|Full Name||Mir Burhan al-Din Muhammad Bqir b. Muhammad al-Husayni al-Astarabadi|
|Epithet||Mir Damad, Third Teacher|
|Well-Known Relatives||al-Muhaqqiq al-Karaki, Sayyid Ahmad al-'Amili|
|Professors||Al-Husayn b. 'Abd al-Samad al-Harithi|
|Students||Mulla Sadra, Sayyid Ahmad al-'Amili,|
|Works||al-Qabasat, Taqwim al-iman, al-Rawashih al-samawiya|
Mīr Muḥammad Bāqir b. Muḥammad al-Ḥusaynī al-Astarābādī (d. 1041/1631), known as Mīr Dāmād, was a Shiite philosopher in the Safavid period. He was contemporary with al-Shaykh al-Baha'i and a teacher of Mulla Sadra, the founder of the Transcendent Philosophy.
Mir Damad is also known as the “Third Teacher.” As a Muslim philosopher, he greatly influenced the formation of Mulla Sadra's Transcendent Philosophy. He was a polymath, specializing in many disciplines and sciences, such as philosophy, theology, natural sciences, mathematics, jurisprudence, and the principles of jurisprudence.
Mir Damad's written works amount to over one hundred. His major philosophical work is al-Qabasat. In his philosophy, the rational method is intertwined with mysticism. Two of his well-known philosophical theories are the primacy of quiddities (asalat al-mahiyya) and perpetual incipience (al-huduth al-dahri). He wrote poems in both Persian and Arabic with the penname “Ishraq.”
Burhan al-Din Mir Muhammad Baqir Mir Damad was born in 969-1562 or 970-1563. His father Shams al-Din Muhammad al-Husayni al-Astarabadi was al-Muhaqqiq al-Karaki's son in law (in Persian, “damad”); hence his title “Damad.” For this reason, Muhammad Baqir was also known as Damad. He is also titled “Ustad al-Bashar” (Master of Humanity) and “al-Mu'allim al-Thalith” (Third Teacher).
Mir Damad lived in Mashhad for years, where he learned rational and transmitted disciplines. He then had a short sojourn in in Qazvin and Kashan, and finally, he moved to Isfahan. He was contemporary with al-Shaykh al-Baha'i. Mir Damad was respected by Abbas the Great, the Safavid king.
In the later years of his life, Mir Damad visited Iraq as a pilgrimage to 'Atabat in the company of Shah Safi, the Safavid king. According to Aqa Buzurg Tihrani, he passed away somewhere between Karbala and Najaf in 1041/1631, and was buried in Najaf. In Rayhanat al-adab, the date of his death is said to be 1040/1630 or 1042/1632.
Izutsu, the Japanese scholar of Islamic and Quranic studies, believes that Mir Damad was the greatest Muslim philosopher. He was a polymath, specializing in all Islamic disciplines of his day, such as philosophy, theology, natural sciences, mathematics, jurisprudence, principles of jurisprudence, hadith, and Quranic exegesis. Moreover, Izutsu says that Mir Damad's title “Third Teacher” (along with Aristotle as the First Teacher and al-Farabi as the Second Teacher) is a sign of his high scholarly status in his life.
Murtada Mutahhari also describes him as a philosopher, jurist, mathematician, a man of letter, a scholar of rijal, and a “comprehensive man.” According to A'yan al-Shi'a, Mir Damad specialized in occult sciences as well.
Izutsu believes that Mir Damad's philosopher influenced Mulla Sadra's philosophy (Transcendent Philosophy) and the philosophical school of Isfahan in such a way that it is impossible to understand the latter without knowing Mir Damad's philosophy.
Mir Damad was a poet as well. He wrote poems in both Persian and Arabic with the penname “Ishraq.”
Mir Damad’s Philosophy
According to Izutsu, Mir Damad's philosophy relies both on rational arguments and mystical intuitions. In his rational method, Mir Damad follows the Peripatetic school and in mysticism he was inspired by Suhrawardi. On this picture, his philosophy provides a link between Peripatetic and Illuminationist philosophies.
As to the problem of the primacy of existence or quiddity, Mir Damad follows Suhrawardi in the belief in the primacy of the latter. His major theory is that of “perpetual incipience.” Ibn Sina and philosophers after him believed that the world of intellects is eternal, just like God, the only difference being that God is a necessary being and intellects are contingent beings. Mir Damad believes, however, that intellects are not eternal—they are incipient, indeed, although such incipience does not occur in time. Furthermore, the incipience is not, pace Ibn Sina, just a mental consideration; it is a real and factual thing, existing at the existential degree of perpetuity (dahr).
Mir Damad’s Abstruse Style of Writing
Mir Damad's scholarly writings have a complex and abstruse prose. He uses many unfamiliar phrases and verbal structures, mixes Persian and Arabic phrases, and sometimes relinquishes the ordinary styles of writing. Moreover, he sometimes coins neologisms. These features render his writings difficult to understand. In response to a critic, he wrote: “one should understand at least this much that the true art is to understand my words, not to argue with me.”
Henry Corbin believes that Mir Damad's style of writing is not grounded in his failure to use simple prose or his philosophical weakness. He wrote in this way in order to avoid the threats by opponents of philosophy. There are anecdotes about Mir Damad's abstruse style of writing.
According to Aqa Buzurg Tihrani, Mir Damad learned transmitted disciplines from his material uncle 'Abd al-Ali al-Karaki (al-Muhaqqiq al-Karaki's son) and Husayn b. Abd al-Samad al-Harithi (al-Shaykh al-Baha'i's father) and obtained permissions for the transmission of hadiths from them. His other teachers in these fields were Abu-l-Hasan al-Amili and Abd Ali b. Mahmud al-Khadim al-Japilaqi.
Mutahhari writes that Mir Damad's teachers of philosophy and rational disciplines are not known. The only teacher mentioned in Tarikh alam arayi Abbasi is Fakhr al-Din al-Astarabadi al-Sammaki. He is also referred to by al-Muhaddith al-Qummi as Mir Damad's teacher, but there are reservations about this.
Here are some of Mir Damad's students, as mentioned by Murtada Mutahhari:
- Mulla Sadra, the founder of Transcendent Philosophy
- Sultan al-Ulama', known as Khalifat al-Sultan
- Shams al-Din Gilani, known as Mulla Shamsa
- Sayyid Ahmad 'Amili (Mir Damad's son in law and his aunt's nephew)
- Qutb al-Din al-Ishkawari (the author of Mahbub al-qulub)
- Sayyid Amir Fadl Allah al-Astarabadi
Mir Damad wrote over one hundred works, including his books, essays, and commentaries. 48 of his books are listed in Rayhanat al-adab. Al-Qabasat is recognized as his philosophical masterpiece.
- The material for this article is mainly taken from میرداماد in Farsi WikiShia.