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Education of Suhrawardī

Education of Suhrawardī

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Published by Jeremy Farrell
A cursory look at the educational milieu of the ishrāqī philosopher Suhrawardī
A cursory look at the educational milieu of the ishrāqī philosopher Suhrawardī

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Published by: Jeremy Farrell on Jul 13, 2013
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Al-Suhrawardi's Library:
A Biographical ReconstructionJeremy FarrellDr. Nile GreenHIST 201P
 
The event of Sihad ad-Din Al-Suhrawardi death (1191
C.E.
) brought the end of a by all accounts brilliant philosophical career, but certainly not its influence. As thefounder of the
 Ishraqi
school of thought - known in English as the "Philosophy of Illumination" - Al-Suhrawardi inspired generations of philosophers who crossedreligious, geographical, and dogmatic lines, reaching as far as the Zoroastrian revivalistfigure Azar Kayvan in 17th century Persia.
1
Much of the present day ink spilledconcerning al-Suhrawardi centers around the principal construction of his philosophicalsystem: was it essentially based on Islamic mystic theosophy as Amin Razavi claims, or  primarily grounded in the author's Peripatetic background while exploring mysticchannels of knowledge
 
as Ziai holds true?
2
Hopes for a resolution of this dispute - whichnow spans decades and now more resembles a quandary along the lines of "the-chicken-or-the-egg"- in favor of one side or the other are distant. New avenues of scholarly pursuit regarding the life and works of al-Suhrawardi should now be opened.Between Ziai and Amin Razavi, utmost importance has been given to attempts of systematizing the manner in which al-Suhrawardi systematized his own treatises on
 Ishraq
. While indeed question of methodology for a systematizer of such import as al-Suhrawardi is deserving of such efforts, little attention has been given to enumerating thesource materials which al-Suhrawardi used in delineating said system. At its core al-Suhrawardi's
 Hikmat al-Ishraq
is the unification of various contemporary methods of 
1
For influence on the 13th century Jewish logician Sa'd b Mansur Ibn Kammuna see: Moshe Perlman,
Sa'd b Mansur Ibn Kammuna's Examination of the Inquiries into the Three Faiths: A Thirteenth Century Essayin Comparative Religion
. (UC Press) Berkeley, 1977; for 
 
the Zoroastrian Azar Kayvan: Corbin, Henry,"Azar Kayvan" in Encyclopedia Iranica vol. III:183-187.
2
See: Amin Razavi, Mehdi,
 Al-Suhrawardi and the School of Illumination
. (Curzon) Richmond, 1997,henceforth cited as
School of Illumination
; and Ziai, Hossein,
 Knowledge and Illumination: Brown JudaicStudies vol. 97 
. (Scholar's University Press) Atlanta, 1990, henceforth cited as
School of Illumination
.Amin Razavi is keen to split the prevailing intellectual attitude between himself, Ziai and Islamic philosophers such as Mehdi Ha'iri and Sayyid Halal ad-Din Ashtiyani concerning the nature of Suhrwardi's philosophy. See in
School of Illumination
Intro. xvi-xix.
 
organizing knowledge - Islamic, Peripatetic and mystic - into a single method: affirmingits three constituent parts and placing mystic revelation in the form of Light, or 
ishraq
, asthe highest and most reliable means of attaining knowledge. He held his mastery of revelatory, as opposed to discursive, means to be a high achievement in his philosophicalmilieu:
I have heard the master (Al-Suhrawardi) was asked, "Which of you is more excellent [in philosophy], you or Avicenna?" He replied, "We may be on par, or I may be a little better than he is, in thediscursive, but I certainly exceed him in the revelatory and intuitive!
3
The fact that Al-Suhrawardi left little in the way of bibliographical informationwhen writing the works that were to become central to
 Hikmat al-Ishraq
and that divinerevelation is a system of knowledge that is decidedly unciteable has doubtlessly deterred previous efforts at reconstructing the works at al-Suhrawardi's disposal. Special recentfocus on attempts to recreate the libraries of Neoplatonists
4
from various traditions has breathed life into efforts at succeeding at such a goal.In efforts to continue this trend of modern scholarship into the systems of influence that exerted themselves in al-Suhrawardi's time, this paper aims to give ageneral reconstruction of prevailing attitudes and works available to al-Suhrawardi duringhis scholastic career through a biographical analysis. Through the examination of thosesystems of influence which al-Suhrawardi himself professed - Islamic, Peripatetic, andMystic in - their textual and societal forms we may be able to ascertain which
3
Taken from
 Nazhat al-arwah wa-rawdat al afrah
 by Shamsuddin Muhammed ibn Mahmud al-Shahruzuri(fl. 680/1282); extract ed. Spies, Otto,
Three Treatises on Mysticism by Shihabuddin Suhrawerdi Maqtul 
(Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1935), pp. 90-121, henceforth cited as
Shahrazurdi
. English trans. Thackston,W.M. in
The Visionary Treatises: Al-Suhrawardi
. (Octagon) London, 1984, p. 4. Henceforth cited as
Visionary Treatises
.
4
 
Cristina d'Ancona Costa has been at the forefront of this scholarly endeavor, particularly: D'AnconaCosta, Cristina.
The libraries of the Neoplatonists: Proceedings of the Meeting of the European Science Foundation Network "Late antiquity and Arabic thought : Patterns in the Constitution of EuropeanCulture", Strasbourg, March 12-14, 2004
. (Brill) Boston, Leiden, 2007.

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