Attaining real knowledge and the way of manifestation to Sufi in philosophy of illumination

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A. Husn (virtue ), Mihr (love) and Huzn (sadness) as the source of spiritual journey and stations
According to Suhrawardi, the spiritual journey and the states and stations of its path arise from three phenomena: virtue (husn), love (mihr) and reflective sadness (huzn). In his On the Reality of Love, Suhrawardi, attributes virtue to the knowledge of God and love to the knowledge of the self and finally to a sadness which comes from “the knowledge of what was not and then was.” The knowledge of God is a virtue, a good, indeed the summum bonum, whereas the knowledge of self leads to the discovery that the self is divine, resulting in the love and yearning the Sufi experience. finally, there is the sadness that is experienced by reflecting on the created order, for it signifies separation of man and his departure from his original abode.

B. Spiritual Topography in the spiritual journey
In the treatise On the Reality of Love, where the language of esoteric symbolism reaches is climax, Suhrawardi describes the story of creation by the first referring to the first object of creation, the intellect. Having stated that summum bonum, knowledge, love and sadness, or the pain of separation, are aspects of creation, Suhrawardi goes on to describe how each one came from the other one. Using Sufi symbolism as “city of the soul” ( sharastan-i jan), “young –old master” (pir-i jawan), the nowhere but prosperous land” (nakuja abad), and perennial wisdom (jawidan khirad), Suhrawardi goes through the sacred journey in great detail, offering the spiritual topography of this journey. Various realms, domains and dangers of the journey of the soul towards the “eternal city” ( sharistani- i azal) are discussed and once again at the end of this treatise, Suhrawardi concludes that until “the cow of ego is slaughtered, one does not set foot in that [ eternal] city.

C. The centrality and eradicating the ego and desires in Suhrawardi’s treatises
The centrality of eradicating the ego and the lustful desires of the flesh through ascetic practices is a common theme in the Sufi doctrine which is echoed time again in various treatises of Suhrawardi: The consistency with Suhrawardi argues for this is a clear indication that Sufi beliefs and practices are an inherent part of the ishraqi school of through and are not marginal in Suhrawardi’s philosophy as some have suggested.

Suhrawardi brings this treatise to an end with an emphasis on the dual nature of truth, the practical and theoretical, and their relationship with the nafs of who chooses not engage in an inner effort, jihad, against his nafs…

Neither through the iron of asceticism does he plow the ground of the body so it may become worthy to plant the seeds of action, nor [does he] use the vehicle of thought to extract knowledge from the well of thought so [he] may arrive from the known to the un known. He wanders in the desert of self-infatuation..not every cow (ego) is worthy to be slaughtered and not every city is there such a cow and not everyone has heart to sacrifice this cow and the chance to do is not bestowed upon one at all times.

D. “Self” as the obstacle to attaining Ishraqi experience
Time and time again the theme of the spiritual journey and its essential components are discussed in various treatises, and interestingly, in each narrative a new set of symbolism is employed to allude to the traditional Sufi concepts. In his The Language of Termites, as in many other writings, Suhrawardi identifies the nafs as the enemy that stands between the divine self and the experience of illumination. He states:

Whatever hinders good is evil and whatever blocks the [spiritual] path is infidelity (kufr), To be content with whatever one’s sensual self (nafs) presents and to adapt oneself to it is impotence on the path of mystical progression (dar tarig-i suluk) To look with delight upon oneself, even if one has God in mind, is renunciation. Liberation (khalas) is to turn one’s face utterly towards God.

E. Mystical experience and real knowledge in “safir-e simurgh” (The Chant of simurgh)
Suhrawardi’s writings are not only rich with symbolism but also with his many references to the Quran and hadith as well as poems by himself and others. All of these provide us with an insight into the sacred universe in which Suhrawardi himself had his mystical flight like Simurgh the bird whose spiritual biography is elaborated upon in The Chant of Simurgh. In this treatise Suhrawardi is most explicit about the significance of ascetic practices and their relationship to having an experience of various lights, each of which represents a type of mystical experience. Suhrawardi tells us that “all knowledge comes from the chant of Simurgh” and on that basis he divides the chant of Simurgh which he equates with scientia sacra, into three parts: in the virtues of this unique knowledge, on what is relevant to” brethren of purity” (ahl-i tajarrud) and finally on inner peace (sakinah).

On the virtues of the knowledge and its superiority over other types Suhrawardi tells us that the desired end of this knowledge is truth and furthermore it is based on vision and observation. It is self-evident that “witnessing is stronger than reasoning, ” for one can always question the process of reasoning but not a direct and unmediated relation to the object of one’s knowledge. Suhrawardi offers a philosophical analysis of how this is possible, which will be discussed in the forthcoming chapter.

F. The way of real knowledge manifestation to “Ahl-e tajrid” (Brethren of purity)
As to what is manifested to the knower of the particular mode of knowledge, Suhrawardi tells us that from this incorporeal world lights descend upon the soul (rawan) of the brethren of purity. These lights comes like lightning and last only a few moments, Suhrawardi says, and they heartwarming and pleasant. Often they stop and “when ascetic practices are intensified, lights come in abundance until they reach a level where Whatever people look at, reminds them of stature of that [ incorporeal] world. Those who are not engaged in austere and serious practices do not see the lights even when they might came to them. Ascetic practices refine the character and make a person receptive to having a vision of these lights. Suhrawardi offers the analogy of beating on a drum at the time of war or riding on a horse, which induce emotions in person even if one is not ready for the experience.

When the intensity and duration of the vision of these lights reach their it is called sakinah, which is a feeling of inner peace unlike other experience. Referring to Quranic verses where the notion of sakinah is discussed, Suhrawardi considers it to be a station where the Sui “from the heaven hears sublime and soft voices and receives spiritual correspondence and attains certainty.

R. The essential and practical components of the Sufi path
We conclude our discussion of Suhrawardi’s view on the spiritual journey of man and its integral part, asceticism, With a brief reflection on the concluding section of Suhrawardi’s Bustan al-qulub. Having discussed a number of traditional philosophical issues in the Bustan al-qulub, Suhrawardi then changes the theme and the language to one that borders poetry and prose and concludes this treatise with a summary of the essential components of the practical aspects of the Sufi path, which are as follows:

1. Fasting: Suhrawardi first discusses the centrality of fasting and hunger, which he identifies as the foundation of the ascetic path. He states: Know that the foundation of asceticism lies on hunger….if he who wants to pursue spirituality does not experience hunger, noting will be achieved. All [spiritual] illnesses are due to being full and overeating.

2. Staying awake: The second instruction of Suhrawardi is to reduce sleeping to its minimum. Arguing that God is always awake and that Quran tells us to become “God-like”, he concludes that lack of food reduces time and causes other human passions to be reduced as well. So, the less they [Sufis] eat, the more they will become subjects to divine attributes and also, the less they eat, the less they sleep. Suhrawardi maintains that where and when possible, one should remain awake during the night and if that is too burdensome, one should remain awake in the latter part of the night and even if one finds this to exceed one’s ability, then one should observe the sunrise, for there is much benefit in remaining awake.

3. Invocation: The invocation of divine names (dhikr) brings an inner change which prepares the human psyche to become receptive to illumination. He goes so far as to say that even the Prophet Muhammad before receiving revelation was engaged in ceaseless invocation. Suhrawardi tells us that invocation begins on a verbal level and then Sufi reaches a point at which his entire being invokes the divine name. The Sufi at this stage remains silent. First it is the invocation by tongue, then by heart. When the soul (jan) begins invocation, the tongue remains silent.

4. Spiritual Master: Although invocation is important, Suhrawardi is quick to remind us that spiritual master is needed to give the mantra (wird). The spiritual master is necessary if one is to be guided properly on Sufi path and the initiate should give himself to the master. As Suhrawardi states: When master (pir) meets the seeker and knows that has the potential the [master] encourages him to perform the invocation that he deems necessary …..Every day [the master] comes to the initiate [murid] so he may interpret events or dreams that have occurred to the initiate. Suhrawardi explicitly states that “without a master one does not get anywhere, ” and considers one the most important responsibilities of the spiritual master to be the overseeing of the spiritual retreat of the salik for forty day. Not less than forty day the initiate has to observe a retreat (khalawah) and if one khalawah does not open [the salik], then a second third .. should be done.

5. Moral Virtues: Observing such moral virtues as truthfulness, humility, compassion, honesty, and not being jealous of others are also essential parts of the Sufi path. Even such details as using good perfume and reciting poetry as one goes through daily life are recommended by Suhrawardi.


suhrawardi and illumination school


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