Meditations on Suhrawardī Nūr Mujarrad

(‘light made bare’, or ‘denuded light’ – trans.O. Louchakova)

Known less than his illustrious spiritual contemporary, Mu?y al-Din ibn ‘Arabi, Shihab al-Din Suhrawardi was a practicing 12th century Sufi gnostic and metaphysician who developed a unique unitive metaphysics of light. The degree to which we can adopt his metaphysical philosophy as a way of practice depends on the correct reading of the key term in Suhrawardi’s philosophy, nur mujarrad (Louchakova-Schwartz, 2013, to appear). A direct (non-metaphorical) signification in Suhrawardi’s key term, nur mujarrad, clarifies the question of essences in the doctrine of Wa?dad al-Wujud. It is possible that Suhrawardi’s legacy of egological self-investigations assisted ibn ‘Arabi in offsetting the pressure of mu‘ta’zilite metaphorical interpretations of the Qur’an. The juxtaposition of idealistic (rationalistic) and phenomenological interpretations of the concept of light may explain why the successor of Qunawi in the lineage of ibn ‘Arabi,  Qu?b al Shirazi, found it necessary to write extensive commentaries on ?ikmat al-Ishraq.

The term nur mujarrad (Arabic) is explained in Suhrawardi’s ?ikmat al­-Ishraq. Translated by Walbridge and Ziai as “incorporeal light”, by Henry Corbin as “immaterial light”, this light “cannot be pointed to, nor be located in a body, nor have spatial dimensions" (112).  The adjective mujarrad, which is past participle of the verb jarrada (“to strip away, remove the outside covering, peel off the shell”) does not means “incorporeal” or “immaterial”.  I translate nur mujarrad as “denuded light” or “light made bare”. This translation points to the specific mental operation, tajrid, which can be used for meditation on the nature of Reality and the sameness of internal and external or visible light.

In The Epistle of the High Towers, Corbin mentions a fraternity of mystics whom he calls mujarrad-s, whose goal is to join the light of taw?id. In Bakar, Osman. B. 1998. Classification of knowledge in Islam: A study in Islamic philosophies of science. Cambridge: Islamic Texts Society, I found a reference to commentary made by S.H. Nasr with regard to a possible transmission of internal practices from Shihab al-Din Suhrawardi; I believe that even though there is no direct lineage remaining, it is possible to reconstruct such practice by the careful reading of Suhrawardi’s text.

Please click here to listen to a podcast at Ibn-Arabi symposium, Lecture about Suhrawardi at MIAS Symposium 2013

The practice is as follows:

In your own consciousness, differentiate the sentience by which everything is known to you (i.e., perceived by you). Meditate on the nature of this sentience, and contemplate the similarities between the sentience in yourself, and visible light: both illumine things and make them appear to us. The result of this contemplation is the recognition of the cosmic nature of sentience whereby it appears as awareness on the side of subjective consciousness, and as light on the side of objects.

You can further extend this meditation towards feeling the foundational, certain quality of this light, -- it is what gives one a feeling of the reality of things.

Related Publications

  • Louchakova-Schwartz, O. 2015. A Phenomenological Approach to Illuminationist philosophy: Suhrawardi’s nur mujarrad and Husserl’s reduction. Philosophy East and West, xx-xx (to appear in Oct 2015).
  • Louchakova-Schwartz, O. 2014. The seal of philosophy: Tymieniecka’s Phenomenology of Life in Islamic metaphysical perspective. In O.
  • Louchakova-Schwartz & D. Quintern (Eds.) Islamic and Occidental Philosophy in Dialogue. Analecta Hiusserliana, xx-xx, Dordrecht: Springer.
  • Louchakova-Schwartz, O. 2013. Direct intuition: Strategies of knowledge in the Phenomenology of Life, with reference to the Philosophy of Illumination. In A.-T.-Tymeiniecka (ed.),  Phenomenology and the Human Positioning in the Cosmos, Book 1.  Analecta Husserliana CXIII, 291-315. Dordrecht: Springer.  
  • Louchakova-Schwartz, O. 2011. Self and world: Vedanta, Sufism, and Presocratics in a phenomenological view.  In A.-T. Tymieniecka (Ed.), Phenomenology/Ontopoiesis: Retrieving Cosmic Horizons of Antiquity (pp. 423-438)Dordrecht, Netherlands:Springer.Louchakova, O. 2008. The experience of sohbet. Newsletter for the International Association of Sufism7, 2-3.