September 25

The Late Mulla Sadra

mulla sadraSadr ad-Din Muhammad Shirazi, also called Mulla Sadra was born in Shiraz, in what is now Iran, to a notable family of court officials in 1571 or 1572, Mulla Sadra moved first to Qazvin in 1591 and then to Isfahan 1597 to pursue a traditional and institutional education in philosophy, theology, Hadith and hermeneutics. Each city was a successive capital of the Safavid dynasty and centres of Twelver Shi’ite seminaries at that time. His teachers included Mir Damad and Baha’ad Din al-‘Amili’.

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

After he had finished his studies Mulla Sadra began to explore unorthodox doctrines and as a result was both condemned and excommunicated by some Shi’i Ulama. He then retired for a lengthy period of a time to a village named Kahak near Qum, where he engaged in contemplative exercises. While in Kahak, he wrote a number of minor works, including the Risala Fi ‘l-Hashr and the Risala fi huduth al-alam.

In 1612, Mulla Sadra was asked to abandon his retirement by the powerful governor of Fars, Allahwirdi Khan and invited back to Shiraz to teach and run a new madrassa devoted to the intellectual sciences. During this time in Shiraz, Mulla Sadra began writing treatises that synthesised wide-ranging strands of existing Islamic systems of thought. The ideas of this school, which may be seen as a continuation of the School of Isfahan of Mir Damad and Shaykh-i Bahai. Mulla Sadra’s influence remained limited in the generations after his death, it increased markedly during the 19th century, when his ideas helped inspire a renewed Akhbari tendency within twelver Shi’ism. In recent times, his works have been studied in Iran, Europe and America.

According to Mulla Sadra, ‘existence precedes the essence and is thus principal since something has to exist first then have an essence.” It is notable that for Mulla Sadra this was a question that specifically applied to God and God’s position in the universe, especially in the context of reconciling God’s position in the Qur’an verses cosmological philosophies of Islam’s Golden Era.

Mulla Sadra held the view that Reality is Existence. He believed that an essence was by itself a general notion, and therefore and does not, in reality, exist.

To paraphrase Mulla Sadra’s Existential Cosmology: Existence is the one and only reality. Existence and reality are therefore identical. Existence is the all comprehensive reality and there is nothing outside of it. Essences which are negative require some sort of reality and therefore exist. Existence therefore cannot be denied. Therefore existence cannot be negated. As Existence cannot be negated, it is self-evident that it Existence is God. God should not be searched for in the realm of existence but it is the basis of all existence. It should be noted that reality in Arabic is ‘Al-Haq’, and is stated in the Qur’an as one of the Names of God.

To paraphrase Mulla Sadra’s Logical Proof of God:

  • There is a being
  • This being is a perfection beyond all perfection
  • God is Perfect and Perfection is existence
  • Existence is a singular and simple reality
  • That singular reality is graded in intensity in a scale of perfection
  • That scale must have a limit point, a point of greatest intensity and of greatest existence
  • Therefore God exists

Mulla Sadra argues that all contingent beings require a cause which puts their balance between existence and non-existence in favour of the former; nothing can come into existence without a cause. Since the world is therefore contingent upon this First Act, not only must God exist, but God must also be responsible for this First Act of creation.

Mulla Sadra also believed that a casual regress was impossible because the casual chain could only work in the matter that had a beginning, middle, and end.

  • A pure cause at the beginning
  • A pure effect at the end
  • A nexus of cause and effect

For Mulla Sadra, the casual ‘End’ is as pure as its corresponding ‘Beginning’, which instructively places God as ¬†both the beginning and the end of the creative act. God’s capacity to measure the intensity of Existential Reality by measuring Casual Dynamics’ and their Relationship to their Origin, as opposed to knowing their effects, provided the Islamically-acceptable framework for God’s Judgement of Reality without being tainted by its Particulars. This was an ingenious solution to a question that had haunted Islamic philosophy for almost one thousand years: How is God able to judge sin without knowing sin?

The Primary of Existence solution provides the capacity for God’s Judgement without God being directly, or indirectly, affected by the evil being judged. God does not need to possess Sin to know Sin: God is able to judge the intensity of Sin as God perceived Existence.

Mulla Sadra brought “a new philosophical insight in dealing with the nature of reality and created “a major transition from essentialism to existentialism” in Islamic philosophy, although his existentialism should not be too readily compared to Western existentialism. He was the most prominent Iranian Shia Islamic philosopher, theologian and Alim who led the Iranian cultural renaissance in the 17th century.

According to Oliver Leaman, Mulla Sadra is arguably the single most important and influential philosopher in the Muslim world in the last four hundred years. He died in Basra after the Hajj in the year 1640 and was buried in present-day Iraq. He is buried in the city of Najaf, Iraq.


September 11

The Late Ayatullah Sayyid Hossein Borujerdi

2014-09-10 22.20.50Grand Ayatullah Sayyed Hossein Borujerdi was born in March 1875 in the city of Borujerd in Lorestan Province in Iran, hence the surname. His family traced its lineage 30 generations to Hassan ibn Ali the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (S). His father Sayyed Ali Tabataba’i was a religious scholar in Borujerd and his mother, Sayyidah Agha Beygum was the daughter of Sayyid Mohammad Ali Tabataba’i.

After entering elementary school at the age of seven, Sayyid Husayn’s father realized his talent for learning and sent him to Nurbakhsh seminary in Borujerd. At the age of 11 he began his education at the theological schools of his city, under his father Sayyed Ali. Then in 1892-93 he went to the theological school of Isfahan to continue his education. In the ten years that he studied in Isfahan he completed his sutuh studies and was also granted the level of Ijtihad from his teachers, and began teaching Usul. Around the age of 30 Ayatullah Borujerdi moved from Isfahan to the theological seminary of Najaf, Iraq to continue his education.

In his youth, Ayatullah Borujerdi studied under a number of Shia scholars¬†of fiqh such as Ayatullah Mohammad Kazem Khorasani and Aqa Zia Iraqi, and specialised in fiqh. He studied the fiqahat of all the Islamic schools of thought, not just his own, along with the science of rijal. He had a unique method in ‘Ilm al-rijal by studying the chain of narrators of hadiths in the Four books independently from narrations. Through this method, he made great contributions to later researches.

Ayatullah revived the hawza of Qum in 1945 which had waned after the death in 1937 of its founder, Abdul-Karim Ha’eri Yazdi. When Sayyid Abul Hasan Isfahani died the following year, the majority of Shi’a accepted Ayatullah Borujerdi as Marja’.

He used a simple language in his lessons and avoided unnecessary extra discussions. Like early Shia Ulama such as Shaykh al-Mufid and Sayyid Murtada, Shaykh al-Tusi, Shaykh Tabarsi and Allamah Bahr al-‘Ulum, he had a comprehensive knowledge of different Islamic studies. He also studied jurisprudential verdicts of Shia and Sunni faqihs of the past.

He was a sincere believer. Whenever he was praised by others for his contributions to Shia community, he would say: “purify your acts from hypocrisy, for the watcher (Allah) is very sharp-sighted.”

He never abandoned education and acquisition of knowledge until the last moments of his life. He used to say, “I never get tired of studying, rather when I get tired, I get relaxed by studying.”

He would tolerate disrespectful behaviour of his critics and forgave them. This was one of the reasons that made him a unique religious leader.

Ayatullah Borujerdi vowed not to become angry, otherwise he would fast for one year.

According to Shaheed Motahhari, Ayatullah Borujerdi was eager to establish schools with religious management and doing so, the new generation would become religious and knowledgeable. He thus spent a considerable amount of religious tax for establishing such schools.

The city of Borujerd lacked electricity, but by the order of Ayatullah and the help of religious people, they constructed a power plant. Under his leadership, many religious scholars were sent to other cities and countries to preach religious beliefs and to fulfill religious needs of people.

Many charitable and religious organisations were built at his time, some of those are as follows: A’zam Mosque in the holy Shrine of Lady Ma’sumah in Qum, Baghdad Mosque, a hospital in Najaf, Neku’i Hospital in Qum, Islamic Centre Hamburg, Germany.

In the last days of his life, Professor Muris (French physician) came from Paris to visit him for his health issues. Before he visited Professor Muris, he asked for a comb to tidy his beard first. His friends told him it was not necessary since he was sick, but he answered, “I am the religious leader of Shia and it is not accepable that I visit a non-Muslim with untidy look.”

Ayatullah Borujerdi died in Qum on March 30, 1961. The Shah proclaimed three days of mourning and attended a memorial service in his honor.

September 4

The Late Ayatullah Murtadha Mutahhari

mutahhariAyatullah Murthadha Mutahhari, born on Feburary 2, 1920 in Fariman, near Mashhad, was one of the most versatile Islamic Scholars and prolific writers of recent times. He was deeply rooted in traditional learning and enamoured of its exponents.

He was a thinker who had fully absorbed a rigorous philosophical training. His work is marked by a philosophical clarity that particularly qualified him to deal with the fundamental problem of religious thought that forms the subject-matter of this book.

Ayatullah Mutahhari received his elementary education in theology from his father, Shaykh Muhammad Husayn in his home town, Fariman. When the Ayatullah was twelve years of age he joined the Educational Centre at Mashhad and pursued his studies there for five years. Then he proceeded to Qum, the great centre of Islamic Education.

He stayed there for fifteen years and completed his education in Islamic Beliefs and Jurisprudence under the supervision of the renowned philosopher Allama Muhammad Husayn Tabatabai, Imam Khomeini and many other distinguished scholars. The particular school of philosophy to which Mutahhari adhered was that of Mulla Sadra which is a theosophy called ‘sublime philosophy’. Then he migrated to Tehran and started teaching philosophy and Islamic Ideology in Seminaries and later at Tehran University.

During the period of his education the Ayatullah felt that the communists wanted to change the sacred religion of Islam and destroy its very spirit by mixing their atheistic views with the Islamic philosophy and interpreting the verses of the Qur’an in a materialistic manner. Of course, communism was the only thing which received Ayatullah’s attention.

He also wrote an exegesis of the Qur’an, philosophy, ethics, sociology, history and many other subjects. In all his writings the real object he had in view was to give replies to the objections raised by others against Islam, to point out the shortcomings of other schools of thought and to manifest the greatness of Islam.

Ayatullah Mutahhari wrote assiduously and continuously from his student days right up to 1979, the year of his assassination. Much of his work had been published in and outside of Iran. He has written a number of books not in accordance with his personal interest or predilection but with his perception of its need. Wherever a book was lacking in some vital topic of contemporary Islamic interest Mutahhari sought to supply it.

Ayatullah Mutahhari is one of two or three great contemporary Islamic thinkers of Iran. When the Islamic Revolution of Iran triumphed in 1978, Mutahhari was made Chairman of the Revolutionary Council.

The activities of the Ayatullah were intolerable for the followers of the atheistic schools and they, therefore, decided to remove him from the scene by terroristic methods. Eventually they succeeded on the 1st of May, 1979. He was shot in the street by an assassin after a meeting of the Revolutionary Council. His martyrdom was a great tragedy.

In his condolence message, Imam Khomeini said: “In him I have lost a dear son. I am mourning the death of one who was the fruition of my life.” Over a million Muslims escorted his funeral. He is laid to rest in Qum in the precincts of the Holy Shrine of Bibi Ma’suma.

September 3

The Late Ayatullah Mirza Muhammad Ali Isfahani Shahabadi

2014-08-30 23.41.53The late Ayatullah Mirza Muhammad Ali Isfahani Shahabadi, a jurist, methodist, gnostic and prominent philosopher, son of the late Ayatullah Mirza Muhammad Jawad Husayn-abadi Isfahani, was born in Isfahan in 1292 L.H.

After finishing his preliminary learning in Isfahan and Tehran, he travelled to study in the theological circles of Najaf Ashraf and Samarra’ (in Iraq). There his tutors were great scholars, such as the late writer of al-Jawahir, the Akhund Khurasai and Shari’at Isfahani. He soon attained to the degree of Ijtihad. He reached a high position of fiqh, philosophy and gnosticism, and he taught these branches of knowledge. His class was one of the most powerful scholarly circles in Samarra’. After returning from Iraq, he settled first in Tehran, then he moved to the sacred town of Qum, where he dwelt for seven years. During his stay in Qum, Imam Khomeini (May Allah be pleased with him and send peace upon him) benefitted so much from his lessons on ethics and gnosticism.

The Imam of the nation in many places in this book (Adabus Salat – The Disciplines of the Prayer) and in his other books and writings refers to this great teacher with utmost respect and esteem, and relates his scholarly, emissions. Besides teaching different branches of knowledge and educating his distinguished disciples, the late Shahabadi wrote many books in different fields.

At the age of seventy-seven years, that man of knowledge and action died in the year of 1369 L.H. in Tehran, and was buried in the neighbourhood of the shrine of ‘Abdul ‘Azim al Hasani, in the graveyard of the late Shaykh Abul Futuh ar-Razi. May Allah resurrect him together with the Prophet Muhammad and his pure progeny.

Ref: Adabus Salat – The Disciplines of the Prayer