Islamic Studies Miskawayh
by
Ufuk Topkara
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 July 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195390155-0246

Introduction

Miskawayh (b. 932–d. 1030) was a formative Islamic philosopher in the 10th century. He is known for his work both as a historian and a philosopher (see Arkoun 1982, cited under Miskawayh’s Influence). Although his extant writings indicate that his work is less distinguished than that of his contemporary Ibn Sina (Leaman 2003, under Miskawayh’s Influence), he remains one of the most important thinkers of his time, and he contributed a great deal to the philosophical debate. He was first trained as secretary, and later served as librarian and in various other positions for a number of Buyid rulers, both in Rayy and Baghdad, which was one of the most important centers of learning during the Abbasid period (750–1258 CE). Grounded in the classical Arabic literary culture of adab and Greek philosophy, Miskawayh was one of the prominent proponents of harmonizing not only the various trends within Greek ancient philosophy, but also the whole enterprise within Islamic culture and tradition (Marcotte 2011, under Happiness). Although Miskawayh is said to have pursued studies in many sciences, his extant writings mainly cover the fields of philosophy, philosophical theology, and history. He is believed to be the first in Islamic civilization to write a systematic ethico-philosophical treatise, entitled The Refinement of Character (Tahḏīb al-Aḫlāq), drawing heavily from ancient Greek philosophy and Islamic tradition. Numerous references to Plato, Aristotle, and Galen, among others, underline the eclectic character of his ethics. While it is deeply influenced by Aristotle’s Ethica Nicomachea, it employs a Platonizing interpretation of Aristotelian philosophy. However, Miskawayh is merely a transmitter of ancient Greek philosophy, as shown by both his critical survey of the material available to him and his own contributions. Miskawayh is considered to be very close to the Neoplatonist tradition, employing extensively the materials that were produced in the circle of al-Kindi. The latter is not only the most important predecessor of Miskawayh’s philosophy, he remains highly influential throughout his writings, evident in the fact that Miskawayh refers to al-Kindi several times by name. In contrast to al-Kindi, though, Miskawayh doesn’t shy away from defending Neoplatonic positions with new arguments, in some cases openly embracing the intellectual consequences (Adamson 2007, under Metaphysics/Philosophical Theology). Finally, Miskawayh was certainly aware and influenced by the Baghdad school of peripatetics, to which the Aristotelian influence on his writings can be traced back, as it is evident in both The Refinement of Character (Tahḏīb al-Aḫlāq) and The Smaller Book of Triumph (Kitāb al-Fawz al-aṣghar) (Wakelnig 2014, under Translations). He personally refers to Hasan Ibn Suwar, a disciple of Yahya Ibn ʿAdi (Fakhry, 1991, cited under Ethics).

Life

Born in Rayy (close to today’s Tehran), Miskawayh’s family was of Persian origin, and the name initially may have been Miskuya. The assumption that he may have converted from Zoroastrism to Islam has ceased, assuming that his forefathers might have done so. While a number of works list his name as Ibn Miskawayh, it is by now established that he was referred to as Miskawayh only (Arkoun 1965 and Wakelnig 2011, both cited under Miskawayh’s Influence). Miskawayh lived in a period of violent turmoil, when the political order of the Abbasid reign was challenged as never before. Even though Abbasid caliphs formerly remained in charge, the real political power was executed by a number of small tribal leaders, such as the Buyids. The Buyid (or Buwayhid) family were Shiʿa, which alienated them from significant sections of the population they ruled over, resulting periodically in violent clashes between the sects in Baghdad. Miskawayh reflects on these tensions, without making his own convictions explicit. Although his writings don’t provide a clear indication, it is assumed that he was an Imami Shiʿa. Miskawayh was in contact with a number of prominent philosophers of his time, namely Abu Hayyan al-Tawhidi, Abu Suleyman al-Sijistani al-Mantiqi, Hasan Ibn Suwar, Abu l-Hasan al-ʿAmiri and Ibn Sina (Wakelnig 2011, under Miskawayh’s Influence). Some of those contemporaries list a number of Miskawayh’s works in their own writing. Al-Sijistani, for instance, speaks about Miskawayh in his Ṣiwān al-Ḥikma, al-Thaʿalibi does so in Yatīmat al-Dahr fī Maḥāsin Ahl al-‘Aṣr, and al-Tawhidi in his al-Imtāʿ or his Mathālib. Miskawayh reportedly died in Isfahan (modern-day Iran), at nearly one hundred years of age.

Bibliography

The general bibliographical literature on Islamic philosophy, including Daiber 1999–2007, provides material on Miskawayh. Particularly helpful are Arkoun 1982 (cited under Miskawayh’s Influence), Marcotte 2011 (cited under Happiness), and Wakelnig 2014 (cited under Translations). Endress 2012 provides the most comprehensive list of primary works and secondary literature.

  • Daiber, Hans. Bibliography of Islamic Philosophy. 2 vols. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1999–2007.

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    Comprehensive and compelling bibliography of the discipline by a major authority in the area.

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  • Endress, Gerhard. “Antike Ethik-Traditionen für die Islamische Gesellschaft: Abū ‘Alī Miskawayh.” In Philosophie in der Islamischen Welt. Vol. 1, 8.-10. Jahrhundert. Edited by Ulrich Rudolph, 210–238. Basel, Switzerland: Schwabe Verlag, 2012.

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    Excellent and comprehensive bibliography of primary sources and secondary works, with an introduction and critical review of major themes in Miskawayh’s work by a main authority in Islamic studies.

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Original Works and Editions

The extant writings of Miskawayh largely focus on three areas: historiography, philosophy, and philosophical theology. While his full-fledged studies have long been translated to either English (Miskawayh 1945, Miskawayh 1964, and Miskawayh 1968 [all cited under Translations]; Miskawayh 2015 [under Original Works and Editions]) or French (Miskawayh 1968 and Miskawayh 1987 [both under Translations]), some of his shorter treatises have recently been made accessible in English (Marcotte 1996 [under Translations], Adamson and Pormann 2012 [under Metaphysics/Philosophical Theology], Adamson 2015 [under Translations]).

  • Arkoun, Mohammed. “Deux épîtres de Miskawayh (mort en 421/1030).” Bulletin d’études orientales 17 (1961–1962): 7–74.

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    Introduction and edition of two short epistles of Miskawayh: Epistle on Pleasures and Pains (Risāla fī al-Laḏḏāt wa al-’Ālām) and Epistle on Soul and Intellect (Risāla fī n-Nafs wa-l-‘aql).

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  • Arkoun, Mohammed. “Textes inédits de Miskawayh (m. 421).” Annales islamologique 5 (1963): 181–205.

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    Edition of many short epistles encompassing issues of the soul, the intellect, and theology. Also contains an introduction to The Experiences of the Nations (Taǧārib al-Umam), which is translated into French.

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  • Arkoun, Mohammed. “Miskawayh: de l’intellect et de l’intelligible (Fī l-ʿaql wa-l-maʿqūl).” Arabica 11.1 (1964): 80–87.

    DOI: 10.1163/157005864X00077Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Edition of the Epistle on the Intellect and the Intelligible (Fī l-ʿaql wa-l-maʿqūl), another work that is relevant for Miskawayh’s ontology of the soul.

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  • Miskawayh, Abu ʿAli Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Yaʿqub. Tartīb as-sa‘ādāt wa-manāzil al-‘ulūm. Edited by ʿAli al-Tubgi. Cairo, Egypt, 1928.

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    An early and short treatise on the grades of human happiness and the division of sciences (according to Aristotle). Composed before The Refinement of Character (Tahḏīb al-Aḫlāq).

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  • Miskawayh, Abu ʿAli Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Yaʿqub. Kitāb al-Hawāmil wa-Šawāmil. Edited by Ahmad Saqr and Ahmad Amin. Cairo, Egypt, 1951.

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    The Book of Rambling (Questions) and Comprehensive (Answers) (Kitāb al-Hawāmil wa-Šawāmil) (Wakelnig 2011, cited under Miskawayh’s Influence) contains a series of questions and answers on a variety of philosophical problems between Miskawayh and his contemporary Abu Hayyan al-Tawhidi. Noticeable is Miskawayh’s austere responds to a demanding set of stylistically elaborated questions by al-Tawhidi. Research even suggests that this work is evidence for a Teacher (Miskawayh) and Student (al-Tawhidi) relationship between them (see Alshaar 2015, cited under Friendship, and Emami and Umar 2008, cited under Miskawayh’s Influence).

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  • Miskawayh, Abu ʿAli Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Yaʿqub. Kitāb Ādāb al-‘Arab wa-l-Furs (Jāwīdān ḫirad). Edited by ʿAbd al-Rahman Badawi. Cairo, Egypt, 1952.

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    The Permanence of Wisdom (Jāwīdān ḫirad) resembles a gnomological collection of aphorisms and ethico-moral maxims of ancient cultures of the Persians, the Indians, the Arabs, the Greeks, and the early Muslim community.

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  • Miskawayh, Abu ʿAli Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Yaʿqub. Tahḏīb al-Aḫlāq. Edited by Constantine Zurayk. Beirut, Lebanon, 1966.

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    To this day the only available edition of The Refinement of Character (Tahḏīb al-Aḫlāq). The treatise is considered to be the first attempt of systematization of philosophical ethics in Islamic civilization. Drawing largely on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, but employing essentially a Platonic interpretation of it.

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  • Miskawayh, Abu ʿAli Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Yaʿqub. Kitāb al-Fawz al-aṣghar. Edited by Salih ʿUdayma. Tunis, Tunisia, 1987.

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    The Smaller Book of Triumph (Kitāb al-Fawz al-aṣghar) contains a metaphysical, one might even say theological, survey of three topics: the existence of God, the ontology of the soul, and prophecy.

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  • Miskawayh, Abu ʿAli Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Yaʿqub. Taǧārib al-Umam: The Eclipse of the ʿAbbasid Caliphate; Classical Writings of the Medieval Islamic World. Vols. 1–2. Edited by H. F. Amedroz, and D. S. Margoliouth, with an Introduction by Hugh Kennedy. London and New York: I. B. Tauris, 2015.

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    Contains the final two volumes of the six-volume historiographical work The Experiences of the Nations (Taǧārib al-Umam). The first section of the Taǧārib accounts for the history of the Islamic world from the beginning of history until the accession of Caliph al-Muqtadir in 908 CE, drawing heavily on al-Tabarī’s History of the Prophets and Kings.

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Translations

There are a fair amount of translations of long treatises (Miskawayh 1968, Miskawayh 1945) and short epistles (Adamson 2015, Marcotte 1996) into both English and French. A recent compilation of unpublished philosophical texts is particularly compelling (Wakelnig 2014).

  • Adamson, Peter. “Miskawayh on Pleasure.” Arab Sciences and Philosophy 25 (2015): 199–223.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0957423915000028Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Excellent introduction to Miskawayh’s Epistle on Pleasures and Pains (Risāla fī al-Laḏḏāt wa al-‘Ālām). Situates the treatise in the larger context of Greek philosophy and Miskawayh’s own work. Contains an annotated and very accessible English translation.

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  • Arkoun, Mohammed. Miskawayh (320/21–420), Traité d’éthique (Tahḏīb al-aḫlāq wa taṭhīr al-‘arāq): Traduction française avec introduction et notes. Damascus, Syria: Institut Français de Damas, 1969.

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    Introduction and annotated French translation of The Refinement of Character and Purification of Dispositions (Tahḏīb al-Aḫlāq wa taṭhīr al-‘arāq).

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  • Marcotte, Roxanne. “Risāla fī’l-‘Aql wa’l-Ma‘qūl of Miskawayh: An Epistle on the Intellect and the Intelligible.” Islamic Culture 70 (1996): 1–17.

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    Brief introduction, and annotated and accessible English translation of the Epistle on the Intellect and the Intelligible.

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  • Miskawayh, Abu ʿAli Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Yaʿqub. Kitāb al-Fawz al-aṣghar. Translated by J. Windrow Sweetman. In Islamic and Christian Theology: A Study of the Interpretation of Theological Ideas in the Two Religions. London: Lutterworth, 1945.

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    Only available English translation of The Smaller Book of Triumph (Kitāb al-Fawz al-aṣghar).

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  • Miskawayh, Abu ʿAli Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Yaʿqub. Risāla fī māhiyat al-‘adl. Edited by M. S. Khan. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1964.

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    Edition and annotated English translation of the short treatise on The Nature of Justice (Risāla fī māhiyat al-‘adl). Resembles a defense of Miskawayh’s theory of justice against the inquiries of al-Tawhidi.

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  • Miskawayh, Abu ʿAli Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Yaʿqub. The Refinement of Character. Translated by Constantine Zurayk. Beirut, Lebanon: American University of Beirut, 1968.

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    Introduction and annotated English translation of The Refinement of Character.

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  • Miskawayh, Abu ʿAli Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Yaʿqub. Kitāb al-Fawz al-aṣghar: Le petit livre du salut. Translated by Roger Arnaldez. Tunis, Tunisia: al-Dar al-‘Arabiyya lil-Kitab, 1987.

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    Critical edition and annotated French translation of The Smaller Book of Triumph (Kitāb al-Fawz al-aṣghar).

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  • Wakelnig, Elvira. A Philosophy Reader from the Circle of Miskawayh: Text, Translation and Commentary. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2014.

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    Introduction and excellent compilation of unpublished philosophical texts that were presumably circulating as a “philosophy reader” in the 11th century CE. Provides an extensive bibliography on primary works and secondary sources.

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Miskawayh’s Influence

Miskawayh’s ethical treatise The Refinement of Character established his reputation as “chief moral philosopher of Islam.” The combination of the Aristotelian classification of practical philosophy and a philosophical theology of Platonic origin remained very influential for later ethical works of Nasir al-Din Tusi and al-Ghazali, among others (Marcotte 2011, cited under Happiness), but was also received by modern thinkers like Muhammed ʿAbduh in the 19th century (Mottahedeh 2016, under Friendship). Despite the early interpretation of his work (Walzer 1963), Miskawayh came to be more and more acknowledged in contemporary scholarship as a philosopher in his own right (Adamson 2007 [under Metaphysics/Philosophical Theology], Endress 2012 [under Bibliography]).

  • Arkoun, Mohammed. “Miskawayh.” In Encyclopeadia of Islam. 2d ed. Vol. 7. Edited by C. E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, W. P. Heinrichs, Ch. Pellat. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1965.

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    Brief introduction to Miskawayh’s work as a historian and philosopher, highlighting his originality within the contemporary intellectual circles of the Abbasid period.

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  • Arkoun, Mohammed. L’humanisme arabe au IV/X siècle: Miskawayh, Philosophe et historien. Paris: J. Vrin, 1982.

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    To this day the most comprehensive and useful monograph on Miskawayh, authored by an expert of Islamic studies who dedicated much of his research to the topic. The underlying interpretation of Islamic thought and the portrayal of Miskawayh as the preeminent exponent of philosophical humanism, however, are contested.

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  • Emami, Abu’l-Qassem, and Suheyl Umar. “Abū ʿAlī Miskawayh.” In Encyclopedia Islamica. Vol. 1. Edited by Wilfred Madelung and Farhad Daftary. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2008.

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    Excellent, most comprehensive encyclopedic article on Miskawayh. Contains a bibliography of primary sources and an extended reference to secondary sources in Arabic and Persian.

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  • Gutas, Dimitri. “Paul the Persian on the Classification of the Parts of Aristotle’s Philosophy: A Milestone between Alexandria and Baghdad.” Der Islam 60 (1983): 233–267.

    DOI: 10.1515/islm.1983.60.2.231Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Very compelling source-critical study of The Order of Happiness (Tartīb as-sa‘ādāt). Shows that the second part of the treatise bears significant similarities to al-Farabi’s Iḥṣāʾ al-ʿulūm (Enumeration of the Sciences). Suggests that the introductory work on the philosophy of Aristotle, composed by Paul the Persian, served as a common source for both.

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  • Hakkı, Izmirli Ismail. “Miskeveyhin Felsefesi eserleri.” Darülfünun İlahiyat Fakültesi Mecmuası (Nisan 1929): 59–80.

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    Contains a number of significant interpretations of Miskawayh’s writings, particularly outlining similarities and differences to Ihwan as-Safa (Brethren of Purity), al-Farabi and al-ʿAmiri. Contains also a bibliographical survey of extant manuscripts.

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  • Leaman, Oliver. “Ibn Miskawayh.” In History of Islamic Philosophy. Edited by Seyyed Hossein Nasr and Oliver Leaman, 252–257. London and New York: Routledge, 2003.

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    Concise and helpful introduction to major themes of Miskawayh’s work.

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  • Pines, Shlomo. “Ahmad Miskawayh and Paul the Persian.” Irân-Shinâsî 2.2 (Tehran 1971): 121–129.

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    A rare critical review of the sources of Miskawayh. Subject here is the treatise The Order of Happiness (Tartīb as-sa’ādāt).

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  • Wakelnig, Elvira. “Miskawayh, Abū ‘Alī.” In Encyclopedia of Medieval Philosophy. Vol. 2, Philosophy between 500 and 1500. Edited by Henrik Lagerlund, 797–799. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer, 2011.

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    A brief introduction into Miskawayh’s life and work. Wakelnig focuses on the intrinsic issues and the interdependence of his writings.

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  • Wakelnig, Elvira. “Die Philosophen in der Tradition al-Kindīs: Al-‘Āmirī, al-Isfizārī, Miskawayh, as-Siğistānī und at-Tawḥīdī.” In Islamische Philosophie im Mittelalter. Edited by Heidrun Eichner, Matthias Perkrams, and Christian Schäfer, 233–252. Darmstadt, Germany: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2013.

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    Concise and clear account of Miskawayh’s main contributions.

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  • Walzer, Richard. “Some Aspects of Miskawaih’s Tahdhibal-Akhlaq.” In Greek into Arabic: essays on Islamic philosophy. By Richard Walzer, 220–235. Oxford: Bruno Cassirer, 1963.

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    Proponent of the theory that ancient Greek philosophy has simply been continued in Arabic without adding an original contribution to it. Miskawayh is depicted as someone who compiled materials of different origins with a Neoplatonic capping. Doesn’t see Miskawayh as an independent critical thinker, and his contribution to moral philosophy is considered to be slight.

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Islamic/Arabic Humanism

Arkoun 1982 (cited under Miskawayh’s Influence) shed new light on Miskawayh in the 20th century, both by making his writing accessible through translations and various editions and by reinterpreting Miskawayh as a proponent of an Arab humanism (Kraemer 1992). This classification, in return, created a fair deal of debate about the extent to which religious thought plays a role in Miskawayh’s writing. While Arkoun 1982 (under Miskawayh’s Influence), Gamal al-Din 1994 (under Ethics), and Goodman 2003 claim that Miskawayh had no intention of reconciling philosophy with religion, others (Leaman 2003 [under Miskawayh’s Influence], Marcotte 2011 [under Happiness], Omar 1997 [under Ethics]) point to the religious underpinnings of his oeuvre. Key 2005 questions the applicability of the term “humanism.”

  • Arkoun, Mohammed. “L’Humanisme arabe au IVe/Xe siècle, d’après le Kitâb al-Hawâmil wal-Šawâmil. II. Miskawayh, ou l’humaniste serein: analyse des Šawâmil.” Studia Islamica 15 (1961): 63–87.

    DOI: 10.2307/1595135Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Depicts Miskawayh as a modern philosopher who employed a humanistic-anthropological method and categorized religious teachings as a form of sociocultural or symbolic representations.

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  • Goodman, Lenn. Islamic Humanism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

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    Explores the origins of the tradition of humanism in Islamic culture. Puts forward the elsewhere contested notion that there is an incompatibility between humanism and a religious account, assuming that Miskawayh does not prioritize religion.

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  • Key, Alexander. “The Applicability of the Term ‘Humanism’ to Abū Ḥayyān al-Tawḥīdī.” Studia Islamica 100/101 (2005): 71–112.

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    Questions the applicability of the term humanism onto the writings of Abu Hayyan al-Tawhidi, a contemporary of Miskawayh. Suggests that it cannot be successfully projected onto the period, after all.

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  • Kraemer, Joel L. Humanism in the Renaissance of Islam: The Cultural Revival during the Buyid Age. 2d ed. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1992.

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    Depicting the rule of the Buyid dynasty (945–1055 CE) as a period of enlightenment and Renaissance-like culture. Miskawayh is introduced as one of the key representatives of an age that is defined as “philosophical humanism.”

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Metaphysics/Philosophical Theology

The development of philosophical theology in Islamic thought is closely linked to the reception of Greek philosophy. Miskawayh’s contribution completely falls within these parameters, but it is particularly influenced by the Commentary tradition of Late Antiquity, in which Platonic and Aristotelian accounts were harmonized.

  • Adamson, Peter. “Miskawayh’s Psychology.” In Classical Arabic Philosophy: Sources and Reception. Edited by Peter Adamson, 39–55. London: Warburg Institute, 2007.

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    Brief but remarkably comprehensive account on Miskawayh’s adaptation of Neoplatonist theories on the ontology of the soul. Provides also a translation of parts of Miskawayh’s Epistle on Soul and Intellect (Risāla fī n-Nafs wa-l-‘aql).

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  • Adamson, Peter, and Peter E. Pormann. “More than Heat and Light: Miskawayh’s Epistle on Soul and Intellect.” The Muslim World 102.3–4 (October 2012): 478–524.

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    Presents a brief introduction and contextualization of Miskawayh’s Epistle on Soul and Intellect (Risāla fī n-Nafs wa-l-‘aql). Contains an annotated and very accessible English translation.

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  • Marcotte, Roxanne. “Ibn Miskawayh: Imagination and Prophecy (Nubuwwah).” Islamic Culture 71.2 (1997): 1–13.

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    Brief but clear account of Miskawayh’s theory of prophecy as it is employed in The Smaller Book of Triumph (Kitāb al-Fawz al-aṣghar). Emphasizes Miskawayh’s attempt to harmonize philosophical and religious concepts of knowledge.

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  • Saruhan, Müfit Selim. Ibn Miskeveyh düṣüncesinde tanrı ve insan. Ankara, Turkey: Avrasya, 2005.

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    Clear and well-argued description of Miskawayh’s study of metaphysics in his Smaller Book of Triumph (Kitāb al-Fawz al-aṣghar). Portrays Miskawayh as a philosopher in his own right.

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  • Wakelnig, Elvira. “A New Version of Miskawayh’s Book of Triumph: An Alternative Recension of al-Fawz al-Asghar or the lost Fawz al-Akbar?” Arabic Sciences and Philosophy 19 (2009): 83–119.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0957423909000599Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Very compelling discussion of a presumably alternative version of The Smaller Book of Triumph (Kitāb al-Fawz al-aṣghar). Contains a comparison with unpublished manuscripts.

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Ethics

Miskawayh’s ethical treatise The Refinement of Character resembles a synthesis of Platonic and Aristotelian concepts, along with other Helenic sources. It compiles all the issues that have appeared in Arabic ethical writings. Rather than attempting to innovate or reform, Miskawayh tidied, refined, systematized, and attempted to provide comprehensive justification for the importance of Philosophical Ethics.

  • Adamson, Peter. “Ethics in Philosophy.” In Encyclopeadia of Islam. 3d ed. Edited by Kate Fleet, Gudrun Krämer, Denis Matringe, Everett Rowson, and John Nawas. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2015.

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    Concise and very helpful account. Contains a brief summary of Miskawayh’s contribution to the development of philosophical ethics in Islam.

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  • Ansari, M. Abdul Haq. The Ethical Philosophy of Miskawaih. Aligarh, India: Aligarh Muslim University Press, 1964.

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    Provides some detailed analysis of concepts embedded in Miskawayh’s ethics.

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  • Bucar, Elizabeth M. “Islam and the Cultivation of Character: Ibn Miskawayh’s Synthesis and the Case of the Veil.” In Cultivating Virtue: Perspectives from Philosophy, Theology, and Psychology. Edited by Nancy E. Snow, 197–227. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.

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    Elaborates possible contemporary applications of Miskawayh’s virtue ethics on Islamic everyday practices. Emphasizing the relationship between the adab discourse and current philosophical or religious discussions of virtue.

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  • Fakhry, Majid. “The Platonism of Miskawayh and Its Implications for His Ethics.” Studia Islamica 42 (1975): 39–57.

    DOI: 10.2307/1595457Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Useful account of the various strains within Miskawayh’s Platonism and the eclectic nature of his ethics.

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  • Fakhry, Majid. Ethical Theories in Islam. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1991.

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    Resembles an anthology of ethical writings in Islam up to the 15th century. Offers a very useful introduction to the main themes of Miskawayh’s The Refinement of Character (Tahḏīb al-Aḫlāq).

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  • Gamal al-Din, Nadia. “Miskawayh (A.D. 932–1030/ A.H. 320–421).” Prospects 24.1 (March 1994): 131–152.

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    Interesting account of Miskawayh’s elaboration of the Aristotelian ideas of teaching virtue and its practical application in The Refinement of Character (Tahḏīb al-Aḫlāq).

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  • Mohamed, Yasien. “The Cosmology of Ikhwān al-ṣafā’, Miskawayh and al-Iṣfahāni.” In Special Issue: Islam and Science. Islamic Studies 39.4 (2000): 657–679.

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    Provides a useful comparative account on the Platonic (emanationist) concepts of creation employed by thinkers belonging to different generations.

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  • Omar, Mohammed Nasir bin. “Preliminary Remarks on Greek Sources of Muslim Ethics: Miskawayh’s Experience.” The Islamic Quarterly 41.4 (1997): 270–283.

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    Elaborates briefly the relationship between Greek philosophy and religious belief in Miskawayh’s ethics. Emphasizes the Muslim identity of Miskawayh.

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  • Türkeri, Mehmet. “Bazı Islam Ahlak kuramlarındaki ortak noktalar.” D.E.Ü. İlahiyat Fakültesi Dergisi 19 (2004): 3–19.

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    Differentiates between philosophical ethics and religious ethics in the body of Islamic intellectual history. Concise comparison between the philosophical ethics of al-Farabi and Miskawayh, on the one hand, and religious ethics of al-Ghazali and al-Razi, on the other.

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Happiness

Adamson’s assessment that philosophical ethics in the Islamic world of the Middle Ages is “eudaimonistic” (i.e., that it is geared toward the attainment of happiness in the objective sense rather than the subjective sense of finding one’s life enjoyable) remains particularly true with regard to Miskawayh (see Adamson 2015, cited under Translations). Here again, Miskawayh proves to be combining both strands of the debate regarding how this happiness can be obtained. Consequently, he emphasizes that both intellectual perfection and the pursuit of practical virtue need to be employed in order to reach happiness.

  • Ansari, M. Abdul Haq. “Miskawayh’s Conception of Sa’adah.” Islamic Studies 2.3 (1963): 317–335.

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    Basic account of Miskawayh’s views on happiness.

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  • Marcotte, Roxanne. “Ibn Miskawayh’s Tartīb al-Sa‘ādāt (The Order of Happiness).” In Monotheism and Ethics: Historical and Contemporary Intersections among Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Edited by Y. Tzvi Langermann, 141–163. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2011.

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    Excellent discussion of Miskawayh’s earlier views on happiness as showcased in The Order of Happiness (Tartīb as-sa‘ādāt). Argues that elements of religious tradition are already incorporated at an early stage of his work and remain important throughout his teachings.

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  • Omar, Mohammd Nasir bin. Christian and Muslim Ethics. A Study of How to Attain Happiness as Reflected in the Works on Tahdhib al-Ahlaq by Yahya ibn Adi and Miskawayh. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 2003.

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    Provides a comparative study of two ethical works that are often assumed to be interrelated. Somewhat obsessed with the attempt to prove this assumption.

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Justice

Despite the widespread recognition that justice is an issue of significant importance in Islamic thought, there have been relatively few systematic studies of Islamic conceptions of justice (GhaneaBassiri 2003). In his treatise The Refinement of Character, Miskawayh devotes a chapter to the topic, in which he examines the concept of Justice in Aristotle’s Ethica Nicomachea. Miskawayh connects the Aristotelian accounts with tenets of Islamic belief. To this day it remains one of the few, albeit not comprehensive, attempts to provide a systematic philosophical account of justice in Islamic thought.

  • Altıntaş, Ramazan. “İbn Miskeveyh’in adalet anlayışı.” Cumhuriyet Üniversitesi İlâhiyat Fakültesi Dergisi 2 (1998): 237–249.

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    Useful summary of Miskawayh’s theory of justice and its foundations in the Islamic tradition. Slightly biased in favor of a religious interpretation.

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  • Bhat, Badruddin. “Miskawayh on Social Justice, Education and Friendship.” Islamic Studies 25.2 (1986): 197–210.

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    Vey basic account of some central themes in Miskawayh’s ethics.

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  • Fakhry, Majid. “Justice in Islamic Philosophical Ethics: Miskawayh’s Mediating Contribution.” Journal of Religious Ethics 3.2 (1975): 243–254.

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    Provides a brief and helpful survey of Miskawayh’s methodology: Harmonizing the Platonic concept of what it means to be just with the Aristotelian idea of acting justly.

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  • GhaneaBassiri, Kambiz. “A Window on Islam in Buyid Society: Justice and Its Epistemological Foundation in the Religious Thought of ‘Abd al-Jabbār, Ibn al-Baqillāni, and Miskawayh.” PhD diss., Harvard University, 2003.

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    Cogent and lucid study of the theory of justice in Miskawayh’s ethics. Shows how this understanding deviates from former theological discussions on the topic.

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  • Karagözoğlu, Hümeyra. “Ahlak Düşüncesinde Siyaseti Aramak: İbn Miskeveyh’te ‘Adalet’ Kavramının Siyasî Yansımaları.” Dîvân Disiplinlerarası Çalışmalar Dergisi, 14.27 (2009): 93–118.

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    Interesting study of how Miskawayh’s theory of justice can be applied to Islamic political theory debates.

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Friendship

Friendship resembles another important concept of Aristotelian ethical philosophy. Research suggests that the concept of friendship, along with justice, was proposed by many thinkers of Miskawayh’s age as a measured response to the decline in morality and the social disintegration during the post-caliphate period in 11th century CE (Alshaar 2015). Miskawayh’s account in The Refinement of Character certainly falls within this framework.

  • Alshaar, Nuha. Ethics in Islam: Friendship in the Political thought of Abū ῌayyān al-Tawhīdī and His Contemporaries. London and New York: Routledge, 2015.

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    Profound and compelling account of a major theme in ethico-philosophical debates. The author examines the work of Abu Hayyan al-Tawhidi, a contemporary of Miskawayh. While these thinkers were original in many ways, their outlook was firmly rooted in Islamic culture in which they were educated.

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  • Goodman, Lenn. “Friendship in Aristotle, Miskawayh and al-Ghazālī.” In Friendship East and West: Philosophical Perspectives. Edited by Oliver Leaman, 164–191. Richmond, UK: Curzon, 1996.

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    Sound and clear account of the concept of friendship in Miskawayh’s The Refinement of Character (Tahḏīb al-Aḫlāq), put in contrast with Aristotle and al-Ghazali. Argues that the concept shows clearly the humanist grounding of Miskawayh, who seeks to link the modalities of religious observance to the Platonic and Aristotelian idea that practice gives substance to virtues that are otherwise only potential or ideal.

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  • Mottahedeh, Roy Parvez. “Friendship in Islamic Ethical Philosophy.” In Essays in Islamic Philology, History, and Philosophy. Edited by Alireza Korangy, Wheeler M. Thackstone, Roy P. Mottahedeh, and William Granara, 229–239. Berlin and Boston: Walter de Gruyter, 2016.

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    Brief but compelling account of a number of issues in Miskawayh’s ethical philosophy regarding friendship and the concept of saʿadah, which is usually translated as “happiness,” but in this case rendered as “virtuous well-being.”

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  • Türkeri, Mehmet. “Aristoteles, Fârâbî ve İbni Miskeveyh’in ahlak kurumlarında ‘Dostluk’un önemi.” D.E.Ü. İlahiyat Fakültesi Dergisi 19 (2004): 79–101.

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    Clear, basic account of the importance of friendship in the Aristotelian tradition and in the ethical writings of al-Farabi and Miskawayh.

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Sufism

Miskawayh’s relation to Sufism is difficult to assess. References in his extant writing are rather scarce. While obviously some parts of Miskawayh’s thought could have been influenced by Sufism, one must also point out the resemblances such ideas have with Platonism. The notion of reaching oneness with God, for instance, which is elaborated by Miskawayh in The Refinement of Character, can be traced back to both Sufi and Platonic accounts.

  • Alshaar, Nuha. “Between Love and Social Aspiration: The Influence of Ṣufī and Greek Concepts of Love on the Socio-Political Thought of the Ikhwan al-Ṣafa, Miskawayh, and al-Tawḥīdī.” In Sources and Approaches across Disciplines in Near Eastern Studies. Edited by Verena Klemm and Nuha Al-Sha’ar, 25–41. Leuven, Belgium: Peeters, 2013.

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    A sound account of the various influences that came to impact the concept of love and friendship in Miskawayh’s work.

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  • Öçal, Samil. “Ebu Hayyan Tevhîdî’nin Ibn Miskeveyh’e yönelttiǧi Felsefî sorular.” Dinî Araṣtırmalar 2.4 (1999): 123–141.

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    Contains a Turkish translation of the questions posed by Abu Hayyan al-Tawhidi to Miskawayh in The Book of Rambling (Questions) and Comprehensive (Answers) (Kitāb al-Hawāmil wa-Šawāmil).

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  • Omar, Mohammed Nasir bin. “Miskawayh’s Theory of Self-Purification and the Relationship between Philosophy and Sufism.” Journal of Islamic Studies 5.1 (1994): 35–51.

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    Draws on the similarities between the Sufi concept of the self and Miskawayh’s theory of self-purification.

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