Mullà Sadrà’s Commentary on Surat al-Sajda

Annabel Keeler

I would like to dedicate this paper to my late supervisor, Mr John (Yahya) Cooper, who was profoundly interested in the philosophy of Mullà Sadrà, and who, had he not been taken from us so unexpectedly last year, would surely have contributed an inspiring paper to this conference. A few years ago I was fortunate enough to be able to attend some classes he gave on Mullà Sadrà’s Sharh al-usul al-kàfí. Shortly before he died, he wrote an article on Mullà Sadrà, as well as articles on other great masters of the Islamic philosophical tradition, for the new Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

The subject of this paper is Mullà Sadrà’s commentary on Surat al-Sajda.[1] Mullà Sadrà did not write a complete commentary on the Qur’an, but a series of lengthy tracts on those Surahs, passages and verses of the Qur’an which particularly interested and inspired him. This exegetical corpus, which was compiled under the title Tafsír al-Qur’an al-karím,[2] is thought to have been written over the period of about twenty years, from around 1020/1611 to the early 1040’s/1630’s.  The commentary on Surat al-Sajda falls in the middle of this period, having been written around the year 1030/1620.[3]

I will begin by examining the hermeneutics of Mullà Sadrà’s Tafsír, on the basis both of his introduction to, and his commentary on Surat al-Sajda. The term hermeneutics is here being used to denote the aims and criteria of interpretation.[4] I will then proceed to illustrate aspects of the method and content of Mullà Sadrà’s Tafsír by examining in detail his commentary on verse 4 of Surat al-Sajda, contrasting it with interpretations of the same verse in two earlier mystical commentaries, namely the Lata’íf al-ishàràt of Abu’l-Qàsim al-Qushayrí (d. 465/1072)[5] and the Tafsír al-Qur’an al-karím, attributed to Muhy al-Dín Ibn al-‘Arabí but actually written by his disciple, ‘Abd al-Razzàq al-Kàshàní (d. 730/1329).[6]

In the introduction to his commentary on Surat al-Sajda, Mullà Sadrà describes the Qur’an as ‘a light which guides through the darkness of land and sea, and a medicine for every sickness.’ ‘When it lifts the veil from its face’, he continues, ‘...revealing its treasures and lights, it heals those ailing from the sickness of ignorance and wretchedness, and quenches the thirst of those who seek truth and felicity.’[7] It will even ‘heal a heart that is afflicted with deep-seated and reprehensible moral traits, while the vision of those with discerning hearts will be illumined and prepared for the meeting with God, equipped with knowledge of the mysteries and unseen realities.’[8]

Our commentator explains how, despite the magnitude and power of its reality and the exaltedness of its meaning, the Qur’an is clothed in a garment of letters and sounds and veiled by a covering of words and expressions, and this in itself is a mercy and kindness from God, making [the Revelation] more familiar and attainable, and adapting it to [what can be understood through] human experience.[9] We shall see later how Mullà Sadrà sees this outer clothing as indispensable to a true understanding of the inner meanings of the Qur’an.

These words and sounds of the Qur’an are spread out ‘like a net with [a bait of] the seeds of meaning to trap heavenly birds’, that is, the birds of human intellects (tuyur nafsàniyyah). Each of these birds has its own designated food, although, as Mullà Sadrà explains, the principle aim in casting out the net is to catch the birds that feed on the very choicest grain. But apart from these lofty intellectual spirits whose food is the very gnosis of the divine realities, there are in the Qur’an many other kinds of food designated for all the different levels of humanity.[10]

In the Mafàtíh al-ghayb, Mullà Sadrà expresses a similar idea, but using a different metaphor. There he compares the Qur’an to a table laden with food which is sent down from the world of intellects to the earth of souls in which are the seeds of the trees of the Hereafter. On this table is food of every kind and provision for every type of human being in varying degrees of subtely or opacity, down to the residues and husks which are for the commonality whose level is that of beasts of burden, or cattle.[11]

Returning to the introduction to Surat al-Sajda, we find that Mullà Sadrà has formulated this idea in a Persian poem at the end of which he warns his listener not to remain with the husk:

You look at the Qur’an,
And see the husk and the chaff, not the seed or kernel.
You see nothing of the Qur’an but the letter,
Giving yourself up to the detail of word and grammar.
You are striving in such haste
That there should be no difference between you and the beasts!

In this poem, however, the object of Mullà Sadrà’s criticism is not the commonality of believers, but the scholars of outward knowledge. In a number of contexts he warns against the complacency of those proficient in the outer sciences of the Qur’an. For example, in his commentary on Surat al-Jum’a  he states that a person who limits himself in his study of the words of the Qur’an to its literary aspects and to the science of rhetoric and language, imagining that he has some knowledge of tafsír, and that the Qur’an was only revealed for the acquisition of this partial knowledge, is more deserving of the description ‘like an ass carrying books’ (QLXII,5), than one who has no knowledge at all but at least admits his own incapacity and limitation.[13]

Again, in his commentary on Surat al-Sajda, Mullà Sadrà writes

It may be that a learned and clever man has perfect knowledge of grammar and rhetoric, and ability in the art of discursive reasoning (bahth) and disputing with opponents in the science of kalàm, yet with all this rhetorical excellence he does not hear one letter of the Qur’an as it really is, nor does he understand a single word. This is how it is with most of those who are involved with mere argumentation (bahth), who are deluded by the glitter of an illusory wisdom and deprived of the wine of gnosis contained in the cup of the Qur’an, by their being ‘Deaf, dumb and blind’ (Q. II, 18), because they lack inward perception (hawàss bàtiniyyah), for which this wordly sensory perception is a mere husk, and by the husk nothing is attained but the husk.[14]

On the other hand, equally if not more limiting in Mullà Sadrà’s view is any form of speculative interpretation (ta’wíl) which negates the outer meaning of the words of the Book. In fact, he considers those who take the ‘outward way’ of understanding the Qur’an, maintaining its images at an elementary level of understanding, to be closer to a realization of the truth (tahqíq) than those who take the way of ta’wíl.[15] In his commentary on the fourth verse of Surat al-Sajda, Mullà Sadrà explains that

Taking the Qur’anic words away (khuruj) from their well-known and familiar meanings is a cause of confusion for those who contemplate them. The Qur’an was revealed to guide God’s servants, to teach them and make things easier for them by whatever means. It was not meant to be obscure or difficult. So it is necessary that the [Qur’anic] words be referred back to the conventional meanings by which they are known among people so that no ambiguity (iltibàs) should be imposed upon them.[16]

In his commentary on the words ‘thumma ‘stawa ‘ala ‘l-‘arsh (then He seated Himself upon the Throne) in the same verse, Mullà Sadrà defines four different exegetical approaches to the mutashàbihàt (equivocal verses) in the Qur’an.[17] There are, he explains, the two extremes of the anthropomorphists (mujassimun), such as the Hanbalites on the one hand, and those who interpret metaphorically (mu’awwilun) such as the Mu’tazilites on the other. Between these two extremes are those who interpret some verses literally and others metaphorically (or, who are mujassim concerning some verses and muawwil concerning others). A fourth group comprise those whom Sadrà calls ‘the people rooted in knowledge’ (the ràsikhuna fi’l-‘ilm referred to in Q.III,7) who have protected the words of the Qur’an from distortion and forgery. They are those whose interpretation of things (‘ayàn) mentioned in the Qur’an and Hadíth maintains the forms in which they appear (suwar). Included in this category are those scholars of exegesis who lived in the time of the Prophet and the past Imams.[18]

At this point Mullà Sadrà interjects a prayer in which he asks God that He might favour one seeker of the truth (muhaqqiq) with the unveiling (kashf) of the realities, meanings, secrets and allusions in understanding the Revelation, so that ‘no part of his interpretation would strip way the sense, or negate the form of things mentioned in the Qur’an, for example, the Garden, the Fire, the Throne and the Footstool, the sun, the moon, night and day. On the contrary, such an interpreter would confirm these things as they are but, at the same time, understand from them their realities and [inner] meanings’.[19]

Such an interpretation implies the understanding of different levels of reality. Mullà Sadrà continues:

Everything that God created in the world of form has a counterpart (nazír) in the world of meaning, and everything He created in the world of meaning, which is the other world (àkhira), has a reality (haqíqa) in the world of truth, which is the unseen of the unseen. Moreover he did not create anything in the two worlds which does not have an analogy and exemplum in the human microcosm.[20]

Within this principle is to be found a solution to understanding the mutashàbihàt, for while there can be no likeness (mathal), which would involve anthropomorphism tashbíh, there can be analogy (mithàl). So, for example, the Throne of God can have no likeness (mathàl) in this material world; yet by analogy (mithàl) it can represent the human heart.[21]

How, then, can the seeker of truth (muhaqqiq) gain access to these realities and inner meanings of the Qur’an? The inclusion of the prayer, quoted above, and the use of the word kashf (unveiling) is significant here. In his commentary on Àyàt al-Kursí Mullà Sadrà states: ‘the only things a commentator of the Qur’an can depend upon are either a clear narration (naql saríh), or a complete unveiling (mukàshafa tàmma) and an insight (wàrid) in the heart that can neither be resisted nor denied.[22] In the introduction to his commentary on Surat al-Sajda, Mullà Sadrà relates his own experience: first of all pondering the meanings of the Qur’an, and studying its principles and structures, and then drowning himself in the ocean of the Qur’an in order to bring out its pearls. This process is not without hardship; Mullà Sadrà speaks of being perplexed by the afflictions of destiny, and by the limitations of a science which could not satisfy his thirst for the truth. When, finally, the release comes by the intervention of Divine mercy, it is as the unleashing of a torrent which God pours forth (yufidu) upon His servant in such a way that he cannot withstand it.[23]

The knowledge of the inner meanings of the Qur’an, then, cannot be attained without the intervention of the divine effusion (fayd) or unveiling (kashf or mukàshafa). Our commentator stipulates that there are moral conditions for this, too. He advises his student that if he hopes to attain to divine knowledge in the tafsír of the Qur’an without subjugating his lower soul or persisting in practices which lead to sanctity, such as spiritual discipline, the accomplishment of the virtues of submission, humility, patience and prayer, and stripping his mind of its [own] thoughts, shutting the door of the senses and keeping his mind on God, then he is deluding himself.[24]

At this point we may conclude that the aim of Qur’anic exegesis according to Mullà Sadrà is to attain to the inner realities and meanings of the Qur’an without negating the outer meaning of its words and expressions. This understanding may be granted by God through an unveiling (kashf) or effusion (fayd), but requires on the part of the servant the purification of his secret from base desires and the love of the world.[25] The comprehension of the divine subject matter of the Qur’an is, Mullà Sadrà states, the culmination of all knowledge and gnosis (‘ilm and ‘irfàn) and the noblest science of the human soul, which itself is the basis of wayfaring to God, for the nafs may be vouchsafed ascent to the Necessary Existent. The Tafsír was evidently composed as a didactic work; Mullà Sadrà states that he wishes to extend the blessings he has been granted to his student and so he says: ‘Be with us in all the guidance that God has given us on our journey...’[26] 

Thus far, the hermeneutics, that is to say the aims and criteria of Mullà Sadrà’s commentary appear to depart little from those of earlier Sufi commentators.[27] However, when we examine Mullà Sadrà’s commentary from the point of view of its method and content, we shall see how it differs from Sufi exegesis.

Although Mullà Sadrà, like the Sufis, believed that true knowledge must be directly experienced through a divinely granted unveiling (or, as he also defines it, a divine effusion), Sufi exegesis usually expresses these experiences by means of allusion, metaphors and images.[28] The same holds true in the tafsír of Ibn ‘Arabi’s disciple, Kashani, notwithstanding the more theosophical nature of his thought. However, we know that, while Mullà Sadrà held that ‘to engage in philosophy without experiencing the truth of its content was to be confined to a world of essences and concepts’[29], he also believed that ‘mystical experience without the intellectual discipline of philosophy can only lead to an ineffable state of ecstasy’.[30] Hence we find in Mullà Sadrà’s commentary on Surat al-Sajda, that his method of elucidating his cognitive experience is for the most part philosophical. This is not to say that he does not employ imagery, metaphors and even Persian poetry at times, but, when he does so it is in order to confirm or add nuance to a philosophical argument.

Since, as we have seen, Mullà Sadrà’s tafsír was a didactic work intended for one or more of his students, he goes to great lengths in elucidating, stage by stage, the necessary philosophical premises for understanding his Qur’anic interpretation. Sometimes, this will involve summarizing the theory of an earlier philosopher, as, for example, Ibn Sínà’s theory of the abjad.[31] We have also seen that Mullà Sadrà believed that the realization of knowledge was impossible without spiritual purification, so we find, on occasion, passages of a homiletic and moralizing character.[32] It is not surprising, then, that Mullà Sadrà’s commentary on al-Sajda is so much longer than any of the mystical commentaries on the same Surat.[33]

Typically, Mullà Sadrà’s commentary on any verse will begin with a brief linguistic and grammatical discussion, often based on Zamakhsharí’s Kashshàf.[34] He will then discuss the significance of the verse according to traditions of the Prophet and Shí’í Imams. Thereafter, he will set out any philosophical problems which the verse appears to raise, and then proceed to expound his solution to it. Within his commentary on one verse, Mullà Sadrà will mark the commencement of his own interpretation, and delineate the successive stages of his philosophical discourse with subtitles, such as Kashf ilhàmi, Tibyàn, Bast hikmat rahmàniyya and so on.[35] Apart from this overall function of demarcating the text, I have not been able to link any one of these subtitles with a particular type of interpretation.

In order to gain a clearer picture of the method and content of Mullà Sadrà’s tafsír, I shall now proceed to examine in detail his commentary on the first part of verse 4 of Surat al-Sajda: ‘Allahu ‘l-ladhi khalaqa ‘l-samàwàti wa’l-ard wa ma bayna humà fí sittatin ayàmin.‘God it is who created the heavens and the earth and what is between them in six days...’, contrasting his interpretation of these words with the interpretations of Qushayrí and Kàshàní.

This Qur’anic statement seems to raise two issues for the commentator: the first is the idea of the creation being in time, and the second, the meaning and significance of ‘six days’.

Qushayrí addresses only the first of these two issues. His solution is to retain the meaning of the Qur’anic words, but to underline Divine Omnipotence by explaining that God created these six days without there being any time. He points out that it is neither a condition nor a necessity for any created thing that God should have created it in time, since time itself was created outside time.[36]

Kàshàní’s solution to the first problem, that is, the creation being in time, is to interpret ‘creation’ metaphorically as ‘veiling’. Thus, he follows the Qur’anic statement, ‘God it is Who created the heavens and earth...’ with the words: ‘by His veiling Himself through them [that is, the heavens and earth and all that is between them] for six divine days, which was the duration of the period of concealment (dawr al-khafà’) from the time of Adam, upon whom be peace, to the time of Mohammed, upon whom be blessings and peace.’ Kàshàní then introduces the second part of the verse: ‘thumma ‘stawà ‘ala ‘l- ‘arsh’ to complete the seven days of the week of divine time. He glosses these words with: ‘Then He seated Himself upon the Throne of the Muhammedan heart for [the sake of] the manifestation of the Last Day, which is the Friday of those days, by the manifestation of the totality of all His attributes.’[37]

Mullà Sadrà begins his commentary on this verse by explaining that the nature of the predication of the relative clause ‘who created the heavens and earth’ is primary and essential. From this simple grammatical observation he draws the theological truth that God alone is the One Who, in His Essence, is necessarily the Originator and Creator of things, as opposed to others, whose origination of things is not essential or real, such as man in being a scribe, whose nature does not suffice him in that, since he needs to have, in addition, the art of writing and other means. We shall see that this fundamental theological principle will have a part to play later in Mullà Sadrà’s exegetical discussion.

In the meantime, though, our commentator takes up the second of the two issues raised by the Qur’anic statement, namely, the meaning and significance of the six days. He cites the Qur’anic words: ‘Verily a day with thy Lord is as a thousand years of your reckoning’ (Q.XXII, 47). This interpretation of a ‘divine day’ as 1000 years, is also endorsed with a number of Prophetic Hadíths. Since, according to commonly accepted tradition, the duration of the world is 7000 years, the six days may be understood to represent the period from the time of Adam to the time of the Prophet Mohammed. In one of those years, Mullà Sadrà continues, God created the heavens and the earth. Here, he is taking the meaning of ‘God created’ to be ‘He veiled Himself by them [heaven and earth]’. The seventh day, he continues, is the Day of Assemble; the time of God’s being seated on the Throne and the manifestation of His names.

Up to this point, Mullà Sadrà’s interpretation seems to follow almost exactly the interpretation of Kàshàní. But we shall see that he seeks to go beyond it, partly because of his need to solve the philosophical and theological problem presented by the concept of God’s creating in time, and partly because of his hermeneutical principles.

He explains that until now he has found no solution in any of the commentaries he has read ‘in which the heart could feel sure’, for time, which is the measurement of movement, is posterior (muta’akhkhir) to the existence of universal bodies (ajram kulliya). He observes that most people have admitted their incapacity to apply this Qur’anic proposition to philosophical precepts and he states, ‘the utmost (ghàyat) that has been said here is the interpretation of one of the realized mystics [viz. Kàshàní] that khalq (creation) means ihtijàb  (veiling).’ But here lies the rub for, as Mullà Sadrà reminds his student, he does not believe that the Qur’anic words should be taken away from their conventional meanings.[38]

It is now that Mullà Sadrà proceeds to unfold his solution to the problem under the title ‘kashf ilhàmí’. He opens his interpretation by stating that it is God Who has blessed him ‘in the study of this verse and others like it in the way He has quenched his thirst for the truth without there being any need to divert (sarf) the words from their outer meaning.’ The solution, he explains, requires putting in order certain preliminaries. These we shall briefly summarize as follows:-

First of all, there are three categories of existents. There are:

(i)     those that have no need of form, movement or time either in  existence or in intellection;

(ii)    those that have need of form, movement and time in existence but  not in intellection, and

(iii)  those that have need of form, movement and time both in  existence and in intellection.

Each of these categories of existence has a different world and for each, man has a different organ of perception. So, the third category belongs to this world of natural things, and man perceives these existents with his senses. The second category belongs to the world of the unseen, the Hereafter and the world of recompense. Man perceives this world through his mind (khatír) and intellect (‘aql). Above this is the realm of divine matters (umur rabbàníyya), and these are perceived by the spirit (ruh) and contemplative intellect (‘aql nazarí).

Next, Mullà Sadrà explains how a thing in respect of its reality (haqíqa) and quiddity (màhiya) is an intellected concept, but in respect of its individuation it has need of matter and its passivity. The universe with all it contains, therefore, has need of matter and its accidents and passivity in its taking on of form and location and other aspects of individuation. At the same time, the individuation of a thing entails its being perceived by sensory perception.

The last of the preliminaries which Mullà Sadrà establishes here is that ‘anything which has a graduated existence, in as much as it is thus, the duration of its coming into existence (huduth) is the same as the duration of its subsistence (bàqí’).’[39]

Having set forth these preliminaries, Mullà Sadrà indicates that the existence of the universe is tied to the existence of man, whose kind preserves the existence of individuals. He then reminds his student that the appearance of heaven (or the sky) in this particular form is through things additional to its essence. Moreover the name samà’ (heaven or sky), when applied to the reality of “heavenness” is inseparable from its particular sensible form (shakl).[40]

Thus, having already established that the existence of universal bodies (e.g. heaven) preceded time and movement, Mullà Sadrà now shows that heaven, in as much as it has a material perceptible existence in this world, is temporal in its existence (zamàní al-wujud) and graduated in its actuality (tadríjí al-husul). And, again, he observes that the duration of its coming into being is identical with the duration of its subsistence, which is why it is said in the Qur’an: ‘Kulla yawmin huwa fi sha’n’ (Q.LV, 29).[41]

However, Mullà Sadrà reminds his student, beyond this world of continually renewed creation, is the world of eternal, primordial realities alluded to in the saying of the Prophet: ‘The pens have dried with what is to be until the Day of Resurrection’. If the student were to look with a true vision at all changing sensible things, from the point of view of their stable, unchanging, intellected reality, he would find them to be outside time and place. So it is with all the essential qualities of things and attributes of quiddities. If our sensory perception should leave us, then so would all concept of space and time and the earth would become other than what it is. That would be the moment when all is rolled up in the right hand of God. This point is endorsed with four lines of the poet Sanà’í:-

As long as the mind of man is alive,[42]
The tent of time will stand.
Once man puts his head to rest
The ropes of that tent will be broken

Mullà Sadrà adds no more on this subject other than to conclude: ‘From the philosophical explanation we have expounded the secret in the heavens and earth being created in six days will have become clear.’ It can be seen then that Mullà Sadrà’s own commentary on this Qur’anic statement amounts to no more than the exposition of certain philosophical principles, for in his view, a true understanding of these will suffice to answer any apparent difficulty presented by the Qur’anic words.

It is as if Mullà Sadrà is showing through this interpretation, as he had stated in his introduction, that the eternal truths of the Qur’an have taken on the clothing and form of sensible existents in order to be accessible to man who necessarily lives in the spacio-temporal world of sensible material existence. Yet, through his intellect and by means of divinely inspired unveiling, man has the possibility of rising beyond the realm of material forms to perceive the eternal realities of the Revelation.



[1]. Thanks are due to Mr Sajjad Rizvi and Miss Fatima Azzam for their advice on aspects of this paper.

[2]. Tafsír al-Qur’àn al-karím ed. Muhammad Khàjawí in 7 vols. (Qum, 1366-7s), henceforth referred to as ‘Tafsír’.

[3]. According to Bídàrfar’s introduction, ‘Tafsír’, vol. I, pp. 110-111.

[4]. This is according to the definition given by Jane D. McAuliffe in her article “Qur’àinc Hermeneutics: The Views of Tabarí and Ibn Kathír”, in A. Rippin, ed., Approaches to the History of Interpretation of the Qur’àn, (Oxford, 1988) pp. 43-62.

[5]. Abu'l-Qàsim al-Qushayrí, Latà'if al-ishàràt, ed. I. Basyuní, 3 vols, (Beirut, 1967).

[6]. 'Abd al-Razzàq al-Kàshàní, Tafsír al-Qur'àn al-karím, 2 vols. (Beirut, 1968) Otherwise known as Ta’wílàt al-Qur’àn.

[7]. Tafsír, vol. VI, p. 8.

[8]. Ibid.

[9]. Tafsír, VI, 9.

[10]. Ibid.

[11]. Mafàtih al-ghayb (Tehran, 1282/1865-6 or 1363/1984), p. 304.

[12]. Tafsír VI, 10.

[13]. Tafsír, VII, 185, commenting on Q.LXII, 5: ‘The likeness of those who are entrusted with the law of Moses yet apply it not is as the likeness of the ass carrying books…’

[14]. Tafsír, VI, 20-21.

[15]. Tafsír, IV, 161.

[16]. Tafsír, VI, 30-1.

[17]. The Muhkam (clear) and mutashàbihàt (equivocal) verses referred to in Q.III V.7 were subject of much discussion by exegetes. See L. Kinberg, ‘Muhkamàt and Mutashàbihàt (Q. 3/7): Implication of a Qur’ànic Pair of Terms in Medieval Exegesis’. Arabica, XXXV (1988), pp. 143-72; M. Lagarde, ‘De l’ambiguite dans le Coran’, Quaderni di Studi Arabi, 3 (1985), pp. 45-62, and S. Syamsuddin, Muhkam and Mutashàbih: an Analytical Study of al-Tabarí’s and al-Zamakhsharí’s Interpretations of Q. 3:7’, Journal of Qur’ànic Studies, Vol. 1, Issue 1 (1999), pp. 63-79.

[18]. Tafsír, VI, 34-5.

[19]. Tafsír, VI, 35.

[20]. Ibid.

[21]. Tafsír, VI, 35-6. The principle which Mullà Sadrà has outlined here may be evidenced in an interpretation by the early 6th/12th century mystic, Rashíd al-Dín Maybudí, who insists that the Throne of God ‘in heaven’ must be understood as it is, bi-là kayf, but then shows how the Throne of God ‘on earth’ is the ‘heart of His friend’ Kashf al-asràr wa ‘uddat al-addat al-abràr, ed. A. A. Hekmat, 10 vols., (Tehràn, 1331-9s.), vol. I, 31.

[22]. Tafsír, VI, 16.

[23]. Tafsír, VI, 6.

[24]. Tafsír, III, 297.

[25]. Tafsír, VI, 12.

[26]. Tafsír, VI, 20.

[27]. On the disallowal of the metaphorical interpretation of aspects of the bodily Resurrection and sensible punishments and rewards in the afterlife see, for example, al-Ghazzàlí, Faysal al-tafriqa bayn al-islàm wa-‘l-zandaqa, Cairo, (1961) pp. 191-2 (trans. R.T. McCarthy as Appendix I in Freedom and Fulfillment, Boston, 1980): al-Iqtisad fí’l-i‘tiqàd, Ankara, (1962) pp. 249-50: al-Munqidh min al dalàl, text and trans, with introduction and notes, F. Jabre, (Beirut, 1969), pp. 23-4, and I. Goldziher, Streitschrift des Gazalí gegen die Batinijja-Sekte, (Leiden, 1916), pp. 70-1. On the requirement of spiritual purification before the inner realities of the Qur’àn can be understood, see Abê ‘Abd al-Rahmàn al-Sulamí (Tehran, 1369s), p. 197, French trans. In P. Nwyia, ‘Un cas d’exegese soufie: l’Histoire de Joseph’, in Melanges Henri Corbin, ed. S.H. Nasr, (Tehran, 1977), p. 408; and Maybudí Kashf al-asràr, I, 229 and II, 612-3. On the need for a divinely granted unveiling (mukàshifa) for the mystical interpretation of the Qur’àn see Ghazzàlí, Ihyà ‘ulum al-dín, Kitàb qawà’id al-‘aqà’id I, 92; trans. Faris, Foundations of the Articles of Faith, (Lahore, 1963) pp. 50-2 and Maybudí, Kashf al-asràr, II, 612-3.

[28]. See Fazlur Rahman, The Philosophy of Mullà Sadrà (SUNY, 1975) pp.4-5.

[29]. J. Cooper, “Mullà Sadrà” in Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy (London/New York, 1998), vol. VI, p. 597.

[30] Ibid.

[31]. Tafsír, VI, 15-16.

[32]. For example vol. VI, 18-19; 24.

[33]. Mullà Sadrà’s commentary amounts to 120 pages in the printed edition, as compared with 11 pages (Qushayrí) and 7 pages (Kàshàní). Even Maybudí’s commentary on Surat al-Sajda, which includes an exoteric and esoteric commentary, amounts to no more than 30 pages.

[34]. Abu ‘l-Qàsim Mahmud b. ‘Umar al-Zamakhsharí, al-Kashshàf ‘an haqà’iq al-tanzíl, 4 vols., (Beirut, 1967).

[35]. Tafsír, VI, 104 and 107. Apart from this overall function of demarcating the text, I have not been able to link any one of these subtitles to a particular type of interpretation. A more extensive study of Mullà Sadrà’s tafsír is required in order to discover what particular significance, if any, may be attached to the use of these different titles.

[36]. Latà'if al-ishàràt, II, 139.

[37]. Tafsír al-Qur'an al-karím, II, 272.

[38]. Tafsír, VI, 31.

[39]. Tafsír, VI, 32. We can here see an allusion to Mullà Sadrà’s understanding of time in its relation to haraka jawhariyya. As Fazlur Rahman has explained:  ‘All bodies, be they celestial or material, are subject to this substantial change in their very being, and this proves that the entire spatio-temporal world is temporally originated insofar as its existence is ever-renewed every moment.’ (The Philosophy of Mulla ·Sadra, p. 96.) This principle appears to have similarities with Ibn ‘Arabí’s tajaddud al-khalq bi'l-anfàs, but this requires further investigation elsewhere.

[40]. Tafsír, VI, 32.

[41]. Tafsír, VI, 33.

[42]. Lit. As long as earth (or mind’s earth?) gives birth to man (tà zamín-i dil adamizàyast).

[43]. I.e. no longer exists.

[44]. Man being the pole of the world’s tent. Tafsír, VI, 33. The first couplet may be found in Sanà’í’s Hadíqat al-haqíqa ed. Mudarris Razaví page 127, where the first hemistich reads:

tà zamín jà-yi àdmízàyast

A variant given in the footnote is closer in sound to Sadrà’s version

tà zamín u gil àdamízàyast

The second couplet is found in identical form in the Hadíqa, p. 128.


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