Influence of school of illumination on philosophical movements in Iran

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Suhrawardi’s school of illumination left a profound and permanent influence on the tradition of wisdom in Persia. Suhrawardi’s teachings and the bulk of ishraqi texts became a powerful philosophical movement climax was the “School of Isfahan”. The masterly ishraqi expositions and commentaries of the teachings of Suhrawardi are still avidly studied today. Why was Suhrawardi so well received by Persian philosophers of this period? Was it only because he was a native of Persia? The answer lies in the rich and esoterically inclined religious ambience of Persians themselves which made them receptive to Suhrawardi’s ideas.

A. The factors of spreading Israqi through in Iran
The illuminationst school of Suhrawardi provided the basis upon which an esoteric interpretation of Shi’ite Islam could be formulated. Shi’ite Islam puts a great deal of emphasis on intellect (aql) as an instrument for the attainment of truth as well as acceptance of and adherence to the presence of an esoteric knowledge that lies at the heart of the Islamic message. Suhrawardi’s school of illumination considers both intellectual discourse and the practice of asceticism to be the necessary components for the attainment of truth.

It is not accidental that Suhrawardi’s philosophy, which emphasizes the elements of knowledge as well as practical wisdom, came to show itself during the Safavid period when Shi’ite Islam was adopted as the official state religion. Shi’ite Islam, which emphasized the twelve Imams a chain of initiators through which the Muhammadan light (nur Muhammadi) manifested itself, was naturally receptive to ishraqi doctrine.

B. Influence of expositions of Suhrawardi’s ideas on spreading the school of illumination
In addition to the religious and intellectual elements that enable Suhrawardi’s ideas to take root in Persia, there are other important commentaries and expositions which helped to consolidate his ideas. The most important work was the commentary of Shahrazuri(680/1281) on Hikmat al- ishraqi and al- Talwihat. Also the commentaries of such masters Ibn Kammunah ( 667/1269), Allamah Hilli (693/1293), Qutb al-Shirazi, Athir al- Din Abhari, Nasir al- Din Tusi and, finally, Mulla Sadra were influential in spreading the ideas of Suhrawardi.

Abhari and Tusi are known for their Peripatetic writings but were nevertheless highly influential by Suhrawardi. For example, in his work Kashf al-haqa’iq fi tahrir al-daqqiq, a perfect representation of Suhrawardi’s teachings, Abhari discusses a number of philosophical issues from an ishraqi point of view. Before the Safavid period, such figures as Sayyaid Haydar Amuli and Ibn abiJumhur and his major work Kitab al- mujli played a major a role in allowing the ishraqi school to reach its climax during the Safavid period. The religious ambience of Persia, its historical and cultural characteristics, and the existence of an essentially gnostic element in the Persian Wellanschuung, helped to establish Suhrawardi as a figure with whom Persians felt at home. As S.H. Nasr states:

By the beginning of the eighth/ fourteenth century the ishraqi school had become definitely established in Persia and henceforth its remained an important element lands of Islam where the Persian Islam culture has been dominant.

C. The Safavids and school of Isfahan
The powerful political movement of the Safavids and the keen interest of Safavid kings in nourishing the intellectual and mystical life of Persia brought about the culmination of the tradition of ishraqi wisdom in what has come to be known as the “School of Isfahan”. Before embarking on a discussion of the School of Isfahan, I will briefly consider those ishraqi philosophers who paved the pat for the emergence of this powerful paradigm.

D. The Ishraqi philosophers before the school of Isfahan
Among the significant figures who emerged just prior to the Safavid period, who for all practical purposes are considered to belong to the School of Isfahan, are Sadr al- Dashtaki and his son, Ghiyath al-Din Mansur Dashtaki. Mansur wrote extensively on the Peripatetics, such as his commentary on the Isharat and a treatise on ethics. However, it is his commentary on Suhrawardi’s Hayakil al- nur that shows the extent of Suhrawardi’s influence even on certain Peripatetics, His works offer a perfect representation of ishraqi philosophy and particularly influence Mulla Sadra, for whom he was often mistaken. In a sense, Mansur represents a successful attempt to bring about a rapprochement between the Peripatetic philosophy as represented by Ibn Sina and the ishraqi tradition.

A number of other intellectuals of this period not carried out an ishraqi reading of Ibn Sina, but also paid attention to the gnosis ( irfan) of Ibn Arabi who was introduced to the Persians through the works of his student, Sadr al- Din Qunawi. Among these figures we can name Ibn Turkah Isfahani (8th/ 14th ) whose attempt to bring together philosophy and gnosis, as represented in his major work, Tamhid al- qawai’d, influenced many of his successors, in particular Sayyid Haydar Amuli interpreted Shi’ite Islam in the light of writing of Suhrawardi, Ibn Arabi, Ibn Sina and created a philosophical synthesis. Amuli’s important work, Jami al-asrar, exemplifies the type of spiritual hermeneutics (ta’ wil) that is practiced by the ishraqi masters.

Besides the previously mentioned Ibn A’bi Jumhur, Rajab Bursi, who wrote Mashariq al-anwar stands out among other figures of this tradition. He also attempted a synthesis of Ibn Arabi’s gnostic doctrine, the works of the Peripatetics, and Shi’ite thought.

Concerning the attempt for a unified and well- integrated philosophical paradigm by the important figures of this period, S.H. Nasr states: The integration of ishraqi teaching into Sh’ism was… rapid and profound, with the result that during later centuries most of the ishraqi have been Shi’ite During the period pre-dating the Safavids, such Shi’ite theologians as sayyid Amuli and especially Ibn Abi Jumhur prepared the ground for the integration of ishraqi wisdom into perspective of Sh’ism.

Philosophical activity in general and Suhrawardi teachings in particular which had gone through a period of decline, were once again revived during the Safavid dynasty when the intellectual religious, mystical and artistic of Persia reached its climax.


suhrawardi and illumination school


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