Shahabeddin Yahya Sohrevardi; the founder of the School of Illumination (Hikmat-al-Eshraq)



July 30 marked the birth anniversary of Iranian philosopher Shahabeddin Sohrevardi.

Shahabeddin Yahya Sohrevardi was born in 1155 in the town of Sohrevard in northwest of Iran and died in 1191 in Aleppo, Syria

Shahabeddin Yahya Sohrevardi was born in 1155 in the town of Sohrevard in northwest of Iran and died in 1191 in Aleppo, Syria. He was an Iranian philosopher, a Sufi and the founder of the School of Illumination (Hikmat-al-Eshraq), one of the most important schools in Islamic philosophy.
His life spanned a period of less than 40 years in the middle of the 12th century CE. He produced a series of highly assured works that established him as the founder of a new school of philosophy.
He learnt wisdom and jurisprudence in Maragheh (today in East Azarbaijan province). He was instructed by Majdeddin Jaili who also happened to be Imam Fakhr Razi’s teacher. He then went to Iraq and Syria for several years where he expanded his knowledge.
Sohrevardi was executed in 1191 on charges of cultivating Batini teachings and philosophy, by order of Salaheddin Ayyoubi and his son Al-Malek Al-Zaher.
Sohrevardi was unique in his deep insight into the origins of Iranian and Greek philosophy as well as Islamic teachings. He renewed the Eshraq philosophy which consisted of ancient roots.
Also arising out of the peripatetic philosophy developed by Ibn Sina (Avicenna), Sohrevardi’s illuminationist philosophy is critical of several of the positions taken by Avicenna, and radically departs from the latter through the creation of a symbolic language (which is mainly derived from ancient Iranian culture) to give expression to his Hikma.
The fundamental constituent of Sohrevardi’s philosophy is pure immaterial light, of which nothing is more manifest, and which unfolds from the light of lights in emanations through the descending order of the light of ever diminishing intensity.
Sohrevardi also elaborated the idea of an independent intermediary world, the imaginary world (Alam-e-Mithal). His views have exerted a powerful influence down to this day, particularly through Mulla Sadra’s adoption of his concept of intensity and gradation to existence, wherein he (Mulla Sadra) combined peripatetic and illuminationist description of reality.
Sohrevardi, also known as Sheikh Eshraq (Master of Illumination), integrated Eshraq philosophy with the cultures of ancient Persia and Greece, producing an amalgamation of Zoroaster and Plato’s thoughts.
Sohrevardi’s wisdom, which indicates his high status in Persian literature, is based on thinking and avoiding attachment to worldly desires.
Sohrevardi was the promoter of sarcastic literature. Sanaei and Attar Neishabouri, two prominent Iranian poets, had adopted a sarcastic approach prior to him, but he has used it extensively in his 45 treatises, 17 of which are in Persian language and the rest in Arabic.
Sohrevardi’s wisdom is based on light and ultimate human perfection lies in joining the Light of Lights (Nour Al-Anwar).
Sohrevardi’s thought is innovative. International civilization is indebted to thousands of scholars including Sohrevardi. He is considered the outstanding scholar, whose ideas are discernible in Persian language and indirectly conceivable in Western literature.