Dr. Saad Ismail and Professor Saiyad Nizamuddin Ahmad engage in a stimulating and wide-ranging conversation on the following questions:
How do we define philosophy/wisdom? How do traditional ideas of philosophy differ from modern ones? How would one define Islamic philosophy? What intellectual currents paved the way to traditional cosmology becoming a ‘discarded image’ in the modern world? What has been the comparative fate of philosophy in the Sunni and the Shi’a world? How has the influence of Ghazali and Ash’ari nominalism contributed to the subsequent impoverishment of the Sunni philosophical landscape?
The second half of their discussion delves into:
A critical discussion of the doctrine of the transcendent unity of religions or ‘Perennial Philosophy’ or ‘Traditionalism’. A comparative look at the works of Rene Guenon and Frithjof Schuon in the same tradition. Exploring the element of racism/supremacy in the writings of traditionalist scholars.
The discussion also touches upon Urdu and Sufi poetry, Islam in the subcontinent, and the Occult Sciences.
Saiyad Nizamuddin Ahmad is an independent scholar. He has a PhD and MA in Islamic Studies both from Princeton University, an MA in Arabic from Indiana University (Bloomington), and a BSc in Mathematics from Purdue University. He has served on the faculty of the Department of Arabic and Islamic Civilizations (ARIC) at the American University in Cairo from 2007–2015. He has also taught at the American University in Sharjah, the University of Texas at Austin as well as at the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization, Kuala Lumpur. He has presented scholarly papers on the Islamic occult sciences especially the works of al-Buni (d. 622 H/1225 CE) and al-Suhrawardi al-Maqtul (587 H/1191 CE) at Oxford University, Cambridge University, the Warburg Institute, and the American University in Beirut. Most recently he published a critical edition (Cairo: Dar Miṣr, 1435 H/2015 CE) of Ibn al-ʿArabī’s (d. 638 H/1240 CE) Fuṣūṣ al-ḥikam (The Bezels of Wisdom) based on the unique Konya manuscript dictated by the author to his disciple Ṣadr al-Dīn Qunawī (d. 672 H/1274 CE) as well as an edition with intoductions in Arabic, English, and Urdu of Miʿrāj al-ʿuqūl sharḥ Duʿāʾ al-Mashlūl (The Ascension of the Intellects. Commentary on the Supplication of the Lame) by Murtaḍā Nawnahrawī (d. 1336 H/1917 CE) published in London: The Shīʿah Institute Press, 1436 H/2016 CE ).