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date: 28 March 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This article reconsiders the debate among Indian Muslim intellectuals regarding the philosophical doctrines of waḥdat al-wujūd (“unity of being”) and waḥdat al-shuhūd (“unity of witnessing”). With a view to reconstructing some of the broader Muslim scholarly networks that characterized the early modern subcontinent, I turn to Muḥibb Allāh ibn Mubāriz Ilāhābādī’s (1587–1648 c.e.) Arabic treatise on ontology, al-Taswiya bayna al-ifāda wa’l-qabūl, and the series of commentaries attached to it. An analysis of this treatise allows for the exploration of one of the foundational topics in Islamic metaphysics: the conceptual distinction between “quiddity” (māhiyya) and “being” or “existence” (wujūd). Through surveying the rival philosophical views given voice in the treatise—hailing from the Peripatetic, Ash‘arī, Illuminationist, “wujūdī,” and other traditions and involving such important Indian Muslim thinkers as Mullā Maḥmūd al-Jawnpūrī and Khwāja Khwurd—I hope to offer some early steps toward a fuller appreciation of the diverse currents of premodern South Asian Islamic philosophical debates, which extend far beyond the mere wujūd-versus-shuhūd dichotomy that has problematically preoccupied modern historians.

Keywords: waḥdat al-wujūd, unity of being, waḥdat al-shuhūd, unity of witnessing, Muḥibb Allāh ibn Mubāriz Ilāhābādī, al-Taswiya bayna al-ifāda wa’l-qabūl, Mullā Maḥmūd al-Jawnpūrī al-Fārūqī, Ibn Sīnā, Islamic ontology, Khwāja Khwurd

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