The Nahj al-balaghah and Western Philosophic Thought

The Nahj al-balaghah has played a great role in the history of Eastern Philosophy. Mulla Sadra, who brought a revolution in theological thought (al-hikmat al-'ilahiyyah), was under profound influence of 'Ali's discourses. His method of argument with regard to the problems of tawhid is the method of inferring the Essence from the Essence, and also deducing the Attributes and Acts from the Essence, and all these arguments are based on the belief that there exists the Necessary Being only. These arguments are based on radically different general principles, which are elaborated in his system of metaphysics.

Eastern theological thought (al-hikmat al-'ilahiyyah) attained fruition and strength from the sources of Islamic teachings and was firmly established on unviolable foundations. However, theological philosophy in the West remained deprived of such source of inspiration. The widespread philosophical malaise of inclination towards materialism in the West has many causes whose discussion is outside the scope of our discourse. But we believe that the major cause of this phenomenon is the weakness and insufficiency of theological conceptions of Western religious thought. [10]

Anyone interested in making a comparative study of the approaches pointed out in these chapters, should first study the arguments advanced by Western philosophers such as Anselm, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibnitz, Kant and others for proving the existence of God and their discussions about acceptance or rejection of various arguments, then he should compare them with the burhan al-siddiqin argument advanced by Mulla Sadra under the inspiration of 'Ali's words. He would see for himself the wide chasm that separates the one from the other.

Reference: The Glimpses of Nahj al Balaghah; Murtadha Mutahhari - Transl. from Persian by Ali Quli Qara'i

[1] The term ta'wil has been defined variously, but generally when used in the opposition to tafsir (which is applied to the explanation of the literal and explicit meanings of the Quranic texts) it is applied to interpretation of the Quranic verses which goes beyond their literal meaning. According to Imamiyyah Shi'ah, no one except the Prophet (S) and the twelve Imams (A) is entitled to draw tawil of the Quranic verses. To illustrate what is meant by ta'wil consider these examples: (1) According to Shi'ah hadith, the verse 2:158, Where ever you maybe, God will bring you all together', pertains to the 313 companions of al Imam al Mahdi (A) whom God will gather in a certain place from various parts of the earth in a single night.

(2) According to another hadith the verse 67:30, 'Say: What think you? If your water (in wells) should have vanished into the earth, then who would bring you running water?' pertains to the ghaybah (occultation) of al Imam al Mahdi (A). Such interpretations, which obviously go beyond the apparent meaning of the Quranic verses, are called ta'wil.

[2] Allamah S.M.H Tabatabai, Usul e falsafah wa rawish e riyalism (The Principles and Method of Philosophy of Realism), Introduction to vol. I

[3] Muhammad Sulayman Nadawi, Madha khasara al alam bi inhitat al Muslimin, vol. IV, p. 97

[4] Ibid., p. 135

[5] Allamah Tabatabai, op. Cit

[6] Ibid, vol. V

[7] Maktab e tashayyu, No. 2 p. 120

[8] Ibid, p. 126

[9] Ibid, p. 157

[10] See Murtada Mutahhari, Ilal e garayesh beh maddigari (The causes of inclination towards Materialism), under the chapter: Naresa iha ye mafahi me falsafiI (The inadequacies of [Western] Philosophical Ideas)