Mulla Sadra's Life and Character
Mulla Sadra is one of the most prominent Islamic philosophers, who was born in the tenth century H.G (16th century A.D) in Shiraz, one of the most famous cities in Iran, in the vicinity of Persepolis (979 H.G., 1571 A.D.). He was the only child of one of the aristocrats of the city (apparently the minister of the independent province of Fars), called Ibrahim Qavami. He was named Mohammad but they called him Sadr al-din or Sadra. Later, he became famous as Mulla Sadra, and was even given the title of Sadr al-Mutaalehin (foremost among philosophers).
During the reign of the Safavid dynasty, Shiraz was considered one of the most important centers of science and philosophy in the world. It was also the training center for a number of great scientists for over two centuries.
The young Mulla Sadra was very talented and managed to acquire all the sciences of his time during a very short time. The Safavid ruler of Fars came to the thrown six years after Mulla Sadra's birth and then moved to the capital of the time, Qazvin. Most probably, the six year old Sadra and his father, who was the minister and consultant to the king, went to the capital city, too.
The city of Qazvin had fast turned into a scientific and philosophical center during the Safavid era. It had become the gathering place for the most prominent philosophers, jurisconsults, literary men, and artists. At the beginning of his youth, Mulla Sadra, who had managed to acquire all the sciences of his time in less than twenty years, could soon find two of the best teachers of that time, called Sheik Baha and Mir Damad. These two scholars have a brilliant record in history and are considered two of the most distinguished scientists and political figures of their time. Mulla Sadra completed his education under these two great men.
When Shah Abbas I came to the throne (996 H.G., 1589 A.D.), the capital of Iran changed from Qazvin to Isfahan (1006 H.G., 1599 A.D.). Following this, Mulla Sadra's teachers moved to Isfahan and he accompanied them.
Mulla Sadra's residence in Isfahan lasted less than ten years, and since he had come to the end of his education, he left Isfahan. Some believe that he returned to his hometown, Shiraz.
In spite of the fact that he was only about thirty years old at that time, he was a knowledgeable philosopher, who had complete mastery over all philosophical schools of his time including Illuminationism, Peripateticism, Islamic theology, and Islamic gnosis. He had also arrived at a series of inferences and conclusions through his studies and developed his own ideas and theories, which made him one of the most distinguished philosophers of the world in later years.
Mulla Sadra showed his brilliance in Shiraz, which was still considered an important center for philosophy and theological sciences, and attracted a lot of students and advocates. As a result, some of his colleagues were jealous of him and made him the target of their unkind and offensive acts and words. Their indecent conduct affected Mulla Sadra's glorified and pure soul so deeply that he was forced to leave his hometown and find refuge in the village of Kahak, in the vicinity of the religious city of Qum.
Mulla Sadra's soul had been tortured and injured so much that he gave up teaching, writing, and studying philosophy for a long time (amounting to several years) and got involved in the kinds of worship and ascetic practices to which he had been accustomed during his youth.
However, this period did not last forever. His dreams and mystical intuitions inspired him and called him to spread his ideas; therefore, he came back to social life and took residence among other people again and started teaching and writing books. His best and most important books were written during this period. In the last decade of his life, Mulla Sadra returned to Shiraz and started teaching in a school that had been specially built for him by the ruler of that city. He wrote some commentaries on the Qur'an and hadith during this time. At last, in 1050 H.G. (1648 A.D.), or as some evidence indicates, in 1045 H.G. (1630 A.D.), he fell sick on his way to the Hadj pilgrimage in Basra, a city in Iraq, and passed away. He was buried in the holy city of Najaf (in Iraq), where Imam Ali's sanctuary is located.
Mulla Sadra's Children
Mulla Sadra had five children, three daughters and two sons. It has been said about his daughters that the two elder ones (or all three of them) married two (or three) of his most favorite students. Both of his sons were scientists and had written books in Islamic philosophy and sciences. Following the Islamic tradition, his daughters had also been educated under their father and husbands and were considered as two of the knowledgeable ladies of their time.
Mulla Sadra's Teachers
Traditionally, Mulla Sadra had different teachers for different sciences who, except for Sheik Baha al-Din Ameli and Mir Damad, are not known to us. These two teachers are among the geniuses and number one stars of the sky of philosophy, gnosis, and Islamic sciences in the history of science and both played significant roles in training Mulla Sadra's soul and extending his domain of knowledge and insight.
Mulla Sadra's Students
Mulla Sadra held populated classes in three different periods of time: 1) his initial residence in Shiraz; 2) his long residence in Qum; and 3) his second stay in Shiraz; therefore, we can guess that he had hundreds of students. Unfortunately, we do not know of any of his students except for a few.
His most famous students are Sheik Abd al-Razzaq Lahiji, known as Fayad, and Mulla Muhsen Fayd-e Kashani, who were husbands to two of his daughters. They are very well known in the fields of philosophy, gnosis and Islamic sciences, and have written some
Mulla Sadra's Place
Mulla Sadra is not only the most prominent Islamic philosopher of the last six centuries, but some have also considered him as being equal to Ibn-Sina and Farabi and even higher than them. In spite of his dominance over all philosophical schools of his time (Peripatecism, Illuminationism, Islamic theology, and Islamic gnosis), he was never totally influenced by them and managed to found his own school of philosophy, called Transcendent Philosophy (Wisdom). He forcefully criticized all the weak points of the preceding great philosophers and tried to present a number of ultimate philosophical solutions to their problems.
In a treatise, Mulla Sadra has presented his own general and particular principles, which amount to more than one hundred and fifty problems, ideas and theories. In philosophical centers, however, about ten of his most basic and famous philosophical theories or ideas are considered to provide the foundations for his school of thought, such as the principle of the principiality of existence, the gradational nature of existence, the principle of the most simple truth, the unity of the intellect, the intelligent and the intelligible, the trans-substantial motion of matter, the material origination of the soul and the survival of the immaterial, the immateriality of the world of imagination, and some others (these principles will be discussed elsewhere).