Michael E. Marmura Lecture Series in Arabic Studies: Robert Wisnovsky

When and Where

Friday, March 31, 2023 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm
Bancroft Building (4 Bancroft Avenue, Toronto)


Robert Wisnovsky


Muḥammad ʿAbduh as Avicennian philosopher and logician

The celebrated early-modernist Sunni-Muslim thinker Muḥammad ʿAbduh (d. 1905) is best known for his writings on Islamic socio-political reform and more particularly for the educational reform of his alma mater al-Azhar, Cairo’s thousand-year-old mosque-university. Whereas ʿAbduh’s introductory-level theology textbook Risālat al-Tawḥīd (Essay on Monotheism) has received much scholarly attention and been translated into several European languages, his more technical works of philosophical and logical commentary – specifically, his Ḥāshiyah (Supercommentary) on Jalāl al-Dīn al-Dawānī’s (d. 1502) Sharḥ (Commentary) on ʿAḍud al-Dīn al-Ījī’s (d. 1355-6) ʿAqāʾid (Doctrines), and his Taʿlīqāt (Glosses) on Ibn Sahlān al-Sāwī’s (d. 1170) al-Baṣāʾir al-Naṣīriyyah ([Logical] Insights for Naṣīr [al-Dīn]) – remain in the shadows. By focusing on ʿAbduh’s interpretation of a central debate in the long reception-history of Avicenna’s modal metaphysics, I will shed light on ʿAbduh’s direct and indirect engagement with the Avicennian tradition. It turns out that the composition and publication of the Ḥāshiyah and the Taʿlīqāt exemplify ʿAbduh’s intellectual trajectory, from late Islamic scholasticism to early Arabic Neoclassicism.

Robert Wisnovsky (PhD, 1994, Near Eastern Studies, Princeton) is James McGill Professor of Islamic Philosophy at the Institute of Islamic Studies at McGill University. He also served two terms as
Director of the Institute. Wisnovsky specializes in the history of Islamic thought, with an emphasis on the origins, development and influence of the philosophy of Avicenna (Ibn Sīnā, d. 1037).
He is the author of Avicenna's Metaphysics in Context (Cornell, 2003) and multiple influential articles on Islamic philosophy, and the editor of numerous volumes on Islamic intellectual history.

* See the event poster: PDF iconWisnovsky - March 31 - Marmura lecture.pdf