0310 GMT January 21, 2021
Human body and flesh will die and perish but not human words and works. What man does will remain vividly on the surface of history and its judgment. July 29 marks the commemoration of a man whom mankind owes for his works in philosophy, literature and logic. A philosopher who bought eternity and respect at the price of his life.
It has been a long time that the austere peripatetic logic has kept its dominant position in philosophy, both in Occidental and Oriental schools. A brilliant mind and a courageous man were needed to stand up against Aristotelian logic and philosophy.
Avicenna’s medical books and philosophical treatises have been spreading his influence not only in his own country and culture, but in the West as well. But there was one philosopher who established the perennial school which struck a fatal critique to the dominant peripatetic notions that prevailed at the time.
Shahab al-Din Yahya ibn Habash Suhrawardi (1154-1191), the Persian philosopher, was born and bred in the Avicennan Peripatetic School. He elaborated on the philosophy of illumination by interpreting and explaining his own epistemology and metaphysics which, dissimilar to previous Persian philosophers, was under the obvious influence of ancient Persia’s philosophical concepts and was writing a platonic critique of the Avicennan Peripatetic School in many fields such as logic, physics, epistemology, metaphysics and psychology.
In contrast with Avicenna’s and Ibn-Rushd’s works, notably in Western medieval schools, his works, The Philosophy of Illumination (Hekmat-ol-Eshragh), The Temples of Light (Hayakal al –Nur), The Red Intellect (Aql-i Surkh),The Language of Termites ( Lughat-i Muran) as well as many other treatises, were unfortunately not translated into Latin. Therefore, this great Persian philosopher remained unknown to the West until Henry Corbin, French philosopher, began to edit and publish Suhrawardi’s works. Luck was not on Suhrawardi’s side even in his Fatherland. His genius and bravery in expressing his ideas only pushed him to a tragic end.
When Suhrawardi’s beliefs opposed what the authorities believed, they aroused the high-ranking clergy against him. As a result, under the command of Sultan Salah ad-Din Ayyub, he was murdered at the age of thirty six.
According to Henry Corbin, in The History of Islamic Philosophy, Illumination (Eshragh) literally means the splendor and refulgence of sunrise. Suhrawardi means epiphany. “We can also understand this term as meaning the theosophy of the Orientals (ishraqiyun = mashriqiyun), the theosophy of the sages of ancient Persia—not only because of their position on Earth, but because their knowledge was Oriental in the sense that it was based on inner revelation (kashf) and mystical vision (mushahadah). According to the ishraqiyun, this was also the knowledge of the ancient Greek sages, with the exception of the followers of Aristotle who relied solely on discursive reasoning and logical arguments. (Corbin, “The History of Islamic Philosophy”)
Although he died so young that he wasn’t able to finish his journey, Suhrawardi’s ideas and works have been influencing and inspiring many philosophers, intellectuals and artists. His objections to the Aristotelian homomorphism, essence, existence and logic are respected in philosophy.
Suhrawardi was endeavoring to find a way between Sufism and philosophy. Whether he was successful is not yet determined, for he has yet to be read, since he is neither famous in the West nor in his own country, Iran.
Nonetheless, his brave heart which brought him to a tragic death has guaranteed his legacy.
*Mahan Noroozpour is a philosophy student.