BORHĀN-AL-DĪN NASAFĪ, ABU’L-FAŻĀʾEL MOḤAMMAD b. Moḥammad b. Moḥammad b. ʿAbd-Allāh (d. 687/1288), Hanafite theologian, logician, and expert on legal points of disagreement (ḵelāf) and dialectic (jadal). According to his pupil Ebn al-Fowaṭī (Ṣafadī, I, p. 282), he was born around 600/1203, presumably in Nasaf in Transoxania, and came to Baghdad on his pilgrimage to Mecca in 675/1277. He stayed then and taught in Baghdad until his death and was buried under the cupola of the shrine of Abū Ḥanīfa in Ḵayzorānīya. Nothing is known about his teachers. Among his students in Baghdad was the Imami scholar ʿAllāma Ḥellī who received an ejāza from him to transmit all his works (Majlesī, Beḥār al-anwār, Tehran, 1956-, CVII, pp. 66-67). His fame evidently spread abroad in his later lifetime, for the Syrian traditionist and historian Abu’l-Qāsem Berzālī wrote him from Damascus in 684/1285 in order to obtain his handwritten ejāza from Baghdad. Ebn al-Fowaṭī describes him as leading an ascetic life.
Borhān-al-Dīn’s main contribution to scholarship was in the field of jadal, a discipline dealing with the logical aspects of disputed legal doctrine which had been put on a new basis by the school of Rażī-al-Dīn Nīšābūrī, especially Rokn-al-Dīn ʿAmīdī (d. 615/1218 in Bukhara). His concise Moqaddema fi’l-jadal wa’l-ḵelāf wa’l-naẓar, also known as al-Moqaddema al-borhānīya or al-Foṣūl al-borhānīya, became, despite its obscurity, a popular scholastic text memorized by students. At least four commentaries are known to have been written on it in addition to that of the author. The best one of these was, according to Ḥājī Ḵalīfa (col. 1803) by Šams-al-Dīn Samarqandī, completed in Mārdīn in 690/1291. Extant is the commentary by an otherwise unknown Noʿmān Ḵᵛārazmī. His other extant treatises on ḵelāf and jadal are Manšaʾ al-naẓar fī ʿelm al-ḵelāf (to which the author and Akmal-al-Dīn Bābartī [d. 786/1384] composed commentaries), Dafʿ al-noṣūṣ wa’l-noqūż, al-Tarājīḥ, Taʿārożāt (or al-Moḵtaṣar fi’l-tarājīḥ), and al-Qawādeḥ al-jadalīya. In the latter treatise he claimed to have proved the faultiness of most of the points made by the later experts of jadal. Ebn Ḵaldūn rather names him as one of the scholars who followed closely in the footsteps of ʿAmīdī (Moqaddema, ed. E. Quatremère, Paris, 1858-68, III, p. 26). The extent of the originality of his discussions cannot be assessed before they have been systematically compared with earlier jadal literature. In practice his interest in points of difference in law was confined to the schools of Abū Ḥanīfa and Šāfeʿī.
Borhān-al-Dīn’s philosophical works, a commentary on Ebn Sīnā’s Ketāb al-ešārāt and a Resāla fi’l-dawr wa’l-tasalsol, are lost. From his other works it appears that his attitude to falsafa was, like Ḡazālī’s, generally negative except in respect to logic. In spite of his adherence to the Hanafite school of law, he clearly inclined to Asḥʿarism in theology and was an admirer of Ḡazālī and Faḵr-al-Dīn Rāzī. He wrote a lost commentary on Ḡazālī’s al-Resāla al-qodsīya, entitled Sarḥ al-resāla al-qodsīya be-adellatehā al-borhānīya and abridgments of his al-Maqṣed al-aqṣā(al-asnā) fī asmāʾ Allāh al-ḥosnā (see R. Mach, Catalogue of Arabic Manuscripts (Yahuda Section) in the Garrett Collection, Princeton, 1977, p. 208) and of Rāzī’s large Koran commentary. In his extant Šarḥ al-asmāʾ al-ḥosnā, a theological discussion of the attributes and Koranic names of God, he names Ḡazālī’s al-Maqṣad al-aqṣā and Rāzī’s Lawāmeʿ al-bayyenāt as his main sources of inspiration. His positive attitude to Sufism is reflected by quotations of Jonayd and a defense of the orthodoxy of Ḥosayn b. Manṣūr Ḥallāj. Apparently lost is his Maṭlaʿ al-saʿāda.
Abū ʿAbd-Allāh Ḏahabī, al-ʿEbar fī aḵbār al-bašar, ed. S. Monajjed, Kuwait, 1960-66, V, pp. 346-47.
Ebn Abi’l-Wafāʾ, al-Jawāher al-możīʾa fī ṭabaqāt al-ḥanafīya, ed. A.-F. Moḥammad Ḥolū, Cairo, 1398-99/1978-79, III, p. 351.
Ebn Qoṭlūboḡā, Tāj al-tarājem, Baghdad, 1962, p. 58.
Kaḥḥāla XI, p. 297.
Kašf al-ẓonūn, ed. Yaltkaya and Bilge, pp. 95, 865, 1032, 1272, 1296, 1720, 1756, 1798-99, 1803, 1861.
Abu’l-Ḥasanāt Moḥammad Laknawī, al-Fawāʾed al-bahīya fī tarājem al-ḥanafīya, ed. M. Naʿsānī, Cairo, 1324/1906, pp. 194-95.
Ṣalāḥ-al-Dīn Ṣafadī, al-Wāfī be’l-wafayāt I, ed. H. Ritter, Istanbul, 1931, p. 282.
W. Ahlwardt, Verzeichnis der arabischen Handschriften der Königlichen Bibliothek zu Berlin, Berlin, 1887-99, II, p. 507; IV, pp. 468-70.
Brockelmann, GAL I, p. 615, S. I, p. 849.
Originally Published: December 15, 1989
Last Updated: December 15, 1989
This article is available in print.
Vol. IV, Fasc. 4, p. 371
Wilferd Madelung, “BORHĀN-AL-DĪN NASAFĪ,” Encyclopaedia Iranica, IV/4, p. 371, available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/borhan-al-din-nasafi-abul-fazael-mohammad-b (accessed on 30 December 2012).