b. Šāh Mortażā b. Šāh Maḥmūd (b. 1598-9, d. 1679), prolific and versatile scholar of the Safavid period, celebrated chiefly for his Sufi inclinations.


FAYŻ-E KĀŠĀNĪ, MOLLĀ MOḤSEN-MOḤAMMAD, b. Šāh Mortażā b. Šāh Maḥmūd (b. 1006/1598 or 1007/1599; d. 1090/1679), prolific and versatile scholar of the Safavid period, celebrated chiefly for his Sufi inclinations. Born in Kāšān to a family renowned for its learning, Fayż began his education with his father, Šāh Mortażā, from whose rich library he was also able to benefit. At the age of twenty he went to Isfahan to pursue his studies, but after about a year he moved to Shiraz to study Hadith and jurisprudence with Mājed Baḥrānī, one of the leading representatives of the Aḵbārī school (q.v.). When Baḥrānī died a few months after his arrival, he returned to Isfahan where he joined the circle of the great scholar Bahāʾ-al-Dīn ʿĀmelī (q.v.) as well as, perhaps, attending the lectures of Mīr Dāmād on philosophy. This second sojourn in Isfahan also did not last long, for in 1029/1620 he departed for Mecca and, after performing the hajj, remained there in order to study Hadith with Moḥammad b. Ḥasan b. Zayn-al-Dīn ʿĀmelī (al-Maḥajja al-bayżā IV, p. 7).

On his return to Persia Fayż set about seeking a new master with whom to study and before long encountered in Qom Mollā Ṣadrā (d. 1050/1641), who was destined to be his principal teacher in a wide variety of disciplines. Fayż recounts that as a result of the eight years he spent studying and engaged in ascetic exercises under the supervision of Mollā Ṣadrā, he attained the innermost meaning of all the sciences (al-Maḥajja al-bayżā IV, p. 9). The influence of Ṣadrā’s philosophy, together with its three principal components—illuminationist (ešrāqī) thought, the Sufism of Ebn al-ʿArabī (q.v.), and the teachings of the Ahl al-Bayt (see AHL-E BAYT)—is indeed to be seen in most of Fayż’s works, although the Sufi dimension is more noticeable in his writings than in those of his master. It was also Ṣadrā who gave him the maḵlaṣ, Fayż, by which he came to be known, as well as one of his daughters in marriage.

Fayż accompanied Ṣadrā to Shiraz in 1042/1632-33 and returned three years later to his native city of Kāšān. He declined an invitation by the ruler of the day, Shah Ṣafī (r. 1038-52/1629-42), to settle in Isfahan but responded positively to a similar summons by his successor, Shah ʿAbbās II (r. 1052-77/1642-66). Apart from teaching at the Mollā ʿAbd-Allāh madrasa, Fayż functioned also as Friday prayer leader of Isfahan, a post bestowed on him by the ruler as a token of his esteem; ʿAbbās II was also wont to pray publicly behind him on a number of occasions, and in 1068/1658 he had a takya built for him in Isfahan. Fayż reciprocated by describing the Safavid monarch as “a ruler adorned with inner and outer perfections” (al-Maḥajja al-bayżā IV, pp. 8-9), aiding him in what he perceived to be his efforts to provide the Safavid state with a firm religious basis, and dedicating five works to him. The most important of these is Āʾīna-ye šāhī, a brief treatise expounding the essence of rulership in terms of both philosophy and the šarīʿa. He took up the same subject in more detailed form in Żīāʾ al-qolūb, an Arabic work in which relevant Koranic verses and Hadith are cited. After the death of Shah ʿAbbās II in 1077/1666, Fayż remained in Isfahan for a period of unknown duration before returning to Kāšān. It was there that he spent the rest of his life, dying in 1090/1679.

Despite his fame and the patronage ʿAbbās II lavished on him, Fayż was exposed to the hostility of the exoterist scholars on account of his Sufi inclinations. It is unlikely that he had any formal Sufi affiliations; the assertion by Maʿṣūm ʿAlī-Šah Šīrāzī (d. 1344/1926) that Fayż, together with Bahā’-al-Dīn ʿĀmelī, was a disciple of the Nūrbaḵšī shaykh Moḥammad Moʾmen Sabzavārī (Ṭarāʾeq al-ḥaqāʿeq, II, p. 322, III, p. 215) should be discounted, given its lack of confirmation in any source of the Safavid period. Indeed, Sayyed Neʿmat-Allāh Jazāʾerī, Fayż’s principal student, explicitly denied that his master was affiliated to any Sufi order (Modarres, Rayḥānat al-adab IV, p. 379). It is not as an adherent of organized Sufism that Fayż should be regarded, but as an independent figure concerned with transmitting to Shiʿite Persia, in appropriately modified form, the Sufi legacy of the Sunnite past. In order to justify this venture, Fayż had recourse to the common device of presenting all the well-known figures of Sufi tradition as Shiʿites who had observed the principle of taqīya (prudential dissimulation; Zarrīnkūb, p. 256).

Conscious of the hostility with which Ebn al-ʿArabī was viewed by many Shi’ite jurists, Fayż would refer to him simply as “one of the gnostics” (yakī az ʿorafāʾ) when quoting from his works, a formula also used by Ṣadrā. Nonetheless, Fayż’s acceptance of waḥdat al-wojūd and of Ebn al-ʿArabī’s belief that unbelievers are not destined to remain eternally in Hellfire earned him severe denunciation by his critics. The Sufi in whose works Fayż displayed the greatest interest was Abū Ḥāmed Ḡazālī (q.v.). He produced what might be called a Shiʿite recension of Ḡazālī’s magnum opus, the Eḥyāʾ ʿolūm al-dīn, by replacing the Hadith cited by Ḡazālī from Sunni sources with traditions of approximately similar content taken from Shiʿite collections. Furthermore, he added to the second book of his version, which he entitled al-Maḥajjat al-bayżā, a chapter entitled “Aḵlāq al-emāma wa ādāb al-šīʿa” (The Ethics of the imamate and the customs of the Shīʿa) and entirely removed the chapter dealing with samāʿ (the forms of music to which some Sufis had recourse). According to the testimony of Neʿmat-Allāh Jazāʾerī (cited by Chittick, p. 475), Fayż had his students listen to music; it may therefore be surmised that Fayż excised this part of the Eḥyāʾ in order to forestall criticism by the Shiʿite jurists, who were unanimous in their rejection of samāʿ. Gòazālī’s influence on Fayż may also be seen in his al-Enṣāf fī bayān al-ḥaqq wa’l-eʿtesāf, a semi-autobiographical work clearly modeled on Gòazālī’s al-Monqeḏ men al-żalāl. Examining in turn the views of the philosophers, the Sufis, the theologians, and the jurists, Fayż stresses the necessity of rejecting in the opinions of each group whatever fails to accord with the Koran and the traditions of the Ahl al-Bayt. Zād al-sālek represents an effort by Fayż to illustrate the stages of Sufi wayfaring (solūk) with citations from the Twelve Imams. It seems, in short, justified that Fayż has been characterized as “the Shi’ah Ghazālī” (Nasr, p. 926).

Fayż’s embrace of Sufism, particularly the forms it assumed in Safavid Persia, was by no means undiscriminating. His Kalemāt-e ṭarīfa, a work reminiscent of Sadrā’s Kasr aṣnām al-jāhelīya, is a critique of contemporary Sufis, particularly harsh in its condemnations of those among them laying claim to miraculous powers. Despite this, the Sufis attempted to portray him as one of their number. A certain Sufi of Isfahan proclaimed, during a visit to Mašhad, that Fayż approved of practices such as loud invocation of the divine name (ẕekr-e jalī), forty day retreats (čella; q.v.), dancing, reciting love poetry while in a state of ecstasy, and forswearing the consumption of meat under the pretext of asceticism. A certain Moḥammad Moqīm then wrote from Mašhad to Fayż, asking him if this was indeed the case; he replied with a condemnation of all the practices mentioned as contrary to the teachings of the Ahl al-Bayt (Jaʿfarīān, pp. 106-7). Fayż also sought to trace out his own position in a treatise on the conflicting claims of Sufis and jurists in which he suggested that both groups had existed in the time of the Prophet, then designated respectively as ahl-e zohd (ascetics) and ahl-e ʿelm (scholars); both therefore had a legitimate claim to exist, and it behooved both to respect each other (Dānešpažūh, pp. 113-34).

Despite these various essays in self-explanation and conciliation, Fayż could not fully escape the hostility of the jurists. His principal opponents were Moḥammad Šarīf Qomī, who condemned him in a work entitled Toḥfat al-ʿoššāq (see Jaʿfarīān, p. 111); ʿAlī b. Moḥammad Šahīdī, who denounced him, together with all other Sufis, as a heretic in his al-Sehām al-māreqa men agrāż al-zanādeqa (see Šībī, II, p. 232); and Moḥammad Ṭāher Qomī, author of the Toḥfat al-aḵyār. The last-named is said to have ultimately made his peace with Fayż (Tabrīzī, IV, p. 373)µ, but this is uncertain.

Despite his predominantly Sufi interests, Fayż would on occasion intermingle philosophical with Sufi terminology, in the manner of Ṣadrā, thus describing the Twelve Imams in his Kalemāt-e maknūna as equivalent to “the universal intellect” (ʿaql-e koll). In one of his works, Oṣūl al-maʿāref, philosophical terminology is pervasive. More significantly, towards the end of his life, Fayż began to concern himself with Hadith rather than Sufism. The chief fruit of this interest was al-Wāfī, a compendium of traditions contained in the four canonical Shiʿite collections, explained and arranged by Fayż in accordance with a new system of his own devising. The commentary on the Koran that Fayż composed, al-Ṣāfī, may also be classified as a work on Hadith, for it consists largely of citations from the Twelve Imams.

The confluence of these two interests of Fayż, Sufism and Hadith, can be connected in turn with his adherence to the Aḵbārī school of jurisprudence with its general hostility to the recourse to reason in religious concerns; reliance on naql (revealed and therefore authoritative texts) as opposed to ʿaql (reason) underlay—although in differing ways—his understanding both of Sufism and of jurisprudence. While still in his twenties, he penned Naqd al-oṣūl al-feqhīya, a polemic against the Oṣūlīs, the rivals of the Aḵbārīs, while in a later work, Safīnat al-najāt, he went so far as to declare the Oṣūlīs as ineligible for Paradise, a view some fellow Aḵbārīs found extreme (Baḥrānī, p. 128). There are certain novel features to be noted in Fayż’s principal works on jurisprudence, Moʿtaṣam al-šīʿa and Mafātīḥ al-šīʿa. He not only arranged all the topics of feqh in two main categories, al-ʿebādāt wa’l-sīāsāt (acts of worship and penal provisions) and al-ʿādāt wa ʾl-moʿāmalāt (customs and transactions), but also merged certain topics together or changed their order to correspond to their occurrence in human life; thus rulings concerning the washing and burial of the dead, usually treated as a subdivision of ṭahārāt (purity) and therefore placed close to the beginning of most systematic treatises on feqh, are dealt with by Fayż at the very end of his books. In this respect, too, Fayż can be seen to have been influenced by Gòazālī (Modarressī Ṭabāṭabāʾī, p. 16). Also of interest are his views on the permissibility of music and the transmission of impurity from one object to another, views which departed from the Aḵbārī consensus and were accordingly criticized.

Finally, Fayż is also noteworthy as a poet. Reżāqolī Khan Hedāyat remarked of his Dīvān, which contains some 6000 lines, that it is “full of exalted truths and precious subtleties” (Majmaʿ al-foṣaḥāʾ IV, pp. 48-49).

Fayż’s principal students were Neʿmat-Allāh Jazāʾerī, Moḥamma- Saʿīd Qomī, and his own son, Moḥammad ʿAlam-al-Hodā, who copied out the entire text of al-Maḥajjat al-bayżā and wrote a commentary on al-Wāfī. It is worth remarking that despite all the differences in outlook separating them, Mo ḥammad-Bāqer Majlesī narrated Hadith from Fayż. It was however, as a result of the hostility to Sufism propagated by Majlesī that the takya founded for Fayż in Isfahan was razed to the ground some time during the reign of Shah Solṭān Ḥosayn (Eṣfahānī, p. 183).


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

Works by Fayż. For lists of Fayż’s more than 100 works, almost all in Arabic, see Modarres, Rayḥānat al-adab IV, pp. 374-78 and Yūsof b. Aḥmad Baḥrānī, Loʾloʾat al-Baḥrayn, Beirut, 1406/1986, pp. 122-30.

His principle works, arranged by topic, are the following:

(1) Philosophy, kalām and Sufism. Āʾīna-ye šāhī, Shiraz, 1320 Š./1941 (tr. W. C. Chittick in “Two Seventeenth-Century Tracts on Kingship,” in S. A. Arjomand, ed., Authority and Political Culture in Shi’ism, New York, 1988, pp. 269-284).

Anwār al-ḥekma, Tehran, n.d. (a synopsis of ʿElm al-yaqīn). ʿAyn al-yaqīn, Tehran, 1303 Š./1924.

ʿElm al-yaqīn, Qom, 1358 Š./1979.

al-Ḥaqāʾeq fī maḥāsen al-aḵlāq, ed. M. ʿAqīl, Qom, 1409/1988 (a synopsis of al-Maḥajjat al-bayẓā). al-Kalemāt al-maknūna fī ʿolūm ahl al-maʿrefa, Tehran, 1342 Š./1963 (for an English summary of this work see Nasr, pp. 927-30; for a French translation of some extracts, see Corbin, 1972, pp. 206-10).

al-Kalemāt al-ṭarīfa fī manšaʾ eḵtelāf al-omma al-marḥūma, Tehran, 1316 Š./1937.

al-Maḥajja al-bayżā fī tahḏīb al-eḥyāʾ, ed. ʿA.-A. Ḡaffārī, 8 vols., Tehran, 1339-40 Š./1960-61.

Oṣūl al-maʿāref, ed. S. J. Aštīānī, Mašhad, 1354 Š./1965 (a synopsis of ʿAyn al-yaqīn).

Qorrat al-ʿayn fī’l-maʿāref wa’l-ḥekam, Tehran, 1378/1958.

Żīāʾ al-qolūb, Tehran, 1311 Š./1932.

(2) Jurisprudence. Mafātīḥ al-šarāʾeʿ (unpublished mss. listed in Ḥosaynī, Fehrest XII, pp. 97, 167).

Moʿtaṣam al-šīʿa fī aḥkām al-šarīʿa (unpublished ms. listed in Ḥosaynī, Fehrest IX, 275).

Naqd al-oṣūl al-feqhīya (unpublished ms. listed in al-Ḏarīʿa XXIV, p. 273).

al-Nawāder, Tehran, 1339 Š./1950.

al-Noḵba, Tehran, 1328 Š./1949.

Safīnat al-najāt (unpublished ms. listed in Ḥosaynī, Fehrest VIII, p. 369).

(3) Hadīth. al-Wāfī, 3 vols., Qom, 1404/1984.

(4) Tafsīr. al-Aṣfā, Tehran, 1353 Š./1974 (a synopsis of Tafsīr al-ṣāfī). Tafsīr al-ṣāfī, Beirut, 1402/1982.

(5) Poetry. Dīvān, Tehran, 1357 Š./1978.

Secondary sources. Maʿṣūm ʿAlī-Šāh, Ṭarāʾeq al-ḥaqāʾeq, ed. M.-J. Maḥjūb, 3 vols., Tehran, n.d., II, p. 322, III, p. 215.

S. A. Arjomand, The Shadow of God and the Hidden Imam, Chicago, 1984, pp. 115, 146-50, 173-75.

Y. Baḥrānī, Loʾloʾat al-Baḥrayn, Beirut, 1406/1986, pp. 121-31.

Ye. E. Bertel’s, Sufizm i Sufiyskaya Literatura, Moscow, 1965, pp. 475-91.

Browne, Lit. Hist. Persia IV, pp. 432-36.

W. C. Chittick, “Muḥsin-i Fayḍ-i Kāshānī,” EI2 VII, pp. 475-76.

H. Corbin, En Islam Iranien, Paris, 1972, I, pp. 27, 89, 301, III, p. 189, IV, pp. 10, 61, 64, 123, 128, 129, 250, 329.

Idem, Anthologie des philosophes iraniens, Tehran, 1975, II, pp. 32-49.

Idem, Corps spirituel et corps céleste, Paris, 1979, pp. 206-10.

Idem, La philosophie iranienne islamique aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles, Paris, 1981, pp. 179-87.

M.-T. Dānešpažūh, “Dāvarī-ye Fayż-e Kāšānī mīān-e pārsā wa dānešmand,” MDA Tabrīz 9/2, 1336 Š./1957, pp. 113-34.

M.-M. Eṣfahānī, Neṣf-e jahān fī taʿrīf-e Eṣfahān, Tehran, 1340 Š./1961.

S. A. Ḥosaynī, Fehrest-e nosḵahā-ye ḵaṭṭī-ye Ketāb-ḵāna-ye ʿomūmī-ye Hażrat-e Āyat-Allāh al-ʿOẓmā Marʿašī, 14 vols, Qom, n.d.

R. Jaʿfarīān, “Rūyārū’ī-ye faqīhān wa ṣūfīān dar dawra-ye ṣafawī,” Kayhān-e andīša, 33, pp. 106-7.

Moḥammad-Bāqer Ḵᵛānsārī, Rawḍāt al-jannāt fī aḥwāl al-ʿolamāʾ wa ʾl-sādāt, Tehran, 1304/1886, pp. 126-30.

Ḥ. Modarresī Ṭabāṭabāʾī, An Introduction to Shīʿī Law, London, 1984, p. 16.

S. H. Nasr, ” The School of Ispahan,” in M. M. Sharif, ed., A History of Muslim Philosphy II, Wiesbaden, 1966, pp. 926-28.

ʿA-A. Neʿma, Falāsefat al-šīʿa, Beirut, 1961, pp. 533-36.

ʿAbbās b. Moḥammad Qomī, Fawāʾed al-rażawīya, Tehran, 1327 Š./1948, II, pp. 633-41.

K. M. Šībī, al-Ṣela bayn al-tasawwof wa ʾl-tašayyoʿ, Beirut, 1982.

ʿA.-K. Sorūš, Qeṣṣa-ye arbāb-e maʿrefat, Tehran, 1373 Š./1994, pp. 1-131.

M.-ʿA. Tabrīzī, Rayḥānat al-adab, Tabriz, n.d., IV, pp. 368-79.

Moḥammad b. Solaymān Tonakābonī, Qeṣaṣ al-ʿolamāʾ, Tehran, 1304/1886, pp. 126-30.

Moḥammad Ṭāher Waḥīd Qazvīnī, ʿAbbās-nāma, ed. E. Dehqān, Arāk, 1329 Š./1950, pp. 186, 255.

ʿA-Ḥ. Zarrīnkūb, Donbāla-ye jostojū dar taṣawwof-e Īrān, Tehran, 1362 Š./1983, p. 256.

(Hamid Algar)

Originally Published: December 15, 1999

Last Updated: January 24, 2012

This article is available in print.
Vol. IX, Fasc. 5, pp. 452-454