Journal Article

Mullā Ṣadrā on Theodicy and the Best of All Possible Worlds

Ibrahim Kalin

in Journal of Islamic Studies

Published on behalf of Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies

Volume 18, issue 2, pages 183-201
Published in print May 2007 | ISSN: 0955-2340
Published online May 2007 | e-ISSN: 1471-6917 | DOI:
Mullā Ṣadrā on Theodicy and the Best of All Possible Worlds

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The argument that the world that God has created is the best of all possible world-orders (aḥsan al-niẓām) is based on the premise that God always acts optimally. As a response to the problem of evil, the argument seeks to remove any tensions between the imperfection of the world and God's power and goodness. Ṣaḍr al-Dīn al-Shirāzī, known commonly as Mullā Ṣadrā (d. 1640), develops a number of arguments to defend the thesis as formulated by al-Ghazālī. While reiterating the previous arguments, Mullā Ṣadrā revises the question of theodicy within the context of his concept of existence and its modalities. Instead of discussing the problem of evil in terms of moral imperfections alone, he defines the world of existence as ‘that which is necessarily less than God’ and thus bound to be imperfect. Furthermore, Mullā Ṣadrā interprets all evil, natural or moral, as serving a higher purpose because the world is structured in a hierarchical way and for everything there is a teleological history. The article looks critically at the eight arguments which Ṣadrā advances to defend his position. At the end of his elaborate discussions, however, Ṣadrā takes refuge in blessed ignorance and faithfully accepts that not all problems of philosophy can be solved decisively.

Journal Article.  8760 words. 

Subjects: History ; Islam ; Regional and Area Studies

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