Abū ʿAbd Allāh Muḥammad ibn ʿAlī ibn Muḥammad ibnʿArabī al-Ḥātimī aṭ-Ṭāʾī (Arabic: أبو عبد الله محمد بن علي بن محمد بن عربي الحاتمي الطائي) (25 July 1165 – 8 November 1240) was an Andalusian Scholar of Islam, Sufi mystic, poet, and philosopher. He is renowned by some practitioners of Sufism as "the greatest master" and also as a genuine saint.
'Abū 'Abdillāh Muḥammad ibn 'Alī ibn Muḥammad ibn `Arabī (أبو عبد الله محمد ابن علي ابن محمد ابن عربي ) was born in Murcia, Taifa of Murcia on Sunday, 17th of Ramaḍān 560 AH (25 July 1165 AD) at night. He went by the names al-Shaykh al-Akbar, Muḥyiddin ibn Arabi, and was also later nicknamed the Great Shaykh. He was also known as Shaikh-e-Akbar Mohi-ud-Din Ibn-e-Arabi in the Subcontinent.
His father, ‘Ali ibn Muḥammad, served in the Army of Ibn Mardanish. When ibn Mardanīsh died in 1172 AD, ‘Ali ibn Muḥammad swiftly shifted his allegiance to the Almohad Sultan, Abū Ya’qūb Yūsuf I, and became one of his military advisers. His family then relocated from Murcia to Seville. His father's family claimed descent from the legendary Arabian poet Hatim al-Tai.
His mother came from a noble Berber family with strong ties to northern Africa. Al-Arabi mentions his maternal uncle, Yahya ibn Yughman, who was at one point a wealthy prince of the city of Tlemcen, but had left that position to lead a life of spirituality after encountering a Sufi mystic.
His spiritual mentor in Fes was Mohammed ibn Qasim al-Tamimi.
In the year 597 AH/1200 AD, he was in Morocco and took his final leave from his master Yūsuf al-Kūmī, who was living in the village of Salé at that time.
Pilgrim at Mecca
Journeys to the North
The year 600 AH witnessed a meeting between Ibn Arabi and Shaykh Majduddīn Isḥāq ibn Yūsuf (شيخ مخددين إسحاق بن يوسف), a native of Malatya and a man of great standing at the Seljuk court. This time Ibn ‘Arabī was travelling north; first they visited Medina and in 601 AH they entered Baghdad. This visit besides other benefits offered him a chance to meet the direct disciples of Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qādir Jīlānī. Ibn Arabi stayed there only for 12 days because he wanted to visit Mosul to see his friend ‘Alī ibn ‘Abdallāh ibn Jāmi’, a disciple of Qaḍīb al-Bān (قضيب البان). There he spent the month of Ramaḍan and composed Tanazzulāt al-Mawṣiliyya (تنزلات الموصلية), Kitāb al-Jalāl wa’l-Jamāl (كتاب الجلال والجمال, "The Book of Majesty and Beauty") and Kunh mā lā Budda lil-MurīdMinhu (Hirtenstein 176).[clarification needed]
Return to South
Later in 604 AH he returned to Mecca where he continued to study and write, spending his time with his friend Abū Shujā bin Rustem and family, including the beautiful Niẓām (II, 376; Hirtenstein 181).[clarification needed] The next 4 to 5 years of Ibn ‘Arabī’s life were spent in these lands and he also kept travelling and holding the reading sessions of his works in his own presence.
The Futūḥāt al-Makkiyya
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In 629 AH the first draft of al-Futūḥāt al-Makkiyya was completed. Hundreds of manuscripts of this work exist in various libraries of the world, the most important of them being the manuscript of Konya, written by its author.
Three years later in 632 AH, on the first of Muḥarram, Ibn ‘Arabī embarked on a second draft of the Futūḥāt; this he explained, included a number of additions and a number of deletions as compared with the previous draft. This revision completed in the year 636 (Addas 286). After completion of this 2nd draft, he started teaching it to his disciples. Dr. Osman Yahia has mentioned hundreds of these hearings or public readings that occur between the year 633 AH and 638 AH.
On 22 Rabī‘ al-Thānī 638 AH (8 November 1240) at the age of seventy-five, Ibn ‘Arabī died in Damascus.
Although Ibn Arabi stated on more than one occasion that he did not prefer any one of the schools of Islamic jurisprudence, he was responsible for copying and preserving books of the Zahirite or literalist school, to which he has been ironically and erroneously ascribed. Ibn Arabi shared Ghazali's views that Islamic law was only a temporary means to a higher goal, eschewing the heavy focus on worldly matters such as financial transactions and regulations regarding clothing.
Ibn Arabi did delve into specific details at times, and was known for his view that religiously binding consensus could only serve as a source of sacred law if it was the consensus of the first generation of Muslims who had witnessed generation directly.
Al-Insān al-kāmil and Ibn al-Arabi
Al-Insān al-Kāmil or the perfect being was first deeply discussed in written form by Ibn Arabi in one of his most prolific works entitled Fusus al-Hikam. Taking an idea already common within Sufi culture, Ebn al-Arabi applied deep analysis and reflection on the issue of the Perfect Human and one’s pursuit in fulfilling this goal. In developing his explanation of the perfect being al-Arabi first discusses the issue of oneness through the metaphor of the mirror. In this metaphor al-Arabi compares an object being reflected in countless mirrors to the relationship between God and his creatures.. God’s essence is seen in the existent human being, as God is the object and humans being the mirrors. Meaning two things, that since humans are mere reflections of God there can be no distinction or separation between the two and without God the creatures would be non- existent. When an individual understands that there is no separation between human and God they begin on the path of ultimate oneness. The one who decides to walk in this oneness pursues the true reality and responds to God’s longing to be known. The search within for this Reality of oneness causes one to be reunited with God, as well as, improve self-consciousness.
The Perfect Human, through this developed self-consciousness and self-realization, prompts divine self-manifestation. This causes the Perfect Human to be of both divine and earthly origin, al-Arabi calls him the Isthmus. Being the Isthmus between heaven and Earth the perfect human fulfills God’s desire to be known and God’s presence can be realized through him by others. Additionally through self manifestation one acquires divine knowledge, which is the primordial spirit of Muhammad and all its perfection. Al- Arabi details that the perfect human is of the cosmos to the divine and conveys the divine spirit to the cosmos.
Muslim scholars have often held strong, polarized views regarding the viewpoints and character of Ibn Arabi. Many have declared Ibn Arabi to be the foremost spiritual leader and Sufi master in Muslim history. Others regarded him as a heretic or even an apostate. Very few have had neutral or lukewarm reactions.
The reaction of Ibn 'Abd as-Salam, a Muslim scholar respected by both Ibn Arabi's supporters and detractors, has been of note due to disputes over whether he himself was a supporter or detractor. All parties have claimed to have transmitted Ibn 'Abd as-Salam's comments from his student Ibn Sayyid al-Nas, yet the two sides have transmitted very different accounts. Ibn Taymiyyah, Al-Dhahabi and Ibn Kathir all transmitted Ibn 'Abd as-Salam's comments as a criticism, while Fairuzabadi, Al-Suyuti, Ahmed Mohammed al-Maqqari and Yusuf an-Nabhani have all transmitted the comments as praise.
Some 800 works are attributed to Ibn Arabi, although only some have been authenticated. Recent research suggests that over 100 of his works have survived in manuscript form, although most printed versions have not yet been critically edited and include many errors.
- The Meccan Illuminations (Al-Futūḥāt al-Makkiyya), his largest work in 37 volumes originally and published in 4 or 8 volumes in modern times, discussing a wide range of topics from mystical philosophy to Sufi practices and records of his dreams/visions. It totals 560 chapters.
- The Ringstones of Wisdom (also translated as The Bezels of Wisdom), or Fusus al-Hikam. Composed during the later period of Ibn 'Arabi's life, the work is sometimes considered his most important and can be characterized as a summary of his teachings and mystical beliefs. It deals with the role played by various prophets in divine revelation. The attribution of this work (Fusus al-Hikam) to Ibn Arabi is debated and in at least one source is described as a forgery and false attribution to him reasoning that there are 74 books in total attributed to Sheikh Ibn Arabi of which 56 have been mentioned in "Al Futuhat al-Makkiyya" and the rest mentioned in the other books cited therein. However many other scholars accept the work as genuine.
- The Dīwān, his collection of poetry spanning five volumes, mostly unedited. The printed versions available are based on only one volume of the original work.
- The Holy Spirit in the Counselling of the Soul (Rūḥ al-quds), a treatise on the soul which includes a summary of his experience from different spiritual masters in the Maghrib. Part of this has been translated as Sufis of Andalusia, reminiscences and spiritual anecdotes about many interesting people whom he met in al-Andalus.
- Contemplation of the Holy Mysteries Mashāhid al-Asrār probably his first major work, consisting of fourteen visions and dialogues with God.
- Divine Sayings Mishkāt al-Anwār, an important collection made by Ibn 'Arabī of 101 hadīth qudsī
- The Book of Annihilation in Contemplation (K. al-Fanā' fi'l-Mushāhada), a short treatise on the meaning of mystical annihilation (fana).
- Devotional Prayers Awrād, a widely read collection of fourteen prayers for each day and night of the week.
- Journey to the Lord of Power (Risālat al-Anwār), a detailed technical manual and roadmap for the "journey without distance".
- The Book of God's Days (Ayyām al-Sha'n), a work on the nature of time and the different kinds of days experienced by gnostics
- The Fabulous Gryphon of the West ('Unqā' Mughrib), a book on the meaning of sainthood and its culmination in Jesus and the Mahdī
- The Universal Tree and the Four Birds al-Ittihād al-Kawnī, a poetic book on the Complete Human and the four principles of existence
- Prayer for Spiritual Elevation and Protection ('al-Dawr al-A'lā), a short prayer which is still widely used in the Muslim world
- The Interpreter of Desires (Tarjumān al-Ashwāq) love poetry (ghazals) which, in response to critics, Ibn Arabi republished with a commentary explaining the meaning of the poetic symbols.
- Divine Governance of the Human Kingdom (At-Tadbidrat al-ilahiyyah fi islah al-mamlakat al-insaniyyah).
- The Four Pillars of Spiritual Transformation Hilyat al-abdāl a short work on the essentials of the spiritual Path
Urdu Translation of al-Futuhat al-Makkiyya
The first successful attempt at translating al-Futuhat al-Makkiyya was made by Muhammad Fazal Khan Changwi (1868–1938), who started publishing his translation in 1913 in installments of 100 pages each, which had to be stopped in 1927 due to lack of funds. By then 18 Parts which comprise 30 Chapters had been published. The second impression of this translation is available. The second volume of this translation was published in 2013 under the title: Futuhat-i Makkiyya. Part 2. From Parah 18 to Parah 27 (Bab 30 to Bab 63).
Commentaries and translations of Fuṣūṣ al-Ḥikam
There have been many commentaries on Ibn 'Arabī's Fuṣūṣ al-Ḥikam: the first, al-Fukūk, was written by his stepson and heir, Ṣadr al-Dīn al-Qunawī, who had studied the book with Ibn 'Arabī; the second by Qunawī's student, Mu'ayyad al-Dīn al-Jandi, which was the first line-by-line commentary; the third by Jandī's student, Dawūd al-Qaysarī, which became very influential in the Persian-speaking world. There were many others, in the Ottoman world (e.g., 'Abdullah al-Bosnawī), the Arab world (e.g., 'Abd al-Ghanī al-Nabulusī) and the Persian world (e.g., Haydar Āmolī). It is estimated that there are over fifty commentaries on the Fuṣūṣ, most of which only exist in manuscript form. The more famous (such as Qunawī's Fukūk) have been printed in recent years in Iran. A recent English translation of Ibn 'Arabī's own summary of the Fuṣūṣ, Naqsh al-Fuṣūṣ (The Imprint or Pattern of the Fusus) as well a commentary on this work by 'Abd al-Raḥmān Jāmī, Naqd al-Nuṣūṣ fī Sharḥ Naqsh al-Fuṣūṣ (1459), by William Chittick was published in Volume 1 of the Journal of the Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi Society (1982).
The Fuṣūṣ was first critically edited in Arabic by 'Afīfī (1946). The first English translation was done in partial form by Angela Culme-Seymour from the French translation of Titus Burckhardt as Wisdom of the Prophets (1975), and the first full translation was by Ralph Austin as Bezels of Wisdom (1980). There is also a complete French translation by Charles-Andre Gilis, entitled Le livre des chatons des sagesses (1997). The only major commentary to have been translated into English so far is entitled Ismail Hakki Bursevi's translation and commentary on Fusus al-hikam by Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi, translated from Ottoman Turkish by Bulent Rauf in 4 volumes (1985–1991).
A new Critical Edition of Fusus al-Hikam has been published by Ibn al-Arabi Foundation in Spring 2015, this edition is based on the beautiful manuscript written by Shaykh Sadr al-Din al-Qunawi and verfiried by Shaykh al-Akbar Ibn al-Arabi himself. Along with this the editor also consluted 6 of the most ancient and historic manuscripts of Fusus available today. This new Edition also contains new and authentic Urdu translation of the work. Translated by Abrar Ahmed Shahi, who has consulted more than 7 Commentaries and several other previous translations in order to translate the ideas correctly. He has also translated and published more than 25 works of Ibn al-Arabi.
In Urdu, the most widespread and authentic translation was made by Bahr-ul-uloom Hazrat Muhammad Abdul Qadeer Siddiqi Qadri Hasrat, the former Dean and Professor of Theology of the Osmania University, Hyderabad. It is due to this reason that his translation is in the curriculum of Punjab University. Maulvi Abdul Qadeer Siddiqui has made an interpretive translation and explained the terms and grammar while clarifying the Shaikh's opinions. A new edition of the translation was published in 2014 with brief annotations throughout the book for the benefit of contemporary Urdu reader.
A new translation has been published from Ibn al-Arabi Foundation, which is one of the best available translation of Fusus al Hikam in Urdu.
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