Pablo Beneito and Stephen Hirtenstein

Reproduced from the Journal of the Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi Society, Volume XXXIV, 2003.

Go to the Introduction to The Prayer of Blessing
Part 1 of the article

The Prayer of Blessing
[upon the Light of Muhammad]
by ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz al-Mahdawī

Part 2 – Translation


In the Name of God, the All-Compassionate and Most Merciful

May God bless our master and lord Muhammad, his family and his companions, and greet them with peace.

May God grant us benefit through this [prayer] and through the shaykh’s knowledge, amen; may He be satisfied with him and grant us benefit through the blessing of his spiritual grace, amen.[1]

1) O God, bless the tablet of Your all-embracing Compassion (raḥmānīya), upon which You have written with the pen of Your sheer Mercifulness (raḥīmīya), and the ink-supply of Your superlative Compassion (raḥamūtīya) for [You have said]: “God would not chastise them, with you amongst them.”[2]

2) O God, bless the Throne upon which Your Unity is mounted,[3] by virtue of being encompassed by[4] Your Divinity, Your inclusive Mercy and your Perfect Blessing, through Your saying:
“I have only sent you as Mercy to all beings”.[5] O Lord of all beings, bless the [one who is] Mercy to all beings!

3) O God, bless the eye-pupil of the whole[6] in the presence of Your Oneness (waḥdānīya) and the integral union of Your Uniqueness (aḥadīya), by virtue of the encompassing of Your saying: “O Prophet! I have sent you as a witness and a bringer of glad tidings and a warner, a summoner unto God by His permission and a light-giving lamp. Announce to the people of faith the glad tidings that they have great bounty from God.”[7]

[As] he who announced the glad tidings is the same as what he indicated by them, so let us attain [the degree of] his mouth-piece.[8] Open up, O God, the padlocks on our hearts with the key of his love, anoint the eyes of our insight with the antimony of his light, and purify the mysteries of our innermost hearts with his contemplation and closeness. Thus may we see naught in existence except You through it, and thus may we awaken from the sleep of our forgetfulness.

4) O God, bless the kāf[9] of Your Satisfying Sufficiency (kifāya), upon the hā' of Your Infallible Guidance (hidāya), upon the yā' of Your Benevolent Bestowal (yumn), upon the ʿayn of Your Protective Safeguarding (ʿiṣma) and upon the ṣād of Your Path (ṣirāṭ), “the Path of God to Whom belongs whatever is in the heavens and upon the earth. Is it not to God that everything returns?”;[10] indeed it is “the Path of those to whom You have granted Your Favour, not of those who have incurred anger or those who have gone astray”.[11]

5) O God, bless Your most sublime[12] light, who is asked by the Names to intercede[13] in the Presence of the Named. For he is the essence of their places of appearance in the realm of Being (wujūd), as comprehended by Your Knowledge; and the essence of their hidden reality in the plenitude (jūd) [of the Unseen], as contained in Your Generosity; and the source of their universal origination in the realm of creation (kawn), as encompassed by Your Will; and the essential potency of their particular capabilities in the realm of Uniting Power (jabarūt),[14] as grasped by Your Ordaining Power and Might; and the essence of their productions[15] in the realm of perfect realisation (iḥsān), as embraced by the [all-inclusive] extent of Your Compassion.[16]

6) O God, bless the mīm[17] of Your Kingdom (mulk), the ḥā' of Your Ruling Wisdom (ḥikma), the mīm of Your Kingship (malakūt) and the dāl of Your Everlasting Permanence (daymūmīya), in a blessing that submerges [all] enumeration, and that encompasses [every] limitation.

7) O God, bless the “second One” (al-wāḥid al-thānī),[18] who has been distinguished with the gift of the Seven Repeated,[19] the secret pervading the [cosmic] mansions (manāzil) of the All-Compassionate’s [global] horizon,[20] the pen flowing with the ink of lordly support over Mount Mind of humankind,[21] in a blessing that is renewed through the renewal of Your Mercy upon him, and through the culmination of Your Light and Mystery in him, O Lord of all beings!

8) O God, bless the alif[22] of Your Uniqueness (aḥadīya), the ḥā' of Your Oneness (waḥdānīya), the mīm of Your Kingdom (mulk) and the dāl of Your Religion (dīn). “Does not pure religion belong to God?”[23] For You have singled out the pure for the one who performs the pure religion and You have ascribed it to Yourself. So, O my Lord, bless the one who truly performs what You have ascribed to Yourself, in every source and every path, performing Your Religion, proclaiming Your Message, clarifying Your Way, discharging Your Trust, bringing proofs of Your Unity and establishing Your Uniqueness in the hearts – for he is Your Secret, safeguarded by Your Awesomeness and Majesty, crowned with the light of Your Names and Beauty.

O my Lord, bless him in accord with his glorious station with You and with his cherished rank with You.

9) O God, bless the depository of Your Sight,[24] the place of Your Seeing, the discloser of the treasures of Your Generosity, the jewelled necklace of Your Might, the key of Your Power, the place where Your Mercy is released, and the bearer of Your Supreme Magnificence,[25] the one whom You have singled out from the very core of Your creation, the one whom You have selected from among those whom You have graciously chosen, the unlettered prophet and the Arab messenger, from the noblest quarter of Mecca[26] and the Sacred Precinct, of the tribe of Hāshim and Quraysh, the most praising (aḥmad) of the praisers within the high pavilions[27] of Your Majesty, and the most praised (muḥammad) of the praised in the wide expanses[28] of Your Beauty, the alif[29] of Your wondrous conceiving (ibdāʿ), the bā' of the beginning (bidāya) of Your originating, the wāw of Your constant Love (wadd) for Your productions, the alif of Your display (ibrāz) within what You have created,[30] the lām of Your Benevolence (luṭf) towards what You govern, the qāf of Your Power (qudra) which encompasses the creation of Your earth and heavens, the sīn of Your Mystery (sirr) which lies between the coming-together of the opposites of what You have created, and the mīm of Your Sovereignty (mamlaka) which extends over all the objects of Your knowledge.

10) O God, bless the secret of Your Generosity (jūd), the place of manifestation of Your Being (wujūd) and the treasury of Your Existence (mawjūd).[31]

11) O God, bless the imam of the Presence of Uniting Power,[32] the one who follows the prayer[33] in the miḥrāb of “two bows’ length or nearer”[34] through the uniqueness of his reunion. For he was reunited with You in his prayer, so that You gathered him to Yourself, specially favoured him with contemplating You, purified him through prostration before You,[35] and granted him freshness of the eye[36] in the prayer devoted to You. For he is the one who ravishes the virginal secrets of Your witnessing, the one who catches the sparkling fragrances of Your company.

12) O God, bless Your “supreme Word”,[37] in respect of the heavenly food (manna)[38] of wondrous invention and creation, and Your “firmest tie”,[39] in respect of continuous adherence,[40] and Your “rope”[41] which is clung to in times of constriction and in times of expansion, and Your “straight Path”[42] leading to true guidance and following.

Alif-Lām-Mīm Ḥā'-Mīm Adumma Ḥamma Qāf  ā'-Sīn-Mīm[43]

“Muhammad is the messenger of God, and those who are with him are hard upon the unbelievers, merciful to one another. You see them bowing, prostrating, seeking bounty from God and good-pleasure. Their mark is on their faces, the trace of prostration. That is their likeness in the Torah, and their likeness in the Gospel: as a seed that puts forth its shoot, and strengthens it, and it grows stout and rises straight upon its stalk, pleasing the sowers, that through them He may enrage the unbelievers. God has promised those of them who believe and act righteously forgiveness and a mighty wage.”[44]

Alif-Hā'-Wāw-Mīm[45] Wāw-Dāl-Wāw-Dāl[46]  ā'-Ḥā' Yā' Sīn Qāf[47]

“Nūn. By the Pen and what they inscribe, you are not, by the bounty of your Lord, a man possessed. Surely you shall have a wage unfailing. Surely you are according to a mighty nature.”[48]

13) O God, bless the one who took on Your Qualities,[49] who was utterly immersed in contemplating Your Essence, the truth who was created by Truth,[50] inner reality of truth.[51]

“Is it true? Say: Yes, by my Lord, it is true.”[52] “God and His angels send blessings upon the Prophet. O you who believe, do you also send blessings upon him, and greet him with salutations of peace.”[53]

14) O God, because of the bounds of our intellect, the limitation of our understanding, the exhaustion of our desire, and the forestalling of our aspirations, we have been rendered incapable of blessing him according to what he really is. How could we do that when You Yourself have made Your own Speech his character[54] and Your own Names his appearance? The genesis of Your creation is from him, and You are his shelter and support, and Your Highest Assembly is for his companionship and his assistance. Thus bless him, o God, by the connection of Your Power to Your works, and the realisation of Your Names through Your Will. From him You have created all that is known; through him You provide the proof against all that is created; and in him You have placed the end of all endings.[55] For he is the keeper of Your Trust (amīn),[56] the treasurer of Your Knowledge, bearer of the banner of Your Praise,[57] true source of Your Mystery, manifestation of Your Ineffable Might, the central point of the circle of Your Kingdom and its circumference,[58] the compound of its elements and its simple principle.

15) O God, bless the one who stands alone[59] in the highest contemplation, the sweetest watering-place and the brightest light, who was distinguished in the Presence of the Names with the most eminent station and the most protective luminance.[60]

16) O God, bless the original formation of Love.[61]

17) O God, bless “the goodly tree”[62] of the highest, “whose root” is established deep in the ground of Your Awesomeness, and “whose branches” rise high in the pavilions of Your Magnificence.

18) O God, bless the enwrapped,[63] the enshrouded,[64] the warner,[65] the bringer of glad tidings,[66] the praise-magnifier,[67] the victorious revealer,[68] one most affectionate and gentle.

“Now there has come to you a messenger from amongst yourselves: grievous to him is your suffering, anxious is he for you, gentle to the believers, extremely merciful. So if they turn their backs, say: God suffices me. There is no God but He. In Him have I put my trust. He is the Lord of the Great Throne.”[69]

19) “God is the Light of the heavens and the earth: the likeness of His Light is as a niche, wherein is a lamp, the lamp in a glass, the glass as it were a glittering star, kindled from a blessed tree, an olive that is neither of the East nor the West, whose oil would shine, even if no fire touched it, Light upon Light; God guides to His Light whoever He wishes, and God strikes similitudes for men, and God knows all things.”[70]

O God, bless the “niche” of his body, the “lamp” of his heart, the “glass” of his mind, the “star” of his secret heart, “kindled from a tree” whose origin is light, which pours upon him from the light of his Lord, “light upon light; God guides to His Light whoever He wishes”. Verily blessings be upon the outstanding pronoun,[71] concealed within that second Light, and the last to be struck as similitude in the world of images.[72]

20) O God, bless the one with whose light You have illuminated the dominion of Your heavens and earth[73] – “the likeness of his light is as the niche” of Your Throne,[74] “wherein is a lamp” of his light, “the lamp in the glass” of the bodies of Your prophets, angels and envoys “as it were a glittering star”, whose secret is “kindled from the tree” of his luminous origin, which shines upon him out of the effusion of Your Names. “God guides to the Light” of Muhammad[75] “whoever He wishes” of His creatures, “and God strikes similitudes for men and God knows all things”.

21) O God, You are the One who knows[76] this light, emerging yet concealed, dazzling yet diffused, by which You beautify everything in the two worlds, and embroider the two weighty ones [mankind and jinn], and adorn the pillars of Your Throne and the angels of Your Holiness. You brought him even closer[77] to the Presence of Your Uniting Power and Grandeur. You made him the one who intercedes with You, amongst Your angels, prophets and envoys, for he is the door to [Your] Satisfaction, and the envoy with whom You are satisfied; the essential reality of Your Truth and the purest quintessence of Your Creation. By his light have the bearers of Your Throne been beautified; by his secret have Your heavens been raised and Your earth spread out.[78] He is the firmament of Your Names, the model of your Perfect Benefaction, and the manifestation of Your Ineffable Might and Authority. You are the One who knows him [as he is] in truth and reality – so, O my Lord, bless him according to the reality of Your Knowledge of all this, and through his real connection[79] with that.

22) O God, bless the lamp of Your Religion, the star of Your Certainty, the moon of Your Unity, the sun of the contemplation of Your Beneficence in Your bringing Your human being into existence.[80]

O my Lord, bless him, in a blessing-prayer that ascends through You from You to him, so that it is known in the Highest Assembly that it is purely devoted to him – a blessing-prayer (ṣalāt) whose extent is the knowledge that embraces everything, the reality of the whole, and which is renewed by the wholeness of that whole, and is reiterated so that it includes the illustrious companions, his wives, stars of the time, and his family, spiritual masters and poles. May salutations of peace be upon him and upon them from his special station, with a salutation (salām) of equal extent.[81]

All praise be to God for this! And praise be to God for the illumination by which He has opened the vision of our insight, and which was opened up with the prayer upon the most noble in existence, through whom existence has been completed. Through God, glory to Him, success is granted, and through Him we seek the completion of our perfection according to reality.

23) O God, by his illustrious companion, the Confirmer of Truth,[82] and by the Discriminator,[83] who was revered for truthfulness, and by the Master of the two lights,[84] and by the Seal of succession,[85] his paternal cousin ʿAlī, as has been verified: O God, reunite us through You with You; bring us back from You to You! Let us witness You in the Presence of integral Union (jamʿ al-jamʿ), where there is no separateness or withholding. Indeed You are the Giver, the Opener, who bestows whatever gifts of your Lordliness You wish upon whomsoever You wish, of those whom You have specialised for Your devoted service (rahbānīya).[86]

24) O God, we ask of You that You gather us in his group, that You include us among the followers of his tradition, and never let us stray from his creed or his way. You are the Hearer of prayer, responding to whoever calls [upon You] “or gives ear [to You] and is a witness”.[87] There is no power or strength save through God, the High, the Magnificent.[88]


Arabic Text

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Reproduced from the Journal of the Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi Society, Volume XXXIV, 2003.


Go to the Prayer of Blessing Part 1, the Introduction

Notes

[1] In B this opening reads: “Let us seal these biographical notices with the prayer upon the Master of masters, with which Shaykh ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz al-Mahdawī used to pray, so that I [the copyist] may (laʿallī) walk (ahtadī) under his guidance, and from his well I may drink (artawī).”

[2] Q.8.33. This could also be translated as “while you are within them”, which could be understood as alluding to the Presence of the Muhammadian grace within the human being.

[3] Traditionally it is the All-Compassionate (Raḥmān) who is seated upon the Throne (see Q.20.5), but here the emphasis appears to be upon the unifying Essence of God, whether that be in terms of Divinity or Mercy. B reads “Your Names” (asmā'ika) instead of “Your Unity” (waḥdānīyatika).

[4] B adds “the Uniqueness of [Your Divinity]” (aḥadīyatu ulūhīyatika).

[5] Q.21.107.

[6] Literally, “the man of the eye of the whole” (insān ʿayn al-kull). In Arabic the term for the eye-pupil is literally “man of the eye”. The expression here could also be translated as “the man of the Essence of Totality”. See P. Beneito, “The Servant of the Loving One”, JMIAS, XXXII, 2002, a translation of Ibn ʿArabī’s commentary on the Divine Name al-Wadūd, where he speaks of how the lovers of God are the eye-pupils of the cosmos (pp.10–11): “The cosmos as a whole is a single Man: this one man is the beloved.”

[7] Q.33.45–7.

[8] In other words, “let us attain the station of the Divine Address”. In correspondence with the previous image of the “eye” through which witnessing happens, we are maintaining here the literal mention of the “mouth” through which announcement takes place. The mouth or mouth-piece (fāh) has some similarity to the principle of the “oracle”, in the sense of being the voice or medium of Divine Communication. Fāh comes from the same lexical root as the term specific to Ibn ʿArabī’s teaching, fahwānīya, which might be translated as “oracularity”. See Fut.II.128 for his definition of this term as “the Address of God, by way of direct encounter, in the world of imagination”.

[9] Here begins an allusive explanation of the five letters at the beginning of the nineteenth Sura, entitled Maryam. The roots of the terms used here all relate to Quranic expressions; for example, sufficiency refers to “Is not God sufficient for His servant?” (39.36); guidance to “He will guide you to a straight path” (48.2); safeguarding to “God will safeguard you from the people” (5.67). In the Ḥizb al-baḥr of Shādhilī (see Al-Mafākhir al-ʿAlīya fī l-ma'āṭir al-shādhilīya, by Aḥmad b. Muḥammad b. ʿAyyād al-Shāfiʿī, Cairo, n.d. [1st edn Cairo, ah 1323], p.173) we find the same letters with the kāf explained also as the kāf of “our sufficiency” (kifāyatinā).

[10]Q.42.53.

[11]Q.1.7. B reads these two Quranic extracts in reverse order.

[12] B reads “the most resplendent” (al-asnā).

[13] B reads “who intercedes for the Names in the Presence of the Named”.

[14] This term refers to the place where Divine Power or Omnipotence is demonstrated, in which form and meaning unite. See our translation of Ibn ʿArabī’s Awrād entitled The Seven Days of the Heart (Oxford, 2000), pp.119–20, where the root of the Divine Name al-Jabbār is discussed.

[15] T reads “their indications” (ishārātihā).

[16] Allusion to Q.7.156: “My Compassion embraces all things.” See also Q.40.7: “You embrace everything in compassion and knowledge”.

[17] The letters M-ḥ-m-d spell the name Muḥammad, which means both “the one who is highly praised” and “the place of praise”. In the Ḥizb al-baḥr (Mafākhir, p.174) we find a similar explanation for the letters mīm and dāl (mīm al-mulk wa-dāl al-dawām).

[18] This daring formulation, apparently the very antithesis of the Divine Unity, can be understood as alluding to the identity of the Divine Form with the Origin. Man is created “according to His Form”, which is identified with the Muhammadian Reality. Compare this with Ibn ʿArabī’s later formulation of Man as “the second Actor” (al-fāʿil al-thānī), where God, the first Actor, finds His place of manifestation and activity (Fuṣūṣ al-Ḥikam, chapter on Muhammad, ed. A. ʿAfīfī [Beirut, 1946], p.219). It could also be translated as “the One who is second” or “the One who doubles”. We may note a numerical progression in this blessing, from One to the numbers 2, 7 and 14 (and 28 as implied in the “mansions” or divisions of the lunar cycle). The root th-n-y carries meanings of folding (thiny), doubling, being second or doubling up (thany), repetition (thinā) and praise (thanā'). This suggests that the physical act of doubling up one’s body is associated with the act of bowing in praise, so that praise itself is a “doubling”. The doubling of praise may also be understood as the essence of the relationship between Lord and servant. Ibn ʿArabī cites the ḥadīth qudsī, “Repeat My praises, o My servant” (athni ʿalayya ʿabdī), which contains the same root th-n-y, to show the primacy of the Lord and the lastness of the servant (Fut.III.567). In a similar way, he sometimes explains the meaning of the term muṣallī (the second one) as one who prays by following the Divine order to pray, and is hence “second”, as well as the horse that comes second in a race (another meaning of muṣallī) – for example, see Fuṣūṣ, chapter on Muhammad, ed. ʿAfīfī, p.225; The Wisdom of the Prophets (some chapters of the Fuṣūṣ, trans. from French of T. Burckhardt by A. Culme-Seymour [Aldsworth, Glos., 1975]), pp.131–2.

[19] A reference to Q.15.87: “We have given you seven of the Repeated and the mighty Quran”. The Seven Repeated (al-sabʿ al-mathānī) is often, though not exclusively, taken to refer to the Fātiḥa, opening chapter of the Quran, whose seven verses are repeated as part of the ritual prayer. In his Tanazzulāt al-Mawṣilīya (quoted in M. Chodkiewicz, An Ocean Without Shore [Albany, NY, 1993], p.111), Ibn ʿArabī writes: “[The Fātiḥa] is the Doubled One (muthannā) for it contains the meanings of Lordship and servitude at the same time. It is the Seven Doubled Ones, for it includes the [seven] attributes [of the Essence].” The word mathānī comes from the same root as thānī (second), and may also be understood as “praisings” or “places of praise or doubling”. As Ibn ʿArabī declares in the Awrād (Beneito and Hirtenstein, Seven Days, p.41), “Deserving of all praise (thanā) and glorification, He is such that He extols (athnā) Himself, for He is both Praiser (ḥāmid) and Praised (maḥmūd).” The Seven Repeated can also be understood here in a temporal sense, as the whole cycle of the seven days of the week: these days, according to Ibn ʿArabī, all belong to Muhammad as “his subtleties permeate every day” (Ayyām al-sha'n, p.1, discussed in Seven Days, p.20). We may also note that, during his first stay with Mahdawī, Ibn ʿArabī composed his famous poem which begins: “I am the Quran and the Seven Repeated” (see Hirtenstein, Unlimited Mercifier, p.88).

[20] The “horizon” is the furthest extent to which God’s creative Compassion extends, and therefore it denotes the entire circle of existence (dā'irat al-wujūd), which can be divided into 28 lunar mansions (manāzil), corresponding to the 28 letters of the Arabic alphabet as explained by Ibn ʿArabī. For a symbolic representation of this circle, see the diagram in T. Burckhardt, Mystical Astrology according to Ibn ʿArabī (trans. from French by B. Rauf [Aldsworth, Glos., 1977]), pp.32–3.

[21] For the relationship between the Mount (ṭūr) and scripture, see Q.52.1: “By the Mount and the Book inscribed”. The expression here, literally Mount Intellect (ʿAql) or Apex Mentis, parallels Mount Sinai (ṭūr Saynā'), where Moses was spoken to by God in the Burning Bush. It also recalls the famous hadith: “The first thing God created was the Intellect.” Ibn ʿArabī himself uses a very similar expression in the Futūḥāt – for example, “it is said that the sciences of the prophets and the friends of God are beyond ‘the stage of reason’ (warā' ṭawr al-ʿaql).” (Fut.I.261, trans. W. Chittick, The Sufi Path of Knowledge [Albany, NY, 1989], p.169.) There is an implicit play on words, with the use of ṭūr (mount) also referring to the word ṭawr (stage). The use of the word insānī (of humankind) here may also be taken as a subtle allusion to the Mountain of Moses: it is written with the same letters (alif-hamza-nūn-sīn-yā') as the word Saynā' (Sinai).

[22] The letters A-ḥ-m-d spell the name Aḥmad, understood by tradition to refer to Muhammad, whose coming is announced by Jesus in Q.61.6: “And when Jesus son of Mary said: ‘Children of Israel, I am indeed the messenger of God to you, confirming the Torah that is before me, and giving good tidings of a messenger who shall come after me, whose name shall be Aḥmad.’” Aḥmad literally means “the one who is most praising or praiseworthy”. There is also a famous ḥadīth qudsī where God says: “I am Aḥmad without the ‘m’ [i.e. Aḥad = One]” – see Schimmel, And Muhammad, pp.116–17.

[23] Q.39.3.

[24] This expression, mawḍiʿ naẓarika, appears in Ibn ʿArabī’s work, written after his first visit to Tunis and Mahdawī; see P. Beneito and C. Twinch, Contemplation of the Holy Mysteries (Mashāhid al-asrār), Oxford, 2001, p.56 (“you are the place of My Seeing”); see also Beneito and Hirtenstein, Seven Days, p.42, line 75.

[25] Literally, “the litter of Your Magnificence” (maḥmal ʿaẓamatika). The maḥmal is a richly decorated litter, sent by rulers to Mecca at the time of the hajj.

[26] Literally “from al-Baṭḥā” (abṭaḥī). Al-Baṭḥā was the name of the aristocratic area in the flat part of Mecca, in whose hollow lies the Sacred Precinct and the Kaʿba, and all the important Meccan families lived there. It was surrounded by sloping streets where the common people lived, with foreigners and refugees living out on the outskirts.

[27] The term pavilion (surādiq) is Quranic: “We have prepared for the evildoers a fire, whose pavilion encompasses them” (Q.18.29). The image is often used in Ibn ʿArabī’s writings: “I saw a pavilion pitched there, whose [central] support was of fire He said to me: ‘Enter the pavilion and its fire will revert to light.’” (Beneito and Twinch, Contemplations, pp.101 and 104). “Know that this [Cloud] is the pavilion of the Divine Person (ulūhīya), which is an immense obstacle preventing beings from rejoining Absolute Divinity (ulūha) (K. al-Isfār, p.12, ed. D. Gril [Combas, 1994], translated into French as Le Dèvoilement des Effets du Voyage).

[28] The word mubāsaṭāt (expanses) here suggests the imagery of carpets (bisāṭ) within a tent, as well as the meaning of open communication. The active name Aḥmad is thus connected to transcendence (tanzīh), while the passive name Muḥammad is connected to immanence (tashbīh).

[29] Allusion to the Prophet’s name or agnomen (kunya), Abū’l-Qāsim. We note that there is a missing alif after the qāf in the text as we have it. According to a hadith (Ibn Ḥanbal 2.510), the Prophet forbade the use of his kunya. His kunya literally means “father of the distributor”, in other words, the one who apportions, divides up or allots. In another hadith (Bukhārī 5.8), the Prophet said: “God is the One who gives, while I am the one who distributes (al-qāsim). This is the ninth blessing and the word Abū (father) has a numerical value of 9. According to Ibn ʿArabī, “Adam is the father of human bodies, while Muhammad is the father of the inheritors, from Adam to the one who seals the matter among the inheritors [i.e. Jesus in his Second Coming], for every law that manifests and every knowledge is inherited from Muhammad, in every time, for every envoy and prophet from Adam to the Day of Resurrection. This is why he was given the all-embracing words (jawāmiʿ al-kalim) (Fut.III.457).

[30] B reads “the alif of Your Lights (anwār) that shine on what You have created”.

[31] This line is a beautiful example of Sufi word-play in Arabic, as the three terms have the same root letters, and the first word is contained within the second, and the second within the third. The first is the primordial Divine Generosity (jūd); with the addition of the letter wāw, it becomes Being (w-jūd), in all its fullness; with the further addition of the letter mīm, it becomes that which is Existent (m-w-jūd), which denotes the place of manifestation. Corresponding to these three ontological degrees are three aspects of the Muhammadian Reality: innermost meaning (sirr), revelation (maẓhar) and concealment (khizāna).

[32] In this blessing (number 11) the word imām, spelt alif-mīm+alif-mīm, perfectly mirrors the uniting of 1+1 to make 11. In addition, the imam who leads the prayer is the equal to the community who pray behind him, all of whom are united in the prayer.

[33] The one who prays (al-muṣallī) is the second, following the Divine order to pray, and also the horse which comes second in a race – see n.18. The miḥrāb is both a niche in the mosque-wall, which determines the direction of prayer, and also a technical term in horse-racing, meaning the lance which is set up to determine the racing circuit – racing, like prayer, follows this setting-up.

[34] The summit of the Prophet’s night-journey and ascension (miʿrāj) to the Divine Proximity – see Q.53.9.

[35] Literally, “between Your Two Hands”.

[36] As the Prophet is reported to have told ʿA'isha: “The freshness of my eye is given to me in prayer”.

[37] See Q.9.40: “God sent upon him His Peace (sakīna) and confirmed him with legions you did not see; and He made the word of the unbelievers the lowest, and God’s word is supreme; God is the Mighty, the Wise.”

[38] See Q.2.57.

[39] Q.2.256.

[40] Literally, “the succession of successors (tatābuʿ al-atbāʿ), a phrase which has echoes in the detailed tradition of hadith scholarship, where the “successors of the successors” (atbāʿ al-tābiʿīn) referred to pupils of the students of the Prophet’s Companions.

[41] Q.3.103.

[42] Q.1.6.

[43] All these enigmatic letters can be found at the beginning of the following Suras: (a-l-m) 2/3/29/30/31/32; (ḥ-m) 40/46; (q) 50; (ṭ-s-m) 26/28. We read here Adumma as in the Tunis copy, instead of the equally possible Alif-dāl-mīm, which forms the name Adam, as given in the Berlin text. We may note that this group of letters also includes the letters M-Ḥ-M-D, making up the name Muḥammad. We are also reading ḥamma here, instead of a repeated ḥā'-mīm, following the indications given in the Mafākhir, where the letters alif-dāl-mīm ḥā'-mīm appear as adumma ḥamma: this latter vowelling is discussed in the commentary on the Khatm al-Shādhilī (Mafākhir, pp.233–4), where these names are also associated with the last verse of Surat al-Fatḥ, which follows the letters here. On pp.174, 207, 225 (where this formula, including the words adumma ḥamma, is said to be the Supreme Name and should be repeated 70 times), 227, 230 and 233–6, there appears the following sequence of letters: aḥūn(un) qāf(un) adumma ḥamma hā'(un) āmīn. The author calls these names asmā' jabarūtīya, in other words, names which are part of the language of the Jabarūt and in which secret tongue God may be praised. This language is said to be only known to the Quṭb. The Mafākhir’s fifth chapter is a collection of Shādhilī’s prayers with commentaries by later writers such as Ibn al-Ṣabbāgh (Muḥammad b. Abī’l-Qāsim al-Ḥimyarī, the author of Durrat al-asrār in c.1320) or ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al-Bisṭāmī (d.858/1454). See also E. Pajares Vinardell, Las enseñanzas de Abū l-Ḥasan al-Sādhilī según la Durrat al-asrār de Ibn al-Ṣabbāg, Doctoral Thesis, Facultad de Filología, Universidad de Sevilla, 2003, containing a full critical edition and translation into Spanish of this early treatise on the life and teachings of Shādhilī. In the Durrat al-asrār (pp.198–9), we find the letters ḥā'-mīm with the recommendation that its recitation should be repeated eight times. On these two letters see Pajares Vinardell, pp.173 and 223, n.1, and also A. Jones, “The Mystical Letters of the Qur'ān”, Studia Islamica, XVI (1961–62), pp.5–11.

[44] Q.48.29.

[45] This could also be read as: alif huwa mīm (alif is mīm). In Ibn ʿArabī’s K. al-Wāw wa’l-mīm wa’l-nūn (Rasā'il [Beirut, 1997], pp.114–15), the letter mīm denotes Muhammad as well as Adam. We may also note that alif is the first letter of Adam.

[46] These letters spell the Divine Name wadūd, which is mentioned with the article (al-) in Q.85.14 and without the article in Q.11.90. This doubling of the letters w-d (which form the word wadd, meaning love) suggests the mutual loving relationship of God and man, Lord and servant. See Beneito, “The Servant of the Loving One”, p.3, n.7.

[47] These three letter-groups give the opening letters of Suras 20, 36 and 50, the first two of which are given as names of the Prophet by Ibn ʿArabī in his Ikhtiṣār sīrat rasūl Allāh (see P. Beneito, “A Summary of the Life of the Prophet by Ibn ʿArabī and the Miracle of the Palm Tree of Seville”, JMIAS, XXX [2001], p.81).

[48] Q.68.1–4.

[49] The taking on of Divine qualities (takhalluq) is here contrasted with the following blessing, which mentions the related terms of connection (taʿalluq) and realisation (taḥaqquq). It appears that these terms were first expounded by Mahdawī’s teacher, Abū Madyan, in his Uns al-waḥīd. See Ibn ʿArabī’s Kashf al-maʿnā where the Divine Names are explained in terms of these three principles (for further details, see El Secreto de los Nombres de Dios, trans. P. Beneito, 2nd edn [Murcia, 1997], especially p.xiv).

[50] Allusion to Q.10. 5: “God did not create (khalaqa) that except by the Truth (bi-l-ḥaqq). This idea is reminiscent of the technical term coined by Ibn Barrajān, “the truth by which [reality] is created” (al-ḥaqq al-makhlūq bihi) – see, for example, Fut. I.297; II.60, 104, 577; III.77.

[51] Allusion to the hadith: “For every immediate truth there is an ultimate reality” (li-kulli ḥaqq ḥaqīqa). See Gril’s edition of K. al-Isfār, p.23, n.65.

[52] Q.10.53.

[53] Q.33.56.

[54] “God says: ‘Surely thou art upon a tremendous character (khuluq ʿaẓīm).’ (Q.68.4) When ʿA'isha was asked about the character of the Messenger of God, she answered: ‘his character was the Quran.’ She said that because he was unique in character, and that unique character had to bring together all noble character traits (makārim al-akhlāq) (Fut.IV.60, trans. Chittick, SPK, p.241).

[55] B adds “and through him rests the Argument against all created beings”. This alludes to the Day of Judgment when the Divine Argument is pronounced against each person.

[56] This well-known epithet of the Prophet is also an allusion to the sacred trust spoken of in Q.33.72: “We offered the trust (amāna) to the heavens and the earth and the mountains, but they refused to carry it and were afraid of it; Man carried it, and he was in darkness, unknowing.”

[57] Allusion to hadith, see Tirmidhī, Manāqib 1; Bukhārī, Tawḥīd 19 and 3; see also M. Chodkiewicz’s article, “The Banner of Praise”, in Praise (ed. S. Hirtenstein, Oxford, 1997), pp.45–58.

[58] This phrase is exactly the same as that found at the beginning of the famous Theophany of Perfection (tajallī’l-kamāl, no:81) in Ibn ʿArabī’s K. al-Tajalliyāt: “I am the centre of the circle and its circumference; I am the compound of its elements and its simple principle (or its complexity and its simplicity).”

[59] Or: “the one who was singled out alone (al-munfarid). In one sense, this standing alone may refer to the final stages of the Prophet’s ascension.

[60] This could also be read, following a variant of B, as: “the best-protected secret”.

[61] This, the most succinct of the blessings, alludes to the creation of all things out of Divine Love, as stated in the hadith: “I was a Hidden Treasure and I loved to be known, so I created the world that I might be known”. The word “formation” (nash'a) carries the sense of coming into being, emergence and growth.

[62] See Q.14.24: “Have you not seen how God has struck a similitude? A good word is as a goodly tree – its roots are firm and its branches are in heaven; it gives its produce every season by permission of its Lord.”

[63] Q.73.1: “O thou enwrapped in thy robes (muzammal), keep vigil the night”

[64] Q.74.1: “O thou shrouded in thy mantle (muddaththir), arise and warn (andhir)! Thy Lord magnify (kabbir), thy robes purify (ṭahhir) and defilement flee!”

[65] Apart from the above verse, see also, for example, Q.38.65: “Say: I am only a warner. There is no god but God, the One, the Vanquisher, Lord of the heavens and the earth and what is between them, the All-mighty, the All-forgiving.”

[66] Q.17.105: “We have not sent you except as a bringer of glad tidings and a warner.”

[67] See n.63.

[68] See Q.9.33 (and 48.28 and 61.9): “It is He who has sent His messenger with guidance and the religion of truth, that he may render it victorious over every religion.” B reads “the purifier” (al-muṭahhir), alluding to Q.74.4 (see n.64).

[69] Q.9.128–9.

[70] Q.24.35. The next three blessings are all connected to this Light verse. The following interpretations by Mahdawī of this famous verse can be compared with the traditional exegesis reported by  abarī, on the authority of ʿUbayy ibn Kaʿb:

“Ibn ʿAbbās [the Prophet’s cousin] came to see Kaʿb al-Aḥbār and asked him: ‘Tell me about God’s words “the symbol of His Light is as a niche”’, to which Kaʿb replied: ‘The niche is a hole in the wall which God has given as a symbol of Muhammad, blessings and peace be upon him; “wherein is a lamp”, the lamp designates his heart; “the lamp in a glass”, the glass is his chest’.” (Jāmiʿ al-bayān, XVIII, 104–11).

[71] In other words, the personal pronoun specified in the words “God guides to His Light”, which is identified with Muhammad. The word ḍamīr (pronoun) also has the meaning of the hidden, the innermost consciousness, which is therefore concealed within the original Light, while the word bāriz (outstanding) also means that which emerges or stands out, referring to the appearance and eminence of Muhammad in the world.

[72] It is interesting to compare this with Ibn ʿArabī’s treatment, which as here allows for multiple points of view. At the level of the individual, the niche can be taken as an image of the external covering of the heart, protecting from the passions (ahwā'), while the glass symbolises the heart which has attained the station of purity (ṣafā') – its transparency allows the light of the heart’s lamp to shine forth, finding its fullest degree in the person of the Prophet (see Fut.I.434). The tree can be taken as a symbol of the Ipseity (huwīya), within which all oppositions are implicitly contained, though Itself “neither of the East nor the West” (see, for example, Fut.III.198). The olive may symbolise the gnostic (ʿārif) who has reached the supreme station, which is in fact the station of no-station (Fut.II.646). For further details, see the excellent article by D. Gril, “Le commentaire du verset de la lumi‘re d’apr‘s Ibn ʿArabī”, Bulletin d’Études Orientales, XXIX (1977), pp.179–87, Damascus.

[73] Q.7.185: “Or have they not considered the dominion of the heavens and the earth and what things God has created, and that it may be their term is already nigh?” See also Q.6.75.

[74] The Throne is represented as the circumference encompassing the whole of existence, within which the heavenly spheres and their corresponding prophetic spirits revolve. The Throne is also the seat of the All-Compassionate (raḥmān) (Q.20.5), whose Breath effuses upon all the Divine Names.

[75] This is the first explicit mention of the term, Light of Muhammad.

[76] This blessing is specifically connected to the Name al-ʿalīm, the All-Knowing, which appears in the final phrase of the Light verse.

[77] Allusion to Q.53.9: “This is naught but a revelation revealed, taught him by one terrible in power, very strong; he stood poised, being on the highest horizon, then drew near and came down, suspended, two bows’ length away or even closer (aw adnā).”

[78] See Q.88.18: “Do they not consider how the camel was created, how the heaven was raised up, how the mountains were hoisted, how the earth was outstretched?”

[79] B reads “his realization” (taḥaqquqahu).

[80] This blessing makes allusion to two Quranic verses that mention illumination, the first microcosmically among humankind, and the second macrocosmically within the universe: “O Prophet, We have sent thee as a witness, and a bearer of glad tidings and warnings, calling to God by His permission, and an illuminating lamp (sirāj munīr) (Q.33.46), and “Blessed be He who has set in heaven constellations, and has set among them a lamp and an illuminating moon (qamar munīr) (Q.25.61). In addition, the mention of the three heavenly bodies, the star, moon and sun, recalls the story of Abraham’s illumination (see Q.6.75–9).

[81] This marks the final blessing and salutation on the Prophet, since the next two prayers concern the four successors and the salvation and unity of the community, including the one who recites the prayer.

[82] Al-Ṣiddīq, i.e. Abū Bakr, the first caliph.

[83] Al-Fārūq, i.e. ʿUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb, the second caliph. The mention of Abū Bakr and ʿUmar clearly indicates the Sunni character of the prayer.

[84] Dhū’l-nūrayn, i.e. ʿUthmān ibn ʿAffān, the third caliph.

[85] Literally, “the seal of khilāfa” – in other words, the caliphate of the four rightly guided (rāshidūn) comes to an end with ʿAlī. According to a hadith (Ibn Ḥanbal 5.221), “the khilāfa lasts 30 years. After that, there will be rulership (mulk). See also Ibn Ḥanbal 5.44: “Succession to the prophet (khilāfa al-nubūwa) lasts 30 years.”

[86] See Q.57.27: “We sent Jesus, son of Mary, and gave unto him the Gospel, and We set in the hearts of those who followed him tenderness, compassion and devoted service (rahbānīya). They instituted that – We did not prescribe it for them – only out of desire to satisfy God, but they did not observe it as it should be observed.” In Ibn ʿArabī’s commentary on this verse in his Kashf al-maʿnā, this practice of rahbānīya, usually understood to mean the monastic life, is understood as a good invention, in the light of the hadith “One who establishes a good tradition (sunna) will receive his corresponding reward as well as the equivalent of the reward of those who put it into practice” (Kashf 95.3, pp.302–3). We should note that Mahdawī himself lived in a light-house just outside Tunis, taking care of it and acting as head of a spiritual community of men, whose way of life can readily be compared to the monastic life among the medieval Christian orders. The term rahbānīya has the same lexical root as rahba (reverent awe).

[87] Q.50.37.

[88] The Tunis copyist ends with the following: “And may the blessings of God be upon our master Muhammad, and upon his family and companions, forever and ever. O God, through the blessing-prayer upon him, let us reach the degrees of the righteous and Your Good-Pleasure. O Lord of all beings. ‘Indeed You are capable of all things’ (Q.3.26). Here ends the prayer in praise of God and through the best of His help and His granting of success. May God bless our lord and master, Muhammad, and his family and companions. Salutations of peace be upon them all. And all praise be to God, Lord of all beings.”


Reproduced from the Journal of the Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi Society, Volume XXXIV, 2003.