Ibn al-Arabi's Poetry

Ibn al-Arabi's Poetry  (extracts from The Discloser of Desires: turjuman al-ashwaq, translated by: Books by Mohamed Haj Yousef):
 Arabic poetry is the earliest form of Arabic literature which is normally categorized into two main types, rhymed, or measured, and prose. The Sufi tradition in particular composed poetry closely linked to religion, although many of the works of Sufi poets are in the form of love poems (ghazal), but through this kind of poetry they describe their mystic experiences in attempting to achieve transcendence.

As Claude Addas showed in her study of the unique Diwan manuscript of the Paris Bibliothèque Nationale (No. 2348), entitled Dîwân al-Maăârif al-Ilâhiyya, Ibn Arabi explains in his introduction that:
 "The reason which has led me to utter poetry is that I saw in a dream an angel who was bringing me a piece of white light; as if it were a piece of the sun's light. 'What is that?' I asked. 'It is Sura-t-Shuăarâă' (the Sura of the Poets) was the reply. I swallowed it, and felt a hair (shaăra) stretching from my chest up to my throat, and then into my mouth. It was an animal with a head, a tongue, eyes, and lips. It stretched forth until its head reached the two horizons, that of the East and that of the West. After that, it shrank back and returned to my chest; at that moment I realized that my words would reach the East and the West. When I came back to myself, I uttered verses that came forth from no reflection and no intellectual process whatsoever. Since that time, this inspiration has never ceased; and it is because of this sublime contemplation that I have collected all the poetry that I can remember. But there is much more that I have forgotten! Everything that this collection contains is thus, thanks be to Allah, nothing other than [the fruit of] divine projection, a holy and spiritual inspiration, a splendid, celestial heritage."[1]
 This not only explains his exceptional poetic production quantitively, but also the noticeable extraordinary high quality of what he writes which emerges directly from his mystical inspiration.
 Ibn Arabi is considered one of the pronounced poets both in terms of quality and quantity. He is certainly the most influential mystical poet in Arab literature, along with Ibn al-Fâriđ. In terms of quantity, he wrote a huge literary heritage of more than three thousand poems of varying length between one line and hundreds of verses.[2] This Turjuman containing sixty poems is therefore but a small portion of his poetry encyclopedia, most of it is still unpublished. The largest collection of his poetry is in the Diwan, but it appeared that the principal Bulaq edition published in 1855 contains only one-third of the actual work.[3]
 In addition to the Diwan and the Turjuman dedicated for poetry, Ibn Arabi employs poetry inside his other works such as his magnum opus, the Futuhat, which contains more than one and a half thousand poems that comprise about seven thousands verses.[4] There are also many other poems scattered in his many books, not to mentioned the lost books, some of them are described to be as large as the Futuhat itself.
 Ibn Arabi composed poetry in many different styles, but mostly he followed the traditional style according to various standard classical Arabic poetry meters,[5] where the poem is composed of varying number of verses each of two lines which are composed of fitted assembly of end-rhyme and rhythm. In addition he also composed some strophic poems (Muwashshahât) and the Muăashsharât which are poems twenty nine poems each of ten verses that start and end with the same letter of the Arabic alphabet. Some of his poems are also monorhymes where a whole word used as a rhyme rather than just a syllable. Some of his poems were one-liners (mufrad) and some were hundreds of verses long.
 Apart from this Turjuman, which is based on love-poems (ghazal), and the main contents of the Diwan which are not repeated in other works, Ibn Arabi mainly uses poetry as an integral part of his elucidation of the subjects he is illuminating. In the Futuhat for example every chapter is headed with a poem that serves as an exposition of the main arguments to be tackled inside.
  
 
 
 [1] See Addas, C.: "The Ship of Stone", The Journey of the Heart (JMIAS, 1996).
 [2] Ddd32 vol 52 of JMIAS, due out in December 2012 ???
 [3] See Claude Addas, "L'oeuvre poétique d'Ibn 'Arabî et sa reception", Studia Islamica, 2000, pp. 23–36; idem, "Á propos du Dîwân al-ma'ârif d'Ibn 'Arabî", Studia Islamica, 1995, 1, pp. 187–95.
 [4] Julian Cook and Stephen Hirtenstein have recently compiled a database of all the known poems, both from the printed works and manuscripts, this database has been announced in volume 52 the Journal of Ibn Arabi's Society
 [5] The poetry meter (baħr) is the basic rhythmic structure of a verse or lines in verse. The study of meters and forms of versification is known as prosody. The metrical system of Classical Arabic poetry is based on the weight of syllables classified as either "long" or "short". The basic principles of Arabic poetic meter called the Science of Poetry (Arûd) were put forward by al-Farâhîdî (786 - 718 AD) who described 15 different meters. Al-Akhfash later described the 16th. Each meter, however have some variations where poems with a well-defined overall metric pattern often have a few lines that slightly violate that pattern, following one of the other variations.

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