After Ibn 'Arabi
After his death in 1240, Ibn 'Arabi's writings (and teachings) quickly spread throughout the Islamic world. A central figure in the process was Sadr al-Din Qunawi, his foremost student, to whom he bequeathed his collection of books. Sadr al-Din wrote in both Arabic and Persian, and attracted a group of very influential students to Konya, in Seljuk Turkey, where he lived at the same time as Mevlana Jalal al-Din Rumi, author of the renowned Mathnawi.
Ibn 'Arabi's writings have been very influential - chiefly among elites and Sufi tariqas. Although his name was widely recognized, only a minority of people could have read his works directly. But many of his ideas reached ordinary people through the Sufis, and through popular poetry.
So far studies of Ibn 'Arabi's influence have been limited in scope to particular periods or regions, as any comprehensive study would need to take into account the intellectual history of Islam across the Muslim world. As one example, see Mustafa Tahrali's article about the Ottomans on this page.
Ibn 'Arabi's impact outside the historic Muslim countries is not easily traced. Miguel Asin Palacios in the 1920s caused a furore when he suggested that Dante had drawn on Ibn 'Arabi's writings for his Divine Comedy. Orientalists began to study Ibn 'Arabi's works relatively late, and the first response was frequently frustration. The first work to be translated into English appeared in 1911. Recognition of the depth and richness of his writings has extended to new audiences over the past century, particularly since the 1970s. At the same time there has been a great revival of interest and publishing in the Islamic world.
Articles in this section
Sadr al-Din Qunawi
The last will and testament of Sadr al-Din Qunawi, by William Chittick
Including notes on Sadr al-Din Qunawi, his commentaries on Ibn 'Arabi and other works. After a discussion on the importance of this last will and testament, William Chittick provides a translation.
The Central Point - Qūnawī's Role in the School of Ibn 'Arabî, William Chittick
Including information on Sadr al-Din Qunawi and Ibn Arabi, the term wahdat al-wujûd (Oneness of Being), and the Station of "No Station". It has translated passages from Qunawi's al-Nafahât al-ilâhiyya (The Divine Inblowings), and I'jâz al-bayân.
Commentary on a Hadith by Sadr al-Din Qunawi, William Chittick
An introduction and then translation of Qunawi's discussion of the 21st hadîth in his work "Commentary upon Forty Hadîths".
Towards a Biography of Sadr al-Dīn Qūnawī, Jane Clark
Although usually recognized by specialists as Ibn 'Arabī's most important disciple and the primary intermediary through whom his school gained influence, Sadr al-Din Qūnawī (d.673/1273–74) is still virtually unknown and unstudied in the West. Not only is there no major published study of his ideas, but there is still no published translation into a western European language of any of al-Qūnawī's major works. However, there are signs that the situation is changing. He was not only Ibn 'Arabī's designated successor, who assiduously consolidated his heritage in his teaching and writings. He was also a spiritual master in his own right, whose many revelations and spiritual experiences as recorded by his students and in his own journal show him to have reached the highest degrees of realisation.
The dissemination of Ibn 'Arabi's teaching through Sadr al-Din Qunawi. Ibn 'Arabi's connection with Sadr al-Din Qunawi, biography, and a discussion of the spread of Ibn 'Arabi's teaching in the Seljuk period.
Sadr al-Dīn al-Qūnawī's al-Nusūs Hülya Küçük and Stephen Hirtenstein
The Nusūs consists of twenty sections entitled nass ('texts'), with two extra parts called fasl. The root of the word n-s-s means to 'specify', 'designate', 'raise', 'elevate something so that it is visible to all'. The term nass (plural nusūs) in terms of Quran and Hadith refers to a relatively small number of clear injunctions in the words of the Quran or Sunna, where there is no need to resort to any interpretation. In many ways it is a discourse on the Absoluteness of Truth (haqq), and Its ramifications from the point of view of knowledge and realization (tahqīq). Although at first sight it may seem quite philosophical and intellectual, al-Qūnawī constantly stresses the centrality of 'taste' or direct experience (dhawq) as the real touchstone of what he is examining. In a way the book can be described as a hymn to 'taste' and 'realization'.
The Key Concepts of al-Farghâni's Commentary on Ibn al-Fârid's Sufi Poem, al-Tâ'iyyat al-Kubrâ (pdf), Giuseppe Scattolin
Sa'id al-Din al-Farghani (d. 699/1300) wrote a very influential commentary on Ibn al-Farid's great poem, al-Tâ'iyyat al-Kubrâ. Al-Farghani was a student of Sadr al-Din al-Qunawi, and said that he took his explanation of Ibn al-Farid's poem directly from his master Sadr al-Din. The Introduction to his commentary was long considered to be one of the clearest early expositions of Ibn 'Arabi's ideas. The extended summary in this paper is the first substantial exposure of al-Farghani's Introduction in a European language.
The Image of Guidance – Ṣadr al-Dīn al-Qūnawī as ḥadīth commentator, Stephen Hirtenstein
As a ḥadīth scholar al-Qūnawī was considered supreme in his day. The focus here is on the last book he wrote: his commentary on forty ḥadīths, known as Sharḥ al-Arbaʿīn ḥadīthan, although in fact only the work was never completed, only reaching twenty-nine ḥadīths, with commentary. In perhaps the longest section of the collection, the twenty-second ḥadīth, al-Qūnawī cites a tradition recorded by Ibn Masʿūd that the Prophet said: ‘Whoever sees me in a dream has really seen me. For the Satan cannot impersonate me.’ The the prophetic image and the reality of interpretation is the subject of al-Qūnawī’s commentary, which runs to some twenty-seven pages of Arabic in the printed edition (compared to a mere four lines for the versions of the ḥadīth text). It includes a full discussion of the imaginal world (al-mithāl), the intermediate world where meaning takes form and form is endowed with meaning.
'Ajamī Mysteries of Sitt 'Ajam Bint al-Nafīs : A Feminine Hermeneutic of an Heiress of Ibn 'Arabī, Fatima Az-Zahra' Ahmad Langhi
Sitt 'Ajam, a Sufi woman living in the thirteenth century, tells us in her work that she had a vision in which Muhyī al-dīn Ibn 'Arabī appeared to her, asking her to write a commentary on one of his earliest works, Mashāhid al-asrār al-qudsiyya wa matāli' al-anwār al-ilāhiyya (The Witnessing of the Holy Mysteries and the Rising of the Divine Lights).
'Abd al-Rahman Jami
Jami on Divine Love and the image of wine, William Chittick
An introduction with notes on symbolism and meaning, and translations.
A General Outline of the Influence of Ibn 'Arabî on the Ottoman Era, by Mustafa Tahrali.
This paper reflects the great respect accorded to Ibn 'Arabi by the Ottoman state, and includes short descriptions of some thirty people whose writings reflected his influence in the course of six centuries.
Ibn 'Arabi and Ottoman Dervish Traditions: The Melami Supra-Order (Part One), by Victoria Rowe Holbrook
In general, melâmet has been defined as a kind of deprecation of the self, whether this is taken as a denial of being to the self in a philosophical sense, or as a practice of behaving in such a way as to conceal one's advanced spiritual states and draw upon oneself the censure of others... The Melâmî are said to have emerged as a Turkish tarikat or sûfî "way" when Emir Sikkini walked into a blazing fire and came out having lost only his dervish robe and crown... Part Two of this article is here.
Molla Fanari and the Misbah al-Uns: The commentator and the Perfect Man, by Alan Godlas (pdf).
Molla Fanari (1350-1431), the first Ottoman Shaykh ul-Islam, is significant because of central ideas that he contributed to Ottoman intellectual life. Like Davud-I Kayseri before him, he worked to introduce major Arabic works into Turkish, while making Ibn 'Arabi's ideas on the unity of existence the basis of the philosophical and religious systems being developed among the ulema in training for the emerging Ottoman state. His famous commentary on the Miftah al-Ghayb of Sadr al-din Qunawi is still studied. In spite of his importance, and his renown in Turkey and Iran, he has until recently largely been ignored by Western scholars. The paper is reproduced with the kind permission of the editors of the Proceedings of the International Symposium on Molla Fanari, held in Bursa, December 4-6, 2009.
The Enigma of the Shajara al-nu'māniyya fī'l-dawla al-'Uthmāniyya, attributed to Ibn 'Arabī, Denis Gril
The text entitled Shajara al-nu'māniyya fī al-dawla al-'Uthmāniyya is written in coded language, and its author remains so far unknown. The prevailing view in the Ottoman era was that the authorship was Ibn 'Arabī but Denis Gril shows how this attribution cannot be right, and also how the two main commentaries on the work, one of which is attributed to Sadr al-Dīn al-Qūnawī, are clearly apocryphal. This kind of clarification is important. The Emir 'Abd al-Qādir put is forcefully when he said, "All works on alchemy and command of this world that are attributed to our master, the seal of sainthood, Muhyī al-Dīn Ibn 'Arabī, and to other saints who call men to God, is but lies and calumny. It is not possible for one of God's saints to teach God's servant that which will distance them from God..."
The Diffusion of Ibn 'Arabi's Doctrine, Michel Chodkiewicz
Many authors have pointed out for a long time the extent in Moslem geographical space – from the Maghreb to the Far East – of the influence of Ibn 'Arabi. In this article Michel Chodkiewicz underlines, beginning with some examples taken in the main from the Arabic-speaking Moslem world, the depth of this influence. The stamp of akbarian teaching is not only printed on "intellectual" Sufism, but may also be detected in a world of brotherhoods which embrace the most diverse social classes and cultural levels.
"At the distance of two bows' length or even closer" – The figure of the Prophet in the work of 'Abdal Karīm Jīlī, Part 1, Part 2 Claude Addas
For many Muslims the implementation of the Sunna consists, first and foremost, of reproducing the outward behaviour of the Prophet as he was in his daily life, and to model their eating and dressing habits, etc., on his. Claude Addas shows how conformity to the Muhammadan model is the keystone of 'initiatic training' in Islam through the study of a brief pamphlet Qāb Qawsayn by 'Abd al-Karīm Jīlī (d.811/1409).
The Unity of Being in Liu Chih's "Islamic Neoconfucianism", Sachiko Murata
From the middle of the seventeenth down to the end of the nineteenth century, the school of Ibn 'Arabi had a significant presence in the Chinese language. The first Muslim scholar to explain Islamic teachings in Chinese was Wang Tai-yü, who published his major book in 1642. He tells us that his ancestor had come to China three hundred years earlier. He himself was educated in the traditional Islamic manner, and only when he was old did he begin to learn classical Chinese. His intention was to explain Islamic teachings to fellow Muslims educated in the Chinese manner and ignorant of the literatures of their own languages. As far as we can tell, up until this time most Islamic learning in China had been transmitted in Persian, though of course the Arabic Qur'an played the same basic role in China as it did elsewhere.
God and the Perfect Man in the Experience of 'Abd al-Qâdir al-Jaza'iri, Itzchak Weismann.
Itzchak Weismann is the author of Taste of Modernity: Sufism, Salafiyya and Arabism in Late Ottoman Damascus, Brill, 2001.
Reflections of Ibn 'Arabi in Early Naqshbandî Tradition, by Hamid Algar.
"It is often assumed that the Naqshbandî tariqa has formed a singular case of imperviousness to the almost universal diffusion of the teachings and concepts of Ibn 'Arabi... The imaginary antithesis between the Naqshbandîya and Ibn 'Arabi also derives, perhaps, in a more general sense, from the obstinate notion that Sufism and sharî'a have represented polar opposites throughout Islamic history..."
Reality and Image in the Tafsīr of Kubrā and Rāzī, Paul Ballanfat.
"We have never been so surrounded and permeated by images as we are at the beginning of the twenty-first century." In a study of a Quranic commentary attributed to Najm al-dīn Kubrā, a great contemporary of Ibn 'Arabi, Paul Ballanfat reflects on man in the image of God, and the question of vision. In doing so he asks questions about the nature and function of images, which "seems to be an urgent need in our time of extreme confusion".
The Occult Tradition of the Tarot in Tangency with Ibn 'Arabi's Life and Teachings (pdf), by Jereer El-Moor.
Most researchers today would probably agree that playing cards were introduced to Christian Europe as an importation from the Arab world, however, the details of this are not well-established. In the first part of this long article, the author reviews the known facts of the history of playing cards (and the related history of the Tarot). He sets out to present "a credible case for regarding the Tarot as of Near Eastern provenance", and gives a personal view of its interpretation through the centuries. In the second part he goes on to interpret one of the trumps in the light of Ibn 'Arabi's 'Anqa' mughrib. (Both parts of this article are big pdf files of about 480kb, and each will take some time to download).
Originality Under the Guardianship of Ibn 'Arabī Gamal by al-Ghitani.
This is an account by the Egyptian journalist and novelist Gamal al-Ghitani (1945-2015) of the profound place in his life and writings of Ibn 'Arabi. One of his novels (published between 1983 and 1986) takes its title from Ibn 'Arabi's Kitab al-Tajalliyāt. For this novel he won the "Laure Bataillon" in 2005, a French award for translated literature, and one of the highest French awards to be bestowed on non-French writers. His last novel, Ren, was published in 2008, and also received international recognition, the Sheikh Zayed Book Award. From 1993 to 2011, he was the editor-in-chief of Akhbar Al-Adab, one of Egypt's primary literary magazines.
Ibn 'Arabi and his Interpreters - articles by James Morris
Ibn 'Arabi: Historical Contexts and Contemporary Perspectives, by James Morris.
- Ibn 'Arabi; in the "Far West" (pdf)
- Except His Face: The Political and Aesthetic Dimensions of Ibn 'Arabi's Legacy (pdf)
- Situating Islamic 'Mysticism' (pdf)
- "Ibn 'Arabi and his Interpreters", JAOS article 1986, Part I (pdf), Recent French Translations
- M. Asin Palacios' classic study, L 'Islam christianisé: Étude sur le Soufisme d'Ibn 'Arabi de Murcie [Tr. B. Dubant. Pp.379. Paris: Guy Tredaniel / Editions de la Maisnie. 1982.]
- Ibn 'Arabi's K al-Fana' fi al-Mushahada (O.Y. 125), Le Livre de l'Extinction dans la Contemplation [Tr. Michel Valsan. Pp.57 (translation pp. 25 - 50). Paris: Les Editions de l'Oeuvre. 1984.]
- La Niche des Lumières [Tr. Mumammad Valsan Pp. 156. Paris: Les Editions de l'Oeuvre. 1983.)
- Stephane Ruspoli's translation of chapter 167 of the Futûhât, L'alchimie du bonheur parfait [Tr. S. Ruspoli. Pp.151. Paris: Berg International (collection "L'île verte"). 1981.]
- M. Gloton's translation of the Shajarat al-Kawn (O.Y. 660), L'Arbre du Monde [Tr. Maurice Gloton. Pp.230. Paris: Les Deux Oceans. 1982.)
- Prof. D. Gril's translation of the R. al-ittihad al-kawni (O.Y. 319), L'Arbre et les Quatre Oiseaux [Tr. Denis Gril. Pp. 73. Paris: Les Deux Oceans. 1984.]
- La Doctrine Initiatique du Pèlerinage à Ia Maison d'AlIah [Tr C. - A Gilis. Pp.331. Paris: Les Editions de l'Oeuvre 1982.], based loosely on chapter 72 of the Futûhât ("On the Hajj and Its Secrets")
- Le Coran et la Fonction d'Hermès [Tr. C. - A. Gilis. Pp. 226. Paris: Les Editions de l'Oeuvre. 1984.]
Part II: Influences and Interpretations (40 pp),
Part II of this article surveys some representative lines of interpretation and influence of Ibn 'Arabî's work among subsequent Islamic mystics and thinkers (and their critics) as they are revealed in recent translations. Their comparison with Ibn 'Arabî's own writings brings out (1) the intellectual and institutional conditions underlying the creative aspects of the Shaykh's work and accounting for its phenomenal spread; (2) important aspects of his writing and teaching often neglected by his later interpreters; and (3) the remarkable diversity, selectivity, and autonomous development of subsequent Sufi traditions as they transformed and adapted his works in light of their own concerns. This half deals with a famous treatise (by Balyânî) representing the "monistic" Sufism of Ibn Sab‘în (and its many critics); an interesting apocryphal work (actually by a later Qâdiri writer); the influential Persian works of Nasafî; and the decisive role of the metaphysically oriented teachings of Ibn ‘Arabî's disciple and son-in-law S. Qûnawî and his successors.
Part III: Conclusion (34pp) (pdf)
The final section deals with representative figures in the more philosophic ‘school´ founded by Qûnawî (Kâshânî, H. Âmulî, and Jîlî); in mystical poetry (Jâmî, 'Irâqî, and others) and philosophy (Mullâ Sadrâ and his successors); and with the more recent Sufi writings of 'Abd al-Qâdir al-Jazâ´irî, who recapitulates and integrates many of these traditions while returning to the spiritual sources and intentions underlying Ibn 'Arabî´s own work and teaching.
- Theophany or "Pantheism"?: the Importance of Balyânî's Risâlat al-Ahadîya
- The Continuing Relevance of Qaysari's Thought: Divine Imagination and the Foundation of Natural Spirituality.
- Review: La destinée de l'homme selon Avicenne: Le retour à Dieu (ma'âd) et l'imagination, by Jean Michot
- Review: Kitâb al-Inbâh 'alâ Tarîq Allâh de 'Abdallâh Badr al-Habashî:
- Review: La Risâla de Safî al-Dîn Ibn Abî l-Mans'ûr Ibn Zâfir
- Review: Manjhan, Madhumālatī: An Indian Sufi Romance
- Review: Mirror of the Intellect: Essays on Traditional Science and Sacred Art
- An Arab "Machiavelli"? : Rhetoric, Philosophy and Politics in Ibn Khaldun's Critique of "Sufism".
- Review: Islamic Mysticism Contested: Thirteen Centuries of Controversies & Polemics
- Review: Ibn 'Arabi and the Later Islamic Tradition: The Making of a Polemical Image in Medieval Islam
- Review: Theodicy in Islamic Thought: The Dispute over al-Ghazâlî's "Best of All Possible Worlds"
Ibn Masarra: A reconsideration of the primary sources (pdf 6.0 mb), by James Morris.
Ibn Masarra (born in Cordoba in 883 AD/268 AH) was an Andalusi Muslim ascetic and scholar. He is often considered one of the first Sufis as well as one of the first philosophers in al-Andalus. He is sometimes quoted by Ibn 'Arabi, and two passages from the Futûhât are included in this unpublished study. Undertaken at Harvard in 1973, it remains a useful reference in this field, and includes copies of two of his works from a rare edition.