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A. Al-Mashari’ wal –Mutarahat (The Paths and conversations)
This is one of the more important works of Suhrawardi and his lengthiest work, which contains a mixture of discursive and illuminationist arguments. In the introductory section, he recommends this book to all those who have not attained mastery of the discursive sciences and therefore have their path towards understanding of the higher wisdom of illumination obstructed.
The introduction to this book is of great importance since it explains the purpose and the place of this work among other works of Suhrawardi and also alludes to the of a circle of spiritual companions to Suhrawardi. Ashe states:
This book consists of three sciences that I have written in accordance with the request of you brothers and I have placed in them arguments and criteria. These arguments and criteria cannot be found in other texts and are truly beneficial and useful. They are the result of the inferences and experiences of my own intellect. However, in these criteria I did not deviate from the sources of the Peripatetics, and if I had put find points and litanies in them, they are from the honorable principles of ishraqi wisdom which undoubtedly is superior to what the Peripatetics have brought. Anyone who would strive and be unbiased, after meditating upon the works of the Peripatetics, will arrive at the same conclusion that others have reached. Anyone who has not attained the mastery of discursive sciences, his oath to the understanding of ishraqi wisdom is blocked and it is necessary that this book be studies before The Philosophy of Illumination and after a short work called Intimations. It should be known that I, in this book, have not compiled (the issues) chronologically, but the intention in this work is argumentation although we may end up with ( the discussion of miscellaneous) sciences, When the person who discursive philosophy has properly understood this section and established his knowledge in this regard, then it is permissible for him to set foot in ascetic practices and enter ishraq so he can see certain principles of illumination. The three forms of illuminationist wisdom are follows: and knowledge of them comes only after illumination. The beginning of illumination is detachment from the world, the middle way is the observation of divine light, and the end is limitless. I have called this book The Path and the Conversations.
From the above, it is apparent that this work of Suhrawardi is not only written in the tradition of the Peripatetics, but that it also contains some of mystical experiences.
In section seven of this work, he leaves the discursive method to elaborate on such topics as life after death, necessary being, etc, The metaphysical and epistemological issues which he deals with are elaborated on to great extent in his Magnum, Opus, the Hikmat al-ishraq. On the sigifcance of the al- Muqawamat he states:
I recommend to you my brothers to detach yourselves from everything and meditate upon God continuously, and the key to this idea in The philosophy of Illumination. These issues which we have mentioned have not been discussed elsewhere and to set foot on this path we have prescribed a plan without revealing the secret.
al- Mashari’ wal’ –mutarahat is one of the few places where Suhrawardi treats subject of the language of illumination, and is crucial for the understanding of The philosophy of Illumination and “the language of illumination” (lisan al-ishraq). In light of such analysis which is carried out within the context of light and darkness, Suhrawardi goes so far as to evaluate his mystical experiences.
B. Philosophy of illumination
This is fourth doctrinal work and the Magnum opus of Suhrawardi. It brings together different elements of ishraqi tradition and was composed in the period of a few months in 582/1182. Suhrawardi maintains that the content of this book was revealed to him by the divine spirit. “These truths and secrets were revealed to me at once by the spirit on a strange day …..in only a few days.
The philosophy and theosophical doctrines that are discussed in this book laid the foundation for future developments in the field of “philosophical gnosis”, not to mentions their profound influence upon the formulation of the esoteric aspects of Shi’ism.
Despite numerous commentaries on the The Philosophy of Illumination, such as those of Qutb al- Din Shirazi and Ahmad Ibn al- Harrawi, Suhrawardi’s own introduction to his work is perhaps the most elucidating one. These he states:
And this book of ours belongs to those who seek knowledge of both an initiatic and discursive nature. Those who only seek discursive reasoning and are neither divine nor desire to be, have no place in this book. We shall not discuss this book or its secrets except with those who are theosophists or seek divine knowledge.
The Philosophy of Illumination, can roughly be divided into two parts, the first being a discussion of Peripatetic philosophy, logic and other related issues which have been regarded by many as less significant than the second part. The second part consists of his ishraqi writings which are written in a peculiar language and are unique in the history of Islamic philosophy. In this work Suhrawardi provides a philosophical exposition of the journey of the soul beginning with purification and ending with illumination. The part of the book which is nevertheless discursive, discusses many of the traditional problems of philosophy in a language other than that employed by peripatetics.
Suhrawardi begins the second part of The Philosophy of Illumination with a description of the axiomatic nature of light and the classification of different beings in terms of their transparency and the division of light into many different types, i.e. necessary and contingent. Suhrawardi also tells us in section about the source wisdom as light which has illuminated various traditions of wisdom and which ancient Persians called Brahman. Having discussed the longtitudinal and latitudinal angelic orders, Suhrawardi then offers an ishraqi analysis of vision sight, the role of light and their relationship to illumination.
In The Philosophy of Illumination, Suhrawardi is not consistent in that he often goes from subject to treating the same topic in many place. For instance often are elaborated upon in numerous places throughout the book. Using an illuminationist scheme, Suhrawardi discusses cosmology, in particular, movements of the heavenly bodies and their relationship to light, sense perception and the faculties that makeup the human psyche.
Among the most important issues discussed in this section are the ishraqi epistemology known as knowledge by presence, inner purification and asceticism. Suhrawardi, who dismisses this in numerous places, offers analysis of how it is that the self comes to know of itself and how we can account for the direct and umediated nature of this knowledge. Towards the end of this book, Suhrawardi reminds us that becoming recipient of this knowledge requires practicing asceticism.
suhrawardi and illuminatinon school
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