By Mohamed Haj Yousef
The Meccan Revelations
The "Meccan Revelations" can be truly considered the most important book in Islamic mysticism. As we have seen above, Ibn Arabi started working on this book when he arrived at Mecca in the year 598/1202; hence its name, but it took him around thirty years to finish the book in Damascus in the year 629/1232, and then he rewrote it again between 632/1235 and 636/1239, just two years before he passed away. In the second edition, he made many changes where he deleted from and added over the first one.
1. The Source of the Futuhat
In the first chapter, he explained how he received the diverse knowledge and divine wisdom, that he revealed in this immense book, from a spirit he calls the ‘passing young’ (al-fatâ al-fâàt) whom he met as he was circumambulating the Kaaba. This passing young is an angel or a pure spirit whose mere complexion is divine knowledge itself. Ibn Arabi describes him as being independent of space and time, or “where” and “when”, and he is compound and simple at the same time, and "neither speaking nor silent" and "neither living nor dead".
Thus Ibn Arabi explains that when he saw him, he knew his reality and his allusion, so he asked him to accept him as a student and teach him, but he pointed out to him in signal that he is disposed not to speak to anyone but in symbols, but he added that if he learns his symbol and understand it, he would know that his knowledge may not be expressed by the eloquent, and its expression may not be attained by the rhetoricians.
Ibn Arabi then asked him: "may you teach me your convention, and show me the movements of your key…?" "Then he signaled and I understood", Ibn Arabi continues, "and he explained to me the reality of his beauty and I wandered; then I fainted and he instantly prevailed over me, then when I woke up from the swoon, and my shoulder thundered of fear, he knew that knowing him has been attained (by me)."
Ibn Arabi then asked this angel: “Would you brief me on some of your secrets, so I may become amongst your rabbis.” He replied: “Look in the details of my built, and in the arrangement of my shape, you will find what you are asking me about written in me, because I may not be speaking or spoken to; my knowledge is not other than myself, and my essence is not different from my names, because I am the knowledge, the known and the knowing (al-ílmu wal-maălûmu wal-álîmu).”
After that Ibn Arabi explains how this sprit taught him the wisdom and knowledge, and told him: "whatever you find (written) in me put it in your book and transform it to all your loved ones."
2. The Structure of the Futuhat
As we shall see in Part Five of the First Volume, Ibn Arabi made it clear that he does not write after his own cognizance and thoughts, like ordinary authors normally do; but all his writings are inspired from Allah and by Him. “Thus it is possible that something is casted down into what is not of its usual kind and intellectual consideration or what is given by the apparent science (of logic) and the apparent situation for scientists (and that is) for some hidden condition no one feels apart from the people of disclosure.” So, as he shows: “that who takes from Allah and not from himself, how his words may ever come to an end!” Then he adds exclaiming:
What a big difference between the author who says: “I was told by (the late) so-and-so, may Allah's mercy be upon him, who told after (the late) so-and-so may Allah's mercy be upon him”, and that who says: “My heart is telling me after my Lord”. Yet although this (latter) has a high prestige but (still) there is a big difference between him and that who says: “My Lord is telling me after my Lord”, i.e. my Lord is telling me after (/about) Himself.
Therefore, although the Futuhat is an encyclopedic work which contains a variety of topics in metaphysics, cosmology, spiritual anthropology, psychology and jurisprudence, whose main theme and source is divine knowledge (al-ìlâhiyyât). It contains Ibn Arabi's own personal idiosyncratic experience of the stations and domiciles that mystic seekers may meet in their journey to Allah, in Him and from Him, and it gives new insights into the esoteric meanings of the Islamic rituals, the nature of cosmic hierarchy and the spiritual and ontological meanings of the characters of the Arabic alphabet.
In terms of major topics focused on in the Futuhat, Ibn Arabi also divided the book into six sections:
1 On (the divisions of) Knowledge (al-maăârif) 1-73
2 On the Interactions (al-muăâmalât) 74-188
3 On the States (al-àħwâl) 189-269
4 On the Abodes (al-manâzil) 270-383
5 On the Juxtapositions (al-munâzalât) 384-461
6 On the Domiciles (al-maqâmât) 462-560
Then he showed that the arrangement of chapters in this way was not by his own choice or thinking but the Real dictates him on the tongue of the angel of inspiration [II 163.20], and he also added, in chapter three hundred and sixty, that all what he writes is from the presence of Quran and its coffers, because he was given the keys of understanding it [III 334].
Ibn Arabi concluded this book by two long chapters: chapter five hundred and fifty nine in which he extracted the secrets and realities of the different abodes. This chapter is like a short summary of the chapters of this book. Then the final chapter five hundred and sixty, which is sometimes published as a standalone book called ‘the commandments’ (al-waşâyâ), is a collection of advices and recommendations from the Law ‘to benefit the seeker and the arriving’.