Saturday, December 14, 2013

Mullā Ṣadrā on the cosmic authority (ولاية تكوينية) of the Friends of God

In a recent piece that is about to be published on walāya takwīnīya in the Safavid period, I discuss various thinkers including Mullā Ṣadrā focusing primarily on his discussion in al-Shawāhid al-rubūbīya. Now, of course, one could have looked at other texts – and the most obvious lie in his extensive and still little studied exegesis. I recently realised I had seen an article - a useful indexical one - on Mullā Ṣadrā on the concept of walāya:

ʿAbd al-ʿAlī Shukr, 'Vilāyat dar andīsha-yi Ṣadr al-mutaʾallihīn', Khiradnāma-ye Ṣadrā, no. 66 (winter 1390 sh/March 2012), pp. 39-52

After a introductory section outlining senses of walāya, the author points out two schemes of walāya. The first distinguishes between a common sense (ʿāmm) that is open to all believers, and the second is for the select (khāṣṣ) friends of God whose selfhood dissolves in the very essence of the divine. This is indicated in his commentary on the Light Verse and in other places and clearly draws upon the Sufi exegetical tradition (probably from Ghazālī). The second scheme is found in his exegesis on the Throne Verse - God's walāya for believers means one of three things: i) his assistance in the completion of his proofs and his guidance, ii) his help for them to overcome their enemies and to manifest their faith and make it emerge above all others, and iii) his assistance for their accomplishment of their moral obligations and supererogatory acts that draw them near to him [Tafsīr, āyat al-kursī, ed. Muḥammad Khājavī, Tehran: Bunyād-e Mullā Ṣadrā, 1389 Sh/2010, V, p. 254]. Thus walāya involves both push and pull factors: acquired by the performance of spiritual exercises, but also free gifts of grace. 

Ok so what about the concepts of walāya takwīnīya and tashrīʿīya that arise from the school of Ibn ʿArabī? It's clear that the former links an early Shiʿi insistence in hadith upon the cosmic role of the Imams as the manifestation of the divine (wajhullāh) to the Akbarian idea that links to this of the Imam/Walī as the totality of the divine names, as the one who comprehensively manifests divine attributes. Once the Imam/Walī has the rank, he can act at the level of the cosmic order (al-amr al-takwīnī) - such a person is the perfect human that mediates between the divine and the cosmos [al-Asfār al-arbaʿa, ed. Aḥmad Aḥmadī, Tehran: Bunyād-e Mullā Ṣadrā, 1381 sh/2002, VI, p. 252; Mafātīḥ al-ghayb, ed. Najafqulī Ḥabībī, Tehran: Bunyād-e Mullā Ṣadrā, 1386 Sh/2007, I, p. 345]. 

The authority to define what the sharīʿa is - walāya tashrīʿīya - is a continuation of the prophetic function and is discussed in his commentary on the hadith collection al-Kāfī. In his engagement with the controversy over the seal of walāya, he sides with the Shiʿi tradition of the school of Ibn ʿArabī (starting at least with ʿAbd al-Razzāq Kāshānī d. 1336) that insists on the seal's identification with the Mahdī [Sharḥ uṣūl al-kāfī, ed. Muḥammad Khājavī, Tehran: Pazhūhishgāh-e ʿulūm-e insānī, rpt., 1383 sh/2004, II, pp. 476 and see pp. 467-68].

The real question is whether beyond the particularities such as this latter point whether Mullā Ṣadrā's concept is really a Shiʿi one or a Shiʿi version of a concept in the school of Ibn ʿArabī. The obvious place to look further more carefully is the commentary on the kitāb al-ḥujja of al-Kāfī. But beyond that, as I indicate in my article one needs to look elsewhere such as the work of his student Fayż Kāshānī (d. 1680), not least in his Kalimāt-e maknūna and other works for a more seamless bringing together of the Akbarian and the Shiʿi strands, and perhaps to figures like Qāḍī Saʿīd Qummī (d. 1696) whose magnum opus is a glorious Shiʿi Neoplatonic commentary on the hadith collection al-Tawḥīd of al-Shaykh al-Ṣadūq (d. 991). I realise that I still need to return more extensively to discuss the question of what makes Mullā Ṣadrā a Shiʿi thinker beyond the obvious. And then one slowly and surely gets entangled in the debates on the nature of authentic Shiʿi discourse..


Anonymous said...

Very interesting topic. I look forward to reading more about this in the future. Joel Richmond

Anonymous said...

speaking of divine authority(walaya)can you explain how does the Imam (as) of the present era guides the faithful esoterically during the major occultation.In fact to extend the question further allow me to add that in Tsfseer-al-Mizan Allama Tabatabai states that prophetis guidance simply involves showing the direction or the way whereas Imamic guidance involves leading the follower to the destination,What is meant by this "hidayat-e-batiniya".