Articles and Translations

The Presence of Superlative Compassion (Rahamût)

On the Names al-Rahmân al-Rahîm, and other terms with the lexical root r-h-m, in the Work of Ibn ‘Arabî

Pablo Beneito

Pablo Beneito is currently Professor at the Department of Translation and Interpreting in the Faculty of Letters, University of Murcia, Spain.

He has been studying the works of Ibn Arabi since he chose to do his doctorate in Arabic philology at the Complutense University of Madrid, after which he spent nine years teaching at the University of Seville in the Department of Arab and Islamic Studies. He has also been a visiting professor at the Sorbonne in Paris (Ecole Pratique des Hauts Etudes), in Kyoto University (ASAFAS) and in Toledo (Escuela de Traductores). As a specialist in Sufi thought, he has given courses throughout the world, and helped organise more than 14 international conferences. He heads MIAS Latina [/], an independent organisation affiliated to the Ibn Arabi Society, for speakers of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese.

He has edited and translated (into Spanish) Ibn Arabi’s Mashahid al-asrar and Kashf al-ma’na. He is currently working on several of Ibn Arabi’s shorter treatises, including Kitab al-Abadilah.

Together with Stephen Hirtenstein he translated The Seven Days of the Heart - Ibn ʿArabi's Awrad al-usbu (Wird), and togther with Cecilia Twinch, Contemplation of the Holy Mysteries - Mashahid al-asrar al-qudsiyya.



Articles by Pablo Beneito

On the Divine Love of Beauty (PDF)

The Presence of Superlative Compassion

La Presencia De La Compasión Superlativa (Spanish)

The Servant of the Loving One – On the Adoption of the Character Traits of al-Wadud

The Time of Deeds and the Time of Spiritual Knowledge

The Prayer of Blessing [upon the Light of Muhammad] by Abd al-Aziz al-Mahdawi: Part 1, the Introduction; with Stephen Hirtenstein

The Prayer of Blessing [upon the Light of Muhammad] by Abd al-Aziz al-Mahdawi: Part 2, the Translation; with Stephen Hirtenstein


Podcasts and Videos by Pablo Beneito

Qurrat al-‘Ayn: the Maiden of the Ka‘ba

The Journey of the Heart

Ibn Arabi’s Vision of the Multiple Oneness of the Inner Human Kingdom

Past and Future of Knowledge: the Time of Gnosis in Ibn Arabi’s Writings

On the Spiritual Typologies in Ibn Arabi’s Kitab al-Abadilah

Naught but Love

This article is also available in Spanish: La Presencia De La Compasión Superlativa (Rahamūt)


When researching a term, a lexical root or a semantic field in Ibn ‘Arabî’s work, we find what could be called an incessant renewal of meaning which emerges in each new formulation, and which is analogous to the renewal of creation at each instant. From another perspective, it could be called an ascending progression of the meaning, which links and unites, like steps on a ladder, all the levels of significance.

It is obviously not possible to systematize a living and dynamic thought – whose scriptural basis and whose prophetic inspiration escape all reduction – without detracting from its original intention and function, limiting both its scope and perspective. In approaching this study of the notion of rahma and related terms with the same lexical root used by the Shaykh, I have therefore preferred to avoid a reductive or definitive classification, and have tried to maintain the diversity of perspectives which allow one to contemplate the relational dynamic of correlative meanings.

It is well-known that Ibn ‘Arabî was familiar with the works on the Names by Ghazâlî and Ibn Barrajân of Seville, among others. A comparison of their respective commentaries on rahma and other topics clearly shows that, having assimilated their contents, he transcended preceding formulations and, always guided by the directives of his personal, interior realization, elaborated his own terminology and logovision. These are the fruit of his inspiration and meditation, and while firmly rooted in tradition, are extremely original in outline and conception.

In order to provide a new treatment of the subject, I have tried to avoid references to the text of the Fusûs al-Hikam, whose decisive passages on rahma may be consulted in R. Austin’s translation [1] or in other versions and studies on this work. Priority is given in this study to passages of the Futûhât al-Makkiyya which, as far as I know, have not previously been translated.


The Lexical Root R – H – M and the Translation of al-Rahmîn al-Rahîm

The root r – h – m is related in ordinary language to delicacy, pity, benevolence, intimate tenderness. The term rahim denotes the matrix, the maternal womb, and hence the relationship of parenthood or consanguinity (rahim). The notion of rahma is therefore directly linked to maternity, and because of this, compassion is associated with the maternal condition on the natural plane [2] and to the matrical, creative condition on the metaphysical plane.

The Latin term misericordia, which etymologically implies a heartfelt relationship (Lat. cor, “heart”), alludes to the aspect of “innermostness”. Moreover, the restrictive character which is conferred by the etymon miser, “poor” – if one understands miseri in the sense of the “poor of spirit” – makes this term suitable for translating the concept of “conditioned grace” (rahma muqayyada), associated with the Name al-Rahîm.

The Latin translation compassio alludes to kinship, considered as the sympathy between beings. Its etymological sense, as proposed by H. Corbin,[3] refers to com-passion, that is, to the reciprocal passion (Gr. pathos) or fellow-feeling which all relationships imply by virtue of the essential Unity of the Being and the unity of passion (ahadiyyat al-hawâ), which is ultimately the basis and reason for all empathy.[4] In this sense, the term compassio seems to be an apt translation of the concept of unconditional grace (rahma mutlaqa), associated with the Name al-Rahmân. Moreover, when dealing with the concept of all-embracing mercy (rahma wâsi’a) related to the creative Breath of the Compassionate (al-nafas al-rahmânî), the universal principle of all creation, it becomes necessary to add the prefix
“all” to the translation of the Name al-Rahmân.

These preliminary reflections explain the way in which I shall be translating[5] the Name(s) al-Rahmân al-Rahîm, “the All-Compassionate, the Merciful”, abandoning the possibility of using a single etymon.

Other authors prior to Ibn ‘Arabî have compared rahma to various notions: “spirit” (rûh),
“blessing” (ni’ma),[6] etc. After studying this question, Tirmidhî indicated that in the Quran ten things are considered to be rahma: prophecy, Islam, sustenance (rizq), help (nasr), conquest or opening (fath), constant love (mawadda), health (‘âfiya), rain, the Quran and the Garden [of Paradise].[7]


The term Rahma in Rbn ‘Rrabˆ: the first creative creation

On the one hand, in Akbarian thought the term rahma retains the meaning which it has in ordinary language, where it is associated with pity (shafaqa), benevolence (ra’fa), etc. In this sense one could say that God has compassion on the essences (a’yân) which yearn to be manifested in actual existence. In another sense – which cannot be dissociated from the previous one – Ibn ‘Arabî, as S. Hakîm has pointed out, “assimilates rahma to its effect, and given that the effect of the compassion of God for the essences is actual existence, rahma is existence (wujûd).[8]

From the metaphysical perspective, the Master gives rahma all the attributes of existence: rahma, which “confers on every existent its particular existence in the way required by its nature” [9] and which embraces everything both in act and in potential,[10] infuses all existents and receives all opposites, including what appears contrary to human pity. As the Shaykh states: “If Divine Mercy were not linked to Glorious Power (‘izza) and did not transcend human pity, then God would not subject anyone to any punishment whatsoever.” [11]

In a detailed commentary on the Fâtiha, which contains a fundamental passage on the meaning of rahma,[12] the Shaykh asserts that the term “mercy (rahma) is an expression (‘ibâra) used to refer to the First Existentiated-existent [lit. found in existence] (al-mawjûd al-awwal)” – that is, to the First Creation (al-mubda’ al-awwal), the Universal Intellect (al-‘aql al-kullî) [13] – to which reference is made when speaking of “the object of seeking” (matlûb).[14] So the term rahma designates the
“First thing found in existence”, the Divine Pen, the First Intellect, which is the object of seeking (matlûb). Rahma is, in its aspect of nafas rahmânî or “breath of the Compassionate”, the first existentiated and existentiating existent.[15]


Modalities of The Compassion

In his works, Ibn ‘Arabî distinguishes between various kinds of rahma contained in God’s Compassion (rahmat Allâh). We shall now present the basic types, contrasting opposites or correlatives when dealing with pairs of terms.[16] The various denominations and qualifications which correspond to each type are mainly grouped together, especially in the case of the first two.

Rahmâniyya and rahîmiyya:
unconditional rahma and conditional rahma

In the first pair of correlative terms, the first type is the compassion of grace or free gift (rahma imtinâniyya or rahmat al-imtinân),[17] also called all-embracing or extensive (wâsi’a), inclusive (shâmila),[18] general or universal (rahma ‘âmma or rahmat al-‘umûm), absolute or unconditional (rahma mutlaqa or rahmat al-itlâq), the grace of favour (rahma al-fadl) and providential, redeeming grace (rahma ‘inâya).[19] This is the compassion belonging to the Presence of the Name al-Rahmân (Rahmâniyya or al-rahmat al-Rahmâniyya) and it is original divine grace (minna ilâhiyya aslan).[20] This is also the essential compassion (al-rahmat al-dhâtiyya) “which embraces all the Names”, Life (hayât) which is “the Sphere of Compassion” (falak al-rahma ) that includes everything,[21] the rahma coming from the treasuries of divine gifts (al-rahma min khazâ’in al-minan).[22]

The second type is obligatory mercy (rahma wâjiba – that is, “which obliges” – rahmat al-wujûb or wujûbiyya), also called prescribed (maktûba),[23] particular or private (khâssa),[24] conditional or limited (muqayyada), the mercy of divine satisfaction (rahmat al-ridâ’). This is the compassion belonging to the Presence of the Name al-Rahîm (rahmat al-Rahîm,[25] al-rahmat al-rahîmiyya,[26] or simply rahîmiyya) and it is derived divine grace (minna ilâhiyya far’an).[27] This is the grace which is required (al-rahma al-mûjaba) by the attribute which obliges it (al-mûjiba) – which is the fear of God.[28] It is equally the grace coming from the treasuries of obligation (al-rahma min khazâ’in al-wujûb) [29] – that is, prescription from the divine Self-imposition or Self-prescription.

In fact, this second rahma is contained in the first, as the Rahîm is contained in the Rahmân, that is – as ‘Alî Hamadânî says – “like the species within the class”.[30] With respect to this the Shaykh affirms:

[The Prophet] said that it is the Rahmân who has mercy on those who have mercy (râhimûn) [that is, the One who is Compassionate towards those who actualize compassion], and he did not say that it was the Rahîm who would have mercy on them, since He [the Rahmân] is the one who has mercy in this world and in the Next, whilst the mercy of the Rahîm is specific to the Next World.[31]

Particular and general grace

Although it may be considered as synonymous with “necessary mercy”, private, particular grace (rahma khâssa) occupies a separate section due to the relationship which Ibn
‘Arabî establishes between rahma khâssa – which would then be the unique and particular grace with which God graces each servant exclusively – and the private connection which each believer has with Mohammed.[32] Such a relationship is, in any case, an aspect of the “obligatory mercy” and it is therefore included in it. In fact, from a more general perspective, the Shaykh says: “God has mercy on the servant, either by means of the special grace (khâssa) which is obligatory (wâjiba), or by means of the general grace (‘âmma) which is the compassion of grace (rahmat al-imtinân).” [33]

Therefore, the distinction between the rahma khâssa and the rahma ‘âmma may be considered the same as the contrast between the wujûbiyya and the imtinâniyya. On the other hand, it may be considered separately, as S. Hakîm has indicated by saying that:

general mercy can be separated from the other “modalities of mercy” (rahamât) since it occupies an independent position among them insofar as it is opposed to private mercy, even if, from another perspective, it has to be considered the same as gratuitous mercy (imtinâniyya), since all general mercy which is not conditioned by a particular attribute (sifa khâssa) in the one who receives mercy comes from the gratuitous gift.[34]

Certainly one has to bear in mind, with regard to this or any other “synonym”, that synonymity is never total). Each term necessarily has different associations and connotations.


The imam of anger: The compassion which takes precedence and is prevalent (rahma sâbiqa)

The epithet which characterizes this term comes from the hadith in which God, after creating the creation (khalq) prescribes for Himself with his own hand: “My Mercy precedes My Wrath (ghadab).” [35] In the words of Ibn ‘Arabî: “The Compassion of God has precedence over His Anger, such that it is the imam of anger.” [36] The Shaykh considers that this modality of rahma sâbiqa is exclusive to the human being, which distinguishes it from the general all-inclusive rahma. He says:

The rahma of God only precedes His wrath in the human constitution, since in relation to every other thing His rahma must be considered as the compassion which includes everything, but not with regard to its precedence over anger. Only in man are the all-embracing mercy, and the mercy which precedes, united. Rahma comes to him from both directions. Therefore, this determination (hukm) of mercy only affects and pertains to man.[37]

The inclusive (shâmila) rahma which combines the precedent compassion (rahma sâbiqa) and the subsequent anger (ghadab lâhiq)

Ibn ‘Arabî specifies what he means by inclusive rahma, which in this sense may be distinguished from unconditional rahma (imtinâniyya), and explains that

there is only “precedent compassion” and “subsequent anger”, and after that “inclusive compassion” (shâmila) diffused in everything, and which is at the same time subsequent and precedent [that is, it unites both aspects]… Therefore [God] punishes with His anger through compassion and in order to make it [the anger] stop.
.. Consider how wisely He has included the rahma in His punishment in order to make the wrath stop… So that by virtue of His rahma, punishment
[‘adhâb, from the same root as ‘adhb, “sweet”] takes place, for if this were not so His anger would be eternal.[38]

The rahma which takes precedence is opposed to the rahma implicit in the anger, or to the rahma of the redeeming punishment which follows it and flows into it, since in the end it is the precedent rahma which prevails, be it in the form of punishment or in the form of happiness. As the Shaykh explains elsewhere: “compassion has an epiphany (tajallî) in the form of punishment… and an epiphany in the form of beatitude (na’îm), so that it adopts two opposing forms.” [39]

Is this rahma sâbiqa, which is exclusive to man and which God prescribes for Himself according to the hadith, the same as the prescribed or restricted rahma of the Rahîm, or should it be regarded, in view of its precedence over anger with respect to the human constitution, as a diferent aspect of the unconditioned rahma? [40]


The essential Compassion which includes all the Names

In an extremely revealing passage, Ibn ‘Arabî deals with the all-embracing lovingmercy (rahma dhâtiyya), the compassion of the Essence (dhât), and shows the identity of Life (hayât) and rahma. He says:

Then God “made of the sun radiant clarity” [41] for the existence of the spirit of Life in all the world. And by Life the world was mercified, since Life is the Sphere of Compassion (falak al-rahma) which embraces everything. In the same way, the attribution of Life to the Divine Essence is the premise of every other relationship which is attributed to God… since [Life] is essential Compassion (al-rahma al-dhâtiyya) which includes all the Names, and it is the clarity of essential light and the shadow of the veil of attribution, given that one cannot have any understanding of divinity except by means of these relationships… And the degree of divinity (ulûhiyya) is this same clarity, which is identical to unveiling (kashf) and to knowledge (‘ilm), and to the shadow of the relative condition
[of the attributions], and it is also the rahma itself [the very being, the “entity” of Compassion] (‘ayn al-rahma). Thus, the degree of divinity unites knowledge and compassion with respect to the creation (kawn) – which is the object with relation to which the function of divinity is exercised (al-ma’lûh) – and with respect to the Divine Names.[42]

The distinction between rahmat al-i’tinâ’ and rahmat al-ruhamâ’

The idea of rahma establishes ipso facto a polarity between râhim and marhûm, the divine subject bestowing grace and the object receiving grace,[] which may in its turn be râhim, the transmitter of grace in relation to another creaturial marhûm.

In another passage of the Futûhât,[43] concerning a question about the difference between the “mercy of the merciful ones who are the object of mercy” (rahmat al-ruhamâ’) [44] and the grace of solicitude or providential compassion (rahmat al-i’tinâ’), he responds: [45]

The rahmat al-ruhamâ’ is a recompense and is given according to the form, the measure and degree of compassion that the merciful ones have actualized, as just reward. It is through providential compassion (rahmat al-i’tinâ’) that the merciful ones (ruhamâ’) are compassionate towards those upon whom they bestow compassion. Providential rahma is found in that which “the eye does not see, the ear does not hear, the heart of the human being does not imagine”. Providential compassion is what is more than the best.[46] The rahma of the merciful ones who are the object of mercy (ruhamâ’) is the grace of the Names, since the ruhamâ’ actualize compassion by virtue of the property of the Divine Names which rule them.

From among His servants Allah makes the merciful ones a particular object of his grace because He knows that the compassion that they actualize by bestowing grace on someone is the property of His Names. And the Most High alone rewards them according to the measure of the Name with which they bestow grace.[47]

The keys necessary to the allusions contained in this text are twofold: firstly, the double meaning, active and passive of the paradigm fa’îl of rahîm (the compassionate one, the object of compassion) which is always used in the plural here, ruhamâ’, due to its direct relationship to the Divine Names. The second is the bipolarity of rahma: the compassion of those who are both compassionate and have compassion bestowed upon them is the compassion of the Names. For the latter in their turn bestow grace and have grace bestowed upon them with the manifestation of their effects, being the means by which compassion is actualized and the recompense for the act of compassion which such an actualization implies. Therefore, to recapitulate:

  1. rahmat al-ruhamâ’ = recompense = compassion of the Names = form/degree/measure.
  2. rahmat al-i’tinâ’ = more than the best = inconceivable and imperceptible.

The term rahmat al-ruhamâ’, “the compassion of those who are both compassionate and have compassion bestowed upon them”, or the “compassion of the Names”, is the designation of an aspect of rahma considered from the perspective of onomatophanies [48] – that is to say, the manifestation of the effects of the Names in the servants and by the mediation of the servants – and as a formal, measurable reward. Moreover, the “compassion of providential Solicitude” [49] is the imperceptible source of the former and seems to correspond to what surpasses the best reward in the Next World: that is, the vision of the Face of God.[50]


Natural compassion and conferred compassion

In the compassionate human being there are two types of rahma: natural compassion (rahma tabî’iyya) and grace conferred by God (rahma mawdû’a).[51] Ibn ‘Arabî establishes this distinction in a passage in the Futûhât which says:

Whoever from among us truly actualizes compassion (râhim) possesses two kinds of grace (rahma): natural rahma, required by his temperament, which is personal and consubstantial with him,[52] and that which is deposited in him by God who created him according to the [Adamic] form [i.e., “His form”]… The intercession of the intercessors takes place in fact through natural compassion, not through conferred compassion.

Divine conferred compassion is accompanied in the servant by remoteness (‘izza) and authority (sultân) and it is not linked to emotional pity, whilst the feeling of pity does result from natural compassion… Conferred compassion only manifests, in fact, in those charged with the exercise of governorship (khulafâ’).[53]

Have you not observed that whoever sees how the caliph punishes, oppresses and harasses people who have been accused, feels sympathy and pity for those accused and punished and says: “This governor has no compassion; if I were in his place I would have pity on them…”? The fact is that if this Speaker really were in his position, God would veil him and remove him from natural compassion which produces pity, conferring on him in its place the compassion which is accompanied by emotional distance (‘izza) and civil responsibility (sultân), so that he could govern and be compassionate with the necessary conscious determination (mashî’a),[54] without being carried away by the emotion of pity.[55]

Judging by this passage, Ibn
‘Arabî thinks that occasional severity by rulers in the application of justice forms part of the divine plan, so that, although it may be repugnant to “natural” sensibility, this firmness in punishment is one of the forms adopted by the divine compassion deposited in man. This conferred compassion can be compared to the compassion exemplified by Khidr in the Quranic story of his meeting with Moses.


The Superlative Compassion (Rahamût) and the nine spheres

The term rahamût is associated in the Fusûs with the Prophet Aaron, and therefore to the wisdom of leadership (imâmiyya).[56] Among the commentaries on the Fusûs which I have consulted, those of Jâmî [57] and Bâlî Effendî [58] coincide in explaining the term as an intensive form (mubâlagha), as Ibn ‘Arabî does, without giving any more information about it. Nâbulusî [59] defines rahamût as “Superlative Divine Compassion” (al-rahma al-‘azîma al-ilâhiyya).

The intensive term rahamût appears on several occasions in the Futûhât al-Makkiyya. Yet it is not used, as far as I know, by Qushayrî, Ghazâlî, Râzî or Ibn Barrajân, to cite but a few, in their respective commentaries on the Names. Jîlî does not use it in his commentary on the rahmâniyya,[60] nor does Jurjânî employ it in his Ta’rîfât, nor does S. Hakîm mention it in the pages she devotes to the various forms of rahma. In fact, as has already been suggested, all the different kinds of mercy are contained in the rahmâniyya and perhaps that is why Jîlî has used rahmâniyya instead of rahamût in his al-Insân al-kâmil.

However, Ibn ‘Arabî gives a new technical meaning to the term rahamût. In the commentary on the letter dâd in the Futûhât, Ibn ‘Arabî refers to the “two presences” of His Superlative Compassion. In the preliminary verses, the author successively makes the terms jabarût, rahamût and malakût rhyme:

In the [letter] dâd there is such a secret that, if I could reveal it, you would see the secret of Allah in His Omnipotence (jabarût).[61]
Consider Him One (wâhid), although His perfection shows itself through otherness [62] in the two presences of His Superlative Compassion (rahamût).
Its Imâm is the word (lafz) by whose existence the All-Compassionate made him journey by night from His Sovereignty (malakût).[63]

The term rahamût appears here between the jabarût and the malakût. Should one understand its intermediary position in these verses as an allusion to its condition of isthmus (barzakh)? The answer is to be found, as we shall see, in Ibn ‘Arabî’s Mawâqi’ al-nujûm.

Let us remember that, according to Qâshânî, the “World of Omnipotence (jabarût) is the domain of the Divine Names and Qualities”, whilst the “World of Sovereignty (malakût), also called the World of the Order (‘âlam al-amr) or the World of Mystery [i.e. the Invisible World] (‘âlam al-ghayb), is the domain of the spirits, which exist by the Order of the Real without any material or temporal intermediary.” [64]

Reading the Mawâqi’ al-nujûm offers the necessary keys for clarifying the relationship between these terms. In this work,[65] Ibn ‘Arabî explains that for each of the three degrees called ‘inaya, hidâya and walâya, there are three corresponding spheres: one of the three spheres of Islam (islâmiyya), which are corporeal (jismâniyya); one of the three of Faith (îmâniyya), which are connected to the self (nafsâniyya); and one of the three Spheres of Beneficence (ihsâniyya), which are spiritual (rûhâniyya).[66]

  1. Spheres of Islam (1, 4 and 7): The respective settings (mawâqi’) of the three degrees are represented by the stars of providence (‘inâya), guidance (hidâya) and friendship (walâya), which set in the heart of the Imâm who rules in the visible world (‘âlam al-shahâda), that is, the Kingdom (mulk).
  2. Spheres of Faith (îmân) (2, 5 and 8): The respective risings (matâli’) of the three degrees are represented by the waning moons which rise in the self of the Imâm who rules the world of Omnipotence (jabarût) and Sovereignty (malakût); that is to say, the world of intermediate realities connected here with the invisible world, as if they were two aspects of the same Dominion.
  3. III. Spheres of Beneficence (ihsân) (3, 6 and 9): The respective risings of the three degrees are represented by the crescent moons which rise in the spirit of the Pole (al-rûh al-qutubî) who rules the isthmus of the rahamût and the rahabût.

It seems that the rahabût is the realm of Superlative Awe, the Presence which corresponds to reverent respect (hayba) in the human being. We see, then, that the rahamût,
which is associated with the ihsân, and the rahabût – which is identical, as we shall see, with the raghabût, the realm of Superlative Creative Desire – are the barzakhs between the degrees and the principle of each one of them. So we may speak of three degrees of rahamût. The epithet “divine” (ilâhî) is applied to all three risings which correspond to the rahamût.[67] One could speak of the three rahamût as the degrees of Solicitude, Guidance and Initiation or Friendship: rahamût al-‘inâya, rahamût al-hidâya and rahamût al-walâya, respectively.

One may consider that the ninth and highest spiritual sphere of the rahamûtrahabût (in the degree of walâya) is the barzakh between the jabarût – malakût of the inferior sphere and the essential Unity or Divine Ipseity.

Chapter 392 of the Futûhât,[68] to which only occasional reference is made here, is also fundamental to the study of Ibn ‘Arabî’s treatment of the idea of rahma. Among other things it contains detailed commentaries relating to a number of hadiths on this matter. In the preliminary verses we find new ways of using the terms which concern us:

Whoever seeks the Truth (al-haqq), looks for it
in [what he finds in] existence in the Kingdom of bodies (mulk) and the sovereign Domain of spirits (malakût).
The words of the Real are only what is manifested as world (‘âlam) from the immutable (thubût);
and with respect to what is in Me, whose mine is not to be found in any place, We shall remain silent (sukût).
All that We give to it is through divine Generosity (karam):
And that is what is called Superlative Compassion (rahamût).
And all that the evident proof (burhân) makes manifest remains in the isthmus of power (jabarût).
The exterior of the created beings is the same as their interior: an awe (rahabût) whose essence is desire (raghabût).[69]
Thus, the ultimate destiny of all that is created is to reach the abode of absolution (‘afû) and Superlative Compassion (rahamût).[70]

Rahabût and raghabût, superlative awe and desire, appear as two essentially identical aspects of the rahamût.[] However, I have not found any text which clarifies in a schematic way the relationship between these terms and the two presences which the presence of rahamût unites, which are the Presence of the general Compassion of grace (rahmâniyya) and the Presence of the distinctive Mercy (rahîmiyya).[71]


Rahmâniyya and ulûha

Ibn ‘Arabî discusses the first, distinguishing it from the absolute divinity (ulûha) in these terms:

Between the heart [of the believer] and the Throne there is, with regard to rank, the same correspondence that exists between the Name Allah and the Name al-Rahmân. Although [the verse says: “Say: Invoke Allah or invoke the Rahmân] whichever you invoke, He is the possesser of the most beautiful Names”,[72] nobody showed ignorance of Allah, but [on hearing these Names the Arabs] expressed their ignorance of the Rahmân by saying: “What is the Rahmân? “.[73] Such that the contemplation of the divinity is more general because all can recognize it, since it includes trial [that is, apparent harm] and well-being, and both things exist in creation without anyone being ignorant of them. However, only the blessed (marhûmûn) who have faith know the contemplation of the rahmâniyya – of which only the wretched are ignorant, insofar as they do not see that they are deprived (mahrûmûn) [of the light of faith] – since the condition of the All-Compassionate (rahmâniyya) only contains well-being and pure goodness.[74]

Ibn ‘Arabî is here more precise than Jîlî in calling the joint Presence of both Names rahamût, the Presence of the Superlative Compassion, thus distinguishing it from the rahmâniyya, which is specifically the Presence of the Name al-Rahmân.[75]

Let us note, then, that in the commentary on the presence of the rahamût, which I translate later, Ibn ‘Arabî treats both Names as a single compound Name [76] with two aspects: general and particular, or mercy of grace and necessary grace. Hamadânî follows him in this, and his commentary on these Names, as in other cases, is closely linked to that of Ibn
‘Arabî. Nevertheless, in other places, the Shaykh himself comments on them separately as independent Names. The rahîmiyya cannot, in the last analysis, be essentially different from the rahmâniyya, since it constitutes its reintegrating form.[77]


The term Rahamûtiyyât

One must add to the modalities of rahma already mentioned, the various graces or blessings which come from the rahamût, called rahamûtiyyât.

In the Futûhât,[78] Ibn ‘Arabî uses the term rahamûtiyyât, a noun derived from the adjective, rahamûtî, in the feminine plural. This Akbarian neologism seems to designate the realities of the rahamût, the different kinds of blessings belonging to the Superlative Compassion and, by extension, everything that comes from the all-embracing Compassion or is related to it. The Shaykh says that in the greetings belonging to “the tongue of Beauty” – which are carried out in the tashahhud at the end of the ritual prostrations – one uses the term “benedictions” (salawât) in the plural. One does not say “the benediction of God” in the singular “to refer in general to all the blessings that come from the domain of Superlative Compassion (rahamûtiyyât) and from the call (du’â’) and to all its different kinds of states, for all of that is benediction”, whether these blessings come directly from God or whether they come from His angels.[79]

Fortunately, another mention of this Akbarian derivation appears in a passage of the Futûhât where the Shaykh refers to “the mercy [which is private and is the result] of the divine satisfaction (rahmat al-ridâ), to the compassion of the general divine favour (rahmat al-fadl) and to the different kinds of graces which come from the Superlative Compassion (anwâ’ al-rahamûtiyyât)”: [80] namely, as I understand it, to the angelic blessings, the intercession of the angels, prophets or saints and others. It seems that, for each kind of rahamût belonging to the degrees differentiated in Mawâqi’, there is a corresponding, specific kind of rahamûtiyyât, that is, the rahamûtiyyât of providential Solicitude, Guidance and Friendship, respectively.


The distinction between Rahmâniyyûûn and Ilhiyyûn

Another of the neologisms with the root r – h – m used by the Shaykh in the Futûhât is rahmâniyyûn,[81] a proper noun derived from the adjective rahmânî, which may be translated as “those characterised by the all-embracing Compassion” or directly as the “all-compassionate ones”. Similarly Ibn ‘Arabî derives rabbâniyyûn from the Name al-Rabb and ilâhiyyûn from the Name Ilâh in a section in which he makes an important distinction: between the general unconditioned gift (‘atâ’ mutlaq) or the gift of the benefactor (‘atâ’ al-muhsin), in which no distinction is made between the condition or belief of those to whom it is destined, and the conditional gift (‘atâ’ muqayyad) that takes account of the precepts and priorities established by the revealed Law. The unconditioned gift is characteristic of the spiritual station of the servants called rahmâniyyûn and rabbâniyyûn, while the conditional gift is peculiar to the servant called ilâhî, “divine”, whom the Shaykh qualifies as mu’min, muslim, and also muhsin.[82]

From the perspective of the takhalluq and the stations (maqâmât),[83] considering that this designation could be extrapolated to another context, one might understand that the rahmâniyyûn are those who have been clothed with the qualities belonging to the Name al-Rahmân. They attain the spiritual station which corresponds to the Presence of the Rahmân and adopt the character traits of this Name (takhalluq). From a theophanic perspective, I understand that a rahmânî servant would be the place of manifestation in which God epiphanizes Himself as the Rahmân, revealing the effects of this Name, that is, the onomatophany of the All-Compassionate.

I believe that the Shaykh was the first to use these masculine plurals of the adjectives rahmânî, rabbânî or ilâhî as technical terms. They are made into proper nouns to designate all of those who participate in the corresponding modalities of gift and perhaps, in a sense, those who participate in the spiritual stations which correspond to the respective Divine Names. By analogy, it seems that one could derive from each Divine Name a proper noun denoting those who participate in its respective Presence and adopt its characteristics.[84] However, with the exception of the cases already mentioned, and perhaps some other isolated cases, Ibn ‘Arabî has preferred to do without such designations. Instead he uses other, more descriptive ones, like mutakhalliq al-ism, “the one who adopts the characteristics of a Name” – used frequently in his Kashf al-Ma’nâ – or the genitive construction by which “servant” (‘abd) is put before the Names (‘Abd Allâh, ‘Abd al-Rahmân, etc.), which is used, for example, in his Kitâb al-‘Abâdila.[85]


Other names with the root r – h – m: al-Râhim, arham al-râhimîn

A third Divine Name with the root r – h – m is mentioned in the Futûhât: the Name al-Râhim,[86] the active participle which may be translated as “the Mercifier”, “the actualizer of grace” or “he who acts with compassion”. In general use, this term is considered as synonymous with rahîm, although râhim can only be active whereas rahîm may have an active or passive meaning.

With reference to the “grace from Us” granted to Khidr according to the traditional interpretation of the Quranic verse: “We have given him grace from Us” (rahma min ‘inda-nâ),[87] the Shaykh comments, “that is, we have given him grace by granting him the knowledge (‘ilm) which manifested in him”.[88] Again Ibn ‘Arabî relates grace (or mercy) to knowledge. Next he recalls Khidr’s acts of compassion, which were not understood by Moses, observing that:

an act of compassion can only be appreciated from the side of the one “who actualizes mercy” (râhim), and not from the perspective of the one who receives it, since the latter does not know what is most beneficial for himself, as in the case of the doctor who, out of compassion for the patient, amputates a leg infected by gangrene in order that he might live. The compassion of the merciful who truly actualizes compassion (al-rahîm al-râhim) is therefore inclusive (‘âmma) [in the sense that it includes the apparent harm beneath whose appearance mercy is hidden].[89]

This is what the Master also calls hidden mercy (rahma khafiyya),[90] and he describes it also elsewhere as mercy hidden in what is undesirable (al-rahma al-mabtûna fî l-makrûh), which is analogous to the rahma included in anger.

In the same way, after recollecting that the “mercy from Us” conferred on Khidr precedes the “knowledge from near Us” in the same verse, Ibn ‘Arabî distinguishes between the first mercy (al-rahma al-ûlâ), that is, “the compassion which is in the natural disposition” by which Khidr shored up the wall, and “the compassion which is hidden in the apparently reprehensible and detestable which the divine ladunnî knowledge confers, by which Khidr killed the boy or damaged the boat”.[91] The former corresponds to the natural compassion, while the latter corresponds to the conferred rahma (rahma mawdû’a) belonging to the khalîfa. According to the master, these two kinds of compassion are only distinguished by he who actualizes the rememoration (dhikr) of the lordly mercy, the rahma rabbâniyya, or mercy of the Lord towards the servant,[92] which is “identical to the state of servanthood” (‘ubûdiyya),[93] that is, to the full realization of the condition of the servant, which may be considered as another kind of rahma. With respect to this, Khidr declares that everything he did, according to the Quranic account, was “a display of mercy coming from your Lord. I did not do it of my own accord.”

Therefore natural rahma, or the rahma that is in the natural disposition, corresponds to the human feeling of pity. It is analogous to the grace attributed to the creation (rahmat al-makhlûq), the “human grace” which is also derived from pity. This is contrasted with absolute grace (rahmat Allâh al-mutlaqa), just as the compassion of the contingent is opposed to the compassion of the eternal.[94]

Ibn ‘Arabî also introduces a fourth Name with the root r – h – m– “the Most Merciful of the Merciful”,
“the Most Compassionate of the Compassionate Ones”, Arham al-râhimîn.[95] In one particular passage in the Futûhât,[96] he refers to the intercession of the Divine Names with Allah. This quotation informs us of the salvific function of this Name in relation to the cessation of the punishment of the fire:

Know that Allah receives intercession by the mediation of His Names. So, His Name Arham al-râhimîn intercedes with the Name the Vanquisher (al-Qahhâr) and the Name “the Severe in Punishment” (Shadîd al-‘iqâb) in order to remove his punishment with respect to these communities [angels, envoys, prophets, followers, believers, animals, plants and minerals], so that “the Most Merciful of the Merciful” makes even the person who has done no good deeds at all come out of the fire. Whoever is among the muttaqûn, those who have fear (khawf) in their hearts, will be reunited before al-Rahmân who will free them of what they feared because of His Word: “The day that we shall gather the God- fearing to the Compassionate.” [97]

To conclude, I am going to translate and comment on a fundamental text from the Futûhât entitled:


The presence of the Superlative Divine Compassion (hadrat al-rahamût): the name al-rahmân al-rahîm [98]

All my coming and going (irtihâl) [99]are orientated towards the Compassionate (al-Rahmân)
with the aim of reaching [the divine presences] of Majesty and Beauty (jamâl).
The Real was merciful (rahîm) and benevolent (ra’ûf) towards us,
the day in which He called me, saying: “Descend (nazâl)!” [100]
The term “Superlative Compassion” (rahamût) is an intensive form whose meaning includes both the “obligatory mercy” (rahma wâjiba) – which Allah has imposed upon Himself – and the “mercy of free gift” (rahma imtinâniyya). God has said (exalted may He be): “My mercy embraces everything.” [101] One of the Names of Allah (may He be exalted) is al-Rahmân al-Rahîm,”the All- Compassionate Merciful One”, which is one of the compound Names like Ba’al-Bak or Râm-Hurmuz. This Name adopted this compound form only when His Compassion towards His servants was divided into obligatory rahma and the rahma of free gift.

To consider al-Rahmân al-Rahîm as a single, compound Name is unusual in the tradition of commentary on the Names. I believe that this perspective is only to be found in the work of the Shaykh and his followers. In their respective treatises on the Names, Qushayrî, Ghazâlî, Râzî, Qâshânî, Jîlî and Ibn Barrajân treat both Names separately, considering them to be independent.[102] Moreover, Ibn ‘Arabî himself comments on them separately in his Kashf al-Ma’nâ [103] and in other places in his works. However, from the point of view of the rahamût – which other authors do not consider – both Names of grace constitute a single, compound Name. Only Hamadânî,[104] who in his commentary Haqâ’iq al-asmâ’ follows what is translated here from Ibn ‘Arabî, comments on both Names together, as two aspects of a single reality, although without specifying that it is a question of a single Name.

The world manifested through the compassion of grace (rahmat al-imtinân). Through it the people of wretchedness finally reach happiness [105] in the same Abode in which they reside and remain, and the works which oblige the actualization of the necessary mercy (rahma wâjiba) [106] originate in this [rahma al-imtinân].

This is the general mercy about which Allah said to His Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) by way of free gift (imtinân):
“Through mercy from God you have been kind towards them” [107] and also “We did not send you except as a mercy to the worlds”,[108] that is, as freely given mercy in which there is sustenance for all the universe, so that this grace of general prophecy extends to all beings.

The necessary mercy (wâjiba) depends on the intrinsic and extrinsic attributes which Allah mentions in His Book, and it is a mercy included in His word: “Our Lord! You encompass everything in compassion and knowledge.” [109] Thus the extent and comprehensiveness (muntahâ) of His knowledge is equal to the extent of His mercy in whomever can receive mercy and, in fact, all that which is not Allah – i.e. everything in the cosmos – is capable of receiving it without any doubt.

Part of the totality of His mercy (rahma) and His Superlative Compassion (rahamût)
[note the distinction] are the Breath of the All-Compassionate (nafas al-Rahmân) and the separation of the divine Anger from it. Concerning this, the Prophet said that “nobody has become angry before Him nor will become angry after Him like when He becomes angry”,[110] according to the testimony of those who have communicated on his behalf the prophetic mission (blessings and peace upon them), in compliance with authentic transmission.

I have named this Presence with an intensive name because of its universal nature, as everything is included in it, and because of the relationship (ta’alluq) which it has with the number of the possibles (mumkinât). That is to say, with the unique examples of each possible, and with the unending number of relationships which require composition, for the mercy of Allah is infinite: in it the possibles originate and from it also comes the divine Anger, which originates in it but does not return to it. This anger comes out of it, separating itself from it so that the rahma remains free and pure (khâlisa mahda), which is why mercy and anger mutually oppose each other, only to distinguish and isolate the one from the other. Everything that exists, except for the divine Wrath, has been created from rahma in the very being of rahma, without having been separated from it.

The mercy of God has no limit,
but everything which it contains is accounted for.

Everything which wanders away from it,
is made to return to it.
Closeness to it lies in mutual drawing near (tadânî)
and after this there is no distance.

Do not say then that it has an end,
for it has no limit at all in existence.[111]

Through it you have differentiated yourself from Him, – consider this,
so that the Lord is Lord and the servant servant.[112]

Whoever knows the cause of the existence of the universe and knows that the Real (al-Haqq) has spoken about Himself by saying that He loved to be known – which is why He created the creatures and made Himself known to them, so that they knew Him and for that reason “all things celebrate his praise” [113] – he knows likewise through that, what the rahma is tied to in the first place [that is, what the first entity related to mercy is].

According to the hadîth qudsîof the Hidden Treasure [114] which is alluded to here, the cause of creation is the “love” of Allah to be known. The verb used is ahabba. The active participle of the same verbal form is muhibb, “lover”, a term which Ibn ‘Arabî next uses to mean that as a “lover”, the desiring God is the first entity in which rahma is actualized, the first “subject-object” of compassion, the first determination of the Being related to mercy. Therefore, the first manifestation of rahma is the will of God to be known: the divine self-compassion which causes creation. The Shaykh carries on to say:

so the lover is mercified (marhûm) by the necessary attributes of love and its characteristics. And you should know that this disposition always refers to Allah, whatever the form in which He epiphanizes Himself, for whatever that form may be comes from the attribute it receives. This attribute may be attributed to the Real, since He attributes it to Himself. This is so in general.

When someone sees the Real during sleep in a particular form, whatever that may be, he ascribes to Him the attributes that the form in which he sees Him demands. And this is something that nobody is unaware of with respect to dreams.

Among the people of Allah there are those who perceive this kind of image in a state of wakefulness, but [such a form] is in fact in the same presence in which the sleeping person contemplates it [i.e. in the presence of the imagination] and not in any other. In this degree [which the contemplation of imaginal forms in a state of wakefulness offers] the prophets (peace be upon them) and the awliyâ’ (may Allah be pleased with them) coincide. Here [in the presence of the Imagination] is where the fact that rahma “embraces everything” is really verified. This divine form manifested in this presence is one of the “things”, and thus necessarily included in the rahma of Allah, if you consider well. In the same sense, reprisal is part of the rahma of the Punisher (al-Muntaqim) towards Himself in creation.

The Shaykh concludes the section by introducing three Quranic quotations and a hadith relating to divine Anger:

“And Allah is Mighty (‘azîz)”… in a similar way to this, “… Vengeful (dhû intiqâm)”.[115] “And the fifth time she invokes the wrath of God upon herself if her accuser is telling the truth.” [116]
“Allah is angry with him, curses him and prepares for him a terrible punishment.” [117] And when Allah favours His servant with repentance [i.e. allows him to return to Him], He favours him with what gives Him joy, since “Allah rejoices at the repentance of His servant”.[118] That proceeds from the rahma of Allah, and there are innumerable prophetic traditions about this.

Translated from the Spanish by Cecilia Twinch.

This article first appeared in Volume XXIV of the Journal of the Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi Society (1998). It can also be read online here in Spanish: La Presencia De La Compasión Superlativa.


[1] R. Austin, The Bezels of Wisdom (New York, 1980), see index (compassion, the Compassionate, grace, the Merciful, mercy).

[2] See Fusûs al-Hikam, ed. ‘Afîfî (Cairo, 1946), Ch. 24, pp. 191ff.

[3] See Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn ‘Arabî (London, 1970), p. 108.

[4] "… He imposed it on Himself only for Himself, since Mercy is never outside Him". See "The Wisdom of Compassion in the Word of Solomon", Ibn ‘Arabî, The Bezels of Wisdom (trans. Austin), p.190. On the essential unity of Passion (ahadiyyat al-hawâ), see Fusûs, ed. ‘Afîfî, p.195; Bezels, p.247.

[5] As opposed to the translation proposed by D. Gimaret,
"le Bienveillant, le Bienfaisant". See Les noms divins en Islam (Paris, 1988), p.379, who, as he states in the introduction, does not take into account the ideas put forward by Akbarian thought and Sufism in general. On al-Rahmân and al-Rahîm, see Noms, Ch. XXI, pp.375 – 82, where they are commented on under the generic title "Bienfaisant", together with the names ra’ûf, hannân, rafîq, shafîq, mun’im, muhsin, dhû l-fadl, mutafaddil, latîf and barr, among others (ibid., pp.382 – 96).

[6] Muqâtil in particular. See P. Nwyia, Exégse coranique et langage mystique (2nd edn, Beirut, 1991), pp.57 and 89 – and see also p.298 (for the definition of rahma according to al-Kharrâz).

[7] See the reference in the Futûhât al-Makkiyya (Cairo, 1329), vol. IV, p.153, lines 21 – 23, to several of these kinds of rahma. S. Hakîm adds pardon (maghfira) to them basing this on Q.39:53. See S. Hakîm, Al-Mu’jam al-sûfî, Dandara edn (Beirut, 1981), pp.521 – 2. The term rahma is mentioned in the Quran 114 times, rahmân 57 and rahîm 116.

[8] S. Hakîm, Mu’jam, p.522. On the notion of rahmat Allâh as wujûd see the article by R. Nettler, "Ibn ‘Arabî’s Notion of Allah’s Mercy", Israel Oriental Studies, VIII (Tel Aviv, 1978), pp.218 – 29. See also T. Izutsu, Sufism and Taoism (Berkeley, 1984), Ch. IX, "Ontological Mercy", pp.116ff.

[9] See S. Hakîm, Mu’jam, p.522.

[10] See Fusûs (ed. ‘Afîfî), XXXI, p.177. This chapter on the Word of Zachariah is fundamental for the study of the notion of rahma and, in particular, its relationship with the notion of ghadab.

[11] Fut. IV:48.

[12] Fut. II:271, ed. O. Yahya (hereafter OY) (Cairo, 1972 – ), p.191.

[13] Also called "the White Pearl" (al-Durra al-Baydâ), "the Pen" (al-qalam) and "the Eagle" (al-‘Uqâb) in contrast to the Universal Soul (al-Nafs al-kulliyya) which is called "the Emerald" (al-Zumurruda),
"the Preserved Tablet" (al-Lawh al-mahfûz) and "the Dove" (al-Warqâ’). See Ibn ‘Arabî, Istilâhât al-sûfiyya (ed. Beirut, 1990), p.68.

[14] In the same paragraph the author explains that the expression maghdûb ‘alay-hi in the Fâtiha alludes to the commanding self (al-nafs al-ammâra), while "those who have gone astray" (dâllûn) refers to the world of composition (‘âlam al-tarkîb).

[15] On the transformation of the term rahma, see R. Nettler,
"Ibn ‘Arabî’s Notion of Allah’s Mercy", pp.219 – 29, mentioned above.

[16] I have taken the classification established by S. Hakîm as a starting-point for this. See Mu’jam, pp.521 – 9.

On one night in Fez, in ah 593, Ibn ‘Arabî contemplated the vastness of grace (ittisâ’ al-rahma) in one hundred successive mystical halts (mawâqif). See Fut. IV:153, lines 18 – 22. This contemplation refers to the hadith: "God created one hundred graces" (khalaqa mi’a rahma). See the two different versions in S. Hakîm, Mu’jam, pp.1264 – 5 (nos. 25 and 29).

More references to rahma may be found in the indices of the edition of the Futûhât by O. Yahya and in the works by S. Hakîm, Mu’jam, pp.521 – 9 and 1024 – 8, and Ibn ‘Arabî: Mawlid lugha jadîda, pp.112 and 161 – 2. See also Latâ’if al-i’lâm, wrongly attributed to Qâshânî, (Cairo, 1996), vol. I, pp.484ff., which includes al-rahmat al-asliyya and al-rahmat al-sâbigha.

On the mercy of the fire (rahmat al-nâr), see Fut. II:251.

[17] Fut. III:496 and 550; IV:200.

[18] On the notion of the inclusivity of compassion (shumûl al-rahma), see, for example, Fut. XIV:213 (OY).

[19] To which those on whom the divine Wrath has fallen will have appeal. See Fut. III:550 – 1; S. Hakîm, Mu’jam, p.1025. In this sense "the all-embracing gratuitous compassion is what Iblîs and his kind are awaiting" (Fut. III:496).

In another sense, Ibn ‘Arabî uses the expression ahl al-‘inâya, the people of the divine solicitude, to refer to those who are under divine protection, so that one could also say that the distinction (ikhtisâs) is solicitude or providential help (‘inâya). In fact, in the last analysis, the providence of al-Rahîm will be contained in the providence of al-Rahmân just as the necessary compassion is included in the freely-given compassion (see Fusûs I:151). 20. Fut. III:526; S. Hakîm, Mu’jam, p.1024.

[21] Fut. XII:542 (OY).

[22] Fut. XII:316 (OY).

[23] See Q.6:12 and Q.7:156.

[24] Fut. III:550.

[25] Fut. IV:409.

[26] S. Hakîm, Mu’jam, p.527.

[27] Fut. III:526; S. Hakîm, Mu’jam, p.1024.

[28] See Q.7:156.

[29] Fut. XII:316 – 17 (OY).

[30] See Fusûs I:151; Qâshânî, Istilâhât al-sûfiyya (see rahma). "And this rahma
[wâjiba] is contained in the imtinâniyya just as the species is contained in the genus (dujûl al-naw’ fî-l-jins)." See ‘Alî Hamadânî, Haqâ’iq al-asmâ’ (attributed to Qûnawî), MS. Asir Ef. 431, ff.36 – 7.

One may add to the distinctions mentioned that established between the "gratuitous existential gift" (‘atâ’ imtinân) and the "necessary gift" (‘atâ’ wâjib). See S. Hakîm, Mu’jam, p.1023.

[31] Lit. "the name al-Rahîm is the special competence of grace in the Next World". Fut. III:552, line 19.

[32] See Mu’jam, p.525; Fut. IV:161.

[33] Fut:III:147. See also Fut. III:550.

[34] Mu’jam, p.527, note 3.

[35] See Mu’jam, p.1264 (on the hadith and its sources).

[36] See Fut. III:551, line 22.

[37] See Fut. II:565; Mu’jam, p.526.

[38] Fut. IV:70. Hamadânî, following Ibn ‘Arabî’s well-known doctrine on the apocatastasis and making reference to the double meaning of the root ‘ – dh – b, states that those who reside in the Station of disgrace
"will find the punishment sweet (inna-hum yasta’dhibûna l-‘adhâb)". See Hamadânî, Haqâ’iq, fol. 37a.

[39] Fut. III:497.

[40] See Fut. III:550.

[41] An allusion to Q.7:156.

[42] Fut. XII:470.

[43] Fut. IV:409 (OY).

[44] The term ruhamâ’ is the plural of rahîm, whose morphological paradigm (fa’îl) has two aspects: active (fâ’il) and passive (maf’ûl).

[45] This would seem to be the fatâ, who appears in Ch. 1 and at the beginning of Ch. 559, revealing these secrets to Ibn ‘Arabî.

[46] An allusion to Q.10:26.
"For those who do good (ahsanû), the best (al-husnâ) [i.e. Paradise, according to a traditional interpretation] and more (al-ziyâda)
[i.e. the beatific vision]".

[47] That is, in the measure in which they actualize the effects of the name through which they have compassion. Fut. IV:409.

[48] Term used here to translate the concept of tajalliyât asmâ’iyya.

[49] Associated as we have seen with Q.10:26, where ziyâda, according to a traditional interpretation, refers to the Face of God.

[50] Although this rahma seems to be related to absolute rahma, a conclusive association cannot be established.

[51] Lit. compassion "laid down" or deposited by God.

[52] The notion of essential (dhâtiyya) compassion contains the meaning of natural compassion in relation to the servant, different to that previously commented on in relation to God.

[53] Lit. "in the vicegerents", as one understands vicegerency as a function relating to worldly politics or to the spiritual world.

[54] Resolute, conscious will which derives from knowledge. See S. Hakîm, Mu’jam, "mashî’a".

[55] See Fut. IV:48; Mu’jam, p.526.

[56] A condition belonging to the Imâm as a representative (nâ’ib) and guide.

[57] " (Know that the existence of Aaron) in the station of the Imâmate and in his particular realisation of it comes from the Presence of Superlative Compassion (hadrat al-rahamût) – the intensive form of rahma…" Sharh jawâhir al-nusûs (Cairo, ah1323) (in the margin), II, pp.295 – 6.

[58] See K. Sharh Fusûs al-hikam (Istanbul, ah1309), p.373.

[59] "Know O seeker that the existence of Aaron in the world came from the Presence of rahamût, that is, the Superlative Divine Compassion (al-rahma al-‘azîma al-ilâhiyya)." See Sharh jawâhir al-nusûs, vol. II, in whose margin is the commentary by Jâmî, pp.254 – 5.

[60] See al-Insân al-kâmil (Cairo, 1981), pp.45 – 8.

[61] "The Sphere of intermediate realities… The Isthmus which embraces everything". See Jurjânî, K. al-Ta’rîfât, trans. M. Gloton (Teheran, 1994), no. 509, p.148.

[62] Lit. "comes from other than He".

[63] Or else, " [the word] which the All-Compassionate One (al-Rahmân) has made travel by night from His absolute Sovereignty (malakût) to find it [in existence]". Or else, "by whose existence the All-Compassionate One made it spread from the realm of His Sovereignty". See Fut. I:304 (OY). An allusion to the heavenly ascension or Night Journey of the Prophet, who is "a mercy to the worlds" (rahma li-l-‘âlamîn).

The malakût is the absolute Reality or the angelic Realm: "The World of Mystery (‘âlam al-ghayb).
.. a Station reserved for spirits and souls." Cf. Jurjânî, Ta’rifât, 1652, p.402.

[64] Qâshânî, Istilâhât al-sûfiyya, ed. M. K. Ja’far (Cairo, 1981), p.106, nos. 284 and 285. As opposed to the "World of Creation (‘âlam al-khalq) also called the Kingdom (mulk) or the World of Witnessing [i.e. the Visible World] (‘âlam al-shahâda), which is the world of bodies (ajsâm) and corporalities (jismâniyyât), which exists as a consequence of [lit. "after"] the Order in extension from matter (mâdda) and time (mudda) [or else, ‘of the Order which imposes matter and time’]", ibid., p.106.

[65] See Mawâqi’ al-nujûm (Cairo, 1965), pp.6 – 8.

[66] See Mawâqi’, pp.20 – 2, 45 – 7, 168 – 70. After each chapter relating to one of the ihsâniyya spheres, the author includes an appendix called ma’qil unsi-hi "the understanding which its familiarity gives". On p.8 (line 18) the term ma’qil, lit. "refuge, fortress" – from the same root as ‘aql, intellect – is assimilated to ma’qûl, "what is understood".

[67] The nine spheres and their corresponding epithets in Mawâqi’:

I. mawâqi’
II. matâli’
III. matâli’-irtiqâb
1. tawfîqî
2. wifâqî
3. ilâhî / mana’a wa-a’tâ
4. ‘ilmî
5. ‘iyânî
6. ilâhî / adalla wa-ahdâ
7. ‘ilmî
8. khalqî
9. ilâhî / afqara wa-aghnâ

[68] Entitled: "On the knowledge of the mutual relationship (munâzala) [expressed in the Tradition which says:] ‘On whomever has pity, We have pity; he who does not have compassion,
[first] We have pity on him, but then We make him the object of Our anger and We forget him.’" Fut. III:550 – 3.

[69] It is understood that rahabût (an intensive form of rahba), corresponds to reverential fear (hayba), the manifest (zâhir) and the divine Beauty (jamâl), whilst raghabût – an intensive form of raghba – corresponds to intimacy (uns), the interior (bâtin) and Majesty (jalâl). See our article "On the Divine Love of Beauty", JMIAS, XVII, 3 – 5.

[70] Fut. III:550.

[71] Qâshânî uses these terms defining the compassion of grace (rahma imtinâniyya) as rahmâniyya and the mercy of obligation (rahma wujûbiyya) as rahîmiyya, promised to the fearful and doers of good. See Istilâhât, no. 455 and 456, see rahma.

In the indices of the Futûhât (ed. O. Yahya) – I have consulted up to vol. XIV – the term rahîmiyya, which would correspond to the Presence of the Name al-Rahîm, does not appear.

[72] Q.17:110.

[73] Q.25:60. See Ibn ‘Arabî, Kashf al-ma’nâ
‘an sirr asmâ’ Allâh al-husnâ
(henceforth Kashf), ed. and trans. P. Beneito (Murcia, 1996), 2 – 2.

[74] See Fut. X:62 – 3 (OY).

[75] As we have already mentioned, in his work al-Insân al-kâmil, Jîlî uses the term rahmâniyya, instead of rahamût, to refer to the presence which includes the names al-Rahmân and al-Rahîm.

[76] See also Fut. XII:176 (OY), where he similarly refers to al-Wâhid al-Ahad as a single compound name.

[77] See Kashf, 2 and 3; Sharh, no. 2 and 3 (Fut. IV:332).

[78] See Fut. VI:327 (OY).

[79] See Q.42:5.

[80] See Fut. III:474.

[81] See Fut. XIII: para631 (OY).

[82] So the ilâhî is muhsin just as the rahmânî is, but at the time of giving it takes into consideration all the distinctions and priorities established by the revelation.

[83] In Fut. XII:393 (OY), in answer to the question, "what is the Praiseworthy Station (al-maqâm al-mahmûd)? ", which is referred to in the Quran, Ibn ‘Arabî replies:
"It is the one to which all the stations finally return, towards which are directed all the Divine Names which rule the corresponding spiritual stations, and which belongs to the Messenger of Allah." One may understand then that each divine Name rules its corresponding spiritual station.

[84] So one could call whoever participates in the rahîmiyya, "rahîmî" (pl. rahîmiyyûn) or the one who participates in the basîriyya, "basîrî", etc.

[85] S. Hakîm and I are currently preparing a critical edition of this work.

[86] See for example Fut. IX:325 – 9 (OY) which deals with al-Râhim and its "brothers" (i.e. the other names of compassion).

[87] Q.18:65.

[88] See Fut. XII:319 (OY).

[89] See Fut. XII:319 (OY).

[90] For example, in medicine with a disagreeable taste. Fut. XIII: paras550 and 564 (OY).

[91] Fut. IV:153, lines 5 – 8.

[92] Associated in this context with "the remembrance of the mercy of your Lord towards His servant Zachariah" (Q.19:2). See Fut. IV:153.

[93] See Fut. IV:153, lines 11 – 13.

[94] See Fut. III:551 and 553.

[95] This superlative is mentioned in Q.7:151, 12:64, 12:92 and 21:83. See also the Quranic name Khayr al-râhimîn, "the Best of grace-givers", "the Best of those who have mercy", mentioned in Q.23:109 and 23:118, which Ibn ‘Arabî deals with in Fut.III:553, line 13.

[96] See, for example, Fut. III:550, line 29.

[97] Fut. XII:395 – 6 (OY). The final quotation is from Q.19:85.

[98] Full translation with commentary. Fut. IV:200.

[99] In Arabic this formula is commonly used to signify
"all actions" but also means stopping and dismounting (hall) and setting out and departing (irtihâl) on a journey when travelling on a mount.

[100] Two lines of verse in the wâfir metre which – as often happens, and as one can see clearly in the autograph manuscript – have been added after the writing of the prose.

[101] The complete text of the verse is: "’Destine for us that which is good in this world and the next, for we have turned to you’. He [the Lord] said: ‘I inflict My punishment on whom I will, but My Mercy embraces everything, so I shall ordain it [My Mercy] for those who fear God, give alms and believe in Our signs…’" (Q.7:156.)

[102] On other authors, see D. Gimaret, Noms, pp.375 – 82, and S. Hakim, Mu’jam, p.528.

[103] See Kashf, 2 and 3. It is certain, however, that both commentaries are closely linked in this work.

[104] See Haqâ’iq, MS. Asir Efendi 431ff., 36 – 7.

[105] "The final destiny of the servants of Allah is mercy, as even those who reside in the fire will find in it a mercy unknown by others. It is of such a kind that were they to smell some of the fragrances of Paradise,[this rahma] would probably make them feel repugnance towards it and it would seem noxious to them, just as the scent of roses (ward) and the sweet perfume (tîb) provokes repulsion and causes harm to [those of] choleric temperaments." (Fut. XIV:535 (OY). On the rahmat al-nâr, see Fut. II:254.)

On the apocatastasis, the issue of rahma and the final destiny of the wretched ones, see for example Fut. XIII:498 (OY) – where Ibn ‘Arabî says "the people of the fire, although they do not come out of the fire, find happiness in it" – or Fut. XIV:para 441 (OY). See also Fut. III:550, lines 24 and 34 – 5.

[106] On al-rahma al-wâjiba, see Fut. XII:para 252 (OY).

[107] Also mentioned in Fut.III:550.

[108] Q.21:107. See this expression in Fut. XIII:para 121 (OY).

[109] Or else, "as mercy and as knowledge"; i.e. the rahma wâjiba is contained in the rahma imtinâniyya. See also Fut. XII:para 400 (OY).

[110] Q.40:7. See Kashf, 3 – 3 (al-Rahîm).

[111] In the autograph MS., Ibn ‘Arabî seems to have changed wujûd for hudûd, which would translate as: "then you do not have among the limits any limit".

[112] Five lines of verse in basît metre. See the verse at the beginning of the preface to Fut. I:2.

[113] An allusion to the verse: "The seven heavens, the earth and its inhabitants glorify Him. There is nothing which does not celebrate His praise, but you do not understand their praise. He is kind and forgiving." (Q.17:44.)

[114] See S. Hakîm, Mu’jam, p.1266.

[115] Q.3:4 and Q.5:95.

[116] The complete verse is: "Those who accuse their wives but only have themselves as witnesses, their testimony alone [is acceptable] if they swear by God four times that they are telling the truth, and the fifth time invoke the curse of God upon themselves if they are lying. But the punishment will be averted from the wife if she bears witness by swearing by God four times that he is lying, and if the fifth time she invokes the wrath of God upon herself if he is telling the truth. If it were not for the grace of God upon you and His Mercy, for God is forgiving and wise" (Q.24:6 – 10.)

[117] Q.4:93. The verse begins: "And whoever kills a believer premeditatedly, will have hell as retribution, eternally."

[118] "Allah rejoices more at the repentance (tawba) of one of His servants than any one of you rejoices on finding his camel which was lost in the desert." Muslim, Tawba 1 – 9; Bukhârî, Da’awât 4; etc. See Concordance I, p.284.

WP Feedback

Dive straight into the feedback!
Login below and you can start commenting using your own user instantly