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Blackwell Publishering Ltd Oxford, UK MUWO The MuslimWorld 1478-1913 2004 Hartford Seminary 2004 94 11000

ORIGINAL ARTICLES

The Soul as Barzakh The MuslimWorld Volume 94 2004

The Soul as

Barzakh

:
Substantial Motion and
Mull

a



S

adr

a

s Theory of
Human Becoming

Maria Massi Dakake

George Mason University
Fairfax, Virginia

T

he problem of the nature of the human soul, its connection to both the
physical and spiritual realms, and its apparently asymmetrical existence
as an entity that is both created in time and eternally subsistent, has
exercised the minds of nearly all the great theologians and philosophers of
Islam. If one adds to this the intricacies of Su psychology, which often
represents the soul itself as the great enemy to be vanquished on the road to
spiritual realization, we can see the difculties that any holistic discussion of
the soul in Islamic thought must involve. But it is just such a project that is
undertaken by

S

adr al-D

i

n al-Sh

i

r

a

z

i

, perhaps the greatest philosopher of the
Isfahani school of Islamic philosophy, in the better part of the last two volumes
of his

magnum opus,



The Four Intellectual Journeys (al-Asf

a

r al-arba


ah
al-


aqliyah)

.

1



S

adr al-D

i

n al-Sh

i

r

a

z

i

(or Mull

a



S

adr

a

) is well known for his far-
reaching synthesis of multiple strains of Islamic thought, and this is perhaps
nowhere more evident or impressive (although not entirely unproblematic)
than in his discussion of the soul in its origin and nal ends. By clearly
identifying the soul as a substance rather than an accident (in the
Aristotelian sense of these terms)

2

and by further applying his unique theory
of substantial motion that is, motion or change in the category of substance
itself to the soul, Mull

a



S

adr

a

claims to be able to account for the
transformation of the soul along its existential journey without the ontological
discontinuities entailed by previous philosophical theories. For Mull

a



S

adr

a

, it
is not a question of the soul moving across an immutable

barzakh

or barrier
between the apparently mutually exclusive existential modes of immateriality
and bodiliness, createdness and eternity, but rather for

S

adr

a

, the soul itself is
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:t:r

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108
the

barzakh

a moving

barzakh

that traverses the various modes of being
through its own inward process of transformation. For

S

adr

a

, spiritual
realization does not have to do with conquering or subjugating the soul at
least these are not his primary metaphors

3

but rather with transforming the
soul in its very nature and substance.
In this article, I will examine Mull

a



S

adr

a

s theory of the human soul and
its existential transformation through the process of substantial motion in
relation to earlier Islamic thinking on the issue. I will then demonstrate the way
in which

S

adr

a

s theory attempts to reconcile the old conicts between the
Islamic doctrine of the createdness of the soul in matter and time and the
Platonic (and Neo-Platonic) conception of the soul as pre-existing the body,
and between the Islamic theologians insistence upon the resurrection of the
body and the philosophers argument for the immaterial nature of the souls
subsistence after death. In the process, we hope to illustrate the extent to
which

S

adr

a

is able to integrate the mystical and mythological conceptions of
the soul that are found in Qur

a

nic verses, Prophetic traditions and Su sayings
into his philosophical psychology and eschatology. Although

S

adr

a

s theory of
soul can be found in numerous works, including the

Shaw

a

hid al-rub

ubiyah,
the Arshiyah and his commentary upon Suhrawardis Hikmat al-Ishraq, this
article will focus primarily on Sadras discussion of the soul in the Asfar,
because it is here that we nd an annotated catalogue, so to speak, of all the
major sources of his thought, from the works of Plato and Ibn Sina to Quranic
and hadith material, and it is here that we see his own theory of soul emerge
from the difcult work of critiquing and/or re-interpreting these earlier sources.
The Sadrian Concept of the Soul
Mulla Sadra acknowledges the apparent contradictions involved in
traditional Islamic discussions of the soul. Most Islamic philosophers agree, for
example, that the soul must be a simple and non-composite reality, for this
makes its eternal subsistence after the body both possible and necessary. Yet
this simplicity would seem to indicate an eternal subsistence prior to the body
as well, so how can this simplicity be reconciled with the doctrine that the soul
is temporally created? Islamic philosophers likewise agree that the soul is a
spiritual or intellectual (and therefore immaterial) reality at least on some
level so how is it that it comes to be attached to the body and to depend
upon it? Moreover, if the soul is immaterial in its essence, then how can there
be multiple individuations of the soul, for such individuations are only
conceivable in the context of matter?
4
With a thorough understanding of these
difculties and the intellectual perspectives that have addressed them
Platonic, Aristotelian, Neo-Platonic, Quranic, Avicennan, Ishraqi and Su
Sadra presents a grand theory of the soul and its spiritual and earthly journey
Tnr Soti :s BARZAKH
109
that seeks to re-interpret, amend and ultimately harmonize the variety of
Hellenistic and Islamic approaches to the issue.
Mulla Sadra conceives of the soul as a simple, holy and indivisible
substance ( jawhar) that has its origin in the immutable, immaterial, and
purely intellectual or angelic realm of the malakut, but which nonetheless
also exists in and journeys through the world of temporality and change.
5

While he often speaks of the souls descent into matter and time from its
original lofty and immaterial existence, he makes it clear in other places that
he means this metaphorically, for there can be no meaning to a distinct and
individualized soul existing as such in the unitive world of the intellect, nor
can there be any discussion of such a lofty intellectual reality becoming
embodied, and thus imprisoned, in material form.
6
As he says in his
commentary on the Hikmat al-ishraq of Suhrawardi, It is inconceivable that
something which exists in the world of the Intellect would separate itself
from that beautiful and noble realm, or that it could somehow be forced to
descend into the abyss of rampant beasts and the mine of all evil and
ignorance.
7
Sadra prefers to say that the soul has an existential root
(kaynunah) in both the world of the intellect and the world of nature and
sense
8
such that it is engendered, so to speak, on two different planes of
existence. In its intellectual kaynunah, the soul is immaterial and possesses no
individuated or separative existence, being one with the immaterial Intellect
itself. In other words, it is not really soul as such, insofar as the term soul
implies material individuation, although the being or wujud
9
of the earthly
individuated soul derives from this original, undifferentiated, intellectual
wujud.
10
In its earthly or temporal plane of existence, the soul is originated
with the body, and has an essential and natural unity with the body that
cannot be escaped on this existential level. The connection between the
soul and its body is similar to the connection between form and matter in that
the two are mutually dependent upon each other for their own realization.
11

The soul, as dening form for the matter of the body, represents the bodys
nal perfection and, he says, is like its very being (wujud ), while the body
is the souls existence or existentiation (mawjudiyah)
12
; that is, the body
facilitates the souls individuated and distinct existence apart from the
undifferentiated wujud of the Intellect, just as the soul individuates and
distinguishes the body from undifferentiated matter.
13
The body is moreover
the means through which the privative soul can reach its own perfection,
although Sadra cautions that the body should not be understood merely as an
instrument at the disposal of the soul, as most previous philosophers have
argued, for the connection between the soul and the body is stronger and
more essential than the relationship between an agent and the instrument of
his action.
14
Tnr Mtsii Worir Voitr 94 J:t:r 2004
110
Sadra integrates the four problematic and apparently contradictory
qualities commonly applied to the soul temporality and eternity, materiality
and immateriality in his famous formulation which declares that the soul is
bodily in its temporal origination and spiritual [and therefore immaterial] in
its subsistence after death, or, as he says elsewhere, the soul is bodily in its
mode of action but spiritual in its process of intellection.
15
Yet, it would be
profoundly inaccurate to say that Sadra views the soul as a composition of
spirit or intellect and matter, with the two elements co-mingled within the
human substance.
16
As noted above, Sadra considers the soul to be a simple,
17

unied substance and so admits of no composite nature for the soul
whatsoever, regardless of the diversity of its faculties or its ability, as we shall
see, to receive the forms of multiple things. The soul is rather the meeting
point of intellect and matter; it is, as he tells us, the highest and terminal point
of material forms and the lowest or beginning point of perceptible [i.e.,
intelligible] forms; and its wujud at that point is the last of the bodily husks
and the rst of the spiritual kernels.
18
The soul is the subtle substance that
serves as the very barzakh (barrier or isthmus) between intellect and matter,
between the eternal and the temporal. As the barzakhi reality between the
immaterial human intellect and the material body,
19
the soul corresponds to the
macrocosmic realm of the imagination, which is likewise a barzakhi world
between the purely intellectual realm of the malakut and the physical world.
20

At one point, Sadra describes the soul in Quranic terms as the junction
between the two seas.
21
The meeting point between the two seas and the
barzakh that the Quran tells us in another passage lies between them,
22
is
an important symbol in the Quran. It is most importantly the place where the
law-giving prophet, Moses, meets Khidr, that mysterious and ahistorical Islamic
prophet, who teaches Moses the knowledge of the Unseen.
23
If we consider
the full implications of this symbol and there is no reason to think that Sadra
did not intend us to do so then the soul, as representative of this barzakh,
is precisely the meeting point of the Manifest and the Unmanifest, the alam
al-shahadah and the alam al-ghayb.
The notion that there are three realities in man the intellectual,
the psychic and the physical and that the psychic realm is intermediate
(barzakhi ) between the intellectual and the bodily, is hardly a Sadrian
contribution. It obviously goes back to Platonic and Aristotelian discussions of
the nature of human reality, and was adopted by Ibn Sina, as well. The only
major divergence from the notion of soul as a kind of barzakh among Islamic
philosophers seems to come in the works of the Ishraqi philosopher Shihab
al-Din Suhrawardi, according to whom it is the body, rather than the soul,
which is the barzakh with the term serving as a technical reference to the
body in many of Suhrawardis discussions.
24
Tnr Soti :s BARZAKH
111
Sadra differs from his predecessors, however, in that for him, the soul
is not a xed barzakh, but rather one that is constantly shifting through
the process of substantial motion. Substantial motion (al-harakah
al-jawhariyah) is the Sadrian term for the process through which all things
come to be, in the course of their physical life, what they are in their purely
intellectual being that is, in the knowledge of God. It is a process
undergone not only by human souls, but by all things animate and
(apparently) inanimate for as Sadra tells us, every created thing is moving
toward its own perfection: [T]he contingent thing is not created for nothing
(habaan) or in vain (abathan),
25
but rather is returning to its original end
. . . the [physical] elements were only created to receive life and spirit.
26
This
motion toward perfection occurs within the very substance of the existent
entity and is nothing other than an intensication of the wujud of that
particular entity. For Sadra, it is only through accepting the idea of substantial
motion and a certain gradation within wujud itself that one can resolve the
apparent contradiction between the souls created materiality and its ultimate
immateriality:
. . . in the opinion [of earlier thinkers] the soul must be a body . . . even
though they afrm the immateriality (tajarrud ) of the rational [soul] in
origination and substance. This is not what we say, namely, that [the
soul] is bodily in origination and spiritual in subsistence. This is one of
the proofs for the varying degrees of intensity (ishtidad ) in the category
of substance . . . and through this many problems that arise regarding
the origination of the soul and its subsistence after death are resolved.
Most, since they do not understand this principle . . . are confused . . .
such that some of them deny [the souls] immateriality and some [deny]
its subsistence after the body and some speak of the transmigration
(tanasukh) of spirits. . . . But those rm in knowledge (rasikhuna
l-ilm
27
), those who combine speculation and logical demonstration, the
unveiling [of hidden truths] with the investigation [of manifest realities],
know that the soul has many levels and that despite its simplicity, [it has]
existential states, some of which are prior to nature,
28
some with nature
and some after nature. . . . And that which is dependent upon the body
is only one of [the souls] planes of existence. The predisposition of the
body [to receive the soul] is a condition for the wujud of this lower,
natural, earthly generation, and this is its aspect of poverty and privation
and possibility and deciency, not the aspect of its necessity and
independence and completion. And were the body a condition for the
perfection of its identity and the completion of its wujud as is the
case with the rest of the animals and vegetables then the passing
away of the body would be a cause for its passing away. . . .
29
The substance of the human being is, of course, the soul, in other
words, the very meeting point of spirit and matter, or intellect and body,
Tnr Mtsii Worir Voitr 94 J:t:r 2004
112
which represent the two poles of human existence. It is this very substance
and not simply the accidents that subsist therein that moves between these
two poles and is transmuted as an individual passes from potentiality to
actuality in the development of his/her physical, psychic and spiritual
faculties. All movements from potentiality to actuality (and movement can
only take place in this direction)
30
represent an intensication of the wujud or
being of that particular entity, not an alteration of its identity or essence. Thus,
even as an individual moves from potentiality to actuality, even as its very
substance is transmuted, it remains a continuous essential reality subsisting
through its own intellectual being or wujud, which is ultimately its reality in
the knowledge of God.
31
In other words, it becomes more and more intensely
or actually what it is in its origin, for verily the ends of things are their
origins.
32
For Sadra, as the being of a human soul intensies, it becomes increasingly
independent of the body and begins to pull away from the body hence the
gradual process of its decay, which is only given life by the soul until the
soul reaches its nal earthly perfection and so sheds the physical body
entirely.
33
But despite the souls ultimate independence from the body, Sadra
avoids the dualism of his Platonic and Ishraqi predecessors, who would see
the body as dark, dead, lifeless matter, or as something that imprisons the
soul.
34
Rather, for Sadra, the body has an organic connection with the soul until
the moment of death, which can be viewed as positive and nurturing, rather
than simply limiting and inhibitive. In order to explain this relationship, Sadra
gives us the example of a fetus who is dependent upon the womb for its
existence until birth, but then becomes independent of it, and is able to subsist
despite the decay or perishing of the womb.
35
If we examine this analogy
further, we see that the womb is not simply a refuge or much less a prison
for the fetus, but rather an organ through which the fetus is able to reach
its maturity and to develop the faculties initially possessed by the womb itself
such as the provision of breath and nourishment until the fetus
eventually comes to possess these faculties independent of its mother and her
womb. In the same way, the soul initially depends upon the body for the
realization of its faculties. However, the soul eventually becomes independent
of the body, such that the bodys passing away does not harm the soul, nor
does it in any way compromise those faculties of the soul once facilitated by
the body such as the senses.
36
For Sadra, those senses continue on the
psychic plane, even after the death of the body. Thus, Sadra, as we will see,
takes the position that the pleasures and torments of the next life will be
experiences purely on the psychic level not on the physical level as asserted
by most Asharite theologians, nor on a purely intellectual level, as asserted by
many Islamic philosophers.
Tnr Soti :s BARZAKH
113
In an individuals passage from one state of being to another or among
the various faculties of the soul realized thereby, Mulla Sadra is particularly
concerned to avoid any kind of ontological discontinuity, which he considers
to be one of the shortcomings of earlier philosophical, particularly Avicennan,
approaches to the nature of the human soul. Ibn Sina, like most Islamic
philosophers, asserted that the human soul was a simple entity, but also
held that it contained within it the vegetative, animal and rational souls. In
Avicennan thought, these souls cannot be considered entirely unied within
the supposedly simple reality of the human soul, since Ibn Sina makes a clear
ontological distinction between the vegetative and animal souls on the one
hand and the rational soul on the other, indicating that the vegetative and
animal souls, being connected with the body in an absolute sense, pass away
with the body, while only the rational soul subsists disembodied after
death.
37
Sadra argues that the problematic elements of the Avicennan view can
only be overcome by positing the notion of change in the very substance that
is the soul itself. On the lower plane of existence, Sadra agrees that the soul
can be said to encompass various faculties, from the lower vegetative faculties
of growth and reproduction to the nobler animal faculties of sensation and
imagination and nally the uniquely human faculty of rationality. But one
should not imagine that the soul acquires these faculties in an accidental and
purely external fashion, such that one would have to describe the soul as
a composite reality composed of these various faculties. Rather, as the
human soul on the temporal plane of existence moves up the ladder of its
own ontological perfection, it realizes or actualizes these various faculties
progressively, with the lower faculties being assumed within the higher ones
as they are attained, such that the soul becomes these various faculties rather
than simply acquiring them. He explains:
[The soul] includes . . . the various degrees of the animal faculty, from
the level of imagination to the level of the deductive senses, which is the
lowest of the animal degrees; and it is also in possession of the degrees
of the vegetative faculty, of which the lowest is nourishment and the
highest is reproduction; and it is also in possession of a faculty of natural
motion, which subsists through the body. But this does not mean that it
is composed of these different faculties, for [the soul] is simple (basiah)
in its being (wujud ). Rather, it refers to the perfecting of its substantive
nature (kamal jawhariyatiha ) and the completion of its wujud and the
[increasing] comprehensiveness of its essence through these formal
levels. And the diversity of its actions and their meanings are all present
in a single wujud in the soul, but in a simple and subtle manner which
gives rise to the subtlety of the soul. Just as the concepts of various types
of bodies may be unied in the intellect, becoming themselves after
rising from the level of the sensible to the level of the intelligible, and
Tnr Mtsii Worir Voitr 94 J:t:r 2004
114
just as all natural types are found in the intellect in a higher and loftier
manner [than they are found in their concrete, physical reality], so too
do all of the natural faculties found in the wujud of the soul possess a
psychic wujud, that is higher and loftier than their wujud in different
[material] substrates. And, in general, the Adamic soul descends from its
highest purity to the station of nature and the station of sensing and
sensible forms, and its degree at this point is the degree of natures and
senses; then it becomes, with touch, the very limb or faculty of touch
and with smell and taste, the very faculty of smell and taste, and these
are the lowest of the senses. And when it rises to the station of
imagination it becomes the faculty of conception. And it is [the souls]
prerogative to rise above these stations to the stations of the holy
intellect and to unite with every intellect and intelligible.
38
The unity of the soul despite its various faculties is, for Sadra, a reection
of the Divine unity,
39
and it is somewhat reminiscent of certain traditional
Islamic formulations regarding the relationship between God and his
attributes. Sadras description of the soul becoming itself the faculty of touch,
or smell or imagination upon the actualization of these faculties seems
analogous to the earlier theological and philosophical theories that recognized
no distinction between the essential attributes of God and Gods Essence itself,
such that the God was considered to be powerful through a power which was
nothing other than his essence, knowledgeable through a knowledge that was
nothing other than his essence, and so on.
40
(The only difference, of course, is
that for God, these things are eternally present with him; there can obviously
be no process of becoming these things, as is the case with the human
reality.) At the very end of the passage cited above, we can see that this
process of becoming which characterizes the development and enhancement
of the soul in its bodily and temporal existence is also the manner in which
the soul will eventually return to the abode of the immaterial intellect, by
uniting with every intellect and intelligible as it has united with the various
psychic faculties and levels below it. We will revisit and further elaborate upon
Sadras view of the souls return to its intellectual origin in the nal section of
this article.
We can say, then, that from one perspective, Mulla Sadras theory of
human becoming has something of a circular and symmetrical quality to it in
that the soul both begins and ends in the intellectual realm. From another
perspective, however, he preserves something of the asymmetry of traditional
Islamic notions of the soul which generally denied any existence for the
soul prior to the body, but maintained its eternal subsistence after death
in that he also afrms the souls initial existential dependence upon and
origination through the body, such that the soul can be considered to have, as
we have seen, two existential roots or modes of origination and a single,
Tnr Soti :s BARZAKH
115
unied existential end. What is important to note here is that there are indeed
two perspectives to Sadras view of the soul something he himself maintains
as a means of avoiding the conicts and confusions that have characterized
other theories of soul. For Sadra, the soul has both an immaterial wujud and
a wujud that is attached to or dependent upon matter; nearly all of the
difculties in the description of the soul are overcome for Sadra through his
insistence that the soul be viewed from these two different perspectives or
planes of existence. Again, however, he is careful to note that the fact that the
soul exists on two different ontological levels and what applies to the soul
in one does not necessarily apply to it in the other does not entail or imply
any division or disjunction in the total reality of the soul, for originally,
ultimately and actually, these two wujuds are one, distinguished only by
their level of intensity. One could make an analogy to the light of the sun,
which is always and everywhere sunlight but which in its various degrees of
intensity may encompass different qualities. At its most intense, the light is
blinding, while at a lesser intensity it is illuminating; in great intensity it may
destroy, while in lesser intensity, nourish, etc. The soul likewise represents an
extension or emanation of immaterial wujud into the material realm, and it
likewise encompasses different qualities and characteristics at its different
levels of intensity without this entailing any ontological disjuncture between
those different levels. As it journeys in union with the body through the
material realm, its wujud increasingly intensies until it reaches the point of its
own substantial perfection such that it is no longer in need of the matter of the
body and, at that point, returns to the immaterial realm through death.
The Pre-existence of the Soul
The issue of the existence of the soul prior to the body even a purely
intellectual pre-existence is particularly problematic for Muslim theologians
and philosophers for several reasons, since the necessary attachment of soul
to body, or the inconceivability of a disembodied soul, is demanded both by
certain logical denitions and by Islamic dogma. Insofar as the denition
of soul implies individuation and distinct existence, and insofar as such
individual distinction can only be realized through material differences, one
can no more conceptualize soul without body than form without matter.
41

Islamic dogma, for its part, asserted the necessary connection between a soul
and its particular body as a way of refuting the notion of the transmigration of
souls, or tanasukh a heretical notion from the Islamic perspective which
nevertheless seems to have enjoyed some circulation in early Islamic times,
apparently stemming in part from Indo-Iranian religious sub-currents in certain
Islamic intellectual circles. Arguing for the necessary connection between body
and soul was also important as a support for the Islamic doctrine of bodily
Tnr Mtsii Worir Voitr 94 J:t:r 2004
116
resurrection against the Platonic and Neo-Platonic belief followed by the
Islamic Peripatetics of the eternity of the immaterial or disembodied soul.
While Sadra himself afrms bodily resurrection
42
and categorically denies
the notion of transmigration of souls, he nonetheless acknowledges the
insufciency of the well known theological arguments against tanasukh. He
notes, for example, the circular nature of theological arguments that refuted
tanasukh on the basis of the temporal createdness of souls, and based their
arguments for the temporal createdness of souls on the impossibility of
tanasukh.
43
Perhaps more difcult for Sadra, who so meticulously sought
to reconcile Platonic and Neo-Platonic paradigms with Islamic scriptural
and traditional texts, was that both his Platonic sources on one hand and
the Quran and hadith literature on the other contain explicit and
implicit references to the pre-existence of the soul and to its embodiment,
disembodiment and/or re-embodiment in the material world. The Platonic and
Neo-Platonic myth of the pure soul falling into matter seemed to Sadra to be
echoed in both the Judeo-Christian-Islamic story of the fall of Adam and the
Zoroastrian story of the creation of evil both of which he reads as allegorical
references to the journey of the human soul.
44
In addition to these allegorical
references, Sadra also cites other Quranic passages which allude either to the
existence of the soul prior to the body such as Quran VII: 172, where God
is said to have addressed all of the seed taken from the loins of a pre-existent
Adam and asked them to conrm that he was, indeed, their Lord or to the
souls descent into the world such as Quran XCV: 45 We have created man
in the highest of states and then cast him down to the lowest of the low.
45
Mulla Sadra also nds support for the notion of the pre-eternal reality of
the soul or spirit in the hadith tradition. For example, he cites the well known
Prophetic hadith in which Muhammad states that he was a prophet while
Adam was still between water and clay,
46
(thus acknowledging a certain
existence for him before the bodily creation of the rst man himself ) and the
Shiite and Su hadith which states that the spirits [of men] (arwah) were
created one thousand years before bodies.
47
In fact, references to a pre-
existential life for the human soul seem to be particularly in evidence in the
Shiite hadith corpus. This is perhaps because Imami Shiite doctrine is very
much concerned with ontological distinctions between various levels of
created beings: angels, prophets, imams, believers (i.e., Shiites) and non-
believers; and these distinctions, according to Shiite tradition, are the result of
events and determinations that appear to take place prior to the creation of the
world itself. For example, Shiite tradition considers the pre-eternal questioning
of the seed of Adam referenced in Quran VII: 172 to have included questions
regarding the prophecy of Muhammad and the walayah or esoteric authority
of Ali b. Abi Talib, with only a select group among the respondents
Tnr Soti :s BARZAKH
117
acknowledging the latter. In fact, Mulla Sadra, himself a devoted Imami Shiite,
testies to the importance of the pre-existential realm in Shiite thought, noting
that the traditions handed down on this subject by our fellow (Shiites) are so
innumerable that it is as though the existence of spirits prior to (their) bodies
were one of the essential premises of the Imamite school. . . .
48
And in his
own discussion of the issue of human cosmogony and ontology, Mulla Sadra
relies to a signicant extent on the material contained in the traditional Imami
Shiite sources.
49
In defense of the Platonic and scriptural allusions to a kind of existence
for the soul prior to the creation of bodies, Sadra elaborates his theory of the
origin of the soul in the realm of the intellect. As noted above, he is careful to
indicate that the soul does not exist as soul in the realm of the intellect, but
rather has its origin there. However, the terms of his discussion are not always
precise, for even if he states explicitly that the soul does not exist as soul in
the intellectual realm, he nonetheless continues to refer to it as soul when
discussing its pre-existent state.
50
Moreover, even though Sadra states that pre-
existent souls can have no material reality and no essential or accidental
distinction in the intellectual realm in which they subsist,
51
he does not seem
to mean that they are therefore necessarily devoid of all form or bodiliness,
since they may possess bodies that are not corporeal or material in nature:
It is possible that [souls] could be existent before these [physical] bodies
in another world, attached to bodies other than natural, corporeal
bodies, whether they be elemental (unsuriyah) or celestial ( falakiyah),
for verily the impermissibility of tanasukh is only a valid argument
[against this notion] if it entails the moving of souls and spirits in this
world between material, corporeal bodies. . . . [T]he human soul
possesses varying stations and degrees, and it has previous and
subsequent planes of existence (nashat ) and in every station and world
it has another form. . . .
52
Although Sadra usually speaks of souls possessing an intellectual oneness
(or unity)
53
in their intellectual pre-existence, he here leaves open the
question of individual distinction among souls in pre-eternity, on the basis
of the possibility of distinction through non-corporeal or immaterial bodies.
Here again, Sadra resolves the logical difculties entailed by the notion of
souls existent before (physical) bodies by insisting upon a gradated view, not
only of the wujud or being of the soul, but also of the basic concept of body,
which for most other philosophers implies materiality and corporeality. As we
have alluded to earlier, this nuanced view of the body is especially important
for Sadras concept of the souls transitions in the afterlife.
The continuity between the souls intellectual, psychic and physical
realities is facilitated by Sadras uid and unitive conception of wujud. For
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118
Sadra, there is only one wujud through which all souls subsist, differing only
by the level of intensity with which they participate in this wujud. Every
individual possesses three types (or really degrees of intensity) of wujud:
active wujud, which constitutes its intellectual existence; contingent wujud,
which constitutes its psychic existence; and passive or potential wujud, which
is none other than the physical matter that receives its human form.
54
For
Sadra, each of the more intense forms of wujud includes all of the wujud or
reality of those below them, and hence there is no contradiction. In fact, the
relationship between the higher and lower levels of wujud, he says, is similar
to the relationship between cause and effect, since cause and effect are
hierarchically ordered, but not ontologically separate, in that the effect is
always contained within the cause.
55
Sadra also strenuously objects to the
notion that movement between these three planes of existence, or intensities
of wujud, constitutes an alteration of the truth (haqiqah) of a thing, or of its
quiddity (mahiyah). He argues to the contrary that denying gradation and
hierarchy within the concept of wujud would itself lead to an alteration in the
quiddity or mahiyah of a thing:
This [process of substantial motion] does not entail a change in the
truth of a thing, for [such a change] would mean altering the quiddity
(mahiyah) of that thing, by virtue of which it is what it is, such that it
becomes the quiddity of some other thing in meaning and concept. And
this is impossible, because the quiddity (mahiyah) is that by virtue of
which [the thing] is what it is and [by virtue of which] it cannot be
anything else. . . . But as for the intensication of wujud in its movement
toward perfection and the perfection of its substantive form in itself,
through which it comes to include essential qualities other than those
which it had possessed before, this is not impossible, because wujud
precedes quiddity and it is the source of the quiddities which proceed
from it. . . . Verily, various species of things and dened concepts
such as man, sphere, earth, heavens, and so on have multiple types
of wujud and multiple modes of existence, some of them natural, some
psychic, some intellectual and some Divine. Thus if you were to
think earth or heaven, it would be present in your intellect as an
intellectual heaven, [and if you were to imagine heaven] it would be
present in your imagination as an imaginal heaven both of them
being heaven in reality, not just guratively. The same would be true of
the concrete [material] heaven, but the rst two forms [i.e., the
intellectual and the imaginal] would be more deserving of the name
heaven, because the concrete heaven is mixed with, and concealed
by, other things external to its essence, and by nothingness and
darkness and by the continuous ow of other things, and such is the
case for every natural species. And all [these natural species] pre-exist in
the Decree of God, in a holy, intellectual way. So what is wrong with
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119
souls which are the forms of every natural species having an
existential root in a different mode in the intellectual world? And
whoever claims that existence (kawn) has a single meaning in all
multiple existents on different planes of existence, necessitates the
transmutation of quiddity and the nullication of the truth [of a thing]
and so is prevented from knowing the true nature of anything.
56
The true nature of things, for Sadra, is the nature of those things as they
are in the mind of God complete, immaterial and purely actualized. To
claim that existence in the created world in which all things exist
imperfectly and only in potential is the same as existence in the intellectual
realm in the Divine Decree is clearly false. Without the possibility of a being
existent in the created world intensifying in its own wujud through substantial
motion such that it might come to exist on the purely intellectual level, there
would be no way for that entity to realize its true nature in an integral way,
without changing its identity. Thus, it is only a gradated concept of wujud that
can account for the maintenance of the continuous identity of all things as they
journey through the different planes of existence. As he states, it is his view
that wujud precedes mahiyah and is fundamental in relation to it.
57
Thus, any
intensication of wujud will naturally enhance the essential qualities that
constitute the mahiyat or quiddities of distinct things; but he insists that this
does not require an impermissible change in mahiyah, since it occurs
through a process internal to the thing itself. Moreover, as we have seen, Sadra
denes a more intense wujud as that which includes all of the reality or truth
of the lower intensities of wujud, in which case the mahiyah is not altered
between ontological levels, such that it becomes some other thing, but is rather
enhanced, such that it comes to include additional qualities that it formerly
only possessed in potentiality, while fully maintaining the integrity of its
previous self.
This notion of the fundamental nature of wujud in relation to mahiyah
represents a profound difference between Sadra and his Ishraqi predecessor,
Shihab al-Din Suhrawardi, who held that it was mahiyah that was
fundamental, whereas wujud or existence was simply a mental construct.
Suhrawardi also argues forcefully in his Hikmat al-ishraq against the notion
of the pre-existence of the soul; in one lengthy section of the Asfar,
Sadra examines and refutes Suhrawardis arguments point by point. Before
comparing their arguments for and against the pre-existence of the soul, it
should be pointed out that while there are some notable parallels between
Ishraqi and Sadrian ontology, they remain two quite different systems. For
Suhrawardi, all being should be understood as emanations of light upon
otherwise dark, heavy and lifeless matter. God is the Light of lights and all
light derives from this source and is differentiated by varying degrees of
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120
intensity and corresponding function for example, the angelic or intellectual
beings are referred to as commanding lights and human rational souls as
managing lights, in the sense that they manage the otherwise inanimate
matter of the body.
58
To some extent Suhrawardis theory of light is analogous
to Sadras conception of wujud as a single and unitive reality differentiated
only by degrees of intensity and weakness and Sadra himself alludes to
the parallel nature of their thought in this regard.
59
But, as noted above, for
Suhrawardi, it is the body, rather than the soul, which is the barzakh or
barrier, in the sense of being a barrier to light. As we have seen, Sadras
philosophy rejects the dualism of light and dark matter characteristic of
Suhrawardian ontology, and considers all bodies to have life and soul of some
sort, however weak their degree of intensity.
60
For Sadra, there is no meaning
to something that acts as an immutable barrier to the ow of undifferentiated
being; rather all things emerge from and participate in this being or wujud.
Even if one can make a distinction between the existence (wujud ) and
quiddity (mahiyah) of a given entity on some level, in reality, even quiddity
emerges from wujud itself.
Suhrawardi begins his argument against the pre-existence of souls (or
managing lights, as he calls them) by arguing that if souls existed in pre-
eternity, they would have to be either one or multiple. If they were one, then
they could not conceivably be divided into multiple entities after that, since
such division or multiplicity requires the presence of the body or matter. If
they were multiple, then they would have to be distinguished by intensity or
weakness, and such distinctions could only be brought about by external
accidents, which simply cannot be conceived of in the realms of eternity
and immateriality.
61
Sadras response is that there is more than one type of
oneness and that the oneness that pertains to souls in their intellectual origin
is not the same as the oneness that characterizes them in the realm of material
existence. He notes that there are four types of oneness intellectual
oneness, oneness of species, numerical oneness and quantitative oneness
and that while every type of oneness is opposed by a kind of multiplicity, not
every oneness is opposed by every multiplicity. For verily, intellectual oneness
might be the same as numerical multiplicity, and likewise what is one in nature
might be multiple in parts.
62
For Sadra, while it is true that souls are one in
species in the material world, they are characterized by an intellectual oneness
in their immaterial and pre-eternal reality. In other words, they are not
distinguished by external accidents and qualities giving them independent and
individual mahiyat, but rather they exist as pure wujud or being, and as such
have no individual mahiyah. In this realm, they are distinguished only by
intensities of wujud, which does not imply ontological separateness or
external causes, since a more intense wujud simply encompasses the lesser,
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allowing for a certain type of oneness in conjunction with a certain mode of
distinction.
63
All realities are differentiated, in other words, by the very thing
that they have in common wujud.
64
Perhaps a more challenging argument presented by Suhrawardi has to do
with the reason or cause for the descent of the soul into the material realm.
Suhrawardi argues that the occurrence of such a descent would require that an
accidental or incidental change take place in the eternal and immaterial realm
in which those souls would presumably be located. But there can be no such
accidental or incidental change introduced in the realm of eternity.
65
Sadra
answers this by arguing that the cause of this descent is not an external,
accidental quality, but the inherent deciency and imperfection of the soul in
its particular existence in the world of the intellect, which arises from its being
derivative of its perfect and self-subsisting (qayyum) Maker.
66
There are,
therefore, some perfections that it can only attain through a descent into the
material body; and he cites numerous passages from the works of Greek
philosophers and the canons of Islamic hadith to defend and explain the
providential nature of the souls coming to exist in the material world.
67
He
further notes that Suhrawardi accepts that human souls can enter the realm
of eternity and immateriality after death, presumably without this realm
undergoing any change or transmutation thereby. If souls can ascend to this
realm without ontologically disturbing it, then there is no reason that they
cannot descend from it in the same way.
68
Finally, Suhrawardi argues that if souls existed prior to bodies, there would
either be some souls that would never come to manage a body in which
case they would not be managing lights, and so their existence as such
would be nullied or they would all eventually come to administer a body,
in which case there would come a point in time when all of these souls would
have descended and none would remain and this would be absurd.
69

Sadra responds to the rst part of this argument, characteristically, by
distinguishing between the dening elements of soul as such, and those
of its counterpart in the intellectual realm:
The separative wujud of souls is not the same as their wujud attached
[to matter]. Those ancient thinkers who held that souls have a wujud
in the world of the intellect before bodies did not mean that the soul,
insofar as it is a soul, has an intellectual wujud; rather they meant that it
has another kind of wujud, not the wujud that belongs to it by virtue of
its being a managing soul (nafs mudabbirah). Thus it does not follow
that because it does not manage a body, it is therefore idle (tatil );
it would only be idle if it, insofar as it is a soul [and not a purely
intellectual reality], did not manage a body. . . . [T]he state of idleness
does not result from the fact that its intellectual wujud does not manage
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a body. Rather, by virtue of the fact that it is an intellect, it never
enmeshes itself with the body; while the soul, as such, can never
avoid this.
70
As a refutation of the second possibility Suhrawardi raises namely, that
all such pre-existent souls should come to manage bodies and so descend
from this intellectual realm, leaving it thereby depleted of souls Sadra
argues that the intellectual realm which generates souls is unlimited in its
existential potentialities, such that as even as souls continue to separate
from it, its potency is undiminished and never exhausted. Moreover, souls in
their intellectual reality are not characterized by multiplicity (kathrah), and so
it is absurd to speak about the intellectual realm being depleted of them,
one by one.
71
The Return of the Soul
As we have seen in the above discussion, Sadras theory of the soul and
its transformation is characterized above all by the notion of uidity and the
rejection of any notion of ontological divisibility or discontinuity for the soul
in its many faculties and levels of existence. The same seamlessness that
characterizes a human beings progression from vegetative to animal to
rational soul in the earthly realm also pertains to the souls nal transformation
through which it abandons its physical body and enters into the realm beyond
the sensible world through death. Moreover, the souls entrance or re-entrance
into this non-material and non-temporal world is, like its initial emergence
from it, something that occurs without that world undergoing any type of
change or renewal.
72
For Sadra, the souls transformation, even between
the two radically opposed worlds of materiality and immateriality, temporality
and eternity, results from the same process of lower forms of existence
being assumed within higher ones, such that the soul is eventually able to
unite with the intellect itself and so, by denition, become free of its
material body:
. . . the sages have established that natural entities have a motion with
a propensity toward their ultimate essential ends . . . and they have
established that every decient thing has a strong inclination or desire
for its own perfection. Every decient thing, when it attains its own
perfection or reaches its essential reality (inniyah), is united with it and
its wujud becomes another wujud. This human motion with a
propensity toward the side of the holy is well known and obvious to
those with spiritual insight (basirah). And when the soul, through its
striving toward perfection, reaches the station of the intellect, it is
transformed into pure intellect, is united with the agent intellect and
becomes the agent intellect. Indeed, that which was passive intellect
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123
that is the soul and the imagination abandons matter, and it is
stripped of potentiality and contingency and becomes subsistent
through the subsistence of God.
73
In this passage, Sadra mentions that in the process of the souls realization
of higher states, and at every progressive stage, the souls wujud becomes
another wujud. This new wujud is not really new in the sense of being
created at every point of progress.
74
Rather, for Sadra, all of the levels of wujud
are integrally related to one another such that, as we have seen, the
relationship between the higher and lower intensities or degrees of wujud is
precisely the relationship of the cause to its effect. The lesser intensities of
wujud are contained within and emanate from the higher, just as the effect is
contained within and emanates from its cause. The movement through higher
and higher intensities of wujud is ultimately nothing more than a re-integration
of the lower levels of wujud within the higher ones from which they had
originally emerged. The more intense levels of wujud therefore pre-exist the
souls union with them, and what is created when the soul moves from one
existential level to another is simply the relationship or connection between
the soul and the more intense wujud.
75
However, until this point of physical death, the human soul has always
transformed itself within the context of the material body; and Sadra himself
tells us that the connection between the soul and the body is an essential and
not accidental one.
76
If so, how can the separation of the soul from the body
at death not entail a radical change in the very essence of the human being;
and how can this radical change be accounted for by the same uid process
of reintegration that characterized the previous earthly transformations of the
soul that took place within the necessary substratum of the body itself ? The
answer, from the Sadrian perspective, is that the substratum for all of these
transformations from the vegetative to the animal to the rational to the
incorporeal soul is not, in fact, the body, but the human substance ( jawhar )
which is the soul itself. It is important to remember that substance, for Sadra,
is not dened as physical materiality,
77
as it is in Asharite thinking, but rather
as the quality of passivity and receptivity in relation to various forms and
for Sadra, the soul is receptive of multiple forms. But one might further argue
that the soul is itself form the nal form and formal perfection of the
material body, according to Sadra and most early Islamic philosophers so
how can it be also receptive to form? Sadra himself addresses this question,
saying that it can only be resolved by understanding the difference between
material and immaterial form. The soul in relation to bodily matter is material
form, whereas the spirit /intellect is immaterial form in relation to the
psychic or subtle matter of the soul.
78
The soul, standing as it does at the
meeting point or barzakh of the physical and intellectual /spiritual poles of
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124
human existence, is thus both perfect form or actuality in relation to the
material of the body, and perfect, subtle matter or pure potentiality in
relation to the spiritual/intellectual realm.
79
Death, in other words, is the
process by which the human substance or soul, having once been the active
principle controlling the actions of the material body, now manifests itself as
the passive recipient of the form given to it by its intellectual reality a reality
shaped by these same physical and earthly actions. And so again, by
considering the soul from two different perspectives, or more specically,
considering its different functions in relation to the spiritual and material
realms, even the transfer from the material and temporal realm to the
immaterial and eternal is accomplished without any ontological
discontinuity.
While the souls movement from the physical world to the intellectual
world of the Hereafter through death is represented as simply the nal step in
the seamless process of human becoming; it does entail some qualitative
changes for the soul. In fact, Sadra refers to this nal transition as a second
birth, in which the soul is reshaped according to a second rah (mold or
nature). One of the important differences between the rst and second rahs
is that the rst rah, into which all human beings are born in this world, is
common to all human beings, such that they can be said to be multiple
individuations of a single species. However, in the next life, human beings will
be formed according to a rah specic to their own inner nature, such that
human beings will, in effect, come to represent multiple species and take on
multiple forms.
80
According to his well known doctrine, human souls will take
the form in the next life of an angel, a devil, a brute beast or a predatory
animal,
81
and may take various forms within these general categories. Thus, the
soul will not be disembodied in the next life; rather, the body of the human
being in the next world will be the subtle matter of the soul, itself, given
particular form by the inner reality of the individual as realized through the
works and actions of that individual in his/her earthly life.
82
Moreover, given
that the form of this subtle body in the next life is based on the inner reality
of the individual, this second, otherworldly formation or rah is permanent
and not itself subject to further change or transformation.
83
Sadra makes it clear that this process of otherworldly transformation is not
tantamount to the heretical doctrine of tanasukh, or the transmigration of
souls, for several reasons. First, tanasukh only pertains to the transmigration
of a given soul from one sensible body to another i.e., a person assuming
different bodily forms within the material world. Sadra, however, is asserting a
transformation that takes place between the sensible and suprasensible worlds,
such that the new body of the individual in the next life is a subtle, psychic
body, not one characterized by physical matter.
84
Second, to the extent that
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tanasukh entails the transmigration of human souls to other physical (animal
or vegetable) bodies, it clearly contradicts the Sadrian premise that all
movement in the earthly realm is from potentiality to actuality and for
human souls, from complete dependence upon the physical body to complete
independence of it. Transmigration from human to animal form on the
physical plane would represent ontological regress, not progress, such that
the particular human soul, having been material in action and immaterial in
essence, now, in animal form, would become material in both action and
essence.
85
For Sadra, such a regression is inconceivable. All human beings
may not be moving toward a felicitous end, nor toward a subtle form that is
analogous to the physical human form they enjoy in this life, but they are all
moving toward increasing immateriality and independence of the physical
body.
86
The notion of a human soul wandering among or condemned to
physical, animal bodies completely contradicts the necessity of motion in the
direction of the souls perfection in the sense of its ultimate self-sufciency
vis--vis the material world.
87
This doctrine is essential to Sadras attempt to reconcile the various strains
of philosophical and theological thinking that inuenced his thought. It allows
him, for example, to re-interpret and give new meaning to the Platonic belief
in reincarnation or the transmigration of souls by asserting that Platos ideas
were misinterpreted and that his apparent allusions to a type of transmigration
simply refer to the transmutations in the human soul that take place after
death, parallels to which are found, as Sadra declares, in all of the worlds
religions.
88
More importantly, Sadra sees this notion of the otherworldly
transformation of mankind into multiple species on the basis of their respective
inner characters as irrefutably supported by numerous Quranic passages
and hadith. For example, Sadra cites Quranic verses that mention those who
have incurred the curse of God being transformed into monkeys and/or pigs
(Quran V:60; VII:166) as direct references to this process.
89
Indirectly, he cites
Quranic passages that state that ones limbs and bodily parts will testify
against one on the Day of Resurrection,
90
understanding this to mean that it
is the very form that an individual soul will assume after death, on the basis
of his inner character, that will serve as the witness. In other words, a base
person might take the form of a dog in the next life, and his canine form and
faculties will themselves passively bear witness to the ignoble nature of his
character and behavior in the world.
91
He further interprets the hadith tradition
which states that people will be resurrected according to different faces to
mean that they will be resurrected in forms appropriate to their actions
performed in the life of the world,
92
giving the further example of a tradition
which declares that whoever does not follow the Imam in prayer will be
resurrected with the head of a donkey.
93
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126
Finally, and perhaps most importantly for Sadra himself, this theory allows
him to reconcile both the philosophically undeniable immateriality of the soul,
and its subsistence after death, with the Islamic doctrine of the resurrection
of the body. If Sadra criticizes the Peripatetic and Ishraqi notion of the
disembodied state of the soul after death and the challenge it poses to the
Islamic doctrine of bodily resurrection, he would also object to Abu Hamid
al-Ghazalis notion that the physical material of the soul will be recomposed
by the will of God at the time of resurrection, in order to embody the soul
once more and allow it to experience the pleasures of paradise or torments of
hell pleasures and torments which are described so clearly in the Quran,
and which Ghazali and his fellow Asharites understood literally. For Ghazali,
a renewed physical body was needed to realize the literal meaning of an
individuals physical pleasure and suffering in the afterlife; whereas for
Ibn Sina, the pleasures or torments of the next life were intellectual in nature
with the Quranic descriptions serving as mere metaphors and thus
required no physical body for their realization. For Sadra, most human souls
will continue to reside in the barzakhi world of the psyche or imagination,
which, like the intellectual realm, is non-corporeal and stands hierarchically
between the intellectual and purely physical realms. The Quranic descriptions
of sensible experiences in the next life are not merely metaphors for Sadra, but
rather things that will be experienced in a very real way on the level of the
imagination and through the medium of a subtle, not material body.
94
Thus he
afrms the Islamic dogma of bodily resurrection, with the caveat that this
resurrected body is not a physical body, but a subtle and psychic one, whose
experiences of the pleasures and torments of the next world are made all the
more real by its freedom from the limitations and distractions of the physical
senses.
Mulla Sadras combination of an emanationist ontology common to
many other Islamic thinkers with a unique theory regarding the internal
transmutation of the substance of the soul in relation to the multiple planes of
existence within this emanationist scheme, allows him to develop the uid and
internally consistent theory of human becoming that seems to have eluded his
Peripatetic and Ishraqi predecessors. His theory of the relationship between
individuated human souls and the pre-eternal, intellectual wujud from which
they all originate rst enables him to account for some type of existence for
human souls as realities in the realm of the spirit, prior to their temporal
origination in matter or the body an idea alluded to in the Platonic texts
for which Sadra has so much respect and in a wealth of Shiite hadith and
Su sayings which speak at length of the world of pre-eternity and its
role in human destiny. At the same time, he denies the pre-existence of the
individuated soul that is only later embodied in physical matter, a notion that
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too easily leads to the idea of tanasukh (or the transmigration of souls), which
Islamic dogma strongly rejects. Second, by arguing that the soul is an
incorporeal substance or jawhar necessarily originated in conjunction with
the physical body, but increasingly detached from it through the process
of substantial motion, he is able to reconcile the Islamic dogma of bodily
resurrection with the Islamic philosophical opposition to the idea of the
eternity of bodily matter. In his theory, the resurrected bodies are not the
physical or material bodies of our earthly existence. Rather, they are subtle and
psychic bodies, but individuated bodies nonetheless not disembodied souls
or realities absorbed into undifferentiated intellect. The individual forms of
these subtle and psychic bodies are determined by the particular individuals
actions and intellectual activity in this life, which, in altering his/her internal
nature or psychic substance, also alters his/her outward form in the next life
where the inward will become the outward.
Endnotes
1. Sadr al-Din al-Shirazi, al-Hikmah al-mutaaliyah l-asfar al-arbaah al-aqliyah,
(9 vols.) (Beirut: Dar Ihya al-Turath al-Arabi, 1990).
2. Asfar, v. 8, 318319. Although Sadra tells us that most later thinkers consider the
soul to be an accident, other Islamic philosophers, such as Ibn Sina likewise considered the
soul to be a substance (see, e.g., Ibn Sina, Avicennas De Anima, ed. F. Rahman, (London:
Oxford University Press, 1959), 910. Some Ashari theologians, such as Abu Hamid
al-Ghazali, also seemed to view the soul as a substance, although this presented some
difculty for them, given their position that all substances, as created realities, must occupy
space or inhere in something which occupies space (see, e.g., T. Gianotti, Al-Ghazalis
Unspeakable Doctrine of the Soul (Leiden, Brill, 2001), 8081. In the passage just cited,
however, Sadra criticized al-Ghazali for considering the qualities of human-ness or
animal-ness (something obviously facilitated by their souls) as being accidents
(Asfar, v. 8, 318).
3. Sadra does cite such metaphorical imagery from Umar b. Muhammad Suhrawardi
and certain other Su thinkers in the context of his discussion of the soul, and seems to
agree with their general perspective, but as noted above, he does not speak in these terms
himself. In particular, see a long passage he cites from Umar b. Muhammad b. Suhrawardis
Awarif al-maarif, in which the three elements of spirit, soul and body are allegorized as a
husband, wife and child, respectively. The righteous soul /wife obeys and is submissive to
the spirit /husband and is thereby able to competently guide her body/child (Asfar, v. 8,
321324). Sadra clearly endorses the allegory, but again, does not offer such imagery of his
own.
4. Asfar, v. 8, 344.
5. Ibid., v. 8, 134.
6. He explains the apparent Pythagorean and Platonic assertions of the existence
of disembodied souls descending into matter as the result of misinterpretations of their
works that fail to take into account the fact that the soul can be discussed from two
perspectives: that of its spiritual reality (tarawwuh) and that of its incarnated reality
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128
(tajassum) (Asfar, v. 8, 308). He also quotes a tradition from Ibn Abbas which states that
the spirit moves without changing its place and without bodily incarnation (tajassum), as
an argument against the notion of the unembodied spirit becoming embodied in matter
(v. 8, 319).
7. Sadr al-Din al-Shirazi, Taliqat ala Hikmat al-ishraq (on the margins of Qutb
al-Din al-Shirazi, Sharh Hikmat al-ishraq), Lith. Tehran, 1898, 479.
8. See, for example, Asfar, v. 8, 353.
9. From this point on, the term wujud, meaning being may be rendered without
translation as a technical term.
10. Asfar, v. 8, 366.
11. Ibid., v. 8, 382. While the relationship between soul and body is analogous to
that between form and matter, the analogy is not perfect. Technically, Sadra denes the
connection between form and matter as the connection between a given wujud and its
eternal individuation; whereas the connection between soul and body is the connection
between a given wujud and its non-eternal individuation (v. 8, 326327).
12. Ibid., v. 8, 376. Sadra is careful to assert, however, that the body is not the
material cause or indeed a cause of any type for the soul (v. 8, 383).
13. Ibid., v. 8, 352. While there is a certain reciprocity between soul and body in this
sense, the two are not symmetrical in their relationship, for soul is situated above body on
the hierarchy of existence (v. 8, 14).
14. Ibid., v. 8, 327. Sadra here notes that all other philosophers held the body to be
the mere instrument of the soul, and this appears to have been al-Ghazalis view as well.
(See, Gianotti, 74).
15. Asfar, v. 8, 347.
16. See Ibid., v. 8, 318. Here, Sadra cites the position of certain theologians, and Abu
Mualla al-Juwayni in particular, that the spirit is a subtle body interspersed within coarse
bodies as water is interspersed within green wood, and notes that this opinion results from
the fact that the body is one of the loci for the manifestation (mazahir) of the spirit.
However, even if such interspersion appears to be the case, Sadra says, it is ultimately
an inaccurate description of the relationship between spirit and body.
17. The notion that the soul is simple and non-composite is not unique to Sadra, but
was long viewed as a logical necessity in Islamic philosophy, given the widely accepted
philosophical principle that all composite entities eventually decompose and thus that
only non-composite entities could conceivably be eternal.
18. Asfar, v. 8, 330.
19. Sadr al-Din al-Shirazi, Wisdom of the Throne, trans. and ed., James W. Morris
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981), 142.
20. Asfar, v. 8, 372.
21. Ibid., 148
22. Quran LV: 1920.
23. Quran XVIII: 6068.
24. See, Suhrawardi, The Philosophy of Illumination, ed. and trans. J. Walbridge and
H. Ziai (Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1999), 75, 195.
25. This is apparently an indirect reference to Quran XXIII: 115: Do you reckon that
We have created you in vain (abathan), and that you will not be returned to Us? The term
habaan is also Quranic; its primary meaning is dust particles, and it can also guratively
be used to refer to that which comes to nought. It is used in the Quran to describe the
deeds of the unbelievers and the fate of the great mountains of the earth on the Day of
Judgment (Quran, XXV: 23, LVI: 6).
26. Asfar, v. 8, 5.
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27. A reference to Quran III: 7.
28. I.e., physical existence.
29. Asfar, v. 8, 34546. A similarly explicit argument for the logical necessity of
substantial motion can be found in v. 8, 388.
30. Ibid., v. 9, 2.
31. It is interesting to note that the idea that the essences of all things are
contained in immutable form in the knowledge of God was also posited by al-Ghazali
as a way of maintaining the continuous identity of human beings between the decay
of the body after death and the reconstitution of the body on the Day of Resurrection.
(See Gianotti, 72).
32. Asfar, v. 8, 332.
33. See, e.g., Ibid., v. 8, 395.
34. See Sadras critique of Suhrawardi on this point, Ibid., v. 8, 2627.
35. Ibid., v. 8, 392393.
36. Ibid., v. 8, 320.
37. For a discussion of the apparent incongruities in Ibn Sinas doctrine of the soul
and the tension in his writings between the physical soul that originates and ends with
the body and the spiritual soul that continues after death, see P. Heath, Allegory and
Philosophy in Ibn Sina (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1992), 5559.
38. Ibid., v. 8, 134. See also Taliqat (482) where he makes a similar argument against
Suhrawardis assertion that the successive acquisition of higher levels of soul would
necessitate the presence of multiple souls in a single body.
39. Asfar, v. 8, 134.
40. Sadra himself makes a similar comparison, but with regard to the relationship
between the soul and the body, saying [t]his quality of being a soul is not an accident that
attaches to [the body] after the perfection of [the souls] essence . . . just as Gods status
as Creator, All-Knowing, All-Powerful, and so on are not accidents added to His Essence
[but his very essence]. (Ibid., v. 8, 383.)
41. Ibid., v. 8, 330.
42. Ibid., v. 9, 4, 12.
43. Ibid., v. 8, 335336.
44. Ibid., v. 8, 355, 366.
45. Ibid., v. 8, 355.
46. Ibid., v. 8, 350.
47. Ibid., v. 8, 306. For further Su traditions implying a pre-existence for the human
soul, see v. 8, 310312.
48. Wisdom of the Throne, 141.
49. For example, see Sadr al-Din al-Shirazi, Kitab al-mashaIr, ed. with French
translation, Henry Corbin, (Tehran: Institut Francais, diranologie de Teheran, 1982), 5863,
where he quotes the Shiite theologians Ibn Babawayh and al-Shaykh al-Mud, and the
works of numerous Imami traditionists, such as, al-Saffar al-Qummis Basair al-darajat,
Kulaynis Usul al-ka and al-Sharif al-Radis Nahj al-balaghah. See also, Wisdom of the
Throne, 141.
50. See, for example, Asfar, v. 8, 331332.
51. Ibid., v. 8, 340.
52. Ibid., v. 8, 342343.
53. See below, 23.
54. Asfar, v. 8, 367368.
55. Ibid., v. 8, 378.
56. Ibid., v. 8, 368369.
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57. Ibid., v. 8, 339.
58. See, e.g., Suhrawardi, Hikmat al-ishraq, 124132.
59. Ibid., v. 8, 371. Here he questions how Suhrawardi can argue varying levels of
intensity as distinguishing elements between different kinds of light, but cannot accept
varying levels of wujud as functioning in a similar way.
60. Ibid., v. 8, 2627.
61. Ibid., v. 8, 348. See also, in the original, Hikmat al-ishraq, 132.
62. Ibid., v. 8, 352.
63. Ibid., v. 8, 349350.
64. S. H. Nasr and O. Leaman, History of Islamic Philosophy, part I (London:
Routledge, 1996), 647. Here Nasr notes that this Sadrian idea is analogous to, and in fact
based upon, Suhrawardis doctrine of gradation pertaining to light.
65. Asfar, v. 8, 353; Hikmat al-ishraq, 132.
66. Ibid., v. 8, 358, 364365.
67. Ibid., v. 8, 353.
68. Ibid., v. 8, 354.
69. Ibid., v. 8, 366; Hikmat al-ishraq, 133.
70. Asfar, v. 8, 366.
71. Ibid., v. 8, 367.
72. Asfar, v. 8, 395.
73. Ibid., v. 8, 395.
74. Ibid., v. 8, 389.
75. This is something Sadra sometimes calls relational wujud, Ibid., v. 8, 395.
76. Ibid., v. 8, 12.
77. Al-Ghazali, given his Asharite theological perspective, is inclined to view jawhar
as a material reality, and on this basis rejects the notion that the soul is a substance,
although as Gianotti has observed, Ghazali, in his more mystical writings, does not cling
so absolutely to this notion of the materiality of substance (see Gianotti, 71, 81).
78. Asfar, v. 8, 330.
79. Ibid., v. 9, 1920.
80. Wisdom of the Throne, 144145.
81. Asfar, v. 9, 1920; Taliqat, 476.
82. Taliqat, 476.
83. Asfar, v. 9, 5.
84. Taliqat, 476.
85. Asfar, v. 9, 2. Since animal souls do not survive the death of the body, according
to Sadra (and Ibn Sina before him), they are material in both action and essence, as opposed
to the human soul, which is material in its earthly existence, but immaterial in essence.
86. Ibid., v. 9, 2, 1819.
87. Ibid., v. 9, 16.
88. Ibid., v. 9, 5.
89. Ibid., v. 9, 45.
90. See Quran XXIV: 24, XXXVI: 65.
91. Asfar, v. 9, 4.
92. Ibid., v. 9, 4.
93. Ibid., v. 9, 4.
94. Ibid., v. 8, 320.