The Institute launched a new Shi‘i Studies Lecture Series which explores the history, doctrines and practice of Shi‘i Islam. The first lecture of this series, entitled Al-Hasan b. Musa al-Nawbakhti, Shi‘i Mutakallim or Philosopher? was given by Professor Wilferd Madelung, Senior Research Fellow at the IIS and Professor Emeritus, University of Oxford.
In his lecture, Professor Madelung explored the work of Al-Hasan ibn Musa al-Nawbakhti (died ca. 920 CE). A Twelver Shi‘i author and member of an eminent family of astronomers and astrologers, al-Nawbakhti has been chiefly known for his book on the early Shi‘a communities down to the Occultation of the Twelfth Imam of the Shi‘a Ithna‘asharis.
Early on, Al-Nawbakhti was described as a kalam (lit. “the science of debate”; often translated as Islamic theology) theologian and philosopher. However, a closer examination of his religious and philosophical beliefs shows that, in fact, he entirely rejected the cosmological views of Plato and Aristotle about a semi-divine higher world as well as the practice of astrology. His position was close to that of the Mu‘tazili theologians in their opposition to the star worship of the Sabians of Harran.
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