Solemn Intention to Insult Philosophy

Āyatullah Mīrzā Mahdī Iṣfahāni (d. 1945) is considered to be the founder of Maktab-e Tafkīk (although the term for the movement was coined by Shaykh Muḥammad Riḍa Ḥakīmī). This school of thought continues to exist today in Mashhad, where Mīrzā Mahdī resided during the later part of his life. Today Āyatullah Sayyid Ja’far Sayyidān is considered to be spearheading the movement and in the past, numerous debates and works have been written by him and his students against philosophy in general and as well as critiques on various scholars. For example, over the last 3 decades, Āyatullah Sayyid Ja’far Sayyidān has personally debated scholars like Āyatullah Jawādī Āmulī, Āyatullah Ghulām Reza Fayyāzī and Shaykh Ḥamīd Parsaniya on various specific topics within philosophy and whose transcripts and/or video recordings remain available until today.

On February 15th 2018, there was a seminar hosted in Muṣalla Qods in Qom with the title ‘Necessity of Theological Ijtihād in the Teachings of the Ahl al-Bayt’ in honour of Mīrza Mahdī and a newly published series of his Uṣūl work was revealed over there.

A lot of material exists on the school of thought and their ideology in Persian, however in English – as far as I know – the best article out there is one written by Sajjad H. Rizvi titled “Only the Imam Knows Best” – the Maktab-e Tafkīk’s Attack on the Legitimacy of Philosophy in Iran. It can be accessed here for free: https://www.academia.edu/2120174/Maktab-i_tafkīk_and_the_debate_on_philosophy_in_Iran

Below is a story from volume 2, pg. 540 of  Juray-ī az Darya of Āyatullah Shubayrī Zanjānī where he recalls how Āyatullah Mīrzā Mahdī Iṣfahānī had made a solemn intention to demean philosophy whenever possible. At the same time, the story depicts how despite significant differences of opinions which result in adhering to a completely different school of thought, sincere scholars are able to maintain respect for their academic opponents. We have numerous other examples of this in the history of our scholarship, whether it is Shaykh Waḥīd Behbahānī leading the funeral prayers of his staunch Akhbāri opponent Shaykh Yūsuf al-Baḥrānī, or Akhund Khorasāni with his former student on the dispute over the Constitutional Revolution. Students and followers of scholars should take heed from them and maintain the same respect for each other to the best of their abilities, instead of feeling offended or be taken back by coming across differences of opinions.


The deceased Āyatullah Mīrzā Mahdī Iṣfahāni of Mashhad was a distinguished personality as far as spirituality was concerned. At the same time, he was anti-philosophy and was extreme in his opposition to it. I (Āyatullah Shubayri Zanjānī) heard from the deceased Hāj Āqā Mashāyakhī Irāqī who said: “I informed Āyatullah Mīrzā Mahdī that the individual who is giving lessons on al-Manẓūmah in Qom does not even miss his night prayers (tahajjud)” – I was referring to Āqa Khomeynī. He responded back saying, ‘He performs the night prayers and yet still teaches philosophy?!'” This is how much he was opposed to philosophy[1]. I (Āyatullah Zanjānī) heard from Āqa Khomeyni himself that Āyatullah Mīrzā Mahdī had made a solemn intention to demean and insult philosophy.

I (Āyatullah Zanjānī) have heard that even though Āqa Mīrza Mahdī had this much difference and was of a different affinity, when he saw the book Kashf al-Asrār of Āqa Khomeynī, despite being 17 or 18 years older than Āqa Khomeynī, he kissed the hands of Āqa Khomeynī when he visited him in Mashhad.[2]

[1] Translator: That is, he felt that the night prayers and the teaching of philosophy could not go together

[2] Āyatullah Zanjāni: The deceased Shaykh Mujtaba Qazwīnī, despite also being anti-philosophy, had supported Imām Khomeynī during the Islamic Revolution


Āyatullah Zanjāni says that I heard from Āyatullah Waḥid Khorasānī that some students of Āyatullah Mīrzā Mahdī Iṣfahānī such as Āqa Marwārīd believed he possessed karāmāt (supernatural abilities generally held by saints). Āyatullah Waḥid mentioned that there were three views regarding Āyatullah Mīrzā Mahdī: some accepted his words completely, some had no opinion regarding him, while others like myself were in the middle. Meaning, it wasn’t the case that we would accept everything Āyatullah Mīrza would say.

Āyatullah Waḥīd said: I would participate in Āyatullah Mīrzā Mahdī’s lessons with Shaykh Hāshim QazwīnīĀqa Waḥid was very young at the time and others would refer to him as Shaykh Ḥusayn Khurdo. He said: I told Shaykh Hāshim that this point[1] is problematic. He told me, the same critique came to my mind as well. I told him to mention this critique to Mīrzā Mahdī, but Shaykh Hāshim was smart – or perhaps he just did not want to get into a quarrel with Āyatullah Mīrzā – and told me that he will not mention it. In any case, he ended up pushing me to the front and I presented my critique to Āyatullah Mīrzā Mahdī.

He responded back saying: As far as the premises are concerned, the critique is valid, but shuhūd (mystical intuition) affirm the conclusion of this discussion.

Until this point, I know that I heard all this from Āqa Waḥīd, but the rest of what I am about to mention, it appears that I also heard it from him directly. Āqa Waḥid asked Āyatullah Mīrzā Mahdī: Do you have the ability to detach your soul (from your body)? He responded: Yes, sometimes it takes up to two hours to do so.

Āyatullah Mīrza Mahdī would tread the spiritual path on the basis of philosophy initially, but they say he claimed that the Imam of the time (a) gave me a writing in a dream which made me change my course completely.

[1] Referring to some claim made by Āyatullah Mīrzā in some lesson

About Ali Imran 246 Articles
An internet marketer by profession, I am the author of Iqra Online. I am currently pursuing a MA in Islamic Studies from The Islamic College of London, and as well as continuing my studies in a seminary in Qom, Iran.