Body-Mind Relationship with Regard to Life after Death according to Mulla Sadra

Turan Koç


The terms “world” and “other world” just like “the earth-heavens” and “beginning-return”, are one of the pairs of concepts that have been considered together in traditional Islamic thought. This world and the other world take place in a certain genus of relation in various perspectives, and they are analysed in that context. Natural world or the world of sense perception is used somehow as a step in metaphysical discussions to move beyond this world. Such that, any ignorance about this world necessarily brings about some ignorance about the other world. In other words, one must know our first or present existence before he knows the other world (Qur’an, 56: 62). So also Mulla Sadra sets out from this principle, and bases his proof and argumentation for the existence in the life after death on our knowledge of this world (IV. II, p. 237).

Indeed, the argumentations about the reality of other world and the state of affairs in that world are independent from after death existence; that is to say, there is no causal connection between the arguments for the other world and the reality of this world. However, our beliefs concerning the reality of other world and how our existence in that world would be, fundamentally affect our present life.

At the beginning of our discussion, I would like to make an important point. As is well known, philosophical arguments for otherworldly existence have generally tried to prove the immortality, while the arguments that depend on a theistic religious faith have particularly tried to prove the resurrection. But, Mulla Sadra’s position is quite interesting here, since he tries to demonstrate the teaching of resurrection accepted by Islam in terms of philosophical arguments.

Mulla Sadra’s conception of Return (ma‘ad), like his entire philosophy, depends on his teaching of “substantial movement” (al-harakat al-jawhariyya). This substantial movement takes place through a purpose, which has been disposed/inherited in the very nature of things by God. Sadra says, “God has created no things without purpose ... There is no contingent thing without an agent and purpose” in the world (IV. II, pp. 243-244; Risalah al-hashr, p. 81). All contingent things, by their very nature, try to reach through a substantial/ immaterial movement to a last purpose that has no other purpose for it. And the purpose to which everything tries to achieve is higher than its present position and more complete with regard to existence. So also human being who is extremely imperfect and even ‘not deserve to mention his name in the very beginning of his existence’ (Qur’an, 76: l) is in this process of perfection. This movement and desire have been inherited in the essence of things (IV/II, p. 244; Risalah, p. 91).

At the other hand, existence (wujûd) and being conscious of existence are goodness and happiness. The higher and more complete the existence is, the higher the possibility to be saved from the non-existence for it is (IV. II, p.121). More clearly, the existence is not accidental, and the concept, the meaning and the quiddity of a thing are something other than its real identity; because the existence is real. Thus, when we left our bodies, our consciousness concerning our own essences would have been stronger due to the fact that our presence to ourselves would be more complete and firmer (IV. II, pp. 123-124).

Indeed, Mulla Sadra’s conception of human being and body-mind (soul) relationship, as such, is quite different from the classical dualistic conception of human being, although he frequently uses some terms such as “spirit”, “body”, “substance”, “matter”, etc. It seems that his conception of man is the one that depends on the inseparableness of the mind and the body from each other, that is, on a holistic conception of man. According to Sadra, there is a relationship between body and soul, just like the relationship Aristotle claims to be between matter and form. “Man comes out from potential to actual and from this world to the other, and then he reaches God (mawla) who is the purpose of the purposes and the last point of the desires and the movements” (IV.II, p. 159).

Things are the selves (dhawat) with natures oriented to their purposes and their perfectness. And among all creatures only the human being is a single personality who ascends from the lowest degree to the highest degrees by preserving his personal identity, which has a specific continuation. This continuation realised through substantial movement takes place contiguously. And that, for human being there are three levels of existence: natural, mental and intellectual. It is impossible for him to settle down into a second creation (nash’a thaniya) without completing these three kinds of existence. Hence, from the very beginning of babyhood to achieving his perfectness a man is a mortal, natural man, and this is the first human being. By progressing in this existence he becomes pure and reaches a certain degree of gentleness, and that a mental and otherworldly existence becomes actual for him. This is a second kind of human being, for whom there are appropriate faculties and organs. Then, when he transfers from the level of mental existence to the level of intellectual existence a third level of existence takes place (IV. II, pp. 96-97).

According to Mulla Sadra, this progression or the process of evolution finds its very meaning in a total movement of the whole universe and in being oriented towards a certain target. This fact and its final purpose is what the religion called the Return (ma’ad). The whole universe and meanwhile the man are in a contiguous process of reaching a target, that is, to a Return, by being vanished (zawal) and at the same time by being reexisted (hudûth) constantly in the substantial movement. Therefore, Mulla Sadra explains the Return in terms of two principles. The first of these is to prove the necessity of a purpose for substantial primordial natures, and secondly, to prove this with regard to an active agent. Since, there is a natural orientation for man towards perfection, and a divine, natural disposition regarding to reach the Active Principle. Man is in a process of moving, progressing and changing constantly from an imperfect form towards the most perfect form. The true possible perfectness for man can be realised only in the other-world. Therefore, if a man completes and comprises all the levels of factual creation, then he will reach his last formal limit at the end of his substantial congenital movement in question, and being completed his this-worldly existence orients to an otherworldly creation (nash’a ) (IV. II, pp. 158-159).

Since the other-world, according to Mulla Sadra, is a creation (insha’) and an origination (ibda’) different from this world, so also the form (sûrah) that man takes on there will not be a natural form pertaining to this world, although it has a sensible quality perceivable by the external sense organs (IV. II, p. 254). In fact, man is a whole that consists of body and soul (nafs). Both the body and the soul exist in one single existence, even though they are different regarding their levels. Hence, the more the soul achieves perfectness in its existence, the purer and gentler the body becomes, and the soul strongly unites with the body, so the unity between them becomes firmer and unbreakable. Such that, when the intellectual existence actualised they become one single entity without any opposition.

The relation between the body and the soul, as supposed by most of the people, is not like a relation between a man and a place or his dress that can be taken off and dropped in time. The reason for being misguided here is that they suppose the corpse that we have only for the purpose of being preserved, not for the existence, is a real body. On the contrary, the true body is more primordial one that the light and force of life is operative in it. So it is impossible to move from it just like we are moving from a house that had been left as such. The denudation (tajarrud) for a perceptive being is not to leave some of its attributes while keeping with it the others. On the contrary, this process takes place by moving from a lower and imperfect level of existence to a higher and more honourable existence. In other words, it happens that a certain breaking off takes place slowly from this natural creation towards a second creation due to the fact that the soul becomes gradually more independent. This takes place only through a transformation of the soul gradually in its substantial movement by intensifying from a weak position to a stronger one. The denudation of man and his transference from this world to the other world occurs in this way. When the soul reaches its perfection and becomes actual intelligence, its faculties are also strengthened in accordance with it (IV. II, pp. 51; 98-100; 180). The final end of this journey of the soul is to unite with Active Intellect. For, if it is not possible for it to encounter with something, then there will be no purpose for its existence. The Active Intellect that is a purpose for something for a while, will be at last its form (IV. II, p. 140).

In the level of otherworldly existence, all human beings are in sensible forms, although there is a difference in degree among them. They are so strong, complete and perennial with regard to their existence and actualisation that it is impossible to compare this existence with their this-worldly existence.

These sensibles, contrary to the supposition of ordinary people, however, cannot be perceived by these evanescent and perishing senses. On the other hand, they are not, as some thought, imaginal/mental states or imaginal beings that have no existence in reality (Sadra says that Ghazzali accepted this view, but it seems to me that it is not easy to agree with him here). So also they are not, as understood by some Peripatetic philosophers, intellectual states or spiritual positions, or mental perfections. These are real (‘ayni) substantial forms, present and sensible entities. They both affect others and at the same time are affected by them; since they are not inoperative (mu‘attal). More clearly, there is no thing as inoperative in existence; however, they neither belong to this natural world nor can be perceived by these natural sense organs (IV. II, pp. 147; 174-175; 198; 225). The resurrection of the dead and the denudation of the forms from matter will take place as a second creation (insha’). Although the existence of otherworldly beings resembles to what we saw in dreams or in the mirrors, otherworldly creation and the form existed there are completely different due to the fact that they have a sound substance and a strong existence. These forms, according to those who united exact gnosis with demonstrative reasoning, are the very existent beings and genuine realities (IV. II, p. 176).

Otherworldly bodies have an intermediary nature, which gathers together both denudation (tajarrud), and incarnation (tajassud). An otherworldly body is like an inseparable shadow for soul, and these two have perceivable properties that have been united in existence. In other words, unlike this-worldly bodies, otherworldly bodies are identical with the souls (IV. II, pp. 183-184). The most important thing here is that the otherworldly existence is not regenerated from a material principle or an origin, but it depends completely on the creation, origination and invention of God (insha’, ibda’, ikhtira’).

The most reasonable and important thing regarding to our second existence is that it will be a mere creation, just like our first creation, rather than gathering various parts together (IV. II, pp. 161-162). “Making (ijad) is absolutely from Him; properties are only preferences and assignments for His making, or multiplied features to be expanded and emanated His acts and existence (wujûd) (IV. II, p. 162). Furthermore, from this perspective, even the posteriority and secondariness are only evaluations by comparison to our origination (hudûth). Otherwise, this creation itself is more prior and antecedent; because it is prior to the nature with regard to the essence and superiority in designing the existence. Therefore its posteriority is so with a special reference to our origination and perfection.

In this context, an important thing regarding Mulla Sadra’s teaching of Return is that our first existence, that is, the series of beginning has occurred by way of creation without time and movement, while the series of Return will occur in time and movement. There are some sorts of existence for human being before he has been brought about as a material entity. Because of his inherent nature he gradually inclines or advances towards the other world. He returns to the intended purpose. In short, he begins the otherworldly formal existence with his this-worldly material existence (IV. II, pp. 195-96).

According to Mulla Sadra, affirmation of bodily return (ma‘ad jismani) depends mainly on the following eleven principles, which are, at the same time, the essence of his general philosophy:

l. The basic factor in everything is existence, and not quiddity (mahiya) and objectivity (shay’iyya). In other words, it is a real identity that no thing has accompanied with it:

2. The personification and the distinction of everything from the others is the very being of its particular existence. As for the things called concrete accidents are not but the signs for individual existential beings. These change, but the individual entity endures without changing.

3. The nature of existence with its simple essence (dhat) in which there is neither external nor mental composition, accepts weakness and strength. More clearly, it is constantly in a process of changing.

4. Existence accepts the movement of intensifying.  Any substance in its substantial existence changes and undergoes transfiguration. The parts of a single contigeneous movement are not present actually.

5. Things are identical with their form. A sword is a sword with its sharpness, not with its iron. Matter can have, at least, the potentiality of a thing, and becomes a subject for its movements and effects. The identity of a thing is its perfect form.

6. In everything, the unitary entity that is identical with its existence, is not in a single process and in one single degree (that is, in the same order). At the material level, the opposites don’t come together, but when the level of existence progresses, such a possibility comes into being.

7. The identity and the individuation of the body is with its soul (nafs), not with its corpse (jirm). So the existence and individuation of man is continual as his soul remains with him. Changing of the parts along his life is not important. Human identity remains the same in all these changes and transfigurations until he takes on an otherworldly form; because this is an event that took place in a gradual and contiguous unity. Substantial properties and the existential limits that come into being in the way of substantive movement are not important. The important thing is what remains and endures, and this is not but the soul. Hence, the body remains as the same, even though it is in constant movement. So also in the afterlife, although it undergoes a fundamental change that makes impossible to call it matter, it is still the same body.

It can be asked whether the body of a man is the same in his childhood and in advanced years. If the body is taken here as matter, it will not possible to say, “Yes.” But, if it is taken as genus, this is an ambiguous situation. But we can say that the person in question is the same in both situations, that is, in youth and in advanced years.

8. The imaginal power is not a substance inherent in the body. Neither does it exist in any place in natural world. It exists in an intermediary place between separated intellectual world and the natural world.

9. The imaginal forms exist in the soul just like an act exists with an agent. The images that the soul created through matter in this world will be created without any need to the matter and sense perception in the other world. When the soul goes out from this world there will exist no difference between imagination and sensation. Because the imaginal power has become stronger, and achieved a position that it can see by the eye of image what it sees by the eye of sense.

10. The quantitative forms and corporal shapes will be brought about by the agency of the soul in the other world without any share with the matter, just they were brought about sharing with matter by an agent. All these exist neither in the brain nor in the imaginary faculties, nor in the world of universal imagination. In short, this existence is in another world absent from this world.

11. The abode of existence is one due to the fact that they are connected to each other; but the genera of the worlds and creations are great in amount, and not limited to three. The lowest of these is the world of natural forms, which subject to being and dissolution, the middle one is, the world of sensual perceptual forms isolated from matter, and the highest is the world of intelligible forms and divine images. Among all existing things it is only human being to be remained in these three worlds. A man from the very beginning of his babyhood onwards undergoes a natural becoming. And later on he gradually becomes so pure and gentle that he finally reaches to a mental (nafsani) level and otherworldly existence convenient to be resurrected. This is the second level of his humanness. Finally, because of the fact that he gradually becomes more perfected, he reaches the third level of existence called intelligible man (IV. II, pp. 185-194).

Clearly, according to Mulla Sadra, personification of man takes place with his soul, not with his body. The thing that we call body is in fact an ambiguous thing. And it is impossible to say that there is a fixed and determined self for human being along the process of his entire existence. Hence, it is also impossible to say that any given man will be resurrected with a body that he has in a given period (IV. II, p. 200).

Now, depending on this teaching of Return which we have tried to explain shortly, Mulla Sadra raised some criticisms against the theologians who have accepted the restoration of the body or bringing it back, against the philosophers who have accepted a spiritual immortality, and against the transmigrationists who have maintained that the soul transmigrates from one to another body. Now, I would like to examine these respectively:

Bodily resurrection

According to Mulla Sadra, the greatest mistake of theologians (even of most Muslims) who accept the recurrence of the physical body in after life, is the supposition that human being consists of gathering of the parts such as matter, form, body and spirit. For them the essential entity is not the person (shakhs) himself, but the parts that constitute him in their supposition. Hence, any person would perish, not because of perishing of his parts with death, but because of the evanescence of the synthesis and composition. If, later on, any kind of valid recomposition takes place among the parts, the original person will be returned once again. In other words, resurrection, typically, is not but gathering together all the parts scattered everywhere in the earth in a single place and bringing about them all in a specific order. This view, according to Mulla Sadra, is open to some criticisms. To begin with, this view sees the event of death as coming to an end of a certain relation between the parts and as termination of the composition and arrangement among the organs. Life is being seen here as a category of relation, and obviously this is invalid. Secondly, gathering the disintegrated parts into together once again doesn’t necessitate the recurrence of the dead person (it is not important that this gathering together is done absolutely or specifically). And finally,  such a view will somehow necessitate a body with two souls, and the invalidity of this, as we will see below, is obvious (IV. II, pp. 168-70).

According to Mulla Sadra, those who hold such a view don’t know that the resurrection will take place only by way of changing from this vanishing and reoriginating creation into a fixed and everlasting existence, and by way of changing from being created from water and dust into a different existence (IV. II, pp. 153; 157). Theologians have developed various explanations concerning the bringing back of the soul to this physical body such as, a) elimination of impossibility about the recurrence of the destroyed body, and b) bringing the soul back to an essential part (IV. II, p. 164). That their insistence on returning of the soul only to a body approximate them to the transmigrationists. The most important difference between them is that the theologians accept the creation of the soul in time and it will be returned to the body in the after-world, not in this world, while the others accept that it is pre-eternal and will return to any body in this world. All these strivings and efforts, according to Mulla Sadra, stem only from the fact that they don’t know the truth. Both reason and revelation say that the recurring entity in the after-world is what charged with duties and is the source of all deeds and acts (IV. II, pp. 165; 167). Mulla Sadra says, “Since they don’t go into the houses through their doors, they are unable to settle these kinds of problems” (IV. II, p. 201).

On the other hand, the assertions of those who maintain the recurrence of both body and soul are in a disagreement with each other concerning the recomposition of the body. Is the recurring body (ma‘ad) identical with the present body, or is it only a replica (mithl) of it? Are the sameness and resemblance with regard to each one of the organs, shapes and forms, or are they with regard to any other way? Theologians have been unable to give a coherent reply to these questions. According to Mulla Sadra, the important thing here is the perception. As for the perceiving thing, it is the soul itself, although this perception can take place only through various instruments. It is for this reason that, if a man committed a crime when he was young, he would have been punished in the advanced years. “Indeed”, says Mulla Sadra, “the recurrent is identical as soul and body with this person; soul is the same soul, and body is the same body. Such that, if you see him, you will say, ‘I saw so and so a person who had been in the world’” (IV. II, pp. 165-166).

I believe that the emphasis made by Mulla Sadra on ethical and judicial dimensions with regard to otherworldly existence is extremely important for personal identity. In other words, to be seen for any given person as he is both by us and by him should also be taken into account regarding the ethics and law.


Some thinkers who follow the philosophers (falasifa) and Peripatetics –Sadra especially mentions Ibn Sina (Avicenna)– accept that the Return will take place only by way of spiritual survival. In other words, there is only an intelligible immortality. According to them, when the relation of the body with the soul comes to an end it will be destroyed and seized its existence. Otherwise, it will be the recurrence of a destroyed entity. As for the soul, it is an isolated, immortal (baqi) substance; hence, there is no non-existence for it. When the connection of the soul with the body comes to an end, it will return to the world of departed entities (IV. II, p.165). Furthermore, some thinkers among the falasifa have even been suspicious about the survival of the souls that do not achieve the intellectual perfection (IV. II, pp. 115; 147). The relationship between the departed souls in the other world is the same as that of ineligibles. And their happiness also will take place in the same way. Their pleasures and sufferings resemble the situations in dream, although they will be superior to them with regard to the effect and purity.

The most sever criticism of these views by Mulla Sadra is that the philosophers, according to him, have wanted to fill the other world with mere images and names. However, there is no real existence for the names. Mulla Sadra said that the views of Ibn Sina and Farabi are quite far from being true. They subjectively interpret Qur’anic verses  concerning physical resurrection and maintain that these are only metaphors. Mulla Sadra sees this view as an unacceptable mistake. According to him, they had to accept such a view due to the fact that they are unable to conceive the physical resurrection (hashr al-jismani) (IV. II, pp. 214-215). For him, Ibn Sina couldn’t understand the relationship between the intelligent and the intelligible (IV. II, pp. 150-151). In fact, our existence in the other world will be a mental, perceptional existence. The presence of active causes, not perceptive causes, is sufficient there. The characteristic of the soul is this, and it has a nature that preserves the forms without matter (IV. II, p. 147).

Another point concerning this problem is the assertion that the spirits of human beings will unite in a single universal spirit after the bodies are destroyed. Here they accept that human spirits resemble the water poured into different cups. It is said that human spirits will unite after their bodies (which are their cups) are destroyed, just like the water (s) in different cups unite in a large pool when their cups are broken. Mulla Sadra sees this claim as a groundless assertion and an illusion. He evaluates any comparison between human souls and the spirits within the physical objects as a syllogism that depends on sophistry and fallacy (IV. II, p. 50).


The transmigration of the soul from an elemental or natural body to another body is called reincarnation or metempsychosis. It is not important whether it takes place by way of ascending or descending (IV. II, p. 4). According to Mulla Sadra, the reason of believing in reincarnation, at least in theistic circles, is the misunderstanding of proceeding prophets and the wise, or taking the meanings of some Qur’anic verses as literal and prophetic sayings as denoting to transmigration or reincarnation (IV. II, pp. 27-30). Mulla Sadra tries to demonstrate the falsity of this teaching in terms of logical and philosophical arguments.

As pointed out above, there is a special connection between body and soul, and this combination is a natural and unitary integration. They are inseparably in an essential and substantial movement. The soul and the body emerge from potentiality to actuality together, and the degrees, powers and acts of the soul are at the same level with those of the body during the process of substantial movement. There cannot be a combination between two things; one of which is actual while the other is potential (IV. II, pp. 2-3; 205-206). There is such a union, for example, between matter and form in a natural composition consisting of matter and form, and therefore it is impossible to retain one of them and to destroy the other. For, as it is known, the form of everything is its completeness and perfectness. The relation of each soul with its body is the same. There is inseparability between them in being and dissolution. In other words, there is a coexistence and innateness between them. When an embryo becomes a fetus, then the life and physical movement start. However, since there is an intellectual or other kinds of existence than this natural one for human souls, the destruction of the body doesn’t necessitate the destruction of it, because, the soul has obtained another existence. The life and the movement of the body are subject to the soul. Therefore, the transmigration of the soul from one body to the other is impossible (IV. II, pp. 4; 55).

So, to prove the physical resurrection as described in the Qur’an there is no need, contrary to Ghazzali’s understanding, any other body which doesn’t violate personal identity of the first (this-worldly) man. What is true concerning the Return is the returning of the body just like the returning of the soul (IV. II, pp.207-208). It must be kept in mind that, according to Mulla Sadra, the body is being brought about and constituted by the soul. The reason of failing and vanishing of the body is undergoing the change of the soul due to its approximation to the second creation. For this reason, it is impossible to accept the teaching of reincarnation (IV. II, pp. 47-48). So, we should not take the expressions found in some verses and prophetic sayings to be connoting superficially reincarnation.

Mulla Sadra tries to prove the impossibility of reincarnation in terms of his doctrine of substantial movement. And he strongly maintains that there are very important differences between his view and the teaching of reincarnation. We can summarise his proofs about the impossibility of descending kind of reincarnation as follows: To begin with, a) in the process of perfection, that is, from the very beginning of the constitution of human forms to the end of their denudation or stripping off their body (tajarrud), this transformation and evolution takes place as a substantial contiguous perfection. There is a unity of matter-form or inseparableness of body and soul here. Being after dissolution and dissolution after being is only a supposition. There is continuity in existence (wujûd), not becomings contrary to each other. b) Secondly, it happens that a gap (a period without motion) comes about between the time in which the soul departed from the first body and the time in which it united with the second one, and it is impossible to accept this; because inactivity (t‘atil) is unthinkable. c) Thirdly, and this is with regards to descending kind of transmigration, and a special proof, that the dissolution time of each human body should be adjacent to the origination time of the body of any animal that will accept his soul. Such a view is unacceptable due to the fact that it necessitates a population planning, though there is no connection between them and without a preferer (murajjih). On the other hand, it can be that the originating things can be much more in number than those that vanish. In such a case some souls will necessarily remain inactive. But there is no thing inactive in existence (IV. II, pp. 8-17).

Accordingly, Mulla Sadra’s teaching of Return is quite different from the doctrine of reincarnation in two ways. Firstly, the transmigrationist speaks of a transmigration that takes place in this world, not in the other world. But, according to Mulla Sadra, this world is a process that is to be lived once. Happiness and suffering will take place in the other world. For, to be stripped off matter doesn’t necessitate denudation from size and quantity. The thing that carries out the power of perfection appropriate to the morality of the souls would be spectral imaginations or imaginal shapes. Since these are brought about by the soul, not because of its receptivity but because of its activity. Although the soul can achieve a higher level of independency, it even senses/tastes a kind of suffering and happiness in accordance with the deeds it commits in this world.

Secondly, transmigrationists speak of alternation of both place and person; but, according to Mulla Sadra, there is no such a thing. For him, changing takes place in a process of perfection, and person remains the same all along this process. Man’s acquiring various forms and shapes during this process don’t mean the loss of his personality. Therefore, there is no transition from the second creation to the first creation for that person (IV. II, pp. 19-21; Fazlur Rahman, The Philosophy of Mulla Sadra, Albany, 1975, pp. 248-249).

Another difficulty is that human beings would be in two different kinds of existence, imaginal and intellectual, in the other world, while they were only a single species in this world. According to Mulla Sadra, the soul itself, because of the fact that it has an unnatural existence, is a substance with a nature that is able to accept various kinds of form, although it is form for this natural species and its perfection. With these peculiarities it resembles the hyle that accepts various kinds coming about from potentiality to actuality. To sum up, human being is a natural species composed from matter with a temperament in equilibrium and a perfect soul related to it. This temperament is preserved by the soul that commits the deeds and acts peculiar to it. When various states and dispositions settle down and gain stability in each soul, it comes about with these from potentiality to actuality, and takes another form. So the souls will get a different existence in the second creation. In short, the souls that are one single species in the beginning of the creation can be differentiated in many in the second creation (IV. II, pp. 19-20).

The proof that has been put forward by Mulla Sadra against the impossibility of the ascending kind of reincarnation is shortly as follows: Although there is a soul for an animal which does not have the faculty of speech and thought, this soul has been imprinted in the temperament. It is because of this peculiarity of an animal soul that it is impossible for it to transmigrate from one body to the other.

Indeed, according to Mulla Sadra, the world is a world as substance and existence, not with its specific accidents and external peculiarities. Otherwise, because of the change of its shapes, appearances and manifestations it would be another world every year, and even every day, then the term “other-world” would be a reincarnation. So also the Return would be the reconstitution of this world after it had been destroyed. However, the other-world is a complete world, and there is no sense in asking where it is (IV. II, pp. 204-205).

Now, according to Mulla Sadra, the logical fallacy in interpreting some Qur’anic verses, prophetical sayings and the views of some sages as pointing to reincarnation stems from failing to conceive the differences between the resurrection (hashr) and reincarnation (nas’h ). This misunderstanding also originates from the ignorance that the other-world is an intermediary domain between the natural world and the intellectual domain. On the other hand, it is possible that they might accept such a view because of the fact that the souls were in need of the bodies at the beginning of their first creation. If we accept that the soul is in a substantial, essential movement, and at the end of this movement, by achieving a complete perfectness it obtains its independency through a formal existence, then there will be no misunderstanding of this kind. Hence, we have to understand the Qur’anic expressions that the otherworldly bodies will be identical with our present bodies with special reference of the form (sûra), not the body. After all, the individual body of a man remains the same all along his life with its form, not with its matter. “The crucial point concerning the resurrection (hashr) of human body is that the continuation of it, while remaining the same, will take place through its form and self (dhat) together with an ambiguous matter, not with its particular matter; because the matter changes constantly (IV. II, p. 32). Our existence in this world is a typical example of this, since our personification and unity in this-worldly existence has been kept the same from childhood to the end of life through the soul itself. As for the matter, it is an extremely ambiguous thing.


As it can be seen easily from the explanations we have already presented, it can be said that Mulla Sadra’s view of substantial movement and also the teaching of Return which has been developed by him on the basis of this view is a new and original way of explanation both in the history of thought of Islam and in the history of thought of the world. As we pointed out at the out set, although the terminology that Mulla Sadra used connotes a dualistic point of view of man, it is completely different from it. Hence, it is impossible to explain his conception of human being on the basis of a view aroused largely from the ancient Greek thought based on the body-mind distinction. There is almost no connection, for example, between Cartesian conception of man that is based on body-mind distinction, and Mulla Sadra’s conception of man. Hence, I believe that Sadra’s conception of man is much more appropriate to the Qur’anic holistic conception of man. So also this conception of man may be considered to be in agreement with some of the contemporary science-supported explanations of man.

Finally, I would like to remind you that there is a great similarity between Mulla Sadra’s teaching of Return and that of Ghazzali. Hence, I think that some criticism of Mulla Sadra, which has been raised against Ghazzali in this context, is a little bit extreme one.


al-Asfar, ed. Mohammed Rida al-Muzaffar, Tehran, 1387 AH, vol. IV, part II.

Risala al-Hashr, ......?

– Fazlur Rahman, The Philosophy of Mulla Sadra,  Albany, 1975.

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