Ibn El-Arabi (1165 –1240) was an Arab Andalusian Sufi mystic and philosopher. Most of his youth was spent in Seville [Spain] where he had contact with a number of other well known mystics of the time. He was helped, for example, by the philosopher Averroes and also met with Khidr.
Ibn Arabi seems to have been naturally blessed with the ability to have visions and under the influence of these visions he began to write. His interpretation of the visions owes a lot to the prevailing religious beliefs of the time. These days we might interpret them differently.
Shortly after his return to Andalusia from North Africa in 1194 AD, Ibn ‘Arabi’s father died and within a few months his mother also died. His two young sisters and he left Seville and settled in Fes [Morocco]. In Fes, when he was leading a Prayer in the al-Azhar Mosque, he experienced another vision:
“I lost the sense of behind [or front]. I no longer had a back or the nape of a neck. While the vision lasted, I had no sense of direction, as if I had been completely spherical (dimensionless).” (II, 486)
Ibn ‘Arabi spent a considerable number of years travelling in the near East visiting people and ‘holy’ sites on the way.
His route took him to all the major burial places of the Prophets, for example, Hebron, where Abraham was said to be buried; Jerusalem; and then Medina, the final resting place of Prophet Muhammad.
He visited Syria [Aleppo and Damascus], Palestine, Anatolia, Egypt, Iraq, Turkey (Chittick), and he visited Baghdad, and Konya. During these travels he managed to meet with many local Sufis and hear many of the traditional stories of these regions. According to Osman Yahia, for example, in Baghdad, Ibn ‘Arabi met with the Sufi Shihabuddin Suharwardi.
During these travels he frequently visited and stayed in Mecca.
And it was in Mecca that he fell in love with the beautiful Nizam, the daughter of his friend Abu Shuja bin Rustem.
The love was platonic, not sexual and she became the personification of his Higher spirit.
Through her he attained the ‘mystic marriage’.
He did not marry Nizam, he did not lust after Nizam, he just loved her.
Each time he returned to Mecca, he spent time with his friend Abu Shuja bin Rustem and his daughter.
Many regard the works he produced in Mecca to be his most accomplished. Around 1202 AD, for example, he spent a few years in mecca writing books like the Al-Futurat al-Makkiyya. He also wrote his most famous poetic work the Tarjuman al-Ashwaq in Mecca.
Through human love he attained Divine love.
The expressions of love he expressed in his poetry caused uproar and consternation in traditional Islamic society. He was accused of writing ‘erotic verses’ under the cover of poetic allusions. His works were brought before a jury in Aleppo who simply did not believe that his poetry was a mystical expression of Divine love. He was forced to defend himself and wrote a commentary on these poems by the title of “Dhakha’ir al-A’laq”. This gave him a temporary reprieve.
After criss-crossing the east for a period of 20 years, Ibn ‘Arabi decided to settle in Syria and spent the last 17 years of his life in Damascus. In Damascus, he devoted himself to writing and teaching.
On 22 Rabi‘ al-Thani 638 AH at the age of seventy-five, Ibn ‘Arabi died.
Louis Comfort Tiffany (American, 1848-1933). On the Way between Old and New Cairo, Citadel Mosque of Mohammed Ali, and Tombs of the Mamelukes, 1872
Some 800 works are attributed to Ibn Arabi, although only some have been authenticated. These include
- The Ringstones of Wisdom (also translated as The Bezels of Wisdom), or Fusus al-Hikam.
- The Meccan Illuminations (Al-Futurat al-Makkiyya), his largest work in 37 volumes 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.
- The Diwan, his collection of poetry spanning five volumes. The printed versions available are based on only one volume of the original work.
- The Holy Spirit in the Counselling of the Soul (Ruh 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 Mashahid al-Asrar probably his first major work, consisting of fourteen visions
- Divine Sayings Mishkat al-Anwar, an important collection made by Ibn 'Arabi of 101 hadith qudsi
- The Universal Tree and the Four Birds al-Ittihad al-Kawni, a poetic book on the Complete Human and the four principles of existence
- The Interpreter of Desires (Tarjuman al-Ashwaq) love poetry (ghazals) which, in response to critics, Ibn Arabi republished with a commentary explaining the meaning of the poetic symbols.
- The Four Pillars of Spiritual Transformation Hilyat al-abdal a short work on the essentials of the spiritual Path
For iPad/iPhone users: tap letter twice to get list of items.
- Ibn El-Arabi - Contemplation of the Holy Mysteries - Ascent
- Ibn El-Arabi - Henry Corbin - And the mystic Beloved
- Ibn El-Arabi - Henry Corbin - And the Tawaf
- Ibn El-Arabi - Henry Corbin - Fursus al-hikam
- Ibn El-Arabi - Henry Corbin - Futuhat I
- Ibn El-Arabi - Henry Corbin - Sura Yasin
- Ibn El-Arabi - Idries Shah - My heart is capable of every form
- Ibn El-Arabi - The Diwan - The fedele d’amore
- Ibn El-Arabi - The Tarjuman al-Ashwaq - Greeting to Salmá and to those who dwell in the preserve
- Ibn El-Arabi - The Tarjuman al-Ashwaq - My longing sought the Upland and my affliction the Lowland
- Ibn El-Arabi - The Tarjuman al-Ashwaq - O my two friends, pass by al-Kathíb
- Ibn El-Arabi - The Tarjuman al-Ashwaq - On the day of parting
- Ibn El-Arabi - The Tarjuman al-Ashwaq - She said, 'I wonder at a lover'
- Ibn El-Arabi - The Tarjuman al-Ashwaq - Their abodes have become decayed
- Ibn El-Arabi - The Tarjuman al-Ashwaq - Would that I were aware
- Ibn El-Arabi - The Tarjuman al-Ashwaq - A ringdove wailed and a sad lover complained
- Ibn El-Arabi - The Tarjuman al-Ashwaq - As I kissed the Black Stone
- Ibn El-Arabi - The Tarjuman al-Ashwaq - At Dhú Salam and the monastery
- Ibn El-Arabi - The Tarjuman al-Ashwaq - Flashes of lightning gleamed to us
- Ibn El-Arabi - The Tarjuman al-Ashwaq - Halt at the abodes and weep over the ruins
- Ibn El-Arabi - The Tarjuman al-Ashwaq - He saw the lightning in the east
- Ibn El-Arabi - The Tarjuman al-Ashwaq - My lovesickness is from her of the lovesick eyelids
- Ibn El-Arabi - The Tarjuman al-Ashwaq - O doves that haunt the arák and bán trees
- Ibn El-Arabi - The Tarjuman al-Ashwaq - O driver of the reddish-white camels
- Ibn El-Arabi - The Tarjuman al-Ashwaq - They left me at al-Uthayl and an-Naqá shedding tears
- Ibn El-Arabi - The Tarjuman al-Ashwaq - They mounted the howdahs on the swift camels