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By Paul E. Walker

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Extra info for Early Philosophical Shiism: The Ismaʿili Neoplatonism of Abū Yaʿqūb al-Sijistānī

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An enemy of the Ismailis from much later times, the famous wazir Nizam al-Mulk credited al-Nasafl with having been " . . 28 It was he in addition who wrote the Mahsul - the first major work in which philosophical training was put to service in the Ismaili cause and subsequently exposed to fairly wide scrutiny. More than any other single book, the Mahsul achieved recognition as the quintessential expression of the doctrines of the movement (apart from those purely connected to arguments about the imamate).

Al-Maqalid, the most extensive of al-Sijistani's works, again addresses similar problems with a like interest in grand themes rather than polemics. In many cases, nevertheless, the context for an individual chapter in this treatise implies that it is a response to the position of some other writer. Seldom is it possible to identify an immediate source or stimulus for the particular chapter, although it is now clear that some passages in it contain language which The Ismaili message and its philosophers 23 directly parallels portions of the Longer Theologia (to be discussed later in chapter 2).

Philosophy follows in a secondary, but nevertheless essential, position. Moreover, although al-Sijistanl cannot be understood without considering carefully his Shiism, many individual elements in his thinking belong entirely and solely to philosophy. Beyond these two domains, in a distinctly minor role, there is kalam, that peculiarly Islamic form of theology and religious apologetics that sought to defend religious dogma with rational argumentation. Various elements within all three of these fields help explain and elucidate the complex background against which al-Sijistanl worked.

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