Muhammad ibn Ibrahim ibn Yahya al-Qawami al-Shirazi (1571-1640), known more commonly as Mulla Sadra, ranks among the towering figures of post-Avicennan Islamic philosophy along with Suhrawardi and Ibn al-‘Arabi, and is certainly the most important philosopher of the Safavid Persia (1501-1722). As a prolific writer, Sadra authored a number of works and dominated the Persian-Islamic philosophical scene ever since. The rapid spread of Sadra’s ideas won him many honorific titles in Persia and in the sub-continent of India where his works has had considerable influence on many philosophers and intellectuals from Shah Waliullah of Delhi to Muhammad Iqbal. Among these titles by which Sadra is most commonly known, one may mention sadr al-din. The word 'sadr', meaning chest and/or bosom, signifies, on one hand, the heart, essence and source of something, and ‘foremost’, on the other. The title 'sadr al-din' thus denotes the one who is the foremost and most prominent in religion. The same etymology applies to another title given to Sadra, i.e., ‘sadr al-muta’allihin’, 'foremost among those who have become Divine-like'. The wordmuta’allih , 'becoming Divine-like', goes back to Shihab al-Din Suhrawardi, the founder of the School of Illumination (ishraq ), and has a specific referent in Suhrawardi’s triple classification of the paths of human thought and knowledge.[^1] According to the Illuminationist terminology, themuta'allih , whom Suhrawardi identifies as God’s real vicegerent on earth (khalifat Allah )[^2] , is the philosopher-sage or the godly philosopher who has combined rational inquiry with spiritual realization and discipline.[^3]
In the case of Sadra,sadr al-muta'allihin , which is probably the most honorific title given to Sadra, has a twofold function. On the one hand, it refers to the philosopher-sage of the School of Illumination. On the other hand, it reveals the extent to which Sadra has been considered by posterity to be part of the School of Illumination even though there are some fundamental differences between him and Suhrawardi. Nevertheless, the ideal synthesis of rational-logical analysis with mystical experience underlies a persistent current in Sadra's thought, and this links him closely to the Illuminationist tradition. Lastly, Mulla Sadra is also known with a more popular name in Iran, namely as ‘akhund’, meaning a learned person.