Sayyid Abu l-Hasan Jilwa

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Sayyid Abu l-Hasan Jilwa
Personal Information
Full Name Sayyid Abu l-Hasan Tabataba'i
Birth 1238/1822
Place of Birth Ahmedabad, India
Residence Isfahan
Studied in Isfahan
Death 1314/1896
Burial Place Ibn Babawayh Cemetery in Rey, Iran
Scholarly Information
Professors Mirza Hasan Nuri, Mulla Muhammad Ja'far Lahiji, Sayyid Radi Larijani etc.
Students Mirza Shahab al-Din Nayrizi Shirazi, Mirza Muhammad Tahir Tunikabuni, Mulla Muhammad Haydaji etc.
Works Risala fi l-haraka al-jawhariyya, Rabt al-hadith bi l-qadim, Risala fi 'ittihad al-'aqil wa al-ma'qul etc.

Sayyid Abu l-Ḥasan Ṭabāṭabāʾī, (Persian: سید ابوالحسن طباطبايي) (b. 1238/1822 - d. 1314/1896), known as Mīrzā Abu l-Ḥasan Jilwa (Persian: میرزا ابوالحسن جلوه) was a Shi'a philosopher and scholar of 13th/19th century. He had Peripatetic (masha') tendencies in his philosophical thoughts, and was a critic of Mulla Sadra's Transcendent Philosophy. He is said to have been mostly isolated and he never married throughout his life.

Jilwa's father was a bookman in the Qajar period, and he learned literature with his father. Jilwa has a diwan (a collection of poems). His tomb is in Ibn Babawayh Cemetery in Rey, near Tehran.

Birth and Parentage

His name is Sayyid Abu l-Hasan Tabataba'i, but he came to be known by his penname, Jilwa.

He was born in 1238/1822 in Ahmedabad of Gujarat in west India. His thirtieth ancestor is Imam al-Hasan (a).

One of his ancestors is Sayyid Baha' al-Din Haydar who was a leader in a war against the Moguls. Baha' al-Din was martyred in that war and his mausoleum is now a shrine in Zawwara. Another ancestor of Jilwa is the well-known philosopher and muhaddith of the Safavid era, Mirza Rafi' al-Din Na'ini (d. 1083/1672). Rafi' al-Din Tabataba'i was a pupil of al-Shaykh al-Baha'i and Mowla 'Abd Allah Shushtari, and a teacher of al-Allama al-Majlisi and al-Shaykh al-Hurr al-'Amili.

Jilwa's father, Sayyid Muhammad Tabataba'i, with the penname Mazhar, was a physician and a bookman in early Qajar period.

Migration and Education

After his father's death, Jilwa migrated to Isfahan and resided in the Kasigaran School, and after learning the preliminary disciplines, he began learning philosophy, theology, natural sciences, and mathematics. He devoted all his time to his studies. When he was young, he spent time with friends, bookmen and poets, but later he avoided such companions, and when he realized that he cannot learn more from his teachers, he began to study and teach.

Since he found that Isfahan is no longer a good place for him to study and due to some social troubles there, in 1273/1856 Jilwa migrated to Tehran and resided in Dar al-Shifa School, and taught philosophy, mathematics, and mysticism there for 41 years. Throughout his life he just had two short journeys to Gilan and Tabriz.

In his autobiography, Jilwa writes about his migration from Isfahan to Tehran that:

Since I was depressed from living in Isfahan because of poverty, the insistence of some people on scolding one another, and the tendency of some people to oblige others to obey them, I migrated to Tehran, and because of my habits and my inability to have a house on my own I went to Dar al-Shifa School.

Jilwa's poem about his migration from Isfahan:

Since I was disappointed from my companion in the city of Jay [Isfahan]
the Devil solicited me to turn away from my mistress
to travel and to farewell my friends
since I would have no value if I stay
the great people have said: O' man!
do not stay where you are not esteemed [1]


In his autobiography, Jilwa did not mention his teachers, but there are reports that the following were his teachers:


Throughout his long teaching career in Isfahan and Tehran, Jilwa had many students. There are prominent philosophers and mystics who studied with Jilwa, including:

Style of Teaching

An interesting feature of Jilwa's teaching was that he specified the sources of views mentioned in the philosophical text that he was teaching.

According to Tunikabuni, before teaching any book, Jilwa used to correct it and find its sources.


In Jilwa's view, it is difficult, if not impossible, to write a novel work, and this is why he has not left an independent essay or book. Instead, he wrote commentaries or expositions on the philosophical or non-philosophical works of his predecessors. Here are some of his works:

  1. Risala fi l-haraka al-jawhariyya; an Arabic essay, in defense of Ibn Sina's denial of the theory of substantial motion, criticizing Mulla Sadra's arguments for this theory.
  2. Rabt al-hadith bi l-qadim; an Arabic essay. Drawing on the views of Ibn Sina, Ghazali, and Mir Damad, the essay criticizes Mulla Sadra's view about the problem of the relation between the created (hādith) and the eternal (qadim).
  3. Risala fi 'ittihad al-'aqil wa al-ma'qul; an Arabic essay criticizing Mulla Sadra's view concerning the unity of the cognizer ('āqil) and the cognized (ma'qul).
  4. Risala fi l-kulli wa 'aqsamih (an essay on the universal and its types); an Arabic essay concerning the existence of the natural universal (al-kulli al-tabi'i) according to Mulla Sadra.
  5. Commentaries on Mulla Sadra's al-mabda' wa al-ma'ad.
  6. Commentaries on Mulla Sadra's Sharh al-hidaya al-'athiriyya.
  7. Commentaries on Mulla Sadra's al-masha'ir—in these commentaries, Jilwa drew on Sharh al-masha'ir by Muhammad Ja'far Lahiji and Mulla Sadra's al-asfar al-'arba'a.
  8. Commentaries on Qaysari's Sharh-i fusus al-hikam (an Islamic mystical text), drawing on mystical works of 'Ala al-Dawla Simnani, Mu'ayyid al-Din Jundi, 'Abd al-Razaq Kashani, 'Abd al-Rahman Jami, Sa'in al-Din Turka Isfahani, and Ibn 'Arabi, as well as works of philosophers such as Ibn Sina, 'Ikhwan al-Safa, Sadr al-Din Shirazi, and Fayd Kashani.
  9. Commentaries on Mulla Sadra's al-asfar al-'arba'a—the only work mentioned in Jilwa's autobiography. In these commentaries, he has detected the sources of al-'asfar. Some of these commentaries seek to explain the text, and some are corrections thereof.
  10. Commentaries on Ibn Sina's al-shifa' drawing on other works by Jilwa and also al-'asfar, al-mabahith al-mashriqiyya, Sharh al-mawaqif, and al-qabasat.
  11. Commentaries on Khwajih Nasir al-Din al-Tusi's Sharh al-'isharat, mostly citing the explications of the issues in Sharh al-'isharat in other philosophical and theological works such as al-muhakimat, 'Asas al-'iqtibas, al-mabahith al-mashriqiyya, Shawariq al-ilham, Gowhar-i murad, and al-'asfar.
  12. An essay concerning mathematical bodies (al-jism al-ta'limi), in which Jilwa establishes his view that mathematical bodies are accidents, and not substances.
  13. An essay concerning the existence of species-specific forms (al-suwar al-naw'iyya) and the idea that it is a substance.
    An old copy of Diwan of Mirza Abu l-Hasan Jilwa
  14. An essay concerning how a single concept is abstracted from diverse entities.
  15. Commentaries on Qadizada's exposition of the summary of Chaghmini on astronomy.
  16. Al-qadiyya al-muhmala hiya al-qadiyya al-tabi'iyya. In this essay, Jilwa cites the views of Qutb al-Din al-Razi, the author of Sharh-i matali' al-'anwar, Fakhr-i Razi, and Khwajih Nasir al-Din al-Tusi concluding that a natural proposition (al-qadiyya al-tabi'iyya) and an unquantified proposition (al-qadiyya al-muhmala) are identical.
  17. An essay concerning divine response to the man's prayers.
  18. Diwan containing Jilwa's poems; his qasidas, ghazals, verses and other forms of Persian poetry.
  19. An introduction to Mujmar's diwan (collection of poems), and his biography.

Jilwa's Diwan

Mirza 'Ali Khan 'Abd al-Rasuli, a student of Jilwa, collected his poems in 1348/1929 which was printed in the Ferdowsi Printing Office in Tehran. Mirza 'Ali Khan wrote a biography of Jilwa and his family in the preface of the book.

Philosophical Views

In his philosophical views, Jilwa had Peripatetic tendencies, and was a critic of Mulla Sadra's Transcendent Philosophy.

Jilwa criticized Mulla Sadra's theory of the unity or identity of the cognizer and the cognized ('ittihad al-'aqil wa al-ma'qul). According to Jilwa, if the soul (the cognizer) is unified or identified with the cognized in the process of reasoning, then if each of the soul and the cognized entity independently exists, then it would be impossible for the soul to be unified or identified with that individuated entity, since two diverse entities cannot be identified.

According to Jilwa, it is possible to abstract a single concept from diverse entities without their sharing an essential feature. In other words, the abstraction of a single concept from diverse entities entails the existence of a commonality between them, but it is not necessary for the commonality to be essential.

Four Philosophers (Al-Hukama al-'Arba'a)

The term "the four philosophers" is applied to Aqa Muhammad Rida Qumshi'i, Aqa 'Ali Mudarris, Mirza 'Abu l-Hasan Jilwa, and Aqa Mirza Husayn Sabziwari—a pupil of Mulla Hadi Sabziwari. In Nassir al-Din Shah's era, after the death of Qumshi'i and Mudarris, the only great teacher of philosophy was 'Abu l-Hasan Jilwa.


Jilwa had a personal library containing the best works of philosophers, bookmen, mystics, and scientists that counted as one of the most valuable libraries of his time.

In accordance with his will, all these books were sold and the money was distributed among the poor. Later these books—over 205 volumes—were purchased by the Library of the Majlis (Parliament) of National Council in Tehran; the books are today in this library.

The importance of these books is that he had corrected the books, compared them with precious copies of those books in Tehran's libraries of those days, and written commentaries and notes on them.

Moral Character

Mirza 'Abu l-Hasan Jilwa was self-esteemed and very ambitious; he had a simple life, and was mostly isolated from other people, he was known for his smooth tongue and sharp mind, and was respected by all people. Jilwa was in good terms with merchants and statesmen, and was inattentive to the royal family. He wrote some poems in the praise of Nassir al-Din Shah, but he was not attached to his government.

He was never disrespected because in his lectures, he was cautious not to offend other scholars especially the scholars of fiqh.

Jilwa taught philosophy in an accessible way by help of examples, he explicated the philosophical problems in detail, patiently answered the questions of his students, and sometimes referred to some of his contemporary philosophers with Sadraean tendencies by quibbles.

Mirza Ibrahim Hukmi Zanjani says:

Mirza Jilwa said prayers at dawns, and did some exercises in his chamber. He then said his morning prayers, and after that, he ate two eggs with some bread. He then had a cup of tea, and then started his teachings until two hours before noon. In his chamber he had lemons and syrups. Sometimes Nassir al-Din Shah went to his chamber to visit him, but he told the Shah that he was not in the mood to see him.


Tomb of Mirza Abu l-Hasan Jilwa in Ibn Babawayh Cemetery in Rey.

Jilwa never married. In the last years of his life, he became blind and sick, and finally he died in 1314/1897. He was buried in Ibn Babawayh Cemetery in the city of Rey near Tehran.

Two years after his death, Mirza 'Ahmad Khan Badir Nasir al-Dawla and the Prince Sultan Husayn Mirza Nayyir al-Dawla ordered the architect of Kashan, 'Abd al-Baqi, to build a mausoleum for Jilwa's grave, but it was eroded and destroyed through time, and today a mausoleum like that of Hafiz has been built on his grave.


  1. Diwan, Jilwa, p. 132