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NASR, SEYYED HOSSEIN (b. April 7, 1933), Iranian philosopher, philosopher of science, theologian, and traditionalist. A prolific writer, Seyyed Hossein Nasr is one of the most visible exponents in the West of an understanding of traditional Islam. He was born in Tehran on 7 April 1933; his father was a physician and educator. Nasr went to the United States for his higher education, receiving his B.S. degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1954 and going on to Harvard to work in geology and physics. His longstanding interest in the traditional disciplines, however, led him to change his field to philosophy and the history of science; he received his Ph.D. in 1958. Nasr’s broad classical education spans Eastern and Western history, philosophy and social science, Muslim and Christian historical and contemporary theological materials, and the development of Islamic mysticism, spirituality, art, and culture.

In 1958 Nasr returned to Iran to teach at Tehran University, continuing his own education with some of Iran’s foremost religious authorities. At the time of the Iranian revolution in 1979 he was director of the Imperial Iranian Academy of Philosophy. Since leaving the country at the fall of the shah, he has remained an advocate of Safavid Islam as representing the real essence of Islamic, and particularly Shi’i, thought. In the 1990s he was University Professor of Islamic Studies at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

The underlying theme of Nasr’s recent work has been the perception that persons in the contemporary world, especially in the West, can no longer understand and appreciate the sacred-that they have lost sight of what is essential and eternal. His Gifford Lectures, given in 1981 and published as Knowledge and the Sacred, reveal his hope of reviving what he calls the sacred quality of knowledge as opposed to secularized reason. He is an articulate opponent of such contemporary ideologies as modernism, rationalism, secularism, and materialism, and advocates instead the immutable principles best illustrated in traditional Islam. His writings clearly show his related aims of interpreting Islamic civilization to a skeptical Western audience and attacking the secularizing forces that have alienated Westerners from their faith and are threatening to do the same to Muslims.

Always concerned for the integration of science, philosophy, and art, Nasr is devoted to an explication of the essential unity of all things as reflecting the unity of God. He sees the secularization of the natural sciences and the destruction of the earth’s equilibrium evident in today’s ecological crisis as illustrations of the essential disruption of the relationship between human and divine. This he compares with the scientia sacra of traditionalist Islam, in which there is a sacred relationship of the terrestrial and the celestial, and of human and sacred history.

A student of and advocate for the classical schools of Islamic mysticism, Nasr has recently focused on spiritual disciplines as expressed in the arts of architecture, music, and poetry, and on the particular role of Shiism within Islamic history and thought. He has tried to show that some Muslims are posing falsely as traditionalists, suggesting that they are really duplicating some of the mistakes made by the modern West rather than learning from them. He sees Western individualism as the opposite of the true freedom expressed in Islamic philosophy and Sufism-a freedom consisting not in action but in understanding one’s essential relationship to God.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Chittick, William C. “The World of Seyyed Hossein Nasr through His Fortieth Birthday.” Research Monograph (University of Utah, Salt Lake City), no. 6 (1977): 7-12.

Nast, Seyyed Hossein. Islam and the Plight of Modern Man. London, 1981.

Nast, Seyyed Hossein. Knowledge and the Sacred. New York, 1981. Nasr, Seyyed Hossein. Traditional Islam in the Modern World. London, 1981.

Nast, Seyyed Hossein. Islamic Art and Spirituality. Albany, N.Y., 1987.

Nast, Seyyed Hossein, et al., eds. Shi’ism: Doctrines, Thought, and Spirituality. Albany, N.Y., 1988.

Smith, Jane I. “Seyyed Hossein Nasr:

Islamic Traditionalism.” In The Muslims of America, edited by Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad, pp. 88-95. New York and Oxford, 1991.

Defender of the Sacred and

JANE I. SMITH

Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/nasr-seyyed-hossein/
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