Mulla Sadra on Eschatology

Ali Zamani Qumshai

Views on resurrection (al-ma‘ad)

1. A group of philosophers regard “resurrection” to be impossible (mumtani‘) for they hold that man is nothing but the very sensible body whose parts will be disintegrated after death. Their reasoning is based on the impossibility of the return of destroyed (ma‘dum) and the problem of the eater (akil) and the eatable (ma’kul).

Response: First, the return of man does not depend on the return of the destroyed (ma‘dum). Second, according to the Muslim theologians (mutakallimun), the parts of body that are returned in the hereafter, are the very main parts of the body that have been safeguarded by a God Who does not allow them to become a part of another body. It is to be noted that Mulla Sadra has studied the subject from a different aspect and put forward his ideas in this regard that will be discussed later.

2. According to some narrations, Galen had some misgiving about “resurrection”. He was not sure whether the human soul is the very body that is perished following the death, or is it an immaterial essence that subsists even in the posthumous state?

3. Muslim theologians have accepted resurrection and they have regarded the return of the destroyed to be impossible. They have accordingly stated: “Man will not be perished with the destruction of his corporeal body, because his ingredients and real material parts are always immortal.”

Mulla Sadra, however, disagreed with this standpoint of theologians and asserted: “If resurrection is what the theologians says, then the return is, therefore, to this world rather than the next world, and the next world is the place of extinction rather than the place of subsistence. Thus, the next world is just another world similar to this world.”

4. Although philosophers and the religious scholars have admitted the reality of resurrection, they are in disagreement over its quality. A group of scholars believes that resurrection is merely bodily, whereas another group regards it to be intellectual and spiritual. On the other hand, the great philosophers, the exalted gnostics, and the companions of the Imams believe that resurrection is both bodily and spiritual.

Mulla Sadra, however, is of the view that human soul and individual material body would identically return. Mawla ‘Ali Hakim in Subul al-rashad il al-ma‘ad states: “I have not seen any Muslim philosopher to believe only in spiritual resurrection.” Then he adds: “When the grave of Shaykh Saduq was destroyed in Ray, I could see his complete corpse. The people of Tehran, too, could see it for twenty days.”

Differences of views on eschatology

1. The eschatology of Muslim people, in general is a general belief in what has entered into the Qur’an and the traditions (ahadith), including the heaven, hell, hovri, etc. all of which can be certainly observed, only in the posthumous state.

2. What have been referred to in the Books and Sunnah about resurrection, heaven, etc. are certain ideal and imaginary matters that have no external existence.

3. All the aforementioned matters possess an external existence. Nevertheless, according to Plato, these are intelligible realities that are located in the world of intellects (‘uqul) and are known as the Platonic Ideas. There is another group who considers these matters as psychic qualities, such as knowledge (‘ilm). The requirements of these qualities are either torment, or joy or grace.

4. Mulla Sadra believes that matters related to the hereafter as well as what is spoken by the religious instruction are all real and external matters and are more perfect, intensified, and powerful than the worldly ones. These existents are comprehended by the Other Worldly senses. The human soul belongs to the world of the (malakut) so he is able to create a body without matter, like that of worldly body that is free of material features. In the Other World, all the human senses are changed into one sense. The human knowledge will be identical with power and life. The day of resurrection and judgment is, indeed, the return of the soul to the same worldly bodies or other similar bodies without any material changes.

5. The eschatology of those who have achieved the highest station of knowledge and certainty, and are regarded to be among those who are firmly rooted in knowledge (rasikhun fil ‘ilm) are superior to the understanding of the common people and even the great scientists and thinkers, “Thus, nobody knows His Reality, except those who are rasikhun fil ‘ilm.”

It is notable that although the revealed books are in agreement about the reality of resurrection, but they are outwardly different.      

Bodily resurrection

Mulla Sadra admitted the fourth view about eschatology and he offered certain principles in his introduction to al-Asfar as follows:

1. The reality and origin of any object is dependent upon existence rather than quiddity (al-mahiyyah) of object  [principiality of existence (al-asalat al-wujud)]. Quiddity is a mentally-posited being (i‘tibari) and immaterial agent and lacks any external existence, such as concepts.

2. The individuation and distinction of any object is dependent upon the particular existence of object, whereas the accidents (‘awarid) of object are regarded as the signs of object, rather than the constituents of the particular existence of object.

3. The reality of existence is a unity, capable of receiving intensity, weakness, precedence, subsequence, perfection, and imperfection.

4. The reality of existence is essentially moveable. The objects of the world, tend towards perfection, and strength. In other words, they are at the state of change every moment.

5. The form of any object not the matter constitutes reality of any object. The reality of a bed is the form of the bed rather than wood, metal, stone, or other materials.

6. The individual unity of objects that is identical with their existence is not similar or of at the same degree.  Any creature in the world possesses a particular status and will not go beyond it. Man, however, is able to tread on the various worlds and achieve exalted stages of dignity and attain the culmination of virtue. According to Ibn Sina (Avicenna), man can be changed into an intelligible world parallel with the sensible world.

7. The individuation and the identity of the human body is, indeed, dependent upon his rational soul, rather than his matter or body.

8. There is a substance in man that is called the faculty of imagination. It is immaterial and is not placed in an organ of the body.

9. The scientific and imaginal forms are not inherent in any part of human soul or body. The human soul has, rather, created them. They are dependent upon the soul, just like the human deeds that are subsisting on him.

10. The material substances and bodily quantitative forms are either originated from a single subject with the help of matter, or merely from the subject and without the co-sharing of matter. It happens that the imaginal forms of man to be broader than the heavens and deserts.

11. Man before being created out of matter and natural elements, possesses a kind of particular ideal existence that preceded his physical existence, “And (remember) when thy Lord brought forth from the Children of Adam, from their reins, their seed, and made them testify of themselves (saying): Am I not your Lord? They said: Yea, verily. We testify. (That was) lest ye should say at the Day of Resurrection: Lo! of this we were unaware. [al-A'raf (7): 172]

The three worlds of the soul

First world: The human soul is natural in the beginning of its origination, “jismaniyyat al-huduth wa ruhaniyyat al-baqa” and is the cause of the body as well. It changes the body from imperfection into perfection, and has the power to exercise free disposal (tasarruf). The other characteristics of the soul are as follows:

a. The soul is essentially dependent upon the body and establishes a unitary natural composition with it.

b. The soul like the body is a potential agent in the beginning of its origination.

c. At any time the soul enjoys a mode and differs in different stages of childhood, youth, and old age, and it changes from the potency to action.

d. The soul in terms of its acts, whether good or bad, moves towards happiness or wickedness and achieve the actuality in a manner that it has chosen itself and will attain, in the next world, the form that it has selected itself.

g. Based on the trans-substantial motion (al-harakat al-jawhariyyah), when the soul could gradually attain its independence, it will separate itself from the body and will ascend from the nature towards the Day of Judgment.

The second world: Owing to the trans-substantial motion and the evolutionary movement the soul will be able to bring about an ideal body along with the natural body in a way that to be able to appear in the scene of the day of judgment. This body is far more powerful and can understand more than that of the physical body.

The third world: Man in the course of mental developments will attain the stage of the pure intellect and will be independent of the body and bodily potential. In this direction, he will attain the station of ‘indiyyat, (at-ness) and will rest close to God. 


Referring to the above-mentioned points, Sadra asserts that a precise and profound examination of these points will lead man to the certain knowledge (al-‘ilm al-yaqin), that is, what will be returned in the next world is the collection of the individual soul and body, in other words, the same worldly body and soul. This is a true belief attended by demonstrative reasoning.

Mulla Sadra casted the above-mentioned principles into the six principles in his Mafatih al-ghayb (Keys to the Unseen World), and concluded, that “what will return in the resurrection day is the same body and soul”, despite the transformation of the material features of the body. He, then refers to the six differences between the worldly and the other-worldly bodily existences, and finally feel proud of himself, by saying that “we are guided with the Virtue of God and the Light of His Prophet(s)”.

In his book al-Mabda’ wal-ma‘ad (The Origin & the Return), Mulla Sadra refers to the complication of the issue of resurrection and the existence of various views in this regard, and asserts that the souls and spirits return to the same worldly bodies or other similar bodies. Furthermore, he examines the reality of the resurrection in the Torah, the Bible, and the Qur’an and says, “The other-worldly bodies lack many of the requirement of the  worldly bodies. The worldly bodies will undergo some corruption and transformation, whereas the other-worldly bodies like the shadow are regarded to be one of the requirements of the spirit.

Mulla Sadra in his precious book, al-Shawahid al-rububiyyah describes the three-fold realm of the world of the soul, as well as the seven principles and states, “what will return in the Resurrection Day is the same worldly individual, “he is the same worldly individual in respect of body and soul”, despite the transformation of his material features. He, in his ideal body is such that if somebody who had seen him in this world and could see him in the other world, too, will say, “he is the same person”. He then inquires into the issue of the worldly and other-worldly bodies and concludes that the latter is simple, luminous,  actually all-perceiving, like the life, and it is unified with the soul and subsistent on the subsistence of the soul.

Resurrection in Mulla Sadra’s interpretation

With a glance at the Qur’anic exegeses of Mulla Sadra we may conclude that he has, everywhere, been loyal to the fundamental principles of the philosophical thought of resurrection, “And give glad tidings (O Muhammed) unto those who believe and do good works; that theirs are Gardens underneath which rivers flow; as often as they are regaled with food of the fruit thereof, they say: This is what was given us aforetime; and it is given to them in resemblance. There for them are pure companions, there for ever they abide”. [al-Baqarah (2):25]. He has regarded the revival of the dead in the world to be the proof for the truthfulness of resurrection. He has, furthermore, based on the Qur’anic verses, responded to the objections raised by the skeptics concerning resurrection. For instance:

1. In some cases, by rejecting the opponents he says, “will resurrection take place”.

2. In another case, he refers to resurrection along with an oath, “because the opponents take an oath to deny, “And they swear by Allah their most binding oaths (that) Allah will not raise up him who dieth. Nay, but it is a promise (binding) upon Him in truth, but most of mankind know not”. [al-Nahl (16):38]. And “Those who disbelieve assert that they will not be raised again. Say (unto them, O Mohammed): Yea, verily, by my Lord! ye will be raised again and then ye will be informed of what ye did; and that is easy for Allah”. [al-Taghabun (64):7]

3. God is capable of mustering the creatures, he, therefore, is capable of resurrection too. They stated, “And they used to say: when we are dead and have become dust and bones, shall we then, forsooth, be raised again”. [al-Waqi'ah (56): 47]; and God replied, “Say (unto them, O Mohammed): Lo! those of old and those of later time”. [al-Waqi'ah (56):49]   

4. With regard to the creation of the world out of non-existence, the creation and their return will not be difficult and impossible, “He it is Who produceth creation, then reproduceth it, and it is easier for Him. His is the Sublime Similitude in the heavens and in the earth. He is the Mighty, the Wise”. [Rum (30): 27]

5. Having the power of creation of the heavens means He is able to resurrect the dead bodies, and that tasks is even higher than this, “Have they not seen that Allah, Who created the heavens and the earth and was not wearied by their creation, is Able to give life to the dead? Aye, He verily is Able to do all things”. [al-Ahqaf (46): 33]    

6. One of the philosophies of resurrection is the allotment of reward for the good doers and torment for the sinners, with the purpose of bringing about justice and equality. “And unto Allah belongeth whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth, that He may reward those who do evil with that which they have done, and reward those who do good with goodness”. [al-Najm (53): 31]  

In his interpretation of the Surah Ya-sin, following his inquiry into the issues of resurrection, The Judgement Day, the time and quality of The Rising of Dead, the people of the heaven and the hell, and the status of people in the Resurrection Day, Mulla Sadra has expressed his idea under the title of “the Promise of Research” in this way, “The return in the resurrection day for man is, indeed, a collection of the body and soul. This specified body will be accompanied by his specified soul in the day of resurrection and will not go with the body of another individual”.

He believes this idea to be based upon the seven principles of the aforementioned principles.

Objections & response

Mulla Sadra has responded to the existing problems concerning resurrection in his philosophical and theological works, particularly in his interpretation of the Surah al-Sajdah:

1. The improbability of the return of man, “And man saith: When I am dead, shall I, forsooth, be brought forth alive?” [Maryam (19): 66]

God responds, “there is no improbability, as We have created him, while there was nothing, “Doth not man remember that We created him before, when he was naught?” [Maryam (19): 67]; and also, the question and answer in the verses of Ya-sin (36), “And he hath coined for Us a similitude, and hath forgotten the fact of his creation, saying: Who will revive these bones when they have rotted away?” (36:78)

2. Where do resurrection and the Day of Judgement take place? If it is on the earth, how will it have the place of the first and the last? The response is that the other world is not of the type of the natural one, and has not occupied any place, a marked type of which is dream.

3. The problem concerning the time is that if the time is in the future, the times of the world and the other world have to be connected. Hence, the world should enjoy an eternal continuity. Accordingly, the issue of time is in contradiction with the Qur’anic verse such as “When the sun is overthrown”. [al-Shams (81): 1]. In response to this problem, it has to be noted that the end of time, too, is not of the type of the worldly time. “And unto Allah belongeth the Unseen of the heavens and the earth, and the matter of the Hour (of Doom) is but as a twinkling of the eye, or it is nearer still. Lo! Allah is Able to do all things”. [al-Nahl (16): 77]

The problem of the akil and ma’kul was treated in detail in the whole article.

The mustering of the creatures

Mulla Sadra believes that besides man, the entire creatures of the world, including inanimate bodies, vegetation, animals, and evils should no only achieve the final end but also to be mustered up before Him. Sadra has referred to the Qur’anic verses in this regard and has described the mustering of each individual in the hereafter as follows:

 “On the Day when We shall gather the righteous unto the Beneficent, a goodly company,” [Maryam (19): 85]

Concerning mustering of the devils the Qur’an has states: “And, by thy Lord, verily We shall assemble them and the devils, then We shall bring them, crouching, around the hell”. (19:68)

About the mustering of animals the Qur’an has said: “And when the wild beasts are herded together,” [Takwir (81): 5]

With regard to the mustering of plants and trees the Qur’an has asserted: “The stars and the trees adore”. [al-Rahman (55): 6]; and “And thou (Muhammed) seest the earth barren, [al-Hajj (22): 5]

And finally regarding the mustering of the entire creatures, the Qur’an has stated: “And (bethink you of) the Day when We remove the hills and ye see the earth emerging, and We gather them together so as to leave not one of them behind”. [al-Kahf (18): 47]; and “Lo! We inherit the earth an all who are thereon, and unto Us they are returned”. [Maryam (19): 40]


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