An Introduction to Islamic Cosmological Doctrines

By Seyyed Hossein Nasr

Subjects: Middle East Studies
Paperback : 9780791415160, 350 pages, July 1993
Hardcover : 9780791415153, 350 pages, July 1993

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Table of contents

Foreword by H. A. R. Gibb

Preface to the Second Edition


List of Transliterations

Prologue--Islam and the Study of Nature


Cosmological Sciences and the Islamic Revelation
The Study of the Cosmological Sciences in Islamic History
The Intellectual Dimensions in Islam and the Class of Seekers of Knowledge



1. The Rasa'il of the Ikhwan al-Safa--Their Identity and Content


The Ikhwan and Philosophy
Identity and Significance of the Ikhwan
The Sources of the Rasa'il
The Organization of the Rasa'il


2. The Principles of the Study of the Cosmos and the Hierarchy of the Universe


The Pythagorean Notion of Arithmetic and Geometry
The Hierarchy of Being
The Relation between God and the Universe
The Universal Intellect and Soul
The Spheres and the Elements
Time, Space, and Motion
The Analogy of Microcosm and Macrocosm and the Great Chain of Being


3. The Individual Cosmological Sciences


Astronomy and Astrology
The World of Generation and Corruption
Geology and Geography
The Three Kingdoms


4. The Microcosm and Its Relation to the Universe


5. The Life, Works, and Significance of al-Biruni

6. The Creation of the World and Its Subsequent History

7. The Role of Nature and the Methods of Its Study


On Nature and Its Function
The Methods Used to Study Nature


8. The Universe and Its Parts


The Heavens
The Sublunary Region
Man and the World


9. The Wedding of Heaven and Earth in Astrology


Principles of Astrology
Al-Biruni and His Attitude Toward Astrology


10. The Attitude of al-Biruni Toward Philosophy and Learning


The Role of Learning in Islam



11. The Life and Works of Ibn Sina and His Significance


Ibn sina and the Islamic Religion


12. The Anatomy of Being


Being and its Polarizations
The Generation of the Universe
The Relation between God and the Universe


13. Principles of Natural Philosophy


Form and Matter
On Causes
Ibn Sina and the Study of Nature


14. The Universe, Man, and Their Relation


The Heavens
The World of Generation and Corruption
The Constitution of the Microcosm
Sympathy between Man and the Universe


15. Nature and the Visionary Recitals


Background and Setting of the Narrative Cycle



Appendix: Astrological Symbols

A Selected Bibliography

Supplementary Bibliography



This is the only book to deal with classical Islamic cosmology as it was formulated by the Ikhwan al-S'afa al Biruni and Ibn Sina during the tenth and eleventh centuries. These figures influenced all the later centuries of Islamic history and in fact created the cosmological framework within which all later scientific activity in the Islamic world was carried out--the enduring image of the cosmos within which Muslims have lived during the past millennium.

Nasr writes from within the Islamic tradition and demonstrates how, based on the teachings of the Quran and the Prophet, the figures treated in this work integrated elements drawn from various ancient schools of philosophy and the sciences. This book is unique in its treatment of classical Islamic cosmology as seen from within the Islamic world-view and provides a key for understanding of traditional Islamic thought.

Seyyed Hossein Nasr is University of Islamic Studies Professor at George Washington University. He is the author of the forthcoming The Need for a Sacred Science, and has written Islamic Art and Spirituality, Islamic Life and Thought, Knowledge and the Sacred, Sufi Essays, and co-authored Expectations of the Millenium: Shi'ism in History and Shi'ism: Doctrines, Thought, and Spirituality, all published by SUNY Press.


"…the amount of academic literature devoted to the way in which Muslims in classical and medieval Islam envisioned the cosmos is negligible. There are, however, some noteworthy exceptions. An Introduction to Islamic Cosmological Doctrines is one of them. " — Parabola