FARḠĀNĪ, SAʿĪD-AL-DĪN MOHAMMAD, b. Ahmad, Sufi author from the town of Kāsān in Farḡāna (d. Ḏu’l-ḥejja 699/August 1300; see Scattolin, 1993, p. 334). According to Farḡānī’s own account (1988, p. 184), he entered the Sufi path under Najīb-al-Dīn ʿAlī b. Bozḡoš of Shiraz (d. 678/1279), a disciple of Šehāb-al-Dīn ʿOmar Sohravardī. He subsequently studied with Ṣadr-al-Dīn Qūnawī (d. 673/1274), the most influential disciple of Ebn al-ʿArabī’ (q.v.), and then with one Moḥammad b. Sokrān Baḡdādī and others (Farḡānī, 1988, p. 184; Moḥammad b. Sokrān is also mentioned in Farḡānī, 1876, I, p. 252). In the year 643/1245-46 (or perhaps 640/1242-43), Farḡānī accompanied Qūnawī and several other scholars from Anatolia to Egypt (Farḡānī, 1978, pp. 5-6, 77-78). On the way there and back, Qūnawī gave lessons on al-Tāʾīya al-kobrā, a famous 750 verse Sufi poem by Ebn al-Fāreẓ. Although several people took notes with the aim of composing books about it, only Farḡānī succeeded.

Farḡānī is known to be the author of three books, though other works have been wrongly ascribed to him, such as a commentary on the Foṣūṣ al-ḥekam by Ebn al-ʿArabī (q.v.) and the anonymous 8th/14th-century compendium of Sufi technical terms, Laṭāʾef al-eʿlām fī ešārāt ahl al-elhām. His shortest book is the Persian Manāhej al-ʿebādela’l-maʿād, which outlines the five pillars of Islam according to the four Sunni madhabs along with basic Sufi ādāb. Qoṭb-al-Dīn Šīrāzī (d. 710/1311), also a student of Qūnawī, incorporated this book into his philosophical encyclopedia, Dorrat al-tāj, as its last and “most important” part (see Walbridge, pp. 326-27). According to Ḥājī Ḵalīfa (Kašf al-ẓonūn, ed. Yaltkaya and Bilge, col. 1846), Manāhej was translated (presumably into Arabic) as Madārej al-eʿteqād by Abu’l-Fażl Moḥammad b. Edrīs Bedlīsī.

Farḡānī’s second and third works are his Persian and Arabic commentaries on al-Tāʾīya. In the first, Mašāreq al-darārī al-zohar fī kašf ḥaqāʾeq naẓm al-dorar, Farḡānī was presumably following Qūnawī’s lectures rather closely, since this version incorporates a letter of approval from Qūnawī. Although a good deal of the much expanded Arabic version, Montahā al-madārek wa moštahā lobb koll kāmel aw ʿāref wa sālek, follows the Persian rather closely, it would be more accurate to regard it as a thorough revision than a translation. Farḡānī must have considered it much more his own work than that of his teacher. This may explain why it carries no letter of approval, though Qūnawī was certainly alive when it was completed since it was being read in Cairo as early as 670/1271 (Massignon,I, p. 44).

The most significant addition in the Arabic commentary is a relatively systematic introduction of some one hundred pages, representing about eighteen percent of the text (outlined in Scattolin, 1993), in which Farḡānī clears the ground for an understanding of the technical discussions that he offers throughout the work. It is divided into four parts in keeping with the basic domains of reality—the divine essence and attributes, the spiritual world, the sensory world (including the imaginal world), and the human world. This last world synthesizes the first three through perfect human beings(see ENSĀN-E KĀMEL). Jāmī, who was a master of philosophical Sufism along with his other accomplishments, wrote about this introduction that “no one has explained the problems of the science of reality as solidly and coherently” (Nafaḥāt, p. 559).

The Arabic and Persian commentaries are sophisticated expositions of classical Sufi teachings rendered in the complicated philosophical language whose first major spokesman was Ebn al-ʿArabī. Both works are significant as the earliest, most extensive, and most philosophically-minded of the several commentaries on Ebn al-Fāreẓ’s masterpiece. Both are excellent guides to the terminology that soon became established as the key expressions in philosophical Sufism, which played an important if not predominant role in Islamic intellectuality down to the nineteenth century. The edition of the Mašāreq, although not up to modern critical standards, has an exhaustive index of technical terminology that will also be useful for readers of the Arabic text.

Farḡānī is often mentioned by those scholars, such as Ebn Taymīya and Ebn Ḵaldūn, who criticized Ebn al-ʿArabī and other philosophically inclined Sufis for entering into discussions not sanctioned by the Koran, the Sunna, and the pious forebears or for the even worse sin of believing in waḥdat al-wojūd. As for modern scholars, most have had no interest in the actual issues that Farḡānī investigates and have considered him significant only as the first commentator on Ebn al-Fāreẓ’s al-Tāʾīya. Inasmuch as they have looked at the theological, philosophical, and mystical subjects that Farḡānī discusses, they have read him as introducing Ebn al-ʿArabī’s metaphysics where it does not belong, his works are far better guides to how al-Tāʾīya was being understood in the contemporary Islamic intellectual milieu than any of the more recent attempts to translate it or explain its meaning. It is true that Ebn al-ʿArabī’s school of thought forms the basis for Farḡānī’s reading of al-Tāʾīya but it remains to be demonstrated how exactly this may have skewed his understanding of this famously obscure text. It needs to be kept in mind that those who have questioned Farḡānī’s readings have done so on the basis of an uncritical acceptance of the received wisdom concerning the contents of Ebn al-ʿArabī’s works, so their judgments as to how he may or may not have influenced Farḡānī have little textual basis (Scattolin, 1992, pp. 274-86; cf. Chittick, forthcoming)


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

W. C. Chittick, “Saʿīd al-Dīn Farghānī,” in EI2 II, pp. 860-61.

Idem, “Spectrums of Islamic Thought: Saʿīd al-Dīn Farghānī on the Implications of Oneness and Manyness,” in L. Lewisohn, ed., The Legacy of Mediaeval Persian Sufism, London, l992, pp. 203-17.

Idem, “Rūmī and Waḥdat al-wujūd,” in A. Banani, R. Hovannisian, and G. Sabagh, eds., Poetry and Mysticism in Islam: The Heritage of Rūmī, Cambridge, 1994, pp. 70-111.

Idem, “Waḥdat al-shuhûd and waḥdat al-wudjûd,” EI2, forthcoming.

Saʿīd-al-Dīn Farḡānī, Montahā al-madārek wa moštahā lobb koll kāmel wa-ʿaref wa-sālek, 2 vols., Cairo, 1293/1876.

Idem, Mašāreq al-darārī al-zohar fī kašf ḥaqāʾeq naẓm al-dorar, ed. S. J. Āštīānī, Mašhad, 1398 /1978.Idem, Manāhej al-ʿebād,Istanbul, l988. Jāmī, Nafaḥāt, pp. 559-62.

L. Massignon, La Passion d’al-Hosayn-ibn-Mansour al-Hallaj: Martyr mystique d’Islam, tr. H. Mason as The Passion of al-Hallāj: Mystic and Martyr of Islam, 4 vols., Princeton, N. J., l982.

G. Scattolin, “The Mystical Experience of ʿUmar ibn al-Fāriḍ or the Realization of Self (Anā, I): The Poet and His Mystery,” The Muslim World 82, 1992, pp. 274-86.

Idem, “Al-Farghānī’s Commentary on Ibn al-Fāriḍ’s Mystical Poem al-Tāʾiyyat al-Kubrā,” MIDEO 21, 1993, pp. 331-83.

J. T. Walbridge, “A Sufi Scientist of the Thirteenth Century: The Mystical Ideas and Practices of Quṭb al-Dīn Shīrāzī,” in L. Lewisohn, ed., The Legacy of Mediaeval Persian Sufism, London, 1992, pp. 323-40.

(William C. Chittick)

Originally Published: December 15, 1999

Last Updated: December 15, 1999