Seyyed Hossein Nasr (Persian: سید حسین نصر), an Iranian University Professor of Islamic studies at George Washington University, is a leading Iranian Islamic philosopher. He is the author of many scholarly books and articles.
Nasr is a Muslim Persian philosopher and renowned scholar of comparative religion, a lifelong student and follower of Frithjof Schuon, and writes in the fields of Islamic esoterism, Sufism, philosophy of science, and metaphysics.
Professor Nasr speaks and writes based on the doctrine and the viewpoints of the perennial philosophy on subjects such as philosophy, religion, spirituality, music, art, architecture, science, literature, civilizational dialogues, and the natural environment.
Nasr was born in 1933 in south-central Tehran to Seyyed Valiallah, who was physician to the Persian royal family, and one of the founders of modern education in Iran. His parents were originally from Kashan.
He is a descendant of Sheikh Fazlollah Nouri from his mother's side, and is the cousin of Iranian philosopher Ramin Jahanbegloo, and the father of American academic Vali Nasr, a leading expert on political Islam.
Nasr went to Firuz Bahram High School in Tehran before being sent to the United States for education in his thirteenth year of age. In the US, Nasr first attended Peddie School in Hightstown, New Jersey, which was a baptist private boarding school. In 1950 he graduated as the valedictorian of his class and also winner of the Wyclifte Award which was the school's highest honor given to the most outstanding all-round student.
A scholarship offered by MIT in Physics made him the first Iranian undergraduate to attend that university. There, he also began studying under Giorgio de Santillana and others in various other branches such as metaphysics and philosophy. During his studies there he became acquainted with the works of the prominent perennialist authority Frithjof Schuon. This school of thought has shaped Professor Nasr's life and thinking ever since. Professor Nasr has been a disciple of Frithjof Schuon for over fifty years and his works are based on the doctrine and the viewpoints of the perennial philosophy.
Upon his graduation from MIT, Nasr obtained a Master's degree in geology and geophysics in 1956, and went on to pursue his Ph.D. degree in the history of science and learning at Harvard University. He planned to write his dissertation under the supervision of George Sarton, but Sarton died before he could begin his dissertation work and so he wrote his dissertation under the direction of I. Bernard Cohen, Hamilton Gibb, and Harry Wolfson.
At the age of twenty-five, Nasr graduated with his Ph.D. from Harvard completing his first book, Science and Civilization in Islam. His doctoral dissertation entitled "Conceptions of Nature in Islamic Thought" was published in 1964 by Harvard University Press as An Introduction to Islamic Cosmological Doctrines.
After Harvard, Nasr returned to Iran as a professor at Tehran University, and then at Arya Mehr University (Sharif University) where he was appointed president in 1972. Before that, he served as Dean of The Faculty of Letters, and Academic Vice-Chancellor of Tehran University from 1968 to 1972.
Professor Nasr also learned Islamic philosophy from the prominent Muslim philosophers Allameh Tabatabaei, Sayyid Abul-Hasan Qazwini and Sayyid Muhammad Kazim Assar during that period leading up to the revolution.
In the 1970s, Empress Farah Pahlavi of Iran appointed professor Nasr as head of the Imperial Iranian Academy of Philosophy, the first academic institution to be conducted in accordance with the intellectual principles of the Traditionalist School. During that time, Nasr, Tabatabaei, William Chittick, Kenneth Morgan, Sachiko Murata, Toshihiko Izutsu, and Henry Corbin would meet and hold various philosophical discourses. The famous book Shi'ite Islam was one product of this period.
This experiment ended with the arrival of the Islamic revolution, which forced Professor Nasr to emigrate to the United States.
Upon his return to the west, Nasr took up positions at University of Edinburgh, Temple University, and since 1984 has been at The George Washington University where he is now a full time University Professor of Islamic Studies.
Nasr helped with the planning and expansion of Islamic and Iranian studies academic programs in several universities such as Princeton, the University of Utah, and the University of Southern California.
Nasr is the author of over fifty books and five hundred articles on Islamic science, religion, and the environment, in 4 languages, including:
Nasr was also a frequent contributor of articles to the journal Studies in Comparative Religion.
Other religious and traditional scholars
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