The Greatest Master Muhyiddin Ibn al-Arabi
The Greatest Master Muhyiddin Ibn al-Arabi

Most of these introductory articles are exracted from Volume I of the Single Monad Model of the Cosmos: Ibn al-Arabi's View of Time and Creation... more on this can be found here.

The Different Names of the Single Monad

The Different Names of the Single Monad:

As we mentioned above, this Single Monad (al-jawhar al-fard) is the Universal Intellect itself and also the Pen. It also has different names or descriptions as Ibn al-Arabi summarized in his book: al-Durrat Al-Bayda (The White Pearl) in which he discussed many names and descriptions of the First Intellect and the title of the book itself is one interesting variant. Also Ibn al-Arabi spent much of the first chapter in his book al-Tadbirat al-Ilahiyya on explaining the different names and properties of this Universal Intellect that is the true Caliph (Khalifa). There is, however, some confusion between the Greatest Element that we shall talk about shortly and the Single Monad; sometimes it is not very clear for some of these many variant names whether they are really for the Single Monad or the Greatest Element.

One of these names is 'the real through whom creation takes place' and W. Chittick devoted a full section in SPK to talk about it (SPK: 132). This real-through-whom-creation-takes-place is the most perfect image of the Real; Allah, the Creator of the world. That is why he is also called 'the Perfect Human Being'. We do not want to repeat here what William Chittick said in SPK, but we just want to stress that we should not mix between the Real and the real-through-whom-creation-takes-place because they may be confused in Ibn al-Arabi's literature. In this book 'the Real', with capital, is used for the divine Name of Allah (al-haqq), while 'the real', with small letter, is used for the real-through-whom-creation-takes-place. But this name actually describes the Greatest Element rather than the Single Monad, because the latter is compound while the Greatest Element is the most elementary 'block' in the world as we shall see shortly. Everything in the Creation at the end is rooted in the real, just as the leaves (and the fruits… etc) of a tree are rooted in the stalk. The leaves were also 'determined' in the seed that gave this tree even before it was planted. So the Single Monad is like the seed for the tree of the cosmos,[1] while the real-through-whom-creation-takes-place (i.e. the Greatest Element) is what makes up the seed down to the cells, atoms and subatomic particles inside it.

In chapter 364 of the Futuhat Ibn al-Arabi talks about how the entities heard the divine Command in their state of pre-existence and he affirms again what we have mentioned in section II.3 that for Allah nothing was introduced after His creating the world; only the world moved from determination into existence and from immutable hearing (sam‘ thubuti) into actual hearing (sam‘ wujudi). But most importantly, he shows in the following passage that there is in fact only one single entity that has a necessary immutable essence and that is the Perfect Human Being:

For Allah; everything of His servants is still with Him in effect (bil-fi‘l), nothing is with Him in reality (bil-quwwa). So the divine designation came to him (the servant) with regard to the acts and the states that Allah has with him so that he shall remember with his intelligence what he has already witnessed of his Lord when he was still non-existing - since he had the immutability which made him accept the divine disposition in him, and this state of immutability made him obey the Real's Command regarding the existence because the Command may come only on that who is described by hearing.

So the divine Saying (Command) is still (as It is) and the immutable hearing is still (as it was), but what occurred is only the actual hearing that is like a branch of the immutable hearing. So the state changed on the essence of hearing but the (essence of) hearing did not change, because the essences do not change from one state to another, but the states give them rules so they wear them. But that who has no knowledge imagines that the essence changed. But (the fact is that) the states seek the divine Names and not that the essences are described by seeking. And the essences gain names and descriptions according to the rules of (those) states that change over them. And without the states, the essences would not be distinguished because (in reality) there is only one essence that was distinguished with its entity from the Necessarily Existent (wajib al-wujud) just as it was described like Him with necessary immutability. So He, the Exalted, has the Necessary Existence and Immutability, and to this essence (only) the necessary immutability. So the states for this essence are like the divine Names for the Real. So just as the Names of the Essence do not multiply the Named nor make Him many, so the states for this essence do not make him multiple or many, despite the rationality of the multiplicity and manyness of the Names and the states. And by this (similarity) it was true for this essence to be described as being on the (divine) Image.


Therefore, in reality, there is only this entity that is the essence of the Perfect Human Being, and the world is the different states of this single entity. As we mentioned at the top of this chapter (and also in section II.1 when we introduced Ibn al-Arabi's view of time, and also at the end of section V.5 when we discussed the oneness of being), this single entity is the Single Monad, and the essences (i.e. the monads) of the world are different reflections of this Single Monad.

Another important name of the Single Monad is the Universal Spirit (al-ruh al-kulli), and Ibn al-Arabi shows that he deserves this name because he goes (v. raha, yaruh) in the states of the world:

And this name is to him from two aspects: the first is for his being a spirit, i.e. in ease, happiness, and rest (raha p.p. of yastarih; to rest or to relieve) due to his knowledge of his Lord and his witnessing Him. And the second is that he went (raha past tense of yaruh; to go) through the capacious orbs of the knowledge of his Creator, by a special force. And he went through the states of the cosmos to give out to them what Allah entrusted him. And he went through his knowing himself by his need to his Lord and his Creator.

So he has three goings (rawahat),[2] so he may be called 'Universal (kulli)' Spirit because there is no fourth state other than those to go through. So it is like the imperative (tense) of 'raha' (?????: went), 'yaruhu' (????????: is the past participle, to go) and the imperative is 'ruh' (????: go!); and when it was transformed from the imperative to the noun, the 'waw' was returned to it as also the 'alif' and 'lam' (the definitive article) was added, because the omitting of 'waw' from it was due to the meeting of the two consonants.[3] So it is like: he was sought from one direction then it is said that he has gone (raha), as we said.

(Al-Durrat Al-Bayda’: 135)

Yet another interesting name of this Single Monad is 'Everything (kulla shay’)'![4] This name is interesting because Ibn al-Arabi says in Al-Masa’il that 'in everything there is everything (kulla shay’in fihi kullu shay’), even if you do not recognize that' [Al-Masa’il: 58]. This is on the one hand another expression of his Single Monad theory because it renders into: 'the Single Monad is in everything'. But also it might mean that the internal structure of the Single Monad is as complicated as the world itself because it means: 'in everything (even the Single Monad) there is everything (even the world)!' This last statement is plausible since both the Single Monad (i.e. the Perfect Human Being) and the world are on the divine Image as we have seen before (section III.2). This reminds us in mathematics with fractals such as Mandelbrot set, Julia set and Sierpinski triangle, where the structure keeps repeating itself on any larger or smaller scale (Mandelbrot 2002: 37, Stewart 2004: 60). This deserves a separate study, but we just want to mention here that this might answer the question we put forward in section II.16 about the structure of the moment and whether it is divided into sub-moments. We said there that the moment could be indeed identical to the day where the sun rises, moves gradually in the sky and then sets to rise again in the next day; as the Single Monad might be identical with the world, the moment might be identical with the day. It just depends on the scale we are using; if we were inside the Single Monad we might see creations such as the sun, planets and the stars, but because we are outside we see it as a point. Also if we suppose we go outside the world, we shall see it as a point; that is - as the Single Monad - indivisible but compound. This also has its example in modern cosmology as the black hole which occupies a single point in our space but itself is considered complete world.[5]


[1] See: Shajarat al-Kawn (Dar al-Mahabba: Damascus, 2003), ed. ‘Abd al-Rahim Mardini: 39.

[2] This important note can be used to give more details and extensions about the 'the Single Monad Model of the Cosmos' that we discuss in this Chapter. Ibn al-Arabi is describing the three main jobs or motions of the Intellect in creating the world including himself and also his acceptance of knowledge from his Lord.

[3] In Arabic grammar when two consonant characters meet, one of them is omitted, usually the vowel. In this case the imperative of ???????? (yaruhu) is ?????? (ruh) so because both the waw and the ha are consonants, the waw that is a vowel is omitted and the result is: ???? (ruh).

[4] Ibn al-Arabi quotes this name after Abu al-Hakim Bin Barrajan (d. AH 536 / AD 1141) in Al-Tadbirat Al-Ilahiyya: 90.

[5] See: Hawking, S. (1994) Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays, UK, USA, Canada: Bantam Publishing: Bantam.

Please note that some contents are translated Semi-Automatically!