Suhrawardī’s Philosophy



Suhrawardī, called the martyred sheikh (šaykh al-maqtul) or sheikh of illumination (saykh al-išrāq), was a Shāfiʿī Muslim intellectual and a philosopher, the founder of the philosophical school known as “Illuminationism”. In line with a long-standing trend in Islamic philosophy, he looked to other religions to complement the traditional sources of knowledge. This was not done in the belief that other religions as they existed in his day might be superior to Islam, but in order to restore their supposed original teachings, harmonizing with Islam, before they were corrupted. Nevertheless, this approach would later be criticized by the (in)famous Ibn Taymiyyah as idolatrous.

Being Persian by descent, one of the traditions Suhrawardī used in his project was the indigenous Iranian religion, Zoroastrianism—although in his mind, the dualist religion was a corruption of an original monist teaching, in which Light and Darkness were not two rivalling principles, but (following a Neoplatonic line of reasoning about evil as privation of good) Darkness was the absence of Light. All beings, for him, derive from the original Light.


God and the ten intellects (longitudinal order)

The Light, or “Light of Light”, is the One of the Platonists and Islam’s Allāh. In Persian terms, he is Hurmuzd (Avestan Ahura Mazdā).

Its first emanation is the “Proximate Light” or “Mighty Light”, which Suhrawardī calls by the Zoroastrian name Bahman (Avestan Vohu Manah). He is the first intellect.

The third, fourth and fifth intellects are those of the spheres of Saturn (pers. Kaywān), Jupiter (ar. Muštarī) and Mars (ar. Mirrīkh).

The sixth intellect is Shahrīwar (Avestan Xšaθra Vairya) […] Hūrakhš […]

The seventh, eighth and ninth intellects are those of the spheres of Venus (ar. Zuhrah), Mercury (ar. ʿUṭārid) and the Moon (ar. Qamar).

The tenth and final intellect is the talisman of the rational species (humans), Sarūš (Avestan Sraoša), alternately called Gabriel or the Holy Spirit. He is the Active Intellect, “who casts form unto the elements and is an intermediary between the Necessary Being [=God] and the human souls” (Commentary Upon the Chant of Gabriel’s Wing).

[Persianate names of planets?]

The latitudinal order

The archetype or “talisman” of water is Khurdād (Avestan Haurvatāt), that of fire Urdibihišt (Avestan Aṣ̌a Vahišta) […] Asfandârma/uz : earth […] air […]

The talisman of animals […] that of plants is Murdād (Avestan Amərətāt), […] minerals […]