Posts Tagged With: Mutahhari

5 Newly Published Translation Works


Muhammad ‘Ali Sadat and Hamid Talibzadeh, “FAMILY IN ISLAM,” trans. Mansoor Limba, 63 pages. (ISBN 978-600-429-168-2)

Sayyidah Tahirah Aghamiri, “FULFILLMENT OF TRUST,” trans. Mansoor Limba, 149 pages. (ISBN 978-600-429-170-5)

Muhammad ‘Ali Sadat and Hamid Talibzadeh, “ISLAMIC ANTHROPOLOGY,” trans. Mansoor Limba, 119 pages. (ISBN 978-600-429-116-3)

Murtada Mutahhari, “PHILOSOPHY OF ETHICS,” trans. Mansoor Limba, 419 pages. (ISBN 978-600-429-124-8)

Muhammad ‘Ali Sadat and Hamid Talibzadeh, “THE ISLAMIC MORAL SYSTEM,” trans. Mansoor Limba, 49 pages. (ISBN 978-600-429-166-8)

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Critical Thinking in August, and Beyond


MAKATI CITY (22 August) – Last Wednesday (August 17) I had to fly to Davao City – not primarily to witness and join the week-long celebration of Kadayawan Festival – but to attend two events related to history as an academic field of discipline.

Apart from the fact that this month is Buwan ng Wika (National Language Month) by virtue of Proclamation 1041 signed by Pres. Fidel Ramos in 1997, August is also celebrated as “History Month” by virtue of Proclamation 339 signed by Pres. Benigno S. Aquino III in 2012.

In celebrating this month-long occasion, the Philippine Historical Association (PHA) held its 2016 National Conference with the theme “Philippine Governance: Historical Perspectives” at Ateneo de Davao University, Davao City, on August 18-20, 2016. In the “Bangsamoro Panel” of the said annual conference, I presented a paper on the growing influence of violent religious extremism in the Philippines and its impact upon intra-faith and interfaith dialogues.

Immediately after answering questions regarding my paper presentation during the open forum, I left the conference hall and proceeded to the Waterfront Insular Hotel to attend the Mindanao-leg Series 1 (Topic: “Historical Method”) of 2016 Training Seminar Series (August 20-21, 2016) organized by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP).

Conducted by no less than the NHCP chair, Dr. Maria Serena I. Diokno, the two-day historical writing training covered a wide range of topics from “Meanings and Uses of History” to “Evaluating Sources in Historical Writing,” and it was interspersed with challenging written exercises too.

Critical Thinking

One of the recurring themes in both the conference and the training seminar is critical thinking – critical thinking in reading, writing and teaching history. It means to be circumspect and judicious before swallowing hook, line and sinker of everything we read, write and teach. It means that to rely on the perceived reliability of the source is not dependable; the merit or value of each datum must be assessed independently.

To paraphrase, “Critical thinking, and not the ability to memorize historical facts, is the hallmark of a historian,” Prof. Diokno would remind us. “Do not worry or be afraid of using any historical material. Anyway, the most important is you – the teacher – who critically read the material before teaching it to the students… Make inferences. Try to infer even from historical silences; they are not passive; they are active; it’s only that they are loaded with a silencer.”

Ibn Khaldun’s Lamentation

In his celebrated Al-Muqaddimah, which is a comprehensive prolegomenon to a planned voluminous book on universal history, Ibn Khaldūn – the famous 14th century Muslim historian and historiographer – lamented some historians for being concerned only with the authenticity of the chain of transmitters (sanad), whereas one must focus instead on the authenticity of the text.

As an example, Ibn Khaldun cited the supposed account that when the people of Prophet Moses crossed the sea while the legion of Pharaoh was pursuing them, they had two hundred fifty thousand soldiers. Accordingly, it must be reckoned that the Israelites were all descendants of Prophet Jacob, a single person, and it had been not more than five or six generations. Assuming that four centuries had passed, to say that they had two hundred fifty thousand soldiers necessitates claiming to the least that they had a population of one million in order to produce such a huge army. This is while Pharaoh had killed their male newborn babies.

Given these male infanticides perpetrated against them, Ibn Khaldun would ask: is it rationally possible for them to have been such a number of Israelite men at that time?

Mutahhari’s Criticism

As mentioned in his Training and Education in Islam, Murtada Mutahhari – a prominent Muslim thinker of the past century – read in popular general history books that during the event of Harrah when Medina was ransacked and mass murder was committed [in 62 A.H. by 12,000 strong army under the command of Muslim ibn ‘Uqba], the perpetrators went inside the house of a poor resident of Medina, whose wife had just delivered a child and was still lying in bed while the child was in the cradle. A soldier allegedly entered the house with the intention of looting. No matter how much he roamed around the nooks and crannies of the house, he failed to find anything to loot. As he was empty-handed, he got furious and returned [in order to molest her]. The woman humbly pleaded, saying that she was the wife of so-and-so companion of the Prophet and that both of them pledged their allegiance to the Prophet in the Pledge of Ridwan (6 A.H.).

Mutahhari would interrogate, “Can it be true? Can a 63 years old woman who, along with her husband, paid allegiance to the Prophet in the Pledge of Ridwan, usually get pregnant and deliver a child after 58 years? If we assume that the said woman was ten years old and newlywed during the pledge, she was then a 68 years old woman. Can a 68 years old woman normally get pregnant and deliver a child?”

He then cited a Prophetic tradition (hadith), thus: “For the ignorance of man, it is sufficient that he relays whatever he hears.”

Thereafter he commented: “In most cases, the ignorance (jahl) that is mentioned in traditions (ahadith) is not the opposite of knowledge (‘ilm). [Instead,] it is the opposite of reasoning (‘aql); that is, lack of intelligence and not lack of knowledge. Refusing to think and assess is enough for a person to believe in and relay whatever he hears!”

As I was heading toward the airport, the festive mood of Claveria Avenue seemed to be leaving a life-long lesson for all and sundry: “Celebrate critical thinking not just in August but even beyond!”


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Forthcoming Publication: “Philosophy of Ethics”


Murtada Mutahhari, “PHILOSOPHY OF ETHICS,” trans. Mansoor Limba (London: MIU Press, forthcoming), 272 pages.

Table of Contents

Translator’s Foreword
About the Author

Part One
Chapter 1: What is Ethics?
Chapter 2: Natural Action and Moral Action
Chapter 3: Theory of Emotionalism and the Muslim Philosophers’ Theory
Chapter 4: Conscience Theory
Chapter 5: Theory of Beauty
Chapter 6: Theory on Worship
Chapter 7: Islamic Ethics and Morality
Chapter 8: Self and Non-self
Chapter 9: Knowledge of the Self
Chapter 10: Spiritual and Moral Crises in the Present Age

Part Two
Chapter 11: The Criterion for Moral Action
Chapter 12: Communist Morality and Russell’s School of Morality
Chapter 13: Question of the ‘Self’ in Ethics

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The Old Educational System and Intellectual Training


Mostly, our old educational system was such. You can see that individuals—whether because of lack of talent or because of defects in training and teaching—are exactly like tape recorders in relation to the facts they have learned. One studied a textbook diligently and meticulously, memorizing it from lesson to lesson, taking notes and learning from it. Later, he became a teacher, for example, and wanted to teach the same lessons. He studied and learned from the teacher whatever was [written] in the said book—its glosses and commentaries. He can perfectly answer whatever you ask about this textbook and its glosses and commentaries. Just make a little twist in your question and he would be dumb-founded. What he knows are only these “heard” (masmū‘) facts, and if another subject is presented in a different context and he wants to make certain conclusions on the basis of what he knows, he cannot do so. In fact, I have seen people who, in a certain context, made conclusions which were contrary to what they had learned in a different setting. As such, you can see that each of them is a learned person (ālim), yet his mind is ignorant (jāhil). He is learned but his mind is that of an ignorant. He is a scholar; that is, he has learned many things; he knows many pieces of information, but once you pose a question which is beyond the ambit of what he [explicitly] knows, you can see that you are facing a totally ignorant fellow. As it appears, an absolute ignoramus is at center stage.

The diviner and the king

There is a parable—of course, it is fictitious—of a diviner and geomancer who taught divination and geomancy to his son. He himself was receiving good pay from the royal court. He taught his son this knowledge so that he could occupy the post after him. One day, he introduced his son to the king. The king wanted to test him. He held an egg in his hands and asked the diviner’s son to guess what he was holding. The diviner’s son tried many times but failed to make the right guess. So, the king gave him a clue, saying: “Its center is yellow and its sides are white.” Something came to the mind of the aspiring diviner, and he said, “It is a millstone whose center is filled with carrots!” The king got furious, and summoned his father and said, “After all this, what is this knowledge you have taught him?” The father said, “I taught [him] my knowledge very well but he lacks intellect.” The first part of his answer was about his knowledge [he imparted to his son] while the second part [which he compared to his knowledge] was about his son’s lack of intelligence as manifested by his failure to realize that a millstone is too big to be concealed by hands. Human reason has to have [the ability to make] this judgment.

This is a popular story and so far I have heard it from many people. It is narrated that a foreigner came to Karaj[1] one day and met a villager. This villager used to give very substantial and excellent answers. He would give very good answer to every question the foreigner had. Then, the foreigner asked him, “How did you come to know all these facts?” The villager said, “Since I am illiterate, I am thinking.” This answer is very meaningful. That is, “What the literate says is what he knows but what I say is the product of my thinking and reflection. And thinking is far better than literacy.”

This is the issue—that there must be growth of intellectual or rational personality in individuals and in society. It means that the power to analyze and scrutinize issues must be developed.[2] This is a basic concern. That is, exactly in this training and education in schools, the teacher’s duty is beyond teaching the child. Teachers must do something to develop the students’ analytical power and not only to fill their minds with facts and pieces of information. In fact, if there is too much pressure to fill the mind with facts, the mind becomes dull.



[1] Karaj: a city situated 20 km west of Tehran, at the foothills of the Alborz Mountains. [Trans.]

[2] Presently, it is not my concern whether Islam says so or not. Our inference is that this is the very point which Islam says about the intellect.

Training and Education in Islam(An excerpt from Murtada Mutahhari, TRAINING AND EDUCATION IN ISLAM, trans. Mansoor Limba (Tehran: IHCS and ABU, 2011), pp. 15-16.)

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Mutahhari’s Reply to the Skepticism of Pyrrho


Thus, the first question about knowledge is the issue about the possibility of knowledge—is it possible for man to know?[1] Pyrrho said that knowledge or ma‘rifah is impossible (for reasons I enumerated earlier). Of course, others exposed the flaw in Pyrrho’s argument. On our part, we exposed this flaw elsewhere in the footnotes of Uṣūl-e Falsafeh wa Rawish-e Realism (The Principles of Philosophy and the Method of Realism).[2] It is thus said to Pyrrho: “You say that senses make mistakes because sometimes your eyes squint; you see a person as if having two heads; you see a piece of wood as broken in a water container; and so on and so forth. You say that you observe that the senses make mistakes. When you observe that senses make mistakes, do you know that senses indeed make mistakes, or do you still doubt that the senses make mistakes? When you say that when you wake up and rub your eyes, you can see double, with a person standing in front of you as if they are two, having four eyes (instead of two), you say that it is not so. Do you really know that it is not so, or you just guess that it is not so?” He says, “No, I know that it is not so; that person does not have two heads or two noses.” Then he would be told: “So, you realized this mistake with certainty by yourself; how can you say then that you have not obtained knowledge? This is itself [a kind of] knowledge. When you say that reason makes a mistake in a particular instance, you say with certainty that it makes a mistake. That is, you know that it makes a mistake; therefore, you have arrived at the truth. Unless a person has arrived at the truth, he cannot perceive that the opposite view is wrong.”

As such, it must [rather] be said: “The human being makes mistakes in some of his sense perceptions, but not others. So, we must classify the issue; we must look for a criterion. With a certain criterion, let us see if we could somehow correct the things in which we make a mistake, or not. Just because of the fact that we make a mistake in some cases, why should we deny the essence of knowledge?! Why [we should treat as identical] the cases in which we make a mistake and the cases we do not doubt that we make a mistake (such as the instance when we realize that we have made a mistake)?” The [above] argument of Pyrrho is like the following couplets of Sa‘dī:[3]

چو از قومي يكي ﺑﻲدانشي كرد     نه كه را منزلت ماند نه مِه را   

ﻧﻤﻲبيني كه گاوي در علفزار                   بيالايد همه گاوان ده را

When one of a tribe has done a foolish thing

No honor is left either to the low or the high.

Can’t you see how one ox of the pasturage

Defiles all oxen of the village?[4]

This is true for social issues. If certain members of a society belonging to a certain class—say, the clerics—behave untowardly and wickedly, the integrity of others would also be tarnished; otherwise, there is no point in hanging ‘Amr for the sin of Zayd:

گنه كرد در بلخ آهنگري              به شُوشتر زدند گردن مسگري

A blacksmith committed a crime in Balkh[5]

They beheaded a coppersmith in Shūshtar.[6],[7]

Some of our sense perceptions make mistakes; some others are definitely correct. Let us look for the solution to erroneous perceptions. Out of this, the science of logic (manṭiq) came into being. Logic is a science which is [the foundation of] the theory of knowledge. That is, in this very theory of the possibility of knowledge and impossibility of knowledge, it makes no difference for the one who said that it is impossible to know while the one who said that it is possible to know is looking for a criterion for distinguishing erroneous knowledge from correct knowledge and [assuming that] there must be such a criterion. Now, as to what extent logic could play a role or function is a question which, if we try to address, would prevent us from dealing with more important issues.[8]

We must see what the Qur’an says in this regard. Does the Qur’an support the view that knowledge is possible? Or, does the Qur’an also say that it is impossible to know? Now, if knowledge is possible (as there is the Qur’an and the religion), then the very knowledge in ideology must have a ruling, and that ruling would answer: Is knowledge lawful or not? Is knowledge permissible or not? There are two questions here. [One is whether knowledge is possible or not, and the other is whether knowledge is permissible or not.] As you are well aware of, the issue is presented in the Torah in a specific way and since according to us, the Torah is one of the books that experienced distortion (taḥrīf)—that is, in assessing a case mentioned in both the Qur’an and the Torah by the criterion of the Qur’an—when we see that the account of the Torah contradicts that of the Qur’an, for us there is no doubt that the account of the Torah has been distorted. In the Qur’an—a religious scripture—the issue is never raised in a philosophical manner—whether knowledge is possible or not. Rather, we must see and analyze whether the Qur’anic inferences of these issues are based upon the possibility of knowledge or its impossibility. Are the Qur’anic injunctions justifiable on the basis of the possibility of knowledge or its impossibility? And the other question is: is knowledge permissible or not?


[1] Knowing (shinākhtan) is equivalent to certainty (yaqīn) as doubting (shakk) is the opposite of knowing. “Knowing” means for me to reach a point to think it is such and not to doubt that what I think as such is correct; that I do not doubt its correctness, for if I doubt then there is no knowledge for me but only “Is…?” “Is it so?” “I do not know.” “Perhaps there is.” “Perhaps there is not.” There are many “I-do-not-know’s”. Knowing is “knowing” when there is no doubt. If there is doubt, then it is [the same] “I-do-not-know” [episode].

[2] It refers to ‘Allāmah Sayyid Muḥammad Ḥusayn al-Ṭabaṭabā’ī’s work in collaboration with his student Āyatullah Muṭahharī who provided footnotes and explanations easily comprehensible to the common people. The work was designed to present Islamic philosophy as a superior alternative to Marxism. [Trans.]

[3] Shaykh Muṣlīḥ al-Dīn Sa‘dī (1184-1283) was one of the greatest Persian poets. Born in Shīrāz, he studied Sufi mysticism at the Nizāmiyyah madrasah in Baghdad with Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qādir al-Jīlānī and with Shahāb al-Dīn Suhrawardī. He made the pilgrimage to Mecca many times and traveled to Central Asia, India, and the Seljuq territories in Anatolia, Syria, Egypt, Arabia, Yemen, Abyssinia, and Morocco. His best known works are the Būstān (Garden) and the Gulistān (Rose-Garden), also known as Sa‘dī-Nāmeh. The former is a collection of poems on ethical subjects while the latter is a collection of moral stories in prose. He also wrote a number of odes and collections of poems known as Pleasantries, Jests and Obscenities. His influence on Persian, Turkish and Indian literature has been very considerable, and his works were translated into European languages from the 17th century onward. [Trans.]

[4] Gulistān, chapter 2 “The Morals of Dervishes,” story 5. Edward Rehatsek (trans.), Gulistan or Rose Garden of Sa‘di (Tehran: Peyk-e Farhang, 1998), p. 38. [Trans.]

[5] Known as Bactra to the Greeks and Baktri or Bagdhi to the Persians, Balkh was an ancient city and center of Zoroastrianism in Khurāsān in today’s Northern Afghanistan. [Trans.]

[6] Shūshtar: an ancient fortress city in the Khūzistān province in southwestern Iran and approximately 92 km away from Ahwāz, the center of the province. [Trans.]

[7] Among the Fārsī-speaking people, this couplet is known as Dīwān-e Balkh, literally “the Court of Balkh,” which alludes to any office or authority whose judgment is not based on logic and reason as well as what is right and just. [Trans.]

[8] This is because we want to have ample time to deal with this subject: on which criteria is the issue of knowledge based in this divine school—this divine worldview of ours upon which our ideology is based? This is our main concern. Other issues are preliminary or introductory in nature for us. That is, we shall touch upon them only to the extent necessary; otherwise, if we want to tackle logic, then we have syllogistic logic; we have symbolic logic; the Organon (manṭiq-e arasṭū) claims to be syllogistic logic. Has the Organon duly performed its alleged function or not? To address them requires many sessions, which are not necessary for our discussion, for these questions are presently not raised among materialists and non-materialists.

The Theory of Knowledge(Murtada Mutahhari, THE THEORY OF KNOWLEDGE: AN ISLAMIC PERSPECTIVE, trans. Mansoor Limba (Tehran: IHCS and ABU, 2011), pp. 9-11.

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Current Translation Project: “Philosophy of Ethics”


Murtada Mutahhari, “Philosophy of Ethics,” trans. Mansoor Limba (London: MIU Press, translation in progress), approx. 240 pp.

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Forthcoming Publication: “Fitrah: Man’s Natural Disposition”


Murtada Mutahhari, FITRAH: MAN’S NATURAL DISPOSITION, trans. Mansoor Limba (London: MIU Press, forthcoming), 192 pp.

Its English translation is finished just today, al-hamdulillah.

It is expected to be published within this year or early next year, insha’ Allah.

About the Book:

“Fitrah: Man’s Natural Disposition” is a translation of the Persian book “Fitrat” (Tehran: Sadra Publications, 2006) by the great Muslim thinker and reformer, Ayatollah Murtada Muttahari. “Fitrah” is the theme of a 10-session lecture series given the martyred thinker in 1976-77 in the presence of teachers in Nikan School in Tehran, and apparently due to his involvement in the Islamic movement and his increasing social activities, it was not continued. With ample citations from the Qur’an and other traditional Islamic sources, Mutahhari discusses the concept of ‘fitrah’ or man’s natural disposition. The author does not confine himself to Islamic references as he continuously engages with the views of a wide range of philosophers including Plato, William James, Russell, Nietzsche, Marx, Feuerbach, Auguste Comte, Spencer, Will Durant, and Durkheim, among others. Mutahhari’s ontological discussion covers a range of issues, including the literal and technical meaning of ‘fitrah’, sacred inclinations, love and worship, and the evolution of human originality. He also examines materialism and provides a theistic approach to some issues pertaining to the theories on the origin of religion, evolution of human society, intrinsic and acquired guidance, and intuitive and sensory dispositions.

Murtada Mutahhari was a leading theoretician of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran. As an accomplished scholar of Islamic sciences, he played a pivotal role in forming the modern Islamic discourse which served as the foundation of the revolution. With close to ninety works to his credit, he is considered one of the leading thinkers of the global Islamic movement in the twentieth century.

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