DĀMĀD, MĪR(-E), SAYYED MOḤAMMAD-BĀQER b. Mīr Šams-al-Dīn Moḥammad Ḥosaynī Astarābādī (d. 1041/1631), leading Twelver Shiʿite theologian, philosopher, jurist, and poet of 17th-century Persia. He inherited the title Dāmād (son-in-law) from his father, who had married the daughter of the famous Shiʿite theologian Shaikh ʿAlī b. Ḥosayn Karakī, known as Moḥaqqeq-e Ṯānī (d. 940/1534). For his contributions to philosophy Mīr Dāmād was later dubbed moʿallem-e ṯāleṯ (the third teacher), thus being classed with Aristotle and Fārābī, the first and second teachers respectively.
Life. Mīr Dāmād was born in Astarābād and studied in Mašhad with his maternal uncle Shaikh ʿAbd-al-ʿĀlī b. ʿAlī b. Ḥosayn (d. 993/1585) and Sayyed Nūr-al-Dīn ʿAlī b. Abi’l-Ḥasan ʿĀmelī, a student and son-in-law of Shaikh Zayn-al-Dīn ʿAlī b. Aḥmad ʿĀmelī, Šahīd-e Ṯānī. In 983/1575 he received an ejāza (license, diploma) from Shaikh Ḥosayn b. ʿAbd-al-Ṣamad ʿĀmelī (d. 984/1576), the father of Shaikh Bahāʾ-al-Dīn Moḥammad ʿĀmelī (q.v.). During the reign of Sultan Moḥammad Ḵodā-banda (985-95/1578-87) Mīr Dāmād went to Isfahan (Eskandar Beg, pp. 146-47), where he studied with Mīr Faḵr-al-Dīn Moḥammad Sammākī Astarābādī, himself a student of Ḡīāṯ-al-Dīn Manṣūr Daštakī (d. 948/1541). Mīr Dāmād led the Friday prayer service in Isfahan after the enthronement of Shah Ṣafī (1038-52/1629-42; Moḥammad Maʿṣūm, pp. 82, 96).
Mīr Dāmād’s own students included Ṣadr-al-Dīn Šīrāzī, known as Mollā Ṣadrā (d. 1050/1640); Sayyed Ḥosayn b. Ḥaydar Karakī ʿĀmelī (fl. ca. 1029/1620); Sayyed Aḥmad ʿAlawī ʿĀmelī, who married his daughter; Ḵalīl b. Ḡāzī Qazvīnī (d. 1088/1677); Mollā Šamsā Šams-al-Dīn Moḥammad Gīlānī (d. 1098/1687); Qoṭb-al-Dīn Aškevarī; and the poet Moḥammad-Ḥasan Zolālī Ḵᵛānsārī (d. 1024/1615).
Philosophy. Mīr Dāmād’s fifty surviving works, not all complete, attest his versatility as a thinker. He wrote mostly on philosophy, fusing within the framework of Twelver Shiʿism aspects of the philosophy of Avicenna with the illuminationist (ešrāqī) philosophy of Šehāb-al-Dīn Sohravardī (d. 570/1191). Mīr Dāmād distinguished between yamānī and yūnānī (Greek) philosophy, the former associated with the yamīn (right side), or the east, as the source of light and revelation, the latter with darkness and purely rational knowledge, in accordance with illuminationist principles. His best-known philosophical achievement was development of the concept of ḥodūṯ-e dahrī (origination in perpetuity) as an expression of God’s relation to the world.
The question whether God created the world in time or both God and the world are eternal has been a constant theme in Muslim theology and philosophy (see dahrī ii). Avicenna had distinguished three levels of time and eternity and had defined the world, its intelligences, and the heavenly spheres as essentially (be’l-ḏāt) “posterior” to God. However, although he perceived God as necessary and the world as contingent, he considered them coeternal, existing in the realm of dahr (perpetuity).
In Ketāb al-qabasāt (ed. M. Moḥaqqeq, Tehran, 1356 Š./1977), completed in 1034/1625, Mīr Dāmād criticized Avicenna’s use of the term dahr as inconsistent (pp. 1-10). He charged that sometimes it referred to a distinct category, at others to an element of sarmad (eternity). As an example of the latter usage, Avicenna depicted the relation of God to “the Active Intelligence or to the (highest) heaven” as on the level of relations between eternals, a level that he called both dahr and sarmad. Mīr Dāmād argued that, if God and the world are coeternal, the difference between God and what is “not God” threatens to disappear. Furthermore, to the extent that Avicenna reduced the “essential” priority of God’s creation to the rank of the “mental,” rather than the real, Mīr Dāmād argued, the distinct priority of each became merely nominal.
In Ketāb al-qabasāt Mīr Dāmād attempted to prove that Avicenna’s concept of essential origination (ḥodūṯ-e ḏātī) had evolved into one of real origination at the level of dahr (ḥodūṯ-e dahrī). In this effort Mīr Dāmād drew on such sources as Plato’s Timaeus, the Theology of Aristotle, Avicenna’s own Šefāʾ, and Ketāb al-moʿtabar by Abu’l-Barakāt Baḡdādī (d. after 560/1164-65), though he criticized their views that the world is either eternal in itself or created in time from outside. Important also was Sohravardī’s doctrine of the priority of essence over existence. Mīr Dāmād posited sarmad, dahr, and zamān (time) as three real, ontological—not merely “mental”—and distinct categories of time. Sarmad is the level at which God exists, unique and alone. Zamān is the realm of the changing, physical world. Mīr Dāmād argued that God had brought the physical world into existence by means of intermediate archetypes, which exist in the middle realm, dahr. Dahr was thus conceived as preexisting zamān but having itself been created from sarmad, the realm of the divine essence. Each of these three realms exists independently, even though each has a clear relation to the other two. Ultimately, therefore, God as the divine essence was the cause of all things, even as in His essence nothing may be said to exist (Rahman, 1975, p. 109; idem, 1980, pp. 139-42; Nasr, Camb. Hist. Iran, p. 672; idem, 1966, pp. 915-17).
Mīr Dāmād’s other treatises on philosophy include al-Jaḏawāt (Particles of fire; Bombay, 1302/1884; Tehran, 1360 Š./1981), composed in Persian at the command of Shah ʿAbbās I (996-1038/1588-1629) in response to Indian scholars’ questioning why Moses was not consumed by the fire that swept the hilltop when God appeared to him. In this treatise the entire range of Mīr Dāmād’s metaphysics is displayed, including critiques of the Aristotelian and Peripatetic aspects of Avicenna’s ideas on the relations between the first intellect and other intelligences, recourse to illuminationist concepts of “the world of separated imagination,” and use of the numerical symbolism of letters and their relations to the planets. Mīr Dāmād also cited the Koran, Hadith, and his own poetry (Nasr, 1966, pp. 917-22).
Al-Resālat al-ḵaḷʿīya (ed. and tr. H. Corbin as “Confessions extatiques de Mîr Damâd, maître de théologie à Ispahan (ob. 1041/1631-1632),” in Mélanges Louis Massignon I, Damascus, 1956, pp. 331-78; cf. 1972, pp. 9-53) is a metaphysical explication of a spiritual vision that Mīr Dāmād experienced while at prayer in Isfahan in 1023/1614. In al-Ṣerāṭ al-mostaqīm, dedicated to ʿAbbās I, he dealt with the relationship between the eternal and the created, in al-Ofoq al-mobīn with being, time, and eternity. Other works included al-Taqdīsāt, in Persian, and Sedrat al-montahā. All these treatises were completed before 1025/1616 (Eskandar Beg, I, pp. 146-47). In Taqwīm al-īmān Mīr Dāmād discussed being, creation, and God’s knowledge. He also composed commentaries on the Esteḥṣār of Naṣīr-al-Dīn Ṭūsī (d. 672/1274) and the metaphysics in the Šefāʾ of Avicenna. In Resāla fī maḏhab Aresṭāṭāles he drew on the ideas of Fārābī in his discussion of the views of Plato and Aristotle on time and eternity (Nasr, 1966, p. 917 n. 53).
Mīr Dāmād’s role in establishing approaches later adopted by Mollā Ṣadrā, Šamsā Gīlānī, and Sayyed Aḥmad ʿĀmelī, led Henry Corbin (in his edition of al-Resālat al-kaḷʿīya, p. 333) and Sayyed Hossein Nasr (Camb. Hist. Iran, pp. 669-70) to dub him “the real founder and central figure” of the “school of Isfahan.”
Jurisprudence. Like another member of the “school of Isfahan,” Shaikh Bahāʾī, Mīr Dāmād favored the rationalist jurisprudence of the Oṣūlīs, who upheld the authority of the faqīh as the deputy in practical matters for the Imam during the occultation. His text on Twelver jurisprudence and oṣūl-al-dīn (lit., “principles of religion”) al-Sabʿ al-šedād (Tehran, 1317/1899), composed in 1023/1614, reveals this predilection. It contains a spirited defense of conjectural proofs (al-adella al-ẓannīya) as employed in philosophy, albeit in conformity with the Twelver rejection of raʾy (opinion) and qīās (analogy), for example. His allusions to agreement between the “foqahāʾ and Oṣūlīs among us” and “among al-ʿāmma” (the Sunnis; pp. 51, 89) on various principles are an acknowledgment of the Oṣūlīs’ intellectual debt to the Sunni ʿolamāʾ, a debt criticized by some contemporary Aḵbārīs (Newman, 1992, pp. 51, 254-55; see aḵbārīya). Mīr Dāmād’s support for the expanded authority of the Twelver foqahāʾ during the occultation is apparent in his arguments for the performance and conduct of congregational prayer by the faqīh on Fridays during the occultation (Ketāb al-qabasāt, p. 39).
Mīr Dāmād also composed ʿOyūn al-masāʾel, and, in Persian, Šāreʿ al-najāt, two handbooks of Shiʿite feqh and oṣūl al-dīn, both apparently incomplete. On Hadith he wrote al-Rawāšeḥ al-samāwīya (Tehran, 1311/1893; Qom, 1405/1984) and commentaries on two of the four most authoritative early Shiʿite collections of Hadith, al-Taʿlīqa ʿalā Ketāb al-Kāfī (ed. M. Rajāʾī, Qom, 1403/1982) on Kolaynī’s al-Oṣūl men al-Kāfī and another on Ṭūsī’s Ketāb al-estebṣār. He was also the author of al-Taʿlīqa ʿalā Eḵtīār maʿrefat al-rejāl al-maʿrūf be-Rejāl al-Kaššī (ed. M. Rajāʾī, I, Qom, 1404/1983), a commentary on Eḵtīār maʿrefat al-rejāl, Ṭūsī’s abridgment of Moḥammad b. ʿOmar Kaššī’s early Twelver biographical dictionary. In addition, Mīr Dāmād defended Ṭūsī’s rational interpretation of Twelver Hadith against critics of the Safavid period.
Mīr Dāmād composed poetry in Persian and Arabic under the pen name Ešrāq, an allusion to his sympathy with the views of Sohravardī. His poetical output includes a maṯnawī entitled Mašreq al-anwār (see his Dīvān, Isfahan, 1310 Š./1931).
Relations between clergy and state. Mīr Dāmād was an intimate of the Safavid court during the reigns of both ʿAbbās I and Shah Ṣafī (1039-52/1629-42). Stories linking Shaikh Bahāʾī, Mīr Dāmād, and ʿAbbās I (e.g., Modarres, p. 59), even if their details are inaccurate, suggest a close relationship among the three. Mīr Dāmād died while accompanying Shah Ṣafī on a visit to the Shiite shrines in Iraq.
From the Buyid period such rationalist Twelver scholars as ʿAlam-al-Hodā Šarīf Morṭażā (d. 436/1044) had permitted the faqīh, the Imam’s deputy, to interact with the established political institution, in order to serve or protect the interests of the Twelver community. The Oṣūlī ʿAlī Karakī was well known for his close association with the Safavid court. Commentators who accept the designation “school of Isfahan” have also accepted the implicit corollary that the brand of “gnostic Shiʿism” practiced by its members predisposed them to “radical political indifferentism” (e.g., Amir Arjomand, p. 23). In fact, it appears that Mīr Dāmād’s acceptance of the deputyship of the faqīh both in jurisprudence and in community practices paralleled that of such moderate Oṣūlīs as Shaikh Bahāʾī and such moderate Aḵbārīs as Fayż Kāšānī (d. 1091/1680; Newman, 1986). These scholars also continued the close personal relations with the court initiated by Karakī.
For lists of Mīr Dāmād’s works, with information on editions, see Aʿyān al-šīʿa XLIV, pp. 113-15; Brockelmann, GAL S. II, pp. 579-80; M. ʿA. Modarres Tabrīzī, Rayḥānat al-adab, 2nd ed., VI, Tabrīz, n.d. pp. 56-62; cf. specific entries under titles in al-Ḏarīʿa.
S. Amir Arjomand, The Shadow of God and the Hidden Imām, Chicago, 1984.
S. J. Āštīānī, ed., Montaḵabātī az āṯār-e ḥokamāʾ-e elāhī-e Īrān az ʿaṣr-e Mīr Dāmād o Mīr Fendereskī tā zamān-e ḥażer/Anthologie des philosophes iraniens depuis le XVIIe siècle jusqu’à nos jours I, Tehran and Paris, 1971-72, pp. 3-61.
Y. Baḥrānī, Loʾloʾat al-Baḥrayn, Beirut, 1406/1986, pp. 132-34.
A. S. Bazmee Ansari, “al-Dāmād,” in EI2II, pp. 103-04.
Browne, Lit. Hist. Persia IV, pp. 256-57, 406-07. H. Corbin, En Islam iranien IV, Paris, 1972, pp. 9-53.
M.-T. Dānešpažūh, ed., Fehrest-e ketāb-ḵāna-ye ehdāʾī-e Āqā-ye Sayyed Moḥammad Meškāt be ketāb-ḵāna-ye Dānešgāh-e Tehrān III, Tehran, 1332-35 Š./1952-56, pp. 152-54, 209-10, 223, 294-95.
Ebn Maʿṣūm, Solāfat al-ʿaṣr, Cairo, 1906, pp. 487-90.
Mīrzā ʿAbd-Allāh Eṣbahānī Afendī, Rīāż al-ʿolamāʾ V, Qom, 1401/1981, pp. 40-44.
A. Hādī Ḥosaynābādī, Šarḥ-e ḥāl-e Mīr Dāmād wa Mīr Fendereskī be-enżemām-e dīvān-e Mīr Dāmād wa qaṣīda-ye Mīr Fendereskī, Isfahan, 1363 Š./1984.
Moḥammad b. Ḥasan Ḥorr ʿĀmelī, Amal al-āmel II, Baghdad, 1385/1965, pp. 249-50.
Moḥammad-Bāqer Ḵᵛānsārī, Rawżāt al-jannāt, ed. A. Esmāʿīlīān, Qom, 1390-92/1970-72, II, pp. 62-68, VI, p. 219.
E.-Ḥ. Kantūrī, Kašf al-ḥojob wa’l-astār ʿan asmāʾ al-kotob wa’l-asfār, Calcutta, 1914, pp. 55, 136-37, 158, 209, 293, 306-07, 315, 370, 389, 410.
J. Mīr-dāmādī, ed., Eṯnā-ʿašar resāla le’l-moʿallem al-ṯāleṯ emām al-maʿāref al-eslāmīya al-Amīr Moḥammad-Bāqer al-Ḥosaynī al-Maṛʿašī al-muštahar be’l-Dāmād, Tehran, 1381/1961.
M.-ʿA. Modarres Tabrīzī, Rayḥānat al-adab, 2nd ed., VI, Tabrīz, n.d. Moḥammad-Maʿṣūm Eṣfahānī, Ḵolāṣat al-sīar, Tehran, 1368 Š./1989.
M. Moḥaqqeq, “Taʾṯīr-e Ebn Sīnā bar Mīr Dāmād,” in Komīsīūn-e mellī-e Yūneskū dar Īrān, ed., Hazāra-ye Ebn Sīnā, Tehran, 1360 Š./1981, pp. 273-86.
S. ʿA. Mūsawī Behbahānī, “Mīr Dāmād. Falsafa wa šarḥ-e ḥāl wa naqd-e āṯār-e ū,” Maqālāt wa barrasīhā 1/3-4, 1349 Š./1970, pp. 19-58.
Idem, “Naẓar-e Mollā Ṣadrā wa Mīr Dāmād dar masʾala-ye ḥodūṯ wa qedam-e ʿālam,” MDAT 23/1-2, 1355 Š./1976, pp. 231-45.
S. H. Nasr, “The School of Iṣpahān,” in M. M. Sharif, ed., A History of Muslim Philosophy II, Wiesbaden, 1966, pp. 914-22.
Idem, “Spiritual Movements, Philosophy and Theology in the Safavid Period,” in Camb. Hist. Iran VI, pp. 656-97.
A. J. Newman, “Towards a Reconsideration of the "Esfahan School of Philosophy." Shaikh Bahāʾī and the Role of the Safawid ʿUlamāʾ,” Stud. Ir. 15/2, 1986, pp. 165-99.
Idem, “The Nature of the Akhbārī/Uṣūlī Dispute in Late Ṣafawid Iran,” BSOAS 55, 1992, pp. 22-51, 250-61.
A. Nūrānī, “Taʿlīqāt-e manṭeqīya-ye Mīr Dāmād,” in M. Moḥaqqeq and T. Īzūtsū, eds., Manṭeq wa mabāḥeṯ-e alfāż. Majmūʿa-ye motūn wa maqālāat-e taḥqīqī, Tehran, 1353 Š./1974, pp. lvii-lxix, 287-307.
F. Rahman, The Philosophy of Mullā Ṣadrā, Albany, N.Y., 1975.
Idem, “Mīr Dāmād’s Concept of Ḥudūth Dahrī,” JNES 39/2, 1980, pp. 139-51.
Ṣafā, Adabīyāt V, pp. 306-09.
ʿA. Šafāhī, “Gozāreš-ī az Mīr Dāmād,” Taḥqīq dar mabdaʾ-e āfarīneš, 1342-43 Š./1963-64, 4, pp. 23-32; 5, pp. 7-28; 6, pp. 2-32; 7, pp. 22-32; 9, pp. 20-32; 10, pp. 29-32.
R. Savory, Iran under the Safavids, Cambridge, 1980, pp. 93-95, 216-20, 234-39.
Moḥammad b. Solaymān Tonokābonī, Qeṣaṣ al-ʿolamāʾ, Tehran, 1304/1886, pp. 145, 238-40.
(Andrew J. Newman)
Originally Published: December 15, 1993
Last Updated: November 14, 2011
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