SAYR WA SOLUK, title of the spiritual autobiography of Naṣir-al-Din Ṭusi (597-672/1201-74), celebrated polymath and vizier of under the Il-khanid Hülegü (r. 654-63/1256-63).

Around the year 620/1224, Ṭusi wrote a short treatise that takes the form of an extended letter addressed to the chief of the Nezāri Ismaʿili mission in southern Khorasan, seeking affiliation to the Nezāri Ismaʿili community. The outcome was his long and fruitful stay in Ismaʿili strongholds that lasted over thirty years and the production of over one hundred books and treatises on various scientific and philosophical subjects. Ṭusi’s authorship of the Sayr wa soluk has been disputed by Twelver Shiʿi writers (Moddarres Rażawi, pp. 3-16; Modarresi Zanjāni, pp. 27-34, 54-56). However, historical, linguistic, and theological evidences contained in the body of the text support its genuine attribution to Ṭusi (Madelung, pp. 85-101; Poonawala, pp. 206-7; Landolt, pp. 1-11; Daftary, 2007, pp. 378-82 and 636, n. 184).

The letter is clearly intended to be confessional, that is, to present anaccount of Tusi’s personal search for knowledge of the Divine whichled him to embrace the Ismaʿili faith together with a declaration ofhis religious convictions. But the philosophical and theological contentof the work gives it special importance in the collection of those writingsof Tusi’s that have come down to us, because the author has also anexpository purpose which manifests itself in his highly skilful and explicit exposition of Ismaʿili doctrines of Taʿlim and Qiyāmat.
(Aminrazavi, pp. 363-64)

Ṭusi’s portrayal of Ismaʿilism in the Sayr wa soluk can be interpreted as a “transcendental religious pluralism” and his expressions brings in mind Aldous Huxley’s (1894-1963) idea of philosophia perennis underlying all philosophy, or Joseph Campbell’s (1904-1987) concept of “monomyth” sustaining the world’s mythologies, and even echo of Karl Rahner’s (1904-1984) notion of “anonymous Christians” within the diversity of conflicting faiths (Lewisohn, p. 30).

In his usual style of composition, while touching upon subtle points that need a great deal of background knowledge, Ṭusi demonstrates a balanced exposition of the doctrine of the Imamate and aims at reconciliation between the principles of Islamic religious law (šariʿa) and that of the resurrection (qiāma) proclaimed by the first Nezāri Ismaʿili Imam of the Alamut period, Ḥasan II, to whom the Nezāris referred with the expression ʿalā ḏekrehe’l-salām (on his mention be peace).

In composing Sayr wa soluk, apart from demonstrating his deep religious conviction (Homāʾi, pp. 37-80; Minovi, pp. 29-31), Ṭusi aims at accomplishing a number of objectives, such as demonstrating his comprehensive knowledge of the Ismaʿili teachings (Saliba, pp. 201-3); reiterating some of the criticisms launched against Ismaʿili theology; formulating an all-inclusive Ismaʿili doctrine of the Imamate; providing a scholarly statement of the doctrines of authoritative teaching (taʿlim) and resurrection (qiāma), to name but a few; and finally articulating an Ismaʿili pattern for the relationship between the Ismaʿili imam and his followers, which subsequently he elaborated further in his Rowża-ye taslim (Ṭusi, 2005, pp. 97-198).


Mehdi Aminrazavi, “Nasir al-Din Tusi,” in Seyyed Hossein Nasr and Mehdi Aminrazavi, ed., An Anthology of Philosophy in Persia II: Ismaili Thought in the Classical Age, London, 2008.

Farhad Daftary, The Ismāʿīlīs: Their History and Doctrine, 2nd edition, Cambridge, 2007; tr. Faridun Badraʾi, as Tārik wa sonnathā-ye Esmāʿiliya, Tehran, 2014.

Jalāl-al-Din Homāʾi, “Ḥekmat-e ʿamali az nażar-e Ḵˇāja Naṣir-al-Din Ṭusi,” in Majmuʿa-ye soḵhanrānihā-ye Dāniškada-ye Adabiyāt wa ʿOlum-e Ensāni-e Dānešgāh-e Tehrān, Tehran, 1969.

Herman Landolt, “Introduction,” in Ṭūsī, Rowża-ye taslim, ed. and tr. S. J. Badakhchani, as Paradise of Submission: A Medieval Treatise on Ismaili Thought, London, 2005.

Leonard Lewisohn, “Nasir al-Din Tusi: Contemplation and Action,” in Times Literary Supplements, September 10, 1999 .

Wilferd Madelung, “Naṣīr ad-Din Ṭusī’s Ethics Between Philosophy, Shiʿism and Sufism,” in Richard G. Hovannisian, ed., Ethics in Islam, Malibu, CA, 1985, pp. 85-101.

Mojtabā Minovi, “Ḵvāja Naṣir-al-Din Ṭusi,” in Naṣir-al-Din Ṭusi, Aḵlāq-e nāṣeri, ed. Mojtabā Minovi and ʿAi-Reżā Ḥaydari, Tehran, 1976.

Moḥammad-Taqi Moddarres Rażawi, Yādbud-e haftṣadomin sāl-e Ḵˇāja Naṣir-al-Din Ṭusi, Tehran, 1956.

Moḥammad Modarrisi Zanjāni, Sargoḏašt wa ʿaqāʾed-e falsafi-e Ḵˇāja Naṣir-al-Din Ṭusi, Tehran, 1956.

Naṣir-al-Din Ṭusi, Sayr wa soluk, ed. and tr. S. J. Badakhchani, as Contemplation and Action: The Spiritual Autobiography of A Muslim Saint, London, 1998; reviewed by Ismail K. Poonawala, in Iranian Studies 33/1-2, 2000, pp. 206-7; and by George Saliba, in Iranian Studies 38/1, 2005, pp. 201-3.

Idem, Rowża-ye taslim, ed. and tr. S. J. Badakhchani as Paradise of Submission: A Medieval Treatise on Ismaili Thought, London, 2005.

(S. J. Badakhchani)

Originally Published: November 26, 2014

Last Updated: November 26, 2014

Cite this entry:

S. J. Badakhchani, "SAYR WA SOLUK,"  Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 2014, available at (accessed on 26 November 2014).