Ibn `Arabi’s `Aqida

Shaykh Muhyi al-Din Ibn ‘Arabi (d. 638)

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.”[1]

His Teachers

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.[2] 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.[3]

His Doctrine (‘Aqîda)

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.”[4]

His Rank of Mujtahid Mutlaq

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.”[5]

The Controversy Surrounding Him

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.

Al-Suyuti’s Response to al-Biqa‘i

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….[6] 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.[7] 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![8]

Ibn ‘Arabi’s Admirers

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.”[9] 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.”[10] 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!”[11] 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;[12] ·           Zayn al-Din al-Khafi al-Akbar Abadi;[13] ·           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.[14] ·           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);[15] ·           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);[16] ·           Majd al-Din al-Shirazi al-Siddiqi in his fatwa entitled al-Ightibat bi Mu‘alaja Ibn al-Khayyat;[17] ·           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;[18] ·           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.”[19] ·           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.”[20] ·           Shaykh al-Islam Zakariyya al-Ansari in the chapter on apostasy in his book Sharh Kitab al-Rawd fi al-Fiqh wa al-Fatwa;[21] ·           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;[22] ·           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;[23] ·           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.[24] ·           Sayyid Jamal al-Din al-Qasimi in his Qawa‘id al-Tahdith;[25] ·           Imam Muhammad Zahid al-Kawthari in his Maqalat.[26] ·           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.”[27]

Wahda al-Wujûd or Oneness of Being

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![28]  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.”[29] 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.[30] 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.[31] 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 rexpressed 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.[32]

 Ibn Taymiyya’s Unreliability

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![33]

Other Critics of Ibn ‘Arabi

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,[34] Jamal al-Din Muham­mad ibn Nur al-Din,[35] Siraj al-Din al-Bulqini who suppos­edly ordered his books burnt,[36] Burhan al-Din al-Biqa‘i, Ibn Taymiyya,[37] 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.[38] 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’s Response

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.[39] 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.[40] 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.[41]

 Al-Dhahabi’s Warning to Critics of Sufis

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.”[42] 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.[43]

 Some of Ibn ‘Arabi’s Sayings

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”[44] 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,[45] 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  valley, 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.[46] 11. Multazam is in you – he who clings to love for it,       will be saved on the Day of Mutual Cries.[47] 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.[48] 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!”[49] 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.”[50]

Page 2 of 4 | Previous page | Next page