ḤAMID-AL-DIN KERMĀNI, ABU’L-ḤASAN AḤMAD b. ʿAbd-Allāh b. Moḥammad (d. after 411/1020-21), a prominent Ismaʿili dāʿi (q.v.) and one of the most accomplished Ismaʿili theologians and philosophers of the Fatimid period. As in the case of other prominent dāʿis, who observed strict secrecy in their activities while living in hostile milieus, few biographical details are available about him, although it is known that he flourished during the reign of the Fatimid Caliph-Imam al-Ḥākem be-Amr-Allāh (q.v.; 386-411/996-1021). Kermāni is not mentioned in any contemporary Muslim historical sources, but highlights of his life and career can be gathered from his own numerous extant works as well as the writings of the later Mostaʿli-Ṭayyebi Ismaʿili authors of Yemen.

Ḥamid-al-Din Kermāni’s date of birth remains unknown, but he was of Persian origin and his nesba suggests that he was born in the province of Kerman. Later in his life he maintained his contacts with the Ismaʿili community of that province and corresponded with subordinate dāʿis there (see Kermāni’s al-Resāla al-ḥāwia and al-Resāla al-kāfia, in the Majmuʿat rasāʾel al-Kermāni, pp. 102-12, 148-82; and Ivanow, 1942, pp. 142-45). He seems to have spent the greater part of his life as a Fatimid dāʿi in Iraq, having been particularly active in Baghdad and Basra: the title of his lost al-Majāles al-Baṣriya waʾl-Baḡdādiya (cited in his Ketāb al-riāż, p. 108) indicates that he delivered lectures (majāles) in these two cities.

In Iraq, Kermāni successfully concentrated his efforts on local rulers and influential tribal chiefs, with whose support the Ismaʿilis aimed to bring about the downfall of the ʿAbbasids. As a result, in 401/1010-11 Qerwāš b. al-Moqallad, the ʿOqaylid ruler of Kufa, Mawṣel and several other towns, acknowledged the suzerainty of the Fatimid al-Ḥākem. In the same year, ʿAli al-Asadi, chief of the Banu Asad, declared his loyalty to the Fatimids in Ḥella and other districts under his control. Alarmed by the successes of the Fatimid daʿwa in Iraq, the ʿAbbasid Caliph al-Qāder took retaliatory measures. In 402/1011, he sponsored the so-called Baghdad manifesto to discredit the Fatimids, also refuting their ʿAlid ancestry (see Ebn Jawzi, VII, pp. 255-56; Ebn Taḡriberdi, IV, pp. 229-31; Ebn Ḵaldun, I, pp. 45-46). The honorific title Ḥojjat al-ʿErāqayn, meaning the ḥojja or chiefdāʿi of both Iraqs (al-ʿErāq al-ʿArabi and al-ʿErāq al-ʿAjami), which is often added to Kermāni’s name and may be of a late origin, implies that he was also active in central and western parts of Persia.

Kermāni rose to prominence during the reign of al-Ḥākem, when the central headquarters of the Fatimid daʿwa in Cairo considered him as the most accomplished Ismaʿili theologian of the time. It was in that capacity that Kermāni played an important role in refuting the ideas of some dissident dāʿis in Cairo, such as al-Aḵram, Ḥamza and al-Darazi, who were then founding what was to become the Druze movement and religion. As part of the official Fatimid campaign against the dissident dāʿis, who had also proclaimed al-Ḥākem’s divinity, Kermāni was summoned to Cairo in 405/1014-15, or shortly before then, where he produced several works in refutation of their doctrines. Having already elaborated the Fatimid understanding of the doctrine of the Imamate (see his al-Maṣābiḥ fi eṯbāt al-emāma), Kermāni now wrote a short treatise, the Mabāsem al-bešārāt, (included in Majmuʿat rasāʾel, pp. 113-33; also ed. M. Kāmel Ḥosayn in Ṭāʾefat al-Doruz, pp. 55-74) dealing with the Imamate in general and al-Ḥākem’s Imamate in particular; he maintained that al-Ḥākem, like his predecessors, was only divinely-appointed, and not himself divine. In another treatise called al-Wāʿeẓa (Majmuʿat rasāʾel, pp. 134-47; also edited by M. Kāmel Ḥosayn, pp. 1-29), composed in 408/1017 as a reply to a pamphlet written by al-Aḵram, Kermāni rejects the proclamation of al-Ḥākem’s divinity and accuses the dissenters of exaggeration (ḡo-loww) and infidelity (kofr). In these and other works, Kermāni also refuted the view of the Druze dissidents that the resurrection (qiāma) had already occurred with the appearance of al-Ḥākem, and that therefore the era of Islam had ended. Kermāni argued that the era of Islam and the validity of its sacred law, the šariʿa, would continue under al-Ḥākem’s many Fatimid successors as Imams. His writings were widely circulated and to some extent succeeded in checking the spread of the doctrines associated with the initiation of the Druze movement. Subsequently, Kermāni returned to Iraq where, in 411/1020-21, he completed his last and major work, Rāḥat al-ʿaql, shortly before his death.

Ḥamid-al-Din’s prolific scholarship was informed by the Hebrew text of the Old Testament, the Syriac version of the New Testament, and the post-Biblical Jewish writings (Kraus, 1931, pp. 243-46; repr. 1994, pp. 3-23). He expounded the Ismaʿili Shiʿite doctrine of the Imamate extensively. In a few treatises, particularly his Tanbih al-hādi wa’l-mostahdi, which remains unpublished, Kermāni refutes the theological views of the Zaydis, Eṯnāʿašaris and other Muslim opponents of the Fatimid Ismaʿili Imams. In his al-aqwāl al-ḏahabiya, he refutes the ideas of Abu Bakr Rāzi (d. 313/925) on the therapy of the mind which he had written in al-Ṭebb al-ruḥāni, defending the earlier criticisms of the (Carmathian; see CARMATHIANS) Ismaʿili dāʿi Abu Ḥātem Rāzi (d. 322/934), who had argued for the necessity of revelation and prophethood while tracing all sciences to revelational origins (see Rāzi, 1977).

Ḥamid-al-Din Kermāni also belonged to that select group of Ismaʿili dāʿis from Persia who amalgamated in an original manner their Ismaʿili theology (kalām) with philosophical traditions, in particular the type of Neoplatonism then current in the Muslim world. Kermāni was fully acquainted with Aristotelian and Neoplatonic philosophies as well as the metaphysical systems of the Muslim philosophers (falāsefa; q.v.), notably Fārābi (q.v.) and Avicenna (q.v.), who was his contemporary. In his Ketāb al-riāż, Kermāni acted as an arbiter in a philosophical debate that had taken place earlier between some Iranian dāʿis, including Moḥammad Nasafi, Abu Yaʿqub Sejes-tāni and Abu Ḥātem Rāzi (Ivanow, 1955, pp. 87-122). Kermāni developed his own elaborate metaphysical system in his major philosophical treatise Rāḥat al-ʿaql, which is written for adepts. In this book, Kermāni also propounded what may be regarded as the third stage in the development of Ismaʿili cosmology in medieval times. He replaced the Neoplatonic dyad of the Intellect (ʿaql) and Soul (nafs) in the spiritual world, which had been adopted by his Iranian Ismaʿili predecessors, with a series of ten separate Intellects, in partial adaptation of Fārābi’s Aristotelian cosmic system. However, Kermāni’s cosmology, which represents an original synthesis of different philosophical traditions, was not adopted by the Fatimid daʿwa; instead, it later provided the basis for the development of the fourth and final stage of Ismaʿili cosmology at the hands of the Mostaʿli-Ṭayyebi thinkers in Yemen.



For a survey of Ḥamid-al-Din Ker-māni’s known works and their manuscripts, preserved mainly in Yemen and India, see Esmāʿil b. ʿAbd-al-Rasul al-Majduʿ, Fahrasat al-kotob wa’l-rasāʾel, ed. ʿA. N. Monzavi, Tehran, 1966, pp. 48-49, 95-96, 121-23, 127-29, 144-48, 176-79, 254-57, 278, 280-84; Wladimir Ivanow, Ismaili Literature, Tehran, 1963, pp. 40-45; Ismail K. Poonawala, Biobibliography of Ismāʿīlī Literature, Malibu, Calif., 1977, pp. 94-102; Sezgin, GAS I, pp. 580-82. A partial chronology of Kermāni’s works is contained in Josef van Ess, “Bibliographische Notizen zur islamischen Theologie. I. Zur Chronologie der Werke des Ḥamidaddin al-Kirmānī,” Die Welt des Orients 9, 1978, pp. 255-61. See also Edris ʿEmād-al-Din b. Ḥasan, ʿOyun al-aḵbār VI, ed. M. Ḡāleb, Beirut, 1984, pp. 281-87, 306; A. Baumstark, “Zu den Schriftzitaten al-Kirmānis,” Der Islam 20, 1932, pp. 308-13.

Other works: Henry Corbin, Cyclical Time and Ismaili Gnosis, London, 1983.

Farhad Daftary, The Ismāʿīlīs: Their History and Doctrines, Cambridge, 1990, pp. 113, 192-93, 196-97, 218, 227, 229-30, 235-36, 240, 245-46, 287, 291, 298.

Ḥosayn b. Fayż-Allāh al-Hamdāni, al-Ṣolayḥiyun, Cairo, 1955, pp. 258-61.

Ḥasan E. Ḥasan, Taʾriḵ al-dawla al-Fāṭemiya, Cairo, 1964, pp. 488-92.

M. K. Ḥosayn, Ṭāʾefat al-Doruz, Cairo, 1962.

Wladimir Ivanow, Ismaili Tradition Concerning the Rise of the Fatimids, Bombay, 1942, pp. 142-45.

Idem, Studies in Early Persian Ismailism, 2nd ed., Bombay, 1955, pp. 87-122.

Ebn Jawzi, al-Montaẓam fi taʾrikh al-moluk wa’l-omam, Beirut, 1940, VII, pp. 255-56.

Ebn Ḵaldun, The Muqaddima, tr. F. Rosenthal, 2nd ed., Princeton, 1967, I, pp. 45-46.

Ḥamid-al-Din Kermāni, Majmuʿat rasāʾel al-Kermāni, ed. M. Ḡāleb, Beirut, 1983, pp. 102-12, 148-82.

Idem, Ketāb al-riāż, ed. ʿA. Ṭāmer, Beirut, 1960.

Idem, al-Maṣābiḥ fi eṯbāt al-emāma, ed. M. Ḡāleb, Beirut, 1969.

Idem, al-Resāla al-wāʿeẓa, ed. M. K. Ḥosayn in Bulletin of the Faculty of Arts (Fouad I University) 14, part 1, 1952, pp. 1-29.

Idem, Rāḥat al-ʿaql, ed. M. K. Ḥosayn and M. M. Ḥelmi, Cairo, 1953; ed. M. Ḡāleb, Beirut, 1967; Uspokoenie razuma, tr. A. V. Smirnov, Moscow, 1995.

Idem, al-aqwāl al-ḏahabiya, ed. Ṣ. al-Ṣāwi, Tehran, 1977.

Paul Kraus, “Hebräische und syrische Zitate in ismāʿīlitischen Schriften,” Der Islam 19, 1931, pp. 243-63; repr. Alchemie, Ketzerei, Apokryphen im frühen Islam, ed. R. Brague, Hildesheim, 1994, pp. 3-23.

Wilferd Madelung, “Das Imamat in der frühen ismailitschen Lehre,” Der Islam 37, 1961, pp. 114-27.

D. De Smet, La Quiétude de l’intellect: Néoplatonisme et gnose ismaélienne dans l’oeuvre de Ḥamīd ad-Dīn al-Kirmānī, Louvain, 1995.

Abu Ḥātem Rāzi, Aʿlām al-nobowwa, ed. Ṣ. al-Ṣāwi and Ḡ.-R. Aʿvāni, Tehran, 1977.

Ebn Taḡriberdi, al-Nojum al-zāhera, Cairo, 1963-71, IV, pp. 229-31.

Paul E. Walker, Early Philosophical Shiism, Cambridge, 1993.

Idem, Ḥamīd al-Dīn al-Kirmānī: Ismaili Thought in the Age of al-Ḥākim, London/New York, 1999.

(Farhad Daftary)

Originally Published: December 15, 2003

Last Updated: March 6, 2012

This article is available in print.
Vol. XI, Fasc. 6, pp. 639-641

Cite this entry:

Farhad Daftary, “ḤAMID-AL-DIN KERMĀNI,” Encyclopaedia Iranica, XI/6, pp. 639-641, available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/hamid-al-din-kermani (accessed on 30 December 2012).