Another version of the Proof of the Sincere given by Sadr al-Muta’alihin occurs in his commentary on the passage from the Qur’an: “Allah witnesses that there is no god but He” (3:17). Mulla Sadra writes:
Know that the greatest of proofs and firmest of ways, the brightest path, the most noble and most secure is reasoning to the essence (dhat) of a thing by its essence (dhat). And that which is the most manifest of things is the nature of absolute existence (al-wujud al-mutlaq) in so far as it is absolute, and it is the Truth (haqiqah) of the Necessary Itself, the Exalted, and there is nothing except the First Truth (al-Haqq al-Awwal) which is the Truth (haqiqah) of existence itself, for whatever is other than It is either a whatness (mahiyyah), or an imperfect existence mixed with imperfection, or impotence and nothingness. There is nothing among them to be an instance of the meaning of existence by its essence (dhat). The Necessary Existent is pure existence than which nothing is more complete [more properly an instance of existence]. It has no limit [or definition] and has no end and it is not mixed with any other thing, whether a universality or specificity, nor [is It mixed with] one attribute in contrast to another besides existence.
So we say: If there were not a Truth of Existence in existence, there would not be anything in existence, for whatever is other than the Truth of Existence is either a whatness (mahiyyah), and it is obvious that in respect to its essence (dhat) it would be other than existent, or it is an imperfect and incomplete existence, so there would be no alternative but to require composition and specification at a determined level and specific limit of all existence. Then a cause would be needed to complete its existence, and that which limits by a specific limit and brings it from potentiality to actuality and from contingency to necessity, for everything whose truth is not the truth of existence will not in its essence require existence, and neither will its ipseity require a specific limit of existence. So it will need something to dominate and limit it to benefit it with a determinate level. And that is the preponderant that is prior in existence to all, with a priority in simplicity over the composed, over the imperfect, the rich over the poor, and the gracious over the graced. So the Truth of the First Truth is the proof of its essence (dhat) and is the proof of all things. As is said by God: “Is it not sufficient for your Lord that He is a witness over all things?” (41:53) So this is the way of the Sincere, those who rely upon Him by Himself and who reason from Him to Him and who witness by His existence to other things, not by the existence of things to Him.
Here again, we find elements drawn from the Muslim peripatetics and from the ‘urafa. The passage begins with an affirmation of the Sufi claim that the sole reality is God, identified with absolute existence: “there is nothing except the First Truth (al-Haqq al-awwal) which is the Truth (haqiqah) of existence itself”. In order to prove that absolute existence must be God, i.e., the Necessary Existent, it is argued that no other candidate is independent, not whatness, not existence mixed with imperfection, and certainly not impotence and nothingness. So, if there is a God, it must be pure absolute existence, and if it can be shown that this Truth of Existence itself exists, is instantiated, this will amount to a proof of the existence of God.
The next move is typical of the ‘urafa. It is claimed that if there were no Necessary Existent, no Truth of Existence, then there would be nothing at all. At this point, however, Sadra ceases to follow the line of the Sufis and takes a more peripatetic form of reasoning, claiming that the Truth of Existence is needed by all other existents as a cause. Whatness by itself cannot be responsible for existence, for if we consider merely the properties exhibited by reality, it will be a contingent fact that they are instantiated. If someone claims that there is no pure existence but only mixed imperfect existences, Sadra replies that they rely upon pure existence in two respects. First, the imperfect existent will require a cause, since no imperfect being in and of itself can be responsible for its own existence; and second, a cause is needed for the imperfect to determine its level of limited actuality, for the imperfect will not be able to determine a specific level or grade of being for itself on its own, but needs to be dominated from above, as it were.
As in the statement in the Asfar, we find reference to the Sufi theme of the unity of existence, but this comes to be explicated in terms of the major principles of Sadra’s own transcendental philosophy: the fundamentality of existence and the gradedness of existence. Necessary and contingent are defined in terms of causal dependence, as in Ibn Sina, and the ultimate cause is then shown to be the Truth of existence.
There is also a discussion of the Proof of the Sincere in the Epilogue to his Kitab al-masha’ir. Here it is first admitted that there are many paths toward God, but that the strongest and most noble is that in which He alone can be the middle term of the argument, and that this direct route is that of the Prophets and of the Sincere. The discussion is punctuated with passages from the Qur’an, including those mentioned regarding the Proof of the Sincere by Ibn Sina. Those who take the route of the Sincere first consider the reality or Truth of existence, haqiqat al-wujud, and understand that this is the principle or origin (‘asl) of each thing, and that this is the Necessary Existent. Contingency, need and privation do not attach to existence because of its haqiqah, but because of flaws and privations external to this original haqiqah. This realization is said to give rise to an understanding of the unity of the Divine Attributes, and then from the Attributes to the qualities of His states and their effects. Then it is confessed that the sun of haqiqah arises from ‘irfan (gnosis), by which it is known that existence is a simple haqiqah, without genus, difference, definition, description or proof. The differences among the particular instances of reality are attributed to differences in grade of perfection, causal priority and independence. Pure existence is identified with infinite intensity of being, ultimate perfection. All other existences are of various degrees of imperfect existence. It is denied that deficiency in existence is implied by the Truth of Existence itself, because deficiency is a privation lacking positive ontological status. Rather, limitation and imperfection are a by-product of creation, since the effect is necessarily inferior to its cause.
In his al-Hikmat al-arshiyah we find yet another statement of the Proof of the Sincere by Sadr al-Muta’alihin. This work opens with the definition of the Truth of Existence as pure being without the admixture of generality or particularity, limits, whatness, imperfection or privation. This pure being is identified with God, the Necessary Existent, and it is argued that if the Truth of existence did not exist, nothing would exist. This is taken to establish the existence of the Truth of existence. In order to show that the Truth of Existence possesses necessary existence, it is argued that everything which exists imperfectly depends on being while pure being itself depends on nothing. The imperfect is that which results from the mixture or composition of being with some whatness or particularity. That which is mixed is posterior to and dependent on its simple elements. The element of whatness is really a privation or limitation of being without any independent reality of its own, so the imperfect is totally dependent on the perfect. Mixed being is dependent on the Truth of existence which itself is without need of anything. This statement is followed by another argument which is similar to that given by such ‘urafa as Ibn Turkah and al-Jami, to the effect that true predication presumes being:
For to affirm any concept of something and to predicate it of that thing—whether (the concept be) a whatness or some other attribute, and whether it be affirmed or denied of something—always presupposes the being of that thing. Our discussion always comes back to Being: either there is an infinite regression (of predications and subjects) or one arrives in the end at an Absolute Being, unmixed with anything else.
The philosophical theology which finds expression here is far from any sort of pantheistic identification of the world or nature with God, but rather is an attempt to strike a balance between extreme immanence and extreme transcendence while retaining both. The pantheistic tendency sacrifices transcendence for the sake of immanence while more traditional theologies do the reverse. In Sadr al-Muta’alihin, divine immanence is maintained by identifying the deity with existence, while transcendence is maintained by insisting that what is meant here is not the imperfect world, but absolutely pure existence.
The synthesis discovered by Mulla Sadra has inspired and continues to inspire numerous commentaries and elaborations on the themes of his philosophy.
Sadr al-Din Shirazi, Asrar al-ayat, ed. Muhammad Khajavi (Tehran: Iranian Academy of Philosophy, 1981), pp. 25-26.
Translated by Parviz Morewedge as The Metaphysics of Mulla Sadra (New York: The Society for the Study of Islamic Philosophy and Science, 1992).
Translated as The Wisdom of the Throne by James Winston Morris (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981).
Ibid., p. 96.
Can someone explain this argument to me in simpler words. It seems really hard to grasp