Cosmological Philosophy and Mysticism of Suhrawardi

johnIn the study of Islamic philosophy, the name of Shihabuddin Suhrawardi is well-known for his illuminative philosophical concept. He was a controversial figure in his time that he tried to combine the concept of philosophy with mysticism. In Wednesday Forum CRCS-ICRS December 1st 2010, this figure was elaborated by John Compaglia, a student of Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, and a holder of the Luce Fellowship Program at UGM, presenting “The Context and Content of Suhrawardi’s Use of Cosmogonic and Cosmological Doctrines in His Philosophical Allegories”.

Suhrawardi was a Persian who lived in the second half of the 12th century. His life was short, not until the age of 40. He died over an execution in Aleppo ordered by Malik al-Zahir as he was accussed of having heretic thoughts. Therefore, despite being well-known as Shaykh al-Isyraq (The Master of IIlumination), he was also known as Al-Maqtul (The Murdered). In general, Suhrawardi’s thought is a synthesis of Peripatetic philosophy, Illumination and the tradition of mysticism.

Compaglia made comparisons among people who did reviews on Suhrawardi such as Henry Corbin, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, John Walbridge, and Hossein Ziai. According to Compaglia, some differences were found mostly in the emphases of these reviews regarding philosophical aspect of Suhrawardi and the mystical aspect; some mentioned the Peripatetic tendency, some others said about the illuminative tendency.

Compaglia then moved to the discussion on the ontological concept of Suhrawardi about God and creation. From this dimension, Suhrawardi believed in a possibility of a unification between spirit beings which have been through a specific process, with the entity of God. For a more explicit description regarding the allegory, Compaglia then reviewed some excerpts from the text of Suhrawardi’s work “Hikmat al-Isyraq”.

Up to next, the moderator, Yohanes S. Purwadi, an ICRS student, invited questions from the audience of which the questions raised then developed to the actual position of Suhrawardi in the realm of methodology. From a few comments from participants, most concluded that Suhrawardi used both Peripatetic philosophy as well as concept of emanation of Ibn Sina in order to synthesize them with the mystical concepts such as the concept belonged to Al-Hallaj.

Comments were also given in association with the controversy of Suhrawardi’s thoughts in the theological context in that period. In the case of Christianity and Islam, as the matter of fact, the controversy of thoughts often led to execution. In view of this, Suhrawardi had been quite successful at explaining mystical concepts using philosophical arguments. However, the Islamic people at that time still could not accept this mystical concept.

Cosmogony and cosmology are the main arguments of Suhrawardi’s ways of thinking as they certainly are the basis of mystical concepts he offerred. To perform the arguments, Peripatetic philosophy and the Neoplatonic philosophy of emanation and illumination are absolutely required. For such exposure, Suhrawardi chose the allegorical language style in ways to reach the depth and the level of understanding upon the meaning he proposed. That is the Compaglia’s final conclusion of his presentation. [MoU].

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