«ÐÎÑÑÈÉÑÊÀß ÀÊÀÄÅÌÈß ÍÀÓÊ ÈÍÑÒÈÒÓÒ ÔÈËÎÑÎÔÈÈ RUSSIAN ACADEMY OF SCIENCES INSTITUTE OF PHILOSOPHY L’INSTITUT DE PHILOSOPHIE DE L’ACADEMIE DES SCIENCES DE RUSSIE ...»
The Devotional and Occult Works of Suhraward the Illuminationist of incantations (al-‘az’im). If the jinn take bodily form in your presence so that you can perceive them, it is called the science of conjuring (istir), whether or not you attain your desires by means of them. Only the prophets are able to con jure the celestial angels, but there is disagreement as to whether other are able to conjure the earthly angels.” Such ceremonial invocations of the celestials play a major role in the greatest classic of Islamic magic, pseudo-Majr’s Ghyat al-akm, the Picatrix of the Latins, as well as later magical works, such as the Shams al-Ma‘rif attributed to al-Bn. And, indeed, the biographers are clear that Suhraward was skilled in magic and alchemy, which feature in some of the most entertaining stories about him. On the other hand, the stories told about him are more like the miracles of Sufi saints than the dark deeds of sorcerers motivated by greed and lust for power. In one he smashes a large Badakhshn ruby, obviously the product of alchemy, to show that his poverty was a matter of choice. In another, when a man from whom he has bought a lamb demands more money while pulling on his arm, the arm comes off in a spray of blood and the man runs away in terror, ridding Suhraward of an annoyance. In a third story, he entertains his disciples in a jeu d’esprit by summoning up the towers of Damascus above the southern horizon of Aleppo. This is very different from the purposes to which the Picatrix puts such invocations, matters to do with inheritance, mixing with kings, love affairs, and the like. Most of Suhraward’s texts relating to the celestial spirits are strictly devo tional, addressing praise to them as exalted beings with near access to God.
These texts are, to use his term, taqdst, sanctifications. What al-Suhraward is really interested in is talking to the spirits of the planets, an exercise that makes perfect sense given the structure of his philosophical system, in which mystical apprehension of the celestial lights is a tool for understanding the metaphysical structure of the universe. It is, to be sure, a rather strange thing for a Muslim to be doing, since it borders on polytheism, but Suhraward, like the Late Antique pagan Neoplatonists, would surely protest that he was simply giving due rever ence to the greatest of God’s servants, doing something little different than the formal greeting given to Muslim saints at their shrines. In fact, he is doing the urgy, something with very deep and continuing roots in the Platonic tradition. His prayers are very similar to those of Proclus addressed to the celestial bodies.
jj Khalfa. Kashf al-unn. Istanbul: Maarif Matbaasi 1941. Vol. 1. Col. 80, appar ently a quote from Mift al-Sa‘da. cf.: T. Fahd. Istinzl;
Sir // The Encyclopaedia of Islam.
Pseudo-Majr. Ghyat al-akm. 3. 6–9. P. 198–253.
On the Islamic interpretation of philosophical paganism as Sabianism, see my The Wis dom of the Mystic East: Suhraward and Platonic Orientalism (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2001), P. 24–42. On theurgy and its relation to Neoplatonism, see: Kingsley P.
Ancient Philosophy, Mystery, and Magic: Empedocles and the Pythagorean Tradition. Oxford:
94 Philosophy of Illumination * John Walbridge The Forty Names There is an exception to the rule that Suhraward’s magical texts are not prac tical, a protean occult text known as al-Arba‘n Isman al-Idrsya, al-Asm’ al Idrsya, Shar al-Arba‘n Isman, Khaw al-Arba‘n Isman, and other similar titles. It is variously attributed to our Suhraward, ‘Umar, ‘Al, and Amad al Suhraward, and the like, but most commonly and exasperatingly just to “Shihb al-Dn al-Suhraward.” It is not, so far as I know, found in early collections of Suhraward’s works, and the Persian commentary that also circulates widely at tributes it to ‘Umar al-Suhraward in Baghdad. Thus, its attribution to our Suhraward is very uncertain, at the least. However, because it is mentioned so often in connection with him, I will briefly discuss it here. The text is a commentary on a prayer attributed to the Prophet Idrs, which is to say Enoch or Hermes, consisting of forty short invocations of various names, starting with “, Exalted be Thee, there is no God but Thee, the lord and inheritor of all things.” The underlying prayer clearly predates this particular text. Al-Majlis’s Bir al-Anwr (Vol. 92. P. 168–69), contains a version taken from a little collection of prayers in the Muhaj al-Da‘awt of Ibn Tws (589/1193–664/1266). The latter claims to have found this particular prayer in the Fal al-Du‘’ of Sa‘d b. ‘Abd Allh al-Ash‘ar al-Qumm (d. ca. 300/912), who in turn says that he found it attributed to al-asan al-Bar. In its most common form, each of these sentence-long invoca tions is followed by instructions for using it to gain various ends. The first, for example, if said seventeen times while facing the person of the king, will gain the king’s attention and favor. The text is extremely variable. Copyists clearly felt free to add commentary and instructions and to modify the text in various ways. The elaborations might be as simple as added instructions—in the case of the first invocation, several sources add instructions for using it against an en emy—the addition of more or less elaborate introductions, usually mentioning that it is “transmitted,” manql, from Suhraward, or elaborate commentaries.
There are versions with introductions giving seven or eight conditions for the invocations to be effective in their intended use. At least one manuscript dis cusses the “eight fives,” how the eight groups of five names might be used in similar ways. There are translations into Turkish and Persian. The whole thing is less a text set down by its author than the sort of urban myth that floats around Oxford University Press, 1995. P. 301–305. On the relationship of magic and philosophy in the Renaissance, see: Yates F.A. Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964.
There is also another text entitled Muqaddama f Khaw Manfi‘ Asm’ Allh al-usn, found in at least two manuscripts—Adana 140/11, ff. 85a–87a, 1162/1756 and Istan bul, Esad Efendi 3704, ff. 69b–70b—which deals with the powers of the names of God and their numerical values.
The Devotional and Occult Works of Suhraward the Illuminationist the internet—where, not surprisingly, a search for al-asm’ al-idrsya turns up nearly four thousand items. In manuscript it is typically found in private collec tions of popular occult texts.
There is nothing in the text to especially associate it with our Suhraward. It is a typical example of ‘ilm al-khaw, the science of the occult properties of the names of God, or smiy’, and the language is totally Islamic. On those grounds, it would seem more natural to associate it with ‘Umar al-Suhraward, a more normal Sufi. However, it is interesting that many copyists had no reserva tions about associating such a text with our Suhraward, presumably on the basis of his lingering reputation as a magician. It is also a warning against underesti mating the role of the occult in popular Islamic culture. Anyone who works with Islamic manuscripts will know that occult texts show up everywhere: collections of popular occult texts, items included in collections of otherwise perfectly or thodox material, spells in the margins and flyleafs of other books, sometimes with the notation that they are mujarrab, shown by experience to be effective, as is the case with a spell against the plague that I found in several Ottoman manu scripts. Clearly, the occult was a continuing interest of Islamic civilization, and the fact that classic occult texts are still being published shows that the interest has not ended.
Illuminationism and the Ottoman State Ideology The presence of these prayers, and more generally the presence of royal cop ies of almost all the key Illuminationist works, in the Ottoman royal libraries is an indication of the significance of this school for the Ottoman imperial ideol ogy, particularly in the age of Fatih Mehmet. The exact role of this philosophy in the self-image of the Sultans is something for Ottomanists to investigate, but their concern for it is easy to document in the manuscript record and too perva sive to attribute to the chances of library acquisition. It certainly undermines any image of the Ottomans as simple ghzs committed to the spread of legalistic orthodoxy. It can be documented in manuscript acquisition, commission of inde pendent works, copying, and pedagogical use over at least a four century period running from the time of Mehmet II down to the very close of the age of manu scripts. This is a theme that requires more exposition and investigation than can be included here, so I will confine myself to a few examples.
Acquisition. The prime example of discerning early Ottoman acquisition of Illuminationist manuscripts is Ragip Paa 1480, the collected edition of Suhra ward’s works copied by a scholar in Baghdad in the early 1330s. Although it presently resides in the relatively late Ragip Paa collection, it clearly was in royal hands earlier since a copy of it was made for the library of Mehmet II. This does not fall into the category of self-evidently valuable plunder like, for exam 96 Philosophy of Illumination * John Walbridge ple, illustrated Timurid manuscripts. Its value is only recognizable to an in formed scholar. Another example is Veliddin 2050, a manuscript of al-Shahra zr’s al-Shajara al-Ilhya, an independent compendium of Illuminationist phi losophy written about ninety years after al-Suhraward’s death and one of the most important works of the school. This particular manuscript was copied by a Jewish scribe in Sivas from an autograph in 1288 and is, as far as I can determine now, the most important manuscript of this work. Finally, there is the fact that almost all the early manuscripts of the works of Ibn Kammna, the Jewish phi losopher who evidently played a key role in popularizing the works of al-Suhra ward in the third quarter of the 7th/13th century, are in Ottoman libraries.
Commissioning. Illuminationist works commissioned by the sultans are rarer but do exist. The prime example is the all al-Rumz of ‘Al al-Bism, known as Muannifak, “the little writer,” a prominent scholar associated with the court of Mehmet II. The work is a commentary on a disputed work of al-Suhraward, the Rislat al-Abrj, “Treatise on towers,” also known as al-Kalimt al-Dhawqya from its opening words.30 The autograph is, appropriately, in the Fatih Mosque collection, no. 2611. The list of such works will certainly grow as we learn more about Ottoman philosophy.
Copying. Though these occult prayers seem not to have been copied often, various versions of the Forty Names were constantly copied;
I know of more than a hundred manuscripts of various versions, and I have no doubt there are many more. The other works of Suhraward and his followers—notably includ ing the Jew Ibn Kammna—were copied down to the very end of the age of manuscripts. Veliyddin 2050, the early manuscript of Shahrazr’s Shajara, for example, seems to have been rediscovered in the eighteenth century, for there are at least five copies made between the early eigtheen and early nineteenth centu ries. I know of Illuminationist manuscripts of both Turkish and Iranian prove nance made after World War I.
Pedagogy. For the most part the works of al-Suhraward and his early fol lowers were advanced, and occult works were not used as textbooks, but both al Suhraward’s ikmat al-Ishrq and particularly his short Haykil al-Nr were copied for student use. The latter work appears in many Ottoman textbook com pilations.
The work is an allegory in Arabic resembling Suhraward’s al-Ghurba al-Gharbya. Its authenticity has been questioned by some modern scholars (see: Pourjavady N. Mas’ala-yi Intisb-i Rislat al-Abrj ba Shaykh-i Ishrq // idem. Ishrq wa ‘Irfn: Maqla-h wa Naqd-h.
Tehran: Markaz-i Nashr-i Dnishgh, 1380/2001. P. 95–113). However, the manuscripts seem to consistently attribute it to Suhraward, so I see no justification for questioning its authentic ity. At any rate, Muannifak thought it was Suhraward’s.
The Devotional and Occult Works of Suhraward the Illuminationist Conclusions and Comments 1) Diversity of manuscripts. One lesson that I have drawn from looking through some four hundred Illuminationist manuscripts is that there are lessons not to be drawn from printed books. People wrote things in flyleafs. I have seen things ranging from a little debate about whether Ibn Kammna converted to Islam (and thus should receive the normal blessing due a dead author) to the re cord of a disastrous flood in a forgotten village and the death of half a dozen members of the owner’s family from the plague.
2) Incompleteness of published literature. In the case of Suhraward, a little more than half of his surviving work is published, with the gaps including minor works, works like ours that do not fit in somehow, and the logic and physics of two of his four major philosophical works. Of the commentaries and derivative works the situation is far worse. Moreover, popular works that were obviously widely read have not been published, or at any rate exist only in unscholarly and inaccessible popular editions.
3) Patterns of Islamic intellectual life. In the manuscripts texts tend to come in families, so that, for example, particular groups of philosophical texts tend to occur together, thus indicating a perceived intellectual affinity.
4) Importance of popular, occult, and ‘secret’ literature. There is a large body of popular pious and occult literature ranging from the charm against the plague and a little story about a woman who spoke only in quotations from the Qur’an to large number of magical and astrological literature. We read the clas sics, but there are many works that premodern Muslim readers obviously knew, read, and copied that we barely know. We certainly do not appreciate the impor tance of this literature to Muslim readers. We certainly know almost nothing of its importance to al-Suhraward.
Philosophy of Illumination: Suhrawardi and his School Shahram Pazouki (Iranian Institute of Philosophy, Iran) THE EAST OF SUHRAWARD AND THE WEST OF HEIDEGGER:
A COMPARATIVE STUDY OF HEIDEGGER’S AND SUHRAWARD’S VIEWS ON THE ANCIENT GREEK PHILOSOPHERS In one of his works Heidegger casts doubt about the beginning of a dialogue between the Eastern and Western thinkers because their languages, or in Heideg gerian words, their houses of being are different.1 However, in his message sent to the symposium of “Heidegger and Asian Thought, he said: “Again and again it has seemed urgent to me that a dialogue take place with the thinkers of what is to us the Eastern world”.2 In fact, Heidegger’s works and ideas, and particularly his interest in Far Eastern thought, provide the ground for this dialogue, and ma terialize this necessity. Of course, this dialogue will come to fruition only when both sides speak dialogically. There is indeed a difference between the interpret ing of and penetrating into philosophers’ views and communicating with them sympathetically (dialegethai). Suhraward and Heidegger had such dialogues with their predecessors and achieved a lot of unachievable findings. It is hoped that the comparison of these two thinkers, whose bases and ends of their philosophical thoughts are different from each other, will be a useful, although small, step forward in paving the way for this dialogue.
First we proceed to discuss Suhraward’s views. The philosophers of the an cient Greece have had a peculiar status in the history of Islam, since their ideas have been interpreted in different ways. These philosophers have been men tioned in different books, ranging from Shahristn’s book, Milal wa nial, in the 6th century A. H., to Qub al-Dn Ashkiwar’s Mabb al-qulb in the 11th cen Heidegger M. On the Way to Language. Trans. P. D. Hertz. Harper and Row Publishers, 1971. P. 5.
Parkes Gr. (ed.). Heidegger and Asian Thought. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1987. P. 7.
Heidegger M. What is Philosophy. Trans. W. Kluback and J. T. Wilde. London: Vision, 1972. P. 67.
The East of Suhraward and the West of Heidegger tury, as if they had communication in some way with one of the prophets, and in Shahristn’s words, their philosophy had been adapted from the prophets’ niche of prophecy (mishkt al-nubuwwah). Undoubtedly, such an interpretation, which is against the generally accepted data of the science of history, appears incorrect.
Phenomenologically speaking, however, it should be noted that they were con cerned simply with philosophy irrespective of historical details. And since they believed that religion is related inextricably to philosophy, they were after a pro phetic wisdom. In fact, philosophy lacking a relationship to prophethood was absurd to them. Hence, it has been said that, for example, “Thales of Miletus benefited from Torah’s niche of prophecy”,4 or that “Empedocles lived at the time of Prophet David and got knowledge from him”. On the contrary, Brn without trying to have dialogue with the ancient Greek philosophers calls their era — due to lack rational thinking — the ignorant period of Greece. Another view in this respect is that of the Muslim Peripatetic philosophers.
They belittled the symbolic language of the early Greek philosophers and con sidered it worthless and irrational. That is why they did not pay attention to what the Greeks said.
The last view belongs to Suhraward and his followers, including the later Illuminationist (Ishrq) philosophers such as Mull adr. We will proceed to deal with Suhraward’s ideas, in detail. Suhraward con siders himself as an heir to a perennial and profound wisdom, that is, Illumina tionist wisdom (ikmat al-ishrq). He begins to comment on this philosophy fa vorably because, as Qub al-Dn Shrz, the famous commentator of ishrq phi losophy, says, the meaning of real wisdom had been forgotten in the course of time.8 By real wisdom, Suhraward means the one that God has granted to His people and that He has deprived the others of;
a wisdom which is completely different from the common one among the scholars in his time. The common and official wisdom of that period was a false and inefficient one, causing people to deviate from the way of the Truth. The wisdom of the Peripatetics or the follow ers of the first teacher, Aristotle, shares the same feature for it enjoys incorrect principles and false problems. Suhraward’s main claim for posing the Illumina tionist philosophy is the revival of the real meaning of wisdom or Sophia, which, Shahristn. Kitb al-Milal wa al-Nial. Ed. Muammad Badran. Cairo, 1364 A.H.
Vol. 2. P. 68.
Ibid. P. 72.
Brn. Ta’rkh al-Hind. Haydarbd, n.d. P. 18.
Mull adr, in a chapter on “the origination of the world, in his treatise F al-udth (adr. F al-udth. Ed. S.H. Msawiyan. Tehran: SIPRIn, 2000. P. 152–241) deals with the ancient Greek thinkers;
however, his discussion has been exactly adapted from Suhraward’s works, of course, without including his allusions to the East.
Qub al-Dn Shrz. Shar ikmat al-Ishrq al-Suhraward. Ed. A. Nrn and M. Mo aghegh. Tehran, 2001. P. 3–5.
100 Philosophy of Illumination * Shahram Pazouki in his view, is an intuitive wisdom, based on spiritual wayfaring, but which has been replaced by the Peripatetic philosophy for the time being. Suhraward considers this period as the worst and the most destitute period, as there is no mystical unveiling;
and all the paths of contemplation are blocked.
At this time, some people who are ambitious call themselves philosophers and mislead the seekers of wisdom. Accordingly, in response to the question of who a real philosopher is, Suhraward divides philosophers into eight groups.10 This classification is made in terms of the degree of a philosopher’s involvement in gnosis (‘irfn) and mystical wisdom on the one hand and in philosophical thought and reasoning on the other. Suhraward considers a philosopher a perfect man and a vicegerent (khalfa) of God if he gets involved in both intuitive mysti cal knowledge and rational thinking.
In this way, Suhraward tried to trace the fountain of wisdom which he be lieves is a profound and God-given one that existed all the times, i.e. philosophia perennis, and since it is a luminous wisdom, it can be attained in the East, i.e., where the sun rises. However, Suhraward is not referring to the geographical East;
rather, he means the true East which is the place of the illumination and radiation of the light of the Truth. Thus the wisdom rising from there is Illumina tionist one (ishrq). Nevertheless, the question is: “Where is the East?” This is Suhraward’s main problem. In his quest for the East, Shaykh Ishrq Suhraward goes to the ancient Greece, and from there, to the ancient Iran. In his eyes, these places comprise the Eastern side of the Truth, i.e., the place where the Truth’s light rises. He was mainly concerned with the ancient Greece and Iran. Regard ing the ancient Iran, he briefly says that, in that period, there existed a branch of the perennial Sophia. From among the Iranian sages living in the time of Zoro aster onwards, he points to sages such as Jamasf and Buzurjmihr as the carriers of this wisdom. The Oriental philosophy of the ancient Iran, as we will see, has continued its life in the Islamic world in Islamic Mysticism (Sufism), and among great Sufi Shaykhs, whom Suhraward calls Divine philosophers. Unlike the Pe ripatetics, he pays more attention to the pre-Aristotelian philosophers. In his view, the philosophy of the ancient Greece is intuitive (dhawq) and Oriental which has come to its end with Plato, and which has been degenerated in Aris totle. Therefore, in contrast to Frb and Ibn Sn, Suhraward believes that Ar istotle represents the decline of Greek philosophy rather than its perfection.
Suhraward considers himself the heir of Plato and his predecessors, i.e., the early Greek philosophers. He maintains that his way is the way of real wisdom, with Plato as its master. It is also the way of the sages living before Plato, includ ing the father of philosophers, Hermes, as well as the prominent figures and pil Suhraward Sh. Y. ikmat al-ishrq // Corbin H. (ed.). Collected Works of Suhraward.
Vol. 2. Tehran, 1977. P. 10.
Ibid. P. 11–12.
The East of Suhraward and the West of Heidegger lars of philosophy, Empedocles and Pythagoras.11 Like most historians of phi losophy In Islam, Suhraward considers some ancient Greek philosophers as prophets or as people benefiting from the prophets’ niche. Since he does not place Aristotle at this high position, while respecting him, he does not believe it right to appreciate Aristotle so much so that other Greek philosophers are down graded in comparison to him.
Suhraward believes that the reason for the ancient Greek philosophers’ being ignored is that their words are symbolic;
therefore, “what others claim to have rejected in relation to their ideas only pertain to the outward aspect of their words rather than to their deep and hidden meanings and no one can reject sym bols.”12 It was this very attention to language that persuaded Suhraward to enter a dialogue with the early Greek thinkers, and discover their hidden messages amidst their words.
The language of ancient Greek philosophers, which was symbolic and repre sented their state of insight and illumination, turned into Aristotle’s language of discourse and reasoning. From then onwards, the decline of Greek philosophy began and its dawn turned into dusk. Thus the Aristotelian philosophy, which entered the world of Islam and was continued by Muslim Peripatetics, was Occi dental in Suhraward’s words. However, though the Oriental philosophy of an cient Greece did not continue in the Occidental philosophy of Frb and Ibn Sn, in the Islamic world, it was revived and renewed in Islamic Mysticism (Sufism). Suhraward argues that the elders of Sufism have travelled “the path of the people of wisdom and reached the fountain of Light.” After this brief review of Suhraward’s ideas, it is the time to touch upon Heidegger’s ideas. He treads a different path in his study of the early Greek thought. Perhaps no thinker in our time has ever attached as much importance to ancient Greek philosophy as Heidegger. Nor has anyone tried to find a way into ancient Greek philosophers’ ideas through entering a dialogue with them in the same way that he has. As Heidegger himself asserts concerning the Anaximander Fragment: “We cannot demonstrate the adequacy of the translation by scholarly means... Scholarly proof will not carry us far enough. We can only reflect on the translation by thinking through the saying. But thinking is the poetizing of the truth of Being in the historic dialogue between thinkers.”14 Heidegger’s con temporaries, like those of Suhraward, usually evaluate the philosophy of the ancient Greece on the basis of Aristotelian interpretation and argumentation, and maintain that, since this philosophy is still a raw and irrational school of thought, Ibid. P. 10.
Suhraward. Talwt // Corbin H. (ed.). Collected Works of Suhraward. Vol. 1. Tehran, 1976. P. 113.
Heidegger M. The Anaximander Fragment // idem. Early Greek Thinking. Translated by D.F. Krell. P. 57.
102 Philosophy of Illumination * Shahram Pazouki it is of a primitive nature. The same thing happened in the Latin period, too. Ac cording to Heidegger, in this way and on the basis of this interpretation, “the Greeks become essentially a higher type of Hottentots, whom modern science has left far behind.” But the question is: “Why does he appreciate the early Greek era so much?” If we pay more attention to history, we see that the great thinkers are sensitive to their time. Obviously, Heidegger, too, is a great suffering thinker of the end of the modern era, a critical period that, as Heidegger himself in line with the Ger man poet Hlderlin admits, is a destitute time. He declares that this era is coming to an end in the following way: “Western history has now begun to enter into the completion of that period which we call the modern.”16 It is a period in which Being has completely lost its meaning and nihilism which has turned into the inevitable destiny of the West, has cast its shadow all over the world from there.
Heidegger talks about the darkness of the world at the end of this era. He speaks of the period of “the night of the world as the time of hardships and distress, and maintains that “at this night’s midnight, the destitution of the time is great est.”17 The thinkers’ most important task at this time is to understand this dis tress. In fact, the most distressful feature of this period is failing to understand such hardships.
Heidegger’s attention to the period of the ancient Greece is rooted in this point. If the sun of Being has set, and if the period of darkness has started and is dominating the entire world, one might ask: “Where did this dusk start from”?
Where is West? In fact, the darkness dominating the modern era tempted Hei degger to seek for the place of sunset (“das Abendland”, meaning West) and the cause of this dusk. On his way, he reaches the ancient Greece where the West started. Therefore, Heidegger’s interest in Greek philosophy, in his own words, is not due to his wishing to portray a picture of the ancient Greece as one of the periods of humankinds’ history. Nor is it due to his personal interest in the Greek people or his ambition for advancing academic studies of them. His most impor tant, indeed single purpose for having dialogue with the Greek philosophers in their own language, as he says, is finding the source of a thought determining the destiny of the West. It is because of his belief in such Geschick (“fate”) that the Greek people became Greek in the historical sense of the word (Geschichtlich).
When talking of the East and the West, Suhraward does not have the geo graphical sense of these words in mind;
likewise, Heidegger notes that by Greek, he is not referring to a specific people or nation. For the latter, being Greek Heidegger M. An Introduction to Metaphysics. Trans. Ralph Manheim. New Haven:
Yale UP, 1987. P. 15.
Heidegger M. Nietzsche. Trans. F. A. Capuzzi. Vol. 4. New York: Harper and Row, 1982. P. 28.
Heidegger M. What are Poets for // idem. Poetry, Language, Thought. Trans. Albert Hofstadter. New York: Harper and Row, 1971. P. 93.
The East of Suhraward and the West of Heidegger means the beginning of a fate in history in which man and Being have obtained a new meaning.
The modern era is in fact the expansion and realization of the same thought beginning at the end of the Greek era. Here, Heidegger makes a distinction be tween the early and late Greece, and maintains that the early Greek philosophy did not turn the West into the West due to what it was at the beginning;
rather, it exerted its influence through what it became at the end. In other words, this trend of thought changed the history of the West only when it turned into philosophy and, as a result, dominated the Western world. This was specifically done through translating Greek works into Latin, which Heidegger considers “the first stage in the process by which we cut ourselves off and alienated ourselves from the original essence of Greek philosophy.”18 At that time, the dialogue with Greek philosophy was ended all through Western philosophy. Accordingly, in Heidegger’s view, “all Western history since is in a manifold sense Roman and never Greek.” Philosophy in this sense is essentially Western because, in the sense intended by Heidegger, it is Greek. He views the early Greek thought as being based on Logos and mythos, and thus being non-philosophical. Early Greek thinkers such as Heraclites and Parmenides were not philosophers;
they were rather higher than philosophers, since they were still speaking in harmony with Logos. They were so close to Being (sein) that they conceived of man (Dasein) as the place (Da) of the disclosure of Being (sein). Truth, knowledge and language, thought and art were also understood in such a horizon of proximity with Being. The ad vent of Greek Sophism paved the way for the emergence of philosophy. The first philosophers who trod this path were Socrates and Plato. According to Heideg ger, the change of the definition of the Truth in Plato’s thought caused a change in Greek thinking. This change has continued to exert its influence throughout the history of philosophy until the modern era. For example, with Plato, the thoughts concerning the Being of beings turned into a philosophical thought, and the first distinctions between Being and beings, and man and Being came to the fore.
On the other hand, a discursive thinking of Being was born. It should be noted that Heidegger mostly interprets Plato in Aristotelian sense. Greek phi losophy came to its peak of grandeur with these two great philosophers. They founded a kind of thinking which was pretty far from the reality of Greek think ing at a time which Heidegger calls the great period of Greece. It was philosophy standing at a distance from Logos and moving in the direction of logic and de monstrative thought.
Heidegger. An Introduction to Metaphysics. P. 13.
Heidegger M. The Metaphysics as History of Being // idem. The End of Philosophy.
Trans. Joan Stambaugh. New York: Harper and Row, 1973. P. 13.
104 Philosophy of Illumination * Shahram Pazouki Heidegger’s difference from Suhraward at this point lies in the fact that Suhraward highly estimates Plato and regards him as representing the perfection of the ancient Greek philosophy, and Aristotle as the founder of discursive phi losophy, while according to Heidegger, Plato and Aristotle are the founders of philosophy in the sense of rational thinking about Being. In Suhraward’s eyes, one of the objections that can be raised against Heidegger pertains to his evalua tion of Plato and Aristotle. Suhraward sees Plato in the Eastern horizon, while Heidegger sees him in the Western one. Like him, Heidegger sees the specific language of the Greeks as one of the main reasons for the inability to understand the thinking of the Greeks and for the resulting misunderstandings. He maintains that their language is a non-rational language and the Greeks have attained Being through a fundamental poetic experience.20 This is the language of Being risen from Logos;
it is ambiguous and incomprehensible to those people who, accord ing to Heraclitus, are deaf to Logos and have no dialogue with it. In this respect, Heidegger resorts to Heraclitus’s statement equating knowledge (Sophia) with speaking the language of Logos. Accordingly, he says that one cannot understand the Greek thought unless he is able to hear their language as they themselves spoke and understood it.
I conclude this paper by saying that Suhraward’s interest in the early Greek philosophy lies in the extinction of the light of wisdom in his time, and the ap pearance of the so-called philosophers instead of true sages. Therefore, in his search for true philosophy (ikmah) he refers to his predecessors and in this way, he reaches for the East and the Eastern wisdom in ancient India, Iran and ancient Greece, as well as for Sufism in Islam. He says that in order to find the begin ning of true wisdom (Sophia), we should return to the way of the earlier philoso phers who were the people of insight and illumination (nr). In Islam, those who travelled along the path of Sufism inherited this wisdom from them. In fact, these sages are the only people who can save us from the grief of nostalgia in such a destitute (in Suhraward’s and Heidegger’s words) time.
Nevertheless, Heidegger, who finds himself living in the dark modern age, searches the past to find the origin of the West. He, too, believes that the true thinking cannot be sought unless one remembers the past. In his quest of the West, he reaches for the Greek thought. In Heidegger’s own words, he has come to the same land in which the planted seed grew into a vast desert that is fast ex panding to dominate the entire world. He invites us to accept a thinking in future that, unlike the ancient Greek thinking, is not philosophical or rational, but is similar to poetry in essence. Considering the above-mentioned points, we see that these two thinkers, Suhraward and Heidegger, meet each other in the land of the ancient Greece.
Heidegger. An Introduction to Metaphysics. P. 14.
Philosophy of Illumination: Suhrawardi and his School Jaakko Hmeen-Anttila (University of Helsinki, Finland) SUHRAWARD’S WESTERN EXILE AS ARTISTIC PROSE It is often said that creative artistic prose did not exist in Classical Arabic lit erature, or that it ended with the early maqmas, or, finally, that it concentrated on form at the expense of content. This ignores many movements in Classical Arabic literature: the novelistic tendencies in adab collections, experiments with the risla, and post-arrian narrative maqmas. Sometimes, too, especially in philosophy and mysticism, one can find hidden texts of literary interest considered to be outside the scope of belles lettres that have not been sufficiently recognized in histories of literature. One such case is Shihb al-Dn (al)-Suhraward’s (d. 587/1191) Qiat al-ghurba al-gharbiyya (The Tale of the Western Exile), his only Arabic allegory. Suhraward’s literary production was partly written in Persian, partly in Arabic. His more technical works were mainly composed in Arabic, whereas all his shorter allegories are, with this one exception, in Persian. The Western Exile is, briefly, a philosophical allegory of an immortal soul’s descent into, and ascent from the material world.
Without going into detail, the basic allegorical equations link the West to the material world, the East (and Yemen) to the spiritual world, and im, the com panion of the first-person narrator, to the intellect.
From a literary point of view, the text might, at first sight, seem to contain all the supposed weaknesses of Late Classical Arabic prose. It is built around Qur’nic quotations and laden with allegorical meanings. The narrative has its context in a literary universe, not in the real world: The Western Exile is a text built on other texts and its ties with reality are slight. One might think that it is a learned tractate, breathing the thin air of mysticism and philosophy. It is, how ever, a vivid text, full of evocative imagery with more than a touch of surrealism and the absurd. On closer inspection, it also turns out to be innovative and ex I wish to thank my students with whom in autumn 2006 I read Suhraward’s Qiat al-ghurba al-gharbiyya and whose comments, especially those by Mr. Janne Mattila, M.A., often provided inspiration.
See Hmeen-Anttila. Short Stories;
P. 178–296, 328–359.
106 P h i l o s o p h y o f I l l u m i n a t i o n * J. H m e e n - A n t t i l a perimental, as it is in marked contrast with earlier stories of similar content.3 Had such a text been written within the Western literary tradition it would automati cally have been considered literature.
In the following, I will give a new translation of the text and discuss its struc ture and some of its literary features. The translation is made exclusively from the Arabic text. The older translation by Thackston is often led astray by the anonymous Persian translation printed together with the Arabic text in Corbin’s edition, and also Corbin’s French translation now and then actually translates the Persian text.4 It should be emphasized that the Persian translation and commen tary are not always accurate, which is not only shown by their evident mistakes but also in the acknowledged uncertainties in the explanations of several pas sages (e.g., § 25: shyad ke aml bar … kun). The purpose of my article is, however, not to study the philosophical content of the text6 but to discuss the literary devices used by the author and the text’s internal movements.
In quoting the Qur’n, I use A.J. Arberry’s translation as my basis but freely modify it according to need. I have marked the Qur’nic quotations in bold face, beginning from § 1. Often Suhraward modifies the Qur’nic expressions to place them in a new context,7 which complicates the marking of the exact lengths of the quotations and causes some ambivalence. I have also marked inexact quotations which will have been recognized as Qur’nic by the first audience. Less obvious and uncertain quotations and allusions, as well as overall resemblances, are in italics. In the translation bracketed numbers refer to the Qur’n (Surah: verse).
Translation In the Name of God The master and leader, learned gnostic, peerless in his time and the master of his epoch, shaykh Shihb al-Dn al-Suhraward, may God hallow his soul and illuminate his grave, has said:
Glory be to God, the Lord of the Worlds, and peace be upon His servants whom He has chosen, especially upon our lord Muammad, the Chosen, and his family and all companions.
I mainly have in mind Sufi ascent stories, such as that of Byazd-i Bism (cf., e.g., Ar. Tadhkirat al-awliy’ I. P. 172–176;
Arberry. Muslim Saints. P. 105–110), or philoso phical allegories such as Avicenna’s ayy ibn Yaqn.
See: Thackston. Philosophical Allegories. P. 112–124;
Corbin. Oeuvres philosophiques.
Corbin. L’Archange. P. 265–287.
Cf., e.g., the explanations for al-Hd and al-Khayr in § 3.
For this, the reader is referred to the French translation and notes by Henry Corbin which are extremely valuable, although Corbin’s synthetic view of the philosophy of illumination (ikmat al-ishrq) sometimes made him read more into the text than is actually there.
E.g., § 7 idh akhrajn aydiyan lam nakad narh Q 24: 40 idh akhraja yadah lam yakad yarh.
Suhraward’s Western Exile as Artistic Prose To begin: When I saw the tale of ayy ibn Yaqn, I found it, despite its wonderful spiritual sayings and profound allusions, devoid of intimations which beckon towards the Greatest Experience which is the Great Overwhelming (79: 34), treasured in the Divine Books, deposited in the philosophers’ symbols and hidden within the tale of Salmn and Absl, which has been compiled by the author of ayy ibn Yaqn.
This is the secret upon which are arranged the stations of Sufis and those who receive visionary intuitions. There are no allusions to this in the tractate of ayy ibn Yaqn except at the end of the book where it is said: “oftentimes some indi viduals emigrated towards Him, etc., until the end of the text. I wished to mention to a noble brother of ours some of this secret in the form of a tale, which I have titled the tale of the Western Exile. In God I trust in my endeavours.
Beginning of the story § 1 I was travelling with my brother Protector (im)9 from Transoxania to the Maghreb, to catch some birds on the banks of the Green Abyss. § 2 All of a sudden, we came to11 the City whose people are evildoers (4:
75). I mean the city of Qayrawn.
§ 3 When its inhabitants perceived12 that we had come upon them unexpect edly and that we were children of the old man known by the name of Guiding, the son of Good, the Yemenite, § 4 they surrounded and captured us, putting us in chains and iron shackles.
They imprisoned us at the bottom of a well (22: 45), infinitely deep.
§ 5 The neglected well was filled with life by our presence. Above, there was a lofty13 palace (22: 45) with numerous towers.
§ 6 It was said to us: “It will not be held against you14 if you ascend to the palace naked in the evening. But in the morning you cannot evade falling back to the bottom of the pit (12: 10). Corbin. Avicenne. P. 81 (Arabic text) (§ 24).
The name may have been taken from Q 11: 43, a verse which is quoted several times in the text. The word im also occurs in Q 10: 27, alluded to in § 31, and Q 40: 33.
The word lujja ‘abyss’ forebodes the use later in the text (§ 7) of Q 24: 40, where we have bar lujj. The only other attestation of this rare word in the Qur’n comes in Q 27: 44, in the story of the Queen of Sheba.
Note that waqaa applies to both horizontal (“come to) and vertical (“fall) movement.
The verb aassa seems consciously selected: the travellers have fallen into the world of the senses.
The edition vocalizes mushayyad here but one should read it alongside the Qur’nic mashd.
This is a frequent Qur’nic expression (e.g., Q 2: 158). From here on, the dual is often replaced by the plural, but this seems to be a grammatical mistake with neither philosophical nor literary significance.
The idea of the nocturnal ascent of the soul during sleep derives from Q 39: 42.
108 P h i l o s o p h y o f I l l u m i n a t i o n * J. H m e e n - A n t t i l a § 7 At the bottom of the well there was darkness above darkness;
when we put forth our hands, well nigh we could not see them (24: 40).
§ 8 Yet at evening times we used to climb up to the palace and look from a window at the open space. Oftentimes doves came to us from the thickets of Yemen to tell us about the state of the holy meadow. At other times, we were visited by Yemeni lightning which flashed on the right, eastern side (cf. 28: 30) and told us about the nocturnal events16 of Najd. The fragrance of ark added emotion to our emotion. We became filled with emotion and yearned for our homeland.
§ 9 Whilst we were ascending at night and descending at day, we saw on a moonlit night how the hoopoe (cf. 27: 20) entered through the window and saluted us. It carried in its beak a note, sent from the right bank of the water course, in the sacred hollow, coming from the tree (28: 30). § 10 It said to us: “I have comprehended a way for your salvation and I have come to you from Sheba with a sure tiding (27: 22). That will be ex plained in this letter of your father.
§ 11 We read the note, and it said: “It is from your father Guiding. It read:
“In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate (27: 30). We aroused longing in you but you did not long. We summoned you but you did not set forth. We signalled to you but you did not understand.
§ 12 He (i.e., our Father) addressed me in the note, saying: “O you, if you wish to be saved with your brother, then you two must not tire of travelling de terminedly. Hold fast to our rope (3: 103) which is the Dragon’s Tail of the holy sphere, the master of the regions of eclipse.
§ 13 When you come to the Valley of the Ants (27: 18), dust the lowest part of your garment and say: Praised be God who brought me to life after having made me dead18 and to Whom is the uprising (67: 15). Then cause your family to perish (cf. 29: 31) § 14 and kill your wife who belongs to those bygone (29: 32;
15: 60). Go where you are told to because the last remnant of these will be cut off in the morning19 (15: 66). Embark the ship and say: ‘In the Name of God shall be its course and berthing’20 (11: 41).
§ 15 In the note he explained all that was to happen on the road. The hoopoe went before us until the sun (cf. 27: 24) was above our head and we arrived at the edge of the shade. We boarded the ship which ran with us amid waves like The word awriq may also refer to nocturnal travellers (fem. pl.), as understood by the Persian translator (rh-yandagn).
The allusion to the Burning Bush gives the impression that the message comes from God even though, as later explained, it originates merely from a lower emanation.
I.e., non-existent. The expression is Qur’nic.
The edition reads here muibna which seems to be a printer’s error.
Note that the two basmalas frame §§ 11–14 as a unit.
Suhraward’s Western Exile as Artistic Prose mountains (11: 42). We wanted to ascend Mount Sinai to visit the hermitage of our father.
§ 16 The waves came between me and my child, and he was among the drowned (11: 43).
§ 17 I knew that the promised time of my people was the morning: was the morning not nigh (11: 81)?
§ 18 I also knew that the city that had been doing deeds of corruption (21: 74) would be turned uppermost nethermost and stones of baked clay, one on another, would be rained on it (11: 82). § 19 When we arrived at a place where waves hit against each other (cf.
18: 61) and waters were rolling I took my wet nurse who had given me breast, and threw her into the sea (28: 7).
§ 20 We had been travelling on a ship (jriya, 69: 11) which had planks and palm-cords (54: 13). We made a hole in the ship (18: 71) being afraid of a king behind us who was seizing every ship by brutal force (18: 79).
§ 21 The laden ship (26: 119)22 had sailed with us by the island of Gog and Magog (cf. 18: 94), to the left23 of Mount al-Jd (11: 44).
§ 22 I had with me some satans who worked before me (34: 12) and under my command was the Fount of Molten Brass (34: 12). So I said to the satans:
“Blow! until it became like fire (18: 95). I set up a rampart (18: 94) so that I was separated from them.
§ 23 Thus, the promise of my Lord became fulfilled (18: 98).
§ 24 On the road I saw the skulls of d and Thamd. I wandered in that re gion which was fallen upon its turrets (22: 45).
§ 25 I took the two burdens24 along with the spheres and put them, together with the satans, into a round bottle which I had myself made25 and which had stripes on it, like circles. § 26 I crossed the rivers in the centre of the sky (or: I cut the rivers from the liver of the sky).
§ 27 When water was cut off from the mill, the building (cf. 2: 22) collapsed and air was freed into the air.
§ 28 I cast the sphere of the spheres on the skies so that it ground the sun and the moon and the stars.
The metaphor of rain links this destruction scene to a storm.
Also Q 36: 41 and 37: 140.
There may be a faint allusion here to Q 20: 80.
Ath-thaqalayn (Q 55: 31). Here the term does not seem to refer to satans and mankind as it is usually understood. What the exact reference is remains unclear.
I read f qrratin anatuh ana mustadratin (for the edition's mustadratan).
Corbin (L’Archange. P. 285, footnote 28) comments: “Commence avec ces strophes une srie d’vnements obscurs exprims en images grandioses et apparemment incohrentes (…) Mais l’important est de saisir intuitivement les tapes…”.
110 P h i l o s o p h y o f I l l u m i n a t i o n * J. H m e e n - A n t t i l a § 29 I was freed from fourteen coffins and ten tombs from which the shadow of God emanates so that I27 was drawn gently (25: 46) to holiness after He had set the sun to be a guide to it (25: 45).
§ 30 Then I encountered God’s path and realized that this was my road, straight (6: 153).
§ 31 A chastisement of God had enveloped (12: 107) by night (7: 4)28 my sister-consort29 and she spent the night in a dark portion of the night (10: 27;
11: 81),30 feverish and haunted by nightmares that resulted in a serious fit (cf. 69: 7).
§ 32 Then I saw a lamp containing oil, and from it flowed light which spread to all corners (cf. 55: 33) of the house (cf. 24: 36). Its niche was illuminated and its inhabitants lit up from the illumination of the sun’s light above them (cf. 24: 35). § 33 I put the lamp into the mouth of a dragon32 which rested in the tower of a water wheel. Below, there was a Red Sea33 and above, stars. The places where their rays fell were only known to the Creator and those firmly rooted in knowledge (3: 7).
§ 34 I saw that the lion and the bull had disappeared and the bow and the crab had been folded within the fold of the spheres’ revolution. The scales remained balanced when the Yemenite star rose from behind thin clouds composed of what the spiders of the elementary world’s corners had knit in the world of gen eration and corruption.
§ 35 We had some small cattle with us. These we left in a desert where earth quakes destroyed them and the lightning’s fire fell upon them.
§ 36 When the distance had been crossed, the road cut off and the oven boiled (11: 40;
23: 27) from the conical shape, I saw the celestial bodies. I came to them and heard their tunes and melodies. I learned their songs, and their sounds reverberated in my ears like the sound of a chain drawn across a solid rock. My sinews34 were almost cut and my joints torn apart by the rapture I felt.
This went on until the clouds dispersed and the membrane was torn.
The subject of the verb yaqbiun remains unclear to me, if it is not the shadow. God does not take an active role in this allegory. Corbin (L’Archange. P. 277) translates “qu’elle [c.-.-d. ombre, JHA] est attire”.
Also Q 7: 97;
I take ukht wa-ahl to refer to one person, ahl being a common euphemism for wife.
This seems to be corroborated by the singular form akhadhat’h and the Persian translati on which (like Corbin) ignores the word ahl. For sister-consorts and incest in general, cf.:
van Gelder. Close Relationships.
Also Q 11: 81;
15: 65. In Q 10: 27 we also have the verb ughshiya.
Cf. Q 24: 35.
Many of the following words also have an astrological meaning: Tannn ‘Draco’, Burj ‘constellation’, Dlb ‘Aquarius’, etc.
(Bar qulzum). Note that the Red Sea should be Bar al-qulzum, although the mistakes in grammatical details in Suhraward’s text make it possible to ignore this irregularity.
Suhraward here plays with the double meaning of the word awtr, which also means ‘strings’.
Suhraward’s Western Exile as Artistic Prose § 37 I emerged from the cavities (9: 57) and caves (cf. Surah 18) until I had passed the chambers (49: 4), heading for the Fountain of Life (cf. 18: 86). I saw the great rock (18: 63) on the top of a hill, like a great mountain. I asked the fish (7: 163;
18: 63)35 which had assembled in the Fountain of Life, enjoying and taking pleasure in the great, overtowering mountain’s shade: “What is this moun tain? What is this great rock?
§ 38 One of the fish took its way in the sea, burrowing (18: 61), and said:
“This is what you were seeking (18:64).36 This hill is Mount Sinai and the rock is your father’s hermitage. I asked: “What are these fish? He replied: “They are your likes. You are sons of one father. To them happened like unto you. They are your brothers.
§ 39 When I heard and realized this, I embraced them. I rejoiced in them and they rejoiced in me. I climbed the hill and saw our father, a grand old man. The heavens and the earth were well nigh split asunder (19: 90) through the reve lation of his light (cf. 7: 143). I remained baffled and confused (cf. 7: 143) be cause of him but I went to him. He greeted me and I prostrated myself before him and was almost annihilated in his radiant light.
§ 40 I cried for a while and lamented to him the imprisonment of Qayrawn.
He said to me: “Come now! You have freed yourself, except that you must return to the Western imprisonment because you have not as yet completely laid aside your chains. When I heard his words, I lost my mind. I sighed and yelled like one who is on the verge of ruin and I pleaded with him.
§ 41 He answered: “The return is now inevitable. But I give you glad tidings of two things. One is that when you have returned to your imprisonment, you may come to us and ascend easily to our paradise whenever you want to. The second is that in the end you will be free in our presence37 and you will totally leave all the Western regions.
§ 42 I rejoiced in what he said. Then he said to me: "Know that this is Mount Sinai. Above this hill is Mount Snn (95: 2), the abode of my father, your grandfather. In relation to him, I am no more than you are in relation to me.
§ 43 We have further ancestors, until the lineage ends with the king who is the greatest ancestor and has no ancestor or father. We are all his slaves, from him we borrow our light and take our fire. To him belongs the greatest splen dour, the loftiest majesty and the most dominant light. He is the highest of high, the light of light and above light, for all eternity, past and future. He is manifest to all things and all things perish, except His face (28: 88).
Cf. also Q 18: 61.
Note that Suhraward uses a singular form, whereas the Qur’n has a plural (m kunn nabghi).
The first good tiding refers to “our paradise” (jannatin), the second to “our presence” (janbin). The two words are orthographically very close, and one might speculate on reading jannatin in both places. The Persian translation, however, does not support this emendation.
112 P h i l o s o p h y o f I l l u m i n a t i o n * J. H m e e n - A n t t i l a § 44 In the middle of this tale my state changed and I fell from on high into the pit (101: 9) among people who were not believers and was again imprisoned in the Maghreb. Yet there stayed with me a pleasure which I cannot explain.
I wailed and supplicated and sighed because of the separation. That comfort passed as quickly as dreams.
§ 45 May God save us from the captivity of Nature and the chains of matter.
And say: “Praise belongs to God. He shall show you His signs and you will recognize them. Thy Lord is not heedless of the things you do (27: 93). And say: “Praise belongs to God. Nay, but most of them have no knowledge (31: 25). Prayers be upon His prophet and all his family.
The end of the Story of the Western Exile.
Analysis On a structural level, the text may be analysed in terms of a qada. It con tains a prelude, culminating in § 8, full of terminology familiar from Arabic na sb, as noticed by the Persian commentator (n hame be-rasm-e ‘arab gufte-ast).
The two travellers and the listing of place names (§§ 1–2) are topoi of qada poetry, and the ruined well wherein the two are confined (§§ 5–7) echoes the theme of all. The following section (§§ 9–15), with its nightly visitor, takes up the motive of ayf al-khayl, the visit of the dream image. In the qada, the aim of these parts is, at least according to Ibn Qutayba (Shir 14–15), to generate sympathy and commiseration for the poet and a similar motive may be seen be hind the description of the pitiful condition of the travellers, imprisoned in the well and only occasionally rising to temporary freedom.
With § 15, we come to the next main structural element of the qada, the rila. As in many qadas, the rila here becomes the focus of the whole text and concentrates more on the description of the hardships suffered by the traveller than on the animal or vessel on which he journeys.
The rila section (§§ 15–36) is divided into three. §§ 15–21 describe a voy age by sea. This part ends with the sinking of the ship (§ 20) and, in the next paragraph, a reference in the past tense38 to the sea voyage. In §§ 22–25 the jour ney continues through wild and barren countries, and in §§ 26–36 this changes into following God’s path (§ 30). The section on seafaring (§§ 15–21) and the beginning of the next section, §§ 22–23, are heavily loaded with Qur’nic quota tions and move on very rapidly.
Finally, with § 37, we come to the qad, the final part of the qada. This is the least convention-bound part of the qada, but it often refers to the patron towards whom the poet has been travelling, overcoming the hardships of the Qad marra. Neither Thackston nor Corbin give attention to the particle qad. Another in verted temporal sequence, marked by qad, is found in § 31, see below.
Suhraward’s Western Exile as Artistic Prose road. Both in Suhraward’s story and in a typical qada, the tone is that of posi tive anticipation of a future reward, which sweeps away the hardships of the journey and consoles the poetic “I on the misery he had undergone in the earlier sections.
Thus, one may see the qada structure behind The Western Exile. Yet, the dominant feature of the text is not its relation to Arabic poetry but its dependence on the Qur’n. As already indicated, the vivid central part of the text mainly con sists of Qur’nic quotations which are present throughout the text. The Qur’nic references circulate around five theme clusters:
Lot — the Evil City — punishment;
Solomon — Yemen — message;
Dhul-Qarnayn — the Island of Gog and Magog — quest;
Noah — al-Jd — perilous voyage;
Moses — Mount Sinai — ascent.
The references to the story of Lot and the Evil City dominate in §§ 2–5: the ruined campsite of a nasb is identified with the Evil Cities that are, in a meta phorical sense, ruined (they represent the lifeless sublunar world) and, on the Qur’nic level, will be ruined after divine punishment has fallen upon them. The references begin in § 2 with a quotation from the Qur’n (4: 75), which refers to the contemporaries of the prophet Muammad. The three words actually quoted also allude to the words of the Qur’n just before them (Rabban akhrijn min hdhihi l-qaryati, etc. “O Lord, bring us forth from this city…) which are not quoted by Suhraward. They set the tone for the whole allegory, which describes salvation from the material world. The Western Exile is a story of exodus.
Later, allusions to the Evil City of Lot take central stage. In §§ 3–4, the Trav eller and his companion are presented in a way reminiscent of the arrival of Lot’s angelic guests in, e.g., Q 11: 78, even though there are no exact lexical links. The celestial origin of the two resembles that of Lot’s guests, and the reaction of the citizens of Qayrawn is similar to that of the people of Sodom. The general equa tion of Qayrawn with all evil cities is continued in §§ 4–5, which allude to Q 22: 45. Here, the scene is set according to Qur’nic terms: Suhraward takes both the deep well and the lofty palace from the vocabulary of this verse, thus achiev ing a link to the Qur’nic stories without explicitly referring to the sinfulness of the inhabitants of the city. Furthermore, in § 5 he makes the first allusion to as tronomical themes by referring to the towers of the palace, using a word of am bivalent meaning (abrj ‘towers/constellations’).
In § 7, Suhraward makes an allusion to the sea,39 which is to be the central image in the rila section (§§ 15–21), by quoting Q 24: 40, a verse which is per Already in his Preface, Suhraward had selected the word al-mma (Q 79: 34) for the secret about which he is to speak. The word is traditionally (e.g., al-Bayw. Anwr.
V: 173, a.l.) understood to mean ‘catastrophe’ but the root MM denotes flooding water (see:
Ibn Manr. Lisn s.v.).
114 P h i l o s o p h y o f I l l u m i n a t i o n * J. H m e e n - A n t t i l a haps the most vivid description of marine perils in the Qur’n. Again, Suhrawar d half hides his allusion, which makes it all the more pointed. He quotes that part of the verse which speaks about the overwhelming darkness but leaves un quoted the description of the sea itself. But his reader could not have missed his intention, especially as the Qur’nic verse contains the rare word lujj, derived from lujja, which was already prominently alluded to in § 1. Finally, in § 8 there is another half-hidden allusion, this time to Q 28: 30 and Moses.
Thus, the beginning (§§ 1–8), like the overture of an opera, introduces all the main themes of the text. Later, the text takes these up one by one. References to Lot and the Evil City are used in §§ 13–14, 18, 24, and 31;
the sea voyage is the theme of §§ 15–21;
§§ 33–36 elaborate on astronomical themes;
and the qad, §§ 37–43, centres on Mosaic allusions.
Allusions to Noah dominate the description of the sea voyage. Except for a passing allusion in § 36, he is alluded to only in §§ 14–21. In § 14, the travel lers board the ship, and § 21 mentions al-Jd, the mountain where Noah's ark ultimately stuck. Thus, Suhraward takes the whole voyage of Noah and builds on it the central part of his story, adding elements from the travels of Moses, part of whose peregrinations with the mysterious al-Khir are set on the sea in the Qur’n.
The Traveller and his companion pass through the watery (§§ 15–21) and the earthy elements (§§ 24–25). Fire is briefly brought into the picture in § 22 with the mention of fire-born satans (jinn) and the fire-like molten brass. When “air was freed into the air (§ 27), the Traveller and his companion have traversed the world of the four elements. At the same time, Qur’nic quotations become shorter and rarer, giving way to astronomical, or astrological, themes. These lead to a rebirth (§ 36), described in terms familiar from both Sufi and other mystical traditions: being chopped into pieces and then re-emerging as a new man.
The new status of the Traveller is manifested in his continuing the journey alone. In § 35, the first-person plural is used for the Traveller and his companion, ‘im, for the last time.40 It seems that the process of a solitary journey had al ready started in § 22, and from here on the narrative is mainly told in the first person singular. § 31 returns to a more distant past,41 to a time when the sister consort — if I am correct in my interpretation, see footnote 29 — had been at tacked by fever and nightmares. It would seem that the sister-consort is identical with the Traveller’s brother, ‘im. The change of the companion’s sex may re flect the illogical, or rather supralogical, nature of the story from here on. Reason is left behind, like Lot’s wife in the Qur’nic story. Similarly, Muammad had to give up his companion, al-Burq, during the final stage of the mi‘rj. In the same paragraph occurs the last allusion to Lot and the Evil City. After this, the ascent Note especially the use of the singular in the quotation in § 38, cf. footnote 36.
Note again the inverted temporal sequence indicated by the use of qad, cf. § 21.
Suhraward’s Western Exile as Artistic Prose continues unhindered. Having passed through light, with an allusion to the Verse of Light (Q 24: 35),42 the Traveller hears heavenly music and is reborn. This re birth leads to the final ascent.
The middle sections of the story, especially §§ 13–36, baffle the mind. The Traveller performs enigmatic deeds, sinking a ship and killing innocent people.
He seems to be travelling with merely one companion, but all of a sudden there are relatives and others around, beginning with a, presumably elderly, nanny.
The enigmatic deeds reflect the irrational behaviour of the mystical co-traveller of Moses, al-Khir, in Surah 18. The irrational behaviour begins in § 13 where the Traveller is advised to kill his family, or wife, if we take ahl here in this sense. This continues in § 19 when the Traveller throws his wet nurse into the sea. The use of the rare word al-yamm marks this clearly as an allusion. The relevant passage in the Qur’n (Q 28: 7) speaks of Moses’ mother suckling her child and being instructed to throw the baby into the sea to save him from the Pharaoh. Suhraward turns the tables, and it is the (grown-up) child who throws his wet nurse, i.e., mother, into the sea, not to save her but to cause her to perish.
Reason, already baffled by the events of the first stage of the rila, is finally overcome when the Traveller encounters, in § 30, God’s path. The journey may thus be seen as an escape from reason. The nonsensical events in §§ 32–35 could belong to the confused and confusing nightmares of the sister-consort which make her (him?) unable to follow the Traveller. In contrast to the companions who come and go and seem to be allegories of worldly passions and bodily at tributes, reason is not finally done with, though. (S)he remains behind, in the grip of fever and nightmare, but presumably rejoins the Traveller once he is back from the final ascent. This, at least, seems to be implied by the promise given in § 12. During the story, the status of reason undergoes changes. In the initial “na sb, reason is the co-prisoner of the Traveller. During the hard “rila, he is a companion, but in the final, ecstatic ascent, (s)he has become a hindrance that must be left behind, to wait for the Traveller’s return. The qada has given the text its structure and the Qur’n much of its vocabu lary. Yet, in moving the narrative along, the primary tool seems to be free asso ciation. Thus, e.g., the verb in § 26 (fa-qaa‘tu l-anhr “I crossed the rivers) associates with ‘cutting (off)’ and leads in § 27 to inqaa‘a l-m‘u “water was cut off, which further produces the idea of water being cut off from a mill. This causes the building to collapse — the word bin’ probably associating with Q 2: 22, where this word is equated with sam’. This associates with the collapse The astral reference in Q 24: 35 seems to be used by Suhraward as a starting point for the astrological allusions in §§ 33–36.
This tallies with the usual Sufi doctrine of reason, which is an aid in the beginning of the Path but later becomes a shackle.
116 P h i l o s o p h y o f I l l u m i n a t i o n * J. H m e e n - A n t t i l a of the sky with its rotating, mill-like movement which grinds the celestial bodies in § 28 and becomes a machine of eschatological horrors. In § 39, comes a striking association, one of the text’s most intriguing allu sions. The Qur’nic verse 19: 90 is directed against those who claim that the Merciful has a child. Here, Suhraward describes the goal of the Traveller in an thropomorphic terms (father, old man) but at the same time alludes to a passage which strongly reprimands those who claim that a parental relation exists be tween God and any being. The father in Suhraward’s story is, of course, not God Himself, but a lower emanation, as explained at the end (§§ 42–43), yet the reader will have had the feeling that it is God who is addressing the Traveller and his companion, and this feeling will have been strengthened by the reference to Q 28: 30 in § 9. If this is a conscious allusion, one should be able to explain it. It might be a delicate disavowal of the basic metaphor of the story, warning that the reader should not take the allegory at face value. On the other hand, we may instead have here an unconscious association. Suhraward has been breaking one of the most basic rules of Islam, not to describe God in anthropomorphical terms. In § 39, after a most anthropomorphic description (“[I] saw our father, a grand old man) Suhraward uses one of the strongest Qur'nic condemnations of anthro pomorphic description, in connection with a Mosaic scene of utter confusion, lexically linked to the Sufi technical term ayra (here, § 39, mutaayyir). This is the ayra one meets with when overstepping the limits of reason and continuing the ascent. Translated into logical language, this paragraph in both cases dis avows the metaphorical language used throughout the story and reminds the reader that (s)he is reading an allegory, but, again, without explicitly saying so.
Instead of a coarse direct admonition, Suhraward uses a subtle allusion, perhaps so subtle as to have evaded the author himself. If this allusion is unconscious, it shows how Suhraward is working with free association, or, better, how free association is working with Suhraward. In the Surrealistic movement, automatic writing proceeding from associations was con sidered to generate texts of a higher level of reality than ordinary, premeditated writing would do. Such a technical approach would have been strange to Suhra ward, but the sequences of free association do produce a somewhat similar re sult. The Qur’nic quotations carry the narrative along through lexical associa A similar association is found in § 15, where the Qur’nic expression f mawjin ka-l-jibl introduces the word jibl, associated with Mount Sinai, thus introducing a Mosaic theme into a Noachical scene. Likewise, the word bayt in § 30 leads to a reference to bayt in § 31.
Cf. footnote 17.
A similar half-conscious self-critique may also be found in the extremely obscure and ambiguous § 33, where Suhraward quotes part of Q 3: 7. This verse criticizes those who turn to the obscure verses of the Qur’n instead of the unambiguous ones. Again, Suhraward alludes to a whole verse by quoting only a part of it.
Suhraward’s Western Exile as Artistic Prose tions. The quotations are selected by the author, but they in their turn govern the story.
An intricate web of allusions and free associations characterizes the text. The learned quotations do not place the author in any straightjacket but, on the con trary, lend vividness to his narrative and propel the story on. In fact, the liveliest passage with the most vivid description and rapid movement is at the same time the most heavily dependent on the Qur’n. At least two thirds of §§ 13–24, and especially the storm scene in §§ 16–21, are based on the Qur’n. The quotations mean that the Qur’nic text reverberates throughout The Western Exile: the nar ration is intensive, as Suhraward does not need to elaborate on his allusions. He can use his words very economically: short sentences are layered with meaning, thanks to the recurrent allusions. The stories of Moses and Noah are not told in The Western Exile but the allusions nevertheless draw their Qur’nic stories into the narrative.
Is The Western Exile an innovative piece of literature? According to the widespread opinion of late prose being of inferior value and stagnant, it should not be. Yet, on closer inspection, it proves to be built on an intricate web of allu sions, with ever-changing allegorical relations between the text’s characters and the world. The Qur’nic quotations are not there to give prestige to a religious text but form the very essence of the text, the whole narrative being built on, and governed by them. It seems that sometimes the events are derived from free as sociation with the vocabulary of the quotations, or from their immediate context in the Qur’n.
The Western Exile is also innovative in terms of genre. It is difficult to clas sify the text. In its way, it is a unique absurd allegory, borrowing its basic struc ture from Arabic poetry but working on Qur’nic material to convey a mystico philosophical meaning.
The Western Exile is not an unoriginal piece of literature. On the contrary, it is an evocative story challenging the reader to follow its windings through an ever-changing set of allegories and a labyrinth of quotations. In a certain sense, the story resembles a dream voyage through a fluid reality. Read as it stands, The Western Exile is a fine piece of experimental prose.
Bibliography Arberry A.J. (transl.). The Koran. The World’s Classics. Oxford, 1964.
Arberry A.J. (transl.). Muslim Saints and Mystics. Episodes from the Tadhkirat al-Auliya’ (Memorial of the Saints) by Farid al-Din Attar. Persian Heritage Series 1. London, 1966.
‘Ar Fard al-Dn. Tadhkirat al-awliy’. Ed. R.A. Nicholson. 2 vols. London, 1905– 1907.
al-Bayw. Anwr al-tanzl wa-asrr al-ta’wl. 5 vols. Beirut: s.a.
118 P h i l o s o p h y o f I l l u m i n a t i o n * J. H m e e n - A n t t i l a Corbin H. (trad.). Shihboddn Yahy Sohravard, Shaykh al-Ishrq: L’Archange em pourpr. Quinze traits et rcits mystiques traduits du persan et de l’arabe. Paris:
Corbin H. Avicenne et le rcit visionnaire. Paris: Verdier, 1999.
Corbin H. (d.). Oeuvres philosophiques et mystiques de Shihaboddin Sohravardi. II.
Repr. Thran, 2001.
van Gelder G.J. Close Relationships. Incest and Inbreeding in Classical Arabic Literature.
London–New York, 2005.
Hmeen-Anttila J. MAQAMA. A History of a Genre. Diskurse der Arabistik 5. Wies baden: Harrassowitz, 2002.
Hmeen-Anttila J. The Essay and Debate (al-Risla and al-Munara) // Allen R., Ri chards D.S. (eds.). The Cambridge History of Arabic Literature. Arabic Literature in the Post-Classical Period. Cambridge: CUP, 2006. PP. 134–144, 431–432.
Hmeen-Anttila J. Short Stories in Classical Arabic Literature: The Case of Khlid ibn afwn and Umm Salama // Behzazi L. and Behmardi V. (eds.). The Weaving of Words: Approaches to Classical Arabic Prose. Beiruter Texte und Studien. Vol. 112.
Beirut: Orient Institut, 2009. P. 35–54.
Ibn Manr. Lisn al-‘arab. Ed. ‘Al Shr. 18 vols. Beirut, 1408/1988.
Ibn Qutaybah. al-Shi‘r wa-l-shu‘ar’. Ed. M.J. De Goeje. Leiden: Brill, 1904.
Thackston W.M. (trans.). Suhraward. The Philosophical Allegories and Mystical Trea tises. A Parallel Persian-English Text. Costa Mesa: Mazda, 1999.
Philosophy of Illumination: Suhrawardi and his School Mehdi Aminrazavi (University of Mary Washington, USA) HOW AVICENNIAN WAS SUHRAWARDI’S THEORY OF KNOWLEDGE? In what follows, I will argue that, despite apparent differences and adherence to two different schools of thought, Ibn Sina and Suhrawardi essentially offer the same theories of knowledge. It will be argued that Ibn Sina’s Peripatetic orien tation and Suhrawardi’s ishraqi perspective have both maintained and adhered to the same epistemological framework while the philosophical languages, in which their respective epistemologies are discussed, are different. Of particular interest in our investigation is to show that both masters have adhered to a hierarchy of knowledge which is as follows:
1. Knowledge by definition;
2. Knowledge by sense perception;
3. Knowledge through a priori concepts;
4. Knowledge by presence;
5. Knowledge through direct experience: mysticism.
To begin with, the question of epistemology is inevitably intertwined with the ontological scheme upon which a philosophical school is built. In this regard, both Ibn Sina and Suhrawardi follow the same ontological structure although the “fabrics” of their ontologies are different, for Ibn Sina it is Being and for Suhra wardi it is light. It is this similarity, which allows us to engage ourselves in a comparative study of their respective views on the question of knowledge.
Ibn Sina and Suhrawardi both adhere to a hierarchical ontology whose vari ous levels are emanations from One source. For Ibn Sina, this source is the wjib al-wujd whom he equates with pure Being and for Suhrawardi it is pure light whom he refers to as the Light of Lights. Since it is only the Absolute Truth (God), which knows Itself absolutely, it then follows that the knowledge by all other beings of the Absolute is relative. While the relativity of knowledge in an act of cognition with regard to the knowledge of God is self-evident, how it is This is a revised version of the article, which was first published in the Philosophy, East & West, April, 53:2 (2003), P. 203–214.
120 Philosophy of Illumination * Mehdi Aminrazavi that the knower comes to know the object of its cognition is complex and subject to debate.
Both masters begin by discussing the place and significance of empiricism and rationalism in acquiring knowledge. Since particulars are known only through the senses, it can be concluded that knowledge on its most basic and concrete level is that which is acquired through the sense perception. Ontologi cally speaking, as we move away from Ibn Sina’s pure Being and Suhrawardi’s Light of Lights, abstraction and purity decreases and the hierarchy solidifies until it loses its purity completely and that is the material domain where particulars are. Therefore, since particulars represent the knowables on the lowest level, the means by which particulars are known, i.e. sense perception, are of the least sig nificance insofar as epistemology is concerned.
1. Knowledge by definition Sense perception is the basis for knowledge by definition, a method elabo rated upon by both philosophers and criticized severely by Suhrawardi who rea lized the limited scope of it in providing us with knowledge. According to Peri patetics, an existent being consists of an essence and existence and all attributes are merely accidental. In a chapter entitled “Destruction of the Rules of Defini tion”,2 in his ikmat al-ishrq, Suhrawardi criticizes the Peripatetics for the dis tinction they made between “general essence” (jins) and “differentiae” (fal).