Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī
Name of Fakhr al-Din al-Razi in Persian
TitleShaykh al-Islam,
al-Fakhr al-Razi,
Sultan al-Mutakallimin (Sultan of the Theologians),[1]
and Imam or Shaykh al-Mushakkikin (the Imam or Teacher of the Skeptics).[2]
Born1149 or 1150 (543 or 544 AH)
Died1209 (606 AH, aged 59 or 60)
EraIslamic Golden Age
Main interest(s)Tafsir, Principles of Islamic jurisprudence, Rhetoric, Kalam, Islamic Philosophy, Logic, Astronomy, Cosmology, Ontology, Chemistry, Physics, Medicine, Anatomy
Notable work(s)Al-Tafsir al-Kabir (Mafatih al-Ghayb), Asas al-Taqdis
OccupationScholar and scientist
Muslim leader

Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī (Arabic: فخر الدين الرازي) or Fakhruddin Razi (Persian: فخر الدين رازی) (1149 or 1150 – 1209), often known by the sobriquet Sultan of the Theologians, was an influential Iranian and Muslim polymath, scientist and one of the pioneers of inductive logic.[6][7][8] He wrote various works in the fields of medicine, chemistry, physics, astronomy, cosmology, literature, theology, ontology, philosophy, history and jurisprudence. He was one of the earliest proponents and skeptics that came up with the concept of multiverse, and compared it with the astronomical teachings of Quran.[9][10] A rejector of the geocentric model and the Aristotelian notions of a single universe revolving around a single world, al-Razi argued about the existence of the outer space beyond the known world.[10][11]

Al-Razi was born in Ray, Iran, and died in Herat, Afghanistan.[12] He left a very rich corpus of philosophical and theological works that reveals influence from the works of Avicenna, Abu'l-Barakāt al-Baghdādī and al-Ghazali. Two of his works titled Mabāhith al-mashriqiyya fī 'ilm al-ilāhiyyāt wa-'l-tabi'iyyāt المباحث المشرقية في علم الإلهيات و الطبيعيات (Eastern Studies in Metaphysics and Physics) and al-Matālib al-'Aliya المطالب العالية (The Higher Issues) are usually regarded as his most important philosophical works.[13]


Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, whose full name was Abū ʿAbd Allāh Muḥammad ibn ʿUmar ibn al-Ḥusayn (Arabic: أبو عبد الله محمد بن عمر بن الحسين), was born in 1149 or 1150 CE (543 or 544 AH) in Ray (close to modern Tehran), whence his nisba al-Razi.[12] According to Ibn al-Shaʿʿār al-Mawṣilī (died 1256), one of al-Razi's earliest biographers, his great-grandfather had been a rich merchant in Mecca.[14] Either his great-grandfather or his grandfather migrated from Mecca to Tabaristan (a mountainous region located on the Caspian coast of northern Iran) in the 11th century, and some time after that the family settled in Ray.[14] Having been born into a family of Meccan origin, al-Razi claimed descent from the first caliph Abu Bakr (c. 573–634), and was known by medieval biographers as al-Qurashī (a member of the Quraysh, the tribe of the prophet Muhammad to which also Abu Bakr belonged).[15] However, it is not clear from which precise lines of descent al-Razi envisioned his purported ties with Abu Bakr to result, and the poet Ibn ʿUnayn (died 1233) actually praised him as a descendant of the second caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab (died 644).[16]

Fakhr al-Din first studied with his father, Ḍiyāʾ al-Dīn al-Makkī, himself a scholar of some repute whose magnum opus in kalam has recently been rediscovered in part,[17] and later at Merv and Maragheh, where he was one of the pupils of Majd al-Din al-Jili, who in turn had been a disciple of al-Ghazali. He was a leading proponent of the Ash'ari school of theology.

His commentary on the Quran was the most-varied and many-sided of all extant works of the kind, comprising most of the material of importance that had previously appeared. He devoted himself to a wide range of studies and is said to have expended a large fortune on experiments in alchemy. He taught at Ray (Central Iran) and Ghazni (eastern Afghanistan), and became head of the university founded by Mohammed ibn Tukush at Herat (western Afghanistan).[18]

In his later years, he also showed interest in mysticism, though this never formed a significant part of his thought.[9] He died in Herat (Afghanistan) in 1209 (606 AH), where his tomb is still venerated today.[12] Many believe he was poisoned by the Karrāmīyah.[19]

The Great Commentary

Main article: Tafsir al-Kabir (al-Razi)

One of Imam Razi's outstanding achievements was his unique interpretive work on the Quran called Mafātiḥ al-Ghayb (Keys to the Unseen) and later nicknamed Tafsīr al-Kabīr (The Great Commentary), one reason being that it was 32 volumes in length. This work contains much of philosophical interest. One of his "major concerns was the self-sufficiency of the intellect." His "acknowledgment of the primacy of the Qur'an grew with his years." Al-Razi's rationalism undoubtedly "holds an important place in the debate in the Islamic tradition on the harmonization of reason and revelation."[9]

Development of Kalam

Al-Razi's development of Kalam (Islamic scholastic theology) led to the evolution and flourishing of theology among Muslims. Razi had experienced different periods in his thinking, affected by the Ash'ari school of thought and later by al-Ghazali. Al-Razi tried to make use of elements of Muʿtazila and Falsafah, and although he had some criticisms on ibn Sina, Razi was greatly affected by him. The most important instance showing the synthesis of Razi's thought may be the problem of the eternity of the world and its relation to God. He tried to reorganize the arguments of theologians and philosophers on this subject, collected and critically examined the arguments of both sides. He considered, for the most part, the philosophers' argument for the world's eternity stronger than the theologians' position of putting emphasis on the temporal nature of the world.[20] According to Tony Street, we should not see in Razi's theoretical life a journey from a young dialectician to a religious condition.[21] It seems that he adopted different thoughts of diverse schools, such as those of Mutazilite and Asharite, in his exegesis, The Great Commentary.[22]

Hypothetical concept of multiple universes

Al-Razi, in dealing with his conception of physics and the physical world in his Matalib al-'Aliya, criticizes the idea of the geocentric model within the universe and "explores the notion of the existence of a multiverse in the context of his commentary" on the Quranic verse, "All praise belongs to God, Lord of the Worlds." He raises the question of whether the term "worlds" in this verse refers to "multiple worlds within this single universe or cosmos, or to many other universes or a multiverse beyond this known universe."[10]

Al-Razi states:[10]

It is established by evidence that there exists beyond the world a void without a terminal limit (khala' la nihayata laha), and it is established as well by evidence that God Most High has power over all contingent beings (al-mumkinat). Therefore He the Most High has the power (qadir) to create millions of worlds (alfa alfi 'awalim) beyond this world such that each one of those worlds be bigger and more massive than this world as well as having the like of what this world has of the throne (al-arsh), the chair (al-kursiyy), the heavens (al-samawat) and the earth (al-ard), and the sun (al-shams) and the moon (al-qamar). The arguments of the philosophers (dala'il al-falasifah) for establishing that the world is one are weak, flimsy arguments founded upon feeble premises.

Al-Razi rejected the Aristotelian and Avicennian notions of a single universe revolving around a single world.[10][11] He describes their main arguments against the existence of multiple worlds or universes, pointing out their weaknesses and refuting them. This rejection arose from his affirmation of atomism, as advocated by the Ash'ari school of Islamic theology, which entails the existence of vacant space in which the atoms move, combine and separate [citation needed]. He discussed more on the issue of the void – the empty spaces between stars and constellations in the universe, that contain few or no stars – in greater detail in volume 5 of the Matalib.[10] He argued that there exists an infinite outer space beyond the known world,[23] and that God has the power to fill the vacuum with an infinite number of universes.[9][24]

List of works

Al-Razi had written over a hundred works on a wide variety of subjects. His major works include:

Note: Not to be confused with the book of Tafsir by Imam Nasir al-Din al-Baydawi Qadi Baydawi called: Anwaar at-Tanzeel wa Asraar at-Ta'weel (The Lights of Revelation and The Secrets of Interpretation) or more commonly Tafsir al-Baydawi

See also


  1. ^ Peter Adamson (7 July 2016). Philosophy in the Islamic World: A History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps. Oxford University Press. p. 315. ISBN 978-0-19-957749-1.
  2. ^ Omar, Irfan (2013). Islam and Other Religions: Pathways to Dialogue. Taylor & Francis. p. 113. ISBN 9781317998525. Retrieved 2017-12-02.
  3. ^ a b Mirza, Younus Y. (2014-02-01). "Was Ibn Kathīr the 'Spokesperson' for Ibn Taymiyya? Jonah as a Prophet of Obedience". Journal of Qur'anic Studies. 16 (1): 1. doi:10.3366/jqs.2014.0130. ISSN 1465-3591.
  4. ^ Ovamir Anjum, Politics, Law, and Community in Islamic Thought: The Taymiyyan Moment, p 143. ISBN 1107014069
  5. ^ "BORHĀN-AL-DĪN NASAFĪ". iranicaonline.org. Encyclopaedia Iranica. Archived from the original on 29 Oct 2020. In spite of his adherence to the Hanafite school of law, he clearly inclined to Asḥʿarism in theology and was an admirer of Ḡazālī and Faḵr-al-Dīn Rāzī.
  6. ^ Richard Maxwell Eaton, The Rise of Islam and the Bengal Frontier, 1204–1760, University of California Press,1996, - Page 29
  7. ^ Shaikh M. Ghazanfar, Medieval Islamic Economic Thought: Filling the Great Gap in European Economics, Routledge, 2003 [1]
  8. ^ "Philosophy".
  9. ^ a b c d John Cooper (1998), "al-Razi, Fakhr al-Din (1149-1209)", Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Routledge, retrieved 2010-03-07
  10. ^ a b c d e f Adi Setia (2004), "Fakhr Al-Din Al-Razi on Physics and the Nature of the Physical World: A Preliminary Survey" (PDF), Islam & Science, 2, retrieved 2024-03-26
  11. ^ a b Williams, Matt (11 January 2016). "What Is The Geocentric Model Of The Universe?". Universe Today. Retrieved 3 October 2020. This was followed by Fakhr al-Din al-Razi's (1149–1209) publication of his treatise Matalib, which dealt with conceptual physics. In it, he rejected the notion of the Earth's centrality within the universe and instead proposed a cosmology in which there were a "thousand thousand worlds beyond this world..."
  12. ^ a b c Anawati 1960–2007.
  13. ^ Taylor, Richard; Lopez-farjeat, Luis Xavier, eds. (2013). "God and Creation in al-Razi's Commentary on the Qur'an". The Routledge Companion to Islamic Philosophy. Routledge. p. 9. ISBN 9780415881609.
  14. ^ a b Shihadeh 2013–2019, pp. viii–ix.
  15. ^ Shihadeh 2013–2019, p. ix; cf. Cannon 1998, p. 347: "The family claimed both a long tribal ancestry (associated with the Taimi tribe) and descent from the family of Abu Bakr, the first caliph".
  16. ^ Shihadeh 2013–2019, p. ix. On Ibn ʿUnayn, see Masarwa 2021.
  17. ^ Facsimile in Shihadeh 2013–2019.
  18. ^ One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainGilman, D. C.; Peck, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "Fakhr-ad-Din ar-Razi" . New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.
  19. ^ "Fakhr ad-Dīn ar-Rāzī | Muslim Theologian, Philosopher, Scientist | Britannica". www.britannica.com. Retrieved 2023-07-09.
  20. ^ İskenderoğlu, Muammer (2002-01-01). Fakhr Al-Dīn Al-Rāzī and Thomas Aquinas on the Question of the Eternity of the World. BRILL. ISBN 9004124802.
  21. ^ Riddell, Peter G.; Street, Tony; Johns, Anthony Hearle (1997-01-01). Islam - Essays in Scripture, Thought and Society: A Festschrift in Honour of Anthony H. Johnes. BRILL. ISBN 9004106928.
  22. ^ Adel, Gholamali Haddad; Elmi, Mohammad Jafar; Taromi-Rad, Hassan (2012-08-31). Quar'anic Exegeses: Selected Entries from Encyclopaedia of the World of Islam. EWI Press. ISBN 9781908433053.
  23. ^ Muammer İskenderoğlu (2002), Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī and Thomas Aquinas on the question of the eternity of the world, Brill Publishers, p. 79, ISBN 90-04-12480-2
  24. ^ Alikuzai, Hamid Wahed (2013). A Concise History of Afghanistan in 25 Volumes. Trafford. p. 139. ISBN 9781490714462.