Ṣadr ad-Dīn Muḥammad Shīrāzī also called Mulla Sadrā (Persian: ملاصدرا; also spelt Molla Sadra, Mollasadra or Sadr-ol-Mote'allehin Persian: صدرالمتألهین;) (c. 1571–1641) was a Persian Shia Islamic philosopher, theologian and ‘Ālim who led the Iranian cultural renaissance in the 17th century.
According to Oliver Leaman, Mulla Sadra is arguably the single most important and influential philosopher in the Muslim world in the last four hundred years.
Though not its founder, he is considered the master of the Illuminationist, or (Ishraghi or Ishraqi) school of Philosophy, a seminal figure who synthesized the many tracks of the Islamic Golden Age, and Andalusian, philosophies into what he called the Transcendent Theosophy or al-hikmah al-muta’liyah.
Mulla Sadra brought "a new philosophical insight in dealing with the nature of reality" and created "a major transition from essentialism to existentialism" in Islamic philosophy,although his existentialism should not be too readily compared to Western existentialism. His was a question of existentialist cosmology as it pertained to Allah, and thus differs considerably from the individual, moral, and/or social, questions at the heart of Russian, French, German, or American Existentialism.
Mulla Sadra's philosophy ambitiously synthesized Avicennism, Suhrawardi's Illuminationist philosophy, Ibn Arabi's Sufi metaphysics, and the theology of the Ash'ari school and Twelvers.
Born in Shiraz, in what is now modern day Iran, to a notable family of court officials in 1571 or 1572, Mulla Sadra moved first to Qazvin in 1591 and then to Isfahan 1597 to pursue a traditional and institutional education in philosophy, theology, Hadith, and hermeneutics. Each city was a successive capital of the Safavid dynasty and centers of Twelver Shi'ite seminaries at that time. His teachers included Mir Damad and Baha' ad-Din al-`Amili.
Mulla Sadra completed his education at Isfahan, a leading cultural and intellectual center of his day. He was trained under the supervision of Mir Damad.
After he had finished his studies Sadra began to explore unorthodox doctrines and as a result was both condemned and excommunicated by some Shi'i ʿulamāʾ. He then retired for a lengthy period of time to a village named Kahak near Ḳum, where he engaged in contemplative exercises. While in Kahak, he wrote a number of minor works, including the Risāla fi 'l-ḥashr and the Risāla fī ḥudūth al-ʿālam .
In 1612, Mulla Sadra was asked to abandon his retirement by the powerful governor of Fārs, Allāhwirdī Ḵhān and invited back to Shiraz to teach and run a new madrasa devoted to the intellectual sciences. He died in Basra on a pilgrimage to Mecca and was buried in present-day Iraq. He is buried in the city of Najaf
During this time in Shīrāz, Ṣadrā began writing treatises that synthesized wide-ranging strands of existing Islamic systems of thought. The ideas of this school, which may be seen as a continuation of the School of Iṣfahān of Mīr Dāmād and Shaykh-i Bahāʾī, were promulgated after Ṣadrā's death by his pupils, several of whom would became sought-after thinkers in their own right, such as, Mullā Muḥsin, Fayḍ Kāshānī, and ʿAbd Razzāḳ Lāhidjī. Although Ṣadrā's influence remained limited in the generations after his death, it increased markedly during the 19th century, when his ideas helped inspire a renewed Akhbārī tendency within Twelver Shīʿism. In recent times, his works have been studied in Iran, Europe, and America.
According to Mulla Sadra, "existence precedes the essence and is thus principal since something has to exist first and then have an essence." It is notable that for Mulla Sadra this was a question that specifically applied to God and God's position in the universe, especially in the context of reconciling God's position in the Qur'an verses cosmological philosophies of Islam's Godlen Era.
Mulla Sadra metaphysics gave priority "Ab initio" to existence, over quiddity. That is to say, essences are determined and variable according to existential "intensity", (to use Henry Corbin's definition), and as such essences are not immutable. The advantage to this schema is that it is acceptable to the fundamental statements of the Qur'an, even as it does not necessarily debilitate any previous Islamic philosopher's Aristotelian or Platonic foundations.
Indeed, Mulla Sadra provides immutability only to God, while intrinsically linking essence and existence to each other, and God's power over existence. In so doing, Mulla Sadra simultaneously provided for God's authority over all things, while also solving the problem of God's knowledge of particulars, including those that are evil, without being inherently responsible for them - even as God's authority over the existence of existences that provide the framework for evil to exist. This clever solution provides for Freedom of Will, God's Supremacy, the Infiniteness of God's Knowledge, the existence of Evil, and a definition of existence and essence which leaves two inextricably linked insofar as Man is concerned, but fundamentally separate insofar as God is concerned.
Perhaps most importantly, the Primacy of Existence solution provides the capacity for God's Judgement without God being directly, or indirectly, effected by the evil being judged. God does not need to possess Sin to know Sin: God is able to judge the intensity of Sin as God perceives Existence.
One result of this Existentialism is "The unity of the intellect and the intelligible" (Arabic: Ittihad al-Aaqil wa l-Maqul. As Henry Corbin describes:
All the levels of the modes of being and perception are governed by the same law of unity, which at the level of the intelligible world is the unity of intellection, of the intelligizing subject, and of the Form intelligized — the same unity as that of love, lover and beloved. Within this perspective we can perceive what Sadra meant by the unitive union of the human soul, in the supreme awareness of its acts of knowledge, with the active Intelligence which is the Holy Spirit. It is never a question of an arithmetical unity, but of an intelligible unity permitting the reciprocity which allows us to understand that, in the soul which it metamorphoses, the Form—or Idea—intelligized by the active Intelligence is a Form which intelligizes itself, and that as a result the active Intelligence or Holy Spirit intelligizes itself in the soul's act of intellection. Reciprocally, the soul, as a Form intelligizing itself, intelligizes itself as a Form intelligized by the active Intelligence.
Another central concept of Mulla Sadra's philosophy is the theory of "substantial motion" (Arabic:al-harakat al-jawhariyyah), which is "based on the premise that everything in the order of nature, including celestial spheres, undergoes substantial change and transformation as a result of the self-flow (fayd) and penetration of being (sarayan al-wujud) which gives every concrete individual entity its share of being. In contrast to Aristotle and Avicenna who had accepted change only in four categories, i.e., quantity (kamm), quality (kayf), position (wad’) and place (‘ayn), Sadra defines change as an all-pervasive reality running through the entire cosmos including the category of substance (jawhar)."
Existence as reality
Mulla Sadra held the view that Reality is Existence. He believed that an essence was by itself a general notion, and therefore and does not, in reality, exist.
To paraphrase Fazlur Rahman on Mulla Sadra's Existential Cosmology: Existence is the one and only reality. Existence and reality are therefore identical. Existence is the all-comprehensive reality and there is nothing outside of it. Essences which are negative require some sort of reality and therefore exist. Existence therefore cannot be denied. Therefore existence cannot be negated. As Existence cannot be negated, it is self-evident that it Existence is God. God should not be searched for in the realm of existence but is the basis of all existence. It should be noted that Reality in Arabic is "Al-Haq", and is stated in the Qur'an as one of the Names of God.
To paraphrase Sajjad Rizvi: Mulla Sadra's Logical Proof for God:
1) There is a being 2) Being is a perfection beyond all perfection 3) God is Perfect and Perfection in existing 4) Existence is a singular and simple reality 5) That singular reality is graded in intensity in a scale of perfection 6) That scale must have a limit point, a point of greatest intensity and of greatest existence 7) Therefore God exists
Rivzi pointedly notes that this argument is circular, similar in construction to the Shahada.
Sadra argued that all contingent beings require a cause which puts their balance between existence and non-existence in favor of the former; nothing can come into existence without a cause. Since the world is therefore contingent upon this First Act, not only must God exist, but God must also be responsible for this First Act of creation.
Sadra also believed that a causal regress was impossible because the causal chain could only work in the matter that had a beginning, middle, and end:
1) a pure cause at the beginning 2) a pure effect at the end 3) a nexus of cause and effect
The Causal Nexus of Mulla Sadra was a radical form of Existential Ontology within a Cosmological Framework particularly well-suited to Islam. For Mulla Sadra the Causal "End" is as pure as its corresponding "Beginning", which instructively places God at both the beginning and the end of the creative act. God's capacity to measure the intensity of Existential Reality by measuring Causal Dynamics' and their Relationship to their Origin, as opposed to knowing their effects, provided the Islamically-acceptable framework for God's Judgement of Reality without being tainted by its Particulars. This was an ingenious solution to a question that had haunted Islamic thought for almost one thousand years: How is God able to Judge Sin without knowing Sin?
For Mulla Sadra a true statement is a statement that is true to the concrete facts in existence. He held a metaphysical and not a formal idea of truth, claiming that the world consists of mind-independent objects that are always true and truth is not what is rationally acceptable within a certain theory of description. In Mulla Sadra's view one cannot have access to the reality of being: only linguistic analysis is available. This theory of Truth has two levels: the claim that a proposition is true if it corresponds to things in reality; and that a proposition can be true if it conforms with the actual thing itself.
List of known works
1. al-Hikmat al-muta‘aliyah fi’l-asfar al-arba‘ah, a philosophical encyclopedia and a collection of important issues discussed in Islamic philosophy, enriched by the ideas of preceding philosophers, from Pythagoras to those living at the same time with Mulla Sadra, and containing the related responses on the basis of new and strong arguments. In four large volumes; also published several times in nine smaller volumes.
He composed this book gradually, starting in about 1015 A.H. (1605 A.D.); its completion took almost 25 years, until some years after 1040 A.H. (1630 A.D.)
2. al-Tafsir (A commentary upon the Qur'an)
3. Sharh al-hidayah, a commentary on a book called Hidayah, which had been written on the basis of Peripatetic philosophy.
4. al-Mabda‘ wa’l-ma‘ad, also called al-Hikmat al-muta‘aliyyah, considered to be a summary of the second half of Asfar. He called this book the Beginning and the End, since he believed at heart that philosophy means the knowledge of the Origin and the Return.
5. al-Mazahir This book is similar to al-Mabda‘ wa’l-ma‘ad, but is shorter than it. It is, in fact, a handbook for familiarizing readers with Mulla Sadra's philosophy.
6. Huduth al-‘alam, on the issue of the origination of the world, which is a complicated and disputable problem for many philosophers. He proved his solid theory through the theory of the trans-substantial motion.
7. Iksir al-‘arifin, a gnostic and educative book.
8. al-Hashr, a theory of the resurrection of animals and objects in the Hereafter.
9. al-Masha‘ir, on existence and its related subjects. Professor Henry Corbin has translated it into French and written an introduction to it. This book has recently been translated into English, too.
10. al-waridat al-qalbiyyah, a brief account of important philosophical problems, it seems to be an inventory of the Divine inspirations and illuminations he had received all through his life.
11. Iqad al-na‘imin, on theoretical and actual gnosis, and on the science of monotheism. It presents some guidelines and instructional points to wake up the sleeping.
12. al-Masa‘il al-qudsiyyah, a booklet deals mainly with issues such as existence in mind and epistemology. Here, Mulla Sadra has combined epistemology and ontology.
13. ‘Arshiyyah, also called al-Hikmat al-‘arshiyyah, a referential book about Mulla Sadra's philosophy. As in al-Mazahir, he has tried to demonstrate the Beginning and the End concisely but precisely. This book has been translated by Professor James Winston Morris into English with an informative introduction.
14. al-Shawahid al-rububiyyah, a philosophical book, written in the Illuminationist style, and represents Mulla Sadra's ideas during the early periods of his philosophical thoughts.
15. Sharh-i Shafa, a commentary upon some of the issues discussed in the part on theology (Ilahiyyat) in Ibn-Sina's al-Shifa.
16. Sharh-i Hikmat al-ishraq, a useful and profound commentary or collection of glosses on Suhrawardi's Hikmat al-ishraq and Qutb al-Din Shirazi's commentary upon it.
17. Ittihad al-‘aquil wa’l-ma’qul, a monographic treatise on the demonstration of a complicated philosophical theory, the Union of the Intellect and the Intelligible, which no one could prove and rationalize prior to Mulla Sadra.
18. Ajwibah al-masa’il, consisting of at least three treatises in which Mulla Sadra responds to the philosophical questions posed by his contemporary philosophers.
19. Ittisaf al-mahiyyah bi’l wujud, a monographic treatise dealing with the problem of existence and its relation to quiddities.
20. al-Tashakhkhus, explaining the problem of individuation and clarified its relation to existence and its principality, which is one of the most fundamental principles he has propounded.
21. Sarayan nur wujud, a treatise dealing with the quality of the descent or diffusion of existence from the True Source to existents (quiddities).
22. Limmi’yya ikhtisas al-mintaqah, A treatise on logic, this work focuses on the cause of the specific form of the sphere.
23. Khalq al-a’mal, a treatise on man's determinism and free will.
24. al-Qada’ wa’l-qadar, on the problem of Divine Decree and Destiny.
25. Zad al-musafir, demonstrating resurrection and the Hereafter following a philosophical approach.
26. al-Shawahid al-rububiyyah, a treatise not related to Mulla Sadra's book of the same name (see 14. above). It is an inventory of his particular theories and opinions which he had been able to express in philosophical terms.
27. al-Mizaj, a treatise on the reality of man's temperament and its relation to the body and soul.
28. Mutashabihat al-Qur'an, a treatise consists of Mulla Sadra's interpretations of those Qura’nic verses which have secret and complicated meanings. It is considered as one of the chapters in [Mafatih al-ghayb].
29. Isalat-i Ja’l-i wujud, on existence and its principality as opposed to quiddities.
30. al-Hashriyyah, a treatise on resurrection and people's presence in the Hereafter, it deals with man's being rewarded in paradise and punished in hell.
31. al-alfazh al-mufradah, an abridged dictionary for interpreting words in the Qur'an.
32. Radd-i shubahat-i iblis, explaining Satan's seven paradoxes and providing the related answers.
33. Si Asl, Mulla Sadra's only book of philosophy in Persian. Here, by resorting to the main three moral principles, he has dealt with moral and educative subjects related to scientists, and advised his contemporary philosophers.
34. Kasr al-asnam al-jahiliyyah (Demolishing the idols of the periods of barbarism and man's ignorance). His intention here is to condemn and disgrace impious sophists.
35. al-Tanqih, dealing with formal logic.
36. al-Tasawwur wa’l-tasdiq, a treatise dealing with issues of the philosophy of logic and inquiries into concept and judgment.
37. Diwan Shi’r (Collection of Poems), a number of scholarly and mystic poems in Persian.
38. A Collection of Scientific-Literary Notes, some short notes of his own poetry, the statements of philosophers and gnostics, and scientific issues have been left from his youth, which comprise a precious collection. This book can familiarize the readers with subtleties of Mulla Sadra's nature. These notes were compiled in two different collections, and it is likely that the smaller collection was compiled on one of his journeys.
39. Letters: except for a few letters exchanged between Mulla Sadra and his master, Mir Damad, none of his letters has survived. These letters have been presented at the beginning of the 3-volume
* Nasr, Seyyed Hossein, Sadr al-Din Shirazi and his Transcendent Theosophy, Background, Life and Works, 2nd ed., Tehran: Institute for Humanities and Cultural Studies, 1997.
* Rahman, Fazlur, The Philosophy of Mulla Sadra, Albany: State University of New York Press, 1975.
* Morris, James (trans.), The Wisdom of the Throne, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981.
* Chittick, William (trans.) The Elixir of the Gnostics, Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 2003.
* Rizvi, Sajjad, Mulla Sadra Shirazi: His Life, Works and Sources for Safavid Philosophy, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.
* Peerwani, Latimah (trans.), On the Hermeneutics of the Light Verse of the Qur'an. London: ICAS, 2004.
* Jambet, Christian, The Act of Being: The Philosophy of Revelation in Mulla Sadra, Trans. Jeff Fort, New York: Zone Books, 2006.
Mulla Sadra (Sadr al-Din Muhammad al-Shirazi) (1571/2-1640)
Sadr al-Din al-Shirazi (Mulla Sadra) is perhaps the single most important and influential philosopher in the Muslim world in the last four hundred years. The author of over forty works, he was the culminating figure of the major revival of philosophy in Iran in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Devoting himself almost exclusively to metaphysics, he constructed a critical philosophy which brought together Peripatetic, Illuminationist and gnostic philosophy along with Shi'ite theology within the compass of what he termed a 'metaphilosophy', the source of which lay in the Islamic revelation and the mystical experience of reality as existence.
Mulla Sadra's metaphilosophy was based on existence as the sole constituent of reality, and rejected any role for quiddities or essences in the external world. Existence was for him at once a single unity and an internally articulated dynamic process, the unique source of both unity and diversity. From this fundamental starting point, Mulla Sadra was able to find original solutions to many of the logical, metaphysical and theological difficulties which he had inherited from his predecessors. His major philosophical work is the Asfar (The Four Journeys), which runs to nine volumes in the present printed edition and is a complete presentation of his philosophical ideas.
1. The primacy of existence
2. The systematic ambiguity of existence
3. Substantial motion
1. The primacy of existence
Sadr al-Din Muhammad ibn Ibrahim ibn Yahya al-Qawami al-Shirazi, known variously as Mulla Sadra, Sadr al-Muta'allihin, or simply Akhund, was born in Shiraz in central Iran in ah 979-80/ad 1571-2. He studied in Isfahan with, among others, Mir Damad and Shaykh Baha' al-Din al-'Amili, Shaykh-e Baha'i, before retiring for a number of years of spiritual solitude and discipline in the village of Kahak, near Qum. Here he completed the first part of his major work, the Asfar (The Four Journeys). He was then invited by Allah-wirdi Khan, the governor of Fars province, to return to Shiraz, where he taught for the remainder of his life. He died in Basra in ah 1050/ad 1640 while on his seventh pilgrimage on foot to Mecca.
Safavid Iran witnessed a noteworthy revival of philosophical learning, and Mulla Sadra was this revival's most important figure. The Peripatetic (mashsha'i) philosophy of Ibn Sina had been elaborated and invigorated at the beginning of the Mongol period by Nasir al-Din al-Tusi, and there existed a number of important contributors to this school in the century before Mulla Sadra. Illuminationist (ishraqi) philosophy, originated by Shihab al-Din al-Suhrawardi, had also been a major current (see Illuminationist philosophy). The speculative mysticism of the Sufism of Ibn al-'Arabi had also taken firm root in the period leading up to the tenth century ah (sixteenth century ad), while theology (kalam), particularly Shi'ite theology, had increasingly come to be expressed in philosophical terminology, a process which was initiated in large part by al-Tusi (see Mystical philosophy in Islam; Islamic theology). Several philosophers had combined various strands from this philosophical heritage in their writings, but it was Mulla Sadra who achieved a true fusion of all four, forming what he called 'metaphilosophy' (al-hikma al-muta'aliya), a term he incorporated into the title of his magnum opus, al-Hikma al-muta'aliya fi'l-asfar al-'aqliyya al-arba'a (The Transcendent Wisdom Concerning the Four Intellectual Journeys), known simply as the Asfar.
Mulla Sadra made the primacy of existence (asalat al-wujud) the cornerstone of his philosophy. Aristotle (§§11-12) had pointed out that existence was the most universal of predicates and therefore could not be included as one of the categories, and al-Farabi added to this that it was possible to know an essence without first knowing whether it existed or not, existence thus being neither a constitutive element of an essence nor a necessary attribute, and that therefore it must be an accident. But it was Ibn Sina who later became the source for the controversy as to how the accidentality of existence was to be conceived. He had held that in the existence-quiddity (wujud-mahiyya) or existence-essence relationship, existence was an accident of quiddity. Ibn Rushd had criticized this view as entailing a regress, for if the existence of a thing depended on the addition of an accident to it, then the same principle would have to apply to existence itself. This was merely an argument against the existence-quiddity dichotomy, but al-Suhrawardi had added to this another argument, asserting that if existence were an attribute of quiddity, quiddity itself would have to exist before attracting this attribute in order to be thus qualified. From this, al-Suhrawardi deduced the more radical conclusion that existence is merely a mental concept with no corresponding reality, and that it is quiddity which constitutes reality.
It was this view, that of the primacy of quiddity (asalat al-mahiyya), which held sway in philosophical writing in Iran up to Mulla Sadra's time. Indeed, Mir Damad, Mulla Sadra's teacher, held this view. However, Mulla Sadra himself took the opposite view, that it is existence that constitutes reality and that it is quiddities which are the mental constructs. By taking the position of the primacy of existence, Mulla Sadra was able to answer the objections of Ibn Rushd and the Illuminationists by pointing out that existence is accidental to quiddity in the mind in so far as it is not a part of its essence. When it is a case of attributing existentiality to existence, however, what is being discussed is an essential attribute; and so at this point the regress stopped, for the source of an essential attribute is the essence itself.
2. The systematic ambiguity of existence
A concomitant of Mulla Sadra's theory that reality and existence are identical is that existence is one but graded in intensity; to this he gave the name tashkik al-wujud, which has been usefully translated as the 'systematic ambiguity' of existence. Al-Suhrawardi, in contrast to the peripatetics, had asserted that quiddities were capable of a range of intensities; for example, when a colour, such as blue, intensifies it is not a new species of 'blueness' which replaces the old one, but is rather the same 'blue' intensified. Mulla Sadra adopted this theory but replaced quiddity with existence, which was for him the only reality. This enabled him to say that it is the same existence which occurs in all things, but that existential instances differ in terms of 'priority and posteriority, perfection and imperfection, strength and weakness' (making reality similar to al-Suhrawardi's Light). He was thus able to explain that it was existence and existence alone which had the property of combining 'unity in multiplicity, and multiplicity in unity'.
Reality is therefore pure existence, but an existence which manifests itself in different modes, and it is these modes which present themselves in the mind as quiddities. Even the term 'in the mind', however, is merely an expression denoting a particular mode of being, that of mental existence (al-wujud al-dhihni), albeit an extremely attenuated mode. Everything is thus comprehended by existence, even 'nothingness', which must on being conceived assume the most meagre portion of existence in order to become a mental existent. When reality (or rather a mode of existence) presents itself to the mind, the mind abstracts a quiddity from it - being unable, except in exceptional circumstances, to grasp existence intuitively - and in the mind the quiddity becomes, as it were, the reality and existence the accident. However, this 'existence' which the mind predicates of the quiddity is itself merely a notion or concept, one of the secondary intelligibles. It is this which is the most universal and most self-evident concept to which the Aristotelians referred, and which al-Suhrawardi regarded as univocal. But in reality there are not two 'things', existence and quiddity, only existence - not the concept, but the reality - and so 'existence' cannot be regarded as a real attribute of quiddity; for if this were possible quiddity would have to be regarded as already existent, as al-Suhrawardi had objected.
3. Substantial motion
Another of the key properties of existence for Mulla Sadra is its transubstantiality, effected through what he termed motion in substance (al-haraka fi'l-jawhar) or substantial motion (al-haraka al-jawhariyya). The peripatetics had held that substance only changes suddenly, from one substance to another or from one instant to another, in generation and corruption (and therefore only in the sublunar world), and that gradual motion is confined to the accidents (quantity, quality, place). They also held that the continuity of movement is something only in the mind, which strings together a potentially infinite series of infinitesimal changes - rather in the fashion of a film - to produce the illusion of movement, although time as an extension is a true part of our experience. What gives rise to movement is an unchanging substrate, part of the essence of which is that it is at an indefinite point in space at some instant in time; in other words, movement is potential in it and is that through which it becomes actual. Mulla Sadra completely rejected this, on the grounds that the reality of this substance, its being, must itself be in motion, for the net result of the peripatetic view is merely a static conglomeration of spatio-temporal events. The movement from potentiality to actuality of a thing is in fact the abstract notion in the mind, while material being itself is in a constant state of flux perpetually undergoing substantial change. Moreover, this substantial change is a property not only of sublunary elemental beings (those composed of earth, water, air and fire) but of celestial beings as well. Mulla Sadra likened the difference between these two understandings of movement to the difference between the abstracted, derivative notion of existence and the existence which is reality itself.
Existence in Mulla Sadra's philosophical system, as has been seen, is characterized by systematic ambiguity (tashkik), being given its systematic character by substantial motion, which is always in one direction towards perfection. In other words, existence can be conceived of as a continual unfolding of existence, which is thus a single whole with a constantly evolving internal dynamic. What gives things their identities are the imagined essences which we abstract from the modes of existence, while the reality is ever-changing; it is only when crucial points are reached that we perceive this change and new essences are formed in our minds, although change has been continually going on. Time is the measure of this process of renewal, and is not an independent entity such that events take place within it, but rather is a dimension exactly like the three spatial dimensions: the physical world is a spatio-temporal continuum.
All of this permits Mulla Sadra to give an original solution to the problem which has continually pitted philosophers against theologians in Islam, that of the eternity of the world. In his system, the world is eternal as a continual process of the unfolding of existence, but since existence is in a constant state of flux due to its continuous substantial change, every new manifestation of existence in the world emerges in time. The world - that is, every spatio-temporal event from the highest heaven downwards - is thus temporally originated, although as a whole the world is also eternal in the sense that it has no beginning or end, since time is not something existing independently within which the world in turn exists (see Eternity).
Mulla Sadra's radical ontology also enabled him to offer original contributions to epistemology, combining aspects of Ibn Sina's theory of knowledge (in which the Active Intellect, while remaining utterly transcendent, actualizes the human mind by instilling it with intellectual forms in accordance with its state of preparation to receive these forms) with the theory of self-knowledge through knowledge by presence developed by al-Suhrawardi. Mulla Sadra's epistemology is based on the identity of the intellect and the intelligible, and on the identity of knowledge and existence. His theory of substantial motion, in which existence is a dynamic process constantly moving towards greater intensity and perfection, had allowed him to explain that new forms, or modes, of existence do not replace prior forms but on the contrary subsume them. Knowledge, being identical with existence, replicates this process, and by acquiring successive intelligible forms - which are in reality modes of being and not essential forms, and are thus successive intensifications of existence - gradually moves the human intellect towards identity with the Active Intellect. The intellect thus becomes identified with the intelligibles which inform it.
Furthermore, for Mulla Sadra actual intelligibles are self-intelligent and self-intellected, since an actual intelligible cannot be deemed to have ceased to be intelligible once it is considered outside its relation to intellect. As the human intellect acquires more intelligibles, it gradually moves upwards in terms of the intensification and perfection of existence, losing its dependence on quiddities, until it becomes one with the Active Intellect and enters the realm of pure existence. Humans can, of course, normally only attain at best a partial identification with the Active Intellect as long as they remain with their physical bodies; only in the case of prophets can there be complete identification, allowing them to have direct access to knowledge for themselves without the need for instruction. Indeed, only very few human minds attain identification with the Active Intellect even after death.
Even this brief account of Mulla Sadra's main doctrines will have given some idea of the role that is played in his philosophy by the experience of the reality which it describes. Indeed he conceived of hikma (wisdom) as 'coming to know the essence of beings as they really are' or as 'a man's becoming an intellectual world corresponding to the objective world'. Philosophy and mysticism, hikma and Sufism, are for him two aspects of the same thing. To engage in philosophy without experiencing the truth of its content confines the philosopher to a world of essences and concepts, while mystical experience without the intellectual discipline of philosophy can lead only to an ineffable state of ecstasy. When the two go hand in hand, the mystical experience of reality becomes the intellectual content of philosophy.
The four journeys, the major sections into which the Asfar is divided, parallel a fourfold division of the Sufi journey. The first, the journey of creation or the creature (khalq) to the Truth (al-haqq), is the most philosophical; here Mulla Sadra lays out the basis of his ontology, and mirrors the stage in the Sufi's path where he seeks to control his lower nafs under the supervision of his shaykh. In the second journey, in the Truth with the Truth, the stage at which the Sufi begins to attract the divine manifestations, Mulla Sadra deals with the simple substances, the intelligences, the souls and their bodies, including therefore his discussion of the natural sciences. In the third journey, from the Truth to creation with the Truth, the Sufi experiences annihilation in the Godhead, and Mulla Sadra deals with theodicy; the fourth stage, the journey with the Truth in creation, where he gives a full and systematic account of the development of the human soul, its origin, becoming and end, is where the Sufi experiences persistence in annihilation, absorbed in the beauty of oneness and the manifestations of multiplicity.
Mulla Sadra had described his blinding spiritual realization of the primacy of existence as a kind of 'conversion':
In the earlier days I used to be a passionate defender of the thesis that the quiddities are the primary constituents of reality and existence is conceptual, until my Lord gave me spiritual guidance and let me see His demonstration. All of a sudden my spiritual eyes were opened and I saw with utmost clarity that the truth was just the contrary of what the philosophers in general had held.... As a result [I now hold that] the existences (wujudat) are primary realities, while the quiddities are the 'permanent archetypes' (a'yan thabita) that have never smelt the fragrance of existence.
(Asfar, vol. 1, introduction)
Therefore it is not surprising that Mulla Sadra is greatly indebted to Ibn al-'Arabi in many aspects of his philosophy. Ibn Sina provides the ground on which his metaphilosophy is constructed and is, as it were, the lens through which he views Peripatetic philosophy. However, his work is also full of citations from the Presocratics (particularly Pythagoras), Plato, Aristotle, the Neoplatonists (see Neoplatonism in Islamic philosophy) and the Stoics (taken naturally from Arabic sources), and he also refers to the works of al-Farabi, and Abu'l Hasan al-'Amiri, who had prefigured Mulla Sadra's theory of the unity of intellect and intelligible. This philosophical heritage is then given shape through the illuminationism of al-Suhrawardi, whose universe of static grades of light he transformed into a dynamic unity by substituting the primacy of existence for the latter's primacy of quiddity. It is in this shaping that the influence of Ibn al-'Arabi, whom Mulla Sadra quotes and comments on in hundreds of instances, can be most keenly felt. Not only is that apparent in Mulla Sadra's total dismissal of any role for quiddity in the nature of reality, but in the importance which both he and Ibn al-'Arabi gave to the imaginal world ('alam al-mithal, 'alam al-khayal).
In Ibn Sina's psychology, the imaginal faculty (al-quwwa al-khayaliyya) is the site for the manipulation of images abstracted from material objects and retained in the sensus communis. The imaginal world had first been formally proposed by al-Suhrawardi as an intermediate realm between that of material bodies and that of intellectual entities, which is independent of matter and thus survives the body after death. Ibn al-'Arabi had emphasized the creative aspects of this power to originate by mere volition imaginal forms which are every bit as real as, if not more real than, perceptibles but which subsist in no place. For Mulla Sadra, this world is a level of immaterial existence with which it is possible for the human soul (and indeed certain higher forms of the animal soul) to be in contact, although not all the images formed by the human soul are necessarily veridical and therefore part of the imaginal world. For Mulla Sadra, as also for Ibn al-'Arabi, the imaginal world is the key to understanding the nature of bodily resurrection and the afterlife, which exists as an immaterial world which is nevertheless real (perhaps one might say more real than the physical world), in which the body survives as an imaginal form after death.
Philosophy has always had a tense relationship with theology in Islam, especially with the latter's discourse of faith (iman) and orthodoxy. In consequence, philosophy has often been seen, usually by non-philosophers, as a school with its own doctrines. This is despite the assertions of philosophers themselves that what they were engaged in was a practice without end (for, as Ibn Sina had declared that what is known to humankind is limited and could only possibly be fulfilled when the association of the soul with the body is severed through death), part of the discipline of which consisted in avoiding taqlid, an uncritical adherence to sects (see Islam, concept of philosophy in). It is the notable feature of Mulla Sadra's methodology that he constantly sought to transcend the particularities of any system - Platonic, Aristotelian, Neoplatonic, mystical or theological - by striving to create through his metaphilosophy an instrument with which the soundness of all philosophical arguments might be tested. It is a measure of his success that he has remained to the present day the most influential of the 'modern' philosophers in the Islamic world.
Copyright © 1998, Routledge.
List of works
Mulla Sadra [Sadr al-Din al-Shirazi] (c.1628) al-Hikma al-muta'aliya fi-'l-asfar al-'aqliyya al-arba'a (The Transcendent Wisdom Concerning the Four Intellectual Journeys), ed. R. Lutfi et al., Tehran and Qum: Shirkat Dar al-Ma'arif al-Islamiyyah, 1958-69?, 9 vols; vol. 1, 2nd printing, with introduction by M.R. al-Muzaffar, Qum: Shirkat Dar al-Ma'arif al-Islamiyyah, 1967. (This is Mulla Sadra's major work, often known simply as Asfar (The Four Journeys). The full edition includes partial glosses by 'Ali al-Nuri, Hadi al-Sabzawari, 'Ali al-Mudarras al-Zanuzi, Isma'il al-Khwaju'i al-Isfahani, Muhammad al-Zanjani and Muhammad Husayn al-Tabataba'i.)
Mulla Sadra [Sadr al-Din al-Shirazi] (c.1628) Kitab al-masha'ir (The Book of Metaphysical Penetrations), ed., trans. and intro. by H. Corbin, Le livre des pénétrations métaphysiques, Paris: Départment d'Iranologie de l'Institut Franco-Iranien de Recherche, and Tehran: Librairie d'Amerique et d'Orient Adrien-Maisonneuve, Bibliothèque Iranienne vol. 10, 1964; French portion re-edited Lagrasse: Verdier, 1988; ed. and trans. P. Morewedge, The Metaphysics of Mulla Sadra, New York: Society for the Study of Islamic Philosophy and Science, 1992. (Corbin is a synopsis of Mulla Sadra's ontology, with a useful bibliography of Mulla Sadra's writings and introduction by Corbin. Morewedge provides a parallel Arabic-English edition; the translation is based on Corbin's edition of the text.)
Mulla Sadra [Sadr al-Din al-Shirazi] (c.1628) al-Hikma al-'arshiyya (The Wisdom of the Throne), ed. with Persian paraphrase by G.R. Ahani, Isfahan, 1962; trans. and intro. J.W. Morris, The Wisdom of the Throne: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Mulla Sadra, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1982. (A useful summary of Mulla Sadra's views on theology and eschatology; the introduction to the English translation provides an informative general introduction to Mulla Sadra work.)
References and further reading
Izutsu Toshihiko (1971) The Concept and Reality of Existence, Studies in the Humanities and Social Relations 13, Tokyo: Keio Institute of Cultural and Linguistic Studies. (Although concerned primarily with the philosophical ideas of Mulla Sadra's principal nineteenth century follower, Mulla Hadi al-Sabzawari, this work contains an extremely valuable exposition of the history of the existence-essence controversy in metaphysics, and deals with Mulla Sadra's views in many places.)
Nasr, S.H. (1978) Sadr al-Din Shirazi and His Transcendent Theosophy: Background, Life and Works, Tehran: Imperial Academy of Philosophy. (The first part of a planned, but so far uncompleted, two-volume work, the second volume of which is intended to deal with Mulla Sadra's philosophical ideas; contains the best bibliography of Mulla Sadra's works.)
Nasr, S.H. (1996) 'Mulla Sadra: His Teachings', in S.H. Nasr and O. Leaman (eds) History of Islamic Philosophy, London: Routledge, 643-52. (Short summary of Mulla Sadra's thought.)
Rahman, F. (1975) The Philosophy of Mulla Sadr (Sadr al-Din al-Shirazi), Albany, NY: State University of New York Press. (To date, the only full-scale study of Mulla Sadra's philosophy in English.)
Ziai, H. (1996) 'Mulla Sadra: His Life and Works', in S.H. Nasr and O. Leaman (eds) History of Islamic Philosophy, London: Routledge, 635-42. (Biographical essay discussing Mulla Sadra's influence and works.)
A Brief Biography
Mulla Sadra: An Ocean of Knowledge Mulla Sadra’s father, Khwajah Ibrahim Qawami, was a knowledgeable and extremely faithful politician. He was a rich man and held a high position, but had no children. However, after a lot of prayers and supplications to the Divine Portal, God gave him a son whom they named Muhammed (Sadr al-Din, 979 A.H/1571 A.D), but called Sadra. Later he was nicknamed as Mulla, that is, great scientist. In the years to come, the title of Mulla Sadra became more famous than his real name and replaced it on people’s tongues.
Sadr al-Din Muhammed (or Sadra) was the only child of the minister of the ruler of the vast Iranian region of Fars and enjoyed the highest standards of a noble life. It was a common tradition at that time for aristocrats’ children to be educated by private teachers in their own palace. Sadra was a very intelligent, strict, energetic, studious, and curious boy and mastered all the lessons related to Persian and Arabic literature, as well as the art of calligraphy, during a very short time.
After the Safavid Dynasty capital was moved to Isfahan (1006 A.H/1598 A.D) Mulla Sadra is believed to have resided there for some years before returning to his city of birth, Shiraz , in about 1010 A.H (1602 A.D). He had inherited a great fortune and many estates from his father, of which he had to take control. This might have been one of the reasons for his return to Shiraz.
He had an immense fortune, possessed an enormous ocean of knowledge, especially, of philosophy, and had presented a number of innovative ideas. Therefore, he started teaching in Shiraz, and a lot of students attended his classes from different parts of the country. However, his rivals, who, like many philosophers and theologians, blindly followed previous philosophers, and felt that their social status had been endangered, started ill-treating him, ridiculing his new ideas, and insulting him in order to defend their ideas or perhaps out of jealousy.
Such bad behavior and pressures were not compatible with Mulla Sadra’s delicate soul. On the other hand, his faith, religious beliefs, and piety did not allow him to react and deal with them in the same way. Thus he left Shiraz in resentment and went to Qum, which had not yet turned into an important scientific and philosophical center. This religious city is the burial place of the holy Ma’sumah, the daughter of the seventh Shi’ite Imam, Imam Musa Kazim (AS), one of the descendents of the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH), and the sister of Imam Reza (the eighth Shi’ites Imam). A number of great men and scholars have been buried in Qum. This city has a long history (more than 15 centuries), and is said to have been called Quriana before the advent of Islam.
Mulla Sadra did not stay in Qum itself and, because of its hot and bad weather, or perhaps because of the similarity between the social conditions there and those in Shiraz, he stayed in a village called Kahak in the suburbs. The remains of his magnificent house can still be seen in this village.
Mulla Sadra’s depression and spiritual breakdown made him put away with teaching and discussion for some time, and, as he has written in the introduction of his great book, al-Asfar, he started spending his life in worship, fasting, and ascetic practice. This chance, which had been in fact forced upon him by fate, aided him in going through the spiritual and mystic stages of spirituality and even sanctity.
This period is considered the golden time of his life from a spiritual point of view. In spite of being depressed and stricken sorrow, he managed to reach the stage of the unveiling and intuition of the hidden or unseen, and see philosophical realities with the hearts eye rather than that of the mind. It was this very accomplishment that contributed to the perfection of his school of philosophy. His seclusion and refusal to write and teach continued until, at the stations of unveiling and intuition of the unseen, he was ordered to return to the society and begin writing, teaching, disseminating and publicizing his school of thought and findings.
If we consider the length of his period of silence and seclusion to about 5 years, he stopped it in about 1015 A.H (1607 A.D). Once again he took his pen in hand and started the composition of some books, including his monumental book, al-Asfar, which is considered a philosophical encyclopedia, and wrote its first part on the issues related to existence.
He did not return to Shiraz until almost 1040 A.H (1632 A.D). He stayed in Qum, founded a philosophical center there, trained several students, and, during all this time, was busy either writing his famous book or composing treatises in response to contemporary philosophers. Two of his well-known students were called Fayyadh Lahiji and Faydh Kashani, who were both his son-in-laws and propagated his school of thought.
We will give an account of his books in the part related to his works.
Mulla Sadra returned to Shiraz in about 1039 or 1040 A.H (1632 A.D). Some believe that the reason for his return was the invitation he received from the ruler of Fars province, Allah Werdi Khan. This was because he had finished the construction of the school which his father, Imam Quli Khan, had started, and prepared it for teaching philosophy, and due to his previous devotion towards Mulla Sadra, he invited this great man to Shiraz to take its scientific supervision in hand.
Mulla Sadra was also involved in teaching philosophy, interpretation, and hadith in Shiraz, and trained some students there. We understand from his book of Si Asl (Three Principles), which was apparently written at that time in Shiraz in Persian, and which harshly attacked the scholars of that time, including philosophers, theologians, jurisprudents, and physicists, that in that period, like in his first period of residence in Shiraz, Mulla Sadra was under the pressure of the slanders and vicious conducts of the scientists of his town. This time, however, he had become stronger and decided to stand against their pressures and establish, introduce, and publicize his own school of philosophy.
Mulla Sadra: An Ocean of Knowledge One of the dimensions of Mulla Sadra’s eventful life was his frequent visitations to Ka’ba in Mecca. This worship and religious pilgrimage is called Haj and Umra (lesser pilgrimage). It has been written that Mulla Sadra went to seven (pay attention to the holy figure ‘7’) pilgrimages (apparently on foot). Nowadays, in spite of the comforts offered by traveling by plane, there are still some difficulties associated with going on this pilgrimage. Nevertheless, four hundred years ago, they made this journey on horse or camel and through the dry central desert of Saudi Arabia. Therefore, the Haj pilgrimage was also considered a kind of ascetic practice.
On this journey, this was made in the form of big Caravans of hajjis (Mecca pilgrims) moving towards Mecca, several people died from heat, thirst, or exhaustion on the way. Thus, making such a journey, which meant traveling for some thousands of kilometers on foot, certainly involved much more hardships than it does today, and required a strong will and profound faith.
To add such an endeavor to his other ascetic practices, Mulla Sadra stepped on this way seven times, and eventually, on his seventh journey to Mecca for the visitation of Ka’ba, fell ill in the city of Basra in Iraq and passed away, leaving this world for those who were obsessed by it.
The route of his journey, if we consider its place of origin as Shiraz, was the waterway from the eastern coast of Persian Gulf towards its western coast, and to Basra port in Iraq, which was a part of Iran at that time.
It is commonly said that Mulla Sadra passed away in 1050 A.H/1640 A.D; however, we believe that a more exact date is 1045 A.H/1635 A.D, which his grandson, Ilm al-Huda, one of the stars of the sky of knowledge of his time and the son of ‘Allamah Faydh Kashani, has recorded in his notes. The sudden discontinuation of some of his compositions, such as Interpretation of Qu’ran and Sharh-i Usul Kafi (Muhadith Kulayni), in about 1044 A.H/1634 A.D are good pieces of evidence supporting this claim.
Mulla Sadra died in Basra, but according to the Shi’ite tradition, he was taken to Najaf (in Iraq), which houses the tomb of Imam Ali(A), the vicegerent, cousin, and son-in-law of Prophet Muhammed(S), and the first leader of Shi’ites, and, as his grandson, Ilm al-Huda, says, he was buried in the left side of the court of Imam Ali(A)’s haram (sacred shrine).
Mulla Sadra was a master of all sciences of his time; however, none of them were as important as philosophy in his eyes. As mentioned previously, due to the outstanding spiritual and economic facilities provided by his family, particularly by his father, he enjoyed the benefits of studying under the most knowledgeable teachers of that period.
In Qazwin, Mulla Sadra studied under his two prominent masters, Shaykh Baha al-Din and Mir Damad, and when the capital changed to Isfahan in 1006 A.H/1596 A.D, he moved there in company of his two masters, and in addition to completing his higher education, particularly in philosophy, started a profound line of research on contemporary philosophical issues. Due to his great talent, depth of thought, and vast knowledge of rational sciences, logic, and gnosis, Mulla Sadra succeeded in developing a series of unprecedented principles and basic rules. In this way, the young tree of Transcendental Philosophy, which is the name of his unique school of thought, gradually grew until it raised its head highly in the sky.
Mulla Sadra acquired most of his scholarly knowledge from the two above-mentioned masters. Thus it would be deserving to know a little more about these unparalleled thinkers.
1. Shaykh Baha al-Din ‘Ameli
Shaykh Baha (953-1030 A.H) was not Mulla Sadra’s first teacher; however, it seems that from among all his teachers, he played the most significant role in developing Mulla Sadra’s personality, and exercised the greatest influence upon the formation of his spiritual, moral, and scientific character.
He was the son of a Lebanese jurisprudent called Shaykh Hussayn, the son of Shaykh Abdul Samad Ameli. Jabal Amel is one of the northern cities of Syria, which is populated by Shi’ite Muslims. At that time, it was ruled by the cruel and tyrant Ottoman government. A lot of Shi’ite jurisprudents and scholars living in this city ran away from the cruelties of ottoman rulers and sought refuge in the Safavid Iran. Shaykh Baha al-Din was seven (or 13) years old when he came to Iran with his father, who was later appointed the religious leader of Muslims, which was a sublime and spiritual position, in Harat in Khorasan. Baha al-Din began to acquire the sciences of his time in Iran and soon became a very well-known scientist.
Shaykh Baha’s vast knowledge of different areas, from jurisprudence, interpretation, hadith, and literature to mathematics, engineering, astronomy, and the like, as well as the stories narrated about the wonders of his life, have turned him into a fabulous and legendary character, unparalleled by any other scientist in the one thousand- year-old history of science after Islam. In fact, in terms of knowledge, he can be considered as an equal to Pythagoras or Hermes in the history of Greek science.
2. Mir Damad
Mir Muhammad Baqir Hussayni, known as Mir Damad, was one of the most prominent scholars of his time and a great master of Peripatetic and Illuminationist schools of philosophy, gnosis, jurisprudence, and Islamic law. His father, too, was a jurisprudent and was originally from Astarabad (the present Gorgan). He spent his youth studying in Khorasan and was later honored by becoming the son-in-law of a famous Lebanese scientist called Shaykh Ali Karaki, who was known as the second researcher, the high counselor of the Safavid king. Because of this honor, the title of ‘Damad’ (Persian word for son-in-law) remained on Mir Muhammad Baqir Hussayni.
Some people believe that Mir Damad was born in 969 A.H (1562 A.D), but there is no certain evidence for it. He was born in Khorasan and passed his adolescence in Mashad (the center of Khorasan province) and because of his genius, he reached high scientific levels in a very short time. When he arrived in Qazwin (Capital of the Safavid kings at that time) to complete his education, he became fast famous and reached the station of mastership.
Mulla Sadra, who had most probably gone to Isfahan with his father in childhood, went to Mir Damad’s teaching classes hurriedly and passed the higher courses of philosophy, hadith, and other sciences once more under his supervision.
With the change of the Safavid capital from Qazwin to Isfahan, Mir Damad moved his teaching center there, too. Mulla Sadra, during his years of residence in Isfahan, took the greatest advantage of his classes, and his scientific relation with this knowledgeable teacher was never disrupted. Mir Damad fell ill in 1041 A.H (1631 A.D) on his way to Iraq and passed away there.
3. Mir Fendereski
Mir Fendereski has also been cited as one of Mulla Sadra’s teachers. His complete name is Mir Abulqasim Astarabadi, and he is famous as Fendereski. He lived for a while in Isfahan at the same time as Mir Damad, spent a great part of his life in India among yogis and Zoroastrians, and learnt certain things from them.
In spite of what is commonly believed, there is no valid evidence indicating the existence of any student-teacher relation between Mir Fendereski and Mulla Sadra; moreover, the school of philosophy left by Fendereski and publicized by his students, such as Mulla Rajab Ali Tabrizi, is completely in contrast to that of Mulla Sadra.
Mulla Sadra’s date of marriage is not clearly known to us. He married most probably at the age of 40 and his first child was born in 1019 A.H (1609 A.D). He had five children, 3 daughters and two sons, as follows:
1. Um Kulthum, born in 1019 A.H (1609 A.D)
2. Ibrahim, born in 1021 A.H (1611 A.D)
3. Zubaydah, born in 1024 A.H (1614 A.D)
4. Nizam al-Din Ahmad, born in 1031 A.H (1621 A.D)
5. Ma’sumah, born in 1033 A.H (1623 A.D)
Mulla Sadra’s eldest child was his daughter, Um Kulthum, who was a poet and scientist and a woman of prayer and piety. She was married to Mulla Abdul Razzaq Lahiji, Mulla Sadra’s famous student.
His second daughter was called Zubaydah. She was married to Faydh Kashani (Mulla Sadra’s other student) and gave birth to some well-reputed children. She was also famous for having a vast knowledge of science and literature, and being a poet.
Ma’sumah, Mulla Sadra’s third daughter, was born in 1033 A.H (1623 A.D) in Shiraz and was famous for being a knowledgeable woman and a master of poetry and literature. She married one of Mulla Sadra’s other students, Qawam al-Din Muhammed Neyrizi. Some people believe that her husband was another person called Mulla Abdul Muhsin Kashani, who was also one of Mulla Sadra’s students.
In spite of the long time that Mulla Sadra was involved in teaching philosophy, interpretation, and hadith, including the last 5 (or 10) years of his life in Shiraz (1040 till 1045 or 1050), and more than 20 years in middle of his lifetime in Qum (from about 1020 till 1040) or perhaps a few years before that in Shiraz or Isfahan, except for a few, there is no record of the names of his students in historical documents and writings.
Undoubtedly some prominent philosophers and scientists were trained in his classes; however, surprisingly enough, none of them became famous, or if they did, we have no knowledge of their names. This, of course, might have been due to the weak relation between their life and Malla Sadra’s life.
We know about 10 of Mulla Sadra’s well-known students, among whom Faydh Kashani and Fayyadh Lahiji are the most reputable ones.
1. Faydh Kashani
This student of Mulla Sadra was called Muhammed Ibn al-Murtada, nicknamed Muhsen, but he was known as Faydh. He was mainly famous for being a master of jurisprudence, hadith, ethics, and gnosis. His father was one of the scholars of Kashan. Faydh went to Isfahan (the capital of the time) at the age of 20. Later he went to Shiraz and acquired the sciences of that time. Then he went to Qum, where Mulla Sadra had established a vast teaching center. After being acquainted with this great master, Faydh studied under him for about 10 years (till Mulla Sadra’s return to Shiraz) and was honored by being accepted as his son-in-law. He even went to Shiraz in Mulla Sadra’s company and stayed there for another two years; nevertheless, since at that time (about the age of forty) he had become a knowledgeable scholar and a master of all sciences, he returned to his town, Kashan, and established a teaching center there.
During his lifetime, in addition to training a great number of students, he composed several books on jurisprudence, hadith, ethics, and gnosis. His method of treating the science of ethics was such that he was called the second Gazzali; however, he was much higher than Abu Hamid Gazzali Tusi in his gnostic taste and scientific depth of knowledge.
He was also a poet. He has left a book of poems in Persian, mainly consisting of gnostic and moral poems, and mostly in the lyric form.
The Safavid king (known as Shah Safi) invited him in the last years of life to Isfahan to serve as the leader of Friday prayer there, but he refused this invitation and returned to his own town. However, the insistence of the other Safavid king (Shah Abbas II) dragged him to Isfahan most probably in the years after 1052 A.H (1643 A.D).
Faydh wrote more than 100 books, the most famous of which are Mafatih in jurisprudence, al-Wafi in hadith, al-Safi and al-Asfia on the interpretation of the Holy Qur’an, Usul al-Ma’arif in philosophy and gnosis, and al-Muhajj al-bayza’ in ethics. All these books are written in Arabic, and each is considered important in its own right.
Faydh had six children. His son, Muhammed A’alam al-Huda, was a well-known scholar who composed a lot of works. According to the date written on his gravestone, Faydh deceased in 1091 A.H (1681 A.D), apparently at the age of 84.
2. Fayyadh Lahiji
Mulla Sadra’s other student was Abd al-Razzaq Lahiji, the son of Ali, known as Fayyadh. He was mainly famous as a philosopher and theologian and was considered one of the distinguished poets of his time.
He spent a part of his life in Mashad (the center of Khorasan province) studying and, then, in about 1030 A.H (1621 A.D), or a few years after that, he went to Qum, was acquainted with Mulla Sadra, attended his classes, and, later, became one of his most faithful students. Before Mulla Sadra’s return to Shiraz, Fayyadh was honored by being accepted as his son-in-law (probably in about 1035 A.H).
Unlike his friend Faydh Kashani, Fayyadh did not go to Shiraz with Mulla Sadra. It is likely that Mulla Sadra left him in Qum as his substitute to continue his teaching work as a master.
Fayyadh was a prominent philosopher who sometimes appeared in the role of a theologian following Khwajah Nasir al-Din Tusi (writer of Tajrid al-Kalam). He had a profound poetic and literary taste and, as one of the outstanding poets of that time, had a Diwan (collection of poems) consisting of a variety of 12000 couplets in ballad, lyric and quatrain (ruba’i) forms.
He was one of the most reputable and distinguished figures of the Safavid period whom the Safavid Shah greatly admired and respected. He was also quite popular among ordinary people. He socialized with them and loved them so much and, in return, received their great respect and devotion. However, in reality, he was a God-fearing, pious, and secluded man who was heedless to worldly attractions (This judgment has been made by his contemporaries about him).
Lahiji has a lot of works in philosophy and theology, the most famous of which are: Shawariq al-ilham (a commentary on Tajrid al-kalam), Gohar Murad (written in a simple language on theology, a commentary on Suhrawardi’s al-Nur, glosses on Sharh Isharat, and some other books, treatises, and a collection of poems.
Fayyadh was the father of at least three sons, who were all among the scholars of their time. The name of his eldest son is Mulla Hasan Lahiji, who became a master and succeeded his father in Qum. Fayyadh is said to have lived for 70 years. He passed away in 1072 A.H (1662 A.D) in Qum and was buried in the same place.
3. Mulla Hussayn Tunekaboni
One of the other famous students of Mulla Sadra is Mulla Hussayn Tunekaboni or Gilani. Tunekabon is a town in Mazandaran province in the north of Iran and on the shores of Caspian Sea. A great number of reputable philosophers and scientists have arisen from this town.
There are a lot of ambiguous points in his life; nevertheless, what is certain is his expertise in Mulla Sadra’s school of thought, and teaching philosophy and gnosis. His decease or martyrdom was quite sad. On his Haj pilgrimage, when making his visitation to Ka’ba (in Mecca in Hijaz in Saudi Arabia), he was passionately holding the walls of the House of Ka’ba in his arms and rubbing his face to them in a mystic manner, but the laymen assumed that he was insulting the court of Ka’ba and, thus, hit him harshly. After this incident he suffered so much, so that he could not bear the depression anymore and passed away in Mecca in 1105 A.H (1695 A.D). He has also left some books in philosophy to his later generations.
4. Hakim Aqajani
Hakim Mulla Muhammed Aqajani has been cited as one of Mulla Sadra’s students. His life is also full of ambiguous points. He is mainly famous for the commentary he wrote on Mir Damad’s (Mulla Sadra’s master) important and difficult book, al-Qabassat, in 1071 A.H (1661 A.D).
Mulla Sadra was a prolific writer. He did not write at all during his time of seclusion and asceticism and, after that, he was continually involved in teaching and training the students of philosophy who attended his classes from all over Iran; however, at all times, when traveling or at home, he seized all possible chances to write books and long or short treatises in philosophy. As a result, he created a varied, useful, and inferential philosophical collection of writings in different forms following different purposes.
Some of his books are textbooks and quite useful for gaining a preliminary or complementary acquaintance with philosophy and gnosis on the basis of his specific school of thought, Transcendent Philosophy. Some of his other books are on the explanation and demonstration of his own theories, and some others can be considered as being on human ethics and manners.
He has devoted an important part of his works to the interpretation of the Qu’ran, and although death did not allow him to provide a philosophical and gnostic commentary on the whole Qu’ran, what he wrote in this regard enjoys certain features which have made them unique among similar interpretations.
Mulla Sadra, who was a Muhaddith (an expert in hadith and traditions quoted from the Prophet(S) and his descendants(A)), has an important work on hadith. This is a commentary on a famous book of hadiths, called al-Kafi, written by Kulayni Razi. Mulla Sadra has commented on its chapter of ‘Usul’; however, perhaps due to his decease, it has remained incomplete. He also has two books in logic, called Tanquih al-Mantiq and Risalah fil Tasawwur wa Tasdiq.
His well-known books which have been published so far include the following:
1. al-Hikmat al-Muta’aliyah fi’l-Asfar al-Arba’ah
The discussions in this book start with the issues of being and quiddity and continue with the issues of motion, time, perception, substance, and accident. A part of this book is devoted to proving the existence of God and his attributes, and, eventually, it comes to an end with a discussion of man’s soul and the subjects of death and resurrection.
The novelty which he has exclusively employed in writing this interesting and important book is classifying the themes of the book in the mould of 4 stages of gnostics’ spiritual and mystic journeys, with each stage considered as one journey. Therefore, as a gnostic’s journey in the first stage is from his self and people towards God; in the second and third stages from God to God (from His Essence to His Attributes and Acts); and in the fourth stage from God to people; this book begins with existents and continues with the Hereafter, God, and the mustered people.
The original book is in 4 big-sized volumes which have been published in nine small-sized volumes several times.
This book is, in fact, a philosophical encyclopedia and a collection of important issues discussed in Islamic philosophy, enriched by the ideas of preceding philosophers, from Pythagoras to those living at the same time with Mulla Sadra, and containing the related responses on the basis of new and strong arguments. All these features have made it the book of choice for teaching at higher levels of philosophical education in scientific and religious centers.
The composition of this book gradually started from about 1015 A.H (1605 A.D), and its completion took almost 25 years, till some years after 1040 A.H (1630 A.D).
2. al-Tafsir (A commentary upon the Qur’an)
During his life, Mulla Sadra, at some times and in certain occasions, interpreted one of the chapters (Surahs) of the Qur’an. In the last decade of his life, he started his work from the beginning of this Holy Book in order to compile all his interpretations into a complete work, but death did not allow him to accomplish this task to the end.
The names of the chapters he interpreted in an approximate chronological order is as follows:
1. chapter 57: al-Hadid,
2. commentary on Ayat al-Kursi (chapter 2: al-Baqarah),
3. chapter 32: Sajda,
4. chapter 99: al-Zilzal,
5. verses al-Nur, al-Yasin, al-Tariq,
6. chapter 87: al-A’la,
7. chapter 56: al-waqui’ah,
8. chapter 1: al-Fatiha,
9. chapter 62: al-Jumu’ah, and
10. chapter 2: al-Baqarah.
In the bibliography of Mulla Sadra’s book, each of the above has appeared as an independent work, but we have cited them here all under the single title of Commentary upon the Qur’an. He has also two other books on the Qur’an, called Mafatih al-qayb and Asrar al-ayat, which are considered as introductions to the interpretation of the Qur’an, and represent the philosophy behind this task.
3. Sharh al-Hidayah
This work is a commentary on a book called Hidayah which has been written on the basis of Peripatetic philosophy, and was previously used for giving a preliminary familiarity with philosophy to students. However, it is rarely used today.
4. al-Mabda’ wa’l-Ma’ad
Also called al-Hikmat al-Muta’aliyyah, this book can be considered a summary of the second half of Asfar.
It has been written away from all discussions that Mulla Sadra views as being useless and unnecessary. He called this book the Beginning and the End due to the fact that he believed it in heart that philosophy means the knowledge of the Origin and the Return.
This book is mainly on issues related to theology and eschatology, and is considered one of Mulla Sadra’s important books.
This book is similar to al-Mabda’ wa’l-ma’ad, but is shorter than that. It is, in fact, a handbook for familiarizing readers with Mulla Sadra’s philosophy.
6. Huduth al-‘Alam
The issue of the origination of the world is a complicated and disputable problem for many philosophers.
In this book, in addition to quoting the theories of philosophers before and after Socrates, and those of some Muslim philosophers, Mulla Sadra has proved his solid theory through the theory of the trans-substantial motion.
7. Iksir al-‘Arifin
As the name suggests, this is a gnostic and educative book.
The central theme of this book is the quality of existents’ resurrection in the Hereafter. Here, Mulla Sadra has expressed the theory of the resurrection of animals and objects in the Hereafter.
This is a short but profound and rich book on existence and its related subjects. Professor Henry Corbin has translated it into French and written an introduction to it. This book has recently been translated into English, too.
10. al-Waridat al-Qalbiyyah
Mulla Sadra has presented a brief account of important philosophical problems in this book, and it seems to be an inventory of the Divine inspirations and illuminations he had received all through his life.
11. Iqad al-Na’imin
This book is on theoretical and actual gnosis, and on the science of monotheism. It presents some guidelines and instructional points to wake up the sleeping.
12. al-Masa’il al-Qudsiyyah
This booklet deals mainly with issues such as existence in mind and epistemology. Here, Mulla Sadra has combined epistemology and ontology with each other.
Also called al-Hikmat al-‘Arshiyyah, this is another referential book about Mulla Sadra’s philosophy. Like in al-Mazahir, he has tried to demonstrate the Beginning and the End concisely but precisely.
This book has been translated by professor James Winston Maurice into English. He has also written an informative introduction to it.
14. al-Shawadhid al-Rububiyyah
This philosophical book has been mainly written in the Illuminationist style, and represents Mulla Sadra’s ideas during the early periods of his philosophical thoughts.
15. Sharh-i Shafa
Mulla Sadra has written this book as a commentary upon some of the issues discussed in the part on theology (Ilahiyyat) in Ibn-Sina’s al-Shifa. Sharh-i Shafa has also been published in the form of glosses clearly expressing Mulla Sadra’s ideas in this regard.
16. Sharh-i Hikmat al-Ishraq
This work is a useful and profound commentary or collection of glosses on Suhrawardi’s Hikmat al-ishraq and Qutb al-Din Shirazi’s commentary upon it.
17. Ittihad al-‘Aqil wa’l-Ma’qul
This is a monographic treatise on the demonstration of a complicated philosophical theory, the Union of the Intellect and the Intelligible, which no one could prove and rationalize prior to Mulla Sadra.
18. Ajwibah al-Masa’il
This book consists of at least three treatises in which Mulla Sadra responds to the philosophical questions posed by his contemporary philosophers.
19. Ittisaf al-Mahiyyah bi’l Wujud
This treatise is a monographic treatise dealing with the problem of existence and its relation to quiddities.
In this book, Mulla Sadra has explained the problem of individuation and clarified its relation to existence and its principiality, which is one of the most fundamental principles he has propounded.
21. Sarayan nur Wujud
This treatise deals with the quality of the descent or diffusion of existence from the True Source to existents (quiddities).
22. Limmi’yya Ikhtisas al-Mintaqah
A treatise on logic, this work focuses on the cause of the specific form of the sphere.
23. Khalq al-A’mal
This treatise is on man’s determinism and free will.
24. al-Qada’ wa’l-Qadar
This treatise is on the problem of Divine Decree and Destiny.
25. Zad al-Musafir
In this book (which is probably the same as Zad al-Salik), Mulla Sadra has tried to demonstrate resurrection and the Hereafter following a philosophical approach.
26. al-Shawahid al-Rububiyyah
This treatise is not related to Mulla Sadra’s book of al-Shawahid al-rububiyyah. It is an inventory of his particular theories and opinions which he has been able to express in philosophical terms.
Mulla Sadra has written this treatise on the reality of man’s temperament and its relation to the body and soul.
28. Mutashabihat al-Qur’an
This treatise consists of Mulla Sadra’s interpretations of those Qura’nic verses which have secret and complicated meanings. It is considered as one of the chapters in Mafatih al-Qayb.
29. Isalat-i Ja’l-i Wujud
This book is on existence and its principiality as opposed to quiddities.
A treatise on resurrection and people’s presence in the Hereafter, it deals with man’s being rewarded in paradise and punished in hell.
31. al-Alfad al-Mufradah
This book is used as an abridged dictionary for interpreting words in the Qur’an.
32. Radd-i Shubahat-i Iblis
Here, Mulla Sadra has explained Satan’s seven paradoxes and provided the related answers.
33. Si Asl
This is Mulla Sadra’s only book in Persian. Here, by resorting to the main three moral principles, he has dealt with moral and educative subjects related to scientists, and advised his contemporary philosophers.
34. Kasr al-Asnam al-Jahiliyyah
The title of this book means demolishing the idols of the periods of barbarism and man’s ignorance. His intention here is to condemn and disgrace impious sophists.
In this book, Mulla Sadra has concisely dealt with formal logic. It is a good book for instructional purposes.
36. al-Tasawwur wa’l-Tasdiq
This treatise deals with issues of the philosophy of logic and inquires into concept and judgment.
37. Diwan Shi’r (Collection of Poems)
Mulla Sadra has written a number of scholarly and mystic poems in Persian which have been compiled in this book.
38. A Collection of Scientific-Literary Notes
In his youth, Mulla Sadra studied a lot of philosophical and gnostic books; moreover, due to his poetic taste, he had access to the poetry books written by different poets and was interested in them.
Therefore, some short notes of his own poetry, the statements of philosophers and gnostics, and scientific issues have been left from his youth, which comprise a precious collection. It is said that this book can familiarize the readers with subtleties of Mulla Sadra’s nature.
These notes have been compiled in two different collections, and it is likely that the smaller collection was compiled on one of his journeys.
Except for a few letters exchanged between Mulla Sadra and his master, Mir Damad, nothing has been left from them.
These letters have been presented at the beginning of the 3-volume book of Mulla Sadra’s Life, Character and School, which have been written in Persian. This book has also been translated into English.
If we consider the above 39 books along with his 12-volume books of interpretation, which we referred to as Tafasir in number 2, as well as with his Mafatih al-qayb and Asrar al-ayat, we have cited more than 50 of his works (exactly 53) so far. Some other books have also been attributed to him; however, we will not refer to their names, since they have either been discussed in other more comprehensive books, or their being written by Mulla Sadra has been denied.
One of the problems which has raised a lot of arguments concerning Mulla Sadra’s books is the place and time of their composition. Most of his books have no composition date, and, in order to know about this, one must refer to certain documents and evidences. For example, the composition dates of some of his books have been implied in his al-Mabda’ wa’l-Ma’ad, al-Hashr and interpretations of some of the surahs (chapters) of the Qur’an.
* al-Mabda’ wa’l-Ma’ad was written in 1019 A.H (1609 A.D),
* Interpretation of Ayat al-Kursi in about 1023 A.H (1613 A.D);
* Kasr al-Asnam in 1027 A.H (1617 A.D);
* Iksir al-‘Arifin in 1031 A.H (1621 A.D);
* The treatise of al-Hashr in 1032 A.H (1622 A.D);
* the treatise of Ittihad al-‘Aqil wa’l-Ma’qul in about 1037 A.H (1627 A.D); and
* Mafatih al-Qayb in 1029 A.H (1619 A.D).
The dates of his other books could only be approximately reckoned.
In order to know about their place of composition, we must pay attention that Mulla Sadra moved from Qum to Shiraz in about 1040 A.H (1630 A.D), and before 1015 A.H (1605 A.D), he went to Qum and its suburbs from Shiraz or some other place.
Therefore, the books which he wrote before 1040 A.H must have been written in Qum or some place in its vicinity, unless he has written some of these books and treatises on his long journeys.
Reference: Sadra Islamic Philosphy Research Institute (SIPRIn)