An Early Attempt at Unifying the Universe: Suhrawardī’s Concept of Miqdār


Though sharing the general framework of twelfth-century Islamic thought and classical cosmology based on the theory of emanation in common with the Peripatetic school, Illuminationist philosophy diverged from it in conceptual and methodical terms and thereby acquired the self-identity of an original system of thought. Criticizing the Peripatetic theory of matter for being based on the concepts of matter and form, Shihāb al-Dīn Suhrawardī (1154-91) conceived a theory of body based on miqdār (magnitude) in order to supplement his designation of the universe captured in the notion of nūr (light). In accordance with the goals and motives of its time, this study analyzes his attempt with respect to the problem of defining the body, its constituents, and differentiation, and individuation. Isolating the body from non-sensible constituents and determinants (e.g., matter and form) and reducing it to sheer quantity, the Illuminationist theory of matter is viewed as an early attempt to transcend the Peripatetic dichotomies like matter-form, intellect-intelligible, sublunary-celestial, and so on in order to unify the corporeal universe.


Incorporeal light (nūr) Magnitude (miqdār) Illuminationist Theory of Matter Matter-Form Peripatetic Theory of Matter Perfection and Deficiency