Sadr-al-Din Moḥammad Shirazi, better known as Molla Sadra, was born in Shiraz in Iran in 1571 AD and is easily one of the most significant Islamic philosophers after Avicenna. We know very little about his early life. He was a sole child of a courtly family from Shiraz and moved first to Qazvin in 1591 AD and then to Isfahan in 1597, capitals of the Safavid dynasty to pursue his studies with two pre-eminent teachers of his time, Mir Damad and Shaikh Bahai.
Molla Sadra is often described as a metaphysics revolutionary because of his unique approach to the doctrine of existence. He combined the philosophies of Avicenna and the School of Illumination of Suhrewardi with the gnostic metaphysics of the Andalusian Sufi, Ibn Arabi.
He said that though existence is a singular reality, there is a vertical and horizontal hierarchy that we all are a part of; that all individuals in existence undergo motion and flux and at every instance we, and all existence, are renewed in time with the goal of achieving perfection. To Molla Sadra, philosophy was a way of life in which reflection, reading and learning were complemented by gnostic spiritual practices and exercises. He said that one cannot become a sage purely based on his own intellectual efforts, nor can one truly understand the nature of reality as an illiterate ascetic reliant solely on mystical intuition.
As with most gnostics and philosophers, Mulla Sadra’s innovative thoughts were opposed by Islamic orthodoxy and he was ultimately driven away from Isfahan. A key figure of a group of thinkers which scholars such as Corbin have referred to as “School of Isfahan,” he played a major role in intellectual life during the revitalization of philosophy and later on became the most important teacher at the Khan School in his hometown of Shiraz. His main works include The Transcendent Theosophy in the Four Journeys of the Intellect, or simply Four Journeys.