Shihabuddin Yahya Suhrawardi (1153/5-1191) has been called "the Master of Oriental Theosophy", and founder of the Ishraqi or "Illumination" School.  In his voluminous and original writings, Suhrawardi attempted a synthesis of Zoroastrian, Platonic, and Islamic ideas; interpreting the Platonic Ideas in terms of Zoroastrian angelology.  The "Orient" of his "Oriental Theosophy" is the symbolic Orient, the East and the dawn as the symbol of Spiritual Light and Knowledge.

His teachings had a strong influence on subsequent esoteric Iranian thought, and there is a saying that this Oriental Theosophy is to philosophy what Sufism is scholastic and legalistic theology [Henry Corbin, Spiritual Body and Celestial Earth, (Princeton University Press, 1977), pp.110-1].  Because of his pantheistic allegories he was prosecuted and finally executed by Moslem fundamentalists at Aleppo at the young age of thirty-six or thirty-eight.

Suhrawardi was the most controversial of three celebrated mystics who lived at the same time and bore the same place-name - Suhraward, in northwest Iran, near Azerbaijan.  His contemporary Shihab al-Din `Umar b. `Abd Allah al-Suhrawardi (1144-1234) kept his head by being a model of orthodox moderation, and enjoyed the patronage of Caliphs and princes.  He was the founder of the great Suhrawardiya Sufi order, which still has many adherents today.  Shihab al-Din's teacher was his uncle Abu Najb Suh-rawardi (d.1168), rector of the Nizamiyaa academy and an authority on Hadith (the sayings of Mohammed) [A. J. Arberry, Sufism, (Unwin, London, 1950, 1979), pp.85-6].  But it is the first-mentioned of these Suhrawardis that we are concerned with here.

Suhrawardi's Cosmology
Suhrawardhi and the Concept of the Intermediate World
The Shaikhi School of Iranian Gnosis

back to Islamic Esotericism page
back to Mysticism page
back to topics index

page uploaded 25 June 1998