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Jambet, Christian, La fin de toute chose: Apocalypse coranique et philosophie, suivi de l’Épître du rassemblement de Mullâ Sadrâ

L.W. Cornelis van Lit
p. 384-387
Référence(s) :

Jambet, Christian, La fin de toute chose: Apocalypse coranique et philosophie, suivi de l’Épître du rassemblement de Mullâ Sadrâ: Apocalypse coranique et philosophie, suivi de l’Épître du rassemblement de Mullâ Sadrâ, Paris, Albin Michel, 2017, 324 p.

Texte intégral

1Jambet’s book consists of a translation of a 17th-century philosophical treatise, running about a 100 pages, together with a 200 page introduction, providing an intellectual and religious (not so much historical) context.

  • 1 For Mullā Ṣadrā’s eschatology proper, see e.g. Jambet, Ch., Mort et résurrection en islam: l’au-de (...)

2Mullā Ṣadrā’s treatise can, in my view, best be described as a long essay to describe the integration of eschatology into his innovative ontology1. The main argument that Mullā Ṣadrā expounds is that everything in existence, other than God, is aspiring to God, to eventually be united with Him. Intellects are a first degree removed from God and will find unification with Him, at the end of their lifetime. Souls will turn into intellects or find a new expression in a so-called world of image, which is related to the faculty of imagination. For human beings this entails an individual expression after death, whereas animals go up into their universal species. Finally, soulless matter will simply go out of existence. All of the arguments are powered by Mullā Ṣadrā’s notion of the primacy of existence. This innovative notion places emphasis on the existence of God as the primary source for everything else. For example, intelligibles are said to be without quiddity, and instead “Elles se différencient et se distinguent de la Lumière des lumières seulement en vertu de la complétude ou de la déficience” (p. 219), as Mullā Ṣadrā says in Jambet’s translation. Jambet points out in summary form that “c’est tout le contraire d’un panthéisme. Mullā Ṣadrā ne croit pas que Dieu soit en toute chose, mais il pense que toute chose est en Dieu et qu’elle fait retour en Dieu” (p. 48‒49). Attached to Mullā Ṣadrā’s innovative notion of the primacy of existence is his thesis that quiddity is, in a sense, movable, accidental. These two remarks basically make up the first of a list of theses that Mullā Ṣadrā has a habit of presenting, in many of his writings. The fact that the text translated here, Risālat al-ašr, does not give such a list, is evidence that it is an extension of other writings, an essay to deepen one’s understanding of Mullā Ṣadrā’s thought on a specific point of his ontology, rather than an introduction to his general thinking on eschatology.

3Notably, Jambet disagrees with me. He argues for reading this text as eschatology proper, and as an “exemple remarquable d’une littérature où shīʿisme spirituel, philosophie néoplatonicienne et soufisme concourent à l’exégèse coranique” (p. 143). Curiously, the page on which I see this most in place, on which Mullā Ṣadrā connects a passage from the Arabic Plotinus with a passage from Ibn ʿArabī, is left undiscussed. In fact, Jambet pretty much does away with any historical contextualization, arguing that Mullā Ṣadrā’s criticism of philosophers should be explained as stemming from an entirely different method of grasping knowledge. Instead of intellectual argumentation, Jambet thinks Mullā Ṣadrā arrived at his conclusions through “un savoir messianique accessible aux seuls amis de l’imām” (p. 176). I find this a highly interpretative take on what Mullā Ṣadrā is actually saying, with a heavy emphasis on the last few pages of the treatise (dubbed “conclusion and testament”, atm wa-waiyya). I do not wish to dismiss his interpretation as wrong. His analysis is based on two decades of exposure to this kind of material, whereas I can only rely on a couple of years of experience. Jambet, in fact, published a translation of this treatise back in 2001 and a comparison of the two translations shows substantial changes for the better. I will say that Jambet’s interpretation is surprising and not self-evident.

4This brings me to another point, namely, the validity of even talking about Mullā Ṣadrā’s treatise. Jambet says that the biggest change in his thinking on this treatise is to read it through a theological-political lens, rather than a philosophical-intellectual lens. By this he means the politics of access and dissemination of knowledge. A large part of his analysis is consumed with this point, which splits into two observations.

5Firstly, the knowledge contained in the treatise is of the highest order, abrogating any other writing of Mullā Ṣadrā and requiring the reader to be prepared “par une sérieuse formation philosophique et spirituelle antérieure” (p. 162). Jambet does a brilliant job in parsing the technical Arabic into a clear and highly readable French, and in his analysis he expounds complex ideas in a manner easy to follow. The translation can be read in a day. The introduction I read on and off over the span of a week. Jambet can sometimes be repetitive or overly wordy, but in general this only serves the comprehensibility. But don’t let this fool you; the treatise and the ideas contained in this book will likely only be of real benefit for advanced undergraduate students and above.

6Secondly, Jambet argues that Mullā Ṣadrā wishes the knowledge to be kept from society at large lest it would upset certain power dynamics. “Mullā Ṣadrā destine ce traité à l’élite des savants et non au commun des hommes”, Jambet argues, adding that his teachings are “placés sous le sceau du secret” (p. 145). If this is so, I do wonder why Jambet thinks it is appropriate for this seal to be lifted, and this knowledge to be divulged in an inexpensive paperback, available to anyone on this planet who knows Modern French. Certainly it would be mere vanity to think of ourselves as part of the elite of sages. Besides, it seems that Jambet is not only pointing at a secular political dimension, but that this restriction of knowledge also has a theological aspect to it. When Jambet says that Mullā Ṣadrā acquired the knowledge for this treatise by “participer à la révélation de l’autre monde et à la parousie de l’imām caché” (p. 176), it is no wonder that Jambet casts Mullā Ṣadrā as a sage (p. 156), and further says that “le sage est le prophète de quelques-uns” (p. 160‒161). Perhaps this means, then, that only those who consider Mullā Ṣadrā as their sage, their spiritual instructor, can read this treatise in conscience? I myself think the answer is more yes than it is no. Clearly, Mullā Ṣadrā’s writings are part of a living religion and it stands to reason to treat such materials with the dignity it asks for itself. This is a lesson we, as a field of scholars but also society at large, have learned the hard way in our contemporary context, through the rise of a critical analytical toolbox marked by notions such as orientalism, cultural hegemony, feminism, etc. We are not off the hook when we talk about people who lived many centuries ago. In this context I also want to draw attention to some remarkable comments made by Jambet on p. 192‒193, on which he defends his interpretation of Mullā Ṣadrā over and against the understanding of eschatology of modern-day Muslims. The same point could have been made with a strict historical comparison and then it would have come off much less charged.

7What I found especially exciting about Jambet’s interpretation is his introduction of the dichotomy “le temps de ce monde”/“le temps de l’autre monde,” on p. 94‒105, 122‒142, and 183‒198. With these notions he helps the reader understand that time, in the hereafter, does not work in synchrony as it does for us, in this Earthly world. Things can change and undergo a process over there, and can still be said to have already happened in relation to us over here. This aspect does not come out very well in Mullā Ṣadrā’s treatise and Jambet is able to provide compelling answers to some of the questions that may arise from reading the treatise.

8This book, then, convincingly replaces Jambet’s earlier translation published in Se rendre immortel and forms an engaging, be it at times antagonizing, companion piece to his Mort et résurrection en islam. For those engaged with serious studies of Mullā Ṣadrā, it will be a valuable read.

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1 For Mullā Ṣadrā’s eschatology proper, see e.g. Jambet, Ch., Mort et résurrection en islam: l’au-delà selon Mullâ Sadrâ, Paris, Albin Michel, 2008 ; Al-Kutubi, E.S. Mulla Sadra and Eschatology: Evolution of Being, London, Routledge, 2014; Esots, J., “Mullâ Sadrâ’s Teaching on Corporeal Resurrection”, Ishraq 6, 2015, p. 182‒199.

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L.W. Cornelis van Lit, « Jambet, Christian, La fin de toute chose: Apocalypse coranique et philosophie, suivi de l’Épître du rassemblement de Mullâ Sadrâ »MIDÉO, 34 | 2019, 384-387.

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L.W. Cornelis van Lit, « Jambet, Christian, La fin de toute chose: Apocalypse coranique et philosophie, suivi de l’Épître du rassemblement de Mullâ Sadrâ »MIDÉO [En ligne], 34 | 2019, mis en ligne le 10 juin 2019, consulté le 06 mars 2021. URL :

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