Remembering Toshihiko Izutsu: Linguist,Islamicist, Philosopher – Atif Khalil


The publication of this Festschrift in honor of Professors William Chittick and Sachiko Murata coincides with the 30-year death anniversary of Toshihiko Izutsu, who was one of their teachers and one of the most remarkable scholars of Islam of the last century. Like Henry Corbin (d. 1978), with whom he forged a close friendship, Izutsu saw himself first and foremost as a philosopher, and in his own particular case, as a “metaphysician of the word.”1 The designation symbolized both his fascination with language and a lifelong preoccupation with the nature of Being to the extent that it emerges as a Word (through the kun fa-yakūn, the creative fiat) out of the silence of the formless Absolute, Beyond Being, Non-Being, or Void. In conventional academic parlance, Izutsu might also be described as a philosopher of language, a designation not wholly inaccurate as long as we keep in mind the intricate, intimate relation he believed to exist between human speech, on the one hand, and Being as a repository of meaning, on the other