Suhrawardi’s “First Vision” Account

Suhrawardi’s “First Vision”

Shahab al-Din Yahya ibn Habash Suhrawardi (1154-1191 CE)
Persian-Iranian philosopher and mystic


A narrative and a dream; For some time I was prey to an intense obsession. I ceaselessly practised meditation and spiritual exercises, since the problem of knowledge assailed me with insoluble difficulties. What they say about it in books brought me no light.

On one particular night I experienced a dreamlike ecstasy. Suddenly I was wrapped in gentleness; there was a blinding flash, then a very diaphanous light in the likeness of a human being. I watched attentively and there he was: Helper of souls, Imam of wisdom, Primus Magister, whose form filled me with wonder and whose shining beauty dazzled me. He came toward me, greeting me so kindly that my bewilderment faded and my alarm gave way to a feeling of familiarity. And then I began to complain to him of the trouble I had with this problem of knowledge.

“Come back (awaken) to yourself,” he said to me,” and your problem will be solved.”

“How so?” I asked.

“Is the knowledge which you have of yourself a direct perception of yourself by yourself, or do you get it from something else…?”

(from Book of Elucidations (Hiqmat al-Ishraq), in Henry Corbin, Nancy Pearson, Spiritual Body And Celestial Earth: From Mazdean Iran To Shi’ite Iran, Princeton University Press: 1977, 118-119.)

Some of the similarities of this vision to Joseph Smith’s First Vision seem to be:

  • mentally stressed by a problem over a lengthy time period
  • finding no answers in the typical places
  • the vision coming on to him suddenly
  • being wrapped in the vision
  • blinding flash of light
  • seeing a likeness of a human being in the light
  • having a conversation with the being to solve the problem

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