Mīr Dāmād (d. 1041/1631), philosopher and mujtahid. Spiritual authority and legal authority in Shīʿi Safavid Iran.
Studies on Twelver Shīʿism, particularly in the context of Safavid Iran (907-1134 / 1501-1722), are characterized by a dichotomy between the emphasis on law and that on philosophy, reflecting the duality between both the exoteric and esoteric dimensions of this religion. Based on this observation, this article presents a corpus of known and lesser known texts of Mīr Dāmād (d. 1041/1631), a philosophy master and super- mujtahid at the court of the Shāhs in Esfahan, in order to analyse the link between these two facets of his personality and shed some light on the relationship between legal and spiritual authorities in modern Shīʾism. The first part of this paper studies Mīr Dāmād’s portrait in the Shīʿi prosopographical sources. The second part deals with his legal works, notably his fatwās on Friday prayer and defensive jihād. The third part analyses the doxographic notice devoted to Mīr Dāmād by his former student Quṭb al-Dīn Ashkevarī (d. between 1088 and 1095 /1677 and 1684), which weaves legal, philosophical and mystical texts authored by his teacher. This study will show that in the view of Mīr Dāmād and his disciples, the temporal authority of the jurisconsult, during the period of Great Occultation, remained inseparable from the spiritual authority of the Gnostic (ʿārif), whose metaphysical knowledge was both rationally proven and mystically experienced.