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Young Writers Award 2019

We are pleased to announce that in 2019, the Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi Society will be presenting a Young Writers Award for the fourth time. This tri-annual event offers a prize of US$ 1000 for an essay by a writer under the age of 35 on a subject related to the thought of Ibn ʿArabī or his school. It must be in English, and no more than 9,000 words in length.

All entries will be submitted to the Journal of Muhyiddin Ibn ʿArabi Society for consideration; there is no guarantee that they will be accepted, but in previous years, not only the winners but also other entries have been published.

Entries will be accepted from 1st April 2019, and must be received before 1st October. The winner will be announced at the UK AGM in November. The judges this year are:

Essays can be sent digitally to the Society, but they need to be accompanied by an entry form which can be downloaded from the Society web-site or obtained by email request.

For further information, please see the MIAS web-site,, or contact Jane Clark, Senior Research Fellow of the Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi Society, at

Pir Press announces English translation of al-Futūḥāt al-Makkīyah

Futuhat English translation 2019

The Pir Press has announced the publication of the first volume of Eric Winkel's English translation of Ibn al-'Arabi's al-Futūḥāt al-Makkīyah, "The Openings Revealed in Makkah". Ibn 'Arabi wrote down the Futūḥāt over a period of about 30 years, in 37 books. This volume will contain Book 1 and Book 2 of Ibn 'Arabi's work, and is to be published in early 2019. It is anticipated that the project of publishing the translation of the entire Futūḥāt will be completed in 2022 in nineteen volumes.

The first critical edition of the al-Futūḥāt al-Makkīyah was completed in 2010, after eleven years of study, by Dr ʿAbd al-ʿAziz Sultan al-Mansub. When Eric Winkel asked Dr Mansub where he could find a copy, he sent the twelve volumes to him from Sanaʾa in the Yemen. Since 2012 Dr Winkel has worked exclusively on the production the first complete translation of the Futūḥāt in English.

From March 2016 Dr Winkel began to issue his translation in a Preprint edition. He says, "The idea of preprints came from my experience with, a site where scientists and mathematicians put their findings in draft, rough form, eliciting peer feedback. I benefited greatly from responses all over the world and made many connections through these preprints..." By mid-2017 the translation reached almost half way through the Futūḥāt, and the preprint edition had reached Book 18. He paused to revisit the first two books, to bring to the translation of those what he had learned in the course of work on everything that had followed. At this point he was contacted by an expert copy editor, who introduced the kind of consistency to the text of the translation which would be crucial for publication. In the volume that is to be issued early in 2019, Books 1 and 2, together they have made tens of thousands of changes to the translation as it stood in 2016, some at the level of punctuation, others in response to the question, "What does this mean?"

Access to the Futūḥāt for English readers really began in the late 1980s, and there have been wonderful books published, but there were very few attempts between then and 2016 to translate a substantial amount of continuous text from the Futūḥāt. Quite simply, to begin at the beginning and translate everything, is a unique proposition. What results from the publication of Books 1 and 2 alone is the opening of a completely new door on Ibn 'Arabi's work.

For further news about the edition from Pir Press, see

The Alchemy of Human Happiness

"The Alchemy of Human Happiness – Chapter 167 of Ibn ʿArabi's Meccan Illuminations, Fī maʿrifat kīmiyāʾ al-saʿāda", by Muhyiddin Ibn ʿArabi. Translated by Stephen Hirtenstein. Anqa Publishing, 2017.

The quest for happiness and fulfilment lies at the very heart of human life, but for Ibn ʿArabi there is a realm beyond our ordinary understanding of happiness, where the human stands truly fulfilled, in vision of Reality. This is a goal within the potential of every person.

‘Not everyone who has found happiness is accorded perfection, for while all who are perfect are happy, not every happy one is perfect. Perfection means reaching and joining with the highest degree, and that is assuming the likeness of the Source.’

In this English translation of a core chapter from the famous Meccan Illuminations (al-Futūḥāt al-Makkiyya), Ibn ʿArabi comprehensively summarises all his major teachings on human perfectibility and true happiness. Using the imagery of alchemy and ascension, he gives the reader an extraordinary insight into the spiritual journey by contrasting two ways of acquiring knowledge: the rational and the mystical. With an introduction to Islamic alchemy, the Hermetic tradition and the mysterious elixir, this is an important text for anyone interested in Sufism, Islamic spirituality or alchemy.

It is available from Anqa Publishing.

Young Writer Award 2016

Based on a report by Jane Clark at the Society AGM. The full text can be found in the AGM Report sent to members.

The Young Writers Award is a tri-annual prize of US$ 1000 given by the Society for the best essay by a scholar under the age of 35. The aim is to encourage students to work on Ibn ʿArabi and his school at an early stage of their career. This was the third time that the award had been given. The Society received eight very impressive essays from all over the world, with entries from students from USA/Nigeria, the Netherlands, Egypt, UK, Turkey and Indonesia. The judges wanted to commend four of them for their excellence.

Oludamini Ogunnaike

The winning essay was written by Dr Oludamini Ogunnaike (USA/Nigeria), with the title ‘The Shining of the Lights and the Veil of the Sights in the Secrets Bright: An Akbarī Approach to the Problem of Pure Consciousness’. This explored the contemporary Katz-Forman debate: Is it possible to have any experience – even a mystical experience – which is not shaped by a particular culture or belief system? The judges felt that the essay showed not only an impressive grasp of Ibn ‘Arabi’s ideas and deep insight into the issue, but also great originality, being formatted as a dialogue between the author and the imaginal figure of Ibn ʿArabi himself. The title reflects the common practice within Islam of giving a title which rhymes: it is rendered in Arabic as ishrāq al-anwār wa niqāb al-abṣār fī birāq al-asrār.

Oludamini is now an assistant professor of Religious Studies at the College of William and Mary, a public research university in Virginia, USA. He holds a PhD in African Studies and the Study of Religion from Harvard University, and spent a year as a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University’s Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies. 

He wrote in :
“I was introduced to Ibn ʿArabi while an undergraduate at Harvard University through Caner Dagli’s translation of the Fuṣūṣ al-ḥikam and William Chittick and Peter Lamborn Wilson’s translation of ʿIraqī’s Lamaʾat – two books which were to be my constant companions for the next four years. I also studied Ibn ʿArabi’s Fuṣūṣ and Futūḥāt during weekly reading seminars with James Morris in Boston while completing my PhD, a comparative study of the epistemologies of Tijani Sufism and Ifa, an indigenous Yoruba spiritual/intellectual tradition.  My research examines the philosophical dimensions of postcolonial, colonial, and pre-colonial Islamic and indigenous religious traditions of West and North Africa, especially Sufism and Ifa...”

The judges in 2016 were Professor Todd Lawson of the University of Toronto; Professor Denis Gril of the University of Aix-de-Provence, and Jane Carroll, of MIAS USA, and the award was generously supported by the Beshara Trust and a private donor.

It was very good to see people tackling contemporary issues such as the environment and gender relations from an akbarian perspective. Three essays tackled cross-cultural matters in one form or another, and this is another indication of how research is now developing; as more works are translated into English, and/or become available in digital form, it becomes possible to do much more interesting things in the way of comparison and cross referencing.

The judges gave the status of ‘Highly Commended’ to the entry by Dr Eric van Lit entitled ‘Suhrawardī, Ibn ʿArabi, and the World of Image: One term, different meanings’. This drew on an impressive range of material to consider whether the term ʿālam al-mithal, which is used by both authors, has, as many scholars have assumed, the same meaning in the different contexts.

The judges awarded the status ‘Commended’ to two essays. One by Heba Youssry, currently based in Cairo, entitled ‘A Journey through Waṣl and Faṣl: Women and Sexual Relations in Ibn ‘Arabi’s Thought’, boldly tackles the issues of gender equality and intimate relationships within Islam.

The other ‘Commended’ essay was by Dr Aydogan Kars, entitled ‘What is Negative Theology? Lessons from the Encounter of Two Sufis in Medieval Seville’. This analyses Ibn ʿArabi’s encounter with a Mu‘tazilite Sufi master, al-Qabrafiqi, in Seville and their different understandings of divine transcendence.

Other submissions were:
‘Re-integrating Shariah and Tasawuuf : Was there an Akbarian fiqh?’ by Mohammed Haseeb Khan, a post-graduate student at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.
‘Comparison of the Monistic Ontologies of Ibn ʿArabi and Spinoza’ by Thannima Ahmed Shamoli, a postgraduate student at Oxford University, UK.
‘The Perfect Man (Insan Kamil) on Mysticism of Ibn ʿArabi: an analystic study for empowering younger generation’ by Wa Ode Zainab Zilullah Toresano, a doctoral student in Jakarta, Indonesia.
‘Eco-friendly vision based on Ibn ʿArabi’s Tajalli’ by Fithri Dzakiyyah Hafizah, also studying at the Sekolah Tinggi Filsafat Islam (STFI) Sadra, in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Two translations of the Tarjuman al-Ashwaq into German

Tarjuman al-ashwaq traslantion by Stefan Weidner Tarjuman al-ashwaq translation by Wolfgang Herrmann

Der Übersetzer der Sehnsüchte: Gedichte von Ibn Arabi, Aus dem Arabischen ins Deutsche übertragen, kommentiert und mit einer Einführung versehen von Stefan Weidner

Deuter der Sehnsüchte, Tarjuman al-Ashwaq von Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi (Autor), Wolfgang Herrmann (Übersetzer), Volume 2

Two complete translations of the Tarjuman al-Ashwaq into German have appeared in 2016.

A review of Weidner's translation – Der Übersetzer der Sehnsüchte: Gedichte – appeared on August 23, 2016 in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Germany's largest newspaper. The subtitle for the review was, “A book of longing and rapture : Stefan Weidner has transposed the poems of the mystic Ibn 'Arabi into a very contemporary German, bringing out their startling closeness to the modern Lyric.”

Stefan Weidner read Islamic Studies, German and Philosophy at the Universities of Göttingen, Damascus, Berkeley and Bonn. He is a writer, translator and literary critic, and since 2001 has been editor of Fikrun wa Fann (Thought & Art), published by the Goethe Institute. This journal was founded in 1963 by Annemarie Schimmel and Albert Theile, to contribute to dialogue between Western and Islamic culture. Weidner has translated the works of a number of poets from Arabic, including Adonis and Mahmoud Darwish.

The first part of Wolfgang Herrmann's translation of the TarjumanDeuter der Sehnsüchte – was published in 2013. This presented poems 1-20, together with an Introduction by the translator, and a translation of Ibn 'Arabi's Istilahat al-sufiyya, short definitions of many terms used by the sufis. The poems are accompanied by the translation of Ibn 'Arabi's own commentary. Poems 21-61 appeared in April 2016 in Volume 2 of Herrmann's translation.

To paraphrase a comment made by Herrmann: The translations by Weidner and Herrmann have different objectives: Stefan Weidner's translation provides Ibn 'Arabi's love poetry as autonomous poems (understandable without any prior knowledge) in a modern poetic space, where they stand without Ibn 'Arabi's commentary or prologue. By contrast, Wolfgang Herrmann's translation places Ibn 'Arabi's theological-metaphysical commentary beside the poetic text, with the aim of opening a window onto the breadth of Ibn 'Arabi's thought.

Wolfgang Herrmann has previously made a number of other works by and related to Ibn 'Arabi available in German, several of them translations of well-known publications in French and English. These include Die Weisheit der Propheten (Titus Burkhardt's translation of twelve chapters from the Fusus al-Hikam, 2005), Der grenzenlos Barmherzige (Stephen Hirtenstein's biographical study, The Unlimited Mercifier, 2008), and Der Sagenhafte Greif des Westens: Anqa Mughrib (2012).

Manuscripts returned to Konya Library 15 years after theft

Two Seljuk-era manuscripts that were stolen from the Yusuf Ağ Manuscript Library in Konya in 2000 were identified in a Pennsylvania library by a Turkish doctoral student in Holland, and returned to Turkey in 2015.

Hüseyin Şen, a Turkish PhD student at Utrecht University, realised that two manuscripts in the Lawrence J. Schoenberg collection of the University of Pennsylvania's Rare Books and Manuscripts Library were ones stolen from the Yusuf Ağ Library in Konya.

Speaking to the press, Şen said his wife was interested in Ottoman bird houses and he had been helping her in her studies when he found one of the manuscripts described in the University of Pennsylvania catalogue. It included details about the date of the book and the number of lines per page. This triggered something in his memory, and he went to a Turkish government website and searched for information about manuscripts stolen from Konya. He could see that the one in Pennsylvania was very likely one of the stolen manuscripts. Further searches revealed a second manuscript in the Pennsylvania collection was in the Konya list.

A total of 103 manuscripts and seven books were stolen from Konya in 2000, also the covers of 64 rare books. The Konya Manuscript Library Manager Bekir Şahin said that the people who stole the manuscripts divided a book into two, and using stolen covers, sold it as two different books. In the course of the subsequent investigation it emerged that the reference to the Sadreddin Konevi Waqf, which was originally on the first page of one of the books, had been erased.

The two manuscripts were the "El-İşaret Ve't-Tenbihat Fi'l-Mantık," and "Miftahu'l-Ulum." They had been purchased by American collector Lawrence Schoenberg, a son of the noted composer and artist Arnold Schoenberg. He was a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and a member of their Library Board of Overseers, and left his collection to the University of Pennsylvania.

After Hüseyin Şen became confident that these were from the Konya theft, he contacted somebody he knew, namely Sare Davutoğlu, the wife of Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu. She forwarded his email to the Director of the Konya library. The identification was confirmed, and the manuscripts were returned by the University of Pennsylvania Library to their owner.

One of the triggers for starting the Ibn 'Arabi Society Archive Project was the appearance of an Ibn ‘Arabi manuscript in a London auction, which turned out to be from the same theft in Konya. Two members of the Society noticed the similarity of the manuscript to one illustrated in Stephen Hirtenstein’s biography of Ibn ‘Arabi, ‘The Unlimited Mercifier.’ The Society was able to prove that this one was a stolen manuscript by means of a microfilm copy that it had. The sale was stopped, and the manuscript itself was returned to the Library in 2003.

There is a list of the stolen manuscripts on the website of the Turkish General Directorate Of Cultural Heritage And Museums.

Fez Festival of Sufi Culture 2014 – In the Footsteps of Ibn 'Arabi

The Fez Festival of Sufi Culture (not to be confused with the Fez Festival of Sacred Music) has been an annual happening since 2007, and each year it has grown in size and scope. This year it was a seven day event devoted exclusively to the thought of Ibn ‘Arabî.

The Festival took place in the grounds of the Batha Palace at the edge of the old medina. The days were devoted to wide-ranging discussions on different aspects of Ibn 'Arabî's life and work. These took the form of panel presentations – 'round tables' – followed by lively interaction with the audience, chaired by the founder and organiser of the Festival, Dr Faouzi Skali. Speakers were invited from all over the world; France, Morocco, Spain, USA, Nigeria, Mali, Bosnia Herzegovina, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.

The event culminated in consideration of two exciting proposals. The first is to set up a 'University of Sufi Culture' to continue and expand the work of the Festival. The final day was devoted to an open discussion about this, involving all the speakers and the audience where everyone was invited to contribute to the vision of what this might entail. Faouzi Skali made clear that this is not a university of Sufism per se but rather a way of establishing and protecting the values of Sufi culture (practiced by both Muslims and non-Muslims alike) such as tolerance, mutual respect, compassion, the love of beauty and the development of taste (dhawq).

The second proposal is for a centre of Ibn Arabi studies, which is to be built by the municipality next to the al-Azhar mosque in the old medina. This is one of the oldest mosques in Fez which has a special relationship to Ibn Arabi, who stayed with its Imam during his three visits to the city; it was the recorded site of several important spiritual experiences, including his mir’aj (night journey) and his entry into the station of 'without a nape of the neck' (i.e. 360° vision). One of the highlights of the week was our visit as a group to this lovely little mosque, where the Imam invited us to climb to the top of the unique, octagonal minaret with a panoramic view across the city.

Drawn from a report by Elizabeth Roberts on the Beshara website. Read the full report

Young Writer Award 2013

We are delighted to announce the results of the 2013 award for the best essay by a scholar under 35 years old. Thank you to all those who sent in entries; the standard overall was very high and it was not easy to choose winners. We are pleased to announce that the $1000 award has been granted to Axel Takács from Harvard University, USA, for an excellent essay correlating the ideas of Ibn ʿArabī with the medieval Christian mystic, Thomas Gallus. The judges were also very impressed by the entry from Samer Dajani from SOAS in London, UK, and would like to give him an honorary mention for his essay on the role of Ibn ʿArabī in the transmission of prophetic traditions.

We hope that those people who were not awarded the prize this year will persist in their studies of Ibn ʿArabī’s ideas and resubmit for the next award in 2016, if still elligible.

Our thanks to the Beshara Trust, who co-sponsored the prize this year.

Winner: Axel Takács

Beyond the Intellect: Perpetual Expansion and Transformation in the Anthropocosmic Vision of Thomas Gallus and the Akbarian Tradition.

Axel Takcs, winner of Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi Society Young Writer Award 2013


This article brings into comparative theological dialogue the mystical vision of Thomas Gallus (ca. 1200-1246) and the Akbarian, Islamic tradition inaugurated by Ibn ʿArabī (d. 1240). The aim is to demonstrate how, through a complex relationship between epistemology, cosmology, anthropology, and mystical theology, the goal of the mystical experience, as elaborated by Thomas Gallus and interpreted through the complementary lens of the Akbarian tradition, is far from a stable and one-time event (such as “union” or “annihilation”). Rather, both Gallus and the Akbarian tradition put forth an anthropocosmic vision of humanity wherein the microcosmic experience of the mystic is a direct reflection of the macrocosmic process of the universe, something that never ends and is far from stagnant or limited.


Axel Takács is currently in the doctoral program in religion at Harvard University, where he also received a Masters of Theological Studies in 2010. Before that, he obtained his American bachelor's degree in Christian theology and medieval Christian philosophy at Saint Louis University, a Jesuit institution. Axel is an aspiring comparative theologian who focuses his work on the intersection of theological and mystical epistemology and anthropology within the religious traditions of Christianity (himself a Roman Catholic) and Islam.

He became fascinated by the works of Ibn 'Arabi after having fortuitously stumbled into the classroom of James Morris during his masters studies at Harvard Divinity School.  At the time, he hadn't a clue who James Morris was, much less Ibn 'Arabi. He soon realized that there was a devoted group of students in Boston who were immersing themselves into the Shaykh's works, and decided to dive in along with them. Ever since, he has been committed to reading and researching the Akbarian tradition alongside these students and with the gracious and wise guidance of James Morris, without whom his interest in Ibn 'Arabi may never have flourished.

Upon completion of his doctoral dissertation in the next few years, he hopes both to teach at a university, preferably a Catholic theology department, and to publish works on comparative theology between the rich Christian theological heritage and the Akbarian tradition with a view to addressing contemporary spiritual concerns both within the Christian tradition and of the broader human condition.

Honourable Mention: Samer Dajani

The Centrality of Ibn ʿArabī in Popular Ḥadīth Chains

Samer Dajani, Honorable mention, Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi Society Young Writer Award 201


The importance that Ibn ʿArabī gave to ḥadīth has recently been emphasised in the works of Addas, Gril, and Hirtenstein. This study draws attention to Ibn ʿArabī’s contribution to the popularisation and spread of two aḥādith from a specific genre of ḥadīth known as the musalsal aḥādīth. A study of the chains of these traditions enriches our knowledge of the great scholars of Islam that respected Ibn ʿArabī as a trustworthy ḥadīth scholar. It also allows us a glimpse of how these traditions were passed along the same lines of Akbarī initiation and other types of authorisation from him. We find that it is due to Ibn ʿArabī and his adherents that these traditions carry on until this day, and enjoy widespread popularity among traditionalists.


Samer Dajani earned a bachelor’s degree in Arab and Islamic Civilizations from the American University in Cairo and a master’s degree in Islamic Studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. He is currently finishing his PhD at SOAS on Ibn Arabi’s school of jurisprudence. His interest in Ibn 'Arabi came through his study of the Idrisi tariqa which highly values the teachings of the Shaykh al-Akbar. He is the author of the recently published Reassurance for the Seeker (Fons Vitae, 2013).

Angela Culme-Seymour (1912-2012)

Angela Culme-Seymour, Honorary Life President of the Society from 1987, died on 22nd January 2012, aged ninety-nine. She was much appreciated by Society members and fellows during her time as President, and also by her friends, for her clear-sightedness, good sense and lightness of touch.

She was always modest about her abilities, one of which was her fluency in French. Her translation from French of La Sagesse des Prophètes (tr. Titus Burckhardt) [1] provided the first substantial access to Ibn 'Arabi's Fusus al-Hikam in English, a tremendous benefit for those interested in this essential work of the Shaykh al-Akbar. Aside from its wider benefit, it has been immensely useful over the years to students studying at the Beshara School in the Scottish Borders and on courses around the world. Volume 26 of the Ibn 'Arabi Society Journal featured an article by Angela entitled "Bulent and the Blue Fusus – The Story of a Translation", in which she gives a colourful account of how the translation came about. Link

She also translated 'Abd al-Karim al-Jili's Al-Insan al-Kamil [2] into English, again from Burckhardt's French version. Angela never shied away from a challenge, and it was not surprising when she agreed in her nineties to translate another work, Hazret-i Pîr-i Uftâde: Le Dîvân by Paul Ballanfat [3].

In 1977 she married Bulent Rauf, the first President of the Society, and Consultant to the Beshara Trust. They often travelled to Turkey during the summer months, but also spent much time at Chisholme House in the Borders, home of the Beshara School. After Bulent's death in 1987 Angela was based largely at Chisholme. She was a very accomplished painter, mostly in watercolours, and a gifted illustrator, producing a children's book called Pimpernel and Miranda in 1976. In later years she wrote her memoirs, assembling it partly from diaries, and publishing it as Bolter's Grand-daughter [4]. In it she describes her adventurous life in a fresh, captivating style, and although written mainly for her grandchildren it is an interesting read for others too.

Angela died at Chisholme, having been cared for by staff and students there towards the end of her life.

One of the obituaries to appear in the British national press began: "One of the great beauties of her age, Angela Culme-Seymour was loved by many. Spiritual, amorous, optimistic and intrepid, she moved easily among writers and artists and was immortalised by more than one of them in fiction or in paint." She lived life to the full.

A portrait from a magazine about 1938.

Angela Culme-Seymour at a book signing in 2002.

[1] The Wisdom of the Prophets, Beshara Publications 1975

[2] Universal Man, Beshara Publications 1985

[3] The Nightingale in the Garden of Love, Anqa Publishing 2005. The spiritual poems of the great Ottoman Sufi master, Mehmed Muhyiddin Uftade (1490-1580).

[4] Bolter's Grand-daughter, Bird Island Press 2001.

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Al-Azhar Mosque in Fez – 2011

Dee Mitting gives an update on the al-Azhar Mosque in Fez, which she visited in Autumn 2011.

Qarawiyyin mosque and university, Fez

Qarawiyyin Minaret and the green roofs of the old part of the university.

Moulay Idriss town

Sunset over Moulay Idriss.

Spring in the al-Azhar mosque, Fez

The Spring of the Horse as it gushes up – the dark bit is where the water surfaces. The water is so clear one can't tell the level as it overflows the side.

Interior of mosque

Inside the mosque.

The mihrab of al-Azhar mosque

The mihrab of al-Azhar mosque.

Octagonal minaret

Minaret of al-Azhar as seen from the ground. Not much has changed in the last few years, judging by previous photos.

The al-Azhar Mosque in Fez is a small mosque, situated in the Ain al-Khayl district of the Old City, and is where Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi spent much of his time when in Fez, which he visited three times over a period of six years between 1195/591 and 1201/598.

Fez and the Al Azhar Mosque

Fez, known as a holy city, has long gathered to itself people of a spiritual disposition (there are over 300 saints buried there), and is a major pilgrimage centre in the Islamic world. It is also a place of great learning – the oldest continuously functioning university in the world, the Qarawiyyin, is in Fez – as well as a place of rich cultural cross fertilization and interaction.

Fez was initially designated as a settlement by Moulay Idriss I, known as al Akbar, the Great or the Elder, who was the great, great grandson of the Prophet Mohammed (SA). Escaping turmoil in the east he fled west to the country we now know as Morocco. People from Cordoba, also fleeing attack, went south and settled, initially on the south side of the river. Moulay Idriss I himself did not settle here but in a location in the hills to the north west of Fez that is now named after him, close to the former Roman city of Volubilis. It was his son, also a deeply venerated saint, Moulay Idriss II, known as the Splendid (al-Azhar), who founded Fez in (AD) 808 with a prayer dedicating the city to God. The intention of its founder in initially naming the city al-Aliyah (the High) indicates a qualitative order of height given that geographically its centre lay in the lower part of the valley.

Abdul Ali, a city planner and involved with the reconstruction work in the old city, told me that the Al-Azhar Mosque predates the large and more famous Qariwiyyin mosque, built in 895, and that it is in the area first settled on the north side of the river. He suggests that it is the first mosque to have been built in Fez.

This jewel of a mosque is built around the Spring of the Horse, one of the numerous underground springs in and to the west of Fez which, refreshing the landscape and its river, imbue the city with life. It is named after the moment the horse of Moulay Idriss II knelt down to drink from this tiny gush of water. The consequent blessing conferred enlarged the spring to its present abundance. The mosque carries the name of its blesser, the Splendid (al-Azhar).

The spring fills the tank, which is lined with the local cobalt-blue and white tiles, and the water overflows into a lower channel, which then distributes this pure crystal clear water underground to the immediate district. One time when I visited, the mosque was closed, but the door to the spring was open and a young girl, jug in hand, was offering water for drinking and ablution.

Abdul Ali also told me that the unusual octagonal minaret, the only one in the Mahgrib, was initially constructed without the arch, which was included at a later date to allow the passage of horses and donkeys as the settlement expanded uphill.

The walls of the adjoining house collapsed onto the mosque in 2005 during prayer time. The reconstruction is now complete, although there are floor coverings to be added and perhaps some further details to be finished.

It was re-opened on the 1st Ramadan 2011. The tragedy of the collapse crushed ten people including the son of the present day imam. I was introduced to a man whose grandfather was among the dead and whose view is that to be taken in the state of the purity of prayer is a great blessing.

The proposal for the mosque to become a centre for the study of Ibn 'Arabi in Morocco and for a library to house his works has now become a proposal for the largest Islamic library in Morocco to be built adjacent to the mosque, which is to include the as yet undisclosed Ibn 'Arabi manuscripts.

It was extremely generous of the imam to allow me, not only into the room of the spring where women are allowed to enter, but also to pass through the prayer hall to the exit by the main door. It was in this brief moment of stillness that the atmosphere was acutely discernible – one of palpable peace, delight and sweetness.

Ibn 'Arabi in Fez

It is important to those who 'follow in the footsteps’ of Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi, that it was here in front of this mihrab that he was 'made into Light'. Here in one of two accounts, Ibn 'Arabi says,

"Know that the Prophet is all face and no nape or neck. That is why he declared, 'I see you behind my back'... when I inherited this station from him and it became mine, I happened to be directing the prayer in the al-Azhar Mosque in Fez. At the mihrab my entire essence became one single eye: I could see from every side of myself in just the same way that I could see my qibla. Nobody escaped my view: neither the person who was entering nor the person who was leaving, and not even those who were performing the prayer behind me..." (1)

He adds in the second account, "I was like a sphere; I was no longer aware of myself as having any 'side' except as a result of a mental process – not an experienced reality ... " (2)

Becoming nothing but Light was again affirmed for Ibn 'Arabi in Fez in the journey or mi'raj, described in the Kitab al-Isra' a book he wrote down in Fez in the year 594, a journey which " ... took place nowhere but in myself and it was towards myself that I had been guided; from this I knew that I was a servant in a state of purity, without a trace of Lordship." (3)

Fez was also one of the significant places in which the meaning of the total and complete Muhammedian Essential Divine Sainthood was progressively unfolded to Ibn 'Arabi, a process which began in Cordoba in 1190/586 when he was informed of his nomination. The knowing for sure that he was the “Seal and assistant” [4] happened in Fez four years later. However at that time this was established in the interior and not made known in the exterior until 1203/599 at which time Ibn 'Arabi was given the famous dream featuring the Ka’aba in which he saw himself "like two bricks of silver and gold which completed the wall and left nothing missing." [5]

The flow from emergence to fruition itself is a superlative elucidation of absolute servanthood in which the hidden and the manifest are of the Will of the Beloved.

  1. Claude Addas, Quest for the Red Sulphur, p. 149
  2. Claude Addas, Quest for the Red Sulphur, p. 149
  3. The Unlimited Mercifier p. 122
  4. Diwan; from Quest for the Red Sulphur p. 158
  5. Fusus al Hikam translated by Bulent Rauf

Particular areas

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