Criticizing and analyzing Suhrawardi’s relation with Shu’ubiyyah and nationalistic movements

فارسی English 1897 Views |

it is necessary to respond to the criticism of some scholars who have regarded Suhrawardi’s works as having been strongly influenced by nationalistic sentiments. They have gone so far as to accuse him of belonging to the Shu’ubiyyah. a Persian nationalistic movement of the third century A.H. This intellectual movement was led by a group of Persian poets, philosophers, literary figures and scientists reacting to the Arab oppression of Persians and their sophisticated cultural sensitivities during the Abbasid dynasty. Later referred to as the Shu’ubiyyah, this movement intended to confront Arab supremacy with the revival of the pre-Islamic Persian culture and religious values. It has been argued that Suhrawardi’s ishraqi school represents this stream of Persian nationalism for which it provided the philosophical framework.

A. Different views con corning Arab’s relation with philosophical thought
It is true that there are those who accuse the Arabs of inability of inability to fully appreciate speculative thought such as we find in the al-Bayan wa’l- tabyin of Janiz of Jahiz or Sa’d ibn Ahmad, who in his book Tabaqat al-umam argues that philosophical thinking has never appreciated among the Arabs. The most scathing attack comes from Taqi al- Din Ahmad ibn Ali Maqrizi, who wrote in his al-Khata that while Arabs might be capable of appreciating philosophical discourse, their genius lies in other domains.

This view, which tends to attribute a relative absence of philosophical tradition among the Arabs compared to the Persians, is rejected by Ibn Khaldun who attributes the interest or disinterest of society in philosophical issues to its socio- political and geographical location. There are also those Persian who have defended the philosophical cultural acumen of the Arabs. For instance, Suhrawardi’s, the celebrated rationalist, says in his book al- Milal wa’l-nihal, that in fact, the Arabs possess a type of wisdom that is far superior to that of that of other nations. This type of wisdom manifests itself in numerous narratives, expressions, hyperbolic and metaphorical statements.

The unfortunate fact remains that despite Suhrawardi’s praise for the other traditions of wisdom which we have reviewed earlier in this work; he has been accused of being a nationalist even by such famous as Muhammad Ali Abu Rayyan , who states in his Tarkh al-fikr al-falsafi fi’l-Islam that Suhrawardi has been one of the Shu’ubiyyah

B. Disagreement between Suhrawardi’s global character and his Ishraqi Ideas and belonging
To accuse Suhrawardi of nationalism is to misunderstand him completely. The school of illumination which he advocated argues for the universality of truth to which everyone has equal access, provided they are willing to undergo the process of purification and illumination. Suhrawardi would argue that truth is not an exclusive property of Persians, nor of anyone else, and to argue as such is contrary to the spirit of the israqi school. In fact, Suhrawardi argues that kikmat originated from Hermes and through Egypt came to Persia where it became united with the other branch of wisdom of Persian origin. Suhrawardi’s use of Zoroastrian symbolism, as well as the symbolism of other traditions, was intended to demonstrate how all these traditions adhere to the same underlying reality.

Suhrawardi could have argued for his philosophy of illumination within the context of Islam alone, and for that matter Zoroastrian traditions only, but he chose to include other traditions precisely to demonstrate the ecumenical and transhistorical nature of israqi wisdom. This, plus the fact that Suhrawardi wrote most of his treatises in Arabic, demonstrates that such objections are invalid and stem from a misunderstanding of Suhrawardi’s philosophy.

It is difficult to write a conclusion that does justice to that vast corpus of philosophical concepts, theological arguments m mystical assertions and the profoundly esoteric and yet rationally justifiable philosophical school of Suhrawardi. Rarely has such vast domain of ideas and concepts been synthesized into a philosophical paradigm.

C. The general divine sapience, as the focal though of Ishraqi
Suhrawardi first discusses intricacies of the spiritual path in numerous mystical narratives in which he use traditional Sufi symbolism as well as his own metaphors. His message is not an exclusive theory of truth accessible only to the followers of the path or tradition, but proposes to describe that fountain of life. whose origin lies within the realm of divine sapience and a runs through various civilizations to benefit all those who thirst for wisdom. Suhrawardi’s vast synthesis of philosophy and science, myth and ritual, as well as esoteric teachings and his integration of Hermeticism, Pythagorianism and Zoroastrianism has indeed brought about a unified theory of knowledge which has come to be known as the school of illumination. For these reason, Suhrawardi’s writings should be studied by students of comparative philosophy and religion. Not only does Suhrawardi’s ontology provide ingenious and original insights for the analysis of the traditional problems of philosophy, but his mystical narratives offer a symbolic and profound view of human nature.

Suhrawardi showed how the wisdom of illumination includes discursive reasoning and asceticism but is not limited to them. He is distinguished from the Muslim thinkers who came before him by his synthesis of philosophy and mysticism, whose integration he considers provides the human condition for the attainment of truth.


suhrawardi and illumination school


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