The Interplay of Religion and Philosophy in al-Tawḥīdī’s Political Thought and Practical Ethics


  • Nuha Alshaar Institute of Ismaili Studies / American University of Sharjah



Although modern scholars tend to be sceptical of the role of religion in the formation of ethical and political thought in the Būyid period (334/945–440/1048), this article argues that both philosophy and religion, as envisioned by al-Tawḥīdī and his contemporaries, played an integral role in its creation. The analysis shows that modern concepts such as ‘humanism’ and ‘political philosophy,’ as applied to these authors and their texts, are not felicitous to the social and intellectual contexts in which they were produced. Through analysing al-Tawḥīdī’s ethical and political thought, certain modern assumed dichotomies, including scientific enquiry versus religious teaching, theoretical ethics versus practical ethics, and the social versus the personal, are reconsidered. The article argues that a contextual approach to al-Tawḥīdī and his peers should consider the encyclopaedic system of knowledge that shaped their thought and the interdisciplinary nature of their work where religious, philosophical, and literary elements are intertwined. The article highlights al-Tawḥīdī’s political thought, his active role as an intellectual and his attempt to disseminate knowledge based on two main beliefs: the role of knowledge linked to action in social life and reform, and a solid sense of the religious and moral responsibility of the scholar to offer advice to the leaders of the community. The concepts that he uses, such as maḥabba (love) and ṣadāqa (friendship) with its four foundational components, namely the soul (nafs), intellect (ʿaql), nature (ṭabīʿa), and morals (khulq), addressed social and political challenges in Būyid society and produced alternative moral and intellectual responses to sectarianism, social disintegration and the decline in morality, which were characteristic of the Būyid era.

Keywords: Ethical political thought, Būyid, Humanism, Political philosophy, ʿIlm (Knowledge), ʿAmal (action), Ṣadāqa (friendship), al-Tawḥīdī, Ikhwān al-Ṣafāʾ




How to Cite

Alshaar, N. (2021). The Interplay of Religion and Philosophy in al-Tawḥīdī’s Political Thought and Practical Ethics. Journal of Arabic and Islamic Studies, 21(2), 313–337.