In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Shihāb Al-Dīn Suhrawardī

  • Introduction
  • Introductory Works
  • General Overviews
  • References
  • Writings of Suhrawardi
  • Translations
  • Commentaries
  • Mysticism (Sufism)
  • Symbolism and Allegories
  • Sources of Suhrawardian Thought
  • Influence
  • Comparative Studies

Islamic Studies Shihāb Al-Dīn Suhrawardī
Mehdi Aminrazavi
  • LAST MODIFIED: 22 April 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195390155-0219


Shihab al-Din Yahya ibn Habash ibn Amirak Abuʾl Futuh Suhrawardi, also known as “Shaykh al-ishraq” (the master of illumination), is the most significant philosopher between Ibn Sina (10th CE) and Nasir al-Din Tusi (13th CE). Suhrawardi was born in 549 AH/1154 CE in the village of Suhraward near Zanjan, a northwestern Iranian city. His early education took place in the city of Maraghah, where he studied philosophy, among other things, with Majd al-Din Jili. Suhrawardi then traveled to Isfahan, where he pursued his advanced studies with Zahir al-Din al-Farsi in philosophy, theology, and the sciences, including The Observations (al-Basāʾir) of ʿUmar ibn Salah al-Sawi (or Sawaji). Suhrawardi continued his journey by going to Anatolia and Syria, where he met Malik Zahir, the son of the famous Salah al-Din Ayyubi, in Aleppo in 579/1183. Suhrawardi’s philosophical views antagonized the orthodox jurists at Malik Zahir’s court. Having declared him a heretic, they asked Malik Zahir to put Suhrawardi to death; the king, however, refused, but under pressure from his father, Salah al-Din Ayyubi, the order was carried out. Suhrawardi, who received the titles “al-Shahid” (the Martyred) and “al-Maqtul” (the Murdered), was put to death in 587/1191. Evidence concerning Suhrawardi’s life is sparse. He lived somewhat of a hermetic life and had an eccentric personality; one day he would dress in the manner of courtiers and the very next day as a wandering Dervish. He had a sharp tongue and a reddish face and was of medium height. In the period known as the “cessation of philosophical activities” that followed Ghazzal’s scathing attack on philosophers, Suhrawardi not only kept the flame of philosophizing alive but also established a philosophical paradigm known as the “school of illumination” (al-hikmat al-ilahiyyah), literally meaning “Divine Wisdom,” or hikmat al-ishraq (philosophy of illumination). Suhrawardi is unique in the annals of Islamic philosophical thought in that he developed a philosophical tradition inclusive of other traditions such as Zoroastrianism, Manicheanism, and Hermetico-Pythagorean writings as well as the Greek philosophers. Suhrawardi was a system builder. He tried to bring about a rapprochement between the discursive philosophy of Aristotle and Ibn Sina, practical and theoretical (‛Irfan) aspects of Sufism, and finally what he calls “illuminationist” (ishraqi) philosophy. His writings reflect his grand synthesis of various branches of learning; he wrote several philosophical treatises in the Aristotelian tradition, a number of highly allegorical Sufi narratives, and his magnum opus in a peculiar language that he calls “the illuminationist language” (lisan al-ishraq).

Introductory Works

Henry Corbin is one of the outstanding scholars of Suhrawardi who not only introduced him to the Western world but also revived much interest in Suhrawardi among Iranian philosophers. Several of his works are translated from the original French to English and other European languages. Corbin 1939 offers a thorough analysis of Suhrawardi’s life and thoughts. Corbin 1971 devotes more attention to a discussion on Suhrawardi than to any other figure in this work. Corbin 2003 develops a “sacred geography” and discusses schools of wahdat al-wujud (unity of existence) of Ibn ʿArabi and wahdat al-shuhud (unity of consciousness) of Semnani through Suhrawardi. Nasr 1963 is one of the first extensive articles on Suhrawardi that discusses various aspects of the illuminationist doctrine in some detail. Nasr 1964, initially offered as a lecture series at Harvard University, is now somewhat of a classic. It covers Suhrawardian thought in its second part. One of the salient features of Ziaʾi 2001, a highly dense and informative article, is the emphasis on Suhrawardi’s philosophical views.

  • Corbin, Henry. Suhrawardī d’ Alep fondateur de la doctrine illuminative. Paris: Maisonneuve, 1939.

    Emphasizes Suhrawardi’s doctrine of illumination and its distinct features. Suitable for advanced students and scholars in the field.

  • Corbin, Henry. En Islam iranien: Aspects spirituels et philosophiques. Vol. 2, Sohrawardi et les Platoniciens de Perse. Paris: Gallimard, 1971.

    Provides a context for Suhrawardian thought within a Persian intellectual context and demonstrates Suhrawardi’s significance in the history of Islamic philosophy. An excellent source for a general but thorough study of Suhrawardi.

  • Corbin, Henry. L’homme de lumière dans le soufisme iranien. Paris: Éditions Présence, 2003.

    Discusses ishraqi (illuminationist) motifs and the spiritual journey of the soul from the “occidental exile” to the “Orient of light.”

  • Nasr, Seyyed H. “Shihāb al-Dīn Suhrawardī Maqtūl.” In History of Islamic Philosophy. Edited by M. M. Shariff, 1154–1191. Wiesbaden, Germany: Otto Harrassowitz, 1963.

    Covers most of the essential aspects of Suhrawardi’s philosophy in three sections: life, works, and sources; the meaning of ishraq (illumination); and Orient and Occident in sacred geography.

  • Nasr, Seyyed H. Three Muslim Sages: Avicenna, Suhrawardī, Ibn ʿArabī. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1964.

    A thorough but general discussion of various aspects of Suhrawardian thought. Written in an encyclopedic style, this article is one of the best general introductions for students interested in Suhrawardi’s school of thought.

  • Ziaʾi, Hossein. “Shihāb al-Dīn Suhrawardī: Founder of the School of Illumination.” In History of Islamic Philosophy. Edited by Seyyed H. Nasr and Oliver Leaman, 434–464. London: Routledge, 2001.

    After providing an overview of Suhrawardi’s philosophy of illumination and his critique of Ibn Sina, Ziaʾi treats such aspects of Suhrawardi’s philosophical views as his illuminationist methodology, essentialist theory of definition, and epistemology.

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