the Influence of illumination school on school of Isfahan

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The founder of the School of Isfahan, Mir Muhammad Baqir Damad Husayni Astarabadi, known as “Mir Damad”, and often referred to as the “third teacher”, (mu’allim al- thalith), was one of the most outstanding figures of this period. Mir Damad made an attempt to revive and reconcile Ibn Sina and Suhrawardi. He was in a unique position to revive philosophical activities since he was highly esteemed by jurists as well as the court, which protected him from the orthodox jurists’ accusation of heresy.

He may be considered an ishraqi interpreter of Ibn Sina’s metaphysics in the spiritual universe of Shi’ism.

While Mir Damad defended the rationalistic philosophy of the Perpatetics, he made a distinction between rationalism and illumination. Whereas Suhrawardi distinguished between Oriental and Occidental philosophy, Mir Damad distinguished between Yamani, the illuminative philosophy, and Yunani the discursive philosophy of Greeks. Yamani being the Orient represents the illuminative, while Yunani stands for discursive philosophy.

B. The relationship between huduth ( creation) and qidam (eternity) as the focal point of Mir Damad philosophy
Mir Damad commented on a number of philosophically significant topics, in particular the principality of the essence (asalat al-mahiyyah). The thrust of his philosophy is the relationship between the huduth (creation) and the qidam (eternity) of the world. Mir Damad accepted Suhrawardi’s view of the principality of essence over existence but argued that, contrary to the ishraqi who consider the incorporeal world and the archetypes (al-mujarradat) to have been created in the “divine essence” ( al-huduth al-ahath), he considers them to have “corporeal creation” ( al-huduth al-ahath). He argues that while the cause of the creation of these archetypes may be in the divine essence, the event or effect occurs in the created domain (dhr). In the Qabasat, Mir Damad quotes Ibn Sina extensively and interprets ( al-huduth al-ahath). There are those contemporary interpreters of Mir Damad who argue that some of this interpretations of Ibn Sina were purely from an ishraqi point of view and therefore are not entirely accurate.

C. The relationship between principality of essence and notion of time in Qabasat
Mir Damad devotes a major portion of his Qabasat to a discussion of the principality of essence. His complex argument, which is essentially similar to Suhrawardi, is as follows: It is apparent that existent being does not only virtue of its own existence but because of its “essence” (mahiyyah). Now, either the essence precedes the existence in the order of creation or vice versa. In either case, the order cannot be only a conceptual one in our mind or a random arrangement made for the sake of convenience, but this order must be intrinsic to the ontological structure of the universe. From this Mir Damad concludes that the essence of an existent being must be the principal element, since it is inconceivable to have existent being which is made up of pure existence (wujud) and no essence. Mir Damad’s unique contribution to Islamic philosophy is his introduction of the notion of time concerning the priority and principality of essence over existence, which is perhaps the most important and complex part of Mir Damad’s philosophy.

Among the fifty works of Mir Damad which are committed to the revival of Ibn Sina’s and Suhrawardi ‘s philosophy from an ishraqi point of view, the following can be named: Qabasat, Taqwim al- iman, al-Ufuq al-mubin, and Taqisat. Mir Damad has also written a number of works in Persian, among which are Jazawat, al-Sirat al- mustaqim and the collection of his works in Persian and Arabic entitled Mashariq al-anwar.

K. The role of Mir Damad’s stands in continuing the Ishraqi wisdom
Despite Mir Damad’s contribution to Islamic philosophy and Shi’ite gnosis as the founder of the School of Isfahan, his greatest achievement was training a number of students, some of whom came to dominate the intellectual scene and overshadowed the teacher. Among the students of Mir Damad who played an important role in continuing the ishraqi wisdom of Suhrawardi by teaching and authorship, one can name Mir Damad’s son-in-law, Sayyid Ahmad Alawi, the author of a commentary on Ibn Sina, Qutb al-Din Ashkiwari, who also wrote a book on the history of philosophy called Mahbub al-qulub, and Mulla Khalil Qazwini. Who wrote a commentary on Usul al-kafi of Kulayni and is regarded as an authority on Shi’ite jurisprudence. There were many other figures who are less known, such as Mulla Shamsa Gillani, who wrote extensively on Mir Damad’s view of creation and eternity and commented on Mulla Sadra.

R. Influence of shaykh Bahaiee on continuing the Ishraqi wisdom in the school of Isfahan
The second outstanding figure of the school of Isfahan and an Ishraqi hakim with legendary fame in Iran is of shaykh Baha’ al-Din Amuli, whose influence goes beyond the sphere of philosophy and extends into architecture, jurisprudence, Arabic grammar and poetry. Amuli, known as “shaykh Baha’i”, is not only respected for the ninety works he wrote in all areas of the Islamic sciences, but is also revered because he became the teacher of many scholars who went to Isfahan. While he is not particularly known for his works on hikmat, he nevertheless tried to reflect the spirit of hikmat in his architectural designs. His Sufi poetry written in the style of Rumi and reflected in his book Tuti-namah, is perhaps the best representation of his mystical views.

The greatest achievement of shaykh Baha’I is the fact that he trained such scholars as Mulla Muhsin Eyd Kashani, Sayyaid Ahmad Alawi, and Mulla Muhammad Taqi Majlisi, all of whom came to prominent figures of the ishraqi tradition. It is for this reason, as well as for his unique achievements in architecture, that he has gained almost a mystical personality, so much so that performing miracles has been attributed to him.

K. The important role Mir Findiriski and Mulla Muhsen Feys kashni in the school of Isfahan
The third figure of school of Isfahan, Mir Abu’l –Qasim Findiriski is less known despite his eminence and far-reching influence. He traveled to India and had extensive contacts with Hindu Masters to whom he alludes in a major work, Usul al- fusul. Along with his commentaries on other traditional fields of Islamic intellectual thought, his Risalat al- harakah and Risalah sanai’yyah can be named. Mir Findiriski who offers a summary of hikmat in his book of poetry called Qasidah, tried to express his “experiential knowledge” through Ibn Sinaian philosophical categories as did other members of school of Isfahan. He also trained a number of fine scholars such as Mulla Rafi’a Gilani and Aqa Husayn Khunsari. His most famous student is Mulla Rajab Ali Tabrizi, the author of Kilid-i bihisht. Another figure of great importance in the school of Isfahan is Mulla Muhisn Fayd Kashani, the beat student of Mulla Sadra, who wrote over 120 works. Beside writing on different religious sciences, he wrote extensively on such works as Ibn Arabi’s al-Futuhat al-makkiyyah and Rumi’s Mathnawi. Kashani’s work represent Shi’ite gnosis at its best. His major work, al- Mahajjat al-bayda’ fi ihya al-ihya’ was based upon Ghazzali’s ihya’ al ulum al- Din. “In fact, what Mulla Muhisn did was to revive the work of Ghazzali in the Shi’ite circle by Shi’ifying it.

Kashani brought the integration of the school illumination to its completion. He used the rationalistic philosophy of Ibn Sina and the theosophical ideas of Suhrawardi to offer an analysis of the twelve-Imam Shi’ite Islam.

M. Mulla Abd al-Razzaq Lahiji and Qazi Saieed Qumi as two prominent figures of the school of Isfahan
There are two other prominent figures of the school, Mulla Abd al- Razzaq Lahiji and his students Qadi Sai’d Qummi. Lahiji is best known for his contribution to the field of Kalam (theology), which he carried out without the matrix of hikmat. Influenced by Mulla Sadra, he wrote a number of works of purely ishraqi nature such as Huduth al-alam, and a commentary on Suhrawardi’s Hayakil al-nur, Qadi Sa’id Qummi, who came to be known as the Ibn Arabi of the Shi’ite tradition, devoted his writing to the type of spiritual hermeneutics (ta’wil) that was intended to elaborate on the esoteric meaning of the Quran and other Islamic doctrines and rites.

N. The Postion of philosophy of illumination and the philosophers towards the ends of the Safavid period
Towards the end of the Safavid period two events occurred. First, the Sufis, who had enjoyed relative freedom, began to be viewed as having deviated from the Islamic rites (shari’ah) by the esoteric jurists (ulama) and therefore were persecuted. The second element was the weakening of the central government and the consequential dominance of the more austere and orthodox atmosphere. Despite this change, however, there were a number of hakims who emerged at the end of the Safavid period and provided a transition between the Safavid and he Qajar periods.

The first important ishraqi figure who belongs to this period is Hasan Lunbani, (13/19 century), whose philosophical Sufism did not sit well the esoteric ulama and who as accuses of being a Sufi. The second significant hakim of this period was Mirza Muhammad Sadiq Ardistani, who taught hikmat and carried on the tradition of Mulla Sadra. During this period, such figures as Ardistaniand Mir Sayyid Hasan Taliqani began to use ishraqi texts in the madrasha. Taliqani, for example, taught Ibn Arabi’s Fusus al-hikam and Suhrawardi’s Hikmat al-ishraq while influenced by Mulla Sadra.

Despite an environment hostile to Sufism and hikmat, both flourished until the Qajar period when another upsurge of intellectual activity occurred, although it never produced as many outstanding figures as the Safavid period did.

Before commenting on the status of the school of illumination during the Qajar period, it is necessary to say a few words about Mulla Sadra both because of the extent to which he has influenced by Suhrawardi and because he came to dominate the philosophical scene during the Safavid and Qajar period. Mulla Sadra’s monumental philosophical corpus, a synthesis of Ibn Sina and Suhrawardi, shaped and determined the course of philosophical activities in Persia even up until today. Therefore, the ishraqi tradition and its impact on the Shi’ite gnosis can be better understood if the intellectual relationship between these two giants. Suhrawardi and Mulla Sadra, is made more clear.


suhrawardi and illumination school


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