Distinction between philosophy and Hikmah

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Like many other Islamic philosophers, Suhrawardi makes a distinction between philosophy and hikmat which is crucial for the understanding of not ishraqi doctrine but also the post Suhrawardi philosophy, especially in Persia and sub-continent of India.

A. Ibn Sina’s fear for explaining Ishraqi Teaching
The distinction between philosophy and hikmat which is held by a great number of Islamic philosophers is believed to have been advocated even by such peripatetics as Ibn Sina’s, who after reaching the zenith of his philosophical maturity demonstrated ishraqi tendencies. In the introduction to mantiq al-mashraqiyyin he tells us that “there are branches of wisdom that do not originate from the Greeks. In the book al-Mashari’ wa’l-mutarahat, Suhrawardi tells us while most of Ibn Sina’s writings are devoid of any theosophical significance, there are to the references to the existence of a type of wisdom other than the Greeks and their discursive method.

Suhrawardi may have believed that, due to the circumstance under which Ibn Sina’s lived, he had to remain silent in regard to his ishraqi ideas. Therefore Suhrawardi feels that he not only has to disclose the ishraqi tendencies of Ibn Sina’s but also to continue them. For example, in the work “ The Occidental Exile” (al-Ghurbat al- gharbiyyah), Suhrawardi picks up the story where Ibn Sina’s had ended his short work, Risalat Hayy ibn yaqzan, Both of these stories are highly symbolic and demonstrate the spiritual stages of the inner being of a seeker of truth and his relationship with the active intellect, which Suhrawardi identifies as the “ glorious old master” (Pir-i Burna).

Ibn Sina’s was well aware of the dangers of popularizing the wisdom of illumination, and his silence in this regard may well be attributed to this very point. In the al-Isharat wa’l tanbihat, he say, If you corrupt this wisdom, God be the judge between you and me.

B. Termination of Greek wisdom by Aristotle
If it was Spinoza who said, “God is not so mindless as to create a two legged creature and leave it to Aristotle to make him rational,” Suhrawardi would add to this “and to make Aristotle the only gate through which truth can be attained.” This is because Suhrawardi neither consider Aristotle to be the founder of rationality nor can the type of wisdom he advocates be the only one that leads to truth. As. H Nasr states:

He [Suhrawardi] believed that this wisdom is universal and Perennial, the philosophia perennis and universalis, which existed in various forms among the ancient Hindus, Persians, Badylonians and Egyptians and among the Greeks up to the time of Aristotle, who for Suhrawardi was not the beginning but rather the end of philosophy among the Greeks who terminated this tradition of wisdom by limiting it to rationalistic aspect.

C. The relationship between soul faculties and distinction between philosophy and Hikmah
The inherent distinction between philosophy and hikmah for Suhrawardi is a natural one and emanates from the fact that the faculty of intellectus and praxis are two separate faculties.

In his work Yazdan shinakht, Suhrawardi alludes to this distinction and argues that there lie two powers within the soul: one apprehends and other one generates action. Suhrawardi then goes on to make the functioning of these two faculties be contingent upon each other and states: Theoretical (faculty), for example, is such as knowing that the world is created, and practical [faculty for example] is to know that oppression is evil ….. theoretical is subject to discursive science and from practical (faculty) a knowledge is required to know what should become known.

This is not to say that Suhrawardi opposed a rational approach to philosophical issues, nor was he “ anti- philosophy”, as Ghazzali and some other Sufi were. In fact, reasoning and independent judgment are an essential part of one’s quest for the pursuit of truth. Suhrawardi’s respect for a rational process of reasoning goes so far as to say: Do not follow ne or anybody else and know that the only criterion is reason.

D. Classification of knower’s and Mastery of philosophy
Therefore, whereas philosophical speculation for Suhrawardi is important, it however originates from a faculty that is subservient to intellectual intuition (dhawq). Suhrawardi so far as to categorize different knowers in accordance with their mastery of rationalistic philosophy and hikmat. His classifications go as follows:
1. These who have mastered ishraqi wisdom but are not well versed in discursive reasoning ,(i.e.Bayazid,Kharraqani)
2. These who have mastered discursive reasoning but yet lack ishraqi icclination (i.e.Farabi)
3. These who have mastered both discursive reasoning and ishraqi wisdom. There are perfect philosophers and are entitled to be the “Vicegerents of God” (khalifat Allah).

While It is clear that Suhrawardi first, especially in the al-Talwihat and al-Mashari’ wa’i-mutarahat, he puts the study of discursive philosophy in perspective.

Having defended the study of discursive philosophy as a prerequisite to the understanding of ishraqi, Suhrawardi then tells us of the unique characteristics of the type of wisdom that he is propagating.

E. Al- Hikmah Al- Laduniyah (Divine wisdom)
Suhrawardi considers himself to be the unifier of what he calls “al-Hikmat al-laduniyah” (Divine wisdom), a tradition that begins with Prophet Hermes ( khidr) and has persisrted throughout time in various forms. As to the source of this wisdom he argues: The light of path which stretches into the past is the substance of Pythagoras….and was sent was down upon Tustari and his followers. The substance of Khusrwanian [wisdom] has been sent down to Kharrqani and Sayyar Bastami.

Therefore, Suhrawardi is arguing that while philosophy and hikmat issue forth from the same source, they nevertheless are distinct in that philosophy is the necessary condition and theosophy the sufficient condition for the attainment of truth. Suhrawardi, as the unifier of difference traditions of wisdom, considers philosophy and theosophy to be two types of wisdom, each of which is suitable for a purpose. Truth for Suhrawardi ultimately should rely on knowledge that is attained through illumination, while it has to sustain the scrutiny of logic and rational reasoning and be compatable with them.

On the relationship between philosophy and hikmat, Suhrawardi in the introduction to the Philosophy of Illumination states: .This book is of a different methodology, and a path (of truth) that is nearer than the other one (discursive)…Its truth and other enigmas first did not come to me through thinking or discourse but its attainment was of a different nature. Finally, when I attained the truth, I questioned its rationale in such a way that if I ignore the reasoning process, no doubt can come upon me.

F. The two sources of Hikamt and philosophy
Suhrawardi claims to have first discovered the truth which he calls hikmat, and then embarked on a path to find the rational basis of his experiential wisdom. It is certain that philosophy in Suhrawardi’s thought plays a different role from theosophy, and so does the means by which one comes to attain mastery of each type of wisdom. These two traditions of wisdom for the master of ishraq are not only different in their form and their content but also originate from two different sources. Discursive philosophy comes from the rational faculty, whereas ishraqi wisdom is issued forth from the faculty of intuition.

A major problem that is often alluded to is that whereas the results of logical analyses are verifiable, such is not the case in regard to various truth claims that of an ishraqi nature. Suhrawardi’s argues that his views can be verified only by those who have been initiated into the science of ishraqi through a spiritual who has become the vicegerent of God on earth (khalifat Allah). On this he states: Of course, it is not feasible for one who has not referred to a sage who is the vicegerent (of God) and possesses the knowledge of this book to gain access to the secrets of this book,

I. Ishraqi experience and spiritual jounery
Often Suhrawardi is very explicit in his instructions as to how the types of wisdom he advocates can be attained. For Suhrawardi Hikmat al-ishraqi is a blueprint for those who wish to have an experience of illumination. It is crucial to realize the importance of asceticism and practical wisdom to the isharqi doctrine as a whole, even though this is contrary to same of later interpreters of Suhrawardi who put more emphasis on his intellectual and philosophical aspects.

The prime concern of Suhrawardi’s entire philosophy is to demonstrate the journey of the human soul towards its original abode. One begins by gaining an awareness of the path that he ought to follow. Having following the teachings of a master who can direct the disciple through the maze of spiritual dangers, one reaches a state where spiritual knowledge can be obtained directly without mediation. In this state, Suhrawardi considers knowledge to come from the divine soul ( nafs al- qudsiyyah), a mode of cognition distinct from that of Peripatetics. To demonstrate the spiritual journey of man, Suhrawardi establishes a tightly woven web of ideas and concepts, the validity of which depends on the entire system, which itself rests upon the principality of light.


suhrawardi and illumination school


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