the way of their return to God. The origin of the human body or the bodily I is the unqualified body (jism-i muṭlaq). By means of a process of progressive complexification, it becomes a compound body, then a vegetal, then an animal, and finally a human body. The origin of the soulish I is nature, corresponding to the unqualified body, proceeding to the potency of mingling (quwwat-i mizājī, equivalent of Greek κράσις), which corresponds to the compound body, then to the vegetal or growing soul, then to the animal soul, and then to the human soul, be it in its practical function as the “practical intellect” (‘aql-i ‘amalī) and the “writing soul” (nafs-i kātiba) or in its theoretical function as the “reflective soul” (nafs-i fākira) and the “speaking” or “rationally speaking soul” (nafs-i gūyā wa nāṭiqa). And when the soulish I attains the ultimate term of its improvement, which is the knowledge of God, it is called “the sacred spirit” (rūḥ-i muqaddas) (Jāwidān-nāma, pp. 303–304; Chittick, p. 223; Mullā Ṣadrā, pp. 52–53). At this end, as we have seen the human self gains awareness of its own existence, security from perishment, subsistence, and sempiternity.

However, in the appendix (mulḥaq) of his ‘Arḍ-nāma, Bābā Afḍal claims that the procession (wurūd) from the universal world to the particular one, such as the conversion (ṣudūr) or the return (bāz gasht) from the former to the latter, has only a kind of mental existence, like a point of view or a consideration (shumāranda, equivalent of Arabic i‘tibārī), in the belief (gamān) and the imagination (khayāl) (‘Arḍ-nāma, p. 251). No real relation between the two worlds can be proved by concrete evidences; the procession of the particular from the universal and the conversion of the particular to the universal remains hypothetical and indemonstrable. Even more, “Just as nothing can come from that world to this world, nothing can return from this world to that world” (‘Arḍ-nāma, pp. 252–253). Bābā Afḍal seems here to rally Aristotle’s positions beyond their Neoplatonic interpretations. Contrarily, the great philosopher – and Bābā Afḍal’s lector – Mullā Ṣadrā would devote his efforts to proving the reality of the universal process of return.

To be sure, Bābā Afḍal was far from being a skeptic and a nominalist. He asserts the persistence of the intellective soul (nafs-i ‘āqila) by distinguishing between it and the animal soul which perishes with the body. “The intellective soul is the principle of an existence superior to that of the animal soul (…). Giving the fact that the act of the intellective soul is without any instrument, and that every corporal instrument is subject to nullification and destruction, the intellective soul is not subject to nullification or destruction” (Dar baqā-yi nafs-i ‘āqila, in Muṣannafāt, pp. 623–624). While assuming this intellective immortality, Bābā Afḍal rarely touches upon the very specific teachings of the Quran regarding eschatology, paradise, and hell. Evidently, he conceived and practiced philosophy as independent from the religious sciences and the juridical religion.

All Bābā Afḍal’s works claim that the unique access to immortality is the realization of knowledge.

Hence the aeon (dahr), which is the duration of foreverness and everlastingness, stands through unconditioned existence, and unconditioned existence stands through the knower of unconditioned existence (dānā-ye wujūd-i muṭlaq). It is this that is the final goal and utmost end of all the sciences; knowledge is the perfection, final goal, and completion of humans; humans are the final goal and completion of life; life is the completion and perfection of the movement of bodies; movement is the perfection of being a body; bodiment is the perfection of reception and acceptance; reception and acceptance are the trace of actorness; actorness is the trace of yearning and desire; desire is the trace of the essence of the knower (dhāt-i dānā); and the knower’s essence is the first and the last of being. (‘Arḍ-nāma, p. 240; Chittick, p. 241)

Such a conception hardly provides for the afterlife of humble people, nor can it be easily conciliated with the explicit eschatological teachings of the Quran. Obviously, Bābā Afḍal shared some of the Fārābian and Avicennian positions condemned by al-Ghazālī (d. 505/1111) in his famous Tahāfut al-falāsifa.

In conclusion, Bābā Afḍal is to be seen as a philosopher, not in the medieval scholastic sense, but in the ancient sense as characterized by Pierre Hadot: “The philosopher was a professor and a spiritual guide, whose goal was not to set forth his vision of universe, but to mold his disciples by means of spiritual exercises” (Hadot, p. 18). As a master of philosophy, Bābā Afḍal was not training his students in logical thought, instructing them in the natural sciences, nor glosing the books of his illustrious forerunners, but was trying to teach them how to know themselves through rational investigation, in accordance with Socrates’ understanding of the Delphic maxim: “Know thyself!”. Even more, he saw his particular conception of self-knowledge as a way of attaining immortality and eternity. Thus, it would be appropriate to think of him as a “rationalist mystic,” in the sense that this term can be applied to Aristotle and other ancient and medieval philosophers (Chittick, p. 9).

In some respects, the philosophy of Bābā Afḍal, like that of Ibn Zakariyyā Rāzī (d. 313/925 or 320/932) and Ibn Rushd at the very same period, openly challenges the pretentions of both Shī‘ism (Ismā‘īli or Twelver) and Sufism to be the exclusive way to knowledge and salvation. From a theoretical point of view, Bābā Afḍal conceives true knowledge as accessible by the means of rational thought and not as a suprarational science; practically, he assumes that every human being has ability to attain intelligence, self-knowledge, and world knowledge, without the guidance of an impeccable Imām or an inspired Saint. Thus, if the thought of Bābā Afḍal integrates some elements of Shī‘i and Sufi conceptions, it is with the aim of establishing “true” philosophy or wisdom as the only spiritual path toward a virtuous, fully human, and quasi-divine existence.

Edited Works

Nearly all of Bābā Afḍal’s Persian works have been edited by Mujtabā Mīnuwī and Yaḥyā Mahdawī in 1331 Sh./1952–53. Some extended parts of them have been translated into English in the second part of William Chittick’s monograph.
  1. 1.

    ‘Arḍ-nāma (The Book of Displays) (Muṣannafāt, pp. 145–253), in four displays: (1) on the bodies, (2) on the doers and the workers of the cosmic and human bodies, (3) of the things known by human, and (4) on the knowers (dānandagān), their quiddity (māhiyat), and that-it-is-ness (inniyyat).

  2. 2.

    Īmanī az buṭlān-i nafs dar panāh-i khirad (Security from the Soul’s Nullification in the Refuge of Intelligence), devoted to the demonstration of the title proposition (Muṣannafāt, pp. 601–607).

  3. 3.

    Jāwidān-nāma (The Book of the Everlasting) (Muṣannafāt, pp. 259–326). Contrastingly with Bābā Afḍal’s other works, this treatise is largely founded on the teachings of Quran and Hadith. It also deals with philosophical issues such as the various kinds of science, the importance of self-knowledge, and the origin and the end of existence, but it does “by way of reminding, not by way of argument and demonstration (ḥujjat wa burhān).” (Muṣannafāt, p. 321; Chittick, p. 233). In one chapter of the book (Muṣannafāt, pp. 323–326; Chittick, pp. 205–207), Bābā Afḍal explains the system of the Arabic gematria, which means the science of numbers and letters, in other words the philosophical alphabet adopted by many Iranian philosophers after Avicenna’s Risāla Nayrūziyya fī ma‘ānī al-ḥurūf al-hijā’īya (Ibn Sīnā 1999; Massignon 1952).

    Mullā Ṣadrā Shīrāzī would eventually resume the structure and much of the content of the Jāwidān-nāma in his Iksīr al-‘ārifīn (The Elixir of the Gnostics), without mentioning his source. The importance given by Bābā Afḍal to self-knowledge, to the issue of the origin and the return, as well as his reference to religious scriptural sources might well have been among the reasons for Mullā Ṣadrā’s interest in this work (Mullā Ṣadrā, Introduction, pp. xviii–xix).

  4. 4.

    Mabādi-yi mawjūdāt-i nafsāni (The Origins of the Soulish Elements), a brief treatise on the general division of existents, with a special focus on some philosophical concepts (Muṣannafāt, pp. 585–597).

  5. 5.

    Madārij al-kamāl (The Rungs of Perfection) (Muṣannafāt, pp. 3–52). Bābā Afḍal’s most complete discussion of the human soul and her way to reach perfection in knowledge. The treatise was written first in Arabic and then in Persian. The Arabic version has not been published.

  6. 6.

    Rāhanjām-nāma (The Book of the Road’s End). In three talks, explaining that the self-knowledge is the road to human perfection (Muṣannafāt, pp. 55–80).

  7. 7.

    Risāla dar ‘ilm wa nuṭq (The Treatise on Knowledge and Rational Speech). Written first in Arabic and then translated into Persian (Muṣannafāt, pp. 477–579). It deals mostly with Aristotelian logic. The claim of certain scholars that the work was in fact by Avicenna seems to be invalidated by some discrepancies in the definition of the reasoning by contradiction (al-qiyās al-khulf), previously pointed out by Naṣīr al-Dīn al-Ṭūsī (see p. 574) (Iranica, III, 288–289).

  8. 8.

    Sāz wa pirāya-yi shāhān-i purmāyah (The Makings and Ornaments of Well-Provisioned Kings) (Muṣannafāt, pp. 83–110), Presenting itself in the guise of a “mirror for princes,” this treatise seems more interested by the perfect soul (nafs-i kāmil) than by the perfect prince.

  9. 9.

    Risāla-yi nafs-i Arisṭūṭālis (Aristotle’s Treatise on the Soul) (Muṣannafāt, pp. 389–458 and 467–474). A translation of an epitome from Aristotle’s De Anima, with passages inspired by, if not quoted from, the Theology of the Pseudo-Aristotle, alias Plotinus Arabus.

  10. 10.

    Mukhtaṣarī dar aḥwāl-i nafs (An Epitome of the States of the Soul) (Muṣannafāt, pp. 461–466), a short treatise on the soul’s attributes ascribed to Aristotle.

  11. 11.

    Risāla-yi tuffāḥa (The Treatise of the Apple) (Muṣannafāt, pp. 113–144). This is the pseudo-Aristotelian Liber de pomo, well known in Latin and Hebrew, relating the last teachings of Aristotle on his deathbed to his disciples.

  12. 12.

    Yanbū‘ al-ḥayāt (The Fountain of Life) (Muṣannafāt, pp. 331–385). Persian translation of an Arabic text attributed to Plato or Aristotle in various manuscripts, but which Bābā Afḍal attributes to Hermes, identified with the Quranic prophet Idris. In 13 speeches, each containing a series of admonitions addressed to the soul.

  13. 13.

    Čahār ‘unwān-i kīmiyā-yi sa ‘ādat (The Four Headings of the Alchemy of Felicity), an abridgment of the first part of al-Ghazālī’s Persian Kīmiyā-yi sa‘ādat. The “four headings” are knowledge of self, of God, of this world, and of the hereafter. Uncritical edition Ḥ. Rabbānī in Jāmī, Ashi”at al-lama‘āt, Tehran, 1352 Sh./1973, pp. 338–58.

  14. 14.

    Makātib va Jawāb as’ila (Letters and Answers to Questions) (Muṣannafāt, pp. 681–728). Bābā Afḍal answered to questions from friends, disciples, or princes about various ethical, religious, or metaphysical subjects.

  15. 15.

    Bābā Afḍal’s Persian poetry. More than 600 quatrains (rubā‘iyyāt) are attributed to him (Chittick, 26), shared between three collections: (a) Rubā‘iyyāt-i Afḍal al-Dīn Kāshānī, S. Nafīsī, ed., Tehran, 1331 Sh./1952, reprinted 1363 Sh./1984; (b) Muṣannafāt, M. Mīnuwī and Y. Mahdawī, ed., pp. 729–772; and (c) Dīwān-i Ḥakīm Afḍal al-Dīn Muḥammad Maraqī Kāshānī, M. Fayḍī and alii, ed., Kāshān, 1351 Sh./1972.

  16. 16.

    Jāmi‘al-ḥikma, M. T. Dānishpajūh, ed., Tehran, 1361 Sh./1982–83. As already indicated, the attribution to Bābā Afḍal of this book, absent from most catalogues of his works, is dubious.



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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CNRS, PSLLEM (UMR 8584)ParisFrance