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Muhammad Rustom’s outstanding The Triumph of Mercy is a beautifully
written study on the celebrated Islamic philosopher Mulla Sadra (d.
1050/1640). The author presents the essence of Sadra’s thought in the context
of Tafsīr Sūrat al-Fātiḥah, his commentary on the Qur’an’s opening chapter,
and discusses his methodology, influences, and spiritual outlook. From the
myriad discussions in each chapter, which display the author’s depth and
breadth of scholarship, the work is not only a study of Mulla Sadra’s thought
but also a précis of the Islamic spiritual tradition itself. This should come as
no surprise since the point of departure is Sūrat al-Fātiḥah, which embraces
the entirety of the Qur’anic message within its seven verses.
Each chapter is a pithy and fascinating window into the Sadrian synthesis
between the “transmitted” and “intellectual” sciences, the Qur’an and burhān
(reason), and philosophy and mysticism. It covers Qur’anic hermeneutics,
metaphysics, cosmology, theology, and soteriology, respectively. The work
further sheds light on Sadra’s profound attachment to the great master of Sufism,
Ibn ‘Arabi, including, in the appendix, passages from the latter’s
Futūḥāt al-Makkīyah reworked in the Tafsīr Sūrat al-Fātiḥah. In my view,
the success of this work lies in, among other things, the author’s exceptional
ability to convey complex ideas with a clear and cogent vision, thereby
widening the readership far beyond the scholar and expert.
The book immediately commands our attention in the introduction, where
the author provides critical background on the Qur’anic hermeneutical ...