EBN ABĪ JOMHŪR AḤSĀʾĪ, Moḥammad b. Zayn-al-Dīn Abi’l-Ḥasan ʿAlī b. Ḥosām-al-Dīn Ebrāhīm (b. ca. 837/1433-34; d. after 25 Ḏu ʾl-Qaʿda 904/4 July 1499), Shiʿite thinker. He lived and taught in his home town of Aḥsā in Baḥrayn, Najaf, and Mašhad during the last half of the 15th century. His best known work, the al-Mojlī, which is actually his commentary and super-commentary on a kalām treatise by himself, is important as an example of the immediate scholastic precursor to the kind of Shiʿite intellectual synthesis which would flower during the Safavid period and come to be called ḥekmat-e elāhī and whose most famous exponent was Mollā Ṣadrā (d. 1050/1640). This synthesis relies on the Islamic kalām tradition, the Islamic peripatetic tradition most prominently represented in the work of Avicenna (d. 1037), the Ešrāqī tradition issuing from the work of Sohrawardī (k. 587/1193), and finally the high Sufism of the ontologists who relied on the oeuvre of Ebn al-ʿArabī (d. 638/1240). Madelung (p. 150) has called the Mojlī “a mirror of the religious ideas and aspirations of the previous three centuries.” But it must be remembered that these ideas are presented by Aḥsāʾī in their distinctive (and apparently Twelver) Shiʿite form. Thus he and the more famous Ḥaydar Āmolī (d. after 787/1385-86) and the more obscure Rajab Borsī (d. 714/1411) may be seen as a trio of post-Mongol, near-contemporary Shiʿite authors who were attracted to the world of images (ʿālam al-meṯāl) as the most likely place for their utopia to be established. None of them seems to have ever anticipated the kind of worldly theocracy (functioning under the direct supervision of the Hidden Imam) that the Safavids eventually would be able to establish. It remains nonetheless beyond dispute that the success of the project depended heavily on the type of piety found in the Mojlī.

An example of this synthesis in his work is the all-important Shiʿite topic of walāya. Aḥsāʿī relies heavily upon Ebn al-ʿArabī’s formulation: Walāya represents a universal and supreme relationship to the divine, according to which every prophet is also a bearer of walāya and may therefore be designated, in some sense, as a walīy (see AWLĪAʾ). However, not every walīy is the bearer of nobūwa (prophecy). Thus, while Moḥammad is a prophet (nabīy), he is also a walīy. It is this fact that renders walāya superior to prophecy. Aḥsāʾī sees in such a formulation grounds for the theological elevation of the Imams, preeminently represented by ʿAlī (Mojlī, p. 488). The metaphysical theory supporting this doctrine is the distinctive emanation scheme called tajallī (the self-manifestation of God). Again, Aḥsāʾī appropriates Ebn al-Arabī’s vision, which came to be known as waḥdat al-wojūd (unity of being), to Shiʿite theology (Mojlī, pp. 204-05). Another example is his interpretation of the basmala. Ebn Abī Jomhūr takes as his starting point the statement of Ebn al-ʿArabī in the Fotūḥāt, that the bāʾ should be interpreted according to its three modes: form, sound, and voweling. The form of the bāʾ corresponds to the malakūt, the pronunciation to the jabarūt, and the voweling represents the testimony of molk. Ebn Abī Jomhūr adds the characteristically Shiʿite comment that the hidden (maḥḏūfa) alef (the one that disappears when the Arabic words be and esm are connected) represents the Hidden Imam, the eventual Qāʾem (viz., upright alef; Mojlī, p. 5).

Ebn Abī Jomhūr was a prolific writer dealing with the usual range of Islamic learned topics and is dubbed a mystic (ʿāref), a traditionist(moḥaddeṯ), and a legist (faqīh; al-Ḏarīʿa XX, p. 13). In addition to the very old and rare printed edition of the Mojlī, one of his collections of Hadith has been published recently. The most complete list of his works is in Madelung (pp. 151-53). It seems certain that Ebn Abī Jomhūr’s thought had a special influence on the formation of the early 19th century religious movement founded by Shaikh Aḥmad Aḥsāʾī, who apparently fell heir to his library; this movement was to issue eventually in the Bābī and Bahāʾī religions (Corbin, IV, p. 222). The most recent discussion of his life and work is given in DMBE.


Bibliography: (For cited works not given in detail, see “Short References.”)

Aḥsāʾī, Ebn Abī Jomhūr Aḥsāʾī, al-Awālī al-laʾāla al-ʿazīzīya fiʾl-aḥādīṯ al-dīnīya, 4 vols., Qom, 1403/1983.

Idem, (Ketāb) al-Mojlī (al-Maslak al-afhām waʾl-nūr al-monjī men al-ẓalām), ed. Shaikh Aḥmad Šīrāzī, Tehran, 1329/1911.

H. Corbin, En Islam iranien, 4 vols., Paris, 1971-72.

DMBE II, pp. 634-37.

W. Madelung, “Ibn Abī Ğumhūr al-Aḥsāʾī’s Synthesis of Kalām, Philosophy, and Sufism,” in La signifiance du bas moyen âge dans l’histoire et la culture du monde musulman, Actes du 8° Congrès de l’Union Europèenne des Arabisants et Islamisants: Aix-en-Provence, 1978, pp. 147-56.

Idem, “Ibn Abī Djomhūr al-Aḥsāʾī,” EI ², suppl., p. 380.

(Todd Lawson)

Originally Published: December 15, 1996

Last Updated: December 2, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. VII, Fasc. 6, pp. 662-663