Mulla Sadra: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ṣadr ad-Dīn Muḥammad Shīrāzī (Persian: ملا صدرا)
Full name Ṣadr ad-Dīn Muḥammad Shīrāzī (Persian: ملا صدرا)
Born 1571
Died 1636
Era Post-Classical Islamic philosophy
Region Iran
School Islamic philosophy
Main interests Illuminationism, Transcendent theosophy, Existentialism
Notable ideas Existentialism

Ṣadr ad-Dīn Muḥammad Shīrāzī also called Mulla Sadrā (Persian: ملا صدرا; also spelt Molla Sadra, Mollasadra or Sadrol Mote'allehin Persian: صدرالمتالهین;) (c. 1571–1636) was a Persian Shia Islamic philosopher, theologian and ‘Ālim who led the Iranian cultural renaissance in the 17th century.

Mulla Sadra is arguably the single most important and influential philosopher in the Muslim world in the last four hundred years.[1][2]

The foremost representative of the Illuminationist, or (Ishraghi or Ishraqi) school of philosopher-mystics, he is commonly regarded by Iranians as the greatest philosopher their country has ever produced. His school of philosophy is called Transcendent Theosophy or al-hikmah al-muta’liyah.

Mulla Sadra's philosophy and ontology is considered to be just as important to Islamic philosophy as Martin Heidegger's philosophy later was to Western philosophy in the 20th century. Mulla Sadra bought "a new philosophical insight in dealing with the nature of reality" and created "a major transition from essentialism to existentialism" in Islamic philosophy, several centuries before this occurred in Western philosophy.[3]

Mulla Sadra's original philosophy blended and transformed Avicennism, Suhrawardi's Illuminationist philosophy, Ibn Arabi's Sufi metaphysics, and the theology of the Ash'ari school and Twelvers in a more ambitious and resourceful way than the former Islamic philosophers.[4]



Born in Shiraz, Iran to a notable Shirazi family, Mulla Sadra moved first to Qazvin in 1591 and then to Isfahan 1597 to pursue his inquiry into philosophy, theology, Hadith, and hermeneutics. Those cities were successive capitals of the Safavid dynasty and center of Twelver seminaries at that time. His renowned teachers were Mir Damad and Baha' ad-Din al-`Amili.[5]

Mulla Sadra completed his education at Isfahan, which was the leading cultural and intellectual center of his day. He was trained under the supervision of Mir Damad.

After his studies with scholars there, he produced several works, the most famous of which was his Asfar ("Journeys"). Asfar contains the bulk of his philosophy, which was influenced by a personal mysticism bordering on the ascetic, that he experienced during a fifteen-year retreat at Kahak, a village near Qom, Iran.

Expounding his theory of nature, Mulla Sadra argued that the entire universe – except God and his knowledge – was originated both eternally and temporally. Nature, he asserted, is the substance of all things and is the cause for all movement. Thus, nature is permanent and furnishes the continuing link between the eternal and the originated. Much of his philosophy was also existentialist in nature.

Toward the end of his life, Mulla Sadra returned to Shiraz to teach. He died in Basra on a pilgrimage to Mecca and was buried in present-day Iraq. He barried in the city of Najaf

Philosophical theories

Sadra is said to have been a "true heir" of Shahab al-Din Suhrawardi's School of Illumination, whose ideas he said to have "revised and presented in a rigorous scholastic fashion." [6]



Existentialism (Arabic: Isalat al-Wujud‎) is a concept that lies at the heart of Mulla Sadra's philosophy, particularly the theory of "existence precedes essence". This was also the opposite of the idea of "essence precedes existence" previously supported by Avicenna and his school of Avicennism as well as Shahab al-Din Suhrawardi and his school of Illuminationism. Sayyid Jalal Ashtiyani later summarizes Mulla Sadra's concept as follows:[7]

"The existent being that has an essence must then be caused and existence that is pure existence ... is therefore a Necessary Being."

For Mulla Sadra, "existence precedes the essence and is thus principal since something has to exist first and then have an essence." This is primarily the argument that lies at the heart of Mulla Sadra's philosophy.[8]

In Islamic philosophy, whereas previous methods of philosophical thought held that "essence precedes existence", a concept which dates back to Avicenna[9] and Shahab al-Din Suhrawardi,[10] Mulla Sadra substituted a metaphysics of existence for the traditional metaphysics of essences, and giving priority ab initio to existence over quiddity.[11]

Mulla Sadra effected an entire revolution in the metaphysics of being by his thesis that there are no immutable essences, but that each essence is determined and variable according to the degree of intensity of its act of existence. [12]

In his view reality is existence, differentiated in a variety of ways, and these different ways look to us like essences. What first affect us are things that exist and we form ideas of essences afterwards, so existence precedes essence. This position referred to as primacy of existence (Arabic: Isalat al-Wujud‎).[13]

Substantial motion

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 Ibn Sina 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)."[14]

Unity of the intelligizing subject and intelligized

The unity of the intellect and the intelligible (Arabic: Ittihad al-Aaqil wa l-Maqul) is one of Sadra's innovations. 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.[15]

His writings are a testimony to the presence of a living intellectual tradition before him. Through their reading one realizes that he did not suddenly mushroom from a vacuum but rather was the crowning achievement of a tendency which for several centuries was in the making. For example, on the subject of the harmony between philosophy and religion, his solution is the final state of a process that goes back to al-Kindi himself.[16]

List of works

His well-known published books include the following:

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 principiality, 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 principiality 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

Further reading

  • 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.

See also


  1. ^ Leaman (2007), p.146
  2. ^ Mulla Sadra (Sadr al-Din Muhammad al-Shirazi) (1571/2-1640) by John Cooper
  3. ^ Kamal, Muhammad (2006), Mulla Sadra's Transcendent Philosophy, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., pp. 9 & 39, ISBN 0754652718  
  4. ^ Leaman (2007), pp.146 and 147
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ Mottahedeh, Roy, The Mantle of the Prophet : Religion and Politics in Iran, One World, Oxford, 1985, 2000, p.179
  7. ^ (Razavi 1997, pp. 129-30)
  8. ^ (Razavi 1997, p. 130)
  9. ^ Irwin, Jones (Autumn 2002), "Averroes' Reason: A Medieval Tale of Christianity and Islam", The Philosopher LXXXX (2)  
  10. ^ (Razavi 1997, p. 129)
  11. ^ Corbin (1993), pp. 342 and 343
  12. ^ Corbin (1993), pp. 342-3
  13. ^ Leaman (2007), p. 35
  14. ^ Kalin, Ibrahim (March 2001), "Sadr al-Din Shirazi (Mulla Sadra) (b. 1571-1640)", in Iqbal, Muzaffar; Kalin, Ibrahim, Resources on Islam & Science,, retrieved 2008-02-04  
  15. ^ Corbin (1993), pp.343 and 344
  16. ^ Liban, Librairie Du. Islamic Studies. Beirut: Systeco Press, 1967.


  • Razavi, Mehdi Amin (1997), Suhrawardi and the School of Illumination, Routledge, ISBN 0700704124

External links


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address