Shahab al-Din Suhrawardi


Shahab al-Din Suhrawardi

Shahab al-Din Yahya as-Suhrawardi (Persian شهاب الدين يحيى سهروردى, also known as Sohrevardi) was a Persian philosopher, Sufi and the founder of the School of Illumination, one of the most important schools in Islamic philosophy. He was born in 1155 in the village of "Suhraward" located in a Kurdish [C. E. Butterworth, M. Mahdi, "The Political Aspects of Islamic Philosophy", Harvard CMES Publishers, 406 pp., 1992, ISBN 0932885071 (see p.336)] inhabited region in present-day northwestern Iran and was executed in 1191 in Aleppo. "Suhraward" or "Suhrabard" was a Kurdish village located between present-day towns of Zanjan and Bijar [M. Kamal, "Mulla Sadra's Transcendent Philosophy", p.12, Ashgate Publishing Inc., 136 pp., 2006, ISBN 0754652718 (see p.12)] . In the 10th century C.E., it was controlled by the Kurds and its inhabitants were mainly heretics [ M. Th. Houtsma, E. van Donzel, "E.J. Brill's first encyclopaedia of Islam 1913-1936", BRILL Publishers, 1993, ISBN 9004097961 (see p.506)] . Other important Sufis from the same period carry the name Suhrawardi: "Abu 'l-Najib al-Suhrawardi" and his paternal nephew "Abu Hafs Umar al-Suhrawardi".

Life

His life spanned a period of less than forty years in the middle of the twelfth century CE. He produced a series of highly assured works that established him as the founder of a new school of philosophy, called the School of Illumination (hikmat al-Ishraq).

He learned wisdom and jurisprudence in Maragheh (located today in the East Azarbaijan Province of Iran).

His teacher was Majd al-Din Jaili who was also Imam Fakhr Razi’s teacher. He then went to Iraq and Syria for several years and developed his knowledge while he was there.

He was executed in 1191 on charges of cultivating Batini teachings and philosophy, by the order of al-Malik al-Zahir, son of Saladin, and sometimes is called "Maqtul", the slain.

Teachings

Suhrawardi was unique in his deep insight into the origins of Iranian and Islamic teachings. He renewed the Eshraq philosophy which consisted of ancient roots.

Also arising out of the peripatetic philosophy developed by Ibn Sina, Suhrawardi's illuminationist philosophy is critical of several of the positions taken by Ibn Sina, and radically departs from the latter through the creation of a symbolic language (which is mainly derived from ancient Iranian culture or "Farhang-e-Khosravani") to give expression to his "hikma".

The fundamental constituent of Suhrawardi’s philosophy is pure immaterial light, of which nothing is more manifest, and which unfolds from the light of lights in emanations through the descending order of the light of ever diminishing intensity; through complex interaction, then in turn give rise to horizontal arrays of lights, similar in concept to Platonic Forms, which govern the species of mundane reality.

Suhrawardi also elaborated the idea of an independent intermediary world, the imaginal world ("alam-e-mithal"). His views have exerted a powerful influence down to this day, particularly through Mulla Sadra’s adoption of his concept of intensity and gradation to existence, wherein he (Mulla Sadra) combined peripatetic and illuminationist description of reality.

He is sometimes given the honorific title "Shaykh al-Ishraq" or "Master of illumination".

Suhrawardi has been called "The Master of Oriental Theosophy”. In his writings, he attempted a synthesis of Zoroastrian, Platonic, and Islamic ideas. The "Orient" of his "Oriental Theosophy" is the symbolic Orient, the East and the dawn as the symbol of Spiritual Light and Knowledge.

Suhrawardi taught a complex and profound emanationist cosmology, according to which all creation is a successive outflow from the original Supreme Light of Lights (Nur al-Anvar).

His teachings had a strong influence on subsequent esoteric Iranian thought, and there is a saying that this Oriental Theosophy is to philosophy what Sufism is to scholastic and legalistic theology.

We can say that the idea of “Decisive Necessity” is believed to be one of the most important innovations of Suhrawardi in the history of logical philosophical speculation, which has been stressed by the majority of Muslim logicians and philosophers.

Influence

Suhrawardi's Illuminationist project was to have far reaching consequences for Islamic philosophy in Shi'ite Iran up to the present. In the seventeenth century it was to initiate an Illuminationist Zoroastrian revival in the figure of Azar Kayvan.

Writings

al-Suhrawardi [Sohravardi, Shihaboddin Yahya] (1180?-1191) "oeuvres philosophiques et mystiques", vol. I: "La métaphysique": I. "Kitab al-talwihat".
# "Kitab al-moqawamat".
# "Kitab al-mashari' wa'l-motarahat", Arabic texts edited with introduction in French by H. Corbin, Tehran: Imperial Iranian Academy of Philosophy, and Paris: Adrien Maisonneuve, 1976; vol II: I. "Le Livre de la Théosophie oriental"
#("Kitab Hikmat al-ishraq"). 2. "Le Symbole de foi des philosophes". 3. "Le Récit de l'Exil occidental", Arabic texts edited with introduction in French by H. Corbin, Tehran: Imperial Iranian Academy of Philosophy, and Paris: Adrien Maisonneuve, 1977; vol III: "oeuvres en persan", Persian texts edited with introduction in Persian by S.H. Nasr, introduction in French by H. Corbin, Tehran: Imperial Iranian Academy of Philosophy, and Paris: Adrien Maisonneuve, 1977. (Only the metaphysics of the three texts in Vol. I were published.) Vol. III contains a Persian version of the "Hayakil al-nur", ed. and trans. H. Corbin, "L'Archange empourpré: quinze traités et récits mystiques", Paris: Fayard, 1976, contains translations of most of the texts in vol. III of "oeuvres philosophiques et mystiques", plus four others. Corbin provides introductions to each treatise, and includes several extracts from commentaries on the texts. W.M. Thackston, Jr, "The Mystical and Visionary Treatises of Shihabuddin Yahya Suhrawardi", London: Octagon Press, 1982, provides an English translation of most of the treatises in vol. III of "oeuvres philosophiques et mystiques", which eschews all but the most basic annotation; it is therefore less useful than Corbin's translation from a philosophical point of view.)

al-Suhrawardi [Sohravardi, Shihaboddin Yahya] (1154-91) "Hayakil al-nur" ("The Temples of Light"), ed. M.A. Abu Rayyan, Cairo: al-Maktaba al-Tijariyyah al-Kubra, 1957. (The Persian version appears in oeuvres vol. III.)

al-Suhrawardi [Sohravardi, Shihaboddin Yahya] (1180?-91) "Mantiq al-talwihat", ed. A.A. Fayyaz, Tehran: Tehran University Press, 1955. (The logic of the Kitab al-talwihat (The Intimations).

al-Suhrawardi [Sohravardi, Shihaboddin Yahya] (1186-91) "Kitab hikmat al-ishraq" (The Philosophy of Illumination), trans H. Corbin, ed. and intro. C. Jambet, "Le livre de la sagesse orientale: Kitab Hikmat al-Ishraq", Lagrasse: Verdier, 1986. (Corbin's translation of the Prologue and the Second Part (The Divine Lights), together with the introduction of Shams al-Din al-Shahrazuri and liberal extracts from the commentaries of Qutb al-Din al-Shirazi and Mulla Sadra. Published after Corbin's death, this copiously annotated translation gives to the reader without Arabic immediate access to al-Suhrawardi's illuminationist method and language.)4- Aql-e-Sorkh (The Red Mind)

References

Amin Razavi, M. (1997) "Suhrawardi and the School of Illumination", Richmond: Curzon. (Clear and intelligent account of the main principles of his thought.)

Corbin, H. (1971) "En Islam iranien: aspects spirituels et philosophiques", vol. II: "Sohrawardi et les Platoniciens de Perse", Paris: Gallimard. (Corbin devoted more of his time to the study of al-Suhrawardi than to any other figure, and this volume represents the essence of his research.)

Ha'iri Yazdi, M. (1992) "The Principles of Epistemology in Islamic Philosophy: Knowledge by Presence", Albany, NY: State University of New York Press. (An original work on epistemology by a contemporary Iranian philosopher drawing critical comparisons between certain Islamic and Western philosophers; incorporates the best exposition in a Western language of al-Suhrawardi's theory of knowledge.)

Nasr, S.H. (1983) Shihab al-Din Suhrawardi Maqtul, in M.M. Sharif (ed.) "A History of Muslim Philosophy", vol. I, Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1963; repr. Karachi, no date. (Still one of the best short introductions to al-Suhrawardi, particularly useful on the cosmology.)

al-Shahrazuri, Shams al-Din (c.1288) "Sharh hikmat al-ishraq" ("Commentary on the Philosophy of Illumination"), ed. H. Ziai, Tehran: Institute for Cultural Studies and Research, 1993. (Critical edition of the thirteenth-century original; Arabic text only, but a useful short introduction in English.)

Walbridge, J. (1992) "The Science of Mystic Lights: Qutb al-Din Shirazi and the Illuminationist Tradition in Islamic Philosophy", Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, for the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies of Harvard University. (A study of one of al-Suhrawardi's principal commentators, with a useful introduction on the philosophy of illumination.)

Walbridge, J.(1999) "The Leaven of the Ancients: Suhrawardi and the Heritage of the Greeks", Albany, New York: State University of New York Press.

Walbridge, J. (2001) 'The Wisdom of the Mystic East: Suhrawardi and Platonic Orientalism', Albany, New York: State University of New York Press.

Ziai, H. (1990) "Knowledge and Illumination: a Study of Suhrawardi's Hikmat al-ishraq", Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press. (A pioneering study of al-Suhrawardi's logic and epistemology, particularly his criticism of the peripatetic theory of definition; unfortunately this work suffers from sloppy production.)

Ziai, H. (1996a) 'Shihab al-Din Suhrawardi: Founder of the Illuminationist School', in S.H. Nasr and O. Leaman (eds) History of Islamic Philosophy, London: Routledge, 434-64. (Biography of al-Suhrawardi.)

Ziai, H. (1996b) The Illuminationist Tradition, in S.H. Nasr and O. Leaman (eds) "History of Islamic Philosophy", London: Routledge, 465-96. (General description of the Illuminationist tradition.)

Notes

External links

* [http://www.muslimphilosophy.com/ip/rep/H031.htm Biography]


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