The Publication of "Mulla Sadra ,s Principles Of Hermenutics"
by Professor Seyyed Mohammed Khamenei
interpretation of the Holy Qur'an began in almost the
early years of the descent of revelation to the Prophet
(æ) and then its transmission was started to the people
of Mecca and then Medina. The first commentator and
interpreter of the Qur'an was the Prophet (æ) himself.
His way was later followed by Imam 'Alí ('a), his
cousin, son-in-law and successor. After them, Imam 'Alí's
children and grandchildren continued their work. The
Prophet (æ) had predicted even their names and
birthdates two hundred years before. Imam 'Alí's
descendants held the divine station of Imamat or the
political and religious succession from the Prophet (æ)
and were granted permission to interpret the Qur'an.
Following the Prophet's demise, over
the centuries Muslims were divided into various groups.
From fiqhi point of view, they had been divided into
five religious branches, including Shi'ite, Åanafí,
Shafi'í, Malikí, and Åanbalí, and concerning their
theological ideas, they had been divided into Shi'ite,
Mu'tazilite, and Ash'arite branches.
These fell into two big religious groups: Shi'ite and
Sunnite. The Shi'ite believed in the appointed
succession of Imam 'Alí ('a) and his descendants
(designated and appointed on the day of Ghadír) and were
considered to be the Islamic orthodox. The Sunnites
believed in an elective vicegerency system and
and considered Abê Bakr to be the first vicegerent
These two main branches of Islam employed different methods
in order to interpret the Qur'an. The Sunnites were
often interested in interpreting the outward meaning of
this Holy Book and seriously opposed esoteric exegesis.
However, the Shi'ite leaders (Imam 'Alí ('a) and the
other Imams, each in his own time) sought for deeper
meanings between the lines of the Qur'an in addition to
the interpretation of the outward meaning of words. A
group of Shi'ite Muslims who were known as Baìiniyyun (esoterics)
from the time of the 6th Imam, Imam J'afar
Æadiq ('a), onwards emphasized on esoteric
interpretation of this Book.
The above-mentioned group, which was itself divided into
various sects, later started a secret struggle against
Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphs and provided the basis for
the establishment of certain governments in Iran (Isma'ílí)
and in the north of Africa and Egypt (Faìimid). Their
organization was destroyed with the Mongol's invasion of
Iran and the downfall of the Abbasid Caliphate.
The Shi'ite Baìiní disseminated hermeneutics in the sense of
accepting a free interpretation of the Qur'an among
other Muslims. Even the gnostic sects of 'Sufism', some
of which Sunnite and some Shi'ite, all followed the
Baìiní school and esoteric exegesis. We can say that the
Baìiníyyah were the very guards of the science of the
Qur'anic hermeneutics among Muslims.
However, we should also emphasize that, every once in a
while, some Shi'ite followers of certain Sunnite schools
(such as Åanbalí) opposed any kind of esoteric exegesis
and forced Muslims to limit themselves to the outward
aspect of the words in the Qur'an. Some of them (Åanbalís),
in the guise of guarding the religion, wrote rebuttals
and sometimes accused Muslims of atheism.
Nevertheless, the task of interpretation, along with
esoteric exegesis or, in its modern sense, hermeneutics,
was always common among Muslims. In the time of Mulla
Æadra and his master Mír Damad, interpretation was
officially combined with philosophical hermeneutics.
Although Mulla Æadra's methodology is rooted in Sufism, it
enjoys the color and flavor of his own philosophy. Not
many books or essays were written on this issue in the
past. However, some essays have been written in this
This treatise contains two papers by, each written on
different occasion and presented in different congress.
They have also been published in Kheradnameh Sadra
Quarterly. It is hoped that they provide interested
readers with necessary information concerning the
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