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 Taken-out Days

The 'Taken-out' Days:

Allah said in the Holy Qur’an: A token unto them is the night-time: We take the daytime out of it, and lo, they are in darkness (36:37). Ibn al-Arabi points out that this seems to indicate that night is the origin, and that daytime was somehow 'hidden' in it and then was taken out of it [Ayyam Al-Sha’n: 9, II.647.20]. In other words, as Ibn al-Arabi explains [I.716.15], the night is like a dress or a skin over the daytime, and then Allah takes the daytime out of the night so that the world - which was in the absolute darkness of the divine 'Unseen' (al-ghayb) - is created (i.e., so that it appears in the light of actual existence).

Ibn al-Arabi, however, argues that Allah did not specify in this verse which daytime was taken out of which night, and so this has to be clarified. For it is not, as we might think, that each daytime (that we witness) was taken out of its own night. We have to seek the true relation between each daytime and its night, and this relation, Ibn al-Arabi says [II.445.32, III.203.30], is based on the first hour of the daytime and the night-time, because each hour of the daytime and the night-time has a ruler; one of the five planets, the sun, or the moon (corresponding to one of the seven principial divine Attributes: see section III.4); so each day is named after the planet that rules the first hour of it. For example: the first hour of Sunday is ruled by the sun, and that is why it is so named (in English and many other languages); likewise Monday is the day of the moon, and so on. In Arabic, however, the names of the days of the week do not have direct relations with the names of the planets that rule these days, but this connection still forms a basic principle in Ibn al-Arabi's view of time.

But before we discuss this further and assign each night to its actual daytime, we should understand the exact meaning of 'taking out' the daytime from the night, or the night from the daytime. Ibn al-Arabi regards the different daytimes and night-times as 'parents' to what Allah creates in them: so everything that happens in the daytime is like a 'son' whose father is the night and whose mother is the daytime; and everything that happens in the night is like a son whose father is the daytime and whose mother is the night [Ayyam Al-Sha’n: 7; II.445.18]. As Allah said in Holy Qur’an: He merges (yuliju) the night into the daytime, and He merges the daytime into the night (57:6). So there is a kind of abstract, generative 'marriage' between daytimes and nights, but where nights and daytimes exchange their parental roles from being fathers to being mothers, and vice versa. That is why they are 'intertwined', as we shall see further below. Now Ibn al-Arabi explains that when the daytime turns from being father into being mother or vice versa, this is what is meant by the Qur’anic reference to its respective 'stripping-out' or 'taking-out' (salkh). So when we say that this daytime (nahar) is taken out of that night-time (layl), it means that this daytime and night exchange their generative 'parental' roles, although together they are always like a couple, i.e. a single 'day' (yawm).

Ibn al-Arabi adds that Allah did not explicitly mention that night is also taken out of the daytime, since it is readily understood from the same Qur’anic verse [Ayyam Al-Sha’n: 8; I.141.6, I.716.11]. On the other hand, Ibn al-Arabi indicates that the first hour of the daytime and that of its own night (that was taken out of it) should be ruled by the same planet [Ayyam Al-Sha’n: 10]. For in order to consider the daytime and the night-time as one unitary day, they have to be ruled by the same (cosmological, planetary) 'ruler'. This applies only to the first hour of the daytime and the night, because each of the other hours (of the observable, earthly days) are coming from other cosmic 'Days' as a result of their overall 'intertwining':

Now when these planets moved in their orbs, Allah made for each planet a (specific) Day among the Days of the zodiac-orb motion.… So He defined for each Day (yawm) a daytime (nahar) and a night-time (layl), and He distinguished between each night and its daytime by the rule of the (particular) planet for that Day in which the daytime and night appeared. So when you look to which planet the first hour of the daytime belongs, then this planet is the ruler of that daytime. And when you look in the nights for the night whose first hour belongs to this same planet which ruled the first hour of the daytime, then this night belongs to this daytime.


Now that we've understood the meaning of the 'taken-out' days, let us see which daytime was taken out of which night. As we pointed out above, Ibn al-Arabi argues that there are three other daytimes and three other nights between the daytime and the night from which it was taken out. That is because - as he explains - the structure of the world is six-directional: three nights corresponding to the directions down, left and back; and three daytimes corresponding to up, right and front [Ayyam Al-Sha’n: 7]. Table IV.1 shows the resulting daytimes of the week and the nights from which those respective daytimes were taken out.

Table IV.1: The taken out days. There are three daytimes and three nights between the daytime and the night that is taken out of it. This Table is summarized from Ayyam Al-Sha’n, pp. 6-7.

  The daytime of … was taken out of the night of …  
4 Wednesday Sunday 1
5 Thursday Monday 2
6 Friday Tuesday 3
7 Saturday Wednesday 4
1 Sunday Thursday 5
2 Monday Friday 6
3 Tuesday Saturday 7

Therefore, as we can see, there are three days between each daytime and its partner night. Of course normally the observable earthly week will run starting from the beginning of Sunday night, then Sunday daytime, then Monday night, then Monday daytime, and so on. These are the normal 'circulated' days. The 'taken-out' days, however, as we see from this table above and in Figure IV.1, run also starting from the beginning of Sunday night but leaving out three daytimes and three nights jumping to Wednesday daytime (of the circulated days) and so on.

Therefore the flow of time for the take-out days is different from the normal circulated days. In order to understand the flow of the taken-out days let us show the above relation graphically as in Figure IV.1. It is better to imagine this graph in three dimensions because as Ibn al-Arabi indicated that the reason behind this interference between the taken out days and the circulated days is the three dimensional structure of the world that we live in [Ayyam Al-Sha’n: 7].

Figure IV.1: The 'Taken-out' days. (It helps to imagine the resulting loop in three dimensions (x, y, z), as indicated graphically below.)



But what is the significance of conceiving the 'taking-out' daytimes and nights in this way? In his book Ayyam Al-Sha’n: Ibn al-Arabi explains that the reason why there are three daytimes and three nights in the taken out days is the three-dimensional (or six-directional) structure of the space in which we exist. In other books he (or rather, his later interpreter al-Qashani)[1] points out that the word 'day' also means direction. So it appears to us as if our three-dimensional world is built up as a unit in seven Days (a Week). Therefore the Week with its seven Days is the unit of space-time, and not only time.

In chapter 302 of the Futuhat, Ibn al-Arabi explains how the process of taking the daytime out of the night is identical to taking the world out of non-existence into the 'light' of existence:

… Now we have mentioned that the world was hidden in the (absolute) Unseen (ghayb) of Allah, and that this Unseen was like the shadow of a person. So if something were taken out from the entirety of that shadow, it would come out in the image of that shade - just as that shadow is itself in the image of that of which it is a shadow. So the result of what is taken out of that shadow is in the image of the person. Do not you see that light is what appears when the daytime is taken out of the night-time?

So those things which were hidden in the night (of the divine 'Unseen') appear by the light of the daytime. Therefore the daytime does not resemble the night, but rather resembles the light, by the appearance of those things through it. So the night was the shadow of the (divine existentiating) Light, and the daytime, when it is taken out of the night, comes out on the image of the Light. Likewise, the world, in its coming out of the Unseen, comes out in the image of the world (already present in) the Unseen, as we said.


So the process of creating the world out of non-existence is exactly like the Qur’anic image of 'taking the daytime out of the night', because time in the end is reduced to the instantaneous presence (or the events that happen in it). As summarized in the passage just quoted, Ibn al-Arabi says that the world already exists in the all-encompassing fore-Knowledge of Allah, in the absolute Unseen (al-ghayb al-mutlaq). Thus its emergence into manifest existence is like the daytime: both of its states are 'Light', first hidden in the 'shadow' of the absolute Unseen, and then when Allah takes the world out of that non-existence, just as He 'takes the daytime out of the night'. And because Allah had determined that the manifest world would be three-dimensional, He created it 'in six Days' (or directions). He could have created it in many ways, but Ibn al-Arabi affirms that the divine Ability does not over-rule His Determination or destiny (qadar); it only accomplishes what He has already determined (the maqdur) [Ayyam Al-Sha’n: 6]. Therefore, in order for the daytime (of the manifest world) to appear in existence, there have to be three daytimes and three nights between this daytime and the night that it was 'taken out' of it [I.716; Ayyam Al-Sha’n: 7]. Thus in each Day Allah creates a direction, and in the six Days of creation (from Sunday to Friday) Allah creates the world in (three-dimensional) space, while Saturday accounts for the 'Day of event' or time wherein this world is displayed.


[1] This is mentioned in: Tafsir Ibn al-Arabi, vol. I: 245, and vol. II: 571. This book is attributed to Ibn al-Arabi by its modern publisher, but most scholars agree that it was written by the later Iranian philosopher Al-Qashani.

Please note that some contents are translated Semi-Automatically!