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Ibn Arabi

[ib-uhn ah-rah-bee]
Ibn Arabi (ابن عربي) (July 28, 1165-November 10, 1240) was an Arab Sufi Muslim mystic and philosopher. His full name was Abū abd-Allah Muhammad ibn-Ali ibn Muhammad ibn al-`Arabi al-Hatimi al-TTaa'i (أبو عبد الله محمد بن علي بن محمد بن العربي الحاتمي الطائي ). In the West, he is also known as the Doctor Maximus and in the Islamic world as Muhyi id-Din (محيي الدين ("Reviver of religion") and (al-Shaykh al-Akbar) (الشيخ الأكبر "Great Master")


Ibn Arabi was born in Medinat Mursiya (present day Murcia) in Al-Andalus on 17 Ramadan 560 AH/July 28, 1165 CE, and his family moved to Sevilla when he was eight years old. In 1200 CE, at the age of thirty-five, he left Iberia for good, intending to make the hajj to Mecca. He lived near Mecca for three years, where he began writing his Al-Futuhat al-Makkiyya (The Meccan Illuminations). In 1204, he left Mecca for Anatolia with Majd-al-Din Es'haq (Isaac), whose son Sadr-al-Din Qunawi (1210-1274) would be his most influential disciple.

In 1223, he settled in Damascus, where he lived the last seventeen years of his life. He died at the age of 76 on 22 Rabi' II 638 AH/November 10, 1240CE, and his tomb in Damascus is still an important place of pilgrimage.

A vastly prolific writer, Ibn Arabi is generally known as the prime exponent of the idea later known as Wahdat-ul-Wujood, though he did not use this term in his writings. His emphasis was on the true potential of the human being and the path to realising that potential and becoming the perfect or complete man (al-insan al-kamil).

Some 800 works are attributed to Ibn Arabi, although only some have been authenticated.


  • The Seals of Wisdom (also translated as The Bezels of Wisdom), or Fusus al-Hikam.
  • The Meccan Illuminations (Al-Futuhat al-Makkiyya, his largest work 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, 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 (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 and dialogues with God.
  • Divine Sayings (Mishkat al-anwar), an important collection made by Ibn Arabi of 101 hadith qudsi
  • The Book of Annihilation in Contemplation (K. al-Fana' fi'l-mushahada), a short treatise on the meaning of mystical annihilation (fana).
  • Devotional Prayers (Awrad), a widely read collection of fourteen prayers for each day and night of the week.
  • Journey to the Lord of Power (Risalat al-anwar), a detailed technical manual and roadmap for the "journey without distance".
  • The Book of God's Days (Ayyam 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 ('Anqa' Mughrib), a book on the meaning of sainthood and its culmination in Jesus
  • The Universal Tree and the Four Birds (al-Ittihad al-kawni), a poetic book on the Complete Human and the four principles of existence
  • Prayer for Spiritual Elevation and Protection (al-Dawr al-a'la), a short prayer which is still widely used in the Muslim world
  • The Interpreter of Desires (Tarjuman al-Ashwaq) love poetry (ghazals) which, in response to critics, Ibn Arabi republished with his translation of his symbols into mystic realities.

Commentaries and Translations of Fusus al-Hikam

There have been many exceptional commentaries on Ibn 'Arabi's Fusus al-hikam: the first, al-Fukuk, was written by his stepson and heir, Sadruddin al-Qunawi, who had studied the book with Ibn 'Arabi; the second by Qunawi's student, Mu'ayyad al-din al-Jandi, which was the first line-by-line commentary; the third by Jandi's student, Dawud al-Qaysari, which became very influential in the Persian-speaking world. There were many others, in the Ottoman world (eg 'Abd Allah Bosnevi), the Arab world (eg 'Abd al-Ghani al-Nabulsi) and the Persian world (eg Haydar Amoli). It is estimated that there are over 50 commentaries on the Fusus, most of which only exist in manuscript form. The more famous (such as Qunawi's Fukuk) have been printed in recent years in Iran. A recent English translation of Ibn 'Arabi's own summary of the Fusus, Naqsh al-Fusus (The Imprint or Pattern of the Fusus) as well a commentary on this work by 'Abd al-Raahman Jami, Naqd al-nusus fi sharh naqsh al-fusus (1459), by William Chittick was published in Volume 1 of the Journal of the Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi Society (1982).

The Fusus was first critically edited in Arabic by Afifi (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 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" in 4 volumes (1985-1991).

In Urdu, the wide spread available translation is of Maulvi Abdul Qadeer Siddiqui [But this translation contains some serious problems]. His translation is in the curriculum of Punjab University. He has made an interpretive translation and explained the terms and grammar while clarifying the Shaikh's opinions.


A number of prominent Sunni Muslim scholars, including Dhahabi, Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, and Ibn Taymiyyah, did not consider Ibn Arabi to even be a Muslim. Reasons for Ibn Arabi being branded a heretic were some of his statements in his books such as "Fusus al-Hikam" and "Al-Ahkaam". One example is where Ibn Arabi claimed that Pharaoh was correct when he said "I am your lord most high.".


  • Hirtenstein, The Unlimited Mercifier, ISBN 0-9534513-2-1
  • Addas, Quest for the Red Sulphur, ISBN 0-946621-45-4
  • Titus Burckhardt & Bulent Rauf (translator), Mystical Astrology According to Ibn 'Arabi (The Fons Vitae Titus Burckhardt Series) ISBN 1-887752-43-9
  • Torbjörn Säfve, "Var inte rädd", ISBN 91-7221-112-1

See also

External links

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