Toshihiko Izutsu (4 May 1914 – 7 January 1993) was Professor Emeritus at Keio University in Japan and author of many books on Islam and other religions. He taught at the Institute of Cultural and Linguistic studies at Keio University in Tokyo, the Iranian institute of Philosophy in Tehran, and McGill University in Montreal, Canada. He was fluent in over 30 languages, including Arabic, Persian, Sanskrit, Pali, Chinese, Japanese, Russian and Greek.

Life and academic career

He was born on 4 May 1914 in a wealthy family in Tokyo, Japan. From an early age, he was familiar with zen meditation and kōan, since his father was also a calligrapher and a practising lay Zen Buddhist.

He entered the faculty of economics at Keio University, but transferred to the department of English literature wishing to be instructed by Professor Junzaburō Nishiwaki. Following his bachelor's degree, he became a research assistant in 1937.

In 1958, he completed the first direct translation of the Qur'an from Arabic to Japanese. (The first indirect translation had been accomplished a decade prior by Okawa Shumei.) His translation is still renowned for its linguistic accuracy and widely used for scholarly works. He was extremely talented in learning foreign languages, and finished reading the Qur'an a month after beginning to learn Arabic. Between 1969-75, he became professor of Islamic philosophy at McGill University in Montreal. He was the professor of philosophy in the Iranian institute in philosophy, formerly Imperial Iranian Academy of Philosophy, in Tehran, Iran. He came back to Japan from Iran after the Revolution in 1979, and he wrote, seemingly more assiduously, many books and articles in Japanese on Oriental thought and its significance.

In understanding Izutsu’s academic legacy, there are four points to bear in mind: his relation to Buddhism, particularly Zen Buddhism, his interest in language, his inclination towards postmodernism, and his interest in comparative philosophy.

In Sufism and Taoism: A comparative study of key philosophical concepts (1984), he compares the metaphysical and mystical thought-systems of Sufism and Taoism and discovers that, although historically unrelated, the two share features and patterns.


    Ethico-Religious Concepts in the Quran (1966 republished 2002) ISBN 0-7735-2427-4

    The Concept and Reality of Existence (1971) ISBN 9839154818

    Concept of Belief in Islamic Theology (1980) ISBN 0-8369-9261-X

    God and Man in the Koran (1980) ISBN 0-8369-9262-8

    Sufism and Taoism: A Comparative Study of Key Philosophical Concepts (1984) ISBN 0-520-05264-1

    Creation and the Timeless Order of Things: Essays in Islamic Mystical Philosophy (1994) ISBN 1-883991-04-8

    Toward a Philosophy of Zen Buddhism (2001) ISBN 1-57062-698-7

    Language and Magic - Studies in the Magical Function of Speech (1956) Keit Institute of Philological Studies

    The Metaphysics of Sabzvârî, tr. from the Arabic by Mehdi Mohagheg and Toshihiko Izutso, Delmar, New York, 1977.

    Mollā Hādī Sabzavārī’s Šarḥ ḡorar al-farāʾed, maʿrūf be-manẓūma-ye ḥekmat, qesmat-e omūr-e ʿāmma wa ǰawhar wa ʿaraż, ed. and annotated by Mahdī Moḥaqqeq and Toshihico Izutso, Tehran, 1348 Š./1969