AL-‘AMIRI (Abu’Hasan Muhammad ibn Yüsuf al-’Amiri)—Arab philosopher, born at the beginning of the tenth century in Khorasan (today Iran), d. 992 in Nishapur (today Neyshabur).
Al-‘Amiri was educated in Khorasan under Abu Zayd al-Balkhi, a disciple of al-Kindi. After his teacher’s death he travelled to Rayy where he spent around 5 years. From there he visited Baghdad where he made contact with philosophers from the city’s school which was then directed by a Christian, Yahya ibin ‘Adi. Toward the end of his life he lived in Bukhara where he had access to the library of the Samani dynasty, and he spent time in Nishapur.
Around 25 titles of works by Al-‘Amiri are now. Six works have been preserved to the present and have been published. They include: Al-I‘lam bi-manaquib al- Islam (Exposition of the merits of Islam, ed. A. Chorab, K 1967); Al-Amad ‘ala’-abad (On the Afterlife); ed. in: E.K. Rowson, A Muslim Philosopher on the Soul and its Fate: al-‘Amiri’s Kitab al-Amad ‘ala’ l-abad, NH 1988); Inqadh al-bashar min al-jabr wa’-qadar (Deliverance of Mankind from Predestination and Free Will; ed. S. Khalifat, Rasa”il Abi’l Hasan al-‘Amiri wa-shadharatuhu ’l- falsafiyyah, Amman 1988, 247-271).
In his extant works, Al-‘Amiri follows the tradition of Al-Kindi and presents it in opposition to the thought of Abu Bakr Al-Razi; he avoids any mention of Al-Farabi and other philosophers of the Baghdad schools. Like Al-Kindi, Al-‘Amiri in his works concentrated on showing how we may use philosophy to resolve theological problems; according to Al‘Amiri, Islam and philosophy are two complementary roads to the truth. In opposition to Al-Farabi he states, however, that the revealed truth is higher and is binding upon the philosopher, since revelation was necessary to complete human intellectual knowledge and to lead man to virtuous action. Greek wisdom may witness to the rightness of revealed knowledge, but it lacks the true authority of the prophets.
In his work, On the Afterlife, he presents certain theses concerning the individual soul after death using philosophical argumentation. He drew from a lost neo-Platonic commentary on Plato’s Phaedo, and cites many traditional arguments for the immortality of the soul. Al-‘Amiri’s argumentation is accompanied by a lecture on Aristotle’s psychology in its neo-Platonic interpretation as this was begun by Alexander of Aphrodesia. Al-‘Amiri indicates truths on Paradise and the Fire as revealed in the Koran as a necessary completion for philosophical analyses. These truths are inaccessible to the human mind without the mediation of revelation, but revelation does not explain in concrete details how the resurrection of bodies will take place. A reward in the afterlife depends upon the actualization of the soul’s powers in this life, and this actuality is caused primarily by right action, which leads the intellect to the things of God. In the introductory chapters of his work, Al- ‘Amiri presents a history of the life and views of the Greek philosophers—Empedocles, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. He indicates an historical link between the philosophical tradition and the prophetic tradition.
Al-‘Amiri’s attempts to resolve the dilemna of predestination and free will are contained in two of his extant works: The Deliverance of Mankind from Predestination and Free Will, and The Determination of Various Aspects of Predestination (Al-Taqrir li-awjuh al- taqdir published in: S. Khalifat, op. cit.) In the first of these works, Al-‘Amiri tried to resolve the problem by an analysis of Aristotle’s understanding of causation: he keeps his distance from the tradition of the Ashari school and from the Mu’tazila esotericists, as he presents his own conclusions as a ‘golden mean.’ He explicitly repeats Al-Kindi’s fundamental theory on the divine creation ex nihilo (ibda‘) as the only form of causation. As he considers the question of predestination, Al-‘Amiri distinguishes between necessary, contingent, and possible beings. Only God is a necessary being—“wajib al-wujud’ (this term would later become a key concept in Avicenna’s thought)—God’s existence is identical with his essence. All other beings besides God are contingent. In their existence they depend upon God, and in the measure that they need the necessary being to exist they are subject to predestination. On the other hand, the order of mutual relations between contingent beings leaves room for individual responsibility.
J. C. Vadet, Unde Défence philosophique de la sunna: les Manaqib al-islam d‘Amiri, Revue des études islamiques 42 (1974), 245–276; 43 (1975), 77–96; H. H. Biesterfeldt, ‘Abu’l- Hasan al-‘Amiri und die Wissenschaften, Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, Supplement 3, 1, Wie 1977; E. K. Rowson, Al- ’Amiri, in: S. H. Nasr, O. Leaman, History of Islam Philosophy, Lo 1996, 216–221.