Mīr Moḥammad Bāqer Ḥosaynī Astarābādī, a 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.
Mīr Dāmād was born in Astarābād and studied in Mashhad with his maternal uncle Shaikh ʿAbd-al¬-ʿĀlī b. ʿAlī Ibn. Ḥosayn (d. 993/1585) and Sayyed Nūr–al-Dīn ʿAlī Ibn. Abi’l-Ḥasan ʿĀmelī, a student and son¬-in-law of Shaikh Zayn-al-Dīn ʿAlī Ibn. Aḥmad ʿĀmelī, SHahīd-e Ṯānī.
In 983/1575 he received an ejāza (license, diploma) from Shaikh Ḥosayn Ibn. 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 DaShtakī (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 SHīrāzī, known as Mollā Ṣadrā (d. 1050/1640); Sayyed Ḥosayn Ibn. Ḥaydar Karakī ʿĀmelī (fl. ca. 1029/1620); Sayyed Aḥmad ʿAlawī ʿĀmelī, who married his daughter; Ḵalīl b. Ḡāzī Qazvīnī (d. 1088/1677); Mollā Shamsā SHams-al-Dīn Moḥammad Gīlānī (d. 1098/1687); Qoṭb-al-Dīn AShkevarī; and the poet Moḥammad-Ḥasan Zolālī Ḵᵛānsārī (d. 1024/1615).
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-Shedād, 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 (opin¬ion) and qīās (analogy), for example. His allusions to agreement between the “foqahāʾ and Oṣūlīs among us” and “among al-ʿāmma” on various principles are an acknowledgment of the Oṣūlīs’ intellectual debt to the Sunni ʿolamāʾ, a debt criticized by some contemporary Aḵbārīs. 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.
Mīr Dāmād also composed ʿOyūn al-masāʾel, and, in Persian, Shāreʿ al-najāt, two handbooks of Shiʿite feqh and oṣūl al-dīn, both apparently incomplete. On Hadith he wrote al-RawāSheḥ 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-KaShShī (ed. M. Rajāʾī, I, Qom, 1404/1983), a commentary on Eḵtīār maʿrefat al-rejāl, Ṭūsī’s abridgment of Moḥammad b. ʿOmar KaShShī’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 Eshrāq, an allusion to his sympathy with the views of Sohravardī. His poetical output includes a maṯnawī entitled Mashreq al-anwār.
Mīr Dāmād’s fifty surviving works, not all complete, attest his versatility as a thinker. He wrote mostly on philosophy, fusing within the frame¬work of Twelver Shiʿism aspects of the philosophy of Avicenna with the illuminationist (Eshrāqī) philosophy of Shehāb-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 prin¬ciples. 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. Avicenna had distinguished three levels of time and eternity and had defined the world, its intelligences, and the heavenly spheres as essen¬tially (be’l-ḏāt) “posterior” to God. However, al¬though 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 SH./1977), completed in 1034/1625, Mīr Dāmād criticized Avicenna’s use of the term dahr as inconsis-tent (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 SHefāʾ, 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 prior¬ity of essence over existence. Mīr Dāmād posited sarmad, dahr, and zamān (time) as three real, ontologi¬cal—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.
Mīr Dāmād’s other treatises on philosophy include al-Jaḏawāt, composed in Persian at the command of Shah ʿAbbās I 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, in¬cluding 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.
Al-Resālat al-ḵaḷʿīya (ed. and tr. H. Corbin as “Con¬fessions extatiques de Mîr Damâd, maître de théologie à Ispahan 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, dedi¬cated to ʿAbbās I, he dealt with the relationship be¬tween 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. In Taqwīm al-īmān Mīr Dāmād discussed being, creation, and God’s knowl¬edge. He also composed commentaries on the Esteḥṣār of Naṣīr-al-Dīn Ṭūsī (d. 672/1274) and the metaphys¬ics in the Shefāʾ 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.
Mīr Dāmād’s role in establishing approaches later adopted by Mollā Ṣadrā, Shamsā 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.”
The Relations between Him 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). Sto¬ries linking Shaikh Bahāʾī, Mīr Dāmād, and ʿAbbās I, even if their details are inaccu¬rate, 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 Sharīf 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. Com¬mentators who accept the designation “school of Isfahan” have also accepted the implicit corollary that the brand of “gnostic Shiʿism” practiced by its mem¬bers predisposed them to “radical political indifferent¬ism”. 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 KāShānī. These scholars also continued the close personal relations with the court initiated by Karakī.
He died in 1041/ 1631 when he fell ill on his way from Karbala to Najaf, in the entourage of Shah Safi. He was buried in Najaf.