The Shaikhi School of Iranian Gnosis

The Ishraqi tradition founded by Suhrawardi spread rapidly in Shi'ite Moslem philosophers, especially in Persia, and also  had some commentators and followers in the Sunni Moslem world.  He is still studied today, both in Persia (Iran) and India [Sayyed Hossein Nasr, Three Muslim Sages, pp.79-82].

Suhrawardi's teachings were taken up and developed in the 18th century by Shaikh Ahmad Ahsa'i (d. 1826), the founder of the Shaikhi School (or Shaikhism) of esoteric Shi'ism.  Incidentally, it was from Shaikhism which came the Bab, the predecessor and teacher of Baha'ullah, prophet of the Baha'i religion.

The second successor after Shaikh Ahsa'i as head of the Shaikhi school, Shaikh Hajj Muhammad Karim Khan Kirmani (d. 1870) superimposed on Suhrawardi's cosmology a further and even more elevated sphere, the sphere of divinity, or lahut.  This does not necessarily mean that he was able to see further than Suhrawardi, only that he divided up reality a little differently, so that perhaps where Suhrawardi has one very high sphere, Kirmani had two.

With its successive spiritual hierarchies, Shaikhism proposed a cosmology not unlike that of Judaic Kabbalah.  Just as Kabbalah described the cosmos as consisting of repeated octaves of sefirot - Divine attributes - so in Shaikhi cosmology above the world of Malakut, the world of the Soul, are the archetypal Personalities (the fourteen imams or prophets of the Ismaili faith, here conceived of, like the Christian's Jesus, as Spiritual personalities) of the world of Jabarut.  These are repeated at an even higher octave in the inconceivably elevated world of lahut.

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page uploaded 25 June 1998