Sadr al-Din al-Shirazi

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Sadr al-Din al-Shirazi
Commemorative Stamp of Mulla Sadra Issued by Iran's Post Company in 2010
Commemorative Stamp of Mulla Sadra Issued by Iran's Post Company in 2010
Personal Information
Full NameSadr al-Din Muhammad b. Ibrahim al-Shirazi
Well-Known AsMulla Sadra
Well-Known RelativesMulla Muhsin al-Fayd al-Kashani, 'Abd al-Razzaq Lahiji
ResidenceShiraz, Qom
Studied inIsfahan
Burial PlaceBasra
Scholarly Information
ProfessorsMir Damad, Baha' al-Din al-'Amili

Ṣadr al-Dīn, Muḥammad b. Ibrāhīm al-Shīrāzī (Arabic:صَدرُالدّین، مُحَمَّد بن إبراهیم الشیرازي) (b. 979/1571-2 - d. 1050/1640-1) is a well-known Shiite philosopher, mystic, and exegete of the Quran. He is also known as Mullā Ṣadrā (Arabic:ملا صدرا) and Ṣadr al-Muti'allihīn (Arabic:صدرالمتألهین). He was a student of Mir Damad and Baha' al-Din al-'Amili. His best-known student was al-Fayd al-Kashani. Mulla Sadra was the founder of the influential philosophical school known as the Transcendent Wisdom or philosophy—the third main philosophical school in Islam. He elaborated his philosophical system in the book, al-Hikma al-muta'aliya fi l-asfar al-'aqliyya al-arba'a, known as al-Asfar. This is his most important and influential work. The rational tradition of Shiite Muslims was remarkably influenced by Mulla Sadra's doctrines. Many subsequent Shiite philosophers, such as Mulla Hadi Sabziwari and 'Allama Tabataba'i commented on, and illustrated, his philosophy. The fundamental principle of his philosophy is the Principality of Existence. His theory about the manner of the bodily resurrection led to controversies.

Mulla Sadra lived in Shiraz, Isfahan, and Qom. In addition to philosophical works, he also wrote some works concerning the exegesis of the Quran and the interpretation of Usul al-kafi.

Lineage, Birth and Demise

He was born in 979/1571-2.[1] His father was Ibrahim b. Yahya al-Qawami. Mulla Sadra spent whatever he inherited from his father on his studies.

He died at the age of 70 in 1050/1640-1 when he was on his way to, or back from, hajj for the seventh time.


Mulla Sadra had 6 children:


Statue of Mulla Sadra in Bagh-i Jahan Nama in Shiraz.

He studied the preliminaries under his father in Shiraz. When his father died, he moved to Isfahan—the then Safavid capital with flourishing seminary schools. He studied philosophy and other reflective disciplines under Sayyid Muhammad Baqir Mir Damad (d. 1041/1631) and traditional disciplines (such as fiqh and hadith) from Baha' al-Din al-'Amili (d. 1030/1620). He received permissions (for teaching and other positions) from the two teachers. He must have been of a distinguished academic ranking when he moved to Isfahan, because he immediately attended Baha' al-Din al-'Amili's courses.

After his studies in Isfahan, Mulla Sadra returned to Shiraz where he taught in Khan Seminary. However, he was offended by some scholars in Shiraz. So he left Shiraz to Kahak, a village around Qom, where he was isolated from people for years. After this, he started to write his works and establish his own philosophical school until his death. According to some sources, he spent the last years of his life in Qom.

Academic life

Mulla Sadra's academic life can be classified in three stages:


He spent a lot of time studying the theories in kalam and Islamic philosophy. In his introduction to his main book, al-Asfar, he expressed his regrets for having spent a lot of time studying speculative issues.


Mulla Sadra's House in Kahak, a village near Qom.

He chose to isolate himself from people and scholars, spending his time worshiping God in some mountains in Kahak near Qom. The isolation took about 15 years. He was only engaged with worships and asceticism all these years.

Writing books

He wrote many of his books and essays. The first book he began to write after a long period of isolation was al-Asfar; it seems that he had already started writing the book during the isolation period. Before writing this monumental book, he had already written some short essays. Al-Asfar counts as the foundation of all subsequent works of Mulla Sadra.


  • Mulla Muhammad Irawani
  • Abu l-Wali al-Shirazi
  • Mirza Ibrahim
  • Qawam al-Din Ahmad

Transcendent Wisdom

Mulla Sadra dubbed his philosophical school of thought as al-Hikma al-muta'aliya (Transcendental Wisdom). For him, the main mark of his Transcendent Philosophy, distinguishing it from the rest of Islamic philosophical schools, is the mystical approach of the former. In his commentaries on Ibn Sina's al-Isharat, Nasir al-Din al-Tusi took the Transcendent Wisdom to be one that reconciles speculative reasons with revelations and mysticism. On the contrary, Peripatetic Wisdom or Philosophy is merely speculative. For Mulla Sadra, the criterion of a philosophy being transcendent is its connection to the imaginal world and revelations.

One characteristic feature of the Transcendent Philosophy is its reconciliation of the intellect and the revelation. What human beings grasp through their intellects is not in contradiction with what the religion and the revelations tell us. This is why Mulla Sadra's works are rife with resources to Quranic verses.

Mulla Sadra elaborated the foundations and principles of the Transcendent Wisdom in a variety of his works. The most important and the most comprehensive of these works is al-Asfar. The structure of this work is fundamentally different from that of Peripatetic and Illuminationist (Ishraq) works. Unlike Peripatetic works, it does not deal with mathematics and natural sciences. Moreover, it has discussed psychological issues (problems regarding the soul and its relation with the body) independently of the rest of the natural sciences; in fact, Mulla Sadra discussed psychological issues as part of his specific theology (or theology proper). The course of al-Asfar is such that the whole book seems to be a preparation for its last two volumes regarding the soul and the resurrection.

One salient feature of the Transcendent Philosophy is its focus on the existential reality of human beings and God. In this intellectual system, the ontological status of human beings is considered not as it relates to lower levels of the existence, but as it relates to the highest level of the existence, that is, God.

The most significant principles and foundations of the Transcendent Philosophy include:

  • The self-evidence of the concept of existence,
  • The distinctness of existence form quiddity,
  • The principality of existence,
  • The hierarchical unity of existence,
  • The division of existence into relational and independent,
  • Possibility by indigence (al-imkan al-faqri),
  • Substantial motion.


There are different views about the methodology of the Transcendent Philosophy:

  • Non-authenticity: Some scholars maintain that Mulla Sadra's philosophy lacks any authenticity, since it is merely a combination of earlier philosophies and schools, such as the Peripatetic philosophy, Illuminationist philosophy, kalam and mysticism. This view denies any innovations in Sadra's philosophy.
  • Combination of Peripatetic and Illuminationist philosophies: according to this view, the Transcendent Philosophy is a combination of the Peripatetic and Illuminationist philosophies. Mulla Sadra is definitely influenced by Peripatetic and Illuminationist philosophers.
  • Mystical philosophy: Some people take the Transcendent Philosophy to be a mystical philosophy. Mulla Sadra frequently drew upon mystical texts, such as works of Ibn 'Arabi. The Transcendent Philosophy is, on this view, an attempt to philosophize theoretical mysticism. Thus he is considered to be a philosophical mystic, rather than a philosopher.
  • Employing the two languages of Transcendent and Peripatetic philosophies: Some others maintain that Mulla Sadra employed two languages in order to articulate his philosophical views; one is Transcendent and other is the dominant language in Peripatetic and Illuminationist philosophies. Thus Mulla Sadra's philosophy is not, on this view, eclectic; rather it is innovative in that it constructed a logical system on the basis of some axioms, though he has articulated the system in the two above languages.
  • Interdisciplinary attitude: Some contemporary scholars take the Transcendent Philosophy to have an interdisciplinary approach. On this view, Mulla Sadra has fundamentally challenged the extant philosophy of his time, mysticism, and exegeses of the Quran, and thereby he arrived at the interdisciplinary method of the Transcendent Philosophy. In fact, the Transcendent Philosophy is a result of an interdisciplinary challenge before theological problems. Mulla Sadra's familiarity with different disciplines led him to think of a solution to those problems by employing different methods in those disciplines. Thus his innovations result from an interdisciplinary approach to theological studies.


Mulla Sadra wrote many works on different subjects. Here are his main books:

  • Al-Mabda' wa l-ma'ad: This work is also called al-Hikmat al-muta'aliya. The book counts as a summary of the second part of al-Asfar.
  • Tafsir al-Quran al-karim (the exegesis of the Quran). Mulla Sadra wrote an exegesis of different verses and suras of the Quran. Late in his life, he started to write a complete exegesis of the Quran, but it remained unfinished by his death.
  • Sharh usul al-kafi: his incomplete commentary on Usul al-Kafi in seven volumes.

Translation of his works to other lanugages

  • Al-Masha'ir; the work was translated by Henry Corbin into French.
  • Al-Hikmat al-'arshiyya; it was translated by James Winston into English.
  • Iksir al-'arifin fi ma'rifat al-haqq wa l-yaqin (a collection of Mulla Sadra's essays); it was translated into Japanese (Tokyo, The Society for Islamic Studies)
  • Conception and belief in Sadr al-Din al-Shirazi An essay on tasawwur (conception) and tasdiq (affirmation); it was translated into English by Joep Lameer.
  • A summary of al-Asfar; it was translated into German by Max Horten.


Possibility by Indigence

Before Mulla Sadra, necessity, possibility and impossibility, known in the Islamic logic as the three materials, used be to be considered as attributes of quiddities. Possibility, considered as an attribute of a quiddity, amounts to its having no essential preferences as to existence and nonexistence. Such a notion is impossible to apply to the case of the existence, since it is impossible for the existence to have no essential preferences as to itself. Possibility, considered as an attribute of the existence, amounts to its essential dependence or indigence or need. Possible existents are wholly dependent on something else, whereas quiddities are not like this. For although they have no subsistence outside of the realm of existence, the intellect can imagine them independently of anything else.

Substantial Motion

Before Mulla Sadra, motion (al-haraka) was restricted to the four categories of how much (quantity), what sort (quality), where (location), and being situated (position). Philosophers before Mulla Sadra did consider motion in the category of substance (jawhar), but they took it to be impossible. Mulla Sadra demonstrated the possibility, and actuality, of motion in substances; he showed that the material world is in constant motion from potentialities to actualizations. He categorized the existence into constant and moving, taking the motion to be a feature of the existence. Indeed, he introduced the motion as one of the main general issues of philosophy.

The proof of the substantial motion had strong impacts on other issues in Mulla Sadra's Transcendent Philosophy, such as time, bodily resurrection, the relation between changing and constant things, that between insipient beings and eternal ones, stages of the soul, and metempsychosis.

Simple Reality is All Things

According to this principle, a reality which is simple or uncompounded "in all respects" has all the existential perfections, that is, every existence with its existential perfections is included in it. The existents are present in the simple reality in a simple, compact form. So although all the things are predicated on the simple reality (as in the above principle), in their plurality they are negated therefrom, as is sometimes made explicit in the principle: "the simple reality is all things and none of them", by which is meant their plural and imperfect aspects or limits. This implies that only the perfections of such existents are predicated on the simple reality.

The principle was first introduced in Plotinus's Eneads. However, Mulla Sadra was the first philosopher who presented an argument for the principle and put it at the center stage of his philosophical system.

Unity of the Intellect and the Intelligible

The principle of the unity of the intellection, its subject and its object, in its raw form, is attributed to an ancient philosopher, Porphyry. Ibn Sina rejected the view and humiliated Porphyry because of holding such a view. The unity means that all these three, the intellection, its subject and its object, have one and the same extension. This single extension is only conceptually divided into the above three notions. Although Ibn Sina takes the principle to be unintelligible, Mulla Sadra accepted it as a main principle of his philosophy. What is at stake here is the unity of the intellect and the intelligible, in psychology, in a non-essential way.

Mulla Sadra employs the principle in order to show the unity of the soul with the Active Intellect, the simplicity of the soul, and the resurrection of perfect souls.

Bodily Resurrection and the Spiritual Survival of the Soul

There are various views, in the Islamic philosophy, concerning the eternity or insipience of the soul. Some philosophers believed that the soul is eternal and some held that it is insipient. Advocates of insipience further dispute over the way the soul is insipient. There are three main views here:

  • The insipience of the soul together with the insipience of the body,
  • The insipience of the soul by virtue of the body's insipience,
  • The insipience of the soul before that of the body.

The eternity view too is of different versions due to questions as to the eternity being in the longitudinal (tuli) or latitudinal ('ardi) chain or as to its being essential or temporal. Mulla Sadra takes the soul not only to be insipient by virtue of the body's insipience, but also to be identical to its insipience.

By an appeal to the thesis of substantial motion, Mulla Sadra takes the motion of the soul to be directed at its spiritualization—that is, the doctrine of the spiritual survival of the soul.

Proof of the Bodily Resurrection

Philosophers before Mulla Sadra took the bodily resurrection to be unprovable by reason. Thus some of them denied the idea completely and some accepted it by submission to what the religion says, though they maintained that it was philosophical problematic. However, Mulla Sadra tried to prove the bodily resurrection by way of reason. Thus he provided a new theory in order to reconcile evidence from the religion with philosophical principles. On this view, when the soul separates from the body, it creates a new body for itself apparently similar to its worldly body, though materially different, since it is made up of the stuff of the world of barzakh. This barzakhi body is similar, but not identical to, the worldly body. It has material features (such as shape) but is not material, that is, it has no volume.

Works about Mulla Sadra

  • Sayyid Jalal al-Din Ashtiyani, Sharh-i hal wa ara-yi falsafi-yi Mulla Sadra (a biography and philosophical views of Mulla Sadra), Tehran, Muslim Women Movement Publications, 1360 S.H. (1981).
  • Ja'far Al-i Yasin, Sadr al-Din Shirazi mujaddid al-falsafa al-islamiyya (Sadr al-Din Shirazi, the reviver of the Islamic philosophy), Baghdad: Matba'a Ma'arif, 1375 A.H. (1955).
  • Reza Akbarian, Hikmat-i muta'aliya wa tafakur-i falsafi-yi mu'asir (The Transcendent Philosophy and the contemporary philosophical thinking), Tehran: Bunyad-i Hikmat-i Islami-yi Sadra, 1386 S.H. (2007).
  • Masud Omid, Si filsuf-i musalman: Shaykh Ishraq, Mulla Sadra, 'Allama Tabataba'i (Three Muslim philosophers: Shaykh al-Ishraq, Mulla Sadra, 'Allama Tabataba'i), Tehran: Bunyad-i Hikmat-i Islami-yi Sadra, 1384 S.H. (2005).
  • Nahid Baqeri Khorramdashti, Kitabshinasi-yi jami'-i Mulla Sadra (a comprehensive bibliography of Mulla Sadra), 1378 S.H. (1999).
  • Muhammad Jawad Turbati, Sadr al-Din Shirazi wa usul-i afkar-i falsafi-yi u (Sadr al-Din Shirazi and the principles of his philosophical thoughts), Tabriz: 1312 S.H. (1933).
  • 'Abd al-Rafi' Haqiqat, Mulla Sadra Shirazi dar tarikh-i 'ulum wa falsafi Irani az Jamasp-i hakim ta hakim Sabzewari (Mulla Sadra Shirazi in the history of Iranian sciences and philosophy from the sage Jamasp to the sage Sabzewari), Tehran: no date.
  • 'Ali Asghar Halabi, Sadra Shirazi dar tarikh-i falsafa dar Iran wa jahan-i Islami, Tehran: Asatir, 1373 S.H. (1994).
  • Sayyid Muhammad Khamenei, Hikmat-i muta'aliya wa Mulla Sadra (the Transcendent Philosophy and Mulla Sadra), Tehran: Bunyad-i Hikmat-i Islami-yi Sadra, 1383 S.H. (2004).
  • Sayyid Muhammad Khamenei, Mulla Sadra: zindigi, shakhsiyat wa maktab-i Sadr al-Muti'allihin (Mulla Sadra: life, character and the school of Sadr al-Muti'allihin), Tehran: Bunyad-i Hikmat-i Islami-yi Sadra, 1379 S.H. (2000).
  • Muhammad Khajawi, Lawami' al-'arifin fi ahwal Sadr al-Muti'allihin, pajuhishi piramun-i ahwal wa afkar wa athar wa ara'i Mulla Sadra, bi indimam-i risala'i dar usul wa tatawwur-i falsafa (the light of the mystics on the life of Sadr al-Muti'allihin: a research about the life, thoughts, work and views of Mulla Sadra, appended with an essay about the principles and developments of philosophy), Tehran: Mowla, 1366 S.H. (1987).
  • Akbar Dana Seresht, Afkar-i Suhrawardi wa Mulla Sadra ya khulasi-'i az hikmat al-ishraq wa asfar (the thoughts of [[Suhrawardi and Mulla Sadra, or a summary of the books, Hikmat al-ishraq and al-Asfar), Tehran: Ibn Sina, 1324 S.H. (1945).
  • Husayn'ali Rashid, Du filsuf-i sharq wa gharb (Sadr al-Muti'allihin wa Einstein) (two philosophers in the east and the west, Sadr al-Muti'allihin and Enstein), Tehran: Farahani Publications, 1347 S.H. (1968).
  • Muhammad Taqi Zamanian, Sayri dar afkar-i Mulla Sadra (A glimpse of Mulla Sadra's thoughts), Tehran: Tehran University, 1354 S.H. (1975).
  • Abu 'Abd Allah Zanjani, al-Filsuf al-kabir Sadr al-Din Shirazi (the great philosopher Sadr al-Din Shirazi), Tehran: Sadr, 1348 S.H. (1969).
  • Ja'far Subhani Tabrizi, Hastishinasi dar maktab Sadr al-Muti'allihin (ontology in the school of Sadr al-Muti'allihin), Qom: Dar al-Tabligh al-Islami, 1359 S.H. (1980).
  • Ja'far Subhani Tabrizi, Harakat az didgah-i Mulla Sadra dar sayr-i 'irfan wa falsafa dar islam (The motion in the view of Mulla Sadra in the course of Islamic mysticism and philosophy), Tehran: Mu'assisa Mutali'at Tahqiqat Farhangi, 1367 S.H. (1988).
  • Ja'far Sajjadi, Mustalahat-i falsafi-yi Sadr al-Din Shirazi (Sadr al-Din Shirazi's philosophical terminology), Tehran: Tehran University, 1340 S.H. (1961).
  • Salman Safawi, Muqayisa-yi ara'i Arastu wa Sadr al-Muti'allihin piramun-i khuda (wajib al-wujud) (a comparison of Aristotle's and Sadr al-Muti'allihin's views concerning God (the necessary existence)), Tehran: Salman Safawi, 1371 S.H. (1992).
  • Hadi 'Alawi, Nazariyya al-haraka al-jawhariyya 'ind al-Shirazi (The theory of substantial motion according to Shirazi), Beirut: Dar al-Tali'a, 1983.
  • Muhammad Taqi Kiramati, Ta'thir-i mabani-yi falsafi dar tafsir-i Sadr al-Muti'allihin (the impact of philosophical principles in the [Quranic] exegesis of Sadr al-Muti'allihin), Tehran: Bunyad-i Hikmat-i Islami-yi Sadra, 1385 S.H. (2006).
  • Henry Corbin, An introduction to the book of metaphysical penetrations (kitab al-Masha'ir) by Mulla Sadra, translated into Farsi by Karim Mojtahedi, appended by the Farsi text of al-Masha'ir, translated by Badi' al-Mulk Mirza 'Imad al-Dowla, Tehran: Bunyad-i Hikmat-i Islami-yi Sadra, 1381 S.H. (2002).
  • 'Abd al-Muhsin Mishkat al-Dini, Ta'thir wa mabadi-yi an, ya kulliat-i falsafi-yi tabi'i-yi Sadr al-Din Shirazi (Efficacy and its principle, or the outline of Sadr al-Din Shirazi's natural philosophy), Tehran: Ibn Sina, 1347 S.H. (1968).
  • 'Abd al-Husayn Mshkat al-Dini, Nazari bi falsafi-yi Sadr al-Din Shirazi (A look at Sadr al-Din Shirazi's philosophy), Tehran: Agah, 1361 S.H. (1982).
  • Sayyid Mohsen Miri and Mohammad Ja'far 'Elmi, Fihrist-i mowdu'iyi Asfar (a subject index of al-Asfar), Tehran: Hekmat, 1374 S.H. (1995).
  • Fereshteh Nadari Abyaneh, Ta'thirat-i Ibn 'Arabi bar hikmat-i muta'aliya (The impacts of Ibn Arabi on the Transcendent Philosophy), Tehran: Bunyad-i Hikmat-i Islami-yi Sadra, 1386 S.H. (2007).
  • 'Ali Nasiri, Maktab-i tafsiri-yi Sadr al-Muti'allihin (the exegetical school of Sadr al-Muti'allihin), Tehran: Bunyad-i Hikmat-i Islami-yi Sadra, 1386 S.H. (2007).
  • Henry Corbin and some other orientalists, Sadr al-Din Shirazi known as Mulla Sadra or Sadr al-Muti'allihin: the Islamic philosopher and thinker, translated into Farsi by Dhabih Allah Mansuri, Tehran: Javidan, 1372 S.H. (1993).


  1. Sadr al-Din al-Shirazi, Muhammad b. Ibrahim, Tafsir al-Qur'an al-karim, p. 3


  • The material for this article is mainly taken from ملاصدرا in Farsi WikiShia.
  • Sadr al-Din al-Shirazi, Muhammad b. Ibrahim. Tafsir al-Qur'an al-karim. ed. Muhsin Bidarfar. Mu'assisa-yi Tahqiqat wa Nashr Ma'arif Ahl al-Bayt (a)