Nasīr ad-Dīn at-Tūsī

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Statue of Nasir ad-Din in Ganja , Azerbaijan

Abū Jaʿfar Muhammad ibn Muhammad Nasīr ad-Dīn at-Tūsī ( Arabic أبو جعفر محمد بن محمد نصیرالدین الطوسی, DMG Abū Ǧaʿfar Muḥammad b. Muḥammad Naṣīr ad-Dīn aṭ-Ṭūsī , Persian نصیر الدین طوسی, DMG Naṣīr ad-Dīn-e Ṭūsī ; * 1201 in Tūs , Khorasan near present-day Mashhad , Iran ; † 1274 near Baghdad ) was a Persian Shiite theologian , mathematician , astronomer , philosopher and researcher .

Due to his work, he was often called "the third master" ( Arabic المعلم الثالث, DMG al-muʿallim aṯ-ṯāliṯ ) named after Aristotle and al-Fārābī .


Nasīr ad-Dīn Tūsī was trained according to the Twelve Shiite teaching in Tūs in the subjects Koran , Hadīth , Arabic and Fiqh according to the teaching of ʿAlam al-Hudā al-Sharīf al-Murtadā, an adversary of the Muʿtazlites. Nasīr ad-Dīn Tūsī's father was a learned man with an interest in many sciences, which is why his son was also interested in philosophy and the Ismāʿīlīsche doctrine .

From 1213 to 1221 he continued his studies in Nīšāpūr . His teachers Qutb ad-Dīn al-Misrī and Farīd Dāmād, both students of Fachr ad-Dīn ar-Rāzī , taught him mathematics, Avicenna in philosophy and medicine, he also met Fariduddin Attar , who was killed in the Mongol storm. After his stay there, he moved on to Iraq, where he deepened his knowledge.

In 1233 he found a job at the court of the Ismāʿīlīt governor Muhtasham Nāsir ad-Dīn ʿAbd al-Rahīm ibn Abī Mansūr in Quhestān. He began to deepen his ismāʿīlī studies and soon professed ismaʿiliyya. During this time he also wrote his work on the ethics of Achlāq an-Nāsrī (Morals of an-Nāsirī), which he dedicated to the governor, which was completed in 1235. A year later he announced in his spiritual autobiography Sair wa-Sulūk that he had turned away from the exoteric Kalām and would turn to the Ismāmīlī esoteric philosophy. In the same year Nasīr ad-Dīn Tūsī appeared in Alamūt , although it is not certain whether he traveled there with his governor and patron, or whether he was banished to Alamūt by him. There he had access to the large library in the fortress.

In 1255, Hulgus threatened Mongols who were on a conquest through Persia, Alamut. The then ruler of Alamūt, Rukn ad-Din Churschah , sent Nasīr ad-Dīn Tūsī to negotiate with the Mongols. In view of the impending superiority, Nasīr ad-Dīn Tūsī persuaded his ruler to give up the fortress. Rukn al-Dīn Churschāh was executed on Hulegu's orders. Subsequently, Nasīr ad-Dīn Tūsī took part in the Mongol campaign against the Abbasids and in 1258 in the conquest of Baghdad. Thanks in part to his efforts, Hülegü failed to attack and destroy Shiite shrines or cities in Iraq.

Nasīr ad-Dīn Tūsī, now in the service of Hülegü, was responsible, among other things, for religious questions. He therefore moved with Hülegü to Marāgha , where the Mongol rulers built the Rasad Chāneh observatory in 1259–1262 . Nasīr ad-Dīn Tūsī was able to do research on the heavenly orbits and wrote his work az-Zīdsch  al-Īlchānī , in which he compiled astronomical tables. It was also in Marāgha where Nasīr ad-Dīn Tūsī Hülegü could use the newly built library and had important conversations with many scholars. Shortly before his death, he returned to Baghdad, where he died in 1274 and is now buried near the shrine of Mūsā al-Kāzim .



Tusi pair in Vatican Arabic ms 319, fol. 28v, 13th century

The Rasad Chāneh observatory enabled Nasīr ad-Dīn Tūsī to study astronomy intensively. In addition to Iranian and Islamic researchers, Christian , Armenian , Georgian and Chinese mathematicians and astronomers were also involved. His colleagues included the philosopher Nağmaddīn ʿAlī ʿUmar al-Qazwīnī al-Kātibī († 1276 or 1249). Although the observatory only lasted 50 years, it was to influence astronomical research in both Europe and China. Nasīr ad-Dīn Tūsī owes his greatest fame to his work in astronomy.

The scholars in Rasad Chāneh determined, among other things, the annual precession of the equinoxes to 51 arc seconds (today's value 50.3 ") or 1 ° per 70.6 years. Since ancient times, 1 ° per 100 years had been assumed - the value Ptolemy in the Almagest used.

Nasīr ad-Dīn Tūsī is the author of az-Zīdsch al-Īlchānī , the tablet of the Ilkhan , which describes the position of stars and planets according to the results of his research. The work was likely one of the sources of the later works of Nicolaus Copernicus . This is indicated by similarities in the train of thought of the two scholars. For his model of planetary motions , Nasīr ad-Dīn Tūsī had introduced the Tusi pairs , a method of expressing an oscillating linear motion by superimposing two circular motions. Copernicus used them e.g. B. for the treatment of trepidation , a false oscillation of the equinoxes, which is said to go back to Thabit ibn Qurra .


Nasir al-Din Tusi was the first in his book al-Schakl al-Qattā' the trigonometry as an independent from astronomy field of mathematics has viewed. In Europe, this theory was later developed independently of Nasīr ad-Dīn Tūsī by Regiomontanus . His work on the axiom of parallels is well known . He also produced an Arabic edition of the Elements of Euclid (in a longer and shorter version) based on older Arabic translations from the Greek that he edited. The first translations of the elements into Latin in Western Europe in the 12th and 13th centuries are based on this and other Arabic versions, as the ancient Latin text had been lost in the meantime.


His most important philosophical work Achlāq an-Nāsirī deals with questions of ethics. It remained influential for centuries. As a Shiite theologian, he continued the reforms of Alamut (see Ilm al-Kalam ). His books Tajrīd al-iʿtiqād and al-Fusūl an-nāsīriyya deserve special mention .


According to the book Debt: The First 5000 Years by David Graeber , Nasīr ad-Dīn Tūsī is said to have pointed out the “hand of God” working through self-regulation of the market, like Adam Smith , but emphasized much less competition and much more cooperation, in contrast on Adam Smith's theory.


Nasīr ad-Dīn Tūsī left over 150 works. Some of them are listed here:


  • Taḥārīr Works : Review of Greek and Early Islamic Scientific Works. Among these works were as Euclid's  Elements , Ptolemy's  Almagest  and the so-called mutawassiṭāt  (the "Interim books" that are studied between the two would) with treatises of Euclid, Theodosius, Hypsicles , Autolycus , Aristarchus of Samothrace , Archimedes , Menelaus and Thabit ibn Qurra . His comments made it possible for later students to study all these scholars even without a teacher.
  • ʿIlm al-hayʾa (The Science of Heaven).


  • Aḫlāq an-Nāṣirī : the follow-up to Aḫlāq al-Muḥtašamī , completed in 1235. It provides an overview of the moral and philosophical standpoints of Islamic civilization at this point in time. The book is divided into three discourse parts: 1) Ethics and the two sub-items Principles (fundamental principles, human or rational soul, their sub-areas, man as that noblest beings, the perfection of the soul and where its perfection lies) and ends (limit, nature and change of dispositions, correction of dispositions - the noblest discipline, virtue classes and excellence of dispositions, species within these classes, justice, preservation of the healthy soul and Cure their diseases); 2) Economy : household, regulation of property and shops, regulation of wives, regulation of children, rights of parents, domination of servants and slaves; 3) Politics : necessity of civilization and nature of politics, about love (connection of societies), division of societies and states of cities, rule of nobles, friendship and friends, behavior towards other classes of people, points to Plato .
  • Translation of al-Adab al-waǧīz li'l-walad al-ṣaġīr  of Ibn al-Muqaffaʿ into Persian: Brief treatise on correct behavior by children. However, the authenticity of the work has been questioned.
  • Aḫlāq al-Muḥtašamī : a work completed in 1233 in honor of the governor Muhtasham Nāsir ad-Dīn ʿAbd al-Rahīm ibn Abī Mansūr. The content is divided into 40 chapters. Nasīr ad-Dīn Tūsī deals with the knowledge of God, prophecy , the imāmat and then the characteristics of pious people and sufīs .


  • Rauḍat at-taslīm yā taṣawwurāt : the most important work that reflects the Ismāʿīlītic influence on him. In it Nasīr ad-Dīn Tūsī describes the journey from the spiritual to the physical world. The book is rich in Neoplatonic ideas (especially emanation ) and describes the Ismāʿīlītic cosmology : God's command ( amr ) and word ( kalima ), embodied in the imām or in its prototype ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib , communicate through emanation ( faiḍ ) for the first time Intellect, the prototype of which is Salmān al-Fārisī . From there the emanation goes on to the universal soul ( nafs-i kullī ), the Prophet Muhammad and finally to the human soul.
  • At the request of the vizier Shams ad-Dīn Muhammad Juwainī, Nasīr al-Dīn Tūsī wrote Auṣāf al-āšrāf in 1264. In it he explains the path of a sufī from faith ( imān ) to unity with God ( waḥdat ) and extinction of the self ( fanāʿ ).
  • On the biological commonality between humans and animals, he writes u. a .:
“The highest of the species is that whose wisdom and perception is such that it accepts training and instruction: in this way it experiences a perfection that was not originally created in it. This applies to trained horses and hunting falcons. The greater this ability in a species, the more it surpasses its rank until it reaches a point where mere observation of actions is sufficient as a lesson: therefore, when they see something, they do it by imitation and without practice [ ...]. This is the highest of the animal degrees, and the first human degree immediately follows it. "


The lunar crater Nasireddin and in Tehran the technical college KN Toosi University of Technology were named after Nasīr ad-Dīn Tūsī .


  • SJ Badakhchani:  Naṣīr al-Dīn Ṭūsīcontemplation and actionThe spiritual autobiography of a Muslim scholar , London 1998 (= new ed. And tr. Of  Sayr wa sulūk ).
  • H. Dabashi:  Khwājah Naṣīr al-Dīn al-ṬūsīThe philosopher / vizier and the intellectual climate of his times , in Nasr and O. Leaman (eds.),  History of Islamic philosophy , London and New York 1996, i, pp. 527-84.
  • H. Daiber, FJ Ragep: “al-Ṭūsī, Naṣīr al-Dīn”. In:  Encyclopaedia of Islam. 2nd Edition. Edited by P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, CE Bosworth, E. van Donzel and WP Heinrich.
  • N. Heer:  Al-Rāzī and al-Ṭūsī on Ibn Sīnā's theory of emanation , in Morewedge (ed.),  Neoplatonism and Islamic thought , New York 1992, pp. 111-25.
  • KA Howard: The theology of Imamate in the work of Nasir al-Din Tusi , in  Alserat , vi / 2 (1980), 20-7.
  • W. Madelung:  Naṣīr al-Dīn Ṭūsī's ethics between philosophyShiʿism and Sufism , in RG Hovannisian (ed.),  Ethics in Islam , Malibu 1985, pp. 85-101.
  • W. Madelung:  Aš-Šahrastānīs pamphlet against Avicenna and its refutation by Naṣīr al-Dīn at-Ṭūsī , in  files deCongress for Arabic and Islamic Studies = DepAkWissGod , phil-hist. Kl., 3. F. no.98, Göttingen 1976, 250-9.
  • M. Minovi and V. Minorsky: Naṣīr al-Dīn Ṭūsī on Finance in: Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Vol. 10, No. 3 (1940), pp. 755-789.
  • Raẓawī, Muḥammad Taqī Modarres: Aḥwāl va Āṯār-e Ḫwāǧa Naṣīr ed-Dīn Ṭūsī . Tehrān, Asāṭīr, 1370 Iranian Calendar (Gregorian: 1991). Accessible online [11. January 2017].

Web links

Commons : Nasir ad-Din at-Tusi  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. See Encyclopædia Iranica .
  2. Daiber, H. and Ragep, FJ: al-Ṭūsī, Naṣīr al-Dīn . In: P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, CE Bosworth, E. van Donzel, WP Heinrichs (eds.): Encyclopaedia of Islam II .
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid.
  7. W. Madelung: Isma ' īliyya . In: P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, CE Bosworth, E. van Donzel, WP Heinrichs (eds.): Encyclopaedia of Islam II .
  8. H. Daiber and FJ Ragep, “al-Ṭūsī, Naṣīr al-Dīn”.
  9. Ibid.
  10. ^ Gotthard Strohmaier : Avicenna. Beck, Munich 1999, ISBN 3-406-41946-1 , p. 134.
  11. H. Daiber and FJ Ragep, “al-Ṭūsī, Naṣīr al-Dīn”.
  12. ^ IN Veselovsky: Copernicus and Nasir al-Din al-Tusi. In: Journal for the History of Astronomy, Vol. 4, p.128. Retrieved January 11, 2017 .
  13. D. Pingree: ʿ Ilm al-Hay ʾ a . In: P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, CE Bosworth, E. van Donzel, WP Heinrichs (eds.): Encyclopaedia of Islam ll .
  14. H. Daiber and FJ Ragep, “al-Ṭūsī, Naṣīr al-Dīn”.
  15. H. Daiber and FJ Ragep, “al-Ṭūsī, Naṣīr al-Dīn”.
  16. GM Wickens: Aklaq-e Naseri. In: Encyclopaedia Iranica. July 29, 2011, accessed January 11, 2017 .
  17. H. Daiber and FJ Ragep, “al-Ṭūsī, Naṣīr al-Dīn”.
  18. H. Daiber and FJ Ragep, “al-Ṭūsī, Naṣīr al-Dīn”.
  19. ^ Nasir ad-Din Tusi (1964) The Nasirean Ethics (translator: GM Wickens). London: Allen & Unwin, pp. 45f.