Ibn al-'Arabi's Barzakh: The Concept of the Limit and the Relationship between God and the World by Salman H. Bashier (SUNY: State University of New York Press) This book explores how Ibn al-'Arabi (1165-1240) used the concept of barzakh (the Limit) to deal with the philosophical problem of the relationship between God and the world, a major concept disputed in ancient and medieval Islamic thought. The term "barzakh" indicates the activity or actor that differentiates between things and that, paradoxically, then provides the context of their unity. Author Salman H. Bashier looks at early thinkers and shows how the synthetic solutions they developed provided the groundwork for Ibn al-'Arabi's unique concept of barzakh. Bashier discusses Ibn al-'Arabi's development of the concept of barzakh ontologically through the notion of the Third Thing and epistemologically through the notion of the Perfect Man, and compares Ibn al-'Arabi's vision with Plato's.
"Salmon H. Bashier has rightly identified the importance of the concept of the Limit (barzakh), a central theme in Ibn al-'Arabi's thought, and situates the concept in two new contexts: earlier Islamic thought as a whole, and the larger Western philosophic tradition. It is a worthy ambition." —John Walbridge
The Story of Islamic Philosophy: Ibn Tufayl, Ibn Al-'Arabi, and Others on the Limit Between Naturalism and Traditionalism by Salman H. Bashier (SUNY: State University of New York Press) In this innovative work, Salman H. Bashier challenges traditional views of Islamic philosophy. While Islamic thought from the crucial medieval period is often depicted as a rationalistic elaboration on Aristotelian philosophy and an attempt to reconcile it with the Muslim religion, Bashier puts equal emphasis on the influence of Plato's philosophical mysticism. This shift encourages a new reading of Islamic intellectual tradition, one in which boundaries between philosophy, religion, mysticism, and myth are relaxed. Bashier shows the manner in which medieval Islamic philosophers reflected on the relation between philosophy and religion as a problem that is intrinsic to philosophy and shows how their deliberations had the effect of redefining the very limits of their philosophical thought. The problems of the origin of human beings, human language, and the world in Islamic philosophy are discussed. Bashier highlights the importance of Ibn Tufayl's Hayy Ibn Yaqzan, a landmark work often overlooked by scholars, and the thought of the great Sufi mystic Ibn al-Arabi to the mainstream of Islamic philosophy.
Ibn al-'Arabi's Barzakh: The Concept of the Limit and the Relationship between God and the World by Salman H. Bashier (SUNY: State University of New York Press) Excerpt: In the year 1562 a Turkish aka came to Istanbul. Six years later he became the watchman of the sultan's garden. One day he entered the garden and watched a musician demonstrating his skills before a group of people, bringing forth "laments like the nightingale and passions like a butterfly."' The gathering group applauded the musician and showed him great respect and admiration. When he was left alone the aka implored him to be his instructor in the art of music. The musician brought forth a plectrum and handed it to the aka, who locked himself in his room and, day and night, he practiced his hand. His skill increased so much that when he was practicing even the shadow of his hand could not be seen. Exercising his skill for many days and nights, the aka was eventually overcome by sleep. He saw in a dream a group of gypsy musicians holding all kinds of musical instruments and playing sounds that "threw the universe in tumult." Then after showing the aga great respect and reverence they said to him, "If you have liking for our art, if you want to learn it, God bless you!" The aga turned to his teacher, the musician, and asked his help in interpreting the dream. The musician said:
In truth this art is a gypsy art. But they are an ignorant tribe. What is a note [nagme]? What is time [zaman]? What is harmony [mulayemet]? What is dissonance [münaferet]? What is melody [lahn]? What is interval [bu'd]? What is tone [savt]? What is song [gina]? They know not. A note is the same as a deliberate producing of the sound ten. Ten . . . consists of two letters. When a person produces it with a specific tone, that is a note. And this is the definition of time. Time is the sound of that interval between the voicing of the letter ta and the beginning of the letter nun when a person pronounces the word ten. In the technical terminology of the science of music, a tone resembling ten . . . is called a tone. Harmony is that which is agreeable to nature. Dissonance is that which is offensive to nature. In the technical terminology of music, melody means to play the sound of notes high in some places and low in other places, that is treble and bass. Interval is what they call the space between two tones.
Although the art of music is a gypsy one, the gypsies do not possess knowledge of it. They do not know the definitions of what music is made of, that is, the definitions of note, time, harmony, dissonance, melody, interval, tone, and song. The musician provides liminal definitions for these terms. For example, the "note" is defined as a liminal entity that separates between the ta and the nun. A person may, with many specific tones, produce the (one) word ten in many different ways. This depends on the interval that he strikes between the letters ta and nun, that is, on the sound produced when a variant interval is specified. Time is identified with the sound that is the product of striking that interval or the function of the space that separates between the two letters. A good musician is one who knows how to keep to harmony and away from dissonance; is one who knows how to strike a balance between the two components (letters) that constitute a specific tone and between two specific notes in a manner that is agreeable, or not offensive to nature.
By saying that the gypsies do not know what time is the musician does not mean that they do not know that time is the function of the space that separates between two letters. Acknowledgement of the literal definition of time does not guarantee real knowledge of it. For, like the relationship between the ta and the nun, this knowledge is to remain relatively hidden as long as it is relatively determined. The moment the relationship is specified it is no longer the relationship the knowledge of which is of the musician's real concern. This knowledge is and remains nonmanifest, even as the musician who determines it, and is determined by it, is. This is, in my view, Ibn al-Arabi's mystical knowledge. In the year 1190 in Cordoba he witnessed a vision: "Know that when God showed to me and made me contemplate all the Messengers and prophets of the human species from Adam down to Muhammad, in a scene [mashhad] in which it was granted to me to participate at Cordoba in 586, none of them spoke to me with the exception of Had, who explained to me the reason for their gathering." Ibn al-'Arabi does not tell us about the real reason behind the gathering of the Messengers and the Prophets of God either in this or in a more detailed account of the same vision, in which the prophet Had informed him that the Prophets and Messengers of God had come to visit a certain man.4 However, as one of his modern biographers pointed out, Ibn al-Arabi confided the secret of the gathering to certain disciples of his, who transmitted it from generation to generation until the mystery was divulged by Jandi (d. 1330), the commentator on Ibn al-Arabi's Fusus al-Hikam: The Prophets and the Messengers assembled to congratulate Ibn al-'Arabi on being nominated the Seal of Sainthood, the supreme heir to the Seal of the Prophets.
Ibn al- 'Arabi's notion of the Seal of the Sainthood has received a considerable amount of discussion by several of his scholars, the most important of which was provided by Michel Chodkiewicz. It is also a notion that has come under serious attacks in both medieval and in modern times, especially the idea that sainthood encompasses the divine message (Hullo) and prophecy (nubuwwa), and that in the person of each prophet the saint is superior to the prophet.' In the context of discussing the encounter between Khadir, one of God's saints, and Moses His prophet, Ibn al-'Arabi emphasizes that the saint possesses knowledge that is not available to the prophet:
Imam of the Era, 'Abd al-Qadir, said, "Assemblies of the prophets! You have been given the title, but we have been given what you were not given." As for his words, "You have been given the title," he means that the ascription of the word prophet has been interdicted to us, even though the general prophecy pervades the great ones among the Men. And as for his words, "but we have been given what you were not given," that is the meaning of Khadir's words, to whose rectitude and priority in knowledge of God has given witness. Moses, God's chosen speaking companion brought near to Him, went to the trouble of seeking Khadir, even though it is known that the ulama see Moses as more excellent than Khadir. Khadir said to him, "0 Moses, I have a knowledge that God has taught me, and that you do not know." This is exactly the meaning of (Abd al-Qadir's words, "We have been given what you were not given."
The knowledge that Khadir knew and Moses did not is knowledge of non-manifestation. According to Ibn al-'Arabi, this is the knowledge of the non-manifest letter waw, which is between the manifest letters kaf and nun in the divine word kun (be!). The word k[u]n consists of two manifest letters: kaf (k) and nun (n), and a nonmanifest letter: waw (u). The word k[u]n, therefore, represents all that is manifest and nonmanifest. Thus, it signifies God, the Real, who is the liminal entity that brings the aspects of nonmanifestation and manifestation together. It also signifies the perfect human being, His deputy on earth and the configuration within which the Real manifests his words in the outside existence:
He says, Our only word to a thing, when We desire it, is to say to it "Be!" [kun] [16:40]. Thus He brought three letters, two of which are manifest—the kaf and the nun—and one of which [the waw] is non-manifest and hidden. . .. In this level, the perfect human being assumes the deputyship of the Real in differentiating between the prior word and the word that follows it. . . . The existence [wujud in Chittick] of the letter in every point of articulation is its being engendered. If no one engenders it here, then who engenders it? Inescapably, the one who engenders it is between every two words or letters so as to give existence to the second word or the second letter and to attach it to the first. . . . In speech there is no escape from priority, posteriority, and order. So also, in the existent things, which are the entities of the divine words, there is priority, posteriority, and order. This is made manifest by the Aeon, and the Aeon is God, according to an explicit text. The Prophet said, "Do not curse the Aeon, for God is the Aeon." Within the Aeon, order, priority, and posteriority become manifest in the existence [wujud in Chittick] of the cosmos."
Dahr (Aeon) means "time." According to Ibn al-'Arabi, God applied to himself the word dahr and not zaman in order to distinguish his ruling property from the ruling property of the time that is imagined as a straight line with beginning and end. Instead, God's time is the Limit, which resembles any point that we may suppose on the circumference of the circle, and which can be considered both the beginning and the end of the circle."' Every point on the circumference of the circle resembles a limit between a preceding point and a following one. The circle itself has neither a beginning nor an end, but on its circumference there can be found endless points, as there can be found endless beginnings and ends. Like points on the circumference of the circle the words of God are infinitely many. But the infinitely many words of God originate from a single word. That word is the divine command kun, which consists of two manifest letters (kaf and nun) and a nonmanifest letter (waw). God engenders existence or brings his commands into manifestation by differentiating or setting limits between the letters or the words that are latent in his Essence. When God desires to make this affair known, he speaks within the configuration of the perfect human being. The perfect human being assumes the deputyship of the Real in differentiating between the engendered prior word and the word that follows it.
"Engendered existence," which comes to be through the divine command kun, translates al-kawn in Arabic. As William Chittick points out, it is possible that Ibn al-Arabi means by al-kawn "all that is," which is both God and the cosmos, and it is also possible that he means by it "everything other than God." Chittick thinks that Ibn al-'Arabi has this second meaning in mind. I think, however, that al-kawn may, perhaps paradoxically, be subject to both interpretations. This, I think, is what constitutes the definition of Ibn al- 'Arabi's most celebrated as well as most misinterpreted notion of the Oneness of Being (wandat al-wujud), which he expresses in terms of unification that is not exclusive to differentiation. "Unification" is tawhid in Arabic. As Chittick points out, the grammatical form of the word involves an active stance of a person toward a certain object. Chittick writes, "Tawhid does not begin with unity, since that needs to be established. Rather, it begins with the recognition of diversity and difference. The integrated vision that tawhid implies must be achieved on the basis of recognized multiplicity."This assertion is different if not perhaps only apparently from what Sachiko Murata says, "Undifferentiation and differentiation are often considered synonymous with the terms all-comprehensiveness (jam') and dispersion (farq or tafriqa). As in similar pairs, the relationship is taken into account, not any absolute value attached to either side. What is differentiated from one point of view may be undifferentiated from another point of view. Undifferentiation is the higher, more powerful, more luminous, and prior dimension of reality. But it is able to manifest itself only through differentiation, which is lower, weaker, darker, and receptive toward its activity."
Chittick is correct in thinking that being aware of difference is prior to or a condition for recognizing unity. However, unification, or, to use Murata's term, undifferentiation remains in a sense a prior dimension of reality, since a certain form of unity or identity is required before any recognition that is based on setting (rational) limits could be started. At any rate, the two interpretations can be applied to Ibn al- 'Arabi's doctrine of the Oneness of Being, which has been subject to serious misinterpretations both in medieval and modern times. Abü Affifi, for example, interpreted this doctrine on the basis of pantheism and in terms signifying a static unity rather than a dynamic actuality. In his interpretation, God and the world are reduced to one ineffective unity in which the element of variegation is absent. Affifi is aware of the dialectical element dominating Ibn al-'Arabi's thought." However, by presenting this dialectical element merely as a formal principle," he overlooks the most fundamental notion of Ibn al- 'Arabi's thought, the notion of actuality that signifies the ceaseless unfolding of reality and its emergence into ever higher levels of unity. Consequently, he fails to grasp the true significance of the notion of paradoxicality intrinsic to Ibn al-'Arabi's thought, ascribing the paradoxical expressions in his writings to lack of philosophical training and his failure to compromise monotheistic Islam with concessions to pantheism.
Affifi wrote his work in a time in which the emphasis on rationalism was in its strongest phases." As Phillip Rosemann points out, in the study of medieval thought this emphasis was characteristic of the Newscholastic methodology of research." Rosemann's study of the history of medieval philosophy raises interesting points, especially regarding the present increasing interest in emphasizing the mystical component in medieval thought. Rosemann says that the Newscholastic stance, which was the dominant paradigm until about thirty years ago, turned out to be paradoxical since it adopted the very rationalist assumptions of the project of modernity, which it set out to combat. The result was that Newscholasticism focused its attention on the most rational thinkers of the Middle Ages and had little interest in medieval mystics, always favoring the thinkers of Latin Europe over Arabic and Jewish medieval thinkers. He explains the death of Newscholasticism as the outcome of a shift in the present time from the project of modernity, a shift that was caused by postmodernist emphasis on otherness and difference. This explains, according to him, the present day interest in mystical thinkers and in the mystical features of thinkers who were previously considered purely rational. This change of paradigm designates, according to Rosemann, an advance in our knowledge of the history of medieval philosophy. He insists, however, that the current postmodernist paradigm suffers from serious limitations, the most important of which is that it neglects the element of unity of the human knowledge and the social order and exaggerates difference. There is need for a new interpretation of the history of medieval philosophy, as this must relax its opting for partiality and difference by balancing it with serious reconsideration of wholeness and unity: "Philosophically, it is not enough to underline the multiplicity of coherent universes of discourse, analyzing each in and for itself, as this must inevitably lead to relativism. Relativism is logically untenable and self-destructive. Hence, we cannot content ourselves with parts, but rather need to move on to the whole, in which each of the parts finds its logical place."
Thus, Rosemann thinks that the postmodern approach of analycity anc relativism must be replaced by a new paradigm which gives equal weight to unity and universality. Among the scholars of Ibn al-Arabi are those who set in his thought the best potential for materializing this paradigm. Their voices which speak in favor of restoring the values of unity and universality to fragmented mind and world order, begin to sound so distinct that they sometimes verge on spiritual devotion. For example, Peter Young writes:
Can it be that this knowledge which was brought down through Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi has a purpose and future beyond guiding to completion those who have such an aptitude to receive, and to pursue their spiritual destiny? As was said before, an idea that is true is of great effect. How much more so this idea of ideas, that existence is an absolute unity and totally present everywhere without division. Could this idea not become the real distinction of this age in which we live, its guiding principle and light with which it moves? If so it will be the greatest revolution in the general consciousness that has yet taken place in mankind's short history.
Both Rosemann's and Young's words seem to be strongly in favor of unity and universality. We should keep in mind, however, that what seems to be a clear preference for unity over difference for those as well as for other scholars comes partially as a sort of reaction to a long Western philosophical tradition that has turned its back on the notion of the metaphysical unity of existence, and looked at the tendency toward metaphysical unity as a product of Oriental imagination. With its strong rationalistic trends Western intellectual tradition has rejected this tendency and, by doing so, pushed its rationalistic assumptions to their ultimate limits. What these thinkers seek is harmony and balance rather than exaggerating the value of unity in a manner that completely excludes difference. William Chittick expresses this point briefly in his introduction to the Sufi Path of Knowledge: "Somewhere along the line, the Western intellectual tradition took a wrong turn. . . . Many important thinkers have concluded that the West never should have abandoned certain teachings about reality which it shared with the East. They have turned to the Oriental traditions in the hope of finding resources which may help revive what has been lost and correct the deep psychic and spiritual imbalances of our civilization. One result of this ongoing search for a lost intellectual and spiritual heritage has been the rediscovery of the importance of imagination."
Imagination in Ibn al-'Arabi is an intermediate reality, the reality of the Limit, or what Ibn al-'Arabi calls barzakh. Barzakh is a term that represents an activity or an active entity that differentiates between two things and (paradoxically) through that very act of differentiation provides for their unity. Ibn al- 'Arabi's mystical concept of the Limit is contrasted with Aristotle's, according to which the Limit is the ultimate part of each thing, or the first part outside of which no part can be found, or the first part inside of which all parts exist. Aristotle says also that the Limit is the essence of each thing, since it is by their limits that things are known. Ibn al-'Arabi thinks that the Limit is the essence of each thing as well. But the Limit, according to him, is the essence of each thing not in the sense that it is the first or the last part of a thing, since this partial definition of the Limit turns it into a duality that consists of two parts, as one of its parts is identified with one limited thing and the other part with another limited thing. In this case, the existence of another limit will be called for to provide for the unity of the posited duality. This process can go on indefinitely until we arrive at a concept of the Limit that meets the two limited things, between which it differentiates, with two faces that are one. This will be Ibn al- 'Arabi's paradoxical definition of the Limit.
Ibn al-'Arabi applies this paradoxical definition of the Limit to the antinomy" of the relationship between God and the world, or the antinomy of the finitude/infinitude of the world. Islamic scholastic theologians, who thought that the world was limited in space and in time, and Islamic philosophers, who thought that the world was limited in space but unlimited in time, are presented as the holders of the two theses of the antinomy. In their debate, the theologians and the philosophers developed in-between solutions to the antinomy, involving notions that might be considered precursors to Ibn al- 'Arabi's notion of the Limit. The Ash'arite theologians, for example, advanced the notion of the "state" (hal) an intermediate entity between reality and unreality—a notion that underlined their theory of the perpetual renewal of the creation of the world. The Mu'tazilites, for another example, developed the notion of the "nonexistent thing," (al-ma'dum) that signifies something between existence and nonexistence. Among the philosophers, Ibn Sina came out with the paradoxical conception of the possible-in-itself and necessary-through-the-other, and Ibn Rushd held a complementarily thesis, according to which two different theses or accounts of the same substance matter may both be true even if their logical conjunction leads to a flat contradiction. The debate between the theologians and the philosophers and the in-between solutions that they had come out with are presented in chapters 2 and 3.
Ibn Rushd's complementarity thesis is presented as the culmination of the efforts of the theologians and the philosophers to solve the problem of the relationship between God and the world. It is also introduced in chapter 4 as the background for the emergence of Ibn al- 'Arabi's conception of the Limit. The chapter elaborates on the encounter that took place between Ibn Rushd and Ibn al-'Arabi, the discussion of which is preceded by another discussion from Ibn al- 'Arabi's perspective of another encounter that took place, according to the Qur'an, between Moses and Khadir. In both discussions the emphasis is laid on the contrast between the rationalistic and the mystical modes of thought.
Chapter 5 explores the roots of Ibn al-'Arabi' s notion of the Limit in the Qur'an and the Islamic canonical tradition as well as in the Greek philosophical tradition. It focuses in particular on Plato's theory of the Forms and, to a certain extent, identifies the Platonic Form with Ibn al- 'Arabi's barzakh, the main example of which is the fixed entity (‘ayn thabita).
Chapter 6 provides a discussion of the ontological aspect of the barzakh. This aspect is represented through the notion of the Third Thing, which constitutes Ibn al-'Arabi's representation of the paradoxical relationship between God and the world on the ontological level. Chapter 6 also extends the comparison between Ibn al-'Arabi and Plato by comparing the former's introduction of the notion of the Third Thing with the latter's introduction of the notion of the Receptacle in Timaeus.
Chapter 7 presents the epistemological aspect of the Third Thing. This is the Perfect Man (al-insan al-kamil), the possessor of perfect knowledge and the Supreme Limit between the Real (al-Haqq) and creation (khalq). The discussion of the two aspects of the Third Thing, the ontological and the epistemological, comes to its conclusion in chapter 8 in the Limit-Situation, a situation in which the Real and his creation are represented as abiding in a mutual permeation and active interpenetration.
Despite its focus on Ibn al-'Arabi's thought and, in particular, his concept of the Limit, this work attempts to provide a critical examination of rational philosophical thought in general. This explains its concern with examining one of the most recent of the modern philosophical criticisms to rationalism promoted by Richard Rorty. Rorty's stand is especially interesting since it provides comprehensive criticism not merely of this or that philosophical doctrine but rather of the whole philosophical enterprise. As I try to show in chapter 1 (which provides a critical introduction to Ibn al- 'Arabi' s thought based on the examination of the shortcomings of the modern rationalist perspective), Rorty's pragmatist stand against rational thought bears a significant similarity to the mystical stand of Ibn al-'Arabi. I attempt to show, however, that Rorty makes a mistake in abandoning the search for a universal methodology of knowledge and in promoting the sort of pragmatic contextualism that ignores the need for the unity of the human knowledge. In this work I try to show that, with the help of Ibn al- 'Arabi's unique methodology of acquiring knowledge, which is based on his unique concept of the Limit, we can provide an answer to Rorty's legitimate quest for a better approach to philosophical problems without actually having to quit the whole enterprise of the philosophical search for a unified theory of knowledge.
The Story of Islamic Philosophy: Ibn Tufayl, Ibn Al-'Arabi, and Others on the Limit Between Naturalism and Traditionalism by Salman H. Bashier (SUNY: State University of New York Press) Excerpt: The story of Islamic philosophy is the story of the development of the human intellect from the rationalistic phase, represented in this study by Farah' (d.950)', to an illuminative phase represented by Ibn Tufayl (d.1185) and Ibn al-`Arabi (d.1240).2 Illuminative philosophy is based on a model of mystical illumination that found its best expression in Plato's Seventh Letter and that is illustrated in Mishkat al-Anwar (Niche of Lights) by Ghazali (d. 1111) and al-Isharat wa-al-Tanbihat (Allusions and Intimations) and the mystical recitals of Ibn Sind (d. 1037) The central tenet of this model is that following a rigorous and thorough exercise of the rational faculty, the human reason reaches a certain limit and is flooded with light. The thinker whose reason is brought to this liminal situation becomes aware of the limitations of his rational faculty and the possibility of obtaining knowledge by means of mystical illumination rather than mere rational conceptualization. This epistemological awareness is then extended to a comprehensive, liminal depiction of the ontological status of the world. Things in the world acquire an intermediary nature, and the world as a whole itself becomes a liminal entity between Truth (haqq) and its existential manifestations (khalq).
In this book, I use Ibn Tufayl's work and the work of other Islamic thinkers to present the main principles of illuminative or liminal philosophy, while emphasizing its special capacity at articulating a synthetic vision of the naturalistic (or philosophical) and the traditionalistic (or religious) accounts of the epistemological and the ontological orders of reality. Ibn Tufayl was known for his encyclopedic scholarship and his generous sponsorship of intellectual research, which is confirmed by the detailed account that Ibn Rushd (d. 1198)4 provides for the meeting that Ibn Tufayl arranged between him and the Muwahhid Sultan, under whose patronage Ibn Rushd wrote commentaries on Aristotle's corpus. Very little is known about his personal life, and except for some fragments of poetry, Hayy Ibn Yaqzan (Alive Son of the Awake) is Ibn Tufayl's only extant work. The work has been translated into several languages, including English translations by Simon Ockley (1708) and Lenn Goodman (1972). Goodman's translation is preceded by a significant introduction to the text in which he presents Ibn Tufayl's thought as a unique educational philosophy and emphasizes the differences between it and educational philosophies of important Western intellectuals. Sarni Hawi, whose Islamic Naturalism and Mysticism is one of the most significant studies of Ibn Tufayl's work in modern scholarship, follows a seemingly different strategy: He attempts to show the strong resemblances between Ibn Tufayl's thought and modern Western intellectuality. This is despite the fact that he has interesting things to say, not only in relation to the shortcomings of the Orientalists' treatment of Islamic philosophy but also concerning the limitations of modern philosophical thought in general.' In his treatment of Hayy, he seems to be struggling between his desire to apply to his study a strict rationalistic approach and the fact that he is dealing with a philosopher-mystic who makes an explicit declaration of the limitation of rationalistic thought.'
In arguing for the originality of Hayy, Hawi insists that Ibn Tufayl did not borrow his ideas from Ghazali or Ibn Sina, and that the utmost that one can infer is that they had an influence on his thought.' But 'Owl' infers from Hayy that Ibn Tufayl intended not to follow Ibn Sind because in his description of the mystical states (ahwal) in Isharat, Ibn Sind was an imitator.' Such inferences, needless to say, go against Ibn Tufayl's own statements, and Hawi seems to be one step closer to claiming, as Dimitri Gutas and other scholars did, that in attributing illuminative wisdom to Ibn Sina, Ibn Tufayl was an inventor of a fiction. Instead, trawl depicts the difference between Ibn Sind and Ibn Tufayl in terms of a distinction between a possessor of theoretical knowledge (nazar) and a possessor of immediate knowledge (dhawq), which he develops into a distinction between conceptual apprehensions and dynamic existential involvement. He finds the parallel to Ibn Tufayl's existential involvement in Kierkegaard's dynamic existential breach, which is contrary to the mediating process of reason. Like Kierkegaard, Ibn Tufayl teaches us that immediate experience must not be replaced with an abstraction, that reason has limits, and that propositional knowledge of the truth is impossible: "Rationality is not man's only basic differentia ... Like most existentialists, he strongly contended that man makes himself, fulfills himself, and becomes himself in the dynamic act of knowing the Truth—Necessary Being. Hayy's very nature was a process, a project to surpass the now and reach the everlasting eternal."' Thus, Hayy, the existentialist, realizes that man's nature is more than his reason and, like the existentialists, he attempts a "hypothetical destruction of, and universal doubt in, the surrounding world of tradition and education."
One might wonder how Hawi's existentialist interpretation can be consistent with his statement that "Ibn Tufayl's philosophy becomes almost hollow and indigent if one strips it of its metaphysical locus.' Hawi's depiction of Ibn Tufayl's existentialistic literary style, which he contrasts with rigorous logic in his description of Hayy's attainment of mystical experience, seems to be in stark opposition to his own rationalistic depiction of his treatise. Hawi's study as a whole seems to be divided into two unrelated parts in which rationalism and mysticism are presented independently of each other. His failure to present a coherent interpretation of Ibn Tufayl's thought stems from his insistence on dissociating him from any possible influence by Ibn Sina, which prevents him from properly appreciating the significance of the illuminative account that Ibn Sina introduces in Isharat and that Ibn Tufayl employs as his basic model of the knowledge of illumination. As we shall see, Ibn Sind provides a liminal depiction of the mystical states (ahwal) and of the possessor of knowledge, who becomes, like them, a limit between presence (existence and manifestation) and absence (nonexistence and nonmanifestation) and a polished mirror facing the Real. In the same vein, Ibn Tufayl provides a liminal depiction of the transcendent essences (dhawat mufariqa), which are imaginal reflections of the Real, and Hayy's essence, which becomes, like them, an imaginal representation of the Real.
In his attempt to show that Hayy is devoid of the symbolic nature of Ibn Sina's mystical recitals, Hawi emphasizes that the major part of the treatise consists of a progressive philosophical argument and that even the part that leads to the attainment of mystical enlightenment "is also progressively substantiated by a full-blooded argument." But he falls short of explaining how Ibn Tufayl's mystical conclusion is related to the progression of his logical argument. It must be admitted, however, that establishing this sort of relatedness is, in a sense, problematic because it implies that the passage beyond reason is paradoxical in the sense that it is itself the result of a rational necessity. And yet, the recognition of this paradoxicality, and with it the self-transcendent nature of the limits of reason, are fundamental principles of illuminative philosophy. The possessor of reason recognizes this paradoxicality following a mystical exercise depicted by Ibn al-'Arabi as an exercise of fasting, at the consummation of which it is said of the person who fasts: "The sun has gone down from the world of the witnessed and risen up in the world of the intellect ( aql)." As William Chittick points out, Ibn al- ' Arabi usually renders the word aql as "reason" but employs "intellect" to designate the illuminated reason of the Gnostic. Ibn al-'Arabi says: "When the affair reaches this limit, he gains the divine uplifting beyond the property of his own nature, and self-disclosure lifts him up beyond the property of his reflection, since reflection derives from the property of elemental nature ... The intellect, in respect of itself, possesses self-disclosure, so it is lifted up beyond the low reaches of the natural reflection that accompanies imagination and takes from sensation and the sensory thing."" Perhaps the best demonstration of the notion that reason in respect of itself possesses self-disclosure can be found in the logic that leads Ibn al- 'Arabi to his paradoxical concept of the essential limit, or barzakh.
According to Aristotle, the limit is the ultimate part and essence of each thing because things are known by their limits." This is also what Ibn al-'Arabi thinks: "For distinction occurs through limits, and knowledge comes to be through distinction." He notices, however, that the limit not only divides two things but also unifies them. Consequently, the (essential) limit must possess two faces (to differentiate the two things) that are one (to provide for their unity): if the two faces, with which it meets the two things, were not one, a new limit would be required to differentiate between them, and knowledge would be impossible."
Ibn al- 'Arabi says that the possessors of unveiling know the essential limits and stop at them. This knowledge is difficult to attain because, unlike the formal limits (al-hudud al-rasmiyya), the essential limits are difficult to find." As for those who stop at the formal limits, they are the possessors of belief. Ibn al-`Arabi associates the formal limits here with the ordinances of religious law, but he also identifies them with the limits that rational thinkers employ.' Those who possess the essential limits in addition to the formal limits are perfect. Those who possess only the formal limits are complete but not perfect: "What is sought is perfection (kamral), not completion (tame*, for completion lies in creation, but perfection lies in the benefits that the complete acquires and bestows. Someone may not gain this degree despite his completion—for God has given each thing its creation, and thereby it has been completed, then guided (Q 20:50) to the acquisition of perfection. He who is guided reaches perfection, but he who stops with his completion has been deprived.'
He who is guided is guided to bewilderment (hayra), considered by Ibn al- `Arabi as one of the highest stages of knowledge.' Bewilderment is not negative. On the contrary, bewilderment is essential for realizing the truth of perfect knowledge. Thus, when the knower is bewildered, bewilderment is removed from him in bewilderment. Bewilderment is movement, and movement is life." Those who stop in their knowledge at the formal limits, the limits of manifestation or creation, are complete. In the closure or completion of their knowledge, however, lies their imperfection because creation is renewed constantly following the constant self-disclosure of the Real. Those who are bewildered transcend the formal limits and connect with the essential limits, the limits of self-disclosure. They are the possessors of perfect knowledge, and they become such by turning themselves into essential limits—polished mirrors that perfectly reflect the form of the Real. Despite its simplicity, Mbar bin Hayyan's story may be useful for illustrating this point: "They say that in a certain valley there are snakes that can kill animals instantly by looking into their eyes. They also say that in this valley there is a great beast whose eyes are like gulfs. As the snake seeks to kill it, the beast lifts up its eyes toward the head so that its sight would not fall on the snake and its eyes become like pure, polished mirrors. The snake sees itself in the mirror and dies."
The knower attains live knowledge by turning himself into a liminal entity that resembles a perfectly polished mirror. By turning himself into such an entity, it becomes possible for the knower to see that which cannot be seen. This is because he sees "with God's eye," not "through his own eye from behind the veil of his essence." In his interpretation of the Prophet's saying, "God has seventy veils of light and darkness, were He to lift them, the glories of His face would burn away everything that the eyesight of His creatures perceives," Ibn al- 'Arabi says that the dark and the luminous veils are the veils of nature and the reflective knowledges. Through the burning of these veils, the essences of the Gnostics become one essence that is identical with God. As for the common people, the veils are not lifted from them, so that they do not witness the truth of this unity. The Gnostics must not divulge this knowledge of unveiling and must take heed of the Prophet's saying: "Do not bestow wisdom on other than its folk, lest you wrong it, and do not hold it back from its folk, lest you wrong them." As I will show in what follows, what Ibn al- Arabi says here is, in a sense, a summary of Hayy's and Ibn Tufayl's stories combined.
In introducing the naturalistic account of Hayy's birth, Ibn Tufayl presents a tripartite classification of bodies: transparent bodies that do not reflect light at all, such as air; dense bodies that reflect light partially; and bodies that reflect light perfectly, such as polished mirrors. In correspondence to this classification, he divides existents into inanimate objects, in whose form the Spirit, which resembles the light of the sun, does not leave any traces; plants in whose form the Spirit leaves some traces; and animals in whose form, and the form of the human being in particular, the Spirit leaves a full impression. As the presence of the form of the Spirit is reinforced in the form of the human being, its reality eclipses all other forms and whatever stands in its way. It then resembles a mirror that reflects on itself and burns everything else with the glories of its light. Then the form of the Spirit and the human form are united in a bond that is "indissoluble not only according to the senses but also according to reason." The story of Hayy Ibn Yaqzan is the story of the reestablishment of this bond by removing the physical and rational veils that stand between man and his real nature. The story can be divided into three stages. In the practical stage, Hayy learns how to remove natural or physical veils. In the theoretical stage, he learns how to remove rational veils. In the mystical stage, he learns how to transform the ultimate veil, his own self, into an essential or liminal entity that turns on itself and burns everything else. Then Hayy encounters common religious people and seeks to "bestow wisdom on other than its folk." Prior to the description of this encounter, Ibn Tufayl registers his severe criticism of rationalists who are confined within the formal limits of their reason, as religious people are confined within the formal limits of their religious beliefs. He also learns Hayy's lesson, as he explains that even as he determined to write his book, he covered it with "a thin veil and a light covering, easily pierced by those who are worthy and too thick for those who are unworthy to penetrate it."
Hayy may be regarded as the story of the development of human knowledge. This is different, however, from the story related in Farabi's Book of Letters in the major sense that its author refuses to halt at the formal limits of (Aristotle's) logic. Hayy may also be regarded as the story of the relation between religion and philosophy. The problem of this relation, however, must not be depicted as external to philosophy and as pertaining merely to the relation between philosophers and religious people, but rather as falling within the limits of philosophy itself and as constituting a major incentive for refining or redefining these limits. This is why this problem cannot find its rather simple Farabian solution by investing philosophical effort in convincing religious people that their religious beliefs are imperfect imitations of philosophical truths. Such a solution would only bring closure, whereas the story of philosophy is a story about disclosure.
OUTLINE OF THE CHAPTERS
Chapter 1. I argue against the views of three scholars, Dimitri Gutas, George Tarabishi, and Lawrence Conrad, on Ibn Tufayl's mystical epistemology and the purpose of writing Hayy. Gutas claims that Ibn Tufayl misinterprets a certain passage in the prologue to al-Shifa' , in which Ibn Sind mentions his book on Eastern philosophy and falsely ascribes to him illuminative ideas to draw the attention of his readers to his own work. I do not see an act of misinterpretation here. Even if we concede that Ibn Sind was no illuminationist, the most that we can charge Ibn Tufayl with is naively repeating his words. Ibn Tufayl makes it perfectly clear that the essence of the knowledge of illumination is not to be found in Ibn Sina's Shift', which agrees almost completely with Peripateticism; or in his own work, in which he revealed whatever he could reveal of its secrets; or in any book, for that matter. He repeats his statement several times and in different places in his work, such that one begins to wonder what makes scholars freeze on one statement, in which he invites the reader to seek Ibn Sina's work on Eastern philosophy, and ignore all the rest.
Ibn Tufayl's special appreciation of Ibn Sind stems from the fact that after making such a remarkable advance in Peripateticism, he was still able to make a declaration to the effect that rationalistic thought is limited. Gutas's reluctance to give serious consideration to this declaration is the outcome of his insistence on making an absolute distinction between philosophy and mysticism. The portion of his writings in which Ibn Sind introduces his mystical insights is insignificant in terms of quantity and the assumption is that giving serious consideration to his mystical declaration in this meager portion must be inconsistent with the overwhelmingly rationalistic part of his work. Considered from Ibn Tufayl's point of view, however, this assumption is not only limited but is actually the root of the extreme rationalistic thought of which he is especially critical. After all, what is Hayy but such a long (rational) argument culminating in a mystical conclusion?
According to his own testimony, Tarabishi became interested in the study of medieval Islamic philosophy only after reading Muhammad al-Jabiri's Critique of Arab Reason. Because I make a number of references to Mill in this book, it will be useful to say a few words about his work. Several scholars consider Jabiri to be the first Modern thinker in the Arab world to provide a serious criticism of Islamic reason. Indeed, Min's insistence on the significance of the rational order and the adherence to externalist principles bear a striking resemblance to the ideals of modern philosophies of the Enlightenment." According to Jabiri, medieval Islamic philosophy failed to make any serious change in the epistemological contents that it inherited from the Greeks. However, it succeeded in exploiting those contents for the sake of settling its ideological conflicts, especially the conflict between philosophy and religion. Hence, Jabiri thinks that those who, like the Orientalists, judge Islamic philosophy according to epistemological standards commit a serious mistake because from an epistemological point of view, Islamic philosophy did not possess much of an essence. The problem of the relation between philosophy and religion occupied a central place in Islamic philosophy; and concerning this problem, Muslims were divided into Eastern and Western schools of thought. The Western school included thinkers such as Ibn Rushd, Ibn Tufayl, and Ibn Khaldun, who maintained a view of separation between philosophy and religion. Those thinkers were in opposition to the Eastern school, which included thinkers such as Ibn Sind and Ghazali, who attempted to establish harmony between philosophy and religion. This attempt resulted in alienating the Arabic mind from the path of rationalism. The thinkers of the Western school, the true philosophers, sought to overcome this alienation by building a wall that protects rationalistic philosophy from the esoteric influences of the irrationalists." Muhammad al-Misbahi concludes Mid's view by saying that he agreed with the Orientalists' claim that Islamic reason produced no new philosophical visions. At the same time, however, he blamed them for ignoring the fact that Islamic philosophers, by whom he meant those who belonged to the Western school, did not occupy themselves with philosophy for its own sake, but only to use it in resolving their ideological conflicts and to build a barrier between rationalism and irrationalism.
In his work, Tarabishi assumes the role of the skeptic, as he confines himself almost exclusively to demonstrating inconsistencies in Jabiri's position. Tarabishi argues that the Western school of philosophy was not as united as Midi presents it. He actually considers Ibn Tufayl's work, in which he registers his special debt to Ibn Sind, as an attack against none other than the figure of Ibn Rushd and the rationalism that he represents. A careful examination of Ibn Tufayl's view on the relation between philosophy and religion, however, reveals how close it is to Ibn Rushd's. Rather than lending support for Jabiri's view, this fact should provide grounds for a more consistent reading of the principle of Islamic philosophy, and this is what the present book attempts to do.
Two main views on the purpose of writing Hayy have been advanced in scholarship. Leon Gauthier argued that the book is primarily about the relation between philosophy and religion, and George Hourani argued that its principal subject is the possibility of the soul's unaided ascent to philosophical knowledge. Conrad criticizes both views. His criticism amounts to claiming that Ibn Tufayl was led to writing Hayy by societal rather than philosophical considerations. To establish his view, Conrad sought to reveal what he considered to be flaws in the logical structure of Ibn Tufayl's work. By doing so, he sought to throw doubt not only on Hourani's view, but equally on Gauthier's, because this is based on the assumption that Ibn Tufayl arrived at the concluding part of his work by following a perfectly planned and meticulously executed logical procedure. I attempt to show that what Conrad considers as flaws in the logic of Ibn Tufayl's narrative make perfect sense when examined from a liminal point of view and when proper consideration is given to the symbolic import of the treatise.
Chapter 2. Ibn Tufayl's employment of central Sufi concepts in the introduction to his book aims to emphasize the element of self-reflexivity intrinsic to his model of illumination and to reveal an important fact about the limitation of the use of language in relation to an experience that defies closure. Ibn Tufayl describes the seeker of knowledge as a person who devotes himself (hamim) to obtaining knowledge by constantly purifying (safyy) the mirror of his heart. The Safi then becomes one with the state (01), which resembles the essence of time. This act of identification gives rise to utterances that "flow from" the Suffs (shatahat) and that involve a claim for unity with Truth. This claim is paradoxical. It is a true claim, because Truth encompasses everything. Once stated, however, the claim becomes false because no matter how carefully unity is expressed, negation always creeps into it with the expression and splits it against itself. The recognition of this paradoxicality distinguishes the Sufi not only from those who do not possess awareness of the limitations of all claims for Truth, but also from extreme skeptics, who by holding unlimitation as their final position only impose on themselves another form of limitation."
Ibn Tufayl states that it was by the study of Ghazali and Ibn Sines that he could see truth for himself. He describes Ghazali as a person who was well-versed in ma 'Ilia (knowledge1) and 'dm (knowledge2). Knowledge2 is related to the world ( 'Nam), whereas knowledge 1 is related to the transcendent essences that are beyond the sensible world. To say that Ghazali was well versed in both knowledges is to say that he possessed both knowledge of manifestation and knowledge of nonmanifestation. It is to say that he belonged to the category of knowers who are in the image of the light of God, to whom belong both East and West (Q 2:142) and whose resemblance is an olive tree that is neither of the East nor of the West (Q 24:35). Ghazal' wrote Niche of Lights as an interpretation of the Verse of Light (Q 24:35). The presence of Niche in Ibn Tufayl's work is so strong that, together with his depiction of Ghazali as a possessor of perfect knowledge, one is tempted to explain away his stated criticism of him as irrelevant. The most striking resemblances between Ghazali's Niche and Ibn Tufayl's Hayy lie in their depiction of the cosmos as consisting of a hierarchy of light-reflecting mirrors. This depiction may be traced back to Neoplatonic influence, but I think that originally the influence goes back to Plato's Parable of the Cave.
An important feature of the mystical experience as it is depicted in this parable is the gradual unfolding of the light of illumination. Despite this graduality, the experience proves to be painful to the person who is involved in it. As for the feelings of joy and exultation to which Ibn Tufayl gives special attention in his description of the experience, they belong to the person in the state of k intoxication (sukr). In this state, the person experiences absence,. When he is again present, the person struggles to regain his former state. Ibn Sind amply accounts for this gradual struggle to attain illumination in Isharat, and I attempt to show that a similar account is present in his mystical recitals of Hayy Ibn Yaqzan and Salaman and Absal, as well as the Hermetistic version of Salaman and Absal.
Chapter 3. Ibn Tufayl introduces two accounts of Hayy's birth: naturalistic and traditionalistic. He opens with a depiction of the naturalistic account, which describes Hayy's emergence from earth but interrupts it to add a succinct description of the traditionalistic account, according to which Hayy is born to human parents. Then he resumes his discussion of the naturalistic account with rich scientific details. Hawi interprets this interruption as Ibn Tufayl's attempt to conceal his philosophical stand, which he identifies with naturalism. I argue against his interpretation.
According to the naturalistic account, Hayy was generated on an equatorial island, which enjoyed the most temperate climate, from a portion of earth that was perfectly balanced to receive the human form. Ibn Tufayl says also that people on this island were generated from trees. This is to emphasize the continuity between natural existents: minerals, plants, and animals. Ibn Tufayl's depiction of the chain of existents is compared to Ibn al-'Arabi's and a certain resemblance between the two thinkers is detected. The major part of the discussion is devoted to Ibn Arabi's account of his mystical visions in the Earth of Barzakh, the conditions of which are similar to the conditions that existed on the equatorial island in which Hayy was born.
On Earth, natural existents live and speak and, unlike objects on our earth, they are not subject to generation and corruption. On it become manifest things that are judged by the rational proofs to be impossible, such as the bringing together of the opposites, the existence of a body in two places, and the subsistence of an accident in itself. The manifestation of these things on Earth enables Ibn al- 'Arabi to provide an interpretation for verses in the Qur'an that the rational faculties shift from their manifest meanings. These things become manifest, however, only to the person who combines knowledge of manifestation ( 'am) and knowledge of nonmanifestation (arif); that is, the person who possesses the science of interpretation (ta`bir) that enables him to cross over ( `ubur) from the world of sensation to the intelligible world. I use Ibn al-'Arabi's theory to provide an interpretation of Plato's myth of spontaneous generation in Republic.
Chapter 4. Upon the culmination of his intellectual growth, Hayy encounters human society and with this encounter he connects with the traditionalistic account of his birth. The exoteric and esoteric aspects of the human condition are represented here by Salesman and Abseil, respectively. Although their relationship is depicted in terms of opposition, I attempt to show that their positions enjoy intermediary characteristics. Salesman's involvement in theological debates with Absal signifies his tendency toward rational deliberation. Although fear for his religion leads him eventually to disconnect himself from Absal and adhere to the dogmatic beliefs of his community, the very existence of fear indicates an important difference between him and other members of his community. Absal tended toward esoteric interpretation. When he encountered Hayy, however, he also feared that interaction with him would endanger his religious beliefs. His fear was alleviated as he recognized that Hayy did not know language. His decision to teach him language was based on the hope that his lord would reward him. Thus, despite his inclination toward esoteric interpretation, Absal was still subject to the principles of mass religion, especially fear (of God's punishment) and hope (for his recompense).
Using Plato's division of the degrees of reality in the parable of the Divided Line, I present Hayy as occupying the highest segment in the line. Next to him comes Absal, followed by Salaman. The (dogmatic) people of the religious community occupy the lowest segment of the line and the most distanced from Hayy's, which explains the intensity of their opposition to his attempt to convey his illuminative knowledge to them.
Chapter 5. Hayy's reflections on the problem of the eternity of the world signified a turning point in his intellectual development.Hayy examined limits between chains of existence in the world, but now he came to examine the limits of the world itself. This led him to thinking about the concept of the infinite and its role in establishing the arguments for and against the eternity of the world. I present Aristotle's analysis of this concept and show its relevance to these arguments. Ibn Tufayl presented the positions of the philosophers and the theologians in relation to the problem of the eternity of the world as balanced. Hawi claims that by doing so, he attempted to conceal his eternalist position. I argue against this claim.
Chapter 6. In The Book of Letters, Farabi provides an account of the development of human thought from the commencement of the use of language to the time of the invention of logic by Aristotle. He includes in his account a discussion of the relation between philosophy and religion and the role that the philosopher must assume in establishing harmony between them. There are important differences between his account and the one provided by Ibn Tufayl. Ibn Tufayl's hero became acquainted with the use of language only after he had exhausted all the stages of the development that Farabi assigns to his rationalistic philosophers and that culminate in Aristotle's logic. This is important because according to Farabi, the universal language of logic comes afterward and must therefore be considered prior in significance to ordinary languages. Ibn Tufayl, however, makes his "silent speaker" employ logic and then transcend its principles. Thus, he applies to formal logic the same argument that Farabi applies to ordinary languages and, by doing so, he endows it, and the philosopher who adheres to its categories, with a lesser status.
Another important difference between the two philosophers lies in their treatment of the relation between philosophy and religion. Farabi seems to be positive about the chances of the philosopher to convince believers that what they have in their religion is only the imitation of higher philosophical truths. Ibn Tufayl does not share this optimism with Farabi, not only because of his especially negative view of the intellectual capacities of dogmatic believers, but also because of his recognition of the limitations of the very rationalistic capacity that Farabi considers as absolute.
Chapter 7. Despite his critical view of Ibn Baja," Ibn Tufayl had a special appreciation for his intellectual capacities. This appreciation stems from his recognition of the significant contribution that Ibn Baja made to the principle of illuminative philosophy, especially in relation to his liminal depiction of the levels of comprehension. I emphasize the liminal component in Ibn Bajja's thought and the clear impact that Plato's "mystical" parables had on it.
Chapter 8. In describing the traditionalist account, Ibn Tufayl makes an allusion to the (Qur'anic) story of the Sleepers in the Cave. Aristotle mentions the story in Physics in the context of discussing the nature of time. I relate his discussion to Ibn Tufayl's depiction of the resemblances in which Hayy was involved and in which he imitated natural time and motion, the unitary time and the circular motion of the transcendent essences, and the state of absolute fixity characteristic of God. In the context of this discussion, I elaborate on an important incident in Hayy's life: the discovery of fire. The traditionalistic account of Hayy's birth bears a clear resemblance to Moses's birth story. I elaborate on Ibn al-'Arabi's depiction of the figure of Moses in Fusus al-Hikam, especially Moses's birth story and his encounter with the Saint (al-Khadir).
Chapter 9. Gilgamesh is the builder of Uruk's great walls and the one who plunged into the Absu (sweet waters) to claim the plant of rejuvenation following his encounter with Utnapishtim, The-One-Who-Found-Life. Enkidu is the child of nature, whose creation story bears a striking resemblance to Adam's. Enkidu was seduced toward civilized Uruk by a love-priestess. He and Gilgamesh undertake a series of adventures that enrage the gods, who determine Enkidu's death. His death gives birth to Gilgamesh's quest for eternity. Gilgamesh goes on a long journey, at the end of which he comes together with Utnapishtim and hears from him the story of the Flood, which is, like Hayy's, a story about a new beginning. As Moses failed to obtain the object of his quest for perfect knowledge in his encounter with al-Khadir, so Gilgamesh also failed to obtain the object of his quest in his encounter with Utnapishtim. The main lesson that we learn from both encounters is that the object of the mystical quest is one of seeking, not of possessing.
Chapter 10. In the preface to Myths from Mesopotamia, Stephanie Dalley writes: "A few original contributions by this translator are included: recognition that the Tale of Buluqiya in the Arabian Nights is related to the Epic of Gilgamesh." I consider the recognition that Ibn al-` Arabi's Chapter 8 of the Futuhat is related to Buluqiya as one of the original contributions in the present work. At the same time, I wish to point out that I have detected a strong resemblance between chapter 8 of the Futuhat and Uthiilidiya, a highly influential work that was mistakenly attributed to Aristotle, and that I will elaborate on this resemblance in my next book.
I want to discuss a few points at the close of this introduction. First, I consider Plato to be one of the main originators of the liminal notion that I presented in my book Ibn al- 'Arabi s Barzakh and that I develop further here. The emphasis on the parable of the Cave (and the parables that lead to it) must be appreciated not only in terms of the obvious resemblance between the story of Plato's enlightened philosopher and Hayy's, but also in terms of the obvious impact that it had on the illuminative ideas of other thinkers with whom I deal in this book. Second, Aristotle's thought is equally important for the purposes of this book, not only because of the obvious consideration that the story of Islamic philosophy cannot be accounted for in isolation from his philosophy, but especially because of the fact that Aristotle was perceived in Islamic intellectual tradition as the thinker who perfected rational thought. This does not mean that Islamic thinkers believed that Aristotle was the end of the story. On the contrary, by pushing rational analysis to its ultimate limit, Aristotle played a central role in opening the door for the development of the notion of liminality in Islamic medieval thought.
Finally, I wish to address a concern that readers of this book must be aware of, and that is related to the absence of an elaborate discussion of Suhrawardi's illuminative thought from this book. My simple response is that the treatment of such an important and difficult thinker is beyond the scope of this work.
Ibn Arabî - Time and Cosmology by Mohamed Haj Yousef (Culture and Civilization in the Middle East: Routledge) is the first comprehensive attempt to explain Ibn ‘Arabî’s distinctive view of time and its role in the process of creating the cosmos and its relation with the Creator. By comparing this original view with modern theories of physics and cosmology, Mohamed Haj Yousef constructs a new cosmological model that may deepen and extend our understanding of the world, while potentially solving some of the drawbacks in the current models such as the historical Zeno's paradoxes of motion and the recent Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen paradox (EPR) that underlines the discrepancies between Quantum Mechanics and Relativity.
Students of the world's religious traditions, together with specialists in the history of premodern science and philosophy, are well aware of the centrality within the scriptures and theologies of the major world religions, over many centuries, of detailed symbolic accounts of cosmology and metaphysics (including the intricate problematics of creation) — and of the crucial role played within each of those religious traditions by corresponding philosophical and scientific schemas of astronomy and cosmology that often provided a common language and framework of understanding shared by their educated elites. In premodern times, this key interpretative function was particularly important in the case of that complex of Hellenistic philosophic and cosmological disciplines largely shared by educated proponents of each of the three Abrahamic faiths. Given today's widespread journalistic stereotypes about the supposed 'opposition' of science and religion, this book is a salutary reminder — and an extraordinarily rich and detailed illustration — of the complex interpenetration of philosophical and scriptural elements throughout the central traditions of later Islamic thought, prior to the recent scientific revolutions. At the same time, Dr Haj Yousef's training and expertise as a modern physicist allow him to suggest, in his provocative final chapter, intriguing ways in which the earlier cosmological and theological speculations of Ibn 'Arabi carefully outlined in this study may also parallel very recent developments and insights in the cosmological theories (especially String Theory) of modern physics. In that sense, this study provides a more demanding, Islamic parallel to such recent popular works such as F. Capra's Tao of Physics.
While the prolific Andalusian Sufi writer Ibn 'Arabi (1165-1240) is most widely known today as a mystic and spiritual teacher, his voluminous writings — and particularly his immense magnum opus, the Meccan Illuminations, which is the primary source for this study — constantly refer to the insights, theories, and cosmological schemas of earlier Muslim philosophers and scientists, such as Avicenna and the popular spiritual treatises of the 'Brethren of Purity' (Ikhwan al-Safa). For that reason, this book begins with a helpful survey of the standard theories of cosmology and time found in earlier Hellenistic thinkers, which were largely taken over into the succeeding traditions of Islamic philosophy and science. However, the most creative and unfamiliar aspects of Ibn `Arabi's cosmological ideas — especially his distinctive conception of the ever-renewed, ongoing and instantaneous nature of the cosmic process of creation (tajdid al-khalq) — are carefully woven together from what have always been profoundly mysterious, problematic, and complexly interwoven symbolic formulations in the Qur'an. Thus the main focus and novel scholarly contribution of the central chapters of this volume lie in the author's careful unfolding and clarification of the intended meanings and references of this dense Qur'anic cosmological symbolism of time and creation, as that multi-dimensional world-view is systematically expounded in elaborate accounts scattered throughout several of Ibn `Arabi's major works. Every reader who engages with this demanding discussion will come away, at the very least, with a heightened appreciation of the symbolic richness and challenging intellectual dilemmas posed by this unduly neglected — yet arguably quite central and unavoidable — dimension of the Qur'an and its metaphysical teachings.
In the penultimate chapter of this study, before taking up possible analogies to Ibn `Arabi's ideas in modern physics, the author turns to the language of ontology and to a subject — the paradoxical relations of the divine One and the many — far more familiar to students of Ibn 'Arabi, or of comparable forms of thought in earlier Neoplatonism and the metaphysics of other world religions. Despite the initial unfamiliarity (for non-specialists) of some of Ibn `Arabi's Qur'anic symbolism and technical terminology here, his approach to conceiving and intellectually explaining the mysterious relationship between the divine Source and its infinite manifestations clearly mirrors Plato's classical dialectical enumeration of the alternative ontological hypothesis outlined in his Parmenides. Today, of course, no one is used to thinking of those recurrent metaphysical problems in terms of the theological language of creation. But by this point Dr Haj Yousef has outlined just how Ibn 'Arabi, by carefully elaborating the complex literal indications of the Qur'an itself, is able to illuminate both the temporal and the ontological dimensions of the divine cosmogonic Origination of all things.
The fascinating 'phenomenology' of the human psychological and experiential dimensions of this cosmic creative process, we might add, is also the subject of even more fascinating discussions in Ibn 'Arabi and later Islamic philosophers (as well as earlier Sufis and mystical thinkers). But the elaboration of that closely related topic would require another, equally wide-ranging and original study. So the author has prudently set that related issue aside while focusing on those dimensions of ontology and time most directly connected with the analogous approaches of modern theoretical physics that he outlines in his concluding, more speculative chapter.
This constantly challenging and thought-provoking study is clearly the fruit of years of research on one of the most difficult subjects to be found in the writings of one of Islam's most seminal, creative, inspired, and notoriously difficult thinkers. So even those who may find Ibn `Arabi's language and speculations difficult to follow will surely come away from their reading with a heightened appreciation of the relative poverty, thoughtlessness and lack of sophistication in today's dominant public discourse about religion and science, and in our prevailing ways of conceiving and approaching these fundamental human issues of cosmology, ontology and theology. ---James W. Morris, Boston College
Ibn 'Arabi is one of the most prominent figures in Islamic history, especially in relation to Sufism and Islamic philosophy and theology. In this book, we want to explore his cosmology and in particular his view of time in that cosmological context, comparing his approaches to the relevant conclusions and principles of modern physics whenever possible. We shall see that Ibn 'Arabi had a unique and comprehensive view of time which has never been discussed by any other philosopher or scientist, before or even after Ibn 'Arabi. In the final two chapters, in which we shall discuss some of the ways his novel view of time and cosmology may be used to build a complete model of the cosmos that may deepen and extend our understanding of the world, while potentially solving some of the drawbacks and paradoxes in the current cosmological models of modern physics.
As we discuss in the opening chapter, there is no doubt that time is one of the most important issues in physics, cosmology, philosophy and theology, and hundreds of books and articles have been published in these fields. However, none of these studies had fully developed Ibn `Arabi's unique view of time in its cosmological dimensions, although his conception of time is indeed central to understanding, for example, his controversial theory of the 'oneness of being'. One possible reason for this relative neglect is the difficult symbolic language he usually used. Also, he did not discuss this subject at length in any single place in his extant works — not even in chapters 59, 291 and 390 of the Futuhat whose titles relate directly to time — so we must piece together his overall cosmological understanding of time from his scattered treatments in many works and different contexts within his magnum opus, the Futuhat and other books. Therefore this book may be considered the first comprehensive attempt to set forth all the relevant dimensions of time in Ibn `Arabi's wider cosmology and cosmogony.
In Chapter 2, after briefly discussing the different physical theories and models of the cosmos, we start by describing Ibn `Arabi's cosmos in some detail. Then we also give an extensive review of the different philosophical views of time and its properties from the philosophical and scientific point of view to show the importance of the subject and relate it to Ibn `Arabi's model. Then, in Chapter 2, we begin to introduce Ibn `Arabi's general concepts of time and `days', which are then developed in greater detail in each of the succeeding chapters.
To start with, Ibn 'Arabi considers time to be a product of our human 'imagination', without any real, separately existing entity. Nevertheless, he still considers it to be one of the four main constituents of existence. We need this imagined conception of 'time' to chronologically arrange events and what for us are the practically defining motions of the celestial orbs and other physical objects, but for Ibn 'Arabi real existence is attributable only to the actually existing thing that moves, not to motion nor to time (or space) in which this motion is observed. Thus lbn 'Arabi distinguishes between two kinds of time — natural and para-natural — and he explains that they both originate from the two forces of the soul: the active force and the intellective force, respectively. Then he explains that this imaginary time is cyclical, circular, relative, discrete and inhomogeneous. Ibn 'Arabi also gives a precise definition — drawing on the specific usage of the Qur'an and earlier Arab conceptions of time — of the day, daytime and night, showing how these definitions are related to the relative motions of the celestial orbs (including the Earth), where every orb has its own 'day', and those days are normally measured by our normal observable day that we count on the Earth.
In Chapter 3 (and also in Chapter 6), we explain the central significance, in Ibn `Arabi's notion of time and cosmology, of the divine 'Week' of creation, and we begin to develop some of its interesting consequences. To begin with, Ibn 'Arabi considers the cosmic, divine Week, rather than the day or any other time unit, as the main primitive time cycle. Thus he explains how the world is created in seven (cosmic, divine) 'Days', what happens on each Day, and the underlying ontological relation between the Week's Days of creation and the seven fundamental divine Names of Allah. Ibn 'Arabi also shows that all the Days of this cosmic Week, including the last Day (Saturday), all actually occur in Saturday, the 'Day of eternity'. This complex understanding of the ever-renewed divine creation in fact underlies his conception of the genuine unification of space and time, where the world is created 'in six Days' (from Sunday to Friday) as space, and then is displayed or manifested on Saturday in the process that we perceive as time. However, we perceive this complicated process of creation in Six Days and the subsequent appearance of the world on the seventh Day, we perceive all this only as one single moment of our normal time. In fact, on the basis of Qur'anic indications and the corresponding experiential confirmations of the mystical `knowers' (`urafa') (later explained in Chapter 5), Ibn `Arabi insists that the entire created world ceases to exist immediately and intrinsically right after its creation, and that then it is re-created again and again. For him, this process of divine re-creation happens gradually (in series), not at once: i.e. it always takes six divine 'Days' to be prepared and the last Day to manifest. However, we — the creatures — do not witness this re-creation in six Days, since we Witness the created world only in the seventh Day (Saturday, which he calls `the Day of eternity'). So the creation of the world in six Days actually happens every moment, perpetually and recurrently. Therefore, those first six divine Days are actually the creative origin of space and not time, which is only the seventh Day. In this novel conception, for the first time in history, the 'Week', as the basic unit of space-time, will have a specific and quite essential meaning in physics and cosmology.
Even more important in Ibn `Arabi's conception of time, however, is his understanding of the 'Day' of creation as a minimum indivisible Day, a kind of `instant of time' (al-zaman al-fard) that also includes (since it includes all of creation) the instants of that normal day itself which we live in and divide into hours, minutes, seconds and so on. In order to explain this initially paradoxical notion, Ibn 'Arabi introduces — again initially mysterious Qur'anic on the basis of indications — the different nature and roles of three very different kinds of compounded days (the 'circulated' days, the 'taken-out' days and the 'intertwined' days), which highlight the fact that the actual flow of time is not as uniform and smooth as we feel and imagine. The key concept underlying these complex developments is that Ibn 'Arabi emphasizes, following the Qur'an, that only one creative 'event' should be happening on every Day (of the actual cosmic, divine Days of creation), and not the many different (temporal and spatial) events that we observe. To reconcile this apparent contradiction between the unitary Act (and 'instant') of Creation and the apparent phenomena of spatial and temporal multiplicity, he reconstructs the normal, observable days that we actually perceive in a special manner that is complexly grounded in the different divine 'Days' of the actual flow of time. We shall explain his complex conception of these very different types of days in detail in Chapter 4.
The principle of perpetual re-creation, one of the more famous elements of Ibn `Arabi's cosmology and cosmogony, is fully explained in Chapter 5, where we also take up the related question of Ibn `Arabi's controversial theory of the `oneness of being'. This theory can be easily understood once we have grasped his underlying conception of the eternally renewed creation in time. This comprehensive cosmological vision, when added to his understanding of the actual flow of time based on the three kinds of days described in Chapter 4, can be used to build a new unique model of the cosmos. This cosmological model, which we shall call 'the Single Monad model', is explained in Chapter 6. We shall see in this chapter that, according to this distinctive perspective on creation, the manifest world works exactly like a super-computer which — despite its tremendous speed — can do only one job at a time, where the display on the computer monitor is analogous to the manifest world: though we appear to see a complex, continually changing picture on the screen, that complex image is actually built one pixel at a time by one single electron-beam. This particular illustration helps us to grasp the actual functioning of Ibn `Arabi's central conception of the ultimate oneness of being, despite the undeniable visible multiplicity of the world.
Finally, Chapter 7 is devoted to discussing some of the implications of the Single Monad model for various related principles of modern physics and cosmology, including the possibilities of testing such a cosmological model. We shall discuss in particular some of the known time-related paradoxes in current models of physics and cosmology, and how they may be resolved according to this novel view. It can be fairly said that Ibn `Arabi's view of time and the cosmos is a fruitful concept that potentially bridges the gap between traditional theological metaphysical views of the world and the contemporary scientific views that are based on experimental procedures and logic. In addition to explaining the 'oneness of being' and 'creation in six Days', other important results of Ibn `Arabi's unique concept of time include the ways it helps to resolve the famous EPR paradox, thus potentially reconciling the two great theories of Quantum Mechanics and Relativity in modern physics, how it offers a new understanding of the historical Zeno's paradoxes, and how it potentially explains the reason behind quantization, how quantities are either discrete or continuous.
The Reflective Heart : Discovering Spiritual Intelligence in Ibn 'Arabi's 'Meccan Illuminations' by James Winston Morris (Fons Vitae) For centuries Ibn Arabi has been considered the Greatest Master of Islamic spiritual teaching, but Western readers have only recently had access to his greatest writings. This introduction to Ibn Arabis Meccan Illuminations highlights the mysticism and realization of Sufi spiritual life, providing an intellectually penetrating look without requiring specialized knowledge. The development of several key themes and modes of reflection in Ibn Arabis spiritual teachings are explored as are the gradually unfolding meanings that distinguish this important classical text of Sufi practice.
Morris is one of the foremost scholarly interpreters of al-Shaykh al-Akbar, "the Greatest Master," working in the English language. Along with Chittick whose own interpretations of the Meccan Illuminations is slowly revolutionizing the philosophical contexts for a traditional and intracultural appreciation of Sufi metaphysics and epistemology. Morris's study consists of five interconnected essays on central themes of the Meccan openings. The intricate and deeply interconnected writings of Ibn Al Arabi requires from interpreters an almost sublime tact and careful attention to detail and subtle variation in language and tone. Morris is well qualified to speak to these matters and the result is a volume not only of scholarly depth and purpose but also an invitation to spiritual and illuminative understanding which is tightly mirrored in an intellectual and emotional congruence, a visionary appreciation illuminated by simple gnosis, an intuitive apperception and a cognitive leap toward ungraspable wholeness. Such is the implications of the reflective heart as a process of spiritual intelligence. The first essay addresses journeying, reviewing the Quranic context which is always Shaykh Al Akbar's background text and source of illuminative travel. Ibn Al Arabi was a traveler who restlessly made pilgrimage from the West to the East for nearly 20 years before finally settling down in Damascus. In this travel we have the archetype of the ascent towards the divine but also of the divine guidance in the happenstance of the road. On the one hand we have in horizontal axis deployed on the level of our individual experience of linear time and inner and outer movement, here the individual souls inner life is detailed with loving attention as in many classic sufi writings and poetry of stations along a common path of the pilgrimage caravan. However Ibn Arabi also constantly evokes a vertical dimension of our spiritual travel the imagery inspired by the hadith on the Prophet's ascension and night journey in which Ibn Arabi's focus is on metaphysical transformation and elevation of perspective that takes place as the voyager's focus of identity shifts from the lower outer directed soul (and it's taken for granted worlds of society, space and time), through radically different planes of imagination and absolute spirit, toward its paradoxical reunion with the divine beloved. Morris reminds us that the Futuhat can be viewed as an ever more detailed examination of these two contrasting, yet always simultaneous, perspectives on this single maturing of the soul.
The next essay evokes a listening in its contemplative nature of purifying the heart, where the heart is what holds living paradoxes and reconciliation and wonderment. Such purification is necessary for all real, effective worship and devotion. Listening is an active passivity that allows the divine meanings to be revealed while also allowing self-assertion to move towards an eclipse and rest in alert attending to the divine audition.
From the movement of the lore of divine reality where the soul awakens to the deeper meanings of the recitations and prayers, in the third essay on seeing, Morris evokes the theophanic imagination where all of reality opens to the mystic a revelation of divine purpose. Everywhere I turn, I see His face! Here nothing in human experience, when seen with the eye and heart of gnosis, is other than divine revelation. From the greatest degradation to the most sublime bliss all are signs and wonders of the divine presence in the world now. In the fourth essay, Morris explorers how to discern and integrate the unitive vision of the divine without falsely inflating the self or miscasting the divine as a bad actor. However discernment is an eschatological appreciation of the mystery and end of existence whose root is more in the timeless than in the end of time and whose reach is more in the peace and unity of the divine-human actor's heart, than it is in the effort of the human discernment and creative play. In the fifth and last essay, Morris deals with returning, that the divine vision is always never complete until the human has returned to the human world of serventhood to fully appreciate and celebrate, freely and openly the wonder and joy, but most of all, the secret of divine unity and revelation.
This whole process is for Morris the nature of spiritual intelligence, a spiritual intelligence that though designed for and within the Islamic revelation, also sings to all men and women of faith and gnosis the profound reality of divine presence in this life in our hearts. In following Ibn Arabi's own account of the natural order of spiritual development Morris begins with the initial stages as the spiritual quest in journeying culminating -- through grace -- in the attainment of the contemplative quietude and peace. At that point, the purification of the heart begins to focus on the active refinement of our inner spiritual listening and inspiration. Then that awakening love and inspired awareness of the divine beauty, the fruit of effective spiritual listening, needs to be transformed through spiritual seeing and inspired insight into our uniquely personal, creative manifestations of right and beautiful action -- that active culmination of spiritual life eventually leading to the realization of the beatific vision of God. Yet that active, realized discernment of all the dimensions of spiritual communication and creativity, Ibn Arabi insists -- echoing all those prophets and messengers who are their own guides -- turns out to be not the end of the soul's journeying, but the opening up of further, even wider responsibilities and challenges. Finally, as always with Ibn Arabi, that realized awareness of our wider spiritual responsibility, of our intrinsically human servanthood, culminates in our growing recognition of the inner meanings of the eschatological symbolism of the Islamic tradition: of that garden, he insists, which is already visibly present in each theophanic reflection of the polished heart, and each act of the divine shadowplay of our existence. In this cyclical perspective each of these developments leads naturally to the next, and -- here on earth, at least -- we are always unavoidably caught up in each of these facets of that journey.
At the same time, though Ibn Arabi also persistently emphasizes that this more visible cycle of spiritual intelligence is also ultimately -- or at least potentially -- one of ascension. Thus each of these essays also traces, for its chosen theme, Ibn Arabi's careful elaboration of the slowly unfolding revelation of ever larger cycles of responsibility, right action and spiritual vision, already typified and concretely symbolized in the spiraling ascension -- and epochal returning -- of the prophets own archetypal night journey. And here again, in Arabi's distinctive language constantly challenges his readers to relate that initially theoretical elevation to their own unique journey of discovery. Morris has provided in these essays a profound series of keys for unlocking the central themes of the Futuhat. One last aspect of Morris's study is his appreciation of how Ibn Arabi's language shows a deep appreciation of the natural world and the human condition within it. First because Ibn Arabi's language itself arises out of such an extraordinary penetrating and revealing awareness of the deeper structures and meanings of the Koran and the hadith, it turns out to provide constantly illuminating keys to understanding and appreciating the inspirations, forms and intentions of a vast range of Masterworks -- and not simply in poetry and literature -- by the greatest creative figures throughout all the related fields of the Islamic humanities, who were themselves shaped and inspired by the lifelong penetration of those same scriptural sources. The perspectives and principles involved here are equally central an indispensable for informed appreciation of those artistic and spiritual masterpieces, and for any lasting effective and spiritually grounded revival or reconstruction of all fundamental Islamic thought. Next spiritual intelligence is of course something that is only learned by practice. In the traditional language of the Sufi patterns, this basic reality was expressed above all in the untranslatable expression, subha, referring to each seekers indispensable learning through companionship with a spiritual guide or master. So readers of these essays, without even focusing explicitly on those underlying literary, analytical and structural (indeed even political) mentions of the following discussions, should find -- like so many earlier students of al-Shaykh al-Akbar-- that the effects of in Arabi's lessons and insights do carry over into an ever deepening appreciation and more penetrating understanding of cognate literatures, as well as other forms of spiritual communication, from any and all of the world's great religious and civilizational traditions.
The Reflective Heart is about the ways we gradually discover the deeper significance of all the familiar elements of our everyday lifenot just those memorable moments we ordinarily view as "spiritual". Spiritual intelligencethe illuminating interplay of our uniquely individual experience, reflection, and practiceis at the heart of every world religious tradition, and Ibn Arabi is renowned for his ability to communicate the unfolding dimensions of this fundamental human task. His Meccan Illuminations provide a powerful spiritual mirror for each readers own experiences, while highlighting those larger perspectives that ultimately give meaning and direction to our life. In this compelling and insightful book, James Morris takes us to the spiritual core of the Islamic tradition, as we come to see the heart as the meeting ground between the Divine and that which is most human in all of us. Here the heart reveals itself as a dynamic and transformative faculty, where the discovery of ones own true self is wed to the intimate knowing of God. ~ Omid Safi, colgate university
No one surpasses James Morris in his ability to make the most sublime and esoteric subjects intelligible and practicable. Among the many gifts of this book is that it highlights for our own time the urgent need for spiritual discernment. ~ Kabir Helminski, threshold society
In The Reflective Heart, James Morris provides numerous keys for those who would like to open up their hearts to the vast panorama of spiritual instruction provided by al-Shaykh al-Akbar, "the Greatest Master." No other book demonstrates so clearly the universality of Ibn Arabis concerns and their contemporary applicability. A must- read for every serious seeker. ~ William Chittick
One of the great merits of this book is the way in which this spiritual journey, described with such compelling power through the illuminations granted to Ibn 'Arabi, is made real for all of us. This work is the fruit of a remarkable synthesis between scholarly erudition of the highest calibre and a fundamental orientation towards the spiritual import of Ibn Arabis teachings, engaging both the academic and the mystic, the scholar and the seeker. ~ Reza Shahkazemi, London
James W. Morris holds the Sharjah Chair of Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter (UK), and has taught Islamic and comparative religious studies at Princeton, Temple, Oberlin, the Sorbonne, and the Institute of Ismaili Studies in Paris and London.
Ibn Arabi by William Chittick (Makers of the Muslim World: Oneworld Publications) Bulent Rauf, the inspiration behind the British esoteric school Beshara, was often quoted as saying Muhyi ad-Din Ibn Arabi is not so much a person as a meaning. William Chittick who is easily the foremost interpreter of the greatest Sheik in America, has written several massive studies the ideas of the Sheik seems to come into agreement with Bulent. Muhyi ad-Din Ibn Arabi was an encyclopedic writer, whose contribution to the mystical meaning of Islam and the Qur'an is as central to Islam as the theology of Thomas Aquinas is foundational for Western Catholicism. However unlike Thomas Aquinas, Muhyi ad-Din Ibn Arabi has never known such entrenched institutional support. In fact, about a century after his death, the central tenets of his writings were subtly and effectively vilified and misrepresented by Ibn Taymiyya, the spiritual godfather of all literalistic and fundamentalist, authoritarian and even terrorist forms of Islam.
Muhyi ad-Din Ibn Arabi lived a restless life traveling from city to city throughout the vast Islamic lands of Spain, North Africa, Egypt, Arabia, the Middle East, and eventually settling in the last 20 years of his life in Damascus. There he wrote a vast Quranic commentary called Meccan Revelations. In this brief introduction to his life and thought, Chittick attempts to show the cohesive and universal reach of Ibn Arabia mystical understanding of Islam. There is no doubt that this little book is the best single brief source about the meaning and purpose of Ibn Arabi's life thought available in English today. Chittick corrects of the views of previous writers by presenting the scope and integrity of Ibn Arabi's views on metaphysics, theology, cosmology, spiritual anthropology, psychology, and jurisprudence. Topics include the inner meanings of Islamic rituals, the stations of travelers on the journey to God and in God, the nature of cosmic hierarchy, the spiritual and ontological meaning of the letters of the Arabic alphabet, the sciences and braced by each of the 99 names of God, and the significance of the differing messages of the various profits. In a smaller but much-studied work the Ringstones of Wisdom, basing himself mostly on Koranic verses and hadiths, Ibn Arabi shows how each of the 27 prophets from Adam down to moment disclosed in their own person behavior and prosthetic career the wisdom implied by one of the divine attributes.
The Meccan Revelations: Selected texts from the Al-Futuhat al-Makkiya Volume 1 by M. Ibn Arabi, edited by Michel Chodkiewicz, new introduction by James W. Morris, English translations by William Chittick and James W. Morris (Pir Press) Perhaps no mystic in the history of the world has delved as deeply into the inner knowledge that informs our being as did Ibn 'Arabi. He was born into the cultural and religious crucible of Andalusian Spain in 1165, a place and time in which Muslim, Jewish and Christian scholars learned from each other and from the Greek classics that were then being translated and circulated. Drawing from the most advanced philosophical and metaphysical thinking of his time and from his extensive knowledge of the religion of Islam, Ibn Arabi created an extraordinary mystical theosophy that essentially sprang from his own spiritual realization into the divine unity of existence. Because of the advanced nature of his teachings, he has been known for 800 years as the Sheikh al-Akbar, or the Greatest Master. Because of the subtlety of his language and complexity of his thought, access to Ibn Arabi has always been difficult and translation daunting. Previously only short extracts were available in English. This volume, the first of two, contains 22 key chapters of Al-Futuhat al-Makkiya, an encyclopedic Sufi "summa mystica," on such issues as Ibn Arabi's doctrine of the Divine Names, the nature of spiritual experience, the end of time, the resurrection and the stages of the path that lead to sanctity.
Al-Futuhat al-Makkiya soars beyond time, culture and any particular form of religion. Describing what is fundamental to our humanity, it is astonishingly universal. Finally, readers in the West have a pioneering entree into one of the most important, profound works of world literature.Any work on the Al-Futuhat al-Makkiya in English is provisional and exploratory and it will require several generations of scholars and some further development in philosophical hermeneutics before anything like a coordinated complete translation could yet be attempted. The importance of this work, and its future volume two, is that it inaugurated the first systematic exploration in the West of this profound theosophical encyclopedia. As a result, the years since the first appearance of these translations have seen an ongoing worldwide transformation-‑in the Islamic world at least as much as in Western academic and spiritual circles‑in the understanding and appreciation of the nature and wider significance of Ibn 'Arabi's writings. When ibn Arabis thought is more fully explored and more widely known its unique contribution to a future global religious plurality and harmony may become apparent. Ibn Arabi proposes unique formulations of divine reality which when understood in depth may radically transform world theological discourse, not only in Islam but also in liberal and conservative Christian and Jewish hermeneutics.
Pir Press is to be commended in re-issuing this important selection of chapters from the gargantuan Al-Futuhat al-Makkiya because the French edition of 1988‑its size, cost and foreign publication made access difficult in the English‑speaking world from the start, soon became utterly difficult to get to due to problems at the original publishers. Generally, for the past decade, only those with ready contact to university libraries and Islamic research collections have been able to refer directly to these essential translations. The translators have gone on to provide significant studies and translations of ibn Arabis work as Morris summarizes in his new introduction to this partial reprint edition. The second volume should include Chodkiewicz's original long Introduction to the key themes and opening chapters of the Al-Futuhat al-Makkiya, as well as outlines the contents and location, in the overall scheme of the Futuhat and translations of both the original French chapters.
The Unlimited Mercifier: The Spiritual Life and Thought of Ibn Arabi by Stephen Hirtenstein (Anqa and White Cloud) As the first full introduction written for a general audience about the life and significance of Ibn 'Arabi (1165-1240), this volume long fills an acute gap in the general literature about Sufism in English. Ibn Arabi can rightly be regarded as the greatest mystical thinker in the history of Islam and as might be extrapolated from this study, perhaps some future global mysticism that is inter-sectarian. In the Islamic world Ibn 'Arabi is often referred to honorifically as al-Shaykh al-Akbar (the Greatest Master).
Among the literalists and reactionary legalists in Islam the profound readings of the Quran and hadith, that is the staple of just about everything the Shaykh al-Akbar wrote, is regarded with shrewd suspicion, if not outright hostility and censor. Among a core of Sufis the Shaykh al-Akbars works have been savored with a relish and delight as often his lengthy considerations show a nearly unfathomable grasp for the living presence of the divine in all aspects of life.
Any mystic can find much to ponder in a studied reading of Ibn 'Arabis texts. For the many Christians and some Jews who are still perhaps unconsciously swayed by the centuries of anti-Islamic polemic in the west, an astute reading of Shaykh al-Akbars work should banish many of the silly sectarian ideas that cling to our ideas about Islam. Muslims themselves are still extreamly divided over the worth of Shaykh al-Akbars views and common misattributions to him of pantheism and even incarnationism are still common slurs betraying a willful misreading of Shaykh al-Akbars ideas.
Though it is unlikely that The Unlimited Mercifier will seriously affect this perennial debate about Shaykh al-Akbars ultimate worth as a Muslim, Hirtenstein does offer a useful introduction to ibn Arabi that has not existed in English before. I believe that as scholarly work proceeds on translating the profound depth of Islam as a spiritual path toward knowing self and the divine will become more widely appreciated. The perspective of Shaykh al-Akbar, acknowledged and not, definitely sets the standard of any spiritual reading of the Quran.
Also in the emerging world spirituality ibn Arabi may yet play an unique role is forging a link between the monotheisms of the west to the pantheisms and non-theisms of the east and of a rationalist scientific humanisms of modernity. The Unlimited Mercifier provides not only an introduction to the life and ideas of ibn Arabi but without too strong a reading between the lines that the importance and perennial relevance of Shaykh al-Akbars ideas for emerging global civilization become apparent. Given this breath I highly recommend this introduction and eventually a closer consideration of the of Shaykh al-Akbars works as available in the works reviewed below. Special note of SUFI PATH OF KNOWLEDGE and SELF-DISCLOSURE OF GOD by William C. Chittick should be noted by sincere students.
White Cloud Press, in a joint publishing effort with Anqa Publishing in the United Kingdom, presents the first in a series of books on the life and teachings of Ibn 'Arabi. Relatively unknown in the West until the 20th century, he has been revered by Sufi mystics ever since he first burst upon the Islamic world at the turn of the 13th century. He wrote over 350 books and treatises that are recognized as classics of world spirituality.
The Unlimited Mercifier is a new appreciation of Ibn 'Arabi, clarifying the meanings and relevance of his life and thought. It serves as a thorough introduction for those new to his work, as well as providing food for contemplation and further study for those alre! ady familiar with his genius.
Divided into five sections, the book consists of seventeen alternating chapters of biography and thought. The biographical chapters chart the historical trajectory of his life, using his own descriptions as well as the latest research, and are richly illustrated with photographs and maps. Every second chapter discusses a facet of his thought, demonstrating Ibn 'Arabi's immediate relevance to our modern era.
Though ibnArabi is usually considered a theosopher (philosophical mystic) par excellence, one should not overlook his profound devotional side, well represented in his poetry scattered in his writings as well as his well regarded Interpreter of Desires, now in The Seven Days of the Heart by Ibn 'Arabi, translated by Pablo Beneito and Stephen Hirtenstein (Anqa) we have a translation of Shaykh al-Akbar s own collection of prayers for the nights and days of the week. This is the first time these extraordinary and beautiful prayers have been translated into English. There are fourteen prayers, full of the most astounding expressions of contemplation and devotion to God. This is a unique spiritual masterpiece that possesses the quality of being able to speak to people of all walks of life and belief, across the apparent barrier of many centuries and different cultures. Despite this growing interest, the prayers that are attributed to him remain little-known. They provide a glimpse into the real practice of the mystical life within the Sufi tradition. This is the first time that any of ibn 'Arabi's prayers have been published in another language. This collection is one of the most beautiful, having been revered in the Islamic world for centuries. There are 14 prayers, one for each day and night of the week. Not only are they full of expressions of contemplation and devotion to God, they also include a depth of knowledge of Union. As the translators show in their introduction, the very structure of the prayers is a mode of contemplation, since for Ibn 'Arabi the weekly cycle itself is sacred.Stations Of Desire: Love Elegies From Ibn 'Arabi And New Poems by Michael Sells (Ibis Editions) Among the most widely read of his works, and certainly his most famous collection of poems, was his volume of odes, The Translator of Desires (Turjuman al-Ashwaq), which is regarded as a masterpiece of Arabic and Sufi love poetry. Michael Sells's Stations of Desire contains the first translations of Ibn 'Arabi's Turjuman into modern poetic English. Sells, the translator of a highly praised volume of pre-Islamic qasidas, Desert Tracings, and the anthology Early Islamic Mysticism carries into his translations the supple, resonant quality of the original Arabic, so that the poems come to robust life in English. In addition to a substantial selection of the odes themselves, Sells provides an insightful introduction that makes this work accessible to contemporary readers, as it locates the poems within the history of Arabic poetics and the tradition of Sufi mysticism. The book also includes a section of Sells's original poems, which are modeled on the Turjuman and serve as further commentary to the medieval odes and their extension into the present climate of poetry.
For background on the Andalusian origins of ibn al-Arabi's Muslim Spain this massive study is exceptional as the best single source of scholarly assessment of the era and region. Also it is now quite reasonably priced.
The Legacy of Muslim
Spain 2 Volumes edited by Salma Khadra Jayyusi (Brill) (hardcover) Now
that this major contribution to the history and culture of Andalusian Spain during the
heyday of high medieval Muslim culture is available in a paper edition, this text should
be considered for course work as there is quite simply no other resource like it in
English that attempts to provide a fulsome account of Islam in Spain.
The civilization of medieval Muslim Spain is perhaps the most brilliant and prosperous of its age and has been essential to the direction which civilization in medieval Europe took. The Legacy of Muslim Spain is the first ever in any language to deal in a really comprehensive manner with all major aspects of Islamic civilization in medieval Spain. Forty-one international scholars have contributed to the 48 chapters in the areas of history (12 chapters), language and literature (10 chapters), music (1 chapter), art and architecture (6 chapters), social history and lifestyle (3 chapters), economic history (2 chapters), philosophy (3 chapters), religious studies (4 chapters), and science, technology, and agriculture (7 chapters). Includes 16 color and 9 b&w plates, and 6 simple black & white maps.
Contents Foreword: Salma Khadra Jayyusi History: Mahmoud Makki, The Political History of al-Andalus (92/711-897/1492). James Dickie, Granada: A Case Study of Arab Urbanism in Muslim Spain. Robert Hillenbrand, `The Ornament of the World: Medieval Cordoba as a Cultural Centre. Rafael Valencia, Islamic Seville: Its Political, Social and Cultural History. Mikel de Epalza, Mozarabs: An Emblematic Christian Minority in Islamic al-Andalus Margarita Lopez Gomez, The Mozarabs: Worthy Bearers of Islamic Culture. L.P. Harvey, The Mudejars. Raymond P. Scheindlin, The Jews in Muslim Spain. L.P. Harvey, The Political, Social and Cultural History of the Moriscos. Madeleine Fletcher, Al-Andalus and North Africa in the Almohad Ideology. Aziz Al-Azmeh, Mortal Enemies, Invisible Neighbours: Northerners in Andalusi Eyes. Abbas Hamdani, An Islamic Background to the Voyages of Discovery. Language and Literature: Pierre Cachia, Andalusi Belles Lettres. Salma Khadra Jayyusi, Andalusi Poetry: The Golden Period. Salma Khadra Jayyusi, Nature Poetry in al-Andalus and the Rise of Ibn Khafaja James T. Monroe, Zajal and Muwashshaha: Hispano-Arabic Poetry and the Romance Tradition. Lois A. Giffen, Ibn Hazm and the Tawq al-Hamama F. Corriente, Linguistic Interference Between Arabic and the Romance Languages of the Iberian Peninsula. Dieter Messner, Further Listings and Categorisations of Arabic Words in Ibero-Romance Languages. Roger Boase, Arab Influences on European Love-Poetry Maria Rosa Menocal, Al-Andalus and 1492: The Ways of Remembering. Luce Lopez-Baralt, The Legacy of Islam in Spanish Literature. Music: Owen Wright, Music in Muslim Spain Art and Architecture: Oleg Grabar, Two Paradoxes in the Islamic Art of the Spanish Peninsula. Jerrillynn Dodds, The Mudejar Tradition in Architecture. Jerrillynn Dodds, The Arts of al-Andalus. James Dickie, Space and Volume in Nasrid Architecture. J.C. Burgel, Ecstasy and Control in Andalusi Art: Steps towards a New Approach. A. Fernandez-Puertas, Calligraphy in al-Andalus. Social History and Lifestyle Pierre Guichard, The Social History of Muslim Spain. Maria J. Viguera, Asluhu li 'l-mabuli: On the Social Status of Andalusi Women. David Waines, The Culinary Culture of al-Andalus. Economic History: Pedro Chalmeta, An Approximate Picture of the Economy of al-Andalus. Olivia Remie Constable, Muslim Merchants in Andalusi International Trade. Philosophy: Miguel Cruz Hernandez, Islamic Thought in the Iberian Peninsula. Jamal al-Din al-bAlawi, The Philosophy of Ibn Rushd J.C. Burgel, Ibn Tufayl and his Hayy Ibn Yaqzan: A Turning Point in Arabic Philosophical Writing. Religious Studies: Dominique Urvoy, The bUlamac of al-Andalus. Manuela Marin, Muslim Religious Practices in al-Andalus (2nd/8th- 4th/10th Centuries). Maria Isabel Fierro, Heresy in al-Andalus. Claude Addas, Andalusi Mysticism and the Rise of Ibn bArabi. Science, Technology and Agriculture: J. Vernet, Natural and Technical Sciences in al-Andalus. Julio Samso, The Exact Sciences in al-Andalus. Thomas F. Glick, Hydraulic Technology in al-Andalus. Expiracion Garcia Sanchez, Agriculture in Muslim Spain. Lucie Bolens, The Use of Plants for Dyeing and Clothing. James Dickie, The Hispano-Arab Garden: Notes towards a Typology. Charles Burnett, The Translating Activity in Medieval Spain. Margarita Lopez Gomez, Islamic Civilisation in al-Andalus: A Final Assessment.
ISLAMIC SAINTHOOD IN THE FULLNESS OF TIME: Ibn Al-Arabi's Book of the Fabulous Gryphon, introduction, translations and notes by Gerald T. Elmore ($229.50, hardcover, 757 pages, Islamic Philosophy, Theology and Science, Texts and Studies, Brill Academic Publishers; ISBN: 9004109919) tentative appraisal, fuller review to follow.
This is a epochal translation and original interpretation of ibn al-Arabis view of himself in relation to Mohammedan Sainthood as he re-conceived it. Like many mystics of genius Muhyi-l-Din ibn al-Arabi found quite early in his career that his position in the hierarchy of mystics and minor prophets had a unique significance for the symbolic development of Islam, that would deepen and completely redefine the most exalted reaches of Islamic anthropology, philosophy of religion and mysticism. In many ways the west and the east is still in its infancy in approaching the towering edifice of this Saints encyclopedic esoteric reworking of Islam, a reworking that may still proffer unique insights to any future philosophy of religion.
In fact it is only with the advent of philosophical hermeneutics and the recent turn of philosophy toward religious studies as suggested by de Vries (PHILOSOPHY AND THE TURN TO RELIGION by Hent de Vries $24.95, paperback, 473 pages, Johns Hopkins University Press, ISBN: 0801859956) that the preliminary tools and attitudes are now possible in the academic discourse study of ibn al-Arabis rich and difficult texts. The rigor of interpretation needed to approach ibn al-Arabis massive literary output is well understood by western scholars who study him. His writings are full of detailed learning specific to his time and high religious culture of his time, full of allusions unique to the Sufi milieu. William Chitticks (see below) works have contributed to a fuller understanding of this thinker who was all but ignored and hardly known in the West just two generations ago.
In many ways ibn al-Arabi offers a unique picture of the inner workings of a mystic because his writings have a autobiographical element to them that most mystical writings from the medieval period do not. Elmores study is the first concerted effort to deal in-depth with the meaning of ibn al-Arabis Andalusian writings, the writings he produced before his hajj and life in Africa and Asia where his major works were composed. One of the more controversial of Elmores contributions his reworking of the Saints early life and his self-conceptions of his mystical station as "Mohammedan Seal of the Saints." This topic has concerned many Western excursions into the intricate labyrinth of his thinking. If we understand how ibn al-Arabi thought of himself and what the scope of his project was then we have a practical key to the enormous reworking of universal Islam, an esoteric vision that few Sufi schools have ever matched or grasped without seriously falling in sectarian and ideological simplifications of ibn al-Arabis thought.
The current dean of Akbarian studies in the west, Michel Chodkiewicz exemplifies a balance between scholarly rigor and pious esteem as encountered in his SEAL OF THE SAINTS: Prophethood and Sainthood in the Doctrine of Ibn Arabi (see below). Elmores study and translation provides a single text focus approach that is likewise sensitive to development in the Saint's self-definition and the elaboration of his anthropology. One could say the Elmores ISLAMIC SAINTHOOD IN THE FULLNESS OF TIME represents first fruits of an historical critical approach to ibn al-Arabi that attempts to provide a broader cultural as well as biographical context as background to understanding the saints work as a whole. More specifically Elmore offers a plethora of minutia in his notes that should advance Akbarian studies in many small but substantial ways well beyond the competence of this reviewer to consider.
So far we have addressed only a few of the central features of Elmores 226 page introduction. The major value of this work is in its significant translation of the Book of the Fabulous Gryphon (Kitab Anqa Mughrib). Elmore provides this poetic and theosophical work with a clear translation and plenty of guidance in notes and commentary to provide future considerations of the saints hierarchy of sainthood much serious attentiveness to continuities and variations in ibn al-Arabi's thought. All in all ISLAMIC SAINTHOOD IN THE FULLNESS OF TIME is a major work of scholarship that any serious student of ibn al-Arabi's theosophy cannot afford to ignore to take issue with.
As we have already noted, the primary and unique subject-matter of the Gryphon is the revolutionary Sufi notion of walayah as bodied-forth in its supremely final authority, the Seal of sainthood. This is quite apparent in the first third of the book (roughly, the first one hundred pages of our translation) and very much so in the last quarter, but the vast middle portion of material contains only occasional adversions to the subject, though these few passages are certainly interesting. Generally speaking, this middle section might best be characterized as a fairly standard Sufi philosophical "great chain-of-being" cosmogony, with the Islamic Logos, the Haqiqah al-Muhammadiyah, as the unifying leitmotif and fulcrum upon which the whole system turns. But in Ibn al-'Arabi's ontology, the cosmic appearance of the Mohammedan Reality, or prophetic Light (the or/nur of Genesis 1.3) typically heralds the beginning of anthropogenesis and the emergence of mystic man (the adam of Gen. 1.26):
For [the Reality of] Muhammad (May God bless and keep him!) is a Copy of [Divine] Reality (nuskhatu Haqq) with marks of distinction, and Adam [sci., the human entelechy], in turn, is a Copy from him in entirety; while we, we are a Copy of them both (Peace be upon them!), and the World, both earthly and heavenly, is a Copy of us--and there the pens run dry.
The hybrid creature of earth and of Spirit, does man in his essence and destiny follow the way of the world or the Word of God? The last of all beings from the standpoint of physical evolution is yet the first as to pristine spiritual perfection, Ibn al-'Arabi answers. But how can this be? It is because all is cyclic, the last in time becoming the first, all things ending in their beginning. In the downward cycle the intelligible (al-ma'qal) becomes the tangible (al-mahsus), and in the return, the ascent, the secrets sown in the earth must blossom in mystical mneme:
You surely have known the First-arising (al-nash'ah al-'Ia) [sci., the "natural man"]; Why, then, do you not remember? [Surah LVI:62]
Man is Light and the Light is God. The mere saying of such a thing is worthless (besides being blasphemous and, apparently, quite false), however, unless we can see and experience its truth for ourselves (then we will not care about the problems of logic). But how can truth ever be experienced? The advice that Ibn al-'Arabi gives in the 'Anqa', is the answer of the religious mind:
Restrict [external] perception (al-basar) and avert [internal] speculation (al-nazar); restore the Remembrance [of the Names of God] and struggle to dominate [over your own lower nature] (al-dhikr wa-l-mughalabah); seek the assistance of reflection and attentiveness (al-fikr wa-l-muraqabah) and prepare for the acceptance (al-qabul) of that which the Messenger [of Inspiration] (al-rasul) brings to you. [Do all of this] and you will surely be informed of that [Answer which you seek] with clarity .
Here we nave a comparatively rare example of the praxis of Ibn al-'Arabi's mystical anthropology. My purpose in quoting it here is to draw attention to the close relation between the concepts of man and sainthood in Ibn al-'Arabi's thought. In the microcosmic "Jewels" section of the 'Anqa', the eighth Marjanah---devoted to sainthood (as contra-distinguished from prophethood)---follows the seventh, concerning human existence as both a "mirage" (sarab) and an "image"/like- (mithl) of God." Now, these symbols are apparently explicated the Qur'anic verse in which the actions of unbelievers are compared to a desert mirage which "the thirsty one supposes to be water until he comes to it and finds it to be nothing, but he finds God in place" (wa-wajada Llaha 'inda-hu)---which Sufis understood to an: "but he finds God near/with him."
Thus, we could say that the Mohammedan Reality, manifestly prophetic and typically associated with world-creation and Revelation wahy), is actually no more than the conceptual corollary of the "mystic", "saintly", or "perfect" Man (al-insan al-kamil, = Gr., anthropos teleios who is appropriately framed in the eschatological context of world-destruction and the Resurrection, expressed in terms of and by authority of mystical inspiration (ilham) raised to the power of certainty This correlation, however, is not actually spelled out in ibn Arabi's doctrine, and it seems to me that the two treatments--middle port on portion of the 'Anqa' (foused on the Mohammedan Reality), on the one hand, and the beginning and the end of the book, both dealing with the Khatm/Mahdi, on the other-are, in reality two different compositions grafted together in their present form.
IBN ARABI IN THE LATER ISLAMIC TRADITION: The Making of a Polemical Image in Medieval Islam by Alexander D. Knysh ($27.95, paperback, 449 pages, Suny Series in Islam, State University of New York Press; ISBN: 0791439682) HARDCOVER
This meticulous historical work examines the fierce controversy over the legacy of Ibn
'Arabi, the great Islamic mystic.
"Knysh has looked at exactly who were the supporters and opponents of Ibn 'Arabi for several centuries after his death, where they were getting their information, why they should have taken the position they took, and so forth. The author brings together a lot of tidbits in the secondary literature that people have not connected, and he does so with careful attention to the primary texts." -- William C. Chittick
This book investigates the fierce theological controversy over the great Muslim mystical thinker Ibn 'Arabi (1165-1242). Even during his lifetime, Ibn 'Arabi's conformity with the letter of the Muslim dogma was called into doubt by many scholars who were suspicious of the monistic (unitive) tendencies of his metaphysical teaching, of his claims to be the Prophet's successor and restorer of the true meaning of the Islamic revelation, and of his allegorical interpretation of the Qur'an.
Following Ibn 'Arabi's death, these misgivings grew into an outright condemnation of his teachings by a number of influential thirteenth through fifteenth century theologians who portrayed him as a dangerous heretic bent on undermining the foundations of Islamic faith and
communal life. In response to these grave accusations, Ibn 'Arabi's advocates praised him as the greatest saint of Islam who was unjustly slandered by the bigoted and narrow-minded critics.
As time went on, these conflicting images of the mystical thinker became rallying points for various political and scholarly factions vying for lucrative religious and administrative posts and ideological denomination. In thoroughly analyzing the heated debates around Ibn 'Arabi's ideas throughout the three centuries following his death, this study brings out discursive strategies and arguments employed by the polemicists, the hidden agendas they pursued, and the reasons for the striking longevity of the issue in Islamic literature up to the present day. On the theoretical level, this book reassesses the validity of such common dichotomies as orthodoxy
versus heresy, mainstream versus mystical interpretations of Islam, and communalism versus individualism as well as other issues related to the history of Islamic thought.
Alexander D. Knysh is The Sharjah Professor of Islamic Studies, Department of Arabic and Middle East Studies, University of Exeter, United Kingdom. His studies were mostly conducted in the former Soviet Union and represent through examination of the documents.
QUEST FOR THE RED SULPHUR: The Life of Ibn Arabi by Claude Addas ($29.95, paperback, Islamic Texts Society; ISBN: 0946621454)
This work is undoubtedly a landmark in Ibn Arabi studies and its author's gift of narrative allied to a consummate understanding of the subject should make this volume compulsory reading for anyone interested in Islamic mysticism.
INTRODUCTION TO SUFI DOCTRINE by Titus Burckhardt, translated by D. M. Matheson ($7.95, paperback
An explanation by a Western Muslim of the doctrines of Sufism and their origins in Islam.
'ARABI: A Commemorative Volume
edited by Stephen Hirtenstein and Michael Tiernan ($65.00, hardcover, Element Books; ISBN: 1852303492)
This important volume celebrates the 750th anniversary of the death of one of the
world's mystical giants, Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi, known throughout the Muslim world simply as
the Shaykh al-akbar (the greatest teacher). This
text brings together, for the first time, works by eminent scholars and students of the Shaykh from many different countries. Beside some important essays clarifying distinctive ideas of the Shaykh, the volume also includes translations of the some of his works. Recommended.
SUFI PATH OF KNOWLEDGE: Ibn al-Arabi's Metaphysics of Imagination by William C. Chittick ($25.95, paperback, 544 pages, State University of New York Press; ISBN: 0887068855)
This work is a thorough study of Ibn al-Arabi's thought. The book offers Ibn al-Arabi's view of spiritual perfection and explains his theology, ontology, epistemology, hermeneutics, and soteriology. The clear language, unencumbered by methodological jargon, makes it accessible to those familiar with other spiritual traditions, while its scholarly precision will appeal to specialists. Chittick stays to close to traditional accounts of epistemology and ontology so that the deep radicallity of ibn Arabi's thought is somewhat tamed and made prosaic rather than its profound poetic intimations of reforming consciousness. In SELF-DISCLOSURE OF GOD Chittick begins to correct this reliance upon customary forms of thought and brings us closer to the true ordinary vision of this world class mystic. Essential.
SELF-DISCLOSURE OF GOD: Principles of Ibn al-Arabi's Cosmology by William C. Chittick ($25.95, paperback, 544 pages, State University of New York Press; ISBN: 0791434044)
This work represents a major step forward in making available to the Western reader the enormous riches of Islamic teachings in the fields of cosmology, mystical philosophy, theology, and spirituality. The book is divided into three parts: the relation between God and the cosmos, the structure of the cosmos and the nature of the human soul. The introduction is an excellent summary overview of Ibn Arabi's metaphysics. The rest of the book contains extensive translations of Ibn Arabi with explanatory commentary. Chittick continues to refine his approach to the difficult texts of ibn Arabi by appreciating the flow of his thought rather than continuing to artificially import his ideas into modern categories. This opens up the poetic dimensions of his religious thought which may eventually be used as a critique to norms of comparative theology and a more radical appreciation of traditional metaphysical systems and experience. This work continues to be the most comprehensive account of ibn Arabi's world class theosophy available in a Western language. Highly recommended.
IMAGINAL WORLDS: Ibn al-Arabi and the Problem of Religious Diversity by William C. Chittick ($19.95, paperback, 208 pages, State University of New York Press; ISBN: 079142250X)
This book is an introduction to the thought of Ibn al-Arabi, the most influential
Muslim thinker of the past 600 years, concerning the ultimate destiny of human beings, God
and the cosmos, and the reasons for religious diversity. Explains his concept of human
perfection, the implications of the World of Imagination, and why God's wisdom demands
diversity. It suggests how al-Arabi's teachings
can be used in the modern study of world religions and some of the implications for modern thought about ultimate values. Solid.
The author shows that Ibn Arabi's writings are grounded in the Quran and Sunnah which is important as many Muslim's have claimed that his teachings have gone against the spirit of the Quran.
SPIRITUAL WRITINGS OF AMIR ABD AL-KADER selected and translated by Michel Chodkiewicz ($16.95, paperback, 233 pages, State University of New York Press; ISBN: 0791424464)
Behind Abd al-Kader's role of brilliant warrior lay another, that of spiritual master in the direct lineage of Ibn Arabi. The thirty-nine texts translated here were chosen because they represent the major themes of his teachings. Many are commentaries on passages from the writings of Ibn Arabi.
SEAL OF THE
SAINTS: Prophethood and Sainthood in the
Doctrine of Ibn Arabi by Michel Chodkiewicz, translated from the French by Liadain Sherrard ($55.00, hardcover, Golden Palm, Islamic Texts Society; ISBN: 094662139X)
In recent years a number of important studies have helped acquaint the Western reader
with Ibn 'Arabi's
metaphysics and this process is now greatly enhanced by the present volume in which Michael Chodkiewicz explores for the first time in depth, the Sufi's 'hagiology' or teaching about sainthood. Founded on a careful analysis
of the relevant texts, Chodkiewicz's work examines this essential aspect of Ibn 'Arabi's doctrine of sainthood, defining the nature and function of sainthood, while also specifying the criteria for a typology of saints based on the notion of prophetic inheritance. This is by far the best available explanation of the nature of sanctity for both the practical and the theoretical understanding of ibn 'Arabi's thought and Sufism in general. It is an extraordinarily good book about an extremely elusive thinker. Chodkiewicz not only knows the texts remarkably well, but also avoids and rejects certain errors of perspective common among other scholars, by so doing has brought the study of ibn 'Arabi into a critical focus.
ALONE WITH THE
ALONE: Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabi by Henry Corbin, translated
from the French by Ralph Manheim, new Preface by Harold Bloom ($19.95, paperback, 454
pages, 5 plates, 2 in color, Mythos, Princeton University Press; ISBN: 0691058342)
By far one of the epoch making religious studies titles of this century, Corbin not only introduces ibn al-Arabi to Western readers he also makes intelligible much of visionary experience in all religious dimensions. It requires some tough reading but is a masterful account of a still neglected and little appreciated aspect of religious experience. Generally all of Corbin's works are the best guide to the visionary tradition. Corbin, like Scholem and Jonas, is remembered as a scholar of genius. He was uniquely equipped not only to recover Iranian Sufism for the West, but also to defend the principal Western traditions of esoteric spirituality.
Ibn 'Arabi was one of the great mystics of all time. Through the richness of his personal experience and the constructive power of his intellect, he made a unique contribution to Shi'ite Sufism. In this book, which features a powerful new preface by Harold Bloom, Henry Corbin brings us to the very core of this movement with a penetrating analysis of Ibn 'Arabi's life and doctrines. Corbin begins with a kind of spiritual topography of the twelfth century, emphasizing the differences between exoteric and esoteric forms of Islam. He also relates Islamic mysticism to mystical thought in the West.
The remainder of the book is devoted to two complementary essays: on "Sympathy and Theosophy" and "Creative Imagination and Creative Prayer." A section of notes and appendices includes original translations of numerous Sufi treatises. Harold Bloom's preface links Sufi mysticism with Shakespeare's visionary dramas and high tragedies, such as The Tempest and Hamlet. These works, he writes, intermix the empirical world with a transcendent element. Bloom shows us that this Shakespearean cosmos is analogous to Corbin's "Imaginal Realm" of the Sufi's, the place of soul or souls. Through the richness of Ibn 'Arabi's personal experience and the constructive power of his intellect, he made a unique contribution to Shi'ite Sufism.
BEZELS OF WISDOM by Ibn al- Arabi, translated with introductions and commentary by R. W. J. Austin, photographs by Titus Burckhardt ($19.95, paperback, 302 pages, Paulist Press; ISBN: 0809123312
This work was written during the author's later years and was intended to be a synthesis of his spiritual doctrine. It is probably the most studied of ibn 'Arabi's writings and in many ways has been a primer in many Sufi schools.
MYSTERIES OF PURITY: Ibn al-Arabi's Asrar al-taharah by Eric Winkel ($38.95, hardcover, 275 pages Cross Cultural Publications/Crossroads; ISBN: 0940121328)
This work is an important glimpse into a neglected subject: the Sufi meditation upon the meaning of Islamic law. The work will allow a more balanced understanding of Sufism and will help dispel simplistic stereotypes about alleged opposition between Sufism and law.
In this translation of a portion of the fiqh section of the Futuhat
al-Makkiyyah, at least two startling key issues emerge. Being startled, in itself, is
the first key. And the second is the 'arabic language' which means that language which the
original audience of the Qur'an understood. Also startling are all the twists and turns,
all the secrets and mysteries, all the bizarre and strange permutation of the original
Although the translation is quite literal and over 300 pages, with careful reading, special academic preparation is not necessary. This book is a spiritual and intellectual treat, and a great hope for a more authentic and deep Islamic discourse.
About the Author: Eric Winkel, an expert in Arabic language and Islamic studies, has taught at several universities in the United States, the Middle East, and Pakistan.
ISLAM AND THE LIVING LAW: The Ibn al-Arabi Approach by Eric Winkel ($21.00, paperback, 130 pages, Oxford University Press; ISBN: 0195776909)
Many contemporary Muslims associate Ibn al-Arabi, the 13th century mystic scholar, with dangerous, gnostic intentions. While refuting this misconception, this book portrays al-Arabi as a most direct and literal purveyor of the divine message. The author takes up the discussion of spiritual-legal fiqh which al-Arabi articulated 700 years ago. Playing with language and its ambiguities, al-Arabi disturbs the comfort of human-made religion. According to him, each novel situation presents the spiritual-legal practitioner with choices, and the determination of appropriate action is the subject of fiqh. This also encompasses debate about linguistics and the Koran to prophetic practice.
This volume explores various facets of the Islamic search for knowledge. It examines figures as diverse as Abu Najib al-Suhrawardi and Ibn al-Arabi on the one hand, and Ibn Battuta and Ibn Jubary on the other. The volume is divided into two main sections, Thought and Travel, an exciting and stimulating collection with many fresh and vivid insights about the meaning pf pilgrimage and ritual observance as it relates to the production of knowledge and meaning.
Ibn Arabi (Makers of the Muslim World) by
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Contemplation of the Holy Mysteries: The Mashahid al-asrar
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101 Diamonds from the Oral Tradition of the Glorious
Messenger Muhammad by Ibn Arabi
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Divine Governance of the Human Kingdom: Including What
the Seeker Needs and The One Alone by
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