• 03 Feb 2022
  • Aga Khan Centre
  • Talks and Lectures

The Metaphysical Dimension of the Prophet in Avicenna’s Thought

"Prophet Muhammad Preaching", Folio from a Maqtal-i Al-i Rasul of Lami'i Chelebi, late 16th c. Image credit: Met Museum.

The prophet has a major metaphysical function. This is a fundamental thesis of Avicenna’s prophetology, and one of the main theses that will be explored in this lecture. The Metaphysics of the Kitāb al-Šifā’ closes with a treatise on prophetology, and one must give a reason for that. The prophet is not only the one who transmits the revealed Law to mankind, nor merely the one who ensures the best possible government of the city: he is also a model of perfection for men. This exemplarity of the prophet has its foundation in the very structure of Avicenna’s metaphysics. The intellect, soul and body of the prophet – in their mutual relationship – present a perfect correspondence with the intellect, soul and body of the ten celestial entities that structure the cosmos according to Avicenna.

The mediation of the prophet – who is explicitly designated by Avicenna in accordance with the Qur’anic revelation as a man, a mere mortal – fully manifests the unbroken continuity that links the sensible world to the celestial world. The sensible world, which is the very last emanation of the ultimate flow from the First Principle, is not a world of exile, cut off from its source. The presence of the prophet – the noetic, psychic and ethical perfection that he embodies – indicates to humankind that the Return is possible, that the way back to the ultimate source is not closed. It is also in Book X of the Metaphysics of the Šifā’ that Avicenna establishes the link between the doctrine of prophecy and that of providence. This connection is also fundamental to understand the metaphysical dimension of the prophet.

Date: 3 February 2022
Time: 5.00 pm – 6.30 pm GMT
Location: Aga Khan Centre and online (Zoom)

Q&A: At any time during the lecture, attendees can submit questions to the speaker through the Q&A option at the bottom of the control panel. As time allows, the speaker will address as many questions as they can during the Q&A session at the end of the presentation.

Discussants: Dr Toby Mayer (The Institute of Ismaili Studies, UK), Dr Fârès Gillon (The Institute of Ismaili Studies, UK).

Watch recording of the lecture


Dr Meryem Sebti

Meryem Sebti is a Doctor of Philosophy and Doctor habilitatus, specialist in Islamic philosophy. A researcher at the CNRS since 2004, she is also a visiting lecturer at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes since 2018. She has published a book entitled Avicenna. L'Âme humaine (Paris, 2000) as well as numerous articles on Avicenna’s doctrine of the soul and theory of knowledge. Her latest book published by CERF in October 2021 is entitled: Avicenna. Prophecy and Government of the World. She is a laureate of the International Avicenna Prize (Académie de Médecine de Paris).