Psychology, Eschatology, and Imagination
in Mulla Sadra’s Commentary on ‘The
"People are asleep; when they die, they awaken" (
al-nas niyam fa-idhA matu intabahu
).This tradition, which will be referred to as the hadith of awakening, suggests an affinity between this worldly life (hayat al-dunya) and the state of sleeping. Since death in theeyes of Muslims is indeed a type of awakening from the sleep of heedlessness whichcharacterizes human existence, the hadith of awakening could not but capture theimagination of Islam's foremost thinkers since it succinctly summarizes the essence of Islamic eschatological teachings. (1) Allusions to this tradition in Islamic mysticalliterature abound. (2) Yet very few authors have commented upon its significance at greatlength. A noteworthy exception is Mulla Sadra Shirazi (d. 1050/1641), who wrote animportant commentary upon it. (3) Sadra's commentary on this hadith is a uniquecontribution to Islamic thought because it brings together some of the most important psychological and eschatological ideas in Islamic philosophy and theoretical Sufism fromthe 4th/10th to the 11th/17th centuries. (4) In the pages which follow I will thereforediscuss the most important features of Mulla Sadra's commentary on the hadith of awakening, highlighting how one of Islam's most important philosophers was able toexpound his teachings on psychology, eschatology, and imagination within the context of a hadith commentary.
Forms in this World and the Next World
Mulla Sadra begins his commentary on the hadith of awakening by stating that the natureof forms in the Afterlife, while resembling the imaginal forms experienced in our dreamstate or in mirrors in this life, are not essentially the same: "The existence of things(umur) in the Afterlife, although resembling the existence of forms which people see insleep or in a mirror in one respect, are not so [in actuality]." (5) This is due to the fact thatin the Afterlife, the things people see and experience are imaginal representations of thefruits of their actions in this world. But those forms which appear to us in sleep are notreal in the way the images we experience in our waking state are, nor are they real in theway the forms presented to us in the Afterlife will be. Because of these considerationsSadra goes on to say that "the existent form (al-surah al-mawjudah) [which appears] insleep and in the mirror is an impotent thing whose appearance is pure fancy (al-hikayahal-mahdah)." (6) Dreams imaginally represent to the dreamer the contents of hisconscience. The same idea holds true for objects reflected in mirrors. The reflection of anobject in a mirror is not the object itself. At the same time, it does capture something of the true nature of the object placed before the mirror. If it were otherwise, people would