The Writings of Ibn Arabi

Cordoba, Andalusia, Spani

Title pages of al-Dawr al-a‘la or the Hizb al-wiqaya. MS Landberg 737 (Berlin)

Ibn Arabi is one of the most inventive and prolific writers of the Islamic tradition, with a very large number of books and treatise attributed to him. He wrote a number of works whilst still living in Andalusia, but the majority of his writings date from the second part of his life when he was living in Mecca, Anatolia and Damascus.

Of the heritage which has come down to us, there is a core of about 85 works which we can be certain are genuine works by him. These include the encyclopaedic “Meccan Revelations” (al-Futuhat al-Makkiyya), which numbers more than 2,000 pages in the printed edition, and around 15 substantial long works, including a Diwan (collected poetry) of about 800 poems and his master work “The Ringstones of Wisdom” (Fusus al-hikam). The remainder are short treatises, some just a few pages long written in response to a student’s need or request.

 

The MIAS Archive Project

We do not know exactly how many works Ibn Arabi originally wrote. There are two lists that he wrote out himself that would indicate a number of around 300, but the situation is complicated by the fact that many shorter works were eventually absorbed into the Futuhat and therefore ceased to exist as separate works. Also, in the eight centuries since his death, many works have been wrongly attributed to him.

In order to achieve a clearer picture, the MIAS Archiving Project has been conducting research into the written heritage and to date has examined more than 3,000 manuscripts in libraries throughout the world. “Establishing Ibn Arabi’s Heritage: First Findings from the MIAS Archiving Project” (PDF, 2012) by Jane Clark and Stephen Hirtenstein is probably the best overview of Ibn Arabi’s writings currently available.

See also the summary of the findings presented in a Catalogue of Ibn Arabi’s Works (PDF). Here you will find an alphabetical list of the more than 300 works which have been investigated.

Title pages of al-Dawr al-a‘la or the Hizb al-wiqaya. MS Landberg 737 (Berlin)

His Best Known Works

Fusus al-hikam (“Ringstones of Wisdom”)

Considered to be the quintessence of Ibn Arabi’s spiritual teaching, it comprises twenty-seven chapters, each dedicated to the spiritual meaning and wisdom of a particular prophet. Over the centuries Ibn Arabi’s students held this book in the highest esteem and wrote over one hundred commentaries on it.

 

Al-Futuhat al-Makkiyya (“The Meccan Openings”)

“This is a vast compendium of metaphysics, cosmology, spiritual anthropology, psychology, and jurisprudence. Topics include the inner meanings of the Islamic rituals, the stations of travellers on the journey to God and in God, the nature of cosmic hierarchy, the spiritual and ontological meaning of the letters of the Arabic alphabet, the sciences embraced by each of the ninety-nine names of God, and the significance of the differing messages of various prophets.” This work was written over a twenty-year period as Ibn Arabi travelled in the Near East, and revised in a second recension during the time he lived in Damascus.

 

Tarjuman al-ashwaq (“Interpreter of Yearnings”)

This short collection of love poetry was inspired by his meeting during his first pilgrimage to Mecca with Nizam, the beautiful and gifted daughter of a great scholar from Isfahan. He later wrote a long commentary on the poems to prove to one of his critics that they deal with spiritual truths and not profane love. It was the first of Ibn Arabi’s works to be translated into English.

Translations of and Articles on His Writings

Selected major works of Ibn Arabi | Stephen Hirtenstein
Ibn Arabi’s output was prodigious, ranging from the enormous Futuhat al-Makkiyya, which fills thousands of pages of Arabic, to treatises no more than a few pages long. The selection provides a brief overview of the best-known titles. This article is reproduced from The Unlimited Mercifier – The spiritual life and thought of Ibn Arabi by Stephen Hirtenstein. – This artices is also available in Portuguese: Seleção das maiores obras de Ibn Arabi.

Establishing Ibn Arabi’s Heritage: First Findings from the MIAS Archiving Project (PDF, 2012) | Jane Clark and Stephen Hirtenstein
This paper represents the results of a decade of studying manuscripts of works by Ibn Arabi, primarily in Turkish collections, and part of the Ibn Arabi Society’s digital archive. The definitive bibliography of Ibn Arabi’s works, Histoire et Classification de l’Oeuvre d’Ibn Arabi, was published by Osman Yahia in 1964. Although the Histoire was invaluable in measuring out the ground for a catalogue of the manuscript base and what can be deduced from that, it included errors of detail, and scholars have made revisions to a number of entries. Stephen Hirtenstein and Jane Clark are among the very few people to have undertaken a systematic examination of a large part of the manuscript base since Osman Yahia.

 

Fusus al-hikam

Ibn Arabi’s Own Summary of the Fusus (PDF) | William Chittick
The importance of Ibn Arabi’s Fusus al-hikam as the quintessence of his writings and thought and a major source of his influence is well-known, and is attested to by the more than one hundred commentaries written upon it. Ibn Arabi also wrote a work called Naqsh al-fusus (the “Imprint” or “Pattern of the Fusus”), in which he summarized briefly the main discussions of the Fusus itself. Abd al-Rahman Jami’s work Naqd al-nusus fi sharh naqsh al-fusus, written in the year 863/1459, incorporated the text of Ibn Arabi’s summary and had his own commentary in a mix of Arabic and Persian. William Chittick’s translation of about one-sixth of Jami’s work was first published in Sophia Perennis (1975), then in the Journal of the Ibn Arabi Society (1982).

The Chapter Headings of the Fusus (PDF) | William Chittick
This is a study of the significance of the chapter headings of the Fusus as understood by four major commentators on the work. The first was Sadr al-Din al-Qunawi (d. 673/1274), Ibn al-Arabi’s son-in-law, chief disciple, foremost interpreter and the author of al-Fukuk, a commentary on the central themes of each chapter of the Fusus. At his behest his disciple Mu’ayyid al-Din al-Jandi composed one of the earliest and most extensive commentaries on the Fusus itself. Two other commentaries were written by ‘Abd al-Razzaq al-Kashani (d. 730/1329 or 736/1335–6), who studied the Fusus with al-Jandi, and Dawud al-Qaysari (d. 751/1350), who studied it with al-Kashani. From the Journal of the Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi Society (Vol. II, 1984).

Extract from the Fusus al-hikam | translated by Bulent Rauf
“The Calling by Revelation of the Brides of Absoluteness in the Places of Absoluteness of the Wisdoms of the Bezels” and “Of the Divine Wisdom (al-hikmat al-ilahiyyah) in the Word of Adam”. Extract from the Fusus al-hikam, Volume 1, translation from the Arabic into Ottoman Turkish with commentary, rendered into English by Bulent Rauf with the help of Rosemary Brass and Hugh Tollemache. Published by the Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi Society.

 

Futuhat al-Makkiyya

Introduction to The Meccan Revelations | James Morris
This is the Introduction to The Meccan Revelations, translations of chapters from the Futuhat al-Makkiyya by Michel Chodkiewicz, William Chittick and James Morris (Pir Publications Inc, 2002). This volume consists of the English portions of what was originally a bi-lingual book, published in Paris 1988. It gives a valuable overview of the Futuhat al-Makkiyya and to publications about it in French and English.

Understanding, and Translating, the Futuhat al-Makkiyya | Eric Winkel
Eric Winkel is engaged in translating the Futuhat al-Makkiyya in its entirity into English. Although he does not go into existing translations of the Futuhat in English, these do not cover more than one sixth of the text. “The level of expertise required even to understand this huge, complicated work has certainly been an obstacle to translation. The Futuhat is not a conceptually organized text, and key themes and terms are not explained when they first appear. Instead, Ibn al-Arabi seems to be speaking extemporaneously. Thus, in order to understand what Ibn al-Arabi is saying in any particular instance, the translator must know (and reference for the reader) the full context, drawn from the entire text. In a sense the Futuhat is an oral work, and explanations are needed to fill in the contextual gaps which a contemporary listener, in tune with Ibn al-Arabi and his subject matter, would not have needed.” Some introductory notes are followed by a translation of the first chapter of the Futuhat.

How to Study the Futuhat: Ibn Arabi’s Own Advice | James Morris
This includes a translation of key sections of the complex Introduction (muqaddima) to the Futuhat al-Makkiya. – This article is also available in Swedish: Hur Man Studerar Futuhat: Ibn Arabis Egna Råd.

The Paradox of the Ka‘ba | Michel Chodkiewicz
This is a wide-ranging essay which begins with a survey of traditional understanding of the Ka‘ba and arrives at a summary of what Ibn Arabi presents in the first chapter of the Futuhat al-Makkiyya, beginning with the question – why are the Futuhat called  “Makkiyya”?

Two Chapters from the Futuhat (PDF) | William Chittick
This is the full text of Chapter 317 (“Concerning The True Knowledge of the Waystation of Trial and its Blessings”) and Chapter 339 (“Concerning the True Knowledge of a Waystation in which the Shari‘a Kneels before the Reality, Seeking Replenishment”). The chapters deal with several themes. Among these, two of the central ideas of Ibn al-Arabi’s spiritual universe stand out: the “Oneness of Being” (wahdat al-wujud) and the “Perfect Man” (al-insan al-kamil). These translations first appeared in Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi – A Commemorative Volume, ed. S. Hirtenstein and M. Tiernan, Shaftesbury: Element Books, 1993.

On the Inner Knowledge of Spirits Made of an Igneous Mixture: Chapter 9 of the Futuhat al-Makkiyya | Gracia López Anguita
It is perhaps stating the obvious to say that, from an Akbarian perspective, all the elements of creation constitute a theophany. However, it is worth recalling in the case of the genies, given the misgivings which this element of Islamic cosmology can give rise to and the negative connotations which accompany it. The study of the figure of the genie or jinn in Ibn Arabi’s Futuhat reveals both the network of connections between the genie and other elements of his cosmological system and the different levels of interpretation of this concept.

Ibn Arabi on the Barzakh – Chapter 63 of the Futuhat (PDF) | James Morris
One of Ibn Arabi’s most extensive and widely influential discussions of the imagination (barzakh), in all its humanly relevant dimensions, was in the set of five eschatological chapters (61–65) within the long opening section of the Futuhat. Those chapters, whose arrangement follows the traditional ordering of the symbolic “events” and “places” of the Resurrection mentioned in Islamic scriptures, begin with descriptions of Gehenna and the “Fires” and other torments of its residents (chapters 61–62) and conclude with the stages of redemption and eventual bliss of souls who have reached the Gardens of paradise (chapters 64–65).

The Mahdi and His Helpers – Chapter 366 of the Futuhat (PDF) |  James Morris
The primary focus of Chapter 366 of the Futuhat is the distinctive set of spiritual qualities and capacities marking this particular spiritual stage (manzil) – characteristics which Ibn Arabi finds symbolized in the various hadith concerning the eschatological role of the Mahdi and his “Helpers” or “Ministers”, but which he insists are already realized by those saints (awliya’) who have attained this degree of spiritual realization, who have already reached the “end of time”.

The Spiritual Ascension: Ibn Arabi and the Mi‘raj – Chapter 367 of the Futuhat (PDF) | James Morris
The initial indications in the Koran and hadith concerning the Prophet’s Ascension (mi’raj) or nocturnal voyage (isra’, at Kor. 17:1) and the revelatory vision in which it culminated (Kor. 53:1-18) subsequently gave rise to a vast body of interpretations among the many later traditions of Islamic thought and spirituality. Ibn ‘Arabi’s personal adaptation of that material, in at least four separate longer narratives, reflects both the typical features of his distinctive approach to the Koran and hadith and the full range of his metaphysical-theological teachings and practical spiritual concerns.

The Futuhat al-Makkiyya: Some Unresolved Enigmas | Michel Chodkiewicz
This seminal paper demonstrated in a new way the intimate connection between the Qur’an and the writings of Ibn Arabi, by showing how the 114 chapters of the section of the Futuhat (called the fasl al-manazil) correspond to surahs of the Qur’an in sequence on a one-to-one basis. It exposes an underlying structure to the Futuhat never previously described in public commentaries, which makes untennable common scholarly characterisations of it as a disorderly encyclopedia of bookish knowledge or a heterogeneous collection of passages juxtaposed simply as a result of the caprices of inspiration. Themes in this paper were later developed by Michel Chodkiewicz in An Ocean Without Shore – Ibn Arabi, The Book, and the Law, New York 1993.

On Knowing the Station of Love: Poems from the 78th Chapter of the Futuhat al-Makkiyya | Ralph Austin
Translations of five poems.

 

Diwan and Tarjuman al-ashwaq

The Diwan of Ibn Arabi | Roger Deladrière
The 475 large format pages of the Boulaq edition correspond to a selection of more than 800 pieces of verse. A diwan being by definition a collection of poems which have been sanctioned by the writer, one would expect to find in the Shaykh al-Akbar’s the pieces of verse that can be read in his major works, such as the Futuhat. Yet when a detailed inventory is made, it turns out that less than a tenth of his known output is to be found in the Diwan. This is an important survey of this very important book.

Selections from Ibn Arabi’s Tarjuman al-ashwaq (Translation of Desires) | Michael Sells
Translation of four poems.

Ibn Arabi’s “Gentle Now, Doves of the Thornberry and Moringa Thicket” | Michaels Sells
An introduction to and translation of Poem 11 from the Translation of Desires, which contains what is surely the most-quoted passage in Ibn Arabi’s works, “O marvel! A garden amidst fires! My heart has become capable of every form…”

Ibn Arabi’s Poem 18 (Qif bi l-Manazil) from the Translation of Desires | Michael Sells
“The journey is the constant movement and transformation (taqallub) of the heart, which in each moment must give up a manifestation of ultimate reality (a manifestation symbolized by the beloved) in order to receive a new manifestation.”

Notes on the Manuscripts of Ibn Arabi’s Diwan | Stephen Hirtenstein
Recent research has shown that the substantial collection of poems printed in Bulaq in 1855 under the title of Diwan Ibn Arabi is merely a part of the overall corpus. The full extent of Ibn Arabi’s poetic output remains quite a mystery. This article reviews four manuscripts of the Diwan.

“See Him in a Tree, and see Him in a Stone” | Denis McAuley
This article looks in detail at how one of Ibn Arabi’s poems works, a poem written in a very unusal form. In it Ibn Arabi explores the relation between God and His creation. Each verse returns unfailingly to God.

The Preface to the Tarjuman al-ashwaq | Jane Clark
A provisional translation by Jane Clark, based upon the text by R. A. Nicholson in The Tarjuman al-ashwaq (London: Theosophical Publishing House, 1911). This translation correlates with the article by Jane Clark in Vol. 55 of the Journal of the Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi Society.

 

 

Other Poetry

The Ship of Stone | Claude Addas
A seminal essay on the place of poetry in the work of Ibn Arabi. – The same paper is available in French, Le Vaisseau de pierre.

Poems by Ibn Arabi in Translation
A selection.

The Quranic Inspiration of Ibn Arabi’s Vocabulary of Love – Etymological Links and Doctrinal Development | Maurice Gloton
In the commentaries on the Tarjuman al-ashwaq, which all deal with the Love for the Beloved and where Nizam symbolizes as much the Divine Essence as Its incessant and always new theophanies, the Master constantly has recourse to the polysemy of the Arabic roots he uses.

The Ransom and the Ruin | Aaron Cass
For Ibn Arabi poetry is the expression of an intensive and prolonged contemplation of God and nothing else. Ibn Arabi is describing in the Tarjuman al-ashwaq the manner proper to contemplation of Reality.

The Lady Nizam – an Image of Love and Knowledge | Ralph Austin
Ibn Arabi met in Mecca the young daughter of Abu Shaja’ Zahir. He says in the introduction to the Tarjuman al-ashwaq, “I took her as a model for the inspiration of the poems.”

 

Other Books

A Letter to Imam al-Razi | translated by Mohammed Rustom
Ibn Arabi’s Letter to Fakhr al-Din al-Razi is a letter addressed to one of the great scholars of his age, among other things the author of an eight-volume Tafsir on the Qur’an. Al-Razi was famous for his belief in rationalism. Ibn Arabi mentions in this letter that he had heard from one of al-Razi’s companions that he had seen him weeping one day, and when ask why, replied, “A position to which I have adhered for the past thirty years has become clear to me thanks to a proof which has just dawned upon me. [It turns out that] the [truth of the] matter is contrary to my previous position. So I cried and said to myself, ‘perhaps that which has occurred to me is also like the first position!’.” In other words, he was baffled by his inability to find certain knowledge by this means. It is a wonderfully wise and generous letter.

The Journey Through the Circles of Inner Being According to Ibn Arabi’s Mawaqi’ al-nujum | Denis Gril
Every spiritual path, starting from the corporeal and ordinary being and extending to the spiritual and sanctified being is, in fact, a whole life’s journey. In Mawaqi’ al-nujum, the “Twilight of the stars”, Ibn Arabi tells us about this progressive journey, through lights and shadows, happiness and sadness, success and danger.

Ibn al-Arabi’s Book of the Fabulous Gryphon (‘Anqa’ Mughrib) | Gerald Elmore
Of the principal extant works of Ibn al-Arabi, the ‘Anqa’ Mughrib is one of the half-dozen or so earliest, and its manuscript appears to be the oldest surviving text of any book by the Shaykh. Apart from the the Fusus al-hikam and al-Futuhat al-Makkiyya, the ‘Anqa’ seems to have been commented upon by Arab writers more times than almost any of Ibn al-Arabi’s other books, perhaps because of its subject matter, the meaning of the Seal of the Saints, and because of the complexity of its language.

On Majesty and Beauty – The Kitab al-Jalal wa-l Jamal of Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi (PDF) | translated by Rabia Terri Harris
Written in the space of one day in April/May 1205 (601) in Mosul, it discusses various Quranic verses in terms of two apparently opposing aspects, Majesty and Beauty, alluding to the third aspect which integrates them, the balance of Perfection. This translation first appeared in Volume VIII of the Journal of the Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi Society.

Ibn al-Arabi’s Testament on the Mantle of Initiation (al-Khirqah) (PDF) | translated by Gerald Elmore
Written towards the end of Ibn Arabi’s life, this short work expands from the Quranic verse: “O Children of Adam, We have sent down upon you a Vestment (libas) to cover your shameful parts, and beautiful Raiment (rish); and the Robe of God-fearing (libas al-taqwa) – that is best.”

Introducing Ibn Arabi’s “Book of Spiritual Advice” (PDF) | James Morris
Among the shorter treasures his more famous works have sometimes overshadowed is Ibn Arabi’s remarkable book of spiritual aphorisms, the “Book of Spiritual Advice” (Kitab al-nasa’ih). These short sayings are meant to function as a probing mirror of one’s spiritual conscience, examining the authenticity and proper integration of each reader’s states and stations.

Book of the Quintessence of What is Indispensable for the Spiritual Seeker (PDF) | James Morris
A partial translation of Adab al-murid.

Kitab al-fana’ fi-l mushahadah | translated by Stephen Hirtenstein and Layla Shamash
Its central topic is the path of mystical unveiling which leads to the contemplation of God. Although at first sight it may seem like a defense of the spiritual way against the attacks of rationalists and dogmatic theologians, it turns out to be a set of indications and exhortations for those on the path to undergo the spiritual death (fana’) and be realised in contemplation.

The Kitab al-inbah of ‘Abdallah Badr al-Habashi | translated by Denis Gril
In one sense the Kitab al-inbah is not by Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi, for it was written by his companion of twenty-three years, beloved friend and student, ‘Abdallah Badr al-Habashi. However it records what al-Habashi says he heard Ibn Arabi say, and may be trusted as a faithful account.

“I Entrust to You a Bequest” | translated by Stephen Hirtenstein
Three passages from the Kitab al-was’il by Isma’il Ibn Sawdakin, in which he recorded things he asked Ibn Arabi about, and answers he received. These concern servanthood, retreat and what was said to Bayazid al-Bastami – “Leave yourself and come!”

Some Dreams of Ibn Arabi (PDF) | translated by James Morris
These are four of the eighteen dreams recorded in the Shaykh’s short “Epistle of Good Tidings” (Risalat al-mubashshirat), whose title alludes to a famous hadith where the Prophet explains that these “‘good tidings […] are the dream of the muslim, either what that person sees or what is shown to them, which is one of the parts of prophecy.’ […] So I decided to mention in this section some of what I have seen in dreams that involves a benefit for others and points out for them the means for reaching the Good, since there is no need to mention what only concerns myself.”

Love Letters to the Ka’ba – A Presentation of Ibn Arabi’s Taj al-rasa’il | Denis Gril
In this book, “The Crown of Epistles and the Path to Intercessions”, Ibn Arabi addresses eight love letters to the Ka’ba. This contains all the variations that Arabic literature has to offer on the theme of love. This is an unusual love, for a being made of stone, though oh so sacred, situated in an intermediate world between the human and the divine. Denis Gril introduces a treatise, as rich as it is difficult, which must take its place beside the Tarjuman al-ashwaq and the chapter on Love in the Futuhat.

Three Dimensions of the Ruh | Huzayfa Mangera
Ibn Arabi’s Ruh al-quds is well-known through the Sufis of Andalusia, which includes the extraordinary pen-pictures which make up the middle part of the book, combined with similar descriptions from another work. This article is the first study of the Ruh al-quds as a whole, and brings out the context in which those memorable biographies were set. It is an excellent introduction to the book.

“Unveiling from the Effects of the Voyages” | Angela Jaffray
An Introduction to the Kitab al-isfar ‘an nata’ij al-asfar. The theme of movement and transformation runs through all of Ibn Arabi’s works. Part cosmology, part Qur’anic exegesis (tafsir) and stories of the prophets (qisas al-anbiya’), part spiritual vademecum, its seventeen chapters deny categorization. After an initial chapter discussing “the three voyages” – to God, from God and with God – subsequent chapters are given titles characterizing the specific voyage dealt with, such as “The lordly voyage of the All-Merciful from the Cloud to the Throne”, “The voyage of creation and command, or the voyage of origination”, “The voyage of the Qur’an” and “The voyage of the vision in the signs and the esoteric significations” (Muhammad’s mir’aj).

An Introduction to Ibn Arabi’s Mishkat al-anwar | Martin Notcutt
The Mishkat al-anwar consists of 101 hadith qudsi collected by Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi. It has few of Ibn Arabi’s own words in it. This collection is a selection and an arrangement. In some cases only part of a long hadîth is given, and a long hadîth may be broken up into short sections. There is a broad progression from the first hadith, which expresses God’s complete independence of us and our complete dependence on Him, to the last hadith, which reports His welcome to the people of Paradise. These sayings are full of mercy and generosity.

Created for Compassion : Ibn Arabi’s work on Dhu-l-Nun the Egyptian | Cecilia Twinch
Ibn Arabi’s book about Dhu-l-Nun’s life and teachings, al-Kawkab al-durri: fi manaqib Dhi-l Nun al-Misri (The Brilliant Star: On the Spiritual Virtues of Dhu-l-Nūn the Egyptian), not only collects together stories and sayings connected with this great Egyptian master but provides some insightful, if brief, commentary by Ibn Arabi himself. Dhu-l-Nun’s coming to the spiritual path, his quest for beneficial knowledge in his constant wanderings, the miraculous events he encounters, the rigorous life of the ascetic and the longing of the lover, provide the rich backdrop woven by the mysticism of the time.