Mulla Sadra’s Works


Mulla Sadra was a prolific writer. He did not write at all during his time of seclusion and asceticism and, after that, he was continually involved in teaching and training philosophy students who attended his classes from all over Iran; however, at all times, when traveling or at home, he seized all possible chances to write books and long or short treatises in philosophy. As a result, he created a varied, useful, and inferential philosophical collection of writings in different forms and with different purposes.

Some of his books are textbooks and quite useful for gaining a preliminary or complementary acquaintance with philosophy and gnosis on the basis of his specific school of thought, Transcendent Philosophy. Some of his other books are on the explanation and demonstration of his own theories, and some others can be considered as being on human ethics and manners.

He has devoted an important part of his works to the interpretation of the Qu’ran, and although he died before he could write a philosophical and gnostic commentary on the whole Qu’ran, his writings on this subject have certain features which have made them unique among similar interpretations.

Mulla Sadra, who was a Muhaddith (an expert in hadith and traditions quoted from the Prophet (p.b.u.h) and his descendants), also wrote an important work on hadith. This is a commentary on a famous book of hadiths, called Usul al-kafi, by Kulayni Razi, and Mulla Sadra commented on the chapter about ‘Usul’; however, perhaps because he died, it was never finished. He also wrote two books on logic, called Tanquih al-Mantiq and Risalah fil Tasawwur wa Tasdiq.

Those of his well-known books which have been published so far include the following:

1. al-Hikmat al-muta‘aliyah fi’l-asfar al-arba‘ah

The discussions in this book start with the issues of being and quiddity and continue with the issues of motion, time, perception, substance, and accident. A part is devoted to proving the existence of God and His attributes, and it ends with a discussion of man’s soul and the subjects of death and resurrection. The novelty of this interesting and important book is its classification of its themes in the mould of 4 stages of gnostics’ spiritual and mystic journeys, with each stage considered as one journey. Therefore, this book begins with existents and continues with the Hereafter, God, and the mustered people, because a gnostic’s journey in the first stage is from his self and people towards God; in the second and third stages from God to God (from His Essence to His Attributes and Acts); and in the fourth stage from God to people. The original book is in 4 big volumes which have been published in nine small volumes several times. [1]

In fact, this book is, a philosophical encyclopedia and a collection of important issues discussed in Islamic philosophy, enriched by the ideas of preceding philosophers, from Pythagoras to Mulla Sadras contemporaries, and containing related responses on the basis of new and strong arguments. All these features have made it the book of choice for teaching at higher levels of philosophical education in scientific and religious centers.

The composition of this book gradually started from about 1015 A.H (1605 A.D), and its completion took almost 25 years, till some time after 1040 A.H (1630 A.D).

2. al-Tafsir (A Commentary upon the Qur’an)

During his life, Mulla Sadra interpreted some of the chapters (Surahs) of the Qur’an. In the last decade of his life, he started his work from the beginning of this Holy Book in order to compile all his interpretations into a complete work, but death did not allow him to finish this task. The names of the chapters he interpreted in an approximate chronological order are follows: 1. chapter 57: al-Hadid, 2. Commentary on Ayat al-kursi (chapter 2: al-Baqarah), 3. chapter 32: Sajdah, 4. chapter 99: al-Zilzal, 5. verses al-Nur, al-Yasin, al-Tariq, 6. chapter 87: al-A‘la, 7. chapter 56: al-Waqi‘ah, 8. chapter 1: al-Fatihah, 9. chapter 62: al-Jumu‘ah, and 10. chapter 2: al-Baqarah.

In the bibliography of Mulla Sadra’s book, each of the above has appeared as an independent work, but we have cited them here all under the single title of Commentary upon the Qur’an. He has also two other books on the Qur’an, called Mafatih al-qayb and Asrar al-ayat, which are considered as introductions to the interpretation of the Qur’an, and represent the philosophy behind this task.

3. Sharh al-hidayah

This work is a commentary on a book called Hidayah which was written on the basis of Peripatetic philosophy, and was previously used for giving a preliminary familiarity with philosophy to students. However, it is rarely used today.

4. al-Mabda’ wa’l-ma‘ad

Also called al-Hikmat al-muta‘aliyyah, this book is a summary of the second half of Asfar. It does not include any of the discussions that Mulla Sadra viewed as useless and unnecessary. He called this book the Beginning and the End due to the fact that he believed that philosophy means the knowledge of the Origin and the Return. This book is mainly on issues related to theology and eschatology, and is considered one of Mulla Sadra’s important books.

5. al-Mazahir

This book is similar to al-Mabda’ wa’l-ma‘ad, but is shorter. It is, in fact, a handbook to familiarize readers with Mulla Sadra’s philosophy.

6. Huduth al-‘alam

For many philosophers the issue of the origination of the world is both a complicated and debatable problem. In this book, in addition to quoting the theories of pre- and post-Socratic philosophers as well as those of some Muslim philosophers, Mulla Sadra has proved his solid theory through the theory of the trans-substantial motion.

7. Iksir al-‘arifin

As the name suggests, this is a gnostic and educational book.

8. al-Hashr

The central theme of this book is the quality of existents’ resurrection in the Hereafter. Here, Mulla Sadra has expressed the theory of the resurrection of objects and animals in the Hereafter.

9. al-Masha‘ir

This is a short but profound and rich book on existence and its related subjects. Professor Henry Corbin has translated it into French and written an introduction to it. It has also been recently translated into English.

10. al-Waridat al-qalbiyyah

In this book, Mulla Sadra presented a brief account of important philosophical problems. It seems to be an inventory of the Divine inspirations and illuminations he had received all through his life.

11. Iqad al-na’imin

This book is about theoretical and actual gnosis, and on the science of monotheism. It presents some guidelines and instructional points to wake up the sleeping.

12. al-Masa’il al-qudsiyyah

This booklet deals mainly with issues such as existence in mind and epistemology. Here, Mulla Sadra has combined epistemology and ontology.

13. ‘Arshiyyah

Also called al-Hikmat al-‘arshiyyah, this is another reference book about Mull Sadra’s philosophy. Like in al-Mazahir, he has tried to demonstrate the Beginning and the End concisely but Precisely. This book has been translated by Professor James Winston Maurice has translated this book into English and written an informative introduction to it.

14. al-Shawadhid al-rububiyyah

This philosophical book has been mainly written in the Illuminationist style, and represents Mulla Sadra’s ideas during the early periods of his philosophical thoughts.

15. Sharh-i shifa

Mulla Sadra has written this book as a commentary upon some of the issues discussed in the part on theology (Ilahiyyat) in Ibn Sina’s al-Shifa. Sharh-i shifa has also been published in the form of glosses clearly expressing Mulla Sadra’s ideas in this regard.

16. Sharh-i hikmat al-ishraq

This work is a useful and profound commentary or collection of glosses on Suhrawardi’s Hikmat al-ishraq and Qutb al-Din Shirazi’s commentary upon it.

17. Ittihad al-‘aqil wa’l-ma‘qul

This is a monographic treatise on the demonstration of a complicated philosophical theory, the Union of the Intellect and the Intelligible, which no one could prove and rationalize prior to Mulla Sadra.

18. Ajwabah al-masa’il

This book consists of at least three treatises in which Mulla Sadra responds to the philosophical questions posed by contemporary philosophers.

19. Ittisaf al-mahiyyah bi’l wujud

This monographic treatise deals with the problem of existence and its relation to quiddities.

20. al-Tashakhkhus

In this book, Mulla Sadra explained the problem of individuation and clarified its relation to existence and its principiality, which is one of the most fundamental principles he has propounded.

21. Sarayan nur wujud

This treatise deals with the quality of the descent or diffusion of existence from the True Source to existents (quiddities).

22. Limmiyyah ikhtisas al-mintaqah

A treatise on logic, this work focuses on the cause of the specific form of the sphere.

23. Khalq al-a‘mal

This treatise is about man’s determinism and free will.

24. al-Qada’ wa’l-qadar

This treatise is about the problem of Divine Decree and Destiny.

25. Zad al-musafir

In this book (which is probably the same as Zad al-salik), Mulla Sadra has tried to demonstrate resurrection and the Hereafter using a philosophical approach.

26. al-Shawahid al-rububiyyah

This treatise is not related to Mulla Sadra’s book of al-Shawahid al-rububiyyah. It is an inventory of his particular theories and opinions which he has been able to express in philosophical terms.

27. al-Mizaj

Mulla Sadra wrote this treatise on the reality of man’s temperament and its relation to the body and soul.

28. Mutashabihat al-Qur’an

This treatise consists of Mulla Sadra’s interpretations of those Qura’nic verses which have secret and complicated meanings. It is considered to be one of the chapters of Mafatih al-qayb.

29. Isalat-i ja‘l-i wujud

This book is on existence and its principiality as opposed to quiddities.

30. al-Hashriyyah

A treatise on resurrection and people’s presence in the Hereafter, it deals with man’s being rewarded in Paradise and punished in Hell.

31. al-alfad al-mufradah

This book is used as an abridged dictionary for interpreting words in the Qur’an.

32. Radd-i shubahat-i Iblis

Here, Mulla Sadra has explained Satan’s seven paradoxes and provided appropriate answers.

33. Sih Asl

This is Mulla Sadra’s only book in Persian. Here, by resorting to the main three moral principles, he deals with moral and educational subjects related to scientists, and advises contemporary philosophers.

34. Kasr al-asnam al-jahiliyyah

The title of this book means ‘demolishing the idols of the periods of barbarism and man’s ignorance’. His intention here is to condemn and disgrace impious sophists.

35. al-Tanqih

In this book, Mulla Sadra deals concisely with formal logic. It is a good book to use for instruction.

36. al-Tasawwur wa’l-tasdiq

This treatise deals with issues of the philosophy of logic and enquires into concept and judgment.

37. Diwan shi‘r (Collection of Poems)

Mulla Sadra wrote a number of scholarly and mystic poems in Persian which have been compiled in this book.

38. A Collection of Scientific-Literary Notes

In his youth, Mulla Sadra studied many philosophical and gnostic books; moreover, due to his poetic taste, he had access to the poetry books written by different poets and was interested in them. Therefore, some short notes of his own poetry, the statements of philosophers and gnostics, and scientific issues remain from his youth, and comprise a precious collection of juvenalia. It is said that this book can familiarize the readers with subtleties of Mulla Sadra’s nature. 

These notes have been compiled in two different collections, and it is likely that the smaller collection was compiled on one of his journeys.

39. Letters

Except for a few letters exchanged between Mulla Sadra and his master, Mir Damad, nothing else from their correspondence is extant. These letters have been presented at the beginning of the 3-volume book of Mulla Sadra’s Life, Character and School, which have been written in Persian. This book has also been translated into English.

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If we consider the above 39 books along with his 12-volume books of interpretation, which we referred to as Tafasir (number 2), as well as with his Mafatih al-qayb and Asrar al-ayat, we have cited more than 50 of his works so far. Some other books have also been attributed to him. However, we will not refer to their names, since they have either been discussed in other more comprehensive books, or Mulla Sadra’s authorship has been denied.

One of the problems which has raised a lot of arguments concerning Mulla Sadra’s books is the place and time of their composition. Most of his books carry no date of composition, and, in order to know about this, one must refer to certain documents and other evidence. For example, the composition dates of some of his books are implied in his al-Mabda’ wa’l-ma‘ad, al-Hashr and interpretations of some of the Surahs (chapters) of the Qur’an.

For instance, al-Mabda’ wa’l-ma‘ad was written in 1019 A.H (1609 A.D), Interpretation of Ayat al-kursi in about 1023 A.H (1613 A.D); Kasr al-asnam in 1027 A.H (1617 A.D); Iksir al-‘arifin in 1031 A.H (1621 A.D); the treatise of al-Hashr in 1032 A.H (1622 A.D); the treatise of Ittihad al-‘aqil wa’l-ma‘qul in about 1037 A.H (1627 A.D); and Mafatih al-qayb in 1029 A.H (1619 A.D). The dates of his other books can only be reckoned approximately.

In order to know about their place of composition, we must take into consideration that Mulla Sadra went to Qom and its suburbs from Shiraz or some where else before 1015 A.H (1605 A.D), and then moved from Qom to Shiraz in about 1040 A.H (1630 A.D). Therefore, the books which he wrote before 1040 A.H must have been written in Qom or some where in its vicinity, unless he wrote some of these books and treatises on his long journeys.



[1].The last and most complete edition of this book, along with some critical corrections, has been published by Mulla Sadra Publications Foundation, Tehran, Iran.