Muhammad ibn ‘Ali ibn Muhammad ibn al-‘Arabi, Abu Bakr Muhyi al-Din al-Hatimi al-Ta’i al-Andalusi al-Mursi al-Dimashqi, known as Ibn ‘Arabi to differentiate him from Abu Bakr Ibn al-‘Arabi the Maliki jurist. A scholar of Arabic letters at first, then tafsîr and tasawwuf, nicknamed al-Qushayri and Sultan al-‘Arifin in his time for his pre-eminence in tasawwuf, known in his lifetime for his devoutness to worship, asceticism, and generosity, Ibn ‘Arabi was praised by al-Munawi as “a righteous friend of Allah and a faithful scholar of knowledge” (waliyyun sâlihun wa ‘âlimun nâsih), by Ibn ‘Imad al-Hanbali as “the absolute mujtahid without doubt,” and by al-Fayruzabadi as “the Imam of the People of Shari‘a both in knowledge and in legacy, the educator of the People of the Way in practice and in knowledge, and the shaykh of the shaykhs of the People of Truth through spiritual experience (dhawq) and understanding.”
He travelled East and West in the study of hadith, taking knowledge from over a thousand shaykhs, among them Abu al-Hasan ibn Hudhayl, Muhammad ibn Khalaf al-Lakhmi, Ibn Zarqun, Abu al-Walid al-Hadrami, al-Silafi, ‘Abd al-Haqq al-Ishbili, Ibn ‘Asakir, Ibn al-Jawzi, and Ibn Bushkuwal. His principal shaykhs in tasawwuf were Abu Madyan al-Maghribi, Jamal al-Din Yunus ibn Yahya al-Qassar, Abu ‘Abd Allah al-Tamimi al-Fasi, Abu al-Hasan ibn Jami‘, and al-Khidr u. He became known first as al-Shaykh al-Kabir (“The Great Shaykh”) then al-Shaykh al-Akbar (“The Greatest Shaykh”) with specific reference to the sciences of tasawwuf in which he authored hundreds of books.
His greatest and best-known work is his last, al-Futuhat al-Makkiyya (“The Meccan Conquests”) which begins with a statement of doctrine – translated in the present volume – about which al-Safadi said: “I saw that from beginning to end it consists in the doctrine of Abu al-Hasan al-Ash‘ari without any difference whatsoever.”
In jurisprudence Ibn ‘Arabi is often said to follow the Zahiri school, but this is incorrect since he himself denies it, as quoted by Ibn ‘Imad from Ibn ‘Arabi’s two poems al-Ra’iyya and al-Nuniyya, which state respectively:
Laqad harrama al-Rahmânu taqlîda Mâlikin
wa Ahmada wa al-Nu‘mani wa al-kulli fa‘dhurû
The Merciful forbade me to imitate Malik, Ahmad,
Al-Nu‘man [Abu Hanifa] and others, therefore pardon me.
Lastu mimman yaqûlu qâla Ibnu Hazmin
lâ wa lâ Ahmadu wa la al-Nu‘mânu
I am not of those who say: “Ibn Hazm said”—
Certainly not! Nor “Ahmad said” nor “al-Nu‘man said.”
The name of Ibn ‘Arabi remains associated with controversy because of those who criticized him severely for the work attributed to him under the title Fusûs al-Hikam (“The Precious Stones of the Wisdoms”). The attribution of this work in its present form to Ibn ‘Arabi is undoubtedly incorrect as the Fusûs contradicts some of the most basic tenets of Islam expounded by Ibn ‘Arabi himself in his authentic works, such as the finality of Prophethood, the primacy of Prophets over non-Prophets, the abrogation of all religious creeds other than Islam, the everlastingness of the punishment of Hellfire and its dwellers, the abiding therein of anyone that does not accept the Prophet r after his coming, Pharaoh’s damnation, etc. Nevertheless the Fusûs have received commentaries by the following scholars among others: Sadr al-Din al-Qunawi (d. 671), ‘Afif al-Din al-Tilimsani (d. 690), Mu’ayyid al-Din al-Jundi (d. 700), Sa‘d al-Din al-Farghani (d. 700), Kamal al-Din al-Zamalkani (d. 727), Dawud al-Qaysari (d. 751), Kamal al-Din al-Qashani (d. 751), Sayyid ‘Ali al-Hamadani (d. 766), Khwaja Muhammad Parsa (d. 822) the intimate friend of Shah Naqshband t, Mawlana Jami (d. 898), Isma‘il al-Anqarawi (d. 1042), ‘Abd al-Ghani al-Nabulusi (d. 1144), and others.
In response to an attack by Burhan al-Din al-Biqa‘i (d. 885) entitled Tanbih al-Ghabi ila Takfir Ibn ‘Arabi wa Tahdhir al-‘Ibad min Ahl al-‘Inad (“Warning to the Ignoramus Concerning the Declaration of Ibn ‘Arabi’s Disbelief, and Cautioning the Servants of Allah Against Stubborn People”) Sayyid ‘Ali ibn Maymun al-Maghribi (d. 917) wrote a fatwa entitled Tanbih al-Ghabi fi Tanzih Ibn ‘Arabi (“Warning to the Ignoramus Concerning Ibn ‘Arabi’s Vindication”). Al-Suyuti wrote a fatwa with the same title, in which he stated:
The scholars past and present have differed concerning Ibn ‘Arabi, one group considering him a friend of Allah (walî) – and they are correct – such as Ibn ‘Ata’ Allah al-Sakandari and ‘Afif al-Din al-Yafi‘i, another considering him a heretic – such as a large number of the jurists – while others expressed doubts concerning him, among them al-Dhahabi in al-Mizan. Two opposed verdicts are reported from Shaykh ‘Izz al-Din ibn ‘Abd al-Salam, one attacking him, and one describing him as the Spiritual Pole (al-qutb). What reconciles them is indicated by Shaykh Taj al-Din ibn ‘Ata’ Allah in Lata’if al-Minan [fi Manaqib Abi al-‘Abbas al-Mursi wa Shaykhihi Abi al-Hasan al-Shadhili], namely, that Shaykh ‘Izz al-Din at the beginning acted in the fashion of jurists in passing quick judgment on the Sufis. When Shaykh Abu al-Hasan al-Shadhili went to pilgrimage and returned, he came to Shaykh ‘Izz al-Din before entering his own house and conveyed to him the Prophet’s r greeting. After that, Shaykh ‘Izz al-Din humbled himself and began to sit in al-Shadhili’s gatherings…. Our shaykh, Shaykh al-Islam, the last remnant of the mujtahids, Sharaf al-Din al-Munawi replied, concerning Ibn ‘Arabi, that silence was safest. And this is the stance that befits every truly Godwary person who fears for himself. For me, the last word concerning Ibn ‘Arabi – and this is accepted neither by his contemporary admirers nor by his detractors – is that he be considered a walî, but reading his books is forbidden.
Whatever is transmitted and attributed to the [Sufi] Shaykhs – may Allah be well pleased with them – if it contradicts external knowledge, bears various possibilities:
First, we do not concede its attribution to them until it is established as authentic.
Second, after authenticity is established, it may have a figurative meaning; if not, then one should say: “Perhaps it has a figurative meaning for the people of internal knowledge and the knowers of Allah Almighty.”
Third, this may have come from them in a state of intoxication and distraction, and the lawfully intoxicated person is not taken to task as he is not held responsible in such a state.
Holding a bad opinion about them after all these resolutions is a sign of deprivement of success. We seek refuge in Allah from failure and a terrible verdict, and from all evils!
Al-Suyuti’s attitude and what he reports from al-Munawi is echoed by Imam al-Safadi who said of Ibn ‘Arabi: “He was a very great man, and whatever can be understood from his words is excellent and upright; as for what we find difficult, we leave its matter to Allah, for we were not tasked with following him nor with doing all that he said.” Similarly al-Qari admitted in one of his fatwas against Ibn ‘Arabi and his works: “The safest course in Religion concerning the person of Ibn ‘Arabi is silence, as the scholars differed about him.”
The hadith master Ibn al-Najjar (d. 643) wrote a long notice on him in his biographical history in which he said: “I met him in Damascus and copied some of his poetry. What a wonderful shaykh he was!” Among the famous authorities who held a good opinion of Ibn ‘Arabi are the following:
· The Qur’anic commentator and jurist Imam al-Baydawi who called him “the Imam of Verification in reality and outwardly”;
· The Qur’anic commentator Abu al-Su‘ud;
· Imam al-Safadi, the author of al-Wafi bi al-Wafayat;
· Zayn al-Din al-Khafi al-Akbar Abadi;
· The hadith master al-Sakhawi who chronicled al-Biqa‘i’s fitna in his Ahsan al-Masa‘i fi Idah Hawadith al-Biqa‘i and went on to write al-Qawl al-Munabbi ‘an Tarjima Ibn ‘Arabi which he summarized in al-Kifaya fi Tariq al-Hidaya. He also authored another book titled Tajrid Asma’ al-Akhidhin ‘an Ibn ‘Arabi in which he listed all the scholars who borrowed material from the Shaykh.
· Al-Adnahwi (11th c.) who called him in his Tabaqat al-Mufassirin “the Peerless Shaykh in his Time.”a
· Ibn ‘Imad al-Hanbali who called him “the Great Knower of Allah” (al-‘ârif al-kabîr);
· Kamal al-Din ‘Abd al-Wahid ibn ‘Abd al-Karim Ibn al-Zamalkani al-Dimashqi (d. 651) who called him “the Ocean replete with all kinds of divine knowledges”;
· Safi al-Din al-Azdi al-Ansari in his epistle on the scholars of his time;
· Shaykh Jalal al-Din al-Dawani (d. 907);
· Majd al-Din al-Shirazi al-Siddiqi in his fatwa entitled al-Ightibat bi Mu‘alaja Ibn al-Khayyat;
· Al-Sayyid al-Jurjani whose Ta‘rifat includes Ibn ‘Arabi’s terminologies;
· The renowned lexicographer, hadith scholar and jurist al-Fayruzabadi who in his commentary on al-Bukhari’s Sahih often quotes Ibn ‘Arabi’s explanations;
· Imam al-Yafi‘i who called him in his Tarikh “the Paragon of the Friends of Allah in knowledge and fiqh outwardly and inwardly”;
· The lexicographer and hadith master Murtada al-Zabidi who often cites Ibn ‘Arabi in his commentary on al-Ghazzali’s Ihya’ entitled Ithaf al-Sada al-Muttaqin.
· Qadi al-Qudat Shams al-Din al-Bisati al-Maliki who opposed before the Sultan – in Ibn Hajar’s presence – ‘Ala’ al-Din al-Bukhari’s verdict of takfîr of Ibn ‘Arabi and whoever accepted him;
· Shaykh al-Islam Siraj al-Din al-Makhzumi who said: “Our shaykh, Shaykh al-Islam Siraj al-Din al-Bulqini and likewise Shaykh Taqi al-Din al-Subki used to criticize the Shaykh in the beginning, then they changed their position after they realized what he was saying and the explanation of his intent.”
· Al-Bulqini who was reported by his student al-Makhzumi as saying: “We seek refuge in Allah from saying that he [Ibn ‘Arabi] asserts indwelling (hulûl) or communion-with-the-divine (ittihâd)! He is far above that. Rather, he is one of the greatest imams and among those who have probed the oceans of the sciences of the Book and the Sunna.”
· Shaykh al-Islam Zakariyya al-Ansari in the chapter on apostasy in his book Sharh Kitab al-Rawd fi al-Fiqh wa al-Fatwa;
· Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Hajar al-Haytami in his Fatawa Hadithiyya;
· Imam Shams al-Din Muhammad al-Bakri;
· The hadith master and Qur’anic commentator Shaykh Isma‘il Haqqi in his book al-Khitab;
· Imam Muhammad Ibn ‘Abidin, the foremost authority in the late Hanafi school;
· The Ottoman writer Katib Çelebi who devoted a chapter on Ibn ‘Arabi in his book Mizan al-Haqq fi Ikhtyar al-Ahaqq;
· Shaykh Mulla al-Jami in Nafahat al-Uns;
· The hadith master of Damascus and Renewer of the Fourteenth Islamic century, Shaykh Badr al-Din al-Hasani;
· The Wahhabi supporter, student of al-Shawkani, scholarly nawab of Bhopal and author of Abjad al-‘Ulum Siddiq Hasan Khan al-Qinnawji in the third chapter of his Takhrij al-Wasaya which he titled: “Concerning the Instructions of One of the Pure People of Excellence Commonly Named ‘Sufis’ – Allah Grant Us and All of Them Mercy Through the Immense Honor of the Master of Messengers e (bijâh sayyid al-mursalîn)” The chapter then begins: “The most sublime shaykh and knower of Allah (al-shaykh al-ajall al-‘ârif billâhi ta‘âlâ) said in al-Futuhat al-Makkiyya…” Al-Qinnawji then goes on to cite Ibn ‘Arabi for over forty pages.
· Sayyid Jamal al-Din al-Qasimi in his Qawa‘id al-Tahdith;
· Imam Muhammad Zahid al-Kawthari in his Maqalat.
· Muhammad ‘Abduh calls him al-Shaykh al-Akbar;b
· Shaykh al-Islam al-Munawi who cited him over two hundred times in Fayd al-Qadir and elsewhere declared:
A group of scholars professed suspension of judgment and benefit of good opinion (al-taslîm)… their Imam being Shaykh al-Islam al-Nawawi who replied, when asked about Ibn ‘Arabi: (Those are a people who have passed away. Theirs is that which they earned, and yours is that which you earn. And you will not be asked of what they used to do) (2:134). [Ahmad] Zarruq reported from his shaykh al-Nuri the words: “They differed about him from the verdict of disbelief to that of spiritual primacy (qutbâniyya); giving the benefit of good opinion is therefore an obligation.”
Perhaps the most famous misrepresentation of the Shaykh that resulted from the Fusûs is the attribution to him of the doctrine of “oneness of being” (wahda al-wujûd) in the pantheistic sense of the immanence of the Deity in everything that exists. Al-Qari cites, for example, a verse of poetry which he references to the Fusûs, stating:
Subhâna man azhara al-ashyâ’a wa huwa ‘aynuhâ
Glory to Him Who caused things to appear
and is those very things!
This attribution and others of its type are evidently spurious and Ibn ‘Arabi’s ‘Aqida flatly contradicts them. Furthermore, verifying scholars such as Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi in his epistles, Shaykh ‘Abd al-Ghani al-Nabulusi in al-Radd al-Matin ‘ala Muntaqid al-‘Arif Billah Muhyi al-Din and Idah al-Maqsud min Wahda al-Wujud, and al-Sha‘rani in al-Yawaqit wa al-Jawahir and Tanbih al-Aghbiya’ ‘ala Qatratin min Bahri ‘Ulum al-Awliya have rephrased Ibn ‘Arabi’s expression of “oneness of being” (wahda al-wujûd) as “oneness of perception” (wahda al-shuhûd) in the sense in which the Prophet r defined excellence (ihsân) as “worshipping Allah as if you see Him.” And to see Him is to see nothing else. This is what is meant in such expressions as the question uttered again and again by the late Shaykh ‘Abd al-Hamid Kishk: “Allah is my Lord! Is there in all existence any but He?” (Allâhu rabbî! Hal fi al-wujûdi siwâh?) or aphorism 133 of Ibn ‘Ata’ Allah: “The universes are affirmed by His affirmation of them and they are erased by the unicity of His Essence” (al-akwânu thâbitatun bi ithbâtihi wa mamhuwwatun bi ahadiyyati dhâtihi). Shaykh ‘Abd al-Hadi Kharsa explained:
Those who have come to know Allah I through His own self-disclosure to them (ta‘rîf Allâhi lahum) – they did not come to know Him via their minds – have known him with the light which Allah I imparted to their hearts and minds. This light then reflected itself upon all things. Then they saw that all things subsist in Allah, and they witnessed the Onenesse of Allah I in all those created aspects despite their multiplicity. For these aspects have no autonomy of existence. Their subsistence is only through the divine Sustainment (qayyûmiyya) and their affirmation is through the Support (imdâd) of Allah. [Allah chooses for Himself whom He will, and guides unto Himself him who turns (toward Him)] (42:13). The people of turning to Allah (ahl al-inâba) Allah guides unto Himself. The people of His choice (ahl al-ijtibâ’) are those whom He especially purifies (istafâhum). [And peace be on His slaves whom He has chosen] (27:59). O Allah, let us be of them and with them! Amin.
Al-Nabulusi said in his Diwan:
Beware of witnessing any other [Causator] than Him!
[Of this] cease your concern.
There is neither “you” nor “I” in this existence.
Verily, Existence is the True through Whom we appear
And through Whom we return to extinction.
When we return through Him, it is as if we never were
And when we appear through Him, yet He appears without our help.
O child of contingencies! Do not think yourself
—for you certainly are not—the One without beginning
Even if He caused you to appear and took care of you!
Truly, indwelling is the delusion of the ignoramus
Whose favorite occupation is finding fault
With the discourse of the people of Allah.
I never heard nor shall I ever hear a sane and reasonable person
Declare that the Real inhabits a contingent being!
Now, if some texts actually said this, they said it
Only on the firmly-established basis of the Prophet’s e pact.
Dr. Sa‘id al-Buti said:
What is the meaning of the expression “oneness of perception”? When I interact with causes with full respect to the ways of Allah, His orders, and His Law, knowing that the sustenance that comes to me is from Allah; the felicity that enters my home is from Allah Almighty; my food is readied for me by Allah – I mean even the smallest details; the wealth with which I have been graced, comes from Allah; the illness that has been put in my being or that of a relative of mine comes from Allah Almighty; the cure that followed it is from Allah Almighty; my success in my studies is by Allah Almighty’s grant; the results which I have attained after obtaining my degrees and so forth, are from Allah Almighty’s grant – when the efficacy of causes melts away in my sight and I no longer see, behind them, other than the Causator Who is Allah Almighty: at that time, when you look right, you do not see except the Attributes of Allah, and when you look left, you do not see other than the Attributes of Allah. As much as you evolve in the world of causes, you do not see, through them, other than the Causator, Who is Allah. At that time you have become raised to what the spiritual masters have called oneness of perception. And this oneness of perception is what the Messenger of Allah r expressed by the word ihsân [which he defined to mean]: “That you worship Allah as if you see him.” You do not see the causes as a barrier between you and Allah. Rather, you see causes, in the context of this doctrine, very much like pure, transparent glass: the glass pane is present – no one denies it – but as much as you stare at it, you do not see anything except what is behind it. Is it not so? You only see what is behind it. The world is entirely made of glass panes in this fashion. You see in them the efficacy of Allah in permanence, so you are always with Allah Almighty. None has tasted the sweetness of belief unless he has reached that level of perception.
Ibn Taymiyya is quoted in his Fatawa as being asked repeatedly about “the verdict of Islam concerning Ibn ‘Arabi who asserted Oneness of Being,” and other similar questions. However, it seems that Ibn Taymiyya did not review the Shaykh’s huge Futuhat in its totality when he answered these questions. At times, his discussions about Ibn ‘Arabi depend, as he puts it, on “whether these are his actual words” while at other times he attacks him outright on the basis of these unverified assumptions, or himself levels specific accusations against the Shaykh. Muhammad Ghurab – a contemporary authority on Ibn ‘Arabi’s works – in a book published in the 1980s by Dar al-Fikr in Damascus, states having read the Futuhat several times from cover to cover without finding the expressions for which Ibn Taymiyya took the Shaykh to task while citing this work. The late scholar of Damascus Shaykh Mahmud al-Rankusi similarly affirmed that Ibn Taymiyya answered questions about Ibn ‘Arabi without confirming them against his actual writings, and that the sharp temper of the former further complicated his attitude towards the Shaykh. On the basis of these opinions and in the light of Ibn Taymiyya’s occasional reservations and his otherwise apparently correct approach to ambiguous expressions, it seems that the misquotations of Ibn ‘Arabi became so numerous in Ibn Taymiyya’s time that it became inconceivable to him that they were all incorrect, whereupon he treated them as facts. The errors causing these misquotations can also be inferred from the fact that since the misquotations revolved around issues of doctrine – in which misunderstandings are fraught with grave dangers – and in light of the Shaykh’s complex style and obscure expressions, queries would be commonly sent to muftis concerning what some people thought they had read, without actually citing nor understanding the expressions in question. All this could have been avoided by the due observance of faithfulness (amâna) in textual citation, as the early scholars insisted with reference to hadith transmission. Yet many later scholars, beginning with Ibn Taymiyya and after him, relied on second and third-hand paraphrases and attributions, endorsing the accusations against Ibn ‘Arabi and even generalizing them so as to target all tasawwuf. Finally, Ibn Taymiyya in his letter to al-Munayji actually states his admiration for the Futuhat and reserves his criticism only for the Fusûs!
Among the scholars claimed by al-Qari as condemning Ibn ‘Arabi as an innovator or even an outright heretic (zindîq) and disbeliever because of Fusûs al-Hikam: Ibn ‘Abd al-Salam, al-Jazari, Sharaf al-Din ibn al-Muqri, Abu Hayyan al-Andalusi, Sa‘d al-Din al-Taftazani, Jamal al-Din Muhammad ibn Nur al-Din, Siraj al-Din al-Bulqini who supposedly ordered his books burnt, Burhan al-Din al-Biqa‘i, Ibn Taymiyya, and his student al-Dhahabi who said:
He may well have been one of the Friends of Allah Whom He strongly attracted to Himself upon death and for whom He sealed a good ending. As for his words, whoever understands them, recognizes them to be based on communion-with-the-divine (ittihâdiyya), knowing the deviation of those people and comprehending theirs expressions: the truth will be apparent to him as against what they say.
The Hanafi shaykh ‘Ala’ al-Din al-Bukhari, like Ibn al-Muqri, went so far as to declare anyone who did not declare Ibn ‘Arabi a disbeliever to be himself a disbeliever. This is the same ‘Ala’ al-Din al-Bukhari who said that anyone that gives Ibn Taymiyya the title Shaykh al-Islam is a disbeliever.
Al-Haytami said in his Fatawa Hadithiyya:
Our shaykh [Zakariyya al-Ansari] said in Sharh al-Rawd… in response to Ibn al-Muqri’s statement: “Whoever doubts in the disbelief (kufr) of Ibn ‘Arabi’s group, he himself is a disbeliever”:
The truth is that Ibn ‘Arabi and his group are the elite of the Umma. Al-Yafi‘i, Ibn ‘Ata’ Allah and others have declared that they considered Ibn ‘Arabi a walî, noting that the language which Sufis use is appropriate among the experts in its usage and that the knower of Allah (‘ârif), when he becomes completely absorbed in the oceans of Unity, might make some statements that are liable to be misconstrued as indwelling (hulûl) and union (ittihâd), while in reality there is neither indwelling nor union.
It has been clearly stated by our Imams, such as al-Rafi‘i in his book al-‘Aziz, al-Nawawi in al-Rawda and al-Majmu‘, and others:
When a mufti is asked about a certain phrase that could be construed as disbelief, he should not immediately say that the speaker should be put to death nor immediately make permissible the shedding of his blood. Rather, let him say: The speaker must be asked about what he meant by his statement, and he should hear his explanation, then act accordingly.
Look at these guidelines – may Allah guide you! – and you will find that the deniers who assault this great man (Ibn ‘Arabi) and positively assert his disbelief, are riding upon blind mounts, and stumbling about like a camel affected with troubled vision. Verily Allah has blocked their sight and hearing from perceiving this, until they fell into whatever they fell into, which caused them to be despised, and made their knowledge of no benefit. The great knowledge of the Sufis and their utter renunciation of this world and of everything other than Allah testify to their innocence from these terrible accusations, therefore we prefer to dismiss such accusations and consider that their statements are true realities in the way they expressed them. Their way cannot be denied without knowing the meaning of their statements and the expressions they use, and then turning to apply the expression to the meaning and see if they match or not. We thank Allah that all of their deniers are ignorant in that kind of knowledge, as not one of them has mastered the sciences of unveilings (mukâshafât), nor even smelled them from a distance! Nor has anyone of them sincerely followed any of the awliyâ’ so as to master their terminology.
You may object: “I disagree that their expressions refer to a reality rather than being metaphorical phrases, therefore show me something clearer than the explanations that have been given.” I say: Rejection is stubborness. Let us assume that you disagree with what I have mentioned, but the correct way of stating the objection is to say: “This statement could be interpreted in several ways,” and proceed to explain them. You should not say: “If it meant this, then… and if it meant that, then…” while stating from the start “This is kufr”! That is ignorance and goes beyond the scope of sincere faithfulness (nasîha) claimed by the critic.
Do you not see that if Ibn al-Muqri’s real motivation were good advice, he would not have exaggerated by saying: “Whoever has a doubt in the disbelief of the group of Ibn ‘Arabi, he himself is a disbeliever”? So he extended his judgment that Ibn ‘Arabi’s followers were disbelievers, to everyone who had a doubt as to their disbelief. Look at this fanaticism that exceeds all bounds and departs from the consensus of the Imams, and goes so far as to accuse anyone who doubts their disbelief. (Glorified are You, this is awful calumny!) (24:16) (When you welcomed it with your tongues, and uttered with your mouths that whereof you had no knowledge, you counted it a trifle. In the sight of Allah, it is very great) (24:15).
Notice also that his statement suggests that it is an obligation on the whole Community to believe that Ibn ‘Arabi and his followers are disbelievers, otherwise they will all be declared disbelievers – and no one thinks likes this. As a matter of fact, it might well lead into something forbidden which he himself has stated clearly in his book al-Rawd when he said: “Whoever accuses a Muslim of being a disbeliever based on a sin committed by him, and without an attempt to interpret it favorably, he himself commits disbelief.” Yet here he is accusing an entire group of Muslims of disbelief. Moreover, no consideration should be paid to his interpretation, because he only gives the kind of interpretation that is detrimental to those he is criticizing, for that is all that their words have impressed upon him.
As for those who do not think of Ibn ‘Arabi and the Sufis except as a pure light in front of them, and believe in their sainthood – how can a Muslim attack them by accusing them of disbelief? No one would dare do so unless he is accepting the possibility to be himself called a disbeliever. This judgment reflects a great deal of fanaticism, and an assault on most of the Muslims. We ask Allah, through His Mercy, to forgive the one who uttered it.
It has been narrated through more than one source and has become well-known to everyone that whoever opposes the Sufis, Allah will not make His Knowledge beneficial, and he will be inflicted with the worst and ugliest diseases. We have witnessed this taking place with many naysayers. For example, al-Biqa‘i – may Allah forgive him! – used to be one of the most distinguished scholars, blessed with many meritorious acts of worship, an exceptional intelligence, and an excellent memory in all kinds of knowledge, especially in the sciences of tafsîr and hadith, and he wrote numerous books, but Allah did not allow them to be of any kind of benefit to anyone. He also authored a book called Munasabat al-Qur’an in about ten volumes, about which no-one knows except the elite, and as for the rest, they never heard about it. If this book had been written by our Shaykh Zakariyya [al-Ansari], or by anyone who believes [in awliyâ’], it would have been copied with gold because, as a matter of fact, it has no equal: for (Of the bounties of thy Lord We bestow freely on all, these as well as those: the bounties of thy Lord are not closed to anyone) (17:20).
Al-Biqa‘i went to extremes in his denial and wrote books about the subject, all of them clearly and excessively fanatical and deviating from the straight path. But then he paid for it fully and even more than that, for he was caught in the act on several occasions and was judged a disbeliever. It was ruled that his blood be shed and he was about to get killed, but he asked the help and protection of some influential people who rescued him, and he was made to repent in Salihiyya, Egypt, and renew his Islam.
Al-Dhahabi voiced something similar to al-Haytami’s warnings against those inclined to attack Sufis:
Our Shaykh Ibn Wahb [= Ibn Daqiq al-‘Id] said – may Allah have mercy on him: ‘Among the predicaments that mar the discipline of narrator-discreditation are the divergences that take place between the followers of tasawwuf (al-mutasawwifa) and the people of external knowledge (ahl al-‘ilm al-zâhir); animosity therefore arose between these two groups and necessitated mutual criticism.’
Now this [animosity against Sufis] is a plunge from which none escapes unscathed except one thoroughly knowledgeable with all the evidentiary proofs of the Law. Note that I do not limit such knowledge to the branches [of the Law]. For, concerning many of the states described by the people of truth (al-muhiqqîn) among the Sufis, right cannot be told from wrong on the mere basis of knowledge of the branches. One must also possess firm knowledge of the principles of the Law and be able to tell apart the obligatory from the possible, as well as the rationally impossible from the customarily impossible.
It is, indeed, a position fraught with danger! For the critic of a true Sufi (muhiqq al-sûfiyya) enters into the hadith: “Whosoever shows enmity to one of My Friends, I shall declare war upon him.” While one that abandons all condemnation for what is clearly wrong in what he hears from some of them, abandons the commanding of good and the forbidding of evil.
It is remarkable that there were very few contemporaries of Ibn ‘Arabi among his accusers, although he travelled and taught all over the Islamic world and, as Ibn Hajar stated, “he made his mark in every country that he entered” while his admirers among the authorities of Islam lived both in his own lifetime and later.
Among the Shaykh’s sayings:
· “Whoever is truthful in something and pursues it diligently will obtain it sooner or later; if he does not obtain it in this world, he will obtain it in the next; and whoever dies before victory shall be elevated to the level of his diligence.”
· “The knower of Allah knows through eyesight (basar) what others know through insight (basîra), and he knows through insight what virtually no-one knows. Despite this, he does not feel secure from the harm of his ego towards himself; how then could he ever feel secure from what His Lord has foreordained for him?”
· “The knower’s declaration to his student: ‘Take from me this science which you can find nowhere else,’ does not detract from the knower’s level, nor do other similar declarations that appear to be self-eulogy, because his intention is only to encourage the student to receive it.”
· “The discourse of the knower is in the image of the listener according to the latter’s powers, readiness, weakness, and inner reservations.”
· “If you find it complicated to answer someone’s question, do not answer it, for his container is already full and does not have room for the answer.”
· “The ignorant one does not see his ignorance as he basks in its darkness; nor does the knowledgeable one see his own knowledge, for he basks in its light.”
· “Whoever asks for a proof for the oneness of Allah, a donkey knows more than him.”
Ibn ‘Arabi’s short book of poetry Tarjuman al-Ashwaq (“The Interpreter of Desires”) is considered one of the masterpieces of classical Arabic poetry and has been translated in several languages. The Futuhat al-Makkiyya also contains some outstanding samples of the Shaykh’s poetry. Following is a poem he addresses to the Ka‘ba:
1. In the Place of refuge my heart sought refuge,
shot with enmity’s arrows.
2. O Mercy of Allah for His slaves, Allah placed His trust
in you among all inanimate forms.
3. O House of my Lord, O light of my heart,
O coolness of my eyes, O my heart within,
4. O true secret of the heart of existence,
my sacred trust, my purest love!
5. O direction from which I turn from every quarter and
6. From subsistence in the Real, then from the height,
from self-extinction, then from the depths!
7. O Ka‘ba of Allah, O my life,
O path of good fortune, O my guidance,
8. In you has Allah placed every safety
from the fear of disaster upon the Return.
9. In you does the noble Station flourish,
in you are found the fortunes of the slaves of Allah.
10. In you is the Right Hand that my sin has draped
in the robe of blackness.
11. Multazam is in you – he who clings to love for it,
will be saved on the Day of Mutual Cries.
12. Souls passed away longing for Her,
in the pain of longing and distant separation.
13. In sorrow at their news she has put on
the garment of mourning.
14. Allah sheds His light on her court,
and something of His light appears in the heart.
15. None sees it but the sorrowful
whose eyes are dark from lack of sleep.
16. He circumambulates seven times after seven,
from the beginning of night until the call to prayer.
17. Hostage to endless sadness, he is never seen
but bound to effort.
18. I heard him call upon Allah and say, beside the Black
Stone: “O my heart!
19. Our night has quickly passed,
but the goal of my love has not passed!”
Ibn ‘Imad said: “He died – may Allah have mercy on him! – in the house of the Qadi Muhyi al-Din ibn al-Zaki and was taken to Qasyûn [Damascus] and buried in the noble mound, one of the groves of Paradise, and Allah knows best.”
Shaykh Muhyi al-Din Ibn ‘Arabi
(‘Aqîda Ahl al-Islâm)
The Blessings and Peace of Allah Upon the Messenger of Allah and Upon his Family and All his Companions
[Al-Futuhat §130] My faithful brethren – may Allah seal your lives and mine with goodness! – when I heard the saying of Allah I about His Prophet Hûd u, as the latter told his folk who had belied him and his apostleship: (I call Allah to witness, and do you (too) bear witness, that I am innocent of (all) that you ascribe as partners (to Allah)) (11:54), [I saw that] he called his folk to witness in his regard – although they belied him – that he was innocent of associating any partners to Allah, and that he positively confirmed His Oneness; and since he knew that Allah I will summon human beings before Him and ask them about what he himself knew, either to exonerate or convict them, until every single witness bears witness;
 And since it was related that the caller to prayer (mu’adhdhin) is witnessed to by every living and non-living thing as far as his voice can reach, and by everything and everyone that hears him; hence “The devil flees at the call to prayer, passing wind” so that he will not hear the caller’s call to prayer and then have to witness on the latter’s behalf, thereby becoming one of those who contribute to the felicity of the one being witnessed to, whereas he is the absolute enemy and does not bear for us an iota of good – may Allah curse him!
 Now, if the enemy himself is obliged to testify on your behalf to whatever you call him to witness regarding your own person, it is even more certain that your friend and beloved should testify on your behalf – for the latter shares your religion and belongs to your religious community – and it is more certain that you yourself should testify, in this world, for yourself, to Oneness (al-wahdâniyya) and Belief (al-îmân).
 Therefore, O my brethren, O my beloved – may Allah be well pleased with you! – a weak slave calls upon you to witness, a poor one utterly dependent on His Lord in every glimpse of the eye, the author and maker of this book [al-Futuhat al-Makkiyya (“The Meccan Conquests”)]; he calls you to testify in his regard, after calling Allah I to witness, His angels, and whoever is present with him and hears him among the believers, that he bears witness in word and in full conviction (qawlan wa ‘aqdan) that:
 Allah the Exalted is One God, without second in His divinity;
 Transcendent above possessing a mate or a son;
 Absolute owner [of all] (mâlik) without partner; absolute king (malik) without minister;
 Creator (sâni‘) without any disposer of affairs (mudabbir) with Him;
 Existing in Himself (mawjûdun bî dhâtihi), without any dependence on, or need for an originator (mûjid) to originate Him. Rather, every existing thing other than Him, depends on Him and needs Him to exist. The whole universe exists through Him, and He alone can be said to exist in Himself.
 There is no outset (iftitâh) to His existence nor end to His permanence. His existence is absolute and unconditioned.
 He is subsistent in Himself (qâ’imun binafsih): not as a spatially bounded substance (jawhar mutahayyiz) – for then place would be assigned to Him; nor as an accident (‘arad) – for then permanence would be impossible for Him; nor as a body (jism) – for then He would have a direction (jiha) and a front (tilqâ’).
 He is transcendent (muqaddasun) above possessing directions (jihât) and regions (aqtâr).
 He can be seen with the hearts and the eyes, if He so wills.
 He established Himself over His Throne just as He said and in the meaning that He intended; also, the Throne and everything else was established by Him (bihi istawâ), and (unto Him belong the after (life), and the former) (53:25).
 He has no conceivable equivalent whatsoever (laysa lahu mithlun ma‘qûl), nor can minds represent Him. Time does not confine Him, nor place lift nor transport Him. Rather, He was when there was no place, and He is now as He ever was.
 He created fixity (al-mutamakkin) and place (al-makân), brought time into existence, and said: “I am the One, the Ever-Living” (anâ al-Wâhid al-Hayy). Preserving His creations in no way tires Him. Attributes which do not describe Him and are devised by creatures do not apply to Him.
 Exalted is He far above being indwelt by originated matters, or indwelling them, or that they be “after Him” or that He be “before them”! Rather, we say: “He was and there was nothing with him.” For the words ‘before’ and ‘after’ are among the locutions of Time, which He invented.
 He is the Self-Sustaining Sustainer of All (al-Qayyûm) Who sleeps not, the All-Compelling Subduer (al-Qahhâr) Whom one resists not. (There is nothing whatsoever like unto Him) (42:11).
 He created the Throne (al-‘arsh) and made it the boundary (hadd) of istiwâ’, and He created the Footstool (al-kursî) and made it encompass the earth and the heavens.
 The Sublimely Exalted (al-‘Alî) contrived the Tablet and the Sublime Pen, making them bring about the inscription of His Knowledge concerning His creation until the Day of Determination and Verdict.
 He contrived the entire universe without precedent. He created creation then caused what He created to wither.
 He sent down the souls (al-arwâh) into the specters (al-ashbâh) as custodians, and made those soul-endowed specters deputies on earth.
 He made subservient to us all that is in the heavens and the earth from Him, whereof not one atom moves except back to Him and because of Him.
 He created everything without need for it, and no necessity drove Him to do so, but with His foreknowledge that He would create whatever He created.
 (He is the First and the Last and the Manifest and the Hidden) (57:3), (and He is able to do all things) (5:120, 11:4, 30:50, 42:9, 57:2, 64:1, 67:1).
 (He surrounds all things in knowledge) (65:12) (and He keeps count of all things) (72:28), (He knows the traitor of the eyes and that which the bosoms hide) (40:19). (Should He not know what He created? And He is the Subtle, the Aware) (67:14).
 He knew all things before they came into existence, then He brought them into existence exactly as He knew them. He has known them without beginning to His knowledge, and such knowledge in no way becomes newer upon the renewal of origination (tajaddud al-inshâ’). He brought all things to perfection in His knowledge, then He established them firmly (bi ‘ilmihi atqana al-ashyâ’a fa ahkamahâ). Likewise, He has full knowledge of their smallest details (juz’iyyât) according to the consensus and complete agreement of the people of sound scrutiny. (Knower of the invisible and the visible! and exalted be He over all that they ascribe as partners (unto Him)) (23:92).
[156—A] (Doer of what He will) (85:16), He is therefore willing (murîd) for existent entities in the earthly and heavenly worlds. However, His power is without link to anything (lam tata‘allaq bi shay’) until He wills it. Likewise, He does not will anything until He knows it. For it is impossible in the mind that He wills something of which He knows not, or that one who is endowed with the choice of not doing, should do what He does not want to do. Likewise, it is impossible that all these realities be attributed to one who is not living, and it is impossible that the Attributes subsist in other than an Entity described by them.
 There is not in all existence any observance nor sin, any gain nor loss, any slave nor free man, any cold nor hot, any life nor death, any happening nor elapsing, any day nor night, any moderation nor inclination, any land nor sea, any even nor odd, any substance nor accident, any health nor sickness, any joy nor sadness, any soul nor specter, any darkness nor light, any earth nor heaven, any assembling nor disjoining, any plenty nor scarcity, any morning nor evening, any white nor black, any sleep nor wakefulness, any visible nor hidden, any moving nor still, any dry nor moist, any shell nor core, or any of all such mutually contrasting, variegated, or similar entities, except it is so willed by the Real – Exalted is He!
 How could He not will it when it is He Who brought it into existence? And how could the one endowed with free will, bring into existence what He does not want? None can turn down His command, and none can dispute His decision.
 ([He] gives sovereignty unto whom [He] will, and [He] withdraws sovereignty from whom [He] will. [He] exalts whom [He] will and [He] abases whom [He] will) (3:26). ([He] sends whom [He] will astray and guides whom [He] will) (7:155). Whatever Allah wants, comes into existence (mâ shâ’a Allahu kân), and whatever He does not wish to be, does not come into existence (mâ lam yasha’ an yakûna lam yakun).
 If all creatures convened to want something which Allah does not want them to want, they cannot want it. Or, if they convened to do something which Allah does not want to bring into existence – although they willed it whenever He wanted them to will it – they cannot do it; nor can they even be capable of doing it; nor does He enable them to.
 Therefore, disbelief and belief, observance and sin, are all according to His desire (mashî’a), His wisdom (hikma), and His will (irâda). And He – Glorified is He! – is described as possessing such will without beginning.
 The universe is in oblivion and nonexistence, although firmly established in itself in [the divine] knowledge. Then He brought the universe into existence without reflection (tafakkur) nor deliberation (tadabbur) such as accompany ignorance or unawareness and would then presumably provide Him the knowledge of what He knew not – greatly exalted and elevated is He above that! Rather, He brought it into existence on the basis of foreknowledge (al-‘ilm al-sâbiq), and the exact specification (ta‘yîn) of transcendent, pre-existent will (al-irâda al-munazzaha al-azaliyya) determining just how it brought the universe into being with respect to time, place, forms, masses, and color. None exists exerting will, in reality, other than He. For He says: (And you will not, unless Allah wills) (76:30, 81:29).
 Just as He knows, He determines (kamâ ‘alima fa ahkama); just as He wills, He details (arâda fa khassasa); just as He foreordains, He brings into existence (qaddara fa awjada). Likewise, He hears and sees whatever moves or stands still and whatever utters a sound in all creation, whether in the lowest world or the highest. Distance (al-bu‘d) does not in any way hamper His hearing, for He is the Near (al-Qarîb). Nor does nearness (al-qurb) veil His sight, for He is the Far (al-Ba‘îd). He hears the discourse of the self in itself (kalâm al-nafs fi al-nafs), and the sound of the hidden contact upon its touch. He sees the very blackness in darkness, and water inside water. Neither admixture (imtizâj), nor darkness, nor light veils Him, (and He is the Hearer, the Seer) (42:11).
 He I speaks, not after being previously silent nor following presumed tacitness, with a speech pre-eternal and beginningless like the rest of His attributes, whether His knowledge, will, or power. He spoke to Musa u. He named it [His speech] the divine Bestowal (al-tanzîl), the Book of Psalms (al-zabûr), the Torah, and the Evangel. [All this] without letters (hurûf), sounds (aswât), tones (nagham), nor languages (lughât). Rather, He is the Creator of sounds, letters, and languages.
 His speech is [spoken] without [the organs of] uvula and tongue, just as His hearing is without auditory meatus nor ears, His sight is without pupil nor eyelids, His will is without cogitation (qalb) nor inner reflection (janân), His knowledge is without compulsion (idtirâr) nor examination of any proof, His life is without the vapor which is caused in the cavity of the heart by the admixture of the elements. His Entity accepts neither increase nor decrease.
 Glorified, most glorified is He Who, from afar, comes near! To Him belongs tremendous majesty, surpassing goodness, magnificent generosity! Everything that is other than Him is but an outpouring of His munificence. His grace unfolds it and His justice folds it up again.
 He perfected the making of the universe and made it uniquely excellent (akmala san‘a al-‘âlami wa abda‘ahu) when He brought it into existence and invented it. He has no partner in His domain (milk) nor joint disposer of affairs (mudabbir) in His dominion (mulk).
 Whenever He shows favor He sends comfort and ease; and this is His kindness. Whenever He sends adversity He punishes; and this is His justice. In no way does He intrude upon another’s domain so as to be attributed tyranny and injustice. Nor is anyone besides Him entitled to pass judgment on Him so that He could be attributed apprehension or fear from such. Everything other than Him is under the authority of His subjugation (qahr) and subject to the disposal of His will and His command.
 It is He that inspires with Godwariness or rebelliousness the souls of those who are legally responsible. It is He that disregards the transgressions of whomever He will, and holds to task whomever He will, both here and on the Day of Resurrection. His justice does not hold sway (yahkum) over His kindness nor does His kindness hold sway over His justice.
 He brought forth the world as two handfuls (qabdatayn) to which He gave two levels (manzilatayn), saying: “These are for Paradise, and I care not (lâ ubâlî)! Those are for Hellfire, and I care not!” No-one raised the least objection at that time. One handful stands under the Names of His adversity (balâ’), and one stands under the Names of His favors (âlâ’).
 If He wished that the whole universe be in felicity, it would be so; and [if He wished that it be] in misery, it would not have obtained the slightest degree of felicity. However, He did not wish it so, and it was exactly as He wished. Consequently, people are either miserable or happy, here and on the Day of Return. There is no possibility to change whatever the Pre-eternal One has decided. He has said, concerning prayer: “It is five although it counts as fifty.” (The sentence that comes from Me cannot be changed, and I am in no wise a tyrant unto the slaves) (50:29) for My authority over the disposal of affairs in My domain and the accomplishment of My volition in My dominion.
 All this is because of a reality that sights and insights (al-absâr wa al-basâ’ir) are utterly unable to see, nor can mental powers and minds stumble upon its knowledge except through a divine bestowal and token of the All-Merciful’s generosity towards him whom He nourishes among His servants, and who was fore-chosen for this at the time he was summoned to witness. He then came to know – when He was given to know – that the Godhead (al-ulûha) devised this allotment and that it is one of the refinements of the One Who is without beginning.
 Glory to Him besides Whom there is no effecter (fâ‘il), nor any self-existent being (mawjûd li nafsih)! (And Allah has created you and what you make) (37:95), (He will not be questioned as to what He does, but they will be questioned) (21:23), (Say—For to Allah belongs the final argument—Had He willed He could indeed have guided all of you) (6:149).
 Just as I have called upon Allah and His angels, as well as all His creation and yourselves, to testify in my regard to my declaration of His oneness, likewise, I call upon Him – glorified is He! – and His angels, as well as all His creation and yourselves, to testify in my regard to my firm belief in the one He elected and chose from the very time he existed. That is: our master Muhammad r whom He sent to all people without exception, (a bearer of glad tidings and a warner) (2:119, 34:28, 35:24, 41:4) (And as a summoner unto Allah by His permission, and as a light-giving lamp) (33:46).
 The Prophet r thus conveyed fully all that was revealed to him from his Lord, discharged His trust, and acted faithfully (nasaha) toward his Community. He stood, in his farewell Pilgrimage, before all those present among his followers, addressing and reminding them, deterring and cautioning them, giving them glad tidings and warning them, promising and threatening them. He showered them with rain and made them tremble with thunder. He did not address anyone specifically at the exclusion of others in his admonition. He did all this after permission from the One, the Everlasting I. Then he said: “Lo! Have I conveyed the message?” They replied: “You have conveyed the message, O Messenger of Allah!” So he said: “O Allah! Bear witness.”
 Likewise, [I call upon all] to testify that I firmly believe in everything that the Prophet r brought – that which I know and that which I know not. Among the things which he brought is the decree that death comes at a time specified in the presence of Allah I and that, come that time, it is not delayed. I, for my part, firmly believe this, without the slightest reservation nor doubt.
 Just as I firmly believe and declare that the interrogation of the two examiners in the grave is true; the punishment in the grave and the raising of the bodies from the grave are both true; the review in the presence of Allah I is true; the Basin is true; the Balance is true; the flying (tatâyur) of individual Records in every direction is true; the Bridge is true; Paradise is true; Hellfire is true; (A host will be in the Garden, and a host of them in the Flame) (42:7) truly; the agony of that day is true for one group; as for another group, (the Supreme Horror will not grieve them) (21:103);
 The intercession of the angels, the Prophets, and the Believers, followed by the taking out of the Fire, by the most Merciful of those who show mercy, of anyone He wishes, is true; a group of the grave sinners among the Believers shall enter Hellfire and then exit it through intercession and gratification truly; eternal and everlasting world-without-end (al-ta’bîd) in the midst of the pleasures of Paradise is true for the Believers and those who affirm Oneness; eternal and everlasting world-without-end in the Fire for the dwellers of the Fire is true; and all that was announced by the Books and Messengers that came from Allah – whether one came to know it or not – is true.
 This is my witness in my own regard, and it is the responsibility of each and every person that it reaches, to bring it forward if asked about it, whenever and wherever he may be.
 May Allah grant us and grant you the greatest benefit with this faith. May He make us adhere to it firmly at the time of journeying from this abode to the abode of true life. May He replace for us this abode with the abode of munificence and good pleasure. May He intervene between us and a dwelling with (raiments of pitch) (14:50). May He count us in the troop that take their record with the right hand and return from the Pond fully sated, those in whose favor the Balance weighs down and whose feet stand firm on the Bridge. Truly He is the Munificent (al-Mun‘im), the Giver of All Good (al-Mihsân)!
 (All praise to Allah, Who has guided us to this. We could not truly have been led aright if Allah had not guided us. Verily the messengers of our Lord did bring the Truth!) (7:43).