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Michel Chodkiewicz (1929–2020)
This is the first part of an obituary by Denis Gril, which appeared in Volume 67 of the Journal of the Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi Society.
On 31 March, at his home in Candé, Anjou, surrounded by his family, Michel Chodkiewicz left this world, continuing his journey to his Lord. He was one of the foremost experts on the works of the Shaykh al-Akbar, and most of his writings have been translated into English, along with several of his articles in the Journal of the Muhyiddin Ibn ʿArabi Society (JMIAS).
From the beginning of the 1950s, reading and studying the work of Ibn al-ʿArabī, and all the literature of Sufism, was for him an intellectual and spiritual vocation. Professionally, his career consisted in being an editor, and then a teacher. Having joined the French publishing house ‘Éditions du Seuil’ in Paris at a young age, he held the position of ‘Président Directeur Général’ from 1979 to 1989. His work as a publisher put him in contact with eminent academics, who appreciated his efficiency, extraordinary culture and knowledge of Islam, Sufism and Ibn al-ʿArabī in particular. Thus he was entrusted with lecturing at EHESS (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales) in 1982. In 1989, he retired from Seuil and was appointed director of studies at EHESS. For five years, he taught a course on ‘the history of sainthood in Arabic-speaking Muslim societies’, devoted partly to Ibn al-ʿArabī or some of his successors like ʿAbd al-Karīm al-Jīlī. His classes were attended by a group of students profoundly affected by his teaching, as attested to in the issue of Horizons Maghrébins dedicated to him. He finally retired in 1994, and from public life thereafter. Previously, as publisher and teacher, Michel Chodkiewicz travelled widely and participated in a large number of colloquia and conferences in France, and around the world. Besides his special interest in the works of Ibn al-ʿArabī, he actively participated in several research groups on Sufi paths and sainthood in Islam, often from a comparative perspective. Several articles, as his bibliography shows, bear witness to this. His vast network of knowledge was formed over the course of these travels, scholarly meetings or others; and above all, due to his abundant letter-writing activities. He shared his vast knowledge with a generosity and diligence that surprised his correspondents.
Michel Chodkiewicz began studying the work of Ibn al-ʿArabī under the spiritual direction of Michel Vâlsan. He dedicated The Spiritual Writings of Amir ʿAbd al-Kader to him and paid homage to him in the preface to An Ocean Without Shore. Michel Chodkiewicz’s great knowledge of the Muslim world made him aware of other forms of spirituality, which are reflected in some of his articles. The doctrine of Ibn al-ʿArabī, nonetheless, remains the axis around which all his works revolve.
Read the full article
The full text of “Michel Chodkiewicz: A Legacy” by Denis Gril, together with a “Preface to a new edition of Emir ‘Abd al-Qadir’s Mawaqif” and a piece in memory of Maurice Gloton (both written by Michel Chodkiewicz), and “A Bibliography of Michel Chodkiewicz’s Writings” by Claude Addas, can all be found in Journal Volume 67. This issue also has an obituary for Honorary Fellow Keith Critchlow.
See the full contents of Volume 67