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William Chittick honored in Tehran


William Chittick

TEHRAN, June 13 (Mehr News Agency) -- The Iranian Society of Cultural Works and Luminaries paid tribute to the U.S. Islamologist William Chittick during a ceremony held at the venue on June 11.

Several Iranian scholars, including ISCWL Director Gholamreza Avani, Mehdi Mohaqeq, Shahram Pazuki, Shahin Avani, and Manuchehr Saduqi, attended the ceremony.

Gholamreza Avani made a short speech in which he talked about his memories of Chittick and discussed how Chittick has served the Persian culture.

Chittick then gave a lecture, in which he said, "When I began to work for the Encyclopedia Iranica 28 years ago, I got to know Baba Afzal Kashani and began to read his works. I read his writings and translated several of his works into English."

Baba Afzal al-Din Kashani was a respected Sufi philosopher and poet of the 13th century who lived in Kashan. Kashani did not write for advanced students of philosophy but rather for beginners. Chittick uses Kashani and his work to introduce the basic issues and arguments of Islamic philosophy to modern readers.

Chittick explained why he chose Baba Afzal and his works to study, saying, "If one has studied philosophy and has become familiar with Molana Rumi and Mulla Sadra, one knows how difficult philosophy is and that one must spend a lot of time to understand it well. Baba Afzal wrote his works in both Persian and Arabic. He himself said that he did not write his works for philosophers but for those who are seeking wisdom."

Chittick referred to the situation of Islamic philosophy at universities in the West, stating, "The English-speaking people of the West do not know Persian and Persian philosophy. There are only a few scholars who work on Islamic philosophy and seek wisdom in its traditional authentic meaning."

He added, "In writing my books I mostly address the students not the professors of the universities of the United States, since they each follow their own specific school of philosophy. There is no Islamic philosophy in the West and they accept nothing but the modern philosophy of the West.

"When I am writing a book I only pay attention to the youth, especially the Muslim youth who were born in the United States to families who are disinterested in religion, but the youth themselves want to know what Islam is. They are interested in Islam and want to know more about it."

The ceremony ended with a question and answer session about ways to understand monotheism.

Chittick, 65, is currently professor of religious studies at the State University of New York, Stony Brook.

He is author of over 20 books on Islam, philosophy, and Persian literature.

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