He brought “a new philosophical insight in dealing with the nature of reality” and created “a major transition from essentialism to existentialism” in Islamic philosophy.
Molla Sadra was born in Shiraz in 1571 or 1572 at the time of the Safavid Dynasty. He was an intelligent child and mastered all the lessons in Persian and Arabic literature. He also learned mathematics, astronomy, medicine, and Islamic law, however, his greatest interest was in philosophy.
In 1591, he moved to Qazvin and in 1597, to Isfahan, to have an institutional education in philosophy, theology, hadith, and hermeneutics. He had magnificent teachers including Mir-Damad and Baha’ad-Din al-Amili.
After finishing his studies, he began to explore unorthodox doctrines. He took a long retirement period and moved to a village named Kahak, near the city of Qom, and wrote a number of minor works.
In 1612, Molla Sadra was asked to move to Shiraz by the governor of Fars to run a madrasa which was devoted to the intellectual sciences.
In 1640, after the hajj pilgrimage, he died in Basra and was buried in Najaf, which is currently in Iraq.
Molla Sadra was the key figure of a group of thinkers who are referred to as the ‘School of Isfahan.’ His greatest achievement was his major role in the revitalization of philosophy during the Safavid Dynasty.
He was also a teacher at the philosophical seminary, known as Khan School, in his hometown of Shiraz.
He wrote more than 45 works in philosophy, theology, mysticism and scriptural exegesis. His magnum opus is ‘Al-Hikma al-muta'aliya fi-l-asfar al-'aqliyya al-arba'a’, which is known as 'al-Asfar al-arba'a' (‘The Four Journeys’). This book is the main source for the history of Islamic philosophical traditions, which has major contributions from the critiques of Avicennism by Sohrevardi and the Sufi metaphysical monism of Ibn Arabi.
His other works mainly deal with philosophical theology, such as ‘Wisdom of the Throne’ and ‘Divine Witnesses.’
As a religious thinker, Molla Sadra was keen to come to terms with his scriptural heritage, and he wrote three works on the hermeneutics of the Qur’an as preparation for his own incomplete mystical and philosophical commentary on the text: ‘Keys to the Unseen,’ ‘Secrets of the Verses/Signs,’ and ‘Allegories of the Qur’an.’