Mullā Ṣadrā and Eschatology
  • Book Title:
 Mulla Sadra And Eschatology
  • Book Author:
Eiyad S. al-KutubiMULLĀ ṢADRĀ SHĪRĀZĪ
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78
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MULLĀ ṢADRĀ AND ESCHATOLOGY – Book Sample

Introduction – MULLĀ ṢADRĀ AND ESCHATOLOGY

Is there life after death? This is a question that people have wondered about since the birth of civilization. The prevailing answer that has been proclaimed by different cultures and religions is that there is an afterlife of one sort or another. Various religions presented different conceptions of the afterlife, and Islam is among those religions that emphasize the afterlife as a continued existence of each individual after death.

The affirmation of the afterlife as a continued existence, however, would raise questions about its nature and how it is related to the physical and psychological natures individuals have before death. The fate of human beings was usually discussed by Muslim theologians and philosophers under the title of “the Return” (al-ma ‘ad), a topic frequently mentioned in the Quran and one of the fundamental beliefs of Islam.

 It means that human beings will continue their lives after death as individuals. Muslim philosophers and theologians accepted the Return as a revealed truth, believing in the compatibility of revealed truth and reason, and generally thinking that there is no contradiction between them, and they directed their investigations towards understanding its nature and how it would be actua­lized.

 They based their eitplanations of the nature of the afterlife on their understanding of the nature of the human being, which is primarily the prevalent view inherited from the Greeks, namely, that the human being is composed of two components: soul and body.

 The difference between these components is that the soul is immaterial and naturally indestructible, while the body, the carrier of the soul, is material and corruptible. Thus, the dominant views among Muslim philosophers concerning the afterlife are the following:

(1) individuals continue their lives in virtue of their souls after the death of their bodies and

(2) the afterlife includes both the soul and the body by reuniting the soul with either a new created body or with its resurrected body.

The Persian philosopher 􀂤adr al-Din MUQamrnad b. Ibrahim al-Qawami al-Shinizi (979/1571-1045/1635 or 1050/1640),1 commonly called Mulla 􀂩adra, rejected both views and introduced a novel theory that explains how the afterlife is a continued existence of the present life.

He is one of the central figures in the history of Islamic thought. His writings represent a substantial transfonnation of Muslim Peripatetic philosophy, which was started in the seventh century CE by the translators of Aristotle’s works from Greek into Arabic and continued in the tenth century; culminating in the works of al-Farabi and Avicenna. Although his philosophy is to a certain extent a development of the thought of Avicenna, Suhrawardi and lbn ‘Arabi, he departs from them in three respects:

Firstly, he developed a number of cardinal inter­connected philosophical theories such as the primacy of existence, substantial motion and the principle of individuation. He formulated the conclusions of these theories and presented them as principles (11-1ul).

These principles became the backbone of his philosophy through which he presented a new and original philosophical view concerning the metaphysical understanding of reality and the nature of the human being. Secondly, he was able to employ these inter­connected principles to resolve certain philosophical and theological issues that had occupied Muslim philosophers for centuries, central among which is the belief in the afterlife.

These principles have been either partially presented or misunderstood in most of the existing secondary literature. Thirdly, he was able to integrate the Quran, the Hadith and the assertions of the mystics, especially those of Ibn ‘Arabi, into philosophical discussions, giving his philosophy a unique flavor and showing his originality by transforming philosophical investigations from mere abstract thinking into a living reality.

Sadra wrote many books and in all of them constantly cited the Quran and Hadith, and referred to the sayings and assertions of the mystics. His purpose in doing so was not to support his claims but to show how his philosophical principles explain certain theological beliefs or mystical assertions.

The religious content of Sadra’s thought and his style of writing in using a mystical language are what have attracted most contemporary scholars of Islamic thought to his philosophy. At the same time, these two factors in ô€»dra’s philosophy have led scholars to focus on the religious-mystical aspect of Sadra’s philosophy and eventually undermine his originality as a philosopher who was able to present a complex argument for the Return. The philosophical arguments through which Sadrii was able to explain the meaning of the Return and its detailed sensory

descriptions in the Quran and Hadith not only show his mastery of philosophical inquiries, but also help us to understand his method of doing philosophy, through which he was able to carry the premises of previous theories to conclusions that are radically different from those reached by previous philosophers.

I believe that the appropriate step in presenting Sadra’s philosophy consists of emphasizing the significance and the novelty of his philosophical theories, exploring the ideas of the thinkers who influenced him, and pointing to his Quranic hermeneutics in the light of his philosophical principles.

Probing these aspects of Sadr.i’s thought and discovering their relationship with each other will show that his objective is not so much to justify the scriptural and traditional contents, but to show their philosophical merit.

Sadri who is both a religious thinker and a first-rank philosopher, believed that the religious teachings conveyed in the Quran and Hadith are philosophical discourses that philosophers must consider in honing their arguments and perspectives. By following this approach, one can discover Sadra’s method of engaging philosophy in the discussion of religious beliefs and the insights of the mys­tics.

Those two aspects are what make Sadra stand out as an influential figure in the history of Islamic philosophy, and neither of them alone is sufficient to present him authentically.

My objective in this book is to present the philosophical principles that Sadrii developed and how he applied these principles to throw light on the nature of the human being, through which the Return becomes a necessary ontological event in the evolution of the human being.

Sadra has discussed and presented these philosophical principles in many of his works, but his presentation of these principles varies according to the purpose and the scope of each of his works. He fully presented them in his al-Asjar al-arba’a and Ziid al-musajir, and partially in his other shorter works such as al-Mabda’ wa al-ma ‘ad, Shawahid al-rububiyya, al-l;likma al- ‘arshiyya, and Tafsir al-Quran al-karim (the complete version of these principles is given in Appendix I).

In order to grasp the full picture of Sadrii’s overall objective in developing these principles, one must consult all his works. The variation among his works only reflects his employment of those principles to solve particular philosophical and theological issues.

The Asjar, however, is essential for any research on Sadr.i’s thought, and any study that focuses on his other works without consulting it will lead either to a partial presentation of his thought or a misconstrual of his philosophy as mystical or religious thought.

Moreover, I will take into consideration works of other philosophers whom Mullii Sadra repeatedly mentioned in his writings either to criticize their views or to support his own. There arc a handful of Muslim philosophers whom Sadra has repeatedly mentioned in all of his major works, namely Avicenna, N􀂸ir al-Din al-Tilsi, Suhrawardi, Ibn ‘Arabi, al-Ghazali and Razi.

Therefore, it is essential that one explores their ideas, especially the works of Avicenna, Suhrawardi and lbn ‘Arabi, for the sake of better understanding Sadr.i’s views. What also makes consulting these works of great benefit in distinguishing Sadr.i’s thought from that of his predecessors is that he often paraphrased long passages from his predecessors without mentioning his sources. Usually, Sadra follows this practice to show that the philosophical discussion of previous philosophers is not sufficient to understand a given topic.

However, this practice sometimes misleads readers and researchers into attributing certain arguments to Sadrii that arc not his. On the other hand, when Sadni finds an argument is especially interesting and strong, he usually mentions the source. Furthermore, these sources show Sadr.i’s knowledge of the philosophical and theological theories current during his lifetime.

I organized the content of this study into seven chapters. The objective of Chapter I is to outline the concept of “the Return” (al-ma ‘iid) in the Quran and how earlier Muslim thinkers (theologians and philosophers) expounded its meaning and attempted to resolve its philosophical problems, central among them being the problem of bodily resurrection. This chapter also aims to highlight the methods that Muslim thinkers had followed in discussing the Return and contrast them with Sadra ‘s approach. Consequently, this…

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