The Greatest Master Muhyiddin Ibn al-Arabi

The greatest master (ash-sheikh al-akbar), the reviver of religion (muħyî id-dîn) and the sultan of the knowing (sultân al-ăârifîn) are some of the veneration titles given to the great mystic, poet and sage, Muhammad Ibn al-Árabî; one of the world's greatest spiritual teachers and the most influential author in Islamic history, whose writings have deeply influenced Islamic civilization for centuries, and have more recently attracted wide interest in the West.
His full name is Abû Ábdullâh Muhammad Ibn Ali Ibn Muhammad Ibn Ahmed Ibn al-Árabî al-Ħâtimiy aţ-Ţâìy, known for short as Ibn al-Árabî or Ibn Árabî (without the definite article) to differentiate him from the Malikiy jurist Abu Bakr Ibn al-Árabî (d. 543/1148).

 However, it has been shown in Shams ul-Maghrib (p. 15) that one can easily differentiate between Muħyi id-Dîn Ibn al-Árabî and Abu Bakr Ibn al-Árabî al-Malikiy because of their different domains; the first is a Sufi and the latter is a jurisprudent. Therefore, calling Muħyi id-Dîn Ibn al-Árabî by Ibn Árabî is not justified especially that there are many others (less) known by this name with and without the definite article and Muħyi id-Dîn Ibn al-Árabî always signs his name with the definite article.
Nevertheless, it seems that many people are now adapted to "Ibn Arabi" especially in the West, since it is more easily written this way. For this reason I will opt to write "Ibn Arabi" in English books, using the standard characters and without requiring the proper Romanization, just for the sake of simplicity.
1. His Life and Traveling:
Ibn Arabi was born in Murcia (in eastern Andalusia), into a pious and cultured family; his father, Ali, was one of the political leaders in the state of Ibn Mardanîsh the king of Murcia. He was born on Monday the 17th of Ramadan of the year 560 AH, that is the 26th of July of the year 1165 AD.
The death of Ibn Mardanîsh and his sons' surrender to Yousef Ibn Abdulmuåmin, the king of Seville, caused Ibn Arabi's family to move to Seville when he was only eight years old, in the year 568/1172.
In Seville, however, they seem to have received the same political position and Ibn Arabi enjoyed travelling with his father in the various missions around the capital of Andalusia, where he met some famous sheikhs in Cordova and Granada and learnt from them.
He stayed in Seville for twenty years during which he traveled to Morocco and Tunisia several times, and stayed there for intermittent periods, and then after that he traveled to the East for the Hajj in the year 598/1201 never to return to Andalusia.
In the East he lived in Egypt briefly and then went to Palestine heading to Mecca where he devoted himself to worship and teaching at the Grand Mosque the place where received the secrets and wisdom he deposited in his well-known book of the Meccan Revelations. Then he went to Iraq and entered Baghdad and Mosul and met their men, and then travelled north to Anatolia and Turkey where he dwelt for many years and had a high status with king Kaykaus. After that, the Sheikh took numerous trips between Iraq, Egypt, Syria and Palestine until he settled in Damascus in the year 620/1223 and he stayed there until he passed away in the night of the 22nd of the month of Rabîă the second of the year 638 AH, that is the 9th of November of the year 1240 AD. He left this world to meeting his Lord, but he actually never passed out of the minds of scholars and mystics; his students are still multiplying, and still many scholars are diving in the oceans of knowledge contained in his immense literature and writing their commentaries and translations.
Ibn Arabi received his education under the guidance of the prominent sheikhs of that time where he learnt Koran from sheikh Abu Bakr Muhammad Ibn Khalaf al-Lakhmiy (d. 585/1189) according to the seven modes of reading, and he learnt hadith from Abd ur-Raħmân as-Suhayliy (d. 581/1185) and Ibn Zarqûn (d. 586/1190) and later he travelled around Andalusia and into north-west Africa to learn hadith from famous sheikhs such as Abu ul-Ħusein Ibn aş-Şâìgh (d. 600/1203) and Abu Muhammad Ibn Abdullah al-Ħajariy (d. 591/1194), among many others. But amongst all, it seems that Ibn Arabi was greatly influenced by his sheikh Abu Yaåqûb Ibn Yusuf al-Kawmiy who was his spiritual teacher who used to take his students on trips to the nearby mountains and lecture them about the secrets of nature. In one of these trips, Ibn Arabi later remembers, Abu Yaåqûb was telling him about the famous Sufi sheikh Abu Midyan (d. 589/1193) as they were coming back to Seville, and when he finished Ibn Arabi discovered that he was actually walking over heavy spines throughout the journey but he never felt it because he was so absorbed in hearing the stories of Abu Midyan who can be considered his principal master and spiritual model although they have never met in the physical world.
So it seems that at that very early stage, Ibn Arabi had decided to go for Sufism, and so it happened; we do not know exactly at what age but he was certainly not more than 20 years old and some say that he was as little as 15. What we know for sure is that he was already famous when his ‘face had not yet put forth a beard’ and his ‘moustache had not yet grown’; already at this early stage of his career he had a professional and mystic dialogue with the famous eldest philosopher Averroes.
Unlike usual mystic seekers, Ibn Arabi did not take long time to reach opening (fateħ) and realisation (taħqîq), in fact he had achieved the most high states and stations of realisation well before the year 581/1185 when he was about twenty years old, that others normally take many years to achieve. In Sufism, Ibn Arabi's case is normally classified as he is ‘sought (murâd)’ rather than ‘seeker (murîd)’; the murîd normally need to go through a very long way of training and cultivating himself under the guidance of a professional sheikh while the murâd is “that who is attracted out of his will and things are prepared for him so he goes through all forms and stations without pain” [II 134.11]. Later his close student Ibn Sawdakîn reported that he said that he had entered the retreat before dawn and then he received opening before sunrise.
Thus very soon Ibn Arabi was considered amongst the sheikhs and teachers and even some prominent sheikhs were benefiting from his rich and unique spiritual experience that he considers himself their student and teacher at the same time, including his first Sufi sheikh Yousef al-Kawmiy [I 616.22]. Later, he travelled around Andalusia and to Fez and Tunisia in North Africa, to meet up with the Sufis and he held discussions with known scholars and sheikhs, his distinctive views started to spread and he started to write books and treatises, among those written in this era is the famous mystical book of Ánqâå Mughrib which he wrote in Fez in 595/1199.
After several round trips in Andalusia and North Africa, Ibn Arabi decided to perform his fifth ritual duty; the pilgrimage. In the year 597/1200, he visited Murcia to see off his birth place and he also visited other cities in Andalusia to say goodbye to his many friends everywhere before he leaves for good heading south, probably sailing in the pacific, by the west African coast also in order to bid farewell to his sheikh Yousef al-Kawmiy who was in Sella northwest of Marrakech. Then after visiting his favorite Moroccan city Fez, he headed east to Tunisia where he stayed nine months with his old friend Abdul-Aziz al-Mahdawiy and his sheikhs there, and then, passing through Egypt and Palestine, he finally arrived to Hajj in Mecca in the year 598/1201.
This year 598/1201 can be truly considered the most important year in Ibn Arabi's life, not only that he had reached the middle of his age exactly, and not even because in this year he had met Nizam, the pretty young Persian girl to be his first wife and for whom he wrote his famous spiritual love poems he later collected in his book Turjumân al-Áshwâq (the translator of desires), but this year was the most important year in Ibn Arabi's life because at that time he started writing his most influential encyclopedic book of al-Futûħât al-Makkiyyah.
Even more stimulating to Ibn Arabi is at that time in Mecca, in the year 599/1203, it was affirmed to him that he is indeed the Seal of Muhammadan Sainthood for which he had already seen some signs before. Amongst many other books he had also written during this stay in Mecca, he wrote the important treatise of Rûħ al-Qudus fî munâşaħati in-nafs (the Holy Spirit in advising the soul) without which we would miss a great deal of his biography, which he wrote together with the other biographical treatise of ad-Durrat ul-Fâkhirah in the year 600/1204.
Then from Mecca, Ibn Arabi travelled to Anatolia with his friend Majd-ud-Dîn Esħâq, whose son, and later Ibn Arabi's step son, Şadr-ud-Dîn al-Qûnawiy (606/1210-673/1274) would be his most influential disciple. Then he visited what are now Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Palestine and stayed in major cities there for different periods of time. He made at least four round trips coming back to Mecca for Hajj from time to time. During this era he wrote many important books such as: at-tanazzulât al-mûşiliyyah, aj-jalâl waj-jamâl, al-kunhu, al-anwâr, al-áđhamah, al-quţb wan-nuqabâå, al-yaqîn, ayyam ush-shaån, al-ìălâm bi ìshârât àhl il-ìlhâm, tarjumân al-àshwâq and later a commentary on it called zakhâìr al-àălâq, to mention but a few, in addition to reading his other books on his students who started to multiply around him.
After these long trips which, if we add them together to his previous many trips in the West, would be equivalent to travelling around the Earth, Ibn Arabi finally settled in Damascus in the year 620/1223 until he passed away in 638/1240.
In Damascus, he was even more active and productive where he focused now on teaching and writing. In addition to completing his major book of the Futûħât in 629/1231 and rewriting it again between 632/1235 and 636/1238, Ibn Arabi wrote his most profound and controversial book of Fuşûş al-Ħikam (the Bezzels of Wisdom) in the year 627/1229, this book which has more than two hundred commentaries to date and has been recently translated into many languages.
Ibn Arabi was both radically original and remarkably prolific author, more than four hundred genuine books can be listed under his name and more than a thousand titles have been attributed to him. His books vary in length between short treatises and long books such as the Futûħât which is contained in thirty seven volumes. He was known in his lifetime for his devoutness to worship, asceticism, and generosity; wherever he goes he had many faithful friends and students attending his councils, and he was a close friend to the Ayyubi kings in Aleppo and Damascus and also to the Turkish king Kaykaus. After his death he became known first as ash-Shaykh al-Kabîr (the Great Master) then ash-Shaykh al-Àkbar (the Greatest Master).
Mention in this table chronology of events in the life of Sheikh Mohiuddin Ibn al-Arabi, and this table where many extras on the detailed schedule submitted by Claudia Addas in "Find sulfur Red" In addition to correcting some errors found in the table presented by Osman Yahya in classification of booksIbn al-'Arabi. We did not see the need to mention here because it references detailed inside the book and distributed to chapters of the second quarter and until the sixth chapter by historical period and in the same sequence of events. As for references from other historical events are common in the history books do not see the need to mention here or inside the book except for a time. We mentioned inside the book also many other events, but we put here only the main events that we can determine the exact history is good.
We tried to be a comprehensive table of all the events of the biography of Sheikh Muhyiddin Ibn al-'Arabi, according to provide us with references, do not claim perfection.
I have tried very hard to arrange paragraphs of this book in the same historic order of events in the life of the Greatest Sheikh Muhyiddin Ibn al-Arabi, but that cannot be perfectly precise, due to the lack of adequate references and our dependence almost entirely on the dates mentioned by the Sheikh, may Allah be pleased with him, who often mentioned accidents of history and sometimes did not specify the place or country. However, the dates mentioned by the Greatest Sheikh are enough to give an accurate timeline of major events in his life. We do not doubt that the key dates of his travelling and his movements between the countries of Andalusia and the Morocco and the East (Egypt, Mecca and Levant) and Turkey, therefore we used that to divide this book into chapters as we have mentioned above. But the order of events in each of these areas where the Greatest Sheikh Muhyiddin resided cannot reach the full degree of accuracy, so it must be rounding, based on guesswork, which may make some mistakes.
For this reason we mentioned the names of cities and the date of the related events in each title of this book in brackets, if it is known, with the accurately of the day and night and the day or month, or at least a year, if possible. But in the case we were not sure of the history we put the sign "~" before the time or place we mention, and that is only when there is clear evidence for that. Then if it was not possible to specify the time or place of any event, we left the title of the related paragraph undetermined, but nevertheless we put it within the expected sequence among other paragraphs, to the best of our guess. But if we were absolutely not sure of the place and date of the incident, we will note that during in the related text. I hope in this way we could trace the foot-steps of Ibn al-Arabi throughout his entire life with high accuracy, but we can never pretend that we are perfect, error is likely and possible.
On the other hand, I have tried to put the Gregorian calendar as well as the Hijri, which is the original, I did that often without using AH or AD (but for example: 560/1165 means 560 AH corresponding to 1165 AD), but when there is no need to do so, as we mention the Hijri only with the AH, if necessary or when there is a possibility of some confusion. In some places we only mention the Gregorian date, special for events that were prior to the Prophet migration or before Islam, and in this case we refer to the date by AD, only if it is necessary. But it must be noted that the conversion of the Islamic Hijri year to the Gregorian calendar year may include some error that may be up to two years, that happens when we do not know about any part of the year we are speaking, but our reference in this book is always to Hijri calendar and not the Gregorian, because the Gregorian date is rounded by conversion maybe up or maybe down.

The Meccan Revelations Website:

The Sun from the West:

The Single Monad: