One of the most important Sufi practices is 'tasawwur-i murshid', the attunement to a master who is very dear to us. The intention behind is, that this being incorporates the qualities, which we want to develop, in a much better way than we are able to do.

In reality we try to come into contact with our own self in this practice. But it is difficult to attune to something beyond time, space, and form. So the 'antlitz' of the master gives us orientation. But at the same time it is more than our own self. The Sufi-master Shihabuddin Yahya Suhrawardi says, that on the plane of Alam al-Mithal, the plane of imagination, it is possible to really meet those beings. This can happen in visions, or in dreams, especially during a retreat.

Suhrawardi is one of those masters who I hold in high esteem. I studied his life and his teachings, and I encouraged my Arabic teacher Sonia Al-Dulayme to translate some of the shaykh's prayers in his 'Waridat wa Taqdisat' from Arabic into German. The prayers you can find here.

   Suhrawardi's dargah in Aleppo/Syria


Life and Teachings

Suhrawardi lived from 1154 until 1191, and he is said to be one of the most outstanding Sufi masters besides Ibn Arabi. In his philosophical writings he combines elements from Zoroastrism, Pythagoreanism, Platonism, Hermeticism and Islam. His thinking was very radical for his time, for example he promoted the idea of a universal wisdom which underlies all divine revelations in different religions.

Suhrawardi also developed further the old Persian concept of 'divine governance'. According to Iranian tradition the kings were illumined by a divine light (kharra-yi kiyani), that bestowed them with healing and occult powers and the skills they needed to rule the country. But unlike his ancestors Suhrawardi held that not only the kings can receive this divine light and the ability to rule, but every person who is open for the revelation of God. The Shaykh also tried to teach this wisdom to certain rulers of his time. One of them was Saladin's young son Malik al-Zahir, who ruled over Aleppo. But the representants of the traditional Islamic schools feared the brilliant, tartly Sufi with his radical theses, and they intervened at Saladin's court, until Suhrawardi was sentenced to death in 1191.

Suhrawardi's 'Philosophy of Illumination', his theory of  'Knowledge by Presence' and his concept of Hurqalya, the world of imagination, take effect until our times. One of the best known representatives of Suhrawardi's school of philosophy is the Iranian Mulla Sadra. Some of the Shaykh's works even reached India and were translated into Sanskrit. And there existed a Hebrew translation. Only in the Western world Suhrawadi stayed quite unknown because of the lack of a Latin translation. In our time the importance of Suhrawardi was rediscovered by scientists like Henri Corbin and John Walbridge.

You can read more about the life and the teachings of the Shaykh including an extensive list of primary and secondary literature in this paper about Suhrawardi.