Articles and Translations

Ibn al-ʿArabī: the Treasury of Absolute Mercy

Mohamed Haj Yousef

Mohemed bin Ali Haj Yousef is a writer and researcher specializing in Islamic thought, especially with regard to mysticism and Ibn Arabi. He studied physics in Syria and earned a degree in physics from the University of Aleppo in 1989 and a Postgraduate Diploma in electronics from the same university in 1990,followed by a  Master’s degree in Microelectronic Engineering and Semiconductor Physics from the University of Cambridge in the UK in 1992. After a period of work in the field of teaching, he studied Islamic philosophy, where he received a PhD from the University of Exeter in UK in the year 2005, where he studied the concept of time in Ibn Arabi’s cosmology and compared it with modern theories of physics and cosmology. He an Instructor in the Physics Department at the College of Science, UAE University, Al Ain, UAE [/]


Articles by Mohemed Haj Yousef

Ibn Arabi: the Treasury of Absolute Mercy


Podcasts by Mohemed Haj Yousef

Ibn Arabi’s View of the Cosmos

Interview on “Science, Health and Healing” Radio Show, Pacifica Radio

The Cosmic Heart: the Heart of the Perfect Human

In the Name of Allah, the all-Merciful, the ever-Merciful


Ibn al-ʿArabī mentions in various places in the Futūhāt, and elsewhere, that the Throne of Allah has four principal pillars and is held aloft by four bearers in this world, and that they shall become eight in the Hereafter. Each of them supports one pillar of this Throne, which is indeed the entire universe – the kingdom of Allah. Although these four, or eight, Throne-bearers are the known archangels and some prophets, other ‘human forms’ may have considerable share in this honourable job. In Chapter 371 of the Futūhāt, Ibn al-ʿArabī declares that he is one of these forms and that Allah honoured him with the supreme pillar, that is ‘the Treasury of Mercy’; thus Allah made him absolutely merciful despite his knowledge of hardship and suffering. Because of this, Ibn al-ʿArabī often states that the world was originated from absolute mercy, and to mercy it shall return; any pain or wretchedness is therefore temporal and apparent. We shall discuss in this article the origin of the world and its destiny, and the role of mercy, based on Ibn al-ʿArabī’s cosmological model of creation.



In the first Sura of the Quran Allah begins by saying: ‘In the name of Allah, the all-Merciful, the ever-Merciful, Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds, the all-Merciful, the ever-Merciful’. Commenting on this verse Ibn al-ʿArabī affirms that since Allah mentioned His two names the all-Merciful and the ever-Merciful (ar-Rahmān, ar-Rahīm) before and after mentioning the worlds, this certainly implies that the worlds, or the creation, emanated from His Mercy and will also conclude with His Mercy. And elsewhere in the Quran, Allah says: ‘My Mercy has indeed covered everything’ [Q. 7: 156], just as He says in the hadīth qudsī: ‘My mercy prevails over My anger’.[2]

Furthermore, on one occasion when the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, and his companions were out walking, they saw a woman feeding her infant; the Prophet asked them: ‘Do you think this woman would ever throw her child in the fire?’ They replied, ‘No.’ He then said: ‘Allah is even more merciful to His servants than this woman is to her child!’[3]


Mercy in This Lower World

In another hadith the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said that when Allah created the heavens and the earth, He created a hundred mercies; one of these he sent down to the earth and it is through this mercy that the mother shows affection to her child; and even the beasts and birds show kindness to one another.[4] It is also by means of this same mercy that Allah created the creation and provided them, whether they are believers or non-believers, with all the means of subsistence; and once again through this same mercy, the animals take care of their offspring, and people take care of themselves and look after each other. In fact our very existence is a mercy from Allah, no matter how much pain or suffering it may entail. For this reason Ibn al-ʿArabī affirms that there is no real evil in the world, but that evil is a lack of complete goodness. In real existence there is only the Real, Who is Allah, Who is in constant manifestation in different forms; so there is in fact no ontologically self-subsistent evil, and what we perceive as evil is in reality the absence of good, just as darkness is the absence of light.[5]

Mercy can be defined as the will to bring benefit to others and it occurs in the heart of the loving and tender person. Therefore, as Ibn al-ʿArabī affirms, mercy is not an existential thing; it does not have a separate entity, but it is an abstract quality expressed through speech and action [Futūhāt I.321.25].

Due to His great and absolute mercy, Allah called Himself the all-Merciful, ar-Rahmān, one of the greatest of His most beautiful names, and also ar-Rahīm, the ever-Merciful. And as a result, when Allah created the Throne and the universe which it encompasses, He seated Himself on it by virtue of this particular aspect of His name the all-Merciful, ar-Rahmān, as He stated in the Quran: ‘The all-Merciful mounted on [or in another interpretation: established his authority over] the Throne’ [Q. 20: 5].

The difference between ar-Rahmān and ar-Rahīm, the all-Merciful and the ever-Merciful, is not very clear, and these terms are normally translated in various ways, such as the Compassionate, the Beneficent, the Gracious and the Merciful. Ibn al-ʿArabī says that the mercy of the ever-Merciful (ar-Rahīm) is a pure mercy, whereas the mercy of the all-Merciful (ar-Rahmān) may incorporate some pain or suffering, just like the medicine that may have a bitter taste but brings benefit to the one who takes it so as to cure some disease [Futūhāt II.390].

Ibn al-ʿArabī goes on to say that mercy may also incorporate pain and suffering for the one who is experiencing it but is un­able to fulfil it and pass it on to the one who deserves it, because something might be preventing him from doing so at the time. Later, when he is able to pass this mercy on to the person who needs it, it will then also be a mercy to himself when the pain he felt due to his inability to conduct his mercy has passed. And this, Ibn al-ʿArabī says, is the very strange case whereby mercy may cause suffering to the person who has it. He then adds that what is even more strange is the case when a personal reason may prevent the one who has the mercy from fulfilling it, although he may be able to do so. For example, when a doctor has to operate on any part of his patient, he does so out of his mercy towards him, but sometimes he cannot perform the operation because he may not have the right tools or medicine at that time, so the doctor is distressed by his inability to relieve the suffering of his patient; just as he also feels pain when he does what he has to do by means of such a painful operation that he knows is necessary for the well-being of his patient. In such circumstances, Ibn al-ʿArabī adds, Allah says in the hadīth qudsī: ‘I never hesitate doing anything so much as I do when I collect the soul of My believing servant; I do not like to hurt him and I know that he does not like to die, but he has to meet Me.’[6]


Mercy and the Origin of the Cosmos

Ibn al-ʿArabī states that the main reason for creating the cosmos is ‘Love’. He often refers to a famous hadīth qudsī, known as the hadith of the hidden treasure, in which Allah says: ‘I was a hidden treasure, and I “loved” to become known, thus I created the creatures, and I manifested to them so that they might come to know Me.’[7] Thus, Ibn al-ʿArabī adds, Allah’s love to become known is a mercy from Him that He wanted to grant to all His creatures. This mercy is therefore the first manifestation of the presence of Allah with regard to the world being created, and so it formed the abstract space in which the creation would appear. This space is called al-ʿamāʾ, the Cloud, and the cosmos was formed within it, as described elsewhere in detail.[8]

First of all, according to Ibn al-ʿArabī, Allah created in this Cloud an indeterminate number of roaming spirits. He then appointed one of them and granted him a special epiphany of knowledge that instructed him as to what Allah wanted to create with him in this Lower World until the day of judgement. For this reason this spirit is called the First or Universal Intellect because it was the first to comprehend the divine effusions of Allah, and to be the active spirit in these effusions which are nothing but the creation itself. For this reason Allah created for this First Intellect (which is also called the First Pen), from the shadow of His manifestation on it, a tablet on which to inscribe these manifestations that are the words of Allah, the Merciful. This tablet is called the Universal Tablet or the First Tablet, and also the Universal Soul or the First Soul. We, and all the creatures, are therefore the words of Allah written by this First Pen on the tablet of the Universal Soul. This is shown schematically in Figure 1, which is translated from Ibn al-ʿArabī’s own drawing in Chapter 371 of the Futūhāt [III.421].

Figure 1: The Cloud and what it contains, down to the Throne.
The first thing that appeared in the Universal Soul is ‘Chaos’ (al-habāʾ, literally ‘the Dust’) or ‘Prime Matter’ [Futūhāt I.140.14], a kind of unformed matter from which the ‘Universal Body’ appears and which can be thought of either as a huge body containing the bodies of stars and galaxies, or a simple elementary particle which will form the atoms of everything in the cosmos in a complicated process, as explained in another publication.[9] This is also shown in Figure 2:

Figure 2: The establishing Throne and what it contains, down to the Pedestal
Figure 2: The establishing Throne and what it contains, down to the Pedestal.[10]

Therefore, the first thing which was formed in (or by) the Universal Body was the ‘Throne’ on which Allah established His authority from the particular aspect of His name the all-Merciful.


The Throne-bearers

Concerning the day of resurrection, Allah says: ‘On that Day eight shall bear the Throne of thy Lord‘ [Q. 69: 17], and Ibn al-ʿArabī asserts that when this verse was recited before the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, he said ‘And today [i.e. in the lower world] they are four’ [Futūhāt I.148.2; III.184.28],[11] ‘And tomorrow [i.e. in the Hereafter] they will become eight’ [Futūhāt I.149.29].

Ibn al-ʿArabī then explains that al-ʿarsh (usually translated as ‘the Throne’) in Arabic has two meanings: it can either mean the chair of the king, or it can also mean the kingdom itself [Futūhāt I.147.33]. According to the second meaning, he concludes that the bearers of the Throne or the Kingdom are those who are in charge of its affairs, and these are like the four supports or pillars (awtād) that hold up the tent or the house.

These four Throne-bearers who maintain the Kingdom of Allah in this world are the four primary archangels: ʿAzrāʾīl (the Grim Reaper or the angel of death), Jibrāʾīl (Gabriel, the Messenger of Allah), Mīkhāʾīl (Michael) and Isrāfīl (Seraphiel). With respect to the angels, Ibn al-ʿArabī indicates in his book of Inshāʾ al-Dawāʾir (Constructing the Circles): ‘They are called angels (malāʾika) because they are links or conductors that link the godly rules and the divine effects with material worlds, because al-malak, the angel, in Arabic means force or intensity’.[12]

Thus, we can correlate these four archangels that bear the Throne with the four fundamental forces in Nature, which are: the force of gravity, the electromagnetic force, the weak nuclear force, and the strong nuclear force, on which the Cosmos is constructed. Thus, these four forces can be conceived as manifestations of these four prime archangels.

In explanation of this, if we want to compare these four angels with the four fundamental forces that operate in Nature, we can clearly see, for example, a correspondence between gravity and the angel of death, since both operate upon forms or bodies, and they always attract everything down to the earth. We can also see a clear relationship between the electromagnetic force and Michael, because both are responsible for subsistence and nourishment, when we recall that all the food we eat is in some way produced by light and heat, both of which are electromagnetic waves (forces) emitted by the sun and other energy sources.

With reference to the Hereafter, Ibn al-ʿArabī explains, that the three prophets Adam, Muhammad and Ibrahim (Abraham), as well as the angel Ridwān (the Keeper of Paradise), shall also contribute, so these eight altogether shall be the bearers of the Throne or the Kingdom, or the Cosmos, in the Hereafter [Futūhāt I.148.11].

Ibn al-ʿArabī demonstrates this further by explaining that the Cosmos is confined to four domains: bodies, spirits, nourishment and states. In Chapter 13 of the Futūhāt, which he dedicates to ‘Knowing the bearers of the Throne’, he shows that these eight sustainers or Throne-bearers are assigned various duties, as follows: ‘Adam and Seraphiel for forms (or bodies), Gabriel and Muhammad for spirits, Michael and Abraham for subsistence, and Mālik (ʿAzrāʾīl) and Ridwān are for threat and promise [i.e., the states in Hell or Paradise]’ [Futūhāt I.148.3].

Ibn al-ʿArabī continues in this same chapter by explaining that each of these four domains is divided into two levels: material and abstract; thus there are material forms and abstract forms, spirits to manage the material forms and spirits to manage the abstract forms, nourishment for the material forms (like normal food) and nourishment for the abstract forms (like knowledge and science). Ultimately each of these forms will end up in its appropriate state, either in Hell or in Paradise, so altogether these add up to eight, all of which are necessary to sustain the kingdom over which the all-Merciful has established His authority.

Furthermore, Ibn al-ʿArabī explains that the Throne has four corners, and four faces representing the original supports which are sufficient to maintain it, but each one of these four faces has many additional supports. Allah made this Throne hollow so as to encompass all that it includes of the celestial spheres and heavens. When Allah created this Throne, He seated Himself thereon from the aspect of His name the all-Merciful, where His word of mercy is absolute and undivided; it is pure mercy that has no comparison, so that even when any anguish or heartbreak occurs in any part of the world due to any unkindness of nature or selfish purpose, then that is just like the bitter medicine with its unpleasant taste which is full of mercy for the one who has to take it.

In this connection, Ibn al-ʿArabī continues, when Allah created this Throne, He created the angels from its lights to traverse through the vastness of space and circumambulate it, just as Muslims circumambulate the Kaʿba. Allah then appointed four bearers from among these angels to hold up the Throne upon the four pillars on which it is supported, and each pillar is shared between two faces as far as the midway point of the face. He made these corners differ in rank and He, Ibn al-ʿArabī claims,

placed me as the best one amongst its bearers, because although Allah had created these angels to bear it, the Throne also has other human forms to support it, and I am one of them, and the supreme pillar is for us, and that is the pillar of Mercy, so He made me absolutely merciful despite my knowledge of hardship, because I know that there is ease in every hardship, mercy in every suffering, expansion in every contraction, and relief in every tension, so I knew the contraries. And the pillar that is on my right-hand is also a pillar of mercy but it does not include the knowledge of hardship, whereas the pillar that is on my left-hand is the pillar of hardship and subjection and its bearer knows nothing other than that. As for the fourth pillar that is opposite to me, the one that I am in has diffused mercy onto it so that it appeared in its form, and it includes both light and darkness and has both mercy and severity. Then in the middle of each of these four faces there is also a pillar other than those four pillars at each corner; but as yet nobody has been appointed to carry them in this world, but in the Hereafter Allah shall appoint them.


Absolute Mercy and Relative Mercy

Ibn al-ʿArabī then goes on to explain that when Allah created the Pedestal (or Footstool), His Word that was unique absolute mercy at the level of the Throne is now divided here at the Pedestal into ‘absolute mercy’ and ‘mercy mixed with wrath’, just as the seed splits to produce a tree, and this is for the purpose of what Allah wants to create in the world of composition of all the opposing things, because Allah, in addition to His being described as the Merciful, He is also described with many opposing names that must have their respective influence over the world.

Within the Pedestal Allah created the twelve ‘towers’ or ‘signs’ of the zodiac, so each of the four corners of the Throne is divided here into three further divisions due to the triadic relationship of this lower world, the hereafter, and the isthmus between them. For each one of these signs Allah appointed a ruler that governs the world beneath it for a certain period of time. Then, within the zodiacal sphere Allah created the twenty-eight lunar mansions and the seven heavens that encompass the earth that we inhabit, and in the rotation of all these influencing spheres the world goes through major and minor cosmic cycles of mercy and suffering. But ultimately everything is surrounded by the all-encompassing isotropic sphere that has only one cycle which is the Age, Time itself, that is all day, whereas all other cycles have a day and a night, or mercy and suffering.

For example, this lower world that is currently ruled by Cancer will become Hell in the Hereafter and then it will be ruled by Libra, until such times as the suffering of its inhabitants passes, when it will be governed by Gemini. However, in any one of these distinct periods other ruling signs also have lesser influence over the world, which is at any given time ruled by a particular one of them. The same principle also applies to Paradise, but here the twelve ruling signs have direct influence, whereas in this lower world their influence is by virtue of their agents in the twenty-eight lunar mansions and the seven heavens. So in fact, all actions in this lower world are governed by those agents who are responsible for constructing the universe and arranging it in its current configuration. It is they who maintain this universe, under the auspices of the twelve ruling signs of the zodiac who, in their turn, constructed everything in Paradise, with the exception of Eden which Allah Himself constructed with ‘His Own Hand’ and made it like the castle of the king. Ultimately everything is created and ruled over by Allah, the One, the Unique, and the Creator of the heavens and earth.

Figure 3: The Zodiac and its contents according to Ibn al-'Arabi
Figure 3: The Zodiac and its contents according to Ibn al-‘Arabi’s account in the Futūhāt III.423–4.

Ibn al-ʿArabī continues by explaining that Paradise has eight doors which relate to the number of the human organs: the eye, the ear, the tongue, the hand, the stomach, the genitals, the leg and the heart. Therefore, those who use their organs according to the law of God shall enter through the corresponding door of Paradise, and they may even enter through all eight doors simultaneously if they have used all eight of their organs accordingly.

On the other hand, Hell has only seven doors, which also relate to the human organs, excluding the heart, since Allah does not condemn anybody for what they have in their hearts in so far as they do not use it against the law. Allah says to His angels: ‘Whenever My servant intends to do an evil act, do not record it against him, unless he actually does it, then mark it down as one evil act. And when he intends to do good but does not manage to do so then record it as one act of goodness, but if he does succeed, then write it down as ten good actions.’[13]

In order to follow the law of God, however, one has to have faith in Him. Faith, according to one well-known hadith, is divided into seventy-nine levels, the least of which is the removal of malevolent actions out of the path of others, and the greatest of which is ‘there is no god but Allah’; and between these two points are all the good deeds and decent qualities and morals.

But here Ibn al-ʿArabī asserts that those people who do not believe in Allah but still possess some decent qualities shall nevertheless also benefit from this goodness even in the Fire, where they shall taste the meanings of these qualities just as the people in Paradise do, because although some people shall remain in Hell forever, their suffering there will eventually end and will even be replaced by a special kind of happiness, as we shall see in more detail below.


The Divisions of Mercy

In Chapter 343 of the Futūhāt Ibn al-ʿArabī elaborates on divisions of mercy by stating that Allah first created two kinds of mercy: a simple one and a composite one. He bestowed the simple mercy onto the simple things He created (such as monads and pure spirits), and He bestowed the second mercy onto the compound forms. Ibn al-ʿArabī adds that essentially the compound mercy is made up of three parts: two aspects and an isthmus or link between them. Thus Allah made this composite mercy out of three orders of mercy. So with the first mercy He brought together the different parts of the body until it took shape and its entity appeared; He then used the second mercy to combine the meanings and descriptions and morals and knowledge into the soul; and then He used the third mercy to integrate the soul with the body in order that it might preside over it.

The soul was created from the Breath of the Merciful when He breathed of His Spirit into the body [Q. 15: 29, 32: 9, 38: 72, etc.]. When the soul is integrated into the body in order to guide it, it becomes its responsibility to conduct the body only according to the law of God, which He made very clear to all people through His messengers and prophets. But what happens usually is that most people behave and manage their bodies according to their own fantasies, putting aside and forgetting the law of God. Thus, when the soul is separated from the body by death, and is brought into contact with other ethereal bodies, it will eventually stand before God on the day of judgement, and its original body will testify against it and will disclose all its actions throughout its lower life. Allah then passes judgement over the people and He consigns them either to Paradise or Hell.



Mercy in the Hereafter

In this same Chapter 343, Ibn al-ʿArabī goes on to explain that Allah divided this third division of mercy into many parts, and He gave six hundred parts to the angel Gabriel to bestow upon the people of Paradise, and He kept nineteen parts in hand for the people of Hell to be used against the nineteen angels of Hell.

As for the hundred parts of mercy that Allah created, from which He sent down one part to the earth, Ibn al-ʿArabī says that when this life is over Allah will add this one part to the other ninety-nine that He kept aside for us and He will use them all on the day of judgement. This will happen over a period of time in order to demonstrate the respective honour He bestows on His angels, prophets and pious people, as well as other intercessors who will be given the chance to mediate for their relatives or friends in order to bring them out of Hell into Paradise. Finally Allah will say: ‘The angels have mediated and so have the prophets and the believers, but there remains the most-Merciful of all the merciful.’ And so He will remove from the confines of Hell so many fortunate people who have never done anything worthwhile in their lives. However, Ibn al-ʿArabī shows that the intercessors do not mediate on behalf of the non-believers, but only for the believers who may nevertheless have committed so many sins in their lives that it was necessary for them to go through the Fire in order to be cleansed. And as for this latter group who never performed any good deeds in their lives and whom Allah releases from Hell, they may not be believers as such but they nevertheless know in their hearts that there is no god but Allah, therefore they are monotheists by way of knowledge but not by way of faith [Futūhāt III.171–5]. This is in conformity with the hadith attributed to the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, which says: ‘Whosoever dies in the know­ledge that there is no god but Allah, he shall enter Paradise.’[14]

When all this has been attended to, and some unlucky people are destined to remain in Hell forever, the nineteen parts of mercy kept aside to be used against the nineteen angels in charge of Hell will be used now so that they may ease their pain and suffering, until such times as the suffering will no longer exist as they become accustomed to the place and grow to appreciate it and they will even feel pleasure at the prospect of staying there, because their composition has changed to one of two states, since Hell includes both extreme heat and severe cold. For this reason, Ibn al-ʿArabī adds, these people do not associate with each other, unlike the people in Paradise who are monotheists, which is something that unites them all and gathers them together, whereas the people who are consigned to Hell are polytheists, and especially ditheists (who believe in the existence of two gods).

As for the people of the trinity, Ibn al-ʿArabī asserts, it is to be hoped that they will gain salvation because trinity is a kind of singularity, and this is a description of the One God. They are monotheists but with a compound monotheism, and it is the composite mercy which shall cover them. So they may arrive with the monotheists in the presence of singularity (fardāniyya) but not in the presence of unity (ahadiyya). Ibn al-ʿArabī says:

And this is how I saw them, in the abstract unveiling where I could not distinguish between the monotheists and the people of trinity except in the presence of singularity; I did not see their shadow in the unity but I saw their entities in the singularity, whereas I saw the entities of the monotheists both in the unity and in the singularity, thus I knew the difference between the two groups [Futūhāt III.171–5].

And it might be appropriate to add here that Ibn al-ʿArabī claims to have seen with his own eyes on two occasions all the believers who have ever been and who shall come to be up until the last day [Futūhāt III.208].


Mercy in Paradise

People will take their places in Paradise each according to the degree of their sincerity, their knowledge of God, and their good deeds in the lower world. There they will experience again all the pleasures they had before, including many things they could never have thought of; they will even have the ability to create whatever they want,[15] and will enjoy the six hundred parts of mercy created especially for them. But what is most precious of all for the people of Paradise is their meeting with Allah and seeing Him directly, just as we see the full moon on a clear summer night. In Chapter 65 of the Futūhāt dedicated to ‘knowing Paradise and its abodes and states’, Ibn al-ʿArabī explains this great event in detail but we can only summarise it here. He states that when Allah wants to manifest to His servants, the herald will call them to Eden where they will gather and have all kinds of food, drink, and garments they never had before, not even in their home in Paradise. And when the time comes they will move to take their respective places according to their particular knowledge of God, and not according to their deeds. Then they will see a great astounding light and they will fall down in prostration, and this light will spread throughout their sights and innermost thoughts and in all parts of their bodies and souls so that each one of them will turn all-eye and all-ear and they will see and hear by virtue of their essence in all directions, and this light will offer them the ability to see and witness their Lord. At that time, the herald will tell them: prepare yourselves now to see your Magnificent Lord; so that when they are ready the most Magnificent and Real will order the keepers of His portal to remove the veils, and the veils will be removed, except for one veil only, and then the Real will manifest to His servants with His name the Delicately Beautiful (al-jamīl al-latīf), and a burst of light will spread over their essences so that they will see with Him and they will wonder at His great divine Beauty that rises in their very essence.

Here it might be fitting to quote the poem from Chapter 63 of the Futūhāt:

When my Beloved manifests, through whose eye may I see Him?
With His Eye, not with mine, because – except Himself – none may ever see Him.

Then Allah speaks directly with His servants in Paradise as Ibn al-ʿArabī explains in further detail in Chapter 65.


Mercy in Hell

In addition to what we have said above concerning the nineteen parts of mercy reserved for the people in Hell, Ibn al-ʿArabī states that they will be able to sleep at certain times, and they will also see their Lord as well – something on which not many Muslim scholars would be in agreement with Ibn al-ʿArabī.

And now I want to finish this article by quoting one of Ibn al-ʿArabī’s poems:

His self-generosity is that which rules,
And nothing may ever rule over Him.
Everything is covered by His Mercy,
Bestowed upon them, allowing no choice;
Even the devil aspires to His Mercy,
So should be the servant who commits sins.[16]


Reproduced from the Journal of the Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi Society, Volume 48, 2010.[1]


[1] This paper was first presented at the MIAS Symposium, New York, 6–7 November 2009.

[2] Al-Muttaqī al-Hindī, Kanz al-ʿUmmāl (‘The Treasure of the Workers’) (Beirut: Muʾassasat al-Risāla, 1989), no. 10386.

[3] Kanz al-ʿUmmāl, no. 10401.

[4] Translation of Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 8, Book 73, no. 29; see also Translation of Sahih Muslim, Book 037, nos. 6630, 6632 and 6634.

[5] This cosmological conception, taken out of context, could easily give rise to obvious religious and ethical objections. For more details about this subject, see Eric Ormsby, Theodicy in Islamic Thought: The Dispute over al‑Ghazālī’s ‘Best of All Possible Worlds’ (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984).

[6] Kanz al-ʿUmmāl, no. 1156.

[7] This famous hādith qudsī: I was a hidden Treasure, so I loved to be known; so I created the creatures/creation so that I might be known’ is not found in standard hadith collections, but is widely quoted by Sufis and especially Ibn al-ʿArabī [see for example: Futūhāt II.112.20; II.232.11; II,310.20; II.322.29; II.330.21; II.339.30; III.267.10; IV.428.7].

[8] Ibn ʿArabī: Time and Cosmology, Mohamed Haj Yousef (Routledge, London, New York, 2009), pp. 6–15.

[9] See Yousef, Ibn ʿArabī: Time and Cosmology, Chapter 1.

[10] This diagram is translated from Ibn al-ʿArabī’s own drawing in Chapter 371 [III.422].

[11] See also ʿUqlat al-Mustawfiz, in ʿUqlat al-Mustawfiz, including Kitāb Inshāʾ al-Dawāʾir and Kitāb al-Tadbīrāt al-Ilāhiyya fi Islāh al-Mamlaka al-Insāniyya in Kleinere Schriften des Ibn al-ʿArabī, ed. H.S. Nyberg (Leiden: Brill, 1919), pp. 43–4.

[12] Inshāʾ al-Dawāʾir, in Nyberg, p. 27.

[13] Translation of Sahih Muslim, The Book of Faith (Kitab Al-Iman), Book 001, Number 0233.

[14] Kanz al-ʿUmmāl, no. 123.

[15] See Al-Masāʾil li-Īdāh al-Masāʾil (Amman: Azmina, 1999), ed. Qāsim M. Abbās, p. 126; and also Futūhāt I.84.21, II.157.26, II.440.35, II.441.26, III.295.17; Ibn al-ʿArabī affirms that this is also attainable (by some people) in this world [al-Masāʾil: 126, Futūhāt III.295.14]. This is also called al-fi’l bil-himma (doing by intention or determination) [Futūhāt I.259.33]. For more details see Yousef, p. 191.

[16] Futūhāt IV.56.30.