Mulla Sadra and the Stages of Tawhid


Tuba Kermani


All praise is due to God who bestowed on us the blessing of thought, wisdom, and believing in one God (tawhid).1

Concerning tawhid there are four doctrines as follows:

1-Essential unity (al-tawhid al-dhati), that is, there is no partner ascribed to Him and He has no like.

2-Unity of Attribute (al-tawhid al-Sifati) which means that God possesses attributes, which are the “same” as His Essence. Further, there is no room for composites and in these Attributes he depends on nothing. “The perfection of His knowledge is to testifying His oneness, the perfection of His oneness is to be sincere for Him and the perfection of His sincerity is to deny Him attributes.” 2

3-Unity of Actions (al-tawhid al-af‘ali), that is “Nothing is effective in the existence except Allah” and all authorities are under His might and with his will and delegation.

4-Unity of Worshipping (al-tawhid al-‘ibadi), that is, “Don't worship except for Him” that no one is to be worshipped except Him. I pored over various stages of tawhid and thought that, there were many who had grasped well all these stages and found that in the infinity of existence there is no one but a single Truth. But they have followed pluralism and sectarianism due to their beliefs, which are opposing each other and they have become proud of having such beliefs. There are however, a few who are faithful to the four doctrines of tawhid practically and theoretically and explain on the basis of a single interpretation various views concerning being and its self-disclosure (tajalliyyat). And this is the claim that I am going to prove in the present article.

This is only possible when “the doctrine of the unity of being” preoccupies all existence of the theosopher and he proceeds to undress the colorful and variant cloths of the reality's body and to observe and demonstrate the reality as it is and not the way he desires, and to express all the beliefs in one language and not cover them the same, because reality is one and its interpretation will eventually not be other than one. The different colored clothing, which are caused by prejudices, habits, desires and education interfere in the interpretation of the reality of being and cause the differences.

Imam Khumayni, the sincere disciple of that erudite philosopher, has expressed it very beautifully that if all the one hundred and twenty four thousand Prophets gathered at the same place simultaneously, they will have no difference among them because they will not speak or think out of their self-desires.

Broadly speaking, Mulla Sadra was the exemplary philosopher who followed the unity of thought and not only in all four stages of tawhid but in the whole being.

For me as the humblest disciple of this renowned mystic and philosopher, it should be a great claim to have entered the vast world of his mystical thought, because his metaphysical system, in its entirely, is a solid intellectual structure founded on profound mystical intuition. He is an ‘arif who with the eyes of heart and intellect tried to reveal the mysteries of being. With not so deep contemplation in the works of this great thinker, this claim cannot be proved regarding the innovations of Mulla Sadra there are many comments out of which fifteen cases are attributed to him. Mulla Sadra caused the Islamic philosophy to penetrate into unknown spaces of mystical world in a way that the learned minds are still occupied with it. Transcendental theosophy, having drawn on the ancient intellectual heritage left by celebrities of Islamic philosophy and mysticism, refutes all wrong assumptions that considered Islamic philosophy as the interpretation of Greek philosophy only. It displays an intelligible portrait of wisdom and sage, that wisdom means the movement of the natural man towards change and evolution, and finally reaching to an intellectual world that is similar but not identical to the real world.

But such an achievement and sublimity, besides coherent in thought, cognition of being, and logical thinking, it further demands special attentiveness toward being, mysticism, Qur'anic verses, and traditions in order to bring about innovations such as “transsubstantial motion,” “platonic Ideas/Forms,” the union of the intellect and the intelligible,”1 “similarity of Form and Matter,” “Transformation of all forms into a single form (a single form),” “knowledge as self-disclosures,” “the union of the soul and potential,” “the temporal origination and the subsistency of the soul” (coming to be and passing away of the soul), “principiality of existence, unity of being, and the gradation of being.

How is it possible that the world of nature and matter with its permanent motion and flux and revival in itself remains one and single?

How is it possible that any corporal nature with its intelligible being namely archetype becomes united and has a single reality?

How is it possible that the intellect be united with the intelligible and the union of the intellect to the intelligible to be actualized?

How is it possible that the actuality of desire and similarity and eventually the union of matter of pure potency and a form that is actualized to take place?   

How is it possible that the opposed forms of composite elements change into a single being with a single form?

How is it possible that God's knowledge of particulars and plurals to be identical with the essence of God and become perfections of the Essence?

How is it possible that all faculties of man including rationality, growing etc., are united with immaterial soul at the level of essence?

How is it possible that the same divine spirit be inspired in the human body, and how such unity can be justified?

Finally, how can we see and connect at once the principiality of existence, unity of being and gradation of being?

How is it that the Essence of God in its real simplicity contains all things and multiplicity in unity” and unity in multiplicity find their meaning?

In al-Asfar and al-Shawahid al-rububiyah, Mulla Sadra has referred to the various opinions concerning the unity of the reality of being and its multiplicity and he changes all views into one view and therein concerning the tasting of theosophy (dhaw al-ta'alluh) which is ascribed to Muhaqqiq Dawani he states:

The advocates of dhawq al-ta'alluh believes in the unity of being and multiplicity of existents that is, the ascription of existent to the reality of being connotes the very existence and its ascription to quiddities connotes the attribution to existence. Such interpretation leads to the prinicipiality.

The others doctrine is that of theologians who maintain that real individuals who are different in essence have shares in modes of existence (hissah). This is the same concept of absolute existence that varies as soon as added to the quiddity, therefore existence for them is mentally-posited. What they mean by the concept of “one” is that existence is the reality of the one and what is meant by the concept of “hisas” is the self-disclosures (tajalliyyat) that do not necessitate the multiplicity of the self-disclosure (mutajalli) unless in relations. But the Peripatetics maintain that existence is abstracted from the realities that are different in essence. But after so many divergent opinions as to the reality of existence, it is interesting to note Mulla Sadra's idea of existence according to which there is no disagreement between what we hold concerning the unity of the reality of existence in its different stages of priority, being late in existence, certainty and weakness, and what the Peripatetics believe concerning the differences of the realities, because the inclusiveness of existence for things is not as the general inclusiveness for particulars. However, its inclusiveness is a kind of simplicity flowing in all the frames of quiddities.

In the third part of the first book of al-Asfar , Mulla Sadra says that he cannot tolerate divergence in opinion but had revealed the truth behind the various point of views and explains them all in a single language.

Mulla Sadra quotes Ibn Sina's (Ibn Sina) book al-Shifa as follows:

1-Those who absolutely negate the existence of time.

2-Those who affirm the existence of time, yet maintain that it has as aspect of objective existence and in real term believe that time is an illusion.

3-Those who don't give it existence in itself, but consider  it as a relation between qualities and call it a collection of moments.

4-Some consider a single existence, for time and believe that it is a self existence substance and separate.

Mulla Sadra refers to eight other view points and says the above opinions are beliefs of the past ages. Abu'l-Barakat Hibat al-Baghdadi believed that time was the measure of existence and Imam Fakhr Razi was perplexed about time and in his book al-Mabahith al-mashriqiyyah and also in his commentary on ‘Uyun al-hikmah (by Ibn Sina) advanced different opinions.

The gist of the matter is that Mulla Sadra, inspired with a unity seeking opinion and believed that time had renewing existence in itself and that there was nothing produced between its essential existence and its renewing existence and all objections will be answered by the grace of God.

Mulla Sadra said that some of the ancients who negated absolutely the existence of time probably believed that time had no existence other than its renewing existence and those ancients who believed that time was self-existent thus wanted to show that the reality of time was beyond the understanding of humans and has nicely answered the tradition of “Don't vilify the time because it is the glorious Allah.”

Finally, the main question is that why and how Mulla Sadra could bring all divergent opinion ranging from absolute negation of time of the idea that time was self-existent under one authentic opinion? Here, we should say that was it not the one that should seek the secrets of the attribute of this mystic theologian only in the truth of tawhid, which he believed from the bottom of his heart?





1.The Quran, 2:209

2. Imam Ali, Nahj al-balàghah

3. Unity of the knower and known which thus allows to recognize (cogitato/reflect upon) the Form/Matter dyadic and differentiation. This then allows the process “becoming” unity of all forms in a unit, itself as form qua form.



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