Oil painting by a Neapolitan painter, 17th century, of an Arabic man of learning, presumably Avicenna, who is seen holding a snake over a book of herbal recipes. Photo: Wellcome Library, London. Copyright.
Just as Arabs, Turks and Persians all like to claim Avicenna as their own, the Ismailis like to consider him to be a part of their own tradition. A number of different theories have been proposed regarding Avicenna’s religious inclination. Medieval historian Zahir al-din al-Baihaqi considered Avicenna to be a follower of the Brethren of Purity. On the other hand, the Shia scholars Nurullah Shushtari and Sayyed Hussein Nasr have both maintained that he was most likely a Twelver Shia. Dimitri Gutas, who has spent considerable amount of his research effort on the Arabic philosophical tradition, refuted both these claims and stated that Avicenna was a Sunni Hanafi based on the fact that two of his books were dedicated to Hanafi scholar al-Baraqi, and that Avicenna earned his living in the Hanafi court of Ali ibn Mamun. However, another theory proposed by the late philosopher and thinker Professor Henry Corbin considered that Ibn Sina, just like his father, was himself an Ismaili.