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al-Suhrawardi, Shihab al-Din Yahya (1154–91)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-H031-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved May 21, 2024, from

Article Summary

Al-Suhrawardi, whose life spanned a period of less than forty years in the middle of the twelfth century ad, produced a series of highly assured works which established him as the founder of a new school of philosophy in the Muslim world, the school of Illuminationist philosophy (hikmat al-ishraq). Although arising out of the peripatetic philosophy developed by Ibn Sina, al-Suhrawardi’s Illuminationist philosophy is critical of several of the positions taken by Ibn Sina, and radically departs from the latter through the creation of a symbolic language to give expression to his metaphysics and cosmology, his ‘science of lights’. The fundamental constituent of reality for al-Suhrawardi is pure, immaterial light, than which nothing is more manifest, and which unfolds from the Light of Lights in emanationist fashion through a descending order of lights of ever diminishing intensity; through complex interactions, these in turn give rise to horizontal arrays of lights, similar in concept to the Platonic Forms, which govern the species of mundane reality. Al-Suhrawardi also elaborated the idea of an independent, intermediary world, the imaginal world (alam al-mithal). His views have exerted a powerful influence down to this day, particularly through Mulla Sadra’s adaptation of his concept of intensity and gradation to existence, wherein he combined Peripatetic and Illuminationist descriptions of reality.

Citing this article:
Cooper, John. al-Suhrawardi, Shihab al-Din Yahya (1154–91), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-H031-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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