Volume 4, Issue 1 (2014)                   Naqshejahan 2014, 4(1): 65-74 | Back to browse issues page

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Rahbarnia Z, Rouzbahani R. Manifestation of Khorrah Light [the Divine Light/Illumination] in the Iranian-Islamic Architecture from Artistic and Mystic Aspects With an Emphasis on the Ideas of Sheykh Shahab ad-Din Suhrawardi. Naqshejahan. 2014; 4 (1) :65-74
URL: http://bsnt.modares.ac.ir/article-2-3960-en.html
1- Associat professor and member of the scientific board at the Faculty of Arts in Alzahra University
Abstract:   (11029 Views)
Sheykh Shahāb ad-Dīn Suhrawardī, as one of the great Moslem philosophers and theologian, founded his philosophy upon the doctrine of Illuminationism. His theories and teachings have deeply influenced the beliefs and performances of the Iranian artists. In view of this, the present research aims at investigating Suhravardī’s understanding of Illuminationism and hierarchy of lights. It also tries to trace manifestations of the khorrah light (or the Divine Light), which was of utmost significance in Suhravardī’s doctrine of Illuminationism, in the art of architecture. Finally, it is tried to answer the question “Which elements signify the manifestation of the Light - as conceived of in the Illuminationist Philosophy – in the Iranian-Islamic architecture?” Sheykh of Ishrāq [Suhrawardī] called God ‘the Light of All Lights’ [Nūr-ul-Anwār] and believed that the heaven and earth are made of God’s light; and all beings enjoy His light in proportion to their closeness to His light. He also believed that the light as existing at the stages of sense and matter is inferior to the light that exists in the more exalted stages. That is to say, the closer one gets to the Source of Light - ‘the Light of All Lights’ [Nūr-ul-Anwār] – the purer and brighter the light they get will be. Therefore, separation from the matter translates into moving and getting elevated toward the Source of Being and the Light of Existence and avoiding the lowest levels of existence and shadows. Furthermore, there is an eternal tie between art and philosophy/wisdom. The reason is that they are both perceived intuitively and expressed enigmatically. Therefore, it is through meditation and self-discipline that an artist may attain at that angel-like insight, which is the source of all celestial arts. Such works of arts are the fruits of an artist’s quest in the spiritual world and intuitive perception of the truths there. Like the Divine Knowledge and the doctrine of Illuminationism, the traditional art is expressed in the language of enigma, the very characteristic feature that enables it to establish an association between the most far-fetched inward concepts and the most superficial level of the existence in the outward world. From the above perspective, light is considered the symbol of existence in the sphere of the Islamic Architecture; and due to the fact that the mosque, regarded as the heart of the Islamic Architecture, is where all the secrets and mysteries of this architecture is manifested, the present article deals with the symbols of light in the architecture of mosques. The doctrine of Illuminationism propagated by Suhrawardī and other Illuminationist philosophers has influenced the Iranian culture and art (particularly, during the Timurid and Safavid rules, when Sheykh ‘s ideas were in their heyday). As one can obviously see in their works, Iranian architects had a spiritual approach toward light, like the Illuminationist philosophers of their homeland did. Manifestation of the Divine Light in the form of words of Azān [the Call for Prayers] from minarets, provision of light through envisaging lamps in the epicenter of mihrabs (i.e., the mishkāt), installation of Koranic tablets containing verses from the Nūr Chapter, and the arch-shaped mihrabs and the muqarnases therein…, they all appear to be the incarnation of lights, which symbolize the stage on which the Divine Lights shine. Application of ‘shamsehs’, the arrangement of skylights on the domes, the muqarnases that absorb the light and diffuse it delicately, the latticed windows that let pass the light, the reflection of the light in the bright enameled tiles, continuous vaults, and the colorful glasses, which signify the unity in diversity with their harmonious colors functioning as a medium of transmitting the light, and presence of yellow and gold colors symbolizing the Light of All Lights [Nūr-ul-Anwār] in the terrestrial world…, they all substantiate the fact that the Iranian architects had an Illuniationist viewpoint and practiced under the influence of that doctrine Because the Iranian Architecture is all about light and illumination. The survival of everything hinges upon light. For the purpose of this research, data and information were collected through documentation, the research was conducted on a descriptive basis, and the analysis was made in an analytical fashion. Based on the results obtained, no symbol or manifestation compares to the light in terms of its affinity and propinquity with the Divine Unity. For the same reason, the Muslim Iranian architects have tried their best to use light in whatever they created. Elements like the minarets, mihrabs, muqarnas [corbels], tiles, continuous vaults, colorful glass, and conspicuous presence of yellow and gold colors are all symbols of the Light of All Lights [Nūr-ul-Anwār]. In like manner, the concept of ‘Khorrah’ or the Divine Light has manifested itself in architecture through ‘Shamseh’ and application of latticed surfaces like luminous halos under the domes in the Iranian-Islamic architecture. Therefore, the role of light in the Islamic architecture is to symbolize the Principle of [divine] Manifestation. The utmost function of the elements applied in the architecture is manifestation of God; that is, ‘the Light, and the manifestation of the Ubiquitous Light of the firmaments and the earth, that is, the Only True Being. That is why the Iranian architects would try their best to use the element of light in whatever they created. One of the fundamental notions in Iranian’s Doctrine of Illuminationism on which Suhrawardī placed primary emphasis, is the notion of ‘Khorrah’. ‘Khorrah’ signifies observation of the Divine Lights by the spiritual wayfarers [sālek] in course of their spiritual journey. In the traditional art of Persian miniature, khorrah was is delineated as a halo around the heads of the characters. In architecture, the same has been demonstrated in the form of ‘Shamseh’. The circular layout of the skylights under the domes and the way light enters through the latticed windows clearly conjure up the image of a luminary halo in an emphatic mode. Manifestation of the khorrah light in the form of shamsehs and the skylights of the mosque domes can be regarded as another significant finding of this study.
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Article Type: Analytical Article | Subject: Architecture|.
Received: 2014/06/30 | Accepted: 2014/03/21 | Published: 2014/09/16

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