Ibn al-Arabi's Doctrine

Ibn al-Arabi's Doctrine (extracts from The Discloser of Desires: turjuman al-ashwaq, translated by: Books by Mohamed Haj Yousef):
The doctrine of Ibn Arabi is often the area of controversy among some groups of mainly Muslims who criticize him and do not normally accept his arguments, often cursing him and throwing him of heresy, although he declared his plain simple faith right at the beginning of his book of the Meccan Revelations. But he also declared that faith is on four levels; the public faith that is the general Islamic faith; that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. Then the second level he calls the doctrine of developing beginners, which includes main proofs and evidence in Islamic philosophy that is needed by those arguing with antagonists and philosophers. He mentioned this doctrine also at the beginning of the Meccan Revelations using mostly rhythmic prosed words and brief statements, and he called "the treatise of what is known from the doctrines of the people of forms", sometimes also published separately.

 The third level of doctrine is "the doctrine of the elite people of Allah", from the people of the path of Allah, the realized ones of the people of unveiling and ontology. He mentioned this doctrine in a separate book he called al-Marifa (knowledge).
As for the fourth and most critical level that is "the doctrine of the supreme elite people of Allah", the Sheikh never declared it clearly in any single place of his works, because it is so ambiguous, thus he rather dispersed it throughout the chapters of the Meccan Revelations, and other books, stated fully and sporadically as he says; so whoever is made ready by Allah he is going to find it and recognize it, because, he explains, it is the ultimate true knowledge and the honest aphorism, it is the final goal, where the seeing and the blind will be alike, it relates the far with the near and connects the high with the low, since everything is cyclic, and the end of the cycle is connected with its beginning.
He also generally explains that this higher level of doctrine is not something that can be arrived at by the intellect alone, but it is a kind of divine inspiration in the heart, available not only to the Gnostics but also to the general public who may not be even educated people. He says in his introduction to the Meccan Revelations that you should know that if you find his statements virtuous and accepted and you feel yourself believing in them, then you should cheer yourself because you are necessarily unveiled by Allah, because the heart is not truly gratified by something unless one utterly knows it is true, since the mind here has no entrance because it is not something rational, so if you accept this kind of divine knowledge, this means you have somehow tasted it in the heart and no one can ever disprove it for you.
Nonetheless it must be noticed that many researchers and commentators sometimes simply determine this ultimate doctrine of Ibn Arabi, and the Sufis in general, as some kind of pantheism or what is sometimes called as "the oneness of being" (wahdat al-wujûd). Ibn Arabi himself, however, never employed this controversial term directly, although many later Muslim scholars attribute it to him, usually with very different (and often more polemic than philosophical) meanings and interpretations. Yet it is quite evident that his books are full of statements that develop notions related to the oneness of being in one way or another, in many places quite explicitly and rigorously. This is especially the case in his most controversial book of Fusus al-Hikam (The Bezels of Wisdom), for which he was widely criticized, but related discussions are also to be found throughout the Futuhat and his other shorter works. Indeed the possible misunderstandings of this conception clearly underpin Ibn Arabi's distinctive multi-layered unicity and multiplicity intentionally scattered rhetoric and writing style throughout the Futuhat and other works, as he explained quite clearly in the key introduction to the Futuhat itself, just summarized above.
For example, as many verses of the poems we will be dealing with in this book below, the following statements by Ibn Arabi, often quoted in books and articles dealing with his doctrine, may look obvious and straightforward:
·         "None but God is loved in the existent things. It is He who is manifest within every beloved to the eye of every lover - and there is no existent thing that is not a lover. So, the cosmos is all lover and beloved, and all of it goes back to Him. In the same way, no one is worshiped but Him, for no worshiper worships anything without imagining divinity within it. Otherwise, he would not worship it. Thus God says: (Your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him.) [I7:23] So also is love. No one loves anyone but his own Creator, but he is veiled from Him by love for Zaynab, Suad, Hind, Layla, this world, money, position, and everything loved in the world. Poets exhaust their words on all these existing things, but they do not know. The Gnostics never hear a verse, a riddle, a panegyric, or a love poem that is not about God, hidden beyond the veil of forms." [Futuhat: I.266.15]
·         "Glory be to Whom have created the things and He is their very entity: Mine eye never looked but at His Face. Mine ear never heard but His words. His existence is (evident) in every existent!" [Futuhat: II.459.27]
·         "God manifests Himself in every atom of creation: He is revealed in every intelligible object, and concealed from every intelligence, except the intelligence of those who say that the Universe is His form and ipseity (huwiyyah), inasmuch as He stands in the same relation to phenomenal objects as the spirit to the body." [Fusus al-Hikam]
But it is very dangerous to take such these statements so literally, not even in their Arabic origin, because one has to understand the precise terminology used by Ibn Arabi, for example what does he exactly mean by words such as "ipseity", "essence", "entity", "form", "existence", "universe" … etc., and how precise is the translation of these words from Arabic, since their exact purpose in Arabic need to be defined precisely.
Hypothetically, the basic ontological issue for Ibn Arabi is very clear and simple: in many places throughout his writings, such as the long chapter 198 of the Futuhat [Futuhat: II.390–478] he follows the established Avicennan distinction, familiar to all students of Islamic theology and philosophy by his time, in dividing all conceivable things, in terms of existence, into three basic categories:
1.      al-Ħaqq: the Real Who exists by Himself, i.e. the absolute existence that has always been and always is.
2.      al-mumkin, or al-khalq: the possible contingent creation, that exist by the Real and not by itself.
3.      al-bâţil: the absolute nonexistence that is impossible to exist.
Thus he says:
·         "Know that the matter (of the nature of the reality) is the Real (al-haqq) and the creation (al-khalq): that is the absolute Existence that has always been and always is (existing); and absolute (contingent) possibility (imkân) that has always been and always is (possible to exist); and absolute nonexistence that has always been and always is (non-existing). Now the absolute Existence does not accept non-existence; (and that applies) eternally and perpetually. The absolute non-existence does not accept existence; (and likewise that applies) eternally and perpetually. But the absolutely possible does accept existence through an (ontologically determining) cause. And it also accepts non-existence through a cause – and (that contingent ontological status also applies) eternally and perpetually."
Then he concludes by saying:
·         "So the absolute Existence is Allah, nothing other than Him. The absolute non-existence is the impossible-to-exist, nothing other than it. And the absolutely possible (of existence) is the world, nothing other than it: its (ontological) level is between the absolute Existence and absolute non-existence. So in so far as some of it faces non-existence, it accepts non-existence; and in so far as some of it faces Existence, it accepts existence." [Futuhat: II.426.26]
In other words, the Real is the Real, and the creations are creation, and any mingling or associating between the Real and the creations is false. If the creation claims to be realized in the Real, it is not creation. As Ibn Arabi puts it in poetry again:
·         "When my Beloved is manifest, with what eye would I see Him? With His Eye, not with mine, because: except Himself, none may ever see Him." [Futuhat: I.305.17]
·         "The cosmos is only imagined, though it is – in reality – real. And the only one who understands this fact has surely accomplished the secrets of the path." (Fusus: 157).
This has been deliberated at a greater extent and more details in Chapter V of "Ibn Arabi – Time and Cosmology", but we conclude here with this final long self-explanatory quote from the Meccan Revelations:
·         "The beauty of the whole world is characteristic and its magnificence is itself its essence, since its Maker made it according to Himself. This is why the knowledgeable (Gnostics) were standing by Him and lovers were realized in His love, and this is why we have described it in some of our statements as the mirror of the Real, so the knowledgeable looked at it only as the Image of the Real; and He, the Exalted, is Beautiful and beauty is loved for its own sake. Yet He also has characteristic solemnity in the hearts of observers. So He stimulated both love and admiration. Thus Allah made for us many signs in the world, and in ourselves as we are part of the world, only to draw our attention all through commemorating, reflecting, reason, faith, knowledge, hearing, seeing, interior, and kernel, as He created us only to worship Him and know Him. But He referred us in that onto nothing but the world, only to contemplate, since He dispersed in the world the source of all signs and indications to know Him, both by witnessing and reasoning. Hence: we look but at Him, we hear but from Him, we apprehend but after Him, we reflect but upon Him, we know but Him, and we believe but in Him. Thus He is reflected in every face, sought in every sign, looked upon by every eye, worshiped by every worshiper, pursued in the unseen and in the visible. No one of his creatures may fail to find Him through his own nature and composition. All creations are praying to Him, prostrating to Him, praising His Honor. All tongues are speaking by Him, all hearts are wandering at Him and loving Him, all kernels are mystified by Him. But the knowledgeable (Gnostics) want to define Him, but nay they cannot afford; and they desire to outline Him as the essence of the world, but that is not accomplished by them either; so they are powerless and their comprehension becomes tiered and their minds become entangled, and their tongues contradict in expressing Him; so sometimes they say: it is Him, and sometimes they say: it is not Him, and other times they say: it is Him and not Him." [Futuhat: II.114.13].

The Meccan Revelations Website:


The Sun from the West:


The Single Monad: