Shihāb Al-Dīn Suhrawardī

Mehdi Aminrazavi

in Islamic Studies

ISBN: 9780195390155
Published online April 2013 | | DOI:
Shihāb Al-Dīn Suhrawardī


Shihab al-Din Yahya ibn Habash ibn Amirak Abuʾl Futuh Suhrawardi, also known as “Shaykh al-ishraq” (the master of illumination), is the most significant philosopher between Ibn Sina (10th ce) and Nasir al-Din Tusi (13th ce). Suhrawardi was born in 549 ah/1154 ce in the village of Suhraward near Zanjan, a northwestern Iranian city. His early education took place in the city of Maraghah, where he studied philosophy, among other things, with Majd al-Din Jili. Suhrawardi then traveled to Isfahan, where he pursued his advanced studies with Zahir al-Din al-Farsi in philosophy, theology, and the sciences, including The Observations (al-Basāʾir) of ʿUmar ibn Salah al-Sawi (or Sawaji). Suhrawardi continued his journey by going to Anatolia and Syria, where he met Malik Zahir, the son of the famous Salah al-Din Ayyubi, in Aleppo in 579/1183. Suhrawardi’s philosophical views antagonized the orthodox jurists at Malik Zahir’s court. Having declared him a heretic, they asked Malik Zahir to put Suhrawardi to death; the king, however, refused, but under pressure from his father, Salah al-Din Ayyubi, the order was carried out. Suhrawardi, who received the titles “al-Shahid” (the Martyred) and “al-Maqtul” (the Murdered), was put to death in 587/1191. Evidence concerning Suhrawardi’s life is sparse. He lived somewhat of a hermetic life and had an eccentric personality; one day he would dress in the manner of courtiers and the very next day as a wandering Dervish. He had a sharp tongue and a reddish face and was of medium height. In the period known as the “cessation of philosophical activities” that followed Ghazzal’s scathing attack on philosophers, Suhrawardi not only kept the flame of philosophizing alive but also established a philosophical paradigm known as the “school of illumination” (al-hikmat al-ilahiyyah), literally meaning “Divine Wisdom,” or hikmat al-ishraq (philosophy of illumination). Suhrawardi is unique in the annals of Islamic philosophical thought in that he developed a philosophical tradition inclusive of other traditions such as Zoroastrianism, Manicheanism, and Hermetico-Pythagorean writings as well as the Greek philosophers. Suhrawardi was a system builder. He tried to bring about a rapprochement between the discursive philosophy of Aristotle and Ibn Sina, practical and theoretical (‛Irfan) aspects of Sufism, and finally what he calls “illuminationist” (ishraqi) philosophy. His writings reflect his grand synthesis of various branches of learning; he wrote several philosophical treatises in the Aristotelian tradition, a number of highly allegorical Sufi narratives, and his magnum opus in a peculiar language that he calls “the illuminationist language” (lisan al-ishraq).

Article.  6212 words. 

Subjects: Islam

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