Fakhr al-Din al-Razi

This article is about the theologian and philosopher. For the physician and alchemist, see Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi. For other uses, see Razi (disambiguation).
Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī
Title Shaykh al-Islam,
al-Fakhr al-Razi,
Sultan al-Mutakallimin (Prince of the Controversialists),[1]
and Imam or Shaykh al-Mushakkikin (the Imam or Teacher of the Skeptics).[2]
Born 26 January 1150
Ray, Iran
Died 29 March 1210 (aged 61)[3]
Herat, Afghanistan
Ethnicity Persian
Era Islamic Golden Age
Region Persia (Iran and Afghanistan)
Occupation Muslim scholar
Religion Islam
Jurisprudence Shafi'i[4]
Creed Sunni Islam, Ash'ari
Main interest(s) Tafsir, Principles of Islamic jurisprudence, Rhetoric, Kalam, Islamic Philosophy, Logic, Astronomy, Ontology, Chemistry, Physics, Medicine, Anatomy
Notable work(s) Tafsir al-Kabir, The Major Book on Logic, Sharh Nisf al-Wajiz li l-Ghazzali, Sharh al-Isharat Avecina

Fakhr al-Din al-Razi or Fakhruddin Razi (Persian: فخر الدين رازي) was an Iranian Sunni Muslim theologian and philosopher[5][6] He was born in 1149 in Rey (in today's Iran), and died in 1209 in Herat (in today's Afghanistan). He also wrote on medicine, physics, astronomy, literature, history and law.

He left a very rich corpus of philosophical and theological works that reveals influence from the works of ibn Sina, Abu'l-Barakāt al-Baghdādī and al-Ghazali. Two of his works titled Mabahith al-mashriqiyya fi 'ilm al-ilahiyyat wa-'l-tabi'iyyat (Eastern Studies in Metaphysics and Physics) and al-Matalib al-'Alya (The Higher Issues) are usually regarded as his most important philosophical works.[7]


Abu Abdullah Muhammad ibn Umar ibn al-Husayn at-Taymi al-Bakri at-Tabaristani Fakhr al-Din al-Razi[8] (Persian: أبو عبدالله محمد بن عمر بن الحسن بن الحسين بن علي التيمي البكري فخرالدین الرازی) was born in a family originally from Amol in Tabaristan (modern-day Mazandaran Province, Iran),[9] he first studied with his father, and later at Merv and Maragheh, where he was one of the pupils of al-Majd al-Jili, who in turn had been a disciple of al-Ghazali. He was accused of rationalism, despite the fact that he restored many to the orthodox faith. He was a leading proponent of the Ash'ari school of theology.

His commentary on the Quran was the most varied and many-sided of all extant works of the kind, comprising most of the material of importance that had previously appeared. He devoted himself to a wide range of studies, and is said to have expended a large fortune on experiments in alchemy. He taught at Rey (Central Iran) and Ghazni (eastern Afghanistan), and became head of the university founded by Mohammed ibn Tukush at Herat (western Afghanistan).[10]

In his later years, he also showed interest in mysticism, though this never formed a significant part of his thought.[11]

The Great Commentary

One of Imam Razi's outstanding achievements was his unique hermeneutical work on The Qur'an called "Mafatih Al-Ghayb" (Keys to the Unseen) and later nicknamed "Tafsir Al-Kabeer" (The Great Commentary) one reason being that it was 32 volumes in length. This work contains much of philosophical interest. One of his "major concerns was the self-sufficiency of the intellect." He believed that proofs based on tradition (hadith) "could never lead to certainty (yaqin) but only to presumption (zann), a key distinction in Islamic thought." However, his "acknowledgement of the primacy of the Qur'an grew with his years." Al-Razi's rationalism undoubtedly "holds an important place in the debate in the Islamic tradition on the harmonization of reason and revelation."[11]

Development of Kalam

Ar-Razi's development of Kalam shows periods which led to evolution and flourishing of theology among Muslims theologians. Razi had experienced different periods in his thought. Earlier he was affected by the Ash'ari school of thought and later, by Ghazali, ar-Razi tried to make use of elements of Muʿtazila and Falsafah. Although he had some criticisms on ibn Sina, Razi was greatly affected by him. Perhaps, the most important instances showing the synthesis of Razi's thought is the problem of eternity of the world and its relation to God. He tried to reorganize arguments of theologians and philosophers on the world's eternity. He collected and critically examined the arguments of both sides. He considered, for the most part, the philosophers' argument for the world's eternity stronger than the theologian's position of putting emphases on the temporal nature of the world.[12] According to Tony Street we should not see in Razi's theoretical life, a kind of journey from a dialectician young to a religious condition.[13] It seems that he adapted different thoughts of diverse schools such as those of Mutazilite and Asharite, in his great exegesis Tafsir al-Kabir.[14]


Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, in dealing with his conception of physics and the physical world in his Matalib al-'Aliya, criticizes the idea of the geocentric model within the universe and "explores the notion of the existence of a multiverse in the context of his commentary" on the Qur'anic verse, "All praise belongs to God, Lord of the Worlds." He raises the question of whether the term "worlds" in this verse refers to "multiple worlds within this single universe or cosmos, or to many other universes or a multiverse beyond this known universe."[15]

Al-Razi states:[15]

It is established by evidence that there exists beyond the world a void without a terminal limit (khala' la nihayata laha), and it is established as well by evidence that God Most High has power over all contingent beings (al-mumkinat). Therefore He the Most High has the power (qadir) to create a thousand thousand worlds (alfa alfi 'awalim) beyond this world such that each one of those worlds be bigger and more massive than this world as well as having the like of what this world has of the throne (al-arsh), the chair (al-kursiyy), the heavens (al-samawat) and the earth (al-ard), and the sun (al-shams) and the moon (al-qamar). The arguments of the philosophers (dala'il al-falasifah) for establishing that the world is one are weak, flimsy arguments founded upon feeble premises.

Al-Razi rejected the Aristotelian and Avicennian notions of a single universe revolving around a single world. He describes their main arguments against the existence of multiple worlds or universes, pointing out their weaknesses and refuting them. This rejection arose from his affirmation of atomism, as advocated by the Ash'ari school of Islamic theology, which entails the existence of vacant space in which the atoms move, combine and separate. He discussed more on the issue of the void, the empty spaces between stars and constellations in the universe, that contain very few, or no, stars. in greater detail in volume 5 of the Matalib.[15] He argued that there exists an infinite outer space beyond the known world,[16] and that God has the power to fill the vacuum with an infinite number of universes.[11]

List of works

Al-Razi had written over a hundred works on a wide variety of subjects. His major works include:

See also


  1. Peter Adamson (7 July 2016). Philosophy in the Islamic World: A History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps. Oxford University Press. p. 315. ISBN 978-0-19-957749-1.
  2. Islam and Other Religions: Pathways to Dialogue by Irfan Omar
  3. Al-Dhahabi: al-Ibr, Vol.3, p.142
  4. "Was Ibn Kathīr the 'Spokesperson' for Ibn Taymiyya? Jonah as a Prophet of Obedience". Journal of Qur'anic Studies. 16 (1): 1. 2014-02-01. doi:10.3366/jqs.2014.0130. ISSN 1465-3591.
  5. Richard Maxwell Eaton, The Rise of Islam and the Bengal Frontier, 1204-1760,University of California Press,1996, - Page 29
  6. Shaikh M. Ghazanfar, Medieval Islamic Economic Thought: Filling the Great Gap in European Economics,Routledge, 2003
  7. Taylor, Richard; Lopez-farjeat, Luis Xavier, eds. (2013). "God and Creation in al-Razi's Commentary on the Qur'an". The Routledge Companion to Islamic Philosophy. Routledge. p. 9. ISBN 9780415881609.
  8. Ibn Khallikan. Wafayat Al-a'yan Wa Anba' Abna' Al-zaman. Translated by William MacGuckin Slane. (1961) Pakistan Historical Society. pp. 224.
  9. Yasin T. Al-Jibouri, Nahjul-Balagha: Path of Eloquence, Author House (2013), p. 22
  10.  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Gilman, D. C.; Thurston, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "Fakhr-ad-Din ar-Razi". New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.
  11. 1 2 3 John Cooper (1998), "al-Razi, Fakhr al-Din (1149-1209)", Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Routledge, retrieved 2010-03-07
  12. İskenderoğlu, Muammer (2002-01-01). Fakhr Al-Dīn Al-Rāzī and Thomas Aquinas on the Question of the Eternity of the World. BRILL. ISBN 9004124802.
  13. Riddell, Peter G.; Street, Tony; Johns, Anthony Hearle (1997-01-01). Islam - Essays in Scripture, Thought and Society: A Festschrift in Honour of Anthony H. Johnes. BRILL. ISBN 9004106928.
  14. Adel, Gholamali Haddad; Elmi, Mohammad Jafar; Taromi-Rad, Hassan (2012-08-31). Quar'anic Exegeses: Selected Entries from Encyclopaedia of the World of Islam. EWI Press. ISBN 9781908433053.
  15. 1 2 3 Adi Setia (2004), "Fakhr Al-Din Al-Razi on Physics and the Nature of the Physical World: A Preliminary Survey", Islam & Science, 2, retrieved 2010-03-02
  16. Muammer İskenderoğlu (2002), Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī and Thomas Aquinas on the question of the eternity of the world, Brill Publishers, p. 79, ISBN 90-04-12480-2


For his life and writings, see:

For his astrological-magical writings, see:

For his treatise on physiognomy, see:

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