Shiraz is a historical city in the Fars province of Iran. The ruins of Takht-e Jamshid or Perspolis (a monumental palace which was destroyed and burnt by Alexander the great) are in the vicinity of this city. In Mulla Sadra's time, the Safavid dynasty ruled Iran. These kings granted independence to Fars province, which was ruled by the king's brother. It is said that Mulla Sadra's father Khwajah Ibrahim Qawami, served as the minister of the ruler of Fars.

He was a knowledgeable and extremely faithful politician. He was rich and held a high position, but had no children. However, after much prayer and supplication to the Divine Portal, God gave him a son whom they named Muhammed (Sadr al-Din, 979 A.H/1571 A.D), but called Sadra. Later he was nicknamed Mulla, that is, great scientist. In the years to come, his title of Mulla Sadra became more famous than his real name and replaced it on people's tongues.

Sadr al-Din Muhammed (or Sadra) was the only child of the minister of the ruler of the vast region of Fars and enjoyed the highest standards of a noble life. It was a common tradition at that time for aristocrats' children to be educated by private teachers in their own palaces. Sadra was a very intelligent, strict, energetic, studious, and curious boy and mastered all the lessons related to Persian and Arabic literature, as well as the art of calligraphy, during a very short time. Following the old traditions of his time, he might have also learnt horse riding, hunting, and fighting techniques. Mathematics, astronomy, medicine (to some extent), jurisprudence, Islamic law, logic, and philosophy were also among the courses that youngsters were supposed to pass at that time. The young Sadra, acquired something in all those fields of knowledge; however, he was mainly interested in philosophy and, particularly, in gnosis.

The notes left from his youth clearly reveal his interest in gnostic literature in general, and the Persian poems of Farid al-Din Attar (1119-1193 A.D), Jalal al-Din Rumi, known as Mevlana (1207-1273 A.D), Iraqi (d.c. 1288 A.D), and Ibn-Arabi's (1165-1240 A.D) sophism, in particular.

He was certainly educated in Shiraz for some time, but the main part of his education was most probably completed in the capital of that time, Qazwin. This is because the ruler of Fars came to the throne after the death of the Shah, who was his brother, and, inevitably, moved to Qazwin (985 A.H/1577 A.D), thus it seems highly improbable that his minister and counselor would not have accompanied him, or have done so, but left his family and only son behind.

At this time, Mulla Sadra became familiar with two prominent geniuses and scientists, that is, Shaykh Baha al-Din Amili and Mir Damad, who were not only unique in their own time, but also unparalleled by any scientist appearing during the 4 centuries afterwards. Mulla Sadra started studying under them and, through his outstanding talents, became the best of all their students in a very short time.

Shaykh Baha was not only an expert in Islamic sciences (particularly in jurisprudence, hadith, interpretation, theology, and gnosis), but also a master of astronomy, theoretical mathematics, engineering, architecture, medicine, and some secret supernatural fields of knowledge; however, it seems that, due to his ideas, he did not teach philosophy and theology.

The other genius, Mir Damad, knew all the sciences of his time, but his domain of teaching was limited to jurisprudence, hadith, and, mainly, philosophy. He was a master of both the Peripatetic and Illuminationist branches of Islamic philosophy and considered himself as an equal to Ibn-Sina and Farabi, and the master of all philosophers following them. Mulla Sadra obtained most of his knowledge of philosophy and gnosis from Mir Damad, and always introduced him as his true teacher and spiritual guide.

When the Safavid capital moved to Isfahan (1006 A.H/1598 A.D)[1], Shaykh Baha al-Din and Mir Damad, accompanied by their students, moved there, too, and started their task of spreading knowledge. Mulla Sadra, who was about 26 or 27 years old at that time, no long as needed instruction and had become a master himself, was thinking about establishing new philosophical principles and founding his famous school of thought. All the details of his life are not clear. We do not know how long he stayed in Isfahan and where he went after that. Apparently, he had moved from Isfahan before 1010 A.H. and returned to his own town, Shiraz. His father's estates and properties were in Shiraz, and although he gave a lot of them to the poor, a part of them still exists in Shiraz and Fars in the form of properties consecrated to pious uses.

Mulla Sadra's life in Shiraz and his later migrations comprise another period of his life which will be discussed in the next chapter.





[1]. Two years after Descartes's birth in 1596 A.D.