From Chair of Mastership to Corner of Seclusion



Mulla Sadra must have returned to Shiraz in about 1010 A.H (1602 A.D). He had inherited a great fortune and many estates from his father, of which he had to take control. This might have been one of the reasons for his return to his birthplace.

He had an immense fortune, possessed an enormous ocean of knowledge, especially, of philosophy, and had presented a number of innovative ideas. Therefore, he started teaching in Shiraz, and many students from different parts of the country attended his classes. However, his rivals, who, like many philosophers and theologians, blindly followed previous philosophers, and felt that their social status had been endangered, started ill-treating him, ridiculing his new ideas, and insulting him in order to defend their ideas or perhaps out of jealousy.

Such bad behavior and pressures were not compatible with Mulla Sadra’s delicate soul. On the other hand, his faith, religious beliefs, and piety did not allow him to react and deal with them in the same way. Thus he left Shiraz in resentment and went to Qom, which had not yet turned into an important scientific and philosophical center. This religious city is the burial place of the Lady Masumah, the daughter of the seventh Shiite Imam, Imam Musa Kazim (as), one of the descendents of the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh), and the sister of Imam Reza (the eighth Shiite Imam). A number of great men and scholars have been buried in Qom. This city has a long history (more than 15 centuries), and is said to have been called Quriana before the advent of Islam. [1] Mulla Sadra did not stay in Qom itself and, because of its hot and bad weather, or perhaps because of the similarity between the social conditions there and those in Shiraz, he stayed in a village called Kahak in the suburbs. The remains of his magnificent house can still be seen in this village.

Mulla Sadra’s depression and spiritual breakdown made him put teaching and discussion away for some time, and, as he has written in the introduction of his great book, al-Asfar, he started spending his life in worship, fasting, and ascetic practice. This chance, which had been in fact forced upon him by fate, aided him in going through the spiritual and mystic stages of spirituality and even sanctity. This period is considered the golden time of his life from a spiritual point of view. In spite of being depressed and sorrow stricken, he managed to reach the stage of the unveiling and intuition of the hidden or unseen, and see philosophical realities with the hearts eye rather than that of the mind. It was this very accomplishment that contributed to the perfection of his school of philosophy. His seclusion and refusal to write and teach continued until, at the stations of unveiling and intuition of the unseen, he was ordered to return to the society and begin writing, teaching, disseminating and publicizing his school of thought and findings.

If we consider the length of his period of silence and seclusion as about 5 years, it finished in about 1015 A.H (1607 A.D). Once again he took his pen in his hand and started the composition of some books, including his monumental work, al-Asfar,[2] which is considered a philosophical encyclopedia, and wrote its first part on the issues related to existence.

He stayed in Qom, founded a philosophical center there, trained several students, and, during all this time, was busy either writing his famous book or composing treatises in response to contemporary philosophers. Two of his well-known students were called Fayyadh Lahiji and Faydh Kashani, who were both his son-in-laws and propagated his school of thought. We will give an account of his books in the part related to his works.

Mulla Sadra returned to Shiraz in about 1039 or 1040 A.H (1632 A.D). Some believe that the reason for his return was the invitation he received from the ruler of Fars province, Allah Werdi Khan. This was because he had finished the construction of the school which his father, Imam Quli Khan, had started, and prepared it for teaching philosophy, and due to his previous devotion towards Mulla Sadra, he invited this great man to Shiraz to take its scientific supervision in hand.

Here, Mulla Sadra was involved in teaching philosophy, interpretation, and hadith. We understand from his book of Si Asl (Three Principles), which was apparently written at that time in Shiraz in Persian, and which harshly attacked the scholars of that time, including philosophers, theologians, jurisprudents, and physicists, that in that period, like in his first period of residence in Shiraz, Mulla Sadra was under the pressure of the slanders and vicious conducts of the scientists of his city. This time, however, he had become stronger and decided to stand against their pressures and establish, introduce, and publicize his own school of philosophy.

Mulla Sadra’s frequent pilgrimages to the Kaba in Mecca are one of the aspects of his eventful life. This act of worship and religious pilgrimage is called Haj and Umra (lesser pilgrimage). It has been written that Mulla Sadra went on seven (pay attention to the holy figure ‘7’) pilgrimages (apparently on foot). Nowadays, in spite of the comforts offered by traveling by plane, there are still some difficulties associated with going on this pilgrimage. Nevertheless, four hundred years ago, they made this journey on horse or camel and through the dry central desert of Saudi Arabia. Therefore, the Haj pilgrimage was also considered a kind of ascetic practice. On this journey, which was made in the form of big Caravans of hajjis (Mecca pilgrims) moving towards Mecca, some people died from heat, thirst, or exhaustion. Thus, making such a journey, which meant traveling for some thousands of kilometers on foot, certainly involved much more hardships than it does today, and required a strong will and profound faith. To add such an endeavor to his other ascetic practices, Mulla Sadra set out on this way seven times, and eventually, on his seventh journey to Mecca, fell ill in the city of Basra in Iraq and passed away, leaving this world for those who were obsessed by it.

If we consider that he set out from Shiraz, his rout was the waterway from the eastern coast of Persian Gulf towards its western coast, and to the port of Basra port, which was a part of Iran at that time.

It is commonly said that Mulla Sadra passed away in 1050 A.H/1640 A.D; however, we believe that a more exact date is 1045 A.H/1635 A.D, which his grandson, Ilm al-Huda, one of the stars of the sky of knowledge of his time and the son of ‘Allamah Faydh Kashani, has recorded in his notes. The sudden discontinuation of some of his compositions, such as Interpretation of Qu’ran and Sharh-i usul kafi (Muhadith Kulayni), in about 1044 A.H/1634 A.D are good pieces of evidence supporting this claim. Mulla Sadra died in Basra, but according to the Shiite tradition, he was taken to Najaf (in Iraq), which houses the tomb of Imam Ali (as), the vicegerent, cousin, and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh), and the first leader of Shiites, and, as his grandson, Ilm al-Huda, says, he was buried in the left side of the court of Imam Ali’s (as) harram (sacred shrine).




[1]. Tavernier’s travel account (Persian version, p. 81)

[2]. It took him a long time to write this book, and he finished its final part in the last years of his life.