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The Esfahān School

The theological- philosophical legacy of the Shirāz school was transferred to Esfahān following the rise of the Safavid Dynasty to power and the selection of this city as the capital, thereby, leading to the establishment of the Esfahān school. While writing on the various theological schools of Iran, Henri Corbin has attributed a major role to Mirdāmād in the establishment of the Esfahān school and has even suggested that a number of thinkers emerged during this period of the history of Iran, including Abu al-Qāsem Mirfendereski, who should be classified under the Esfahān school of theology. Ebrāhim Dināni, a contemporary Iranian philosopher, considers the Esfahān school to be a philosophical school comprising two major trends, viz. the trend of the Transcendental Philosophy and the trend headed by Rajab ‘Ali Tabrizi, whose thoughts differed from Mollā Sadrā’s Transcendental Philosophy. As it appears, four different major philosophical trends were simultaneously active during this period. These were trends were a) Mirdāmād’s Mashshā’i (Peripatetic) trend, b) Mirfendereski’s Illuminationist trend, c) Mollā Sadrā’s Transcendental trend, and d) Rajab ‘Ali Tabrizi’s trend. However, besides these four trends there existed a considerably important theological trend that could be referred to as the “Esfahān Theological School”. The most outstanding personalities of this school were Abd al-Razzāq Lāhiji (d. 1072 AH/1662 AD) and his son Mollā Hasan Lāhiji (1045-1121 AH/1635 1709 AD). Abd al-Razzāq was Mollā Sadrā’s student and son-in-law but unlike Mollā Sadrā’s other student and son-in-law, Mollā Mohsen Feiz Kāshāni (1007-1091 AH/ 1598-1680 AD), he was never attracted to the Transcendental Philosophy and even went to the extent of critically evaluating some of the fundamental Illuminationist ideas like the ones concerning the intermediary world or the “’Ālam-e Barzakh”. Besides writing a commentary on the book “Tajrid al-E’teqād” - the most outstanding theological book of Khwājeh Nasir - which was given the title of “Shawāreq al-Elhām”, Abd al-Razzāq Lāhiji also wrote a number of theological books in the Persian language. His son Mollā Hasan made a name for himself as a philosopher, but, like his father, he, too, produced outstanding works on theology in Persian. While emphasizing on the theological efforts of Mollā Hasan, the French Scholar, Henry Corbin, suggests that he has also written twelve books on the Shiite philosophy of Imamate. With the declaration of Shiite Islam as the official faith of Iran during the Safavid period the Shiite theology gained strength and played a major role in the evolution of theological thought in the country while the Persian language became the second most important language of theological and jurisprudential (feqhi) works. Such works as the “Sarmāyeh-e Imān” and other similar works were thereby produced with the intention of promoting Shiism as the state religion.

Furthermore, since theology, like the Peripatetic and Illuminationist Philosophies as well as mysticism, played a special role – at least under certain particular circumstances – in the formation of the Transcendental Philosophy and since Mollā Sadrā had conducted considerable research in theology, it could, therefore, be concluded that the evolution of the Transcendental Philosophy is in a way the evolution of theology as well. Interestingly, not only do the philosophical works produced by the Shirāz school have a theological approach, but in fact it can be clearly seen that theological issues have been presented in a philosophical manner and from a philosophical point of view in the works of Mollā Sadrā and his followers, including Mollā Hādi Sabzevāri (popularly known as “Hakim-e Sabzevāri”), as well as the works produced after Sabzevāri. Thus, it could be possible to speak of the continuity of theology alongside philosophy as well as a kind of theology in the form of philosophy or even what could be referred to as “philosophical theology”. The Esfahān school was a large and flourishing one and as recorded by Mollā ‘Ali Nuri (d. 1246 AH/1830 AD), the great rationalist scholar of this school, when preparations were being made during the reign of the Qajar king, Fath ‘Ali Shah (1212-1250 AH/1797-1834 AD) for the transfer of this school to Tehran, more than two thousand students were busy studying rational sciences (olum-e aqli) in it, four hundred of whom were at the highest levels of their studies.


* source: Dadbeh , Asghar " Iran Entry " The Great Islamic Encyclopedia . Ed. Kazem Musavi Bojnourdi.Tehran: The Center of Great Islamic Encyclopaedia , 1989-, V.10 , pp.618

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