Treatise on “The Incoherence of the Philosophers”


This philosophical treatise by 15th-century Ottoman theologian Mustafa ibn Yusuf al-Bursawi, better known as Khwajah'zadah, is a rebuttal of a rebuttal. It is one of two treatises (the other is al-Dhakhirah [The hoard], a 13th-century work by ʻAlaʼ al-Din al-Tusi) that were commissioned by Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II, known as the Conqueror. The sultan wanted Khwajah'zadah and al-Tusi to weigh the merits of two earlier works about the divergences between philosophy and religion. The first work, Tahāfut al-falāsifah (The incoherence of the philosophers) by 11th-century Muslim theologian and philosopher Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, argued that earlier Islamic philosophers, such as Ibn Sina (Avicenna), failed to anchor their theistic philosophy in the same reasoning they applied in other branches of philosophy. The second work, Tahāfut al-tahāfut (The incoherence of the incoherence), is a rebuttal to al-Ghazali by 12th-century Andalusian jurist and philosopher Ibn Rushd (Averroes), who argued that al-Ghazali “undoubtedly erred at the expense of both religion and philosophy.” In the treatise presented here, Khwajah'zadah indirectly rebutted Ibn Rushd. Although he commended Ibn Rushd  for his comprehensive viewpoint, he argued in favor of al-Ghazali, stating that early Muslim philosophers “erred lightly in natural sciences and grossly in divine ones.” The treatise is divided into chapters covering the same points of contention that al-Ghazali brought against early Muslim philosophers, namely the eternity of the world, the denial of God’s knowledge of the particulars, and the denial of bodily resurrection. The manuscript is written in taʻliq style, in black ink. Chapter titles are rubricated. The scribe is named as Al-Sayyid Ahmad Bahri ibn Muhammad al-Funwi and the earliest provenance as Shaʻban 4, 977 (January 11, 1570). A note at the end states that this copy was compared to the original, and corrected by reference to it.

Last updated: September 29, 2017