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Soherwardi the Great Islamic Mystic: His doctrine of Illumination

According to the illuminationist doctrine, started by famous Islamic mystic Soherwardi, knowledge can only be acquired if God gives you " taufiq"  or an opportunity to know.
Knowledge comes to a person when active intellect illumines the passive intellect of a man. These two concepts of Active and Passive intellect are taken from Aristotle's De Anima, or On Soul  . In this book Aristotle discussed about different faculties of human soul and how they work.
In discussing the faculties of knowledge Aristotle describes both sense perception and intellection. 
Intellection means to know an idea, or form, or concept. Object of intellection is always something that is intelligible, and not given to perception.
There are two types of intellects in human soul, these are passive and active intellects.
Passive intellect receives ideas; on it ideas and forms or anything intelligible is imprinted. 
Passive intellect cannot know anything by itself; it is only the receptive instrument. 
It is the active intellect that illumines the ideas, forms and any intelligible stuff present or imprinted on the passive intellect.
To understand clearly the relationship between passive and active intellect , one can use the analogy of light, eye , and objects.
Human cannot see anything if there is no light. It is the light that enables the eye to see things. In the absence of light human eye cannot function.
Similarly passive intellect is like human eye and ideas are objects. To understand something is like seeing an object with the eye.
Active intellect is like the light that illumines every object , so that eye can behold them.
According to some mystics and philosophers active intellect that allows you to know something, is the divine light, that shines to illumine human intellect if God wishes so. Active intellect is the messenger of God, Gabriel.
So, when one knows something- to know means to know that something exists and why it exists- it is the providence, God himself , that shone the light to illumine human intellect.
Some people considered this understanding part , the rational soul, as eternal and indestructible.
Soherwardi's community, he and his disciples, used to celebrate each and every incident when they were able to know something.  They believed that when they knew something, it was because the active intellect shone in their souls and illumined it on a certain issue; active intellect enlightened them on certain issues.
Since active intellect , or the illuminating light, the divine light comes only from the God himself, therefore, it is the highest human achievement to get illumined on any issue.
To know something is to relate oneself with the God.
That is why whenever the followers of Soherwardi knew something they celebrated it , for they thought that they were in communion with God. 

Khalid Jamil Rawat


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