|Religion||Islam, Sufism, specifically the Illuminationist philosophy|
|Period in office||12th century|
|Successor||Various, including Baha-ud-din Zakariya|
"Shahāb ad-Dīn" Yahya ibn Habash as-Suhrawardī (Persian: شهابالدین سهروردی, also known as Sohrevardi) was an Iranian  philosopher, a Sufi and founder of the Illuminationist philosophy or "Oriental Theosophy", an important school in Islamic mysticism that drew upon Zoroastrian and Platonic ideas. The "Orient" of his "Oriental Theosophy" symbolises spiritual light and knowledge. He is sometimes given the honorific title Shaikh al-Ishraq or "Master of Illumination" and sometimes is called Shaikh al-Maqtul, the "Murdered Sheikh", referring to his execution for heresy.
Suhraward or Suhrabard was a Kurdish village located between the present-day towns of Zanjan and Bijar where Suhrawardi was born in 1155. This Kurdish inhabited region in present-day northwestern Iran was controlled by the Kurds up to the 10th century, and its inhabitants were mainly heretics.
He learned wisdom and jurisprudence in Maragheh (located today in the East Azarbaijan Province of Iran). His teacher was Majd al-Din Jaili who was also Imam Fakhr Razi’s teacher. He then went to Iraq and Syria for several years and developed his knowledge while he was there.
His life spanned a period of less than forty years during which he produced a series of highly assured works that established him as the founder of a new school of philosophy, sometimes called "Illuminism" (hikmat al-Ishraq). According to Henry Corbin, Suhrawardi "came later to be called the Master of Oriental theosophy (Shaikh-i-Ishraq) because his great aim was the renaissance of ancient Iranian wisdom".
In 1186, at the age of thirty-two, he completed his magnum opus “The Philosophy of Illumination.” He was executed in 1191 in Aleppo on charges of cultivating Batini teachings and philosophy by the order of al-Malik al-Zahir, son of Saladin.
Arising out of the peripatetic philosophy as developed by Ibn Sina (Avicenna), Suhrawardi's illuminationist philosophy is critical of several of his positions and radically departs from him in the creation of a symbolic language (mainly derived from ancient Iranian culture or Farhang-e Khosravani) to give expression to his wisdom (hikma).
Suhrawardi taught a complex and profound emanationist cosmology, in which all creation is a successive outflow from the original Supreme Light of Lights (Nur al-Anwar). The fundamental of his philosophy is pure immaterial light, than which nothing is more manifest, that unfolds from the light of lights in a descending order of ever-diminishing intensity and, through complex interaction, gives rise to a "horizontal" array of lights, similar in conception to Platonic forms, that governs the species of mundane reality. In other words, the universe and all levels of existence are but varying degrees of Light - the light and the darkness. In his division of bodies, he categorizes objects in terms of their reception or non-reception of light.
Suhrawardi considers a previous existence for every soul in the angelic domain before descending to the realm of the body. The soul is divided into two parts, one remaining in heaven and the other descending into the dungeon of the body. The human soul is always sad because it has been divorced from its other half. Therefore, it aspires to become united with it again. The soul can only reach felicity again when it is united with the celestial part, which has remained in heaven. He holds that the soul should seek felicity by detaching itself from its tenebrous body and worldly matters and access the world of immaterial lights. The souls of the gnostics and saints, after leaving the body, ascend even above the angelic world to enjoy proximity to the Supreme Light, which is the only absolute Reality.
Suhrawardi elaborated the neo-Platonic idea of an independent intermediary world, the imaginal world (alam-e mithal). His views have exerted a powerful influence down to this day, particularly through Mulla Sadra’s combined peripatetic and illuminationist description of reality.
Suhrawardi's Illuminationist project was to have far-reaching consequences for Islamic philosophy in Shi'ite Iran. His teachings had a strong influence on subsequent esoteric Iranian thought and the idea of “Decisive Necessity” is believed to be one of the most important innovations of in the history of logical philosophical speculation, stressed by the majority of Muslim logicians and philosophers. In the seventeenth century it was to initiate an Illuminationist Zoroastrian revival in the figure of Azar Kayvan.
Suhrawardi uses pre-Islamic Iranian gnosis, synthesising it with Greek and Islamic wisdom. He believed that the ancient Persians' wisdom was shared by Greek philosophers such as Plato as well as by the Egyptian Hermes and considered his philosophy of illumination a rediscovery of this ancient wisdom. According to Nasr, Suhrawardi provides an important link between the thought of pre-Islamic and post-Islamic Iran and a harmonious synthesis between the two.
In the Alwah Imadi he offers an esoteric intrepretation of Ferdowsi's Epic of Kings (Shah Nama) in which figures such as Fereydun, Zahak, Kay Khusraw and Jamshid are seen as manifestations of the divine light. Seyyed Hossein Nasr states: "Alwah 'Imadi is one of the most brilliant works of Suhrawardi in which the tales of ancient Persia and the wisdom of gnosis of antiquity in the context of the estoteric meaning of the Quran have been synthesized.".(pg16).
In the Partwa Nama he makes extensive use of Zoroastrian symbolism and his elaborate anegeology is also based on Zoroastrian models. The supreme light he calls both by its Quranic and Mazdean names, al-nur al-a'zam (the Supreme Light) and Vohuman (Bahman). Suhrawardi refers to the hukamayi-fars (Persian Philosophers) as major practitioners of his Ishraqi wisdom and to Zoroaster, Jamasp, Goshtasp, Kay Khusraw, Frashostar and Bozorgmehr as possessors of this ancient wisdom.
Among symbols and concepts used by Suhrawardi are: minu (incorporeal world), Giti (Corporeal World), Surush (messenger, Gabriel), Farvardin (the lower world), Gawhar (Pure sessense), Bahram, Hurakhsh (the Sun), Shahriyar (archetype of species), Isfahbad (Light in the body), Amordad (Zoroastrian Angel), Shahrivar (Zoroastrian Angel), and the Kiyyani Khwarnah. According to Suhrawardi: "Once the soul becomes illuminated and strong through the rays of divine light, it reachers the throne of Kiyani and becomes fully grounded in power and prosperity".
Suhrawardi left over 50 writings in Persian and Arabic.
Amin Razavi, M. (1997) Suhrawardi and the School of Illumination, Richmond: Curzon. (Clear and intelligent account of the main principles of his thought.)
Corbin, H. (1971) En Islam iranien: aspects spirituels et philosophiques, vol. II: Sohrawardi et les Platoniciens de Perse, Paris: Gallimard. (Corbin devoted more of his time to the study of al-Suhrawardi than to any other figure, and this volume represents the essence of his research.)
Ha'iri Yazdi, M. (1992) The Principles of Epistemology in Islamic Philosophy: Knowledge by Presence, Albany, NY: State University of New York Press. (An original work on epistemology by a contemporary Iranian philosopher drawing critical comparisons between certain Islamic and Western philosophers; incorporates the best exposition in a Western language of al-Suhrawardi's theory of knowledge.)
Nasr, S.H. (1983) Shihab al-Din Suhrawardi Maqtul, in M.M. Sharif (ed.) A History of Muslim Philosophy, vol. I, Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1963; repr. Karachi, no date. (Still one of the best short introductions to al-Suhrawardi, particularly useful on the cosmology.)
al-Shahrazuri, Shams al-Din (c.1288) Sharh hikmat al-ishraq (Commentary on the Philosophy of Illumination), ed. H. Ziai, Tehran: Institute for Cultural Studies and Research, 1993. (Critical edition of the thirteenth-century original; Arabic text only, but a useful short introduction in English.)
Walbridge, J. (1992) The Science of Mystic Lights: Qutb al-Din Shirazi and the Illuminationist Tradition in Islamic Philosophy, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, for the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies of Harvard University. (A study of one of al-Suhrawardi's principal commentators, with a useful introduction on the philosophy of illumination.)
Walbridge, J.(1999) The Leaven of the Ancients: Suhrawardi and the Heritage of the Greeks, Albany, New York: State University of New York Press.
Walbridge, J. (2001) 'The Wisdom of the Mystic East: Suhrawardi and Platonic Orientalism', Albany, New York: State University of New York Press.
Ziai, H. (1990) Knowledge and Illumination: a Study of Suhrawardi's Hikmat al-ishraq, Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press. (A pioneering study of al-Suhrawardi's logic and epistemology, particularly his criticism of the peripatetic theory of definition; unfortunately this work suffers from sloppy production.)
Ziai, H. (1996a) 'Shihab al-Din Suhrawardi: Founder of the Illuminationist School', in S.H. Nasr and O. Leaman (eds) History of Islamic Philosophy, London: Routledge, 434-64. (Biography of al-Suhrawardi.)
Ziai, H. (1996b) 'The Illuminationist Tradition', in S.H. Nasr and O. Leaman (eds) History of Islamic Philosophy, London: Routledge, 465-96. (General description of the Illuminationist tradition.)