Articles and Translations

Malatyan Soil, Akbarian Fruit – From Ibn ʿArabi to Niyazi Misri

Stephen Hirtenstein

Stephen Hirtenstein has been editor of the Journal of the Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi Society since its inception in 1982, and is a co-founder of Anqa Publishing [/].

He read History at King’s College, Cambridge, and then studied at the Beshara School of Intensive Esoteric Education in Gloucestershire and Scotland. After a teaching career, he began writing and giving talks on Ibn Arabi’s thought at conferences across the world.

In addition to lecturing and writing, he organises and leads tours "in the footsteps of Ibn Arabi".

He currently works as a Senior Editor for the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London, and lives near Oxford.


Articles by Stephen Hirtenstein

The Image of Guidance – Sadr al-Din al-Qunawi as Hadith Commentator

Establishing Ibn Arabi’s Heritage: First Findings from the MIAS Archiving Project | with Jane Clark (PDF)

“I entrust to you a bequest” – Ibn Sawdakin | Translation

Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi: The Treasure of Compassion

Selected Major Works of Ibn Arabi

Seleção das maiores obras de Ibn Arabi (Portuguese)

De Volta a Deus (Ibn Arabī 1182–1184) – Capítulo 5 de O Compassivo Ilimitado (Portuguese)

Some Preliminary Notes on al-Diwan al-kabir

The Brotherhood of Milk – Perspectives of Knowledge in the Adamic Clay

“O Marvel!” – A Paradigm Shift towards Integration

The Mystic’s Kaaba – The Cubic Wisdom of the Heart According to Ibn Arabi

Physical Sustenance in Sufi Literature: A Case-study of a Treatise by Abd Allah al-Busnawi | with Hülya Küçük

Malatyan Soil, Akbarian Fruit: From Ibn Arabi to Nyazi Misri

The Prayer of Blessing [upon the Light of Muhammad] by Abd al-Aziz al-Mahdawi | with Pablo Beneito| Part 1, the Introduction

The Prayer of Blessing [upon the Light of Muhammad] by Abd al-Aziz al-Mahdawi | with Pablo Beneito| Part 2, the Translation

Sadr al-Din al-Qunawi’s al-Nusus | with Hülya Küçük

Names and Titles of Ibn [al-]‘Arabi

Kitâb al-fâna' fi-l mushâhadah, by Ibn 'Arabi | with Layla Shamash

The Great Dīwān and its offspring: The collection and dispersion of Ibn 'Arabī's poetry | with Julian Cook

The library list of Ṣadr al-Dīn al-Qūnawī | with Julian Cook

Malik MS 4263: A Manuscript Case-study


Translations by Stephen Hirtenstein

Kitâb al-fâna’ fi-l mushâhadah by Ibn ‘Arabi


Podcasts and Videos by Stephen Hirtenstein

The Healer of Wounds: Interpreting Human Existence in the Light of Alchemy and Ascension

Reviving the Dead: Ibn Arabi as the Heir to Jesus

Introduction to the “Light & Knowledge” Conference

The Mystic’s Kaaba – The Wisdom of the Heart According to Ibn Arabi

“O Marvel!” – A Paradigm Shift towards Integration

Spiritual Life, Living Spirit – Ibn Arabi’s Meeting with Jesus and John

The Secrets of Voyaging

Abandon your existence,
and your heart will be emptied of narrowness;
Obliterate your otherness,
and the Beloved will become your guest [2]


When I was invited to speak at a conference on the Ottoman Sufi poet Niyazi Misri in Turkey in October 2010, I idly searched for his name on Google, and was most surprised to find a high number of results: 172,000, approximately half the number of entries recorded for the name Ibn ʿArabi (354,000). Yet I could find only six entries on Niyazi (out of those I checked) in English: one was a Facebook page mainly in Turkish, and the remaining five included one encyclopaedia entry, one brief and rather less than informative biography, and three poems in loose translation. Unusually there was not a single scholarly article or translation listed. All other Google entries were in Turkish. Even if one consults the latest edition of the Encyclopaedia of Islam, the brief 800-word article makes no mention of any study in English apart from J. B. Browne’s The Darvishes, published in 1927. More recently, in 2011, a specialist monograph has focused on the remains of Niyazi Misri’s dergâh (Sufi lodge) on the Greek island of Limni in the Aegean, where he spent many years in exile and was buried.[3] In other words, what is striking is that Niyazi Misri may be well known and even venerated in Turkey, and yet he remains hardly known at all in the non-Turkish-speaking world.

This is by no means an isolated example of Ottoman literary obscurity: great literary figures within the Ottoman tradition, especially Sufi authors such as ʿAziz Mahmud Hudayi, Ismaʿil Anqarawi or Şeyh Galip, are similarly relatively unknown and ignored in the West at present. This phenomenon is further complicated by the rupture between the old Ottoman Empire and the modern ‘Middle East’, with its assortment of new nation-states, a rupture that is not simply political, social or linguistic, but a matter of deep cultural identity.

This paper will attempt to consider some aspects of Niyazi Misri’s life and teachings, especially his physical and spiritual connection to Ibn ʿArabi. There is no doubt that Niyazi was much influenced by Ibn ʿArabi, and he mentions his indebtedness in many places, singing the praises of the Shaykh al-Akbar, whose Fuṣūṣ he describes as ‘an ocean’. This article, however, will be less about ‘influence’ and more about ‘confluence’, i.e. the way in which both authors give voice to their mystical experience and their vision of humanity.


Malatyan Soil: Historical Background

The first aspect of the two authors’ confluence can be seen in their connection with Malatya. Anyone checking the history books or encyclopaedias for details of Malatya, or its older incarnation as the Assyrian Melidda or Roman Melita, will come across a wealth of material on this long-established town of eastern Anatolia, close to the upper Euphrates and supplied by freshwater springs. It lies at the intersection of important trade routes (in antiquity, the Persian royal road and the Euphrates route; in modern times, the Samsun–Sivas–Malatya–Diyarbakır road and the Kayseri–Elbistan–Malatya–Harput road). At an altitude of 884m (2,900ft), Malatya has long been celebrated as a place of great fertility and verdant greenness, where all kinds of vegetables and fruit can be grown with ease, in contrast to the much less hospitable regions of the Taurus to the north. Weaving seems to have been a major industry, with reports of 12,000 looms in operation. Its location as a border town between competing powers, Roman and Persian, Byzantine and Muslim, also gave it a cosmopolitan air: successive waves of immigrants – Greek, Armenian, Nabatean (Aramaic-speaking), Syrian Jacobite – were brought in to try and stabilise the area, and by the year 1100 Malatya is said to have boasted more than fifty churches. Two great Syriac historians of the 12th and 13th centuries, the patriarch Michael I (1126–99) and Barhebraeus [Ibn al-ʿIbri] (1226–86), were both born in Malatya. Its chequered history at the hands of successive invaders lasted until the Ottoman period, when it became a settled market town. The summer residences where people had their gardens and vineyards, named Aspozi, gradually took over as the city of Malatya, a process hastened when the original town with its beautiful Ulu Cami (Great Mosque) was ruined by the Ottoman army in 1838–39. Eski (‘Old’) Malatya or Battalgazi, as it is known today, is now a small farming village outside the burgeoning city of Malatya.

However, perhaps reflecting the bias of many historians towards events of the outer world, little is written about Malatya’s inner history, or the history of its intellectual and spiritual masters, of whom there have been many. In this respect the town seems to have come to prominence in the more settled years of Seljuk rule, after Kaykhusraw I regained his throne in Konya[4] in 1205. The Seljuk sultan recalled his favourite vizier (who may also have been his tutor), Majd al-din Abu Ibrahim Ishaq b. Muhammad b. Yusuf al-Rumi, an important figure in the Seljuk state bureaucracy who served as a judge and shaykh, but better known as the father of Sadr al-din al-Qunawi. Having taken refuge in Syria while one of Kaykhusraw’s brothers seized power, Majd al-din had gone on pilgrimage to Mecca, where he met Ibn ʿArabi. He evidently had property and land in Malatya, and when a host of scholars were sought to ‘adorn’ the Seljuk kingdom, to bring their expertise and help create a new, ordered Muslim state, he issued an invitation to Ibn ʿArabi to travel with him to Anatolia. This journey, which is so well documented through the samāʿ certificates on the original manuscript of Ibn ʿArabi’s Rūḥ al-quds that we can retrace the steps taken by the travellers in their route north, was to have profound consequences for Sufism in Anatolia. The closeness between the two men can be gauged by the fact that Majd al-din acted as the kātib (the copyist of the reading certificate) when the Rūḥ al-quds was read in the vicinity of the Kaʿba in Mecca in Dhu al-Hijja 600/August 1204.[5] Ibn ʿArabi spent the early summer in Malatya from Ramadan to Dhu al-Qaʿda 601/April to July 1205, presumably under the patronage and hospitality of Majd al-din, after which he made a brief visit to Konya and met the famous Sufi master Awhad al-din Kirmani.[6] We may note that Ibn ʿArabi had direct contact with Anatolia over a period of more than fifteen years, at least six of which (from 612 to 618/1215 to 1221) were centred on Malatya.[7]

Some manuscripts of Ibn ʿArabi’s works contain references to the house that he had in Malatya.[8] His daughter and second son were evidently born in the town, as reportedly was Majd al-din’s famous son, Sadr al-din, who would be known as al-Qunawi and would become the foremost exponent of Ibn ʿArabi’s teachings as well as his stepson after the death of his natural father. We may also infer from these manuscripts that Ibn ʿArabi was involved in teaching and writing for extended periods in Malatya: it was home to him in a way that only Damascus would later match. According to a famous anecdote[9] which may have taken place in Malatya, Kaykhusraw’s son and successor, Kaykaʾus (who was brought up in Malatya prior to becoming sultan), gifted Ibn ʿArabi with a house worth 100,000 dirhams; when a beggar passed by asking for alms, Ibn ʿArabi gave him the house as he had nothing else to give.

This period not only sowed the seeds for Ibn ʿArabi’s establishment as one of the central figures of the Ottoman intellectual landscape, through remarkable teachers such as al-Qunawi and a collection of writings in his library that attracted students from all over the Islamic world – there also remained a less evident heritage in the form of a succession of students of Ibn ʿArabi’s writings in Anatolia. Although we have few details about these, one group was based in Malatya, including an important ʿAlawi family who in the late 7th/13th century transmitted Ibn ʿArabi’s works as well as the Dīwān of Ibn al-Fāriḍ.[10] Of course such continuity of human contact and transmission, which is far harder to map than historical buildings such as an Ulu Cami or a madrasa, is entirely to be expected, and from time to time one finds mention of Malatya as a place boasting a strong spiritual tradition, especially amongst Naqshbandis, Qadiris and Khalwatis.


Niyazi Misri

One of Malatya’s sons was Shams al-din Muhammad b. ʿAli, better known as Niyazi Misri, who was born on 12 Rabiʿ I 1027/ 9 March 1618. He was born in Aspozi (now modern Malatya) – according to some sources, the name of the village was Soğanlı, but this appears to have been part of or close to Aspozi. His father, Soğancızade ʿAli Çelebi, a Naqshbandi, was one of the city notables, and it was in Malatya (i.e. Eski Malatya) that Niyazi began not only his religious education but also his Sufi training at the hand of a Khalwati shaykh called Husayn Efendi.

However, as with most people, his real education began elsewhere, away from the familiarity of his hometown, which he left in 1048/1638. In search of authentic spiritual teaching, he travelled to Cairo, where he studied under a Qadiri shaykh and attended classes at al-Azhar. Subsequently, he had a dream of ʿAbd al-Qadir al-Jilani, in which he was addressed by ʿAbd al-Qadir (who appeared to him as a king) as a ‘Sufi’ and was given a pouch:

I took it and opened it before him. There were silver coins in it. And within the pouch, there was another one, and I opened it, too. In it, there were golden coins. I asked him: ‘What is the meaning of these two pouches?’ He replied: ‘The silver coins are outward knowledge; learn and act upon it. The golden coins are knowledge of the Way. You can attain it only through one who is pre-destined for you.’ And he added: ‘Your Guide is not in this city.’ I woke up with relief and a joy that I cannot describe.[11]

Gold and silver, here depicted in the form of coins, are a familiar motif in mystical experience: silver represents the penultimate stage in the sevenfold alchemical process of transformation, the highest quality that can characterise the relative being, the clothing of servanthood and receptivity, but which is still not the true fulfillment of human potential – that can be represented only by gold, the final stage (which is also, apparently paradoxically, the first), the incorruptible and unchanging essence of completion and perfection (kamāl). This Misrian vision (echoing the Meccan vision of Ibn ʿArabi in which gold and silver bricks were depicted as completing a wall) impelled Niyazi to leave Egypt in 1053/1643 and travel until he found the guide indicated by ʿAbd al-Qadir. His travels took him to Bursa, where he had another dream, in which he was meeting different masters and eventually came to the town of Ushak, where a tinsmith was tinning cups in a shop crowded with customers. Niyazi wanted to have his ablution pitcher tinned, and handed it to the tinsmith. The latter took it and said, ‘The outside can be tinned by anyone; the real skill is to tin its inside.’ Then he split the pitcher in two and tinned both the outside and the inside; and, joining the pieces, he gave it back. The ‘tinsmith’ turned out to be the man Niyazi would call ‘the delight of my eye and the remedy of my heart… through the alchemy of whose blessed breath there came to me all that had been indicated by Shaykh ʿAbd al-Qadir al-Jilani’:[12] a Khalwati shaykh called Ummi Sinan of Elmalı. They first met in the flesh in 1057/1647 when Niyazi was staying with Ummi Sinan’s khalifa in Ushak, Mehmed Efendi. When Ummi Sinan came to visit, he asked Mehmed Efendi: ‘Is there any dervish here whose name is Muhammad Niyazi?’ Mehmed Efendi replied: ‘Yes, my Sultan, we are entrusted to submit him to you.’

Niyazi spent nine years in Elmalı with Ummi Sinan, who then sent him to Ushak as his khalifa. After Niyazi Misri set out on the journey, Ummi Sinan was asked why he had sent him to a small, provincial town like Ushak instead of a large, important city like Bursa. He answered: ‘You will see that our Misri Muhammad Dervish will be contained in neither Ushak nor Bursa, nor any other land. He will be a spiritual guide recognised as being amongst the greatest and most perfect.’

This promise was to be amply fulfilled, as Niyazi Misri became more renowned even than his own master Ummi Sinan. An interesting anecdote is told by Niyazi about the first time he delivered a sermon to the congregation in Elmalı, prior to going to Ushak: sitting down to address the people, he realised that he had forgotten everything he knew and did not know what to say. Ummi Sinan, who was present, exclaimed: ‘Speak, Misri Efendi! From now on, do not be silent, speak!’ He was then able to speak and gave a beautiful sermon on divine realities. Referring to this event later, Niyazi Misri commented: ‘With this permission and himma of my Shaykh we are still talking; for us there is nothing to fear.’

In an important vision that occurred in Rabiʿ II 1067/February 1657, he recounts that he saw the various degrees of closeness to God, and how:

most of those I had thought to be believers, ascetics, friends of God were in fact far from God and His Compassionate Mercy… while most of those I had taken to be corrupted, disobedient, misled, innovating, antinomian or heretic were actually close to God, friends with Him, loving God and loved by Him… I saw that the greatest cause of distance is self-importance and appetite (al-kibr wa al-shahwa), whereas the greatest cause of closeness is humility and effacement (al-tawāḍiʿ wa al-khumūl), and I saw that closeness and distance are in reality simply relations and viewpoints devoid of true existence.[13]

After his master’s death he moved to Bursa, where his popularity soon led to him being invited to Edirne by the grand vizier. His controversial teachings, which included predictions based on letter symbolism (jafr) and esoteric interpretations of Quranic verses, met with stiff opposition, and he fell foul of the puritanical reform movement of the Kadizadiler, founded by the charismatic preacher Kadizade Mehmed Efendi (d. 1045/1635). As a result of his outspokenness on political issues, Niyazi was exiled three times, once to Rhodes and twice to the island of Limni (Limnos), where he died at the age of seventy-six on 20 Rajab 1105/17 March 1694.

More than 400 manuscripts are listed under his name in Turkish libraries, testifying to his immense popularity. He became extremely well known as a poet, his Diwan becoming one of the classics of Sufi poetry and still taught in Turkish schools, and a prolific author who wrote with equal facility in Ottoman and Arabic.[14]

We may comment here on the names by which this Muhammad b. ʿAli (personal names he shared with Ibn ʿArabi) became known in the world: Niyazi Misri. These two names were used as alternative pen-names throughout his poems, sometimes Niyazi (‘supplicant’), sometimes Misri (‘Egyptian’). They are both reported in the context of his inner development at the hands of his shaykh: it was Ummi Sinan who called him Niyazi when relating him to himself at the beginning of his training, and it was Ummi Sinan who called him Misri when speaking to others when he was sent off to Ushak. From this we might deduce that Misri expresses something outward, to do with the world of appearance and the seeker, for it was this that characterised the beginning of his seeking. His stay in Egypt was characterised by training at the hands of a Qadiri shaykh. Thus, for example, at the end of one of his poems he writes:

Don’t ask who if you see Misri with outward eyes;
for within the Qaf of outward form ʿAnqa we have become[15]

On the other hand, the name Niyazi may express something more intimate, unseen and mysterious, and to do with the inner world:

O Niyazi, what they call body, heart and spirit
are just aspect within aspect within aspect.[16]
He who tastes of unity is freed from duality
Wherever he looks, o Niyazi, there appears the Beloved’s face manifest[17]

The true significance of these names, however, remains an enigma and has been the subject of debate amongst scholars: according to the Turkish scholar Gölpınarlı, the name Niyazi was used for poems composed ‘at night’, while Misri was used for poems composed ‘during the daytime’. Gölpınarlı seems to have meant this not simply physically but in the sense that anyone familiar with Ibn ʿArabi’s teaching would immediately recognise: night as the symbol of the ghayb (unseen, unknown world) and day as the symbol of the shuhūd (visible, known world). Others such as Gibb have concluded that the names refer to different periods of his life. Paul Ballanfat, who has written a recent comprehensive book on Niyazi Misri,[18] has pointed out that there is also a more complex dynamic, especially when one takes into consideration the fact he only uses the name Misri in his Journal (Mecmua), which he wrote late in life when incarcerated in Limni. Here Egypt becomes the ‘place’ of his own realisation, where in his exile he can identify himself spiritually with the suffering endured by Joseph during his Egyptian imprisonment. Persecution became for him an integral means to sainthood.[19]

I am Misri [the Egyptian], I am the king of the Egypt of my existence
Even though I be creature, in the world of meaning I am the most ancient secret[20]

Whatever the truth of the matter, he became known as Niyazi Misri in respect of his spiritual achievements and rank and appearance, rather than as Malati [the Malatyan], which designated simply his physical, bodily origin.

At the same time, in one of his poems in the Diwan he celebrates his hometown of Aspozi, calling it the ‘rose-garden of nightingales’, ‘the gathering-place for the joyful assembly of saints’.[21] One of the features of this poem, which is often thought of as one of his least mystical, is the way it relates specific spiritual qualities to a physical place, and in particular the way those spiritual qualities are also (explicitly or implicitly) related to prophetic figures such as Idris, Khidr or Jesus. This prophet-oriented vision is one of the key characteristics that identify Niyazi as a follower of Ibn ʿArabi’s teachings.

The connection between Ibn ʿArabi and Niyazi appears, then, not only in relation to the town of Malatya, but more importantly in terms of their thought. It is clear that Niyazi was thoroughly steeped in the writings of Ibn ʿArabi and Sadr al-din al-Qunawi: in his final work in Arabic, Mawāʾid al-ʿirfān, he often quotes from both the Fuṣūṣ al-ḥikam and the Futūḥāt al-Makkiyya, and various shorter treatises; he gives extracts from Sadr al-din’s commentary on forty hadiths and his Iʿjāz al-bayān (or as he calls it, Tafsīr al-Fātiḥa), and clearly follows their teaching. In short, in this work he presents himself not as Naqshbandi or Khalwati but as ‘Akbari’.


Akbarian Fruit

But what exactly does it mean to be ‘akbari’, an akbarian? The term has become popular in modern writing to distinguish certain figures in Sufism as those who follow the teaching of Ibn ʿArabi as ‘the greatest spiritual master’, al-shaykh al-akbar. Thus in 2001 Vincent Cornell titled an article ‘Practical Sufism: an Akbarian foundation for a liberal theology of difference’,[22] and speaks of ‘akbarian theology’ and ‘the akbarian perspective’. Some speak of ‘akbarian Sufism’, ‘the akbarian school’ or ‘akbarian studies’. One may cite as examples a long line of authors from Sadr al-din al-Qunawi onwards, influential teachers of varying hues, who could be described as part of the ‘akbarian school’:[23] Daʾud al-Qaysari, ʿAbd al-Razzaq al-Kashani, al-Shaʿrani, al-Nabulusi, Abdullah Bosnevi, al-Qushashi, Emir ʿAbd al-Qadir al-Jazaʾiri and so on. Given that Ibn ʿArabi did not found a ṭarīqa, and that there were no particular prescribed practices in his teaching, the term ‘akbarian’ is often used as shorthand to describe those, particularly authors, who were influenced directly by his writing. However, as far as we know from manuscript evidence, the term was never used in reference to Ibn ʿArabi’s teaching prior to the Ottoman conquest of Egypt. Nobody described themselves as ‘akbarī’ rather than Khalwati or Qadiri, etc., until later in the Ottoman Empire when the term was employed by followers of ʿAbd al-Ghani al-Nabulusi and appended to certain shaykhs as their nisba. Thus the use of the term says as much about the perceived political and intellectual landscape within Ottoman society as it does about Ibn ʿArabi himself, leading some to speak of Ibn ʿArabi as ‘the patron saint of the Ottomans’.[24]

However, the word ‘akbarian’ does point to an aspect of Ibn ʿArabi’s teaching that has often been remarked on: that it represents a watershed in terms of external and internal history. As Chodkiewicz has remarked:

The age of Ibn ʿArabi must be regarded as the start of a new era. It witnessed the appearance both of the theoretical formulations and of the institutions that were to dictate all later developments in Islamic mysticism down to our day… the period of transition in Sufi doctrine from implicit to explicit, and the start, sociologically speaking, of its transition from informality to formality… Its fundamental concepts were defined and organized, in the work of Ibn ʿArabi, into a comprehensive synthesis; and from then on, viewed as a summit or as a target, acknowledged or unacknowledged, for followers and adversaries alike this work constituted an essential landmark and a fruitful source of technical terminology.[25]

One might add that this is not only a historical factor, but a trans-historical one: that is to say, the impact of Ibn ʿArabi’s teaching upon any individual of any time may also represent a watershed within that person’s life, ‘an essential landmark’ which ‘dictates all later developments’. Perhaps it may be described as the realisation that one is no longer describable as this or that, one is no longer within this or that group, no longer ‘one of us’ as opposed to ‘one of them’; instead, simply someone who has lost all name in the face of Divine Reality. This would appear to be the major reason that there has never been an akbarian ṭarīqa as such, since the word describes those who have lost themselves, or perhaps better, found themselves in God. Then pure meaning pours through a person’s words, as freshly as their receptivity allows.


From Misri to ʿAnqa: Singleness and Multiplicity

It is of this pure meaning that Niyazi speaks at the end of the poem quoted earlier:

Don’t ask who if you see Misri with outward eyes;
for within the Qaf of outward form ʿAnqa we have become

One reading of this line is certainly as a classic Sufi motif, popularised in ʿAttar’s famous Manṭiq al-ṭayr (Conference of the Birds), where Qaf refers to the mythical mountain, Mount Qaf, on whose peak the Simurgh or ʿAnqa bird has its nest. At the same time, the ʿAnqa is a classic akbarian theme, which is explained in detail by Ibn ʿArabi, especially in al-Ittiḥād al-kawnī and ?Anq?? mughribʿAnqāʾ mughrib: the strange ʿAnqa associated with sheer potentiality that is capable of taking on any form; ‘the one who has no existent entity, the one who lacks no property’; ‘the Dust-cloud within which God reveals the bodies of the world’; ‘concealed but without being absent; envisaged but hidden from vision’; ‘a meaning whose secret must be sought’; ‘I am of very great value in the eyes of those who realise the Truth; I wander through the gathering of those with bowed heads’.[26]

As Niyazi puts it in his Diwan,

From eternity we have been infamous with this love;
it is only our name which is spoken, since in meaning ʿAnqa we have become
They thought that we are in multiplicity in the world of myriad forms;
Yet within multiplicity single and alone we have become
So what if we put on these garments of relativity and individuation?
For stripping them off spiritually naked we have become
We speak with the obscure lexicon of the speech of birds;
Not everyone understands us since riddles we have become
How could they understand us through words and form and body?
We are neither words nor form; pure meaning we have become[27]

The reference to ‘the speech of birds’ certainly situates this poem within the universe of ʿAttar, but the use of the word ʿAnqa in the context of pure meaning suggests as great a debt to Ibn ʿArabi. Compare the above with the following poem in Ibn ʿArabi’s Dīwān,[28] where the allusions are typically dense:

I am ʿAnqāʾ to the existence of plurality;
I have purified my essence from the confinement of the snare
I am a gushing channel, the oft-repeated praises my quality
I am the second [side] of a secret shared…[29]

In his Diwan, Niyazi often discusses spiritual themes from the tradition in terms of poetic imagery popular in his day (oceans and deserts, roses and nightingales), while at the same time showing an alluringly simple finesse in expressing akbarian thought. For example, obliquely referring to the hadith ‘I was a Hidden Treasure and I loved to be known…’,[30] he writes:

What a wonder is the hidden treasure, whence comes every single thing, manifest
now darkness appears, now lights appear manifest
what a wonder is the ocean of oneness, whose endless waves never break,
from it is born this world of plurality, no choice but to appear manifest
what wondrous magic that from this Face others are seen
yet there is no other than that Face, alone comes the Beloved, appearing manifest[31]

Here again we see the akbarian precedence of darkness to light, of the invisible realm to the visible. Within the ocean of oneness from which the world of multiplicity has arisen, there is also an inherent plurality depicted as ‘endless waves’, the infinite possibilities of expression inherent in the divine Being, ‘which never break’, or the aʿyān al-thābita, the established and immutable essences, as Ibn ʿArabi calls them.

It is in the late prose-work Mawāʾid al-ʿirfān wa ʿawāʾid al-iḥsān that Niyazi’s akbarian thought comes to the fore. Curiously this work, written in Arabic, is extremely difficult to find in printed form, although there are several manuscript copies held in Turkish libraries, while the Turkish translation by Suleyman Ateş[32] is quite liberal in its interpretation of the Arabic original. In the Mawāʾid Niyazi often mentions his sources, ranging from Ibn ʿArabi to al-Qunawi to Badr al-din (Samawna, d. 819/1416, author of the Wāridāt), but there are many unreferenced quotations from al-Jilani or al-Qushayri. The work is arranged in a series of 71 contemplations, including much autobiographical material and often taking a Quranic verse as a starting-point. The title itself is quite revealing, containing a direct Quranic allusion: the fifth Sura called al-Māʾida (singular of Mawāʾid), often translated somewhat misleadingly as ‘Table’, includes the famous prayer of Jesus: ‘O God, our Lord, send down upon us a banquet (māʾida) from heaven; it shall be an ever-recurring feast (ʿīd) for us, for the first and the last of us, and a sign from You’ (Q.5:114).

The plural form, mawāʾid, denotes tables laden with food, from a root that means conferring benefit upon someone, providing provisions etc. It is sometimes understood to be a reference to either the request for ‘daily bread’ in the Lord’s Prayer or the Last Supper, at which Jesus sat with his disciples for the last time and taught them how to eat and drink in the Name of the Divine Father. There has also always been a deeper interpretation of this Quranic verse, amongst Sufis particularly: for Niyazi, the heavenly banquets are those of ʿirfān, wisdom or inner knowledge of God, directly knowing the Divine; and the recurring feasts (ʿīd) asked for by Jesus in the Quranic verse are here metamorphosed in Niyazi’s title into an alternative rhyming form (ʿawāʾid), meaning ‘beneficences, gifts, acts of kindness’. These are related to iḥsān, often translated as ‘virtue’ but primarily connected with the epitome of right action, worshipping God as if one sees Him, acting as if face to face with the Divine, or as it was also understood in Sufi teaching, the sheer beneficence of the Divine acting through us when we have ceased to be other. The title of this work then summarises Niyazi’s approach: knowing God and acting in full accord with the weight of that knowledge. So we might translate it as: ‘The Heavenly Banquets of Direct Knowing and the Beneficent Favours of Right Action’.

The title also suggests an interesting spiritual connection to Jesus, which permeates the work: that is, not Jesus in the sense of a prophet prior to Muhammad, but as symbol of the Spirit, who revives the ‘dead’, who gives the life of knowledge to those who are in ignorance of Reality, the perfectly transformed soul who is completely identified with the light of the Spirit, so that all that flows from them is Divine action.[33]

In Banquet 47 (translated in full below), Niyazi discusses the extraordinary nature of Reality being One and Many at the same time:

Know that the Reality and Unique Essence is one. There is no multiplicity in It. If you look at the Reality that appears in any way, you say ‘It is the Real (ḥaqq) in terms of being reality, and it is creation (khalq) in terms of its external appearance’… If you relate Oneness to manyness, you say ‘God’ (ilāh). If you consider that the external appearance of being – which consists of a single reality – is always a place of revelation (majlā) of its interior, you say: ‘He is the revealer and the one revealed to’.

It is one of the most amazing things that so many different aspects enter into a single Reality… He is constantly revealing Himself in the forms of things from pre- to post-eternity. If that single Reality should manifest in a specific form, do not forget that it is also He who manifests in all other forms… All of these actually belong to Him according to what He is in His Reality and to the perspective which the viewer adopts.

Be amazed at this; and if you realise this completely, do not be amazed because He exists in His Essence, without there being any other than Himself in existence.[34]

This statement of the meaning of unity and multiplicity, which leads directly to amazement or perplexity (ḥayra), recalls Ibn ʿArabi’s equally forceful exposition of the nature of perplexity in the face of supra-rational Reality.[35] This perplexity is a sign of true comprehension, and where it is not found, one can infer that the real nature of unity (tawḥīd) has not been tasted or understood. According to Niyazi, the fact that He is beyond having ‘any other than Himself in existence’ is quite simply astonishing, since it awakens one to the reality of one’s own essential non-existence as anything other than He.

What we notice most clearly in our two authors is their insistence that Reality is One and Many in appearance at the same time. Although the mind might tend to think of One as opposed to Many, God versus the world, transcendence versus immanence, a deeper understanding reveals their seemingly paradoxical mutuality. As Ibn ʿArabi puts it, ‘there is nothing in existence but the One that is Many (al-wāḥid al-kathīr)…’; ‘although Being is One Entity (ʿayn), the entities of the possible things make It many, so It is the One that is Many’.[36]

In fact, even the most hardened materialist adheres to this view by seeing existence in terms of a dichotomy between multiple forms and underlying matter, between various phenomena that can be studied and a single universal principle that governs them. The only difference is the extent or depth to which this is comprehended. In this respect one might describe mysticism as nothing but the establishment or realisation of plurality in unity and unity in plurality, in every aspect of our being, thought, word and deed according to the Reality of Truth. As Ibn ʿArabi says, quoting the Quran (Q.24:25), ‘The Real says concerning the gnostics, “They know that God is the Evident Real (al-ḥaqq al-mubīn)”, in other words the Manifest Truth, for He is the One that is Many’.[37] That is to say, the gnostic never falters from seeing the whole of manifestation as the appearance of the Divine hidden treasure, not a multiplicity of different things.

The dichotomy of unity/diversity (waḥda/kathra) is one that appears in multiple ways throughout the work of Ibn ʿArabi and Niyazi Misri, as if to demonstrate the very nature of the subject. There are thousands of ways to affirm or celebrate the central fact of tawḥīd: Truth is One. It is often imagined that tawḥīd (the single most important principle in Islamic teaching) is some kind of monolith, a single stone-like belief that must lie at the fundamental basis of religion, like the God who is found in the mosque but not in the bazaar, in the chapel but not in the home, in the synagogue but not in the self. Such constructs lead directly to non-acceptance of any belief that apparently contradicts our own, and to sectarian antagonisms and even violence. Such a situation seems logically absurd: we believe so ardently in tolerance that we behave intolerantly; we believe so much in love of God that we cannot love our neighbour.

As Ibn ʿArabi so graphically puts it,

How many walk upon the earth, and the earth curses them!
How many prostrate upon her, and she rejects them!
How many invoke God, yet their words go no further than their lips, their thoughts no further than their mind![38]

The heart of mysticism is to go beyond this kind of divided thinking and living, beyond the religiousness of dos and don’ts, beyond practices to deep experience and realisation. It is essentially about the cultivation of a relationship with the True Self, through our own self-knowledge. Of course this is universally relevant to every human being, since it involves a close analysis of how we behave, think, treat ourselves and others, etc. and a thorough appreciation of our deepest potential. One inevitable consequence is that our judgments about the validity of other people’s beliefs and behaviour will alter. As Ibn ʿArabi goes on to say:

How many beloved friends of God are to be found in synagogues and churches!
How many hated enemies [of God] are to be found doing their prayers and in mosques!
They do it because it is required, and yet are calculating what they themselves are going to get out of it…

This is a very daring thing to say as a Muslim in 13th-century Anatolia or Syria, one might think (although we have little idea of how tolerant Muslim society really was at that time); even today such sentiments would not sit well with those who espouse the outer practices of religion as the sole path to salvation.


Separation, Unification and Completion

To return to Banquet 47: Niyazi follows his statement of amazement in the face of Reality which is both One and Many, with a direct address to the person ‘who realises this completely’, that is to say, that aspect of each of us that is truly human. Reiterating the middle path of real Islam, the crucial balance between outer form and inner meaning, he particularly addresses the question of what makes us witness our difference to God (our separateness, createdness) and what makes us witness our unification with him (our integral and integrated reality):

O friend, you must know your external separation from God while striving to increase unification through your interior. You should not be veiled from multiplicity by Unity or from Unity by multiplicity. You should find the middle way between servanthood and gnosis in order to be free of dangers.

Then he goes on to explain very clearly what he means by ‘unification’ and ‘separation’ by quoting previous Sufi masters:

Separation is what is related to you. Unification is what is removed from you. This means that the deeds of the servant performed in accordance with the duties of servanthood and the requirements of being human are separation. The meanings, grace and bounty received from the Real are unification. Both are necessary for the servant: for whoever has no separation has no servanthood; and whoever has no unification has no gnosis (knowledge of God).

The definitions of the classic terms jamʿ (unification) and farq (separation) are drawn directly from Sufi tradition: in fact, Niyazi’s words, ‘separation is what is related to you; unification is what is removed from you’, are taken word for word from al-Qushayri’s master Abu ʿAli al-Daqqaq, and his explanation is also identical to al-Qushayri’s comments.[39] Compare this with Ibn ʿArabi’s definitions:[40] separation is ‘the creation without the Real, or the contemplation of servanthood’, and unification is ‘the Real without the creation’. Niyazi himself continues by speaking of an even higher degree, where the polarity of separation and integration is transcended, which is called the unitive integration (jamʿ al-jamʿ), where the person is ‘completely annihilated and dead to everything except God. This is the stage of Absolute Unity.’ Compare this with Ibn ʿArabi’s definition of jamʿ al-jamʿ as ‘complete annhilation in God’. We can see how Niyazi’s exposition in this passage is drawn from a lengthy tradition of Sufi terminology, exemplified by masters such as al-Qushayri.

More than anything, the akbarian tone of Niyazi’s discourse is to be found in his emphasis on the realisation that the only Being is God’s, and that the only reality of the human being is as servant or the poor (faqīr). As he puts it in Banquet 1, when discussing the saying that ‘when poverty is complete, that is God’:[41]

The completion of poverty is to revoke being from everything except God. When being is removed, the Real (al-ḥaqq) is seen, and never disappears… Being is one, but it has many levels. At one level it appears as the lover; at another as the beloved. At one level it is the rose; at another the nightingale.

Niyazi then quotes the famous verses at the very beginning of the Futūḥāt al-Makkiyya, which encapsulate the paradox of being truly human, where total freedom is found within the prescriptions that have been divinely ordained:

The Lord is Real, and the servant is Real
Would that I knew who is the obligated one!
If you say ‘the servant’, he is dead;
And if you say ‘the Lord’, how can He be obligated?[42]

The resolution of this apparent paradox is, as Niyazi says, that ‘all being is actually God’s. To confer being on creatures is [only] metaphorical. This is also the meaning of the Prophet’s statement: “He who knows his self knows his Lord.” For if he knows that his self has no existence, he realises that what being he has belongs to the Lord.’[43]

To be akbarian, then, means nothing less than accepting the full weight of the meaning which Ibn ʿArabi represents, the Meaning of the Complete Human Being, and realising within one’s own being the impact of being completely faqīr towards God, a perfect servant who has no separate existence left, who is nothing but the place of manifestation of the True Lord. The prayer of the servant (kulun niyazi) then becomes the Divine prayer which He prays over us. As Niyazi puts it:

Today in the world of multiplicity I am the man called Niyazi,
but in the world of oneness the secret of God I am.[44]

Selected Translations from Niyazi Misri’s Writings

Banquet 47

Know that the Reality and Unique Essence is one. There is no multiplicity in It. If you look at the Reality that appears in any way, you say it is the Real (ḥaqq) in terms of being reality, and it is creation (khalq) in terms of its external appearance. If you look at Absolute Unity, you simply say ‘Essence’ (dhāt) or ‘True Reality’ (ḥaqīqa). If you look at Its essential self-realisation, you call it ‘the Real’. If you look at the meaning of the Tradition[45] and you see that all the powers and limbs are the same as the servant, you call them ‘the creature’ because of their ascription to the servant, whereas if you see that the Real is the same as those powers and limbs, you call them ‘the Real’. If you relate Oneness to manyness, you say ‘God’. If you consider that the external appearance of being – which consists of a single reality – is always a place of revelation of its interior, you say: ‘He is the revealer and the one revealed to’.

It is one of the most amazing things that in Itself this One Reality should comprise all these different aspects and in His Truth all of them are confirmed as true. His own Self-realisation is constantly and perpetually revealed in endless forms. If this single Reality manifests in a specific form, do not forget that it is also He who manifests in all [other] forms. So in respect of His particularisation (taʿayyun) in every being, He is transcendent from all restriction by virtue of His absoluteness but not [transcendent] by virtue of His Essential Being, which is absolutised from all limitation whatsoever [including transcendence]. At the same time, in respect of not [being transcendent] by virtue of His Essential Being and His absoluteness from all particularisation, He is manifest through each particularisation for each particularisation. All of these actually belong to Him according to what He is in His Reality and to the perspective which the viewer adopts.

Be amazed at this; and if you realise this completely, do not be amazed because He exists in His Essence, without there being any other than Himself in existence. ‘There is no god but He. Everything is perishing except His Face. His is the command, and to Him will you be returned.’[46]

O friend, you must know your external separation from God while striving to increase the unification through your interior. You should not be veiled from multiplicity by Unity nor from Unity by multiplicity. You should find the middle way between servanthood (ʿubūdiyya) and gnosis (maʿrifa) in order to be free of dangers.

In the language of the Sufis, [the meaning of separation (tafrīqa), integration (jamʿ) and unitive integration (jamʿ al- jamʿ) is this]: separation is what is related to you; integration is what is removed from you. This means that the deeds of the servant performed in accordance with the duties of servanthood and the requirements of being human are separation. The meanings, grace and bounty received from the Real are integration. Both are necessary for the servant: for whoever has no separation has no servanthood; and whoever has no integration has no gnosis. The expression [in the Fatiha] ‘It is You alone we worship’ is the proof of separation by affirming servanthood. And the statement ‘It is You alone we ask for aid’ is the request for integration. Separateness is the beginning of desires [for God], integration is their ending.

Unitive integration is a more perfect and higher station. While integration is to see things in and through God and to be free of all strength and power except through God, unitive integration is to become completely annihilated and to die to everything except God. This is the stage of Absolute Unity.

You should work and struggle. You should make your own existence absent from your sight, devote yourself to the Essence, and occupy yourself with Reality. All beings are manifestations of His Beauty, and the degrees of existence are the mirror of His Perfection. You should seriously work and struggle to raise yourself to this level. You should lose your own existence to such an extent that looking at yourself should be looking at Him; speaking of yourself should be speaking of Him. You should not be empty of Him, no matter where or when, in eating, drinking, speaking, keeping silent, coming and going, moving and at rest.

This is why it has been said that the Sufi should be ‘the child of the moment (ibn al-waqt)’.[47] In other words, he should not waste time by worrying about the past or thinking about the future, for thinking about the future is a passion. One should spend one’s time on necessary concerns, purifying one’s heart, and meditating on what is required at each moment.

One of the meanings of this is that the person should not follow one [particular] path or tradition, but should be with God at all times and in all states. He looks at nothing except the Real. For instance, at one moment he tries to turn the hearts of people toward the Real; at another moment he busies himself with the Real, seeing separateness in dealing with people. He is with the Real in every state, even if there is disparity between the two [ḥaqq and khalq]. For [according to the prophetic hadith], ‘deeds are according to intentions’.[48] The Sufi is the child of the moment.


May God bless her, the rose-garden of nightingales is Aspozi
Reminiscent of Paradise, high of place is Aspozi
Of temperate clime, where all pleasures come together
Gathering place for the joyful assembly of saints is Aspozi
Scorning the Elixir of Life, being of the Jesus nature [reviving the dead]
As she flows, like a graceful gliding spirit is Aspozi
She dons her green garment in the days of spring
Surely the abode of the Khidr of this time is Aspozi
Everywhere are fruits, sweet as the lips of a beauty,
A handsome youth decked out in green satin is Aspozi
On her apples are inscribed couplets in red ink[49]
No doubt a clear illustration of God’s art is Aspozi
This is why her people are all intellect, intelligence and gnosis
Storehouse of people of knowledge and perfection is Aspozi
It would be fitting to say ‘Gardens underneath which rivers flow’
A sign of ‘these are the Gardens of Eden’ is Aspozi
O Niyazi, if she were not touched by the winds of mortality,
Who would deny that the Highest Paradise is Aspozi?[50]

Since All Eternity

It has been my custom since all eternity
that every day I be busy with something[51]
arising, now gathered together,
now dispersed I am
my road takes me, one by one,
to every single thing of this creation
gathering all these clothes
a clothes bazaar I am
now cloud, now rain,
now hail, now snow,
now plant, now animal,
now human I am
now Christian, now Jew,
now pagan, now fire-worshipper,
now Shiʿi, now Sunni
Muslim I am
Now devotional, now ascetic,
now deviating from the way of truth,
now knowing, now known,
now gnosis I am
now I am copper and tin,
now gold and silver,
now a mine for all the minerals
in the universe I am
now there is no-one more insignificant
than me in this lower world,
now Solomon, ruler of all
from Qaf to Qaf, I am
now my home is as narrow as
the space between horseshoe and hoof,
now a high plain wider than
the Throne and Footstool I am
Now I am one grain
on this threshing floor of the world,
now a vast arena
encompassing all I am
I am now existent, now non-existent,
now being, now non-being,
now in revelation I am manifest
now hidden I am
now this world, now the hereafter,
now the gathering for judgment day, now the bridge,
now the isthmus, now heaven
now hellfire I am
now the angel Malik, now the fire itself[52]
now the tree of bitterness[53], now the blazing furnace
now a houri, now a youth in paradise
now the angel Ridwan I am
now an atom, now the sun
now the moon, now the stars,
now the earth, now the heavens,
now the throne of the Merciful I am
now one by one I dress myself up
in all these myriad forms
now stripped of them all
naked I am
today in the world of multiplicity
I am the man called Niyazi,
but in the world of oneness
the secret of God I am[54]

Nothing Left

I used to think that in the world for me no friend was left
Then I abandoned me, and knew that no stranger was left.
In everything I used to see thorns, not a rose in sight
Then the whole world became a rose garden; now no thorns are left
Night and day my heart used to weep and wail
I don’t know what happened, no tears and cries are left
Out went multiplicity, in came Unity, seclusion happened with the Friend
The whole world became the Real, no town and marketplace are left
Religion, rules, custom, reputation – all gone with the wind
O Niyazi, what happened? For you no shackles of religiousness are left.[55]

This paper first appeared in Volume 51 of the Journal of the Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi Society, 2011.


[1] First presented at the conference ‘Kulun Niyazi/The Prayer of the Servant – Niyazi Misri’, which was held in Istanbul and Malatya in October 2010.

[2] Kenan Erdoğan, Niyâzî-i Misrî Dîvânı (Ankara, 1988), poem 3. For the translations of Niyazi’s work, I am deeply indebted to Henry Bayman, who has given such invaluable help in providing, discussing and refining the translations, and to Ersin Balcı, who has translated almost a third of Niyazi’s Diwan on

[3] Heath W. Lowry, Historical Vestiges of Niyâzî Misrî’s presence on the Island of Limnos (Istanbul, 2011). Niyazi’s two periods of incarceration on Limni (Limnos) were 1088–1103 (1677–92) and 1104–05 (1693–94). As Lowry demonstrates, the tomb of Niyazi seems to have been next to the mosque which was his home during his exile, but the actual site is unknown, since the mosque complex was destroyed after 1924 when the last Turks left the island.

[4] Konya had been the capital of the new Seljuk state since 1087 when it was established as such by Kılıç Arslan II.

[5] See Rūḥ al-quds, University 79, fol. 102b.

[6] Ibid. fol. 103a.

[7] The dates that have been verified from the MSS are Malatya and Sivas in 612/1215, Malatya again 613/1216, 614/1217, 615/1218, 616/1219, 617/1220 and 618/1221, possibly also 624/1227 – in most cases the author’s house in Malatya is mentioned.

[8] For example, Fatih 5322 (R. al-Dhakhāʾir); Yusuf Ağa 5059–64 (Aḥkām al-kubrā by ʿAbd al-Haqq al-Azdi).

[9] See Futūḥāt al-Makkiyya IV, 560, recorded by al-Safadi.

[10] See Guiseppe Scattolin in ‘Towards a Critical Edition of Ibn al-Fāriḍ’s Dīwān’, Annales Islamologiques 35 (2001), pp. 503–47, where he analyses Chester Beatty MS 3643. See also Fatih 1394, dated ah 741 and copied in Malatya, which includes the earliest known copy of Ibn ʿArabi’s K. al-Jalāl wa al-jamāl.

[11] Mawāʾid 14, Hudai 587, fol. 23b.

[12] Mawāʾid 14, fol. 24a.

[13] Mawāʾid 11, fols. 18b–19a.

[14] For a complete list of his works, see Erdoğan, Niyâzî-i Misrî Dîvânı (hereafter Dîvân), pp. 148–68.

[15] Dîvân 76.

[16] Dîvân 13, a poem that combines a line in Turkish with a line in Arabic.

[17] Dîvân 2.

[18] Paul Ballanfat, Messianisme Et Saintété: Les Poèmes Du Mystique Ottoman Niyazi Mizri (1618–1694) (forthcoming).

[19] See Paul Ballanfat, ‘Niyâzî Misrî: l’Égypte, station mystique pour un soufi turc du XVIIe siècle’, in Le soufisme à l’époque ottomane, Cahiers des Annales islamologiques 29 (Cairo, 2010), pp. 252–3.

[20] Dîvân 118.

[21] See full translation below.

[22] Journal of the Muhyiddin Ibn ʿArabi Society, 36 (2004).

[23] For example, see Michel Chodkiewicz’s ‘The Diffusion of Ibn ʿArabi’s Doctrine’ (JMIAS, 9 (1991)), who points out that Ibn ʿArabi’s ideas have not only permeated writers of so-called ‘noble literature’ but less obviously a whole host of lesser-known teachers, often without naming their source. Leonard Lewisohn speaks of Shabistari (d. post-740/1340) as an ‘Akbarian Sufi poet’ (‘The Spiritual Journey in Kubrawi Sufism’, in Reason and Inspiration in Islam, ed. Todd Lawson, London, 2005, p. 367).

[24] See Victoria Holbrook’s articles on the Melami in JMIAS, 9 (1991) and 12 (1992).

[25] Michel Chodkiewicz, Seal of the Saints (Cambridge, 1993), p. 10.

[26] See Ibn ʿArabi, The Universal Tree and the Four Birds, trans. Angela Jaffray (Oxford, 2006), pp. 91–7 for a fuller discussion of the meaning of the ʿAnqa.

[27] Dîvân 76.

[28] Dīwān (Beirut, 1999), p. 339.

[29] The ‘second’ refers to the total servant, who recognises the ‘First’, i.e. God. It is implied in the sharing of the Fatiha between God and His servant, as explained by Ibn ʿArabi in the chapter on Muhammad in the Fuṣūṣ.

[30] A ḥadīth qudsī which is used as a core teaching by many Sufi authors, although we may note that the form Ibn ʿArabi quotes it in (‘I was an Unknown Treasure…’) is somewhat different to this version which Rumi and the Ottoman tradition used.

[31] Dîvân 2.

[32] İrfan sofraları (Ankara, 1971).

[33] Cf. the use of the term in Ibn ʿArabi’s Awrād, Saturday morning prayer: al-ḥamdu lillāh al-ladhī adhāqanī min mawāʾidi madadi ‘Llāh (‘Praise be to God who has caused me to taste [the delicacies] from the banquets of God’s Provision’), where it appears in the middle of a set of seven praises corresponding to stages of hospitality. It can also be understood as relating to the days of the week, where the middle day is Wednesday, associated with Jesus.

[34] See below for a full translation of this Banquet.

[35] See, for example, the chapter of Moses in his Fuṣūṣ al-ḥikam.

[36] Fut.III.420 and 274.

[37] Fut.III.379.

[38] K. al-Tajalliyāt, LXXX, ed. Osman Yahia.

[39] See Abu al-Qasim al-Qushayri, Epistle on Sufism, trans. Alexander Knysh (Reading, UK, 2007), pp. 87–9. Niyazi basically quotes directly from al-Qushayri’s explanations on all three terms given (farq, jamʿ and jamʿ al-jamʿ). ‘Our master Abu ʿAli al-Daqqaq used to say: “Separation is something that is attributed to you; unification, on the other hand, is something that is taken from you”. He meant that whatever the servant of God acquires by means of fulfilling the requirements of his servitude and by means of his status as a human being is separation. As for unification, it is everything that comes from the Real, such as the bringing forth of new entities and the bestowal of grace and favour.’

[40] Given in his Iṣṭilāḥāt al-Ṣūfiyya under jamʿ, jamʿ al-jamʿ and farq. Cf. also the definitions given by al-Kashani: ‘witnessing the Real without the creation’ (jamʿ) and ‘witnessing the creation as existing through the Real, and this is called separation after union’ (jamʿ al-jamʿ) (A Glossary of Sufi Technical Terms, Octagon Press, 1991, p. 19 Arabic text).

[41] Mawāʾid 1, fols. 1b–2a. Unattributed in the text, this saying is from R. al-Ghawthiyya by ʿAbd al-Qadir al-Jilani, a work often wrongly ascribed to Ibn ʿArabi.

[42] Fut.I.3.

[43] Mawāʾid 1, fol. 2b.

[44] Dîvân 113.

[45] Referring to the ḥadīth qudsī, ‘And when I love him, I become his hearing with which he hears, his sight with which he sees, his hand with which he grasps and his foot with which he walks.’ See Ibn ʿArabi’s Divine Sayings (Mishkāt al-anwār), no. 91 (Oxford, 2004), p. 88.

[46] Q.28:88.

[47] Al-Qushayri gives the following explanation of this well-known saying: ‘They [the Sufis] mean that he engages in the worship which is most appropriate for his current situation and performs what is required of him at this moment in time… All that matters for him is the moment in which he is now’ (Al-Qushayri’s Epistle on Sufism, trans. A Knysh, p. 76).

[48] ‘Deeds are according to intentions, and an individual is [rewarded] only according to what he intends. So whoever has emigrated for the sake of Allah and His messenger, then his emigration was for Allah and His messenger. Whoever emigrated for the sake of worldly gain or a woman to marry, then his emigration is for the sake of that which impelled him to emigrate’, as narrated from the Prophet by ʿUmar b. al-Khattab. This foundational hadith, the first recorded by Bukhari in his Ṣaḥīḥ and by Nawawi in three of his works, emphasises that all actions devoid of the proper intention are in vain.

[49] This refers to the famous yazili elma (‘written apples’) of Aspozi mentioned by medieval writers: during the summer, before the apples began to colour, they were wrapped in pieces of paper on which words and verses had been cut out. The surface of the fruit was thus protected from the sun except where the incisions had been made in the paper. The result was that when the paper was removed at the end of the growing season, the apple skins were marked with words in reddish tints. Such a custom has sadly not been maintained in modern Malatya.

[50] Dîvân 192.

[51] Recalling the Quranic phrase ‘Every day He is at work’ (55:29).

[52] The angel Malik is the one who leads a person to hellfire, while the angel Ridwan leads to paradise.

[53] Zaqqum, the cursed tree encountered in hell, mentioned in the Quran (37:62; 44:43; 56:52).

[54] Dîvân 113.

[55] Dîvân 180.