Manuscript Review: Farthest Perception in the Comprehension of Heavens, by Qutb al-Din al-Shirazi

With all the weight of his knowledge, Qutub al-Din preferred to be a man of lively temperament who would engage in jests, play chess and also music on the rehab. He was a highly knowledgeable scholar and wrote important works on different subjects such as Quranic Exegesis, Theology, Medicine, Philosophy, Grammer, Metaphysics, Astronomy and Rhetorics...

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Editor's Note: The following is an extract from N.A Baloch's 'The Great Books of Islamic Civilisation'. This is a short summary of Qutb al-Din al-Shirazi's 'Farthest Perception in the Comprehension of Heavens.'

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An old manuscript of Qutb al-Din al-Shirazi's treatise (13th century) (Source)

The author Qutb al-Din Mahmud b. Diya' al- Din Masud b. al-Muslih belonged originally to a family of Gazar—un that had settled in Shiraz where he was born in 634 A.H. (1236). His father was a prominent physician and a devoted disciple of Shihab al-Din Maqtul al-Suhrawardi (539 - 632 A.H.). Young Mahmud received education and studied medicine under his father, and also became his Sufi disciple.

At fourteen years of age, when his father died, Qutb al-Din was assigned his father's position as a physician in the Muzaffari Hospital of Shiraz. He served there for ten years where after he took to higher studies, visited Maragha where he attached himself to Nasir al- Din al-Tusi andstudied the works of Ibn Sina under him and also acquired greater understanding of astronomy. He then went to Nishapur and from there to Isfahan where he would appear to have been favoured by the governor Baha' al-Din Muhammad al-Juwayni (to whom he later dedicated his work Nihayat al-`Idrak). From there he went to Baghdad where he met the great Sufi Muhammad b. al-Sukran (d. 667 A.H.). He journeyed onwards to visited Qoniya and met Maulana Jalal al-Din Rumi (d. 672 A.H.). Here he stayed for some-time, lectured and also served as a Qadi under Prince Ahmad Nikodar, the ruler of al-Rum (680-683 A.H.), who sent him as an am-bassador to Egypt in (81 A.H.).Eventually, he returned to Tabriz where he devoted the last 6 years of his life to study and writing.He died in 710 A.H. (1131 A.D.). 

With all the weight of his knowledge, Qutab al-Din preferred to be a man of lively temperament who would engage in jests, play chess and also music on the rebab. He was a highly knowledgeable scholar and wrote important works on different subjects such as Quranic Exegesis, Theology, Medicine, Philosophy, Grammer, Metaphysics, Astronomy and Rhetorics. In Tafsir, he composed a voluminous com-mentary "Fath al-Mannan fi Tafsir al-Quran” in forty volumes; in Tibb he wrote 'The Comprehensive' (Kulliyat) entitling it as al-Tuhfat al-Sa`diyah, and a 'Commentary on the Principles of Canon of Ibn Sina' (Sharh Kulliyat al-Qanun); and in philosophy he authored Durrat al-Taj (The Pearl of Crown). He was the foremost exponent of al-Suhrawardi's 'Theosophy of the Orient' (Hikmat al-Ishraq) and wrote commentary on it entitled Sharh Hikmat al-Ishraq


A manuscript copy of Shirazi's al-Tuhfa al-Shahiya, 15th century (Source)

Qutb al-Din authored two works on astronomy, first Nihayat al-Idrak fi Dirayat at al-Aflak and the other al-Tuhfat al-Shahiyya fi al-Hay'at. He dedicated his 'Nihayat' to the governor of Isfahan al-Din Muhammad al-Juwayini (d. 678 A.H.), which would indicate that he wrote this book before the year 678 A.H. (1279). Qutb al-Din was much influenced by Tusi's Afkar al-Tadkhira al-Nasiriya which work he follows in his astronomical expositions. 

He, however, expresses his own ideas which are not to be found in Tusi's works. He also brings under discussion the viewpoints of other earlier scientists including Ibn al-Haytham. Thus, his work is more eleborate and comprehensive than that of Tusi. He wrote a separate commentary on Tusi's TADHKIRA entitled Sharh al-Tadhkirh al-Nasiriyah. After writing Nihayat al-Idrak, he saw the need for a further elaboration of the subject and wrote, by way of Commentary on it, Fi Harakat al-Daharja wa al-Nisba bayn al-Mustavi wa al-Munhani (On the motion of the rolling and the relation between the straight and the curved). 

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