Ayatollah Jahangir Qashqa’i – From Musician to Philosopher

Jahāngīr Qashqā’ī was a 19th century Shī’ī philosopher, jurist and mystic. He was born in 1243 in the village of Dehāqān, Isfahān. His father Mohammad Khān Qashqā’ī was a scholar and a man of perfection from the Dar Shῡrī clan of the Qashqā’ī tribe. He initially started studying at his birthplace and his intense passion for studying led to his father finding a private teacher for him.

Like his father, Jahāngīr Khān remained busy with farming, pastoralism and nomadism until the age of 40. He was very skilled in archery and horse riding and had a special affinity with music and was known for playing the guitar. He was roughly 40 years old when he went to the market of Isfahān to sell his produce, stock up on what he needed for the next year and to fix his guitar where his eyes fell on the seminary of Sadr and immediately became infatuated with its spiritual environment and eminent scholars.

One of the scholars within the school, most likely the grandfather of the intellectual Jalāl al-Dīn Hamā’ī, upon seeing Jahāngīr’s interest in the school invited him to self-purification and studying the religious sciences. Jahāngīr was heavily influenced by what he said and preferred to study the religious sciences than go back to his old life, and after some consultation, he was guided to the dorms and took residency there. He remained in the school devoted to studies until the end of his life. Despite having started studies in his forties he possessed an extraordinary capacity and with extreme dedication, he immersed himself with numerous teachers from Isfahān and left no stone unturned in his pursuit of both the intellectual and textual sciences.

Jahāngīr studied philosophy and spirituality with Aqā Mohamad Ridhā Qamshehā’ī, jurisprudence, ῡsul and Arabic grammar with Shaykh Mohamad Hassan and Mohammad Bāqir Najafī, medicine with Mulla Abdul Jawād the well-known doctor of Isfahān, and he studied mathematics and astronomy with some of the best teachers of the time. After learning he dedicated himself for up to 40 years teaching the intellectual sciences with the seminary of Sadr, Isfahān. He taught spirituality mixed with ‘irfan and coupled with philosophical courses on both the Peripatetic and Illumination traditions. His fame within these subjects began to draw people to the seminary of Isfahān.

Jahāngīr Khān became famous within the seminar with the title Khān. His method of teaching philosophy came with one condition, that all students alongside their philosophy studies would engage with jurisprudence and usῡl classes, and devote themselves to learning the tenets of the religion. In this manner, his classes became so popular that his lectures on the book Manzuma of Sabzwari became too crowded to be held in the seminary and had to be moved to the courtyard of a local mosque due to the sheer number of students attending. From this perspective, he has been referred to by some as the reviver of philosophy within the Isfahān seminary. On top of this popularity he was also seen favourably by Zil Sultān, the son of Nāsir al-Dīn Shāh, and this, in turn, played a part in the growth of his reputation.

Jahāngīr Khān was a mystic and an ascetic, he didn’t collect any stipend and lived out his life on the money he would get from the land he owned. Until the end of his life, he continued to wear nomadic clothing and never did he wear the clerical attire. Many students studied under him, many of whom would later become great scholars themselves, such as Hāj Aqā Rahīm Arbābī, Syed Burujerdī, Syed Jamāl al-Dīn Gulpaygānī, Syed Hassan Modarris, Mirzā Nā’inī and Shaykh Hassan Alī Isfahāni Nakhudakī.

Source: Dāneshnāmeh Jahān Islām, by Mu’asaseh Dā’iratul Ma’ārif al-Fiqh al-Islāmī, v. 1, p. 5271.

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