EBN AL-ʿARABĪ, MOḤYĪ-al-DĪN Abū ʿAbd-Allāh Moḥammad Ṭāʾī Ḥātemī

(b. 28 July 1165; d. 10 November 1240), the most influential Sufi author of later Islamic history, known to his supporters as al-Šayḵ al-akbar, “the Greatest Master.”

 

EBN AL-ʿARABĪ, MOḤYĪ-al-DĪN Abū ʿAbd-Allāh Moḥammad Ṭāʾī Ḥātemī (b. 17 Ramażān 560/28 July 1165; d. 22 Rabīʿ II 638/10 November 1240), the most influential Sufi author of later Islamic history, known to his supporters as al-Šayḵ al-akbar, “the Greatest Master.” Although the form “Ebn al-ʿArabī,” with the definite article, is found in his autographs and in the writings of his immediate followers, many later authors referred to him as ‘Ebn ʿArabī’, without the article, to differentiate him from Qāżī Abū Bakr Ebn al-ʿArabī (d. 543/1148).

LIFE, VIEWS, TERMINOLOGY

He was born in Murcia in Spain, and his family moved to Seville when he was eight. He experienced an extraordinary mystical “unveiling” (kašf) or “opening” (fotūḥ) at about the age of fifteen; this is mentioned in his famous account of his meeting with Averroes (Addas, pp. 53-58; Chittick, 1989, pp. xiii-xiv). Only after this original divine “attraction” (jaḏba) did he begin disciplined Sufi practice (solūk), perhaps at the age of twenty (Addas, p. 53; Chittick, 1989, pp. 383-84). He studied the traditional sciences, Hadith in particular, with many masters; he mentions about ninety of these in an autobiographical note (Badawi). In 597/1200 he left Spain for good, with the intention of making the ḥajj. The following year in Mecca he began writing his monumental al-Fotūḥāt al-makkīya; the title, “The Meccan Openings,” alludes to the inspired nature of the book. In 601/1204 he set off from Mecca on his way to Anatolia with Majd-al-Dīn Esḥāq, whose son Ṣadr-al-Dīn Qūnawī (606-73/ 1210-74) would be his most influential disciple. After moving about for several years in the central Islamic lands, never going as far as Persia, he settled in Damascus in 620/1223. There he taught and wrote until his death.

Ebn al-ʿArabī was an extraordinarily prolific author. Osman Yahia counts 850 works attributed to him, of which 700 are extant and over 450 probably genuine. The second edition of the Fotūḥāt (Cairo, 1329/1911) covers 2,580 pages, while Yahia’s new critical edition is projected to include thirty-seven volumes of about five hundred pages each (vol. 14, Cairo, 1992). By comparison, his most famous work, Foṣūṣ al-ḥekam (Bezels of widsom), is less than 180 pages long. Scores of his books and treatises have been published, mostly in uncritical editions; several have been translated into European languages.

Although Ebn al-ʿArabī claims that the Fotūḥāt is derived from divine “openings—”mystical unveil-xings—and that the Foṣūṣ was handed to him in a vision by the Prophet, he would certainly admit that he expressed his visions in the language of his intellectual milieu. He cites the Koran and Hadith constantly; it would be no exaggeration to say that most of his works are commentaries on these two sources of the tradition. He sometimes quotes aphorisms from earlier Sufis, but never long passages. There is no evidence that he quotes without ascription, in the accepted style, from other authors. He was thorough-ly familiar with the Islamic sciences, especially tafsīr, feqh, and kalām. He does not seem to have studied the works of the philosophers, though many of his ideas are prefigured in the works of such authors as the Eḵwān-al-Ṣafāʾ (Rosenthal; Takeshita). He mentions on several occasions having read the Eḥyāʾ of Ḡazālī, and he sometimes refers to such well known Sufi authors as Qošayrī.

In short, Ebn al-ʿArabī was firmly grounded in the mainstream of the Islamic tradition; the starting points of his discussions would have been familiar to the ʿolamāʾ in his environment. At the same time he was enormously original, and he was fully aware of the newness of what he was doing. Most earlier Sufis had spoken about theoretical issues (as opposed to practical teachings) in a brief or allusive fashion. Ebn al-ʿArabī breaks the dam with a torrent of exposition on every sort of theoretical issue related to the “divine things” (elāhīyāt). He maintains a uniformly high level of discourse and, in spite of going over the same basic themes constantly, he offers a different perspective in each fresh look at a question. For example, in the Foṣūṣ al-ḥekam, each of twenty-seven chapters deals with the divine wisdom revealed to a specific divine word—a particular prophet. In each case, the wisdom is associated with a different divine attribute. Hence, each prophet represents a different mode of knowing and experiencing the reality of God. Most of the 560 chapters of the Fotūḥāt are rooted in similar principles. Each chapter represents a “standpoint” or “station” (maqām) from which reality, or a specific dimension of reality, can be surveyed and brought into the overarching perspective of the “oneness of all things” (tawḥīd).

Ebn al-ʿArabī assumed and then verified through his own personal experience the validity of the re-velation that was given primarily in the Koran and secondarily in the Hadith. He objected to the limiting approaches of kalām and philosophy, which tied all understanding to reason (ʿaql), as well as to the approach of those Sufis who appealed only to unveiling (kašf). It may be fair to say that his major methodological contribution was to reject the stance of the kalām authorities, for whom tašbīh (declaring God similar to creation) was a heresy, and to make tašbīh the necessary complement of tanzīh (declaring God incomparable with creation). This perspective leads to an epistemology that harmonizes reason and unveiling.

For Ebn al-ʿArabī, reason functions through dif-ferentiation and discernment; it knows innately that God is absent from all things—tanzīh. In contrast, unveiling functions through imagination, which perceives identity and sameness rather than difference; hence unveiling sees God’s presence rather than his absence—tašbīh. To maintain that God is either absent or present is, in his terms, to see with only one eye. Perfect knowledge of God involves seeing with both eyes, the eye of reason and the eye of unveiling (or imagination). This is the wisdom of the prophets; it is falsified by those theologians, philosophers, and Sufis who stress either tanzīh or tašbīh at the expense of the other.

If Ebn al-ʿArabī’s methodology focuses on harmonizing two modes of knowing, his actual teachings focus more on bringing out the nature of human perfection and the means to achieve it. Although the term al-ensān al-kāmel “the perfect human being” can be found in earlier authors, it is Ebn al-ʿArabī who makes it a central theme of Sufism. Briefly, perfect human beings are those who live up to the potential that was placed in Adam when God “taught him all the names” (Koran 2:30). These names designate every perfection found in God and the cosmos (al-ʿālam, defined as “everything other than God”). Ultimately, the names taught to Adam are identical with the divine attributes, such as life, awareness, desire, power, speech, generosity, and justice. By actualizing the names within themselves, human beings become perfect images of God and achieve God’s purpose in creating the universe (Chittick, 1989, especially chap. 20).

Even though all perfect human beings—i.e., the prophets and the “friends” (awlīāʾ) of God—are identical in one respect, each of them manifests God’s uniqueness in another respect. In effect, each is dominated by one specific divine attribute—this is the theme of the Foṣūsá. Moreover, the path to human fulfillment is a never-ending progression whereby people come to embody God’s infinite attributes successively and with ever-increasing intensity. Most of Ebn al-ʿArabī’s writings are devoted to explaining the nature of the knowledge that is unveiled to those who travel through the ascending stations or standpoints of human perfection. God’s friends are those who inherit their knowledge, stations, and states from the prophets, the last of whom was Moḥammad. When Ebn al-ʿArabī claimed to be the “seal of the Moḥammadan friends” (ḵātam al-awlīāʾ al-moḥammadīya), he was saying that no one after him would inherit fully from the prophet Moḥammad. Muslim friends of God would continue to exist until the end of time, but now they would inherit from other prophets inasmuch as those prophets represent certain aspects of Moḥammad’s all-embracing message (Chodkiewicz, 1986).

The most famous idea attributed to Ebn al-ʿArabī is waḥdat al-wojūd “the oneness of being.” Although he never employs the term, the idea is implicit throughout his writings. In the manner of both theologians and philosophers, Ebn al-ʿArabī employs the term wojūd to refer to God as the Necessary Being. Like them, he also attributes the term to everything other than God, but he insists that wojūd does not belong to the things found in the cosmos in any real sense. Rather, the things borrow wojūd from God, much as the earth borrows light from the sun. The issue is how wojūd can rightfully be attributed to the things, also called “entities” (aʿyān). From the perspective of tanzīh, Ebn al-ʿArabī declares that wojūd belongs to God alone, and, in his famous phrase, the things “have never smelt a whiff of wojūd.” From the point of view of tašbīh, he affirms that all things are wojūd’s self-disclosure (tajallī) or self-manifestation (ẓohūr). In sum, all things are “He/not He” (howa lā howa), which is to say that they are both God and other than God, both wojūd and other than wojūd.

The intermediateness of everything that can be perceived by the senses or the mind brings us back to imagination, a term that Ebn al-ʿArabī applies not only to a mode of understanding that grasps identity rather than difference, but also to the World of Imagination, which is situated between the two fundamental worlds that make up the cosmos—the world of spirits and the world of bodies—and which brings together the qualities of the two sides. In addition, Ebn al-ʿArabī refers to the whole cosmos as imagination, because it combines the attributes of wojūd and utter nonexistence (Chittick, 1989).

INFLUENCE ON PERSIAN SUFIS AND PHILOSOPHERS

Tracing Ebn al-ʿArabī’s influence in any detail must await an enormous amount of research into both his own writings and the works of later authors. Most modern scholars agree that his influence is obvious in much of the theoretical writing of later Sufism and discernible in works by theologians and philosophers.

Waḥdat al-wojūd, invariably associated with Ebn al-ʿArabī’s name, is the most famous single theoretical issue in Sufi works of the later period, especially in the area under Persian cultural influence. Not everyone thought it was an appropriate concept, and scholars such as Ebn Taymīya (d. 728/1328) attacked it vehemently. In fact, Ebn Taymīya deserves much of the credit for associating this idea with Ebn al-ʿArabī’s name and for making it the criterion, as it were, of judging whether an author was for or against Ebn al-ʿArabī (on this complex issue, see Chittick, forthcoming).

Although Ebn al-ʿArabī’s name is typically associated with theoretical issues, this should not suggest that his influence reached only learned Sufis. He was the author of many practical works on Sufism, including collections of prayers, and he transmitted a ḵerqa that was worn by a number of later shaikhs of various orders. As M. Chodkiewicz (1991) has illustrated, his radiance permeated all levels of Sufi life and practice, from the most elite to the most popular, and this has continued down to modern times. Today, indeed, his influence seems to be on the increase, both in the Islamic world and in the West. The Muhyiddin Ibn ʿArabi Society, which publishes a journal in Oxford, is only one of many signs of a renewed attention to his teachings.

Ebn al-ʿArabī’s first important contact with Persian Islam may have come through one of his teachers, Makīn-al-Dīn Abū Šojāʿ Zāher b. Rostam Eṣfahānī, whom he met in Mecca in 598/1202 and with whom he studied the Ṣaḥīhá of Termeḏī. He speaks especially highly of Makīn-al-Dīn’s elderly sister, whom he calls Šayḵat-al-Ḥejāz (“Mistress of Ḥejāz”), Faḵr-al-Nesāʾ (“Pride of womankind”) bent Rostam, adding that she was also Faḵr-al-Rejāl (“Pride of men”) and that he had studied Hadith with her. It was Makīn-al-Dīn’s daughter, Neẓām, who inspired Ebn al-ʿArabī to write his famous collection of poetry, Tarjomān al-ašwāq (Nicholson, pp. 3-4; Jahāngīrī, pp. 59-62).

In 602/1205 Ebn al-ʿArabī met the well-known Sufi Awḥad-al-Dīn Kermānī (d. 635/1238) in Konya and became his close friend; he mentions him on a number of occasions in the Fotūḥāt (Chodkiewicz et al., pp. 288, 563; Addas, pp. 269-73). Awḥad-al-Dīn’s biographer tells us that Ebn al-ʿArabī entrusted his stepson Qūnawī to Awḥad-al-Dīn for training (Forūzānfar, pp. 86-87), and Qūnawī confirms in a letter that he was Kermānī’s companion for two years, traveling with him as far as Shiraz (Chittick, 1992b, p. 261 ).

Qūnawī is the most important intermediary through which Ebn al-ʿArabī’s teachings passed into the Persian-speaking world. He taught Hadith for many years in Konya and was on good terms with Jalāl-al-Dīn Rūmī, but there is no evidence in Rūmī’s works to support the oft-repeated assertion that he was influenced by the ideas of Ebn al-ʿArabī or Qūnawī (Chittick, forthcoming). Nevertheless, Rūmī’s commentators typically interpreted him in terms of Ebn al-ʿArabī’s teachings, which had come to define the Sufi intellectual universe.

Qūnawī is the author of about fifteen Arabic works, including seven books and a number of relatively short treatises. These works are much more systematic and structured than those of his master. His focus on certain specific issues in Ebn al-ʿArabī’s writings, such as wojūd and the perfect human being (al-ensān al-kāmel), helped ensure that these would remain the central concern of the school. Certain terms typically ascribed to Ebn al-ʿArabī, such as al-ḥażarāt al-elāhīya al-ḵams, “the five divine presences,” seem to be Qūnawī’s coinages. In al-Fokūk (ed. M. Ḵᵛājavī, Tehran, 1371Š./1992), Qūnawī explains the significance of the chapter headings of the Foṣūṣ; this work was used directly or indirectly by practically all the Foṣūsá commentators (Chittick, 1984).

Qūnawī wrote a few minor Persian works, but probably not Tabṣerat al-mobtadī or Maṭāleʿ-e īmān, both of which have been printed in his name (Chittick, 1992b, pp. 255-59). However, from at least 643/1245 he taught the Tāʾīya of Ebn al-Fāreż in Persian, and his lectures were put together as a systematic commentary on the poem by his student Saʿīd-al-Dīn Farḡānī (d. 695/1296) as Mašāreq al-darārī (ed. S. J. Āštīānī, Mašhad, 1398/1978). This work was extremely popular, but even more so was his much expanded Arabic version of the same work, Montaha’l-madārek (Cairo, 1293/1876).

The most widely read Persian work by Qūnawī’s students was no doubt the Lamaʿāt of Faḵr-al-Dīn ʿErāqī (d. 688/1289), which is based on Qūnawī’s lectures on Ebn al-ʿArabī’s Foṣūṣ (Chittick and Wilson). Moʾayyed-al-Dīn Jandī (d. ca. 700/1300), who was initiated into Sufism by Qūnawī, wrote in Arabic the first detailed commentary on the Foṣūṣ (ed. Āštīānī, Mašhad, 1361 Š./1982) as well as a number of Persian works, including Nafḥat al-rūḥ (ed. N. Māyel Heravī, Tehran, 1362 Š./1983; despite the editor’s claim of a unique Tehran manuscript, there are at least two other copies in Istanbul [Şehit Ali Paşa 1439, Haci Mahmud Efendi 2447], the first an expanded version).

Jandī taught the Foṣūsá to ʿAbd-al-Razzāq Kāšānī (d. 730/1330), who wrote one of the most widely disseminated commentaries (Cairo, 1386/1966); it often summarizes or paraphrases Jandī’s text. Kāšānī wrote several other important works, both in Arabic and Persian, all of which are rooted in Ebn al-ʿArabī’s universe of discourse. His Taʾwīl al-Qorʾān has been published in Ebn al-ʿArabī’s name (Beirut, 1968; for passages in English, see Murata); although permeated with Ebn al-ʿArabī’s basic world view, there are important differences of perspective that mark Kāšānī as an independent thinker (Lory; Morris, 1987, pp. 101-06). A Persian work on fotowwat (fotūwa) has also been published (Toḥfat al-eḵwān fī ḵaṣāʾeṣ al-fetyān, ed. M. Ṣarrāf in Rasāʾel-e javānmardān, Tehran, 1973).

Persian commentaries on the Foṣūṣ are frequently based on the Arabic commentary of Kāšānī’s student, Dāwūd Qayṣarī (d. 751/1350), author of a dozen other Arabic works. His systematic philosophical introduction to Šarḥ al-Foṣūṣ (Tehran, 1299/1882; Bombay, 1300/1883) itself became the object of commentaries (for the latest, see Āštīānī, 1385/1966). Certainly, Qayṣarī’s influence is obvious and acknowledged in the first Persian commentary on the Foṣūsá, Noṣūṣ al-ḵoṣūṣ (partly edited by R. Maẓlūmī, Tehran, 1359 Š./ 1980), written by his student Bābā Rokn-al-Dīn Šīrāzī (d. 769/1367). The Persian commentary by Tāj-al-Dīn Ḥosayn b. Ḥasan Ḵᵛārazmī (d. ca. 835/1432; ed. N. Māyel Heravī, Tehran, 1364 Š./1985) is almost a verbatim translation of Qayṣarī. Other Persian commentaries include Ḥall-e Foṣūsá by Sayyed ʿAlī Hamadānī (d. 786/1385); this work has been wrongly attributed to Ḵᵛāja Pārsā in its printed edition (ed. J. Mesgarnežād, Tehran, 1366 Š./1987; see Māyel Heravī, 1988, pp. xxi-xxvii). In his comprehensive list of the more than one hundred commentaries on the Foṣūsá, Osman Yahia mentions ten in Persian, some of which, however, may be repeats (introduction to Āmolī, pp. 16-36). Persian commentaries that he does not mention include the following: 1. Ḵātam al-Foṣūsá, attributed to Shah Neʿmat-Allāh Walī (d. 834/1437); this is much longer than any of Shah Neʿmat-Allāh’s printed rasāʾel (manuscripts include Nadwat al-ʿOlamāʾ 35; Andhra Pradesh State Oriental Manuscript Library, Taṣawwof 254, Jadīd 715; Ḵodābaḵš, Fārsī 1371). 2. Another long commentary is also attributed to Shah Neʿmat-Allāh (Andhra Pradesh, Taṣawwof 185). 3. Shaikh Moḥebb-Allāh Mobārez Elāhābādī (d. 1048/1648), Ebn al-ʿArabī’s most faithful Indian follower, wrote a lengthy Persian commentary and a shorter Arabic commentary. 4. Ḥāfeẓ Ḡolām-Moṣṭafā b. Mo-ḥammad-Akbar from Thaneswar wrote Šoḵūṣ al-hemam fī šarḥ Foṣūṣ al-ḥekam, a commentary of 1024 pages in the Andhra Pradesh copy (Taṣawwof 296), apparently in the 11th/18th century. The last Persian commentary on the Foṣūṣ in India seems to be al-Taʾwīl al-moḥkam fī motašabah Foṣūṣ al-ḥekam by Mawlawī Moḥammad-Ḥasan Ṣāḥeb Amrūhawī; he was living in Hyderabad (Deccan) when this 500-page work was published in Lucknow in 1893.

A number of Qūnawī’s contemporaries not directly connected to his circle were important in making at least some of Ebn al-ʿArabī’s teachings available to Persian speakers. Saʿd-al-Dīn Ḥamūya (d. 649/1252), a Persian disciple of Najm-al-Dīn Kobrā, corresponded with Ebn al-ʿArabī and spent several years in Damascus, where he met both Ebn al-ʿArabī and Qūnawī. He wrote works in both Arabic and Persian; these are often extremely difficult, especially because the author delighted in letter symbolism (for a Persian work, see al-Meṣbāḥ fi’l-taṣawwof, ed. N. Māyel Heravī, Tehran, 1362 Š./1983). His disciple ʿAzīz-al-Dīn Nasafī (d. before 700/1300) was responsible for making some of Ebn al-ʿArabī’s terminology well-known in Persian; his popularizing works can hardly be compared in sophistication to those of ʿErāqī or Farḡānī (see, e.g., his Ensān-e kāmel, ed. M. Molé, Tehran, 1962; an English paraphrase of his Maqṣad-e aqṣā was published by E. H. Palmer as Oriental Mysticism, London, 1867; see also Morris, pp. 745-51). Šams-al-Dīn Ebrāhīm Abarqūhī began to write Majmaʿ al-baḥrayn (ed. N. Māyel Heravī, Tehran, 1364 Š./1985) in 714/1314. The work represents an early effort to integrate Ebn al-ʿArabī’s teachings into Persian Sufism; more sophisticated than Nasafī, the author does not have the strong philosophical orientation typical of Qūnawī and his circle.

Among early Persian poets influenced by Ebn al-ʿArabī’s teachings and terminology were ʿErāqī, Maḡrebī, and Maḥmūd Šabestarī (d. ca. 720/1320). Moḥammad Lāhījī (d. 912/1506) commented on Šabestarī’s thousand-verse Golšan-e rāz in Šarḥ-e Golšan-e rāz, a long Persian work rooted in the writings of Kāšānī and Qayṣarī. One of Ebn al-ʿArabī’s most learned and successful popularizers was the poet ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān Jāmī (d. 898/1492), especially through his ḡazals and maṯnawīs; about 1,000 verses of his Selselat al-ḏahab carefully follow the text of Ebn al-ʿArabī’s Ḥelyat al-abdāl (Māyel Heravī, 1988, pp. xxxvii-xl). Jāmī’s Persian prose works dealing with Ebn al-ʿArabī’s teachings—the Lawāʾehá, Lawāmeʿ, Ašeʿʿat al-lamaʿāt, and Naqd al-noṣūṣ fī šarḥ Naqš al-Foṣūṣ—as well ashis Arabic commentary on the Foṣūṣ, were also widely read (see introduction to Jāmī, 1977). Jāmī was especially popular in India, and most of the numerous followers of Ebn al-ʿArabī in the subcontinent—who were much more likely to write in Persian than in Arabic—are indebted to his explications of the Shaikh’s works (Chittick, 1992d). Moḥammad b. Moḥammad, who was known as Shaikh-e Makkī (d. 926/1020) and considered himself a disciple of Jāmī, defended Ebn al-ʿArabī against attacks by narrow-minded critics in his Persian al-Jāneb al-ḡarbī fī ḥall moškelāt al-šayḵ Moḥyī-al-Dīn Ebn ʿArabī (ed. Māyel Heravī, Tehran, 1364 Š./1985).

The poet and Sufi master Shah Neʿmat-Allāh Walī was one of Ebn al-ʿArabī’s most fervent admirers and followed closely in the tracks of Kāšānī and Qayṣarī. He wrote over one hundred rasālas (treatises) on theoretical and practical Sufism that fit squarely into Ebn al-ʿArabī’s universe; four of these comment on the Foṣūṣ or Naqš al-Foṣūsá, Ebn al-ʿArabī’s own treatise on the essential ideas of the Foṣūsá. The Perso-Indian poet Mīrzā ʿAbd-al-Qāder Bīdel (=Bēdil; d. 1133/1721) demonstrates an intimate knowledge of Ebn al-ʿArabī’s school in such maṯnawīs as ʿErfān.

Even Sufi authors critical of Ebn al-ʿArabī’s teachings adopted much of his terminology and world view. Thus in Persia ʿAlāʾ-al-Dawla Semnānī (d. 736/1337) and in India Shaikh Moḥammad Ḥosaynī, known as Gīsū-Derāz (d. 825/1422), and Shaikh Aḥmad Serhendī (d. 1034/1634) do not diverge markedly from most of the teachings established by him and his immediate followers. Most Sufis did not take the criticisms of these authors too seriously. Typical are the remarks of Sayyed Ašraf Jahāngīr Semnānī (d. probably in 829/1425), who studied with ʿAlāʾ-al-Dawla Semnānī but sided with Kāšānī in his defense of Ebn al-ʿArabī against Semnānī’s criticisms (see Landolt, 1973). After providing the views of the participants in this debate and those of a number of observers, Sayyed Ašraf tells us that Semnānī had not understood what Ebn al-ʿArabī was saying and that he had retracted his criticisms before the end of his life (Yamanī, Laṭāʾef-e ašrafī, laṭīfa 28, pp. 139-45; Māyel Heravī, 1367, pp. xxxi-xxxv). In a similar manner, Shah Walī-Allāh Dehlawī (d. 1176/1762) wrote a work showing that there was no fundamental difference between Ebn al-ʿArabī’s waḥdat al-wojūd and Serhendī’s waḥdat al-šohūd.

From the 8th/14th century onward Ebn al-ʿArabī’s influence is clearly present in many works written by authors known primarily as theologians or philosophers. Among Shiʿites, Sayyed Ḥaydar Āmolī (d. 787/1385) was especially important in bringing Ebn al-ʿArabī into the mainstream of Shiʿite thought. He wrote an enormous commentary on the Foṣūsá, Naṣṣ al-noṣūsá, the 500-page introduction of which has been published (representing about 10 percent of the text). Āmolī investigates the meaning of the Foṣūṣ on three levels: naql (the Koran and Hadith, making special use here of Shiʿite sources), ʿaql (meaning kalām and falsafa), and kašf (referring both to his own experience and the writings of major members of Ebn al-ʿArabī’s school). Āmolī also wrote several Arabic works on metaphysics; especially significant is Jāmeʿ al-asrār (ed. Corbin and Yahia, Tehran, 1347 Š./1969; see Morris, 106-08), which was written in his youth during his initial movement into Ebn al-ʿArabī’s universe.

Ṣāʾen-al-Dīn ʿAlī Torka Eṣfahānī (d. 835/1432)completed a commentary on the Foṣūṣ in 831/1427; his treatise on wojūd “being,” Tamhīd al-qawāʿed (ed. S. J. Āštīānī, Tehran, 1396/1976), frequently paraphrases Jandī’s Foṣūsá commentary. A number of Torka’s Persian treatises (Čahārdah rasāʾel, eds. S. ʿA. Mūsawī Behbahānī and S. E. Dībājī, Tehran, 1351 Š./1972) make explicit or implicit reference to Ebn al-ʿArabī’s teachings. Mollā Ṣadrā (d. 1050/1641) frequently quotes at length from the Fotūḥāt in his Asfār. His student Mollā Moḥsen Fayż Kāšānī (d. 1090/1679) wrote an epitome of the Fotūḥāt and frequently quotes from Ebn al-ʿArabī in his works (EI2 V, p. 476). Even Mollā Moḥammad-Bāqer Majlesī (d. 1110/1669), well-known as a critic of Sufis in general and Ebn al-ʿArabī in particular, quotes on occasion from Ebn al-ʿArabī in his monumental Beḥār al-anwār (Beirut, 1983; e.g., baʿż ahl al-maʿrefa in vol. 67, p. 339, refers to Ebn al-ʿArabī in the Fotūḥāt, Cairo, 1911, vol. 2, p. 328.15). In the modern period, Āyat-Allāh Khomeini differentiated himself from many other influential ʿolamāʾ by his intense interest in Ebn al-ʿArabī (Knysh, 1992b).

The first of Ebn al-ʿArabī’s works to be translated into Persian was the Foṣūsá, not as an independent work, but rather in the midst of the commentaries by Bābā Rokn-al-Dīn and others. A translation without commentary was made by ʿAbd-al-Ḡaffār b. Moḥammad-ʿAlī; an autograph version, written in 1008/1685, is found in the Salar Jung Library in Hyderabad (Deccan) (Taṣawwof 33; other copies are found in the Andhra Pradesh State Library, Taṣawwof 464 and Jadīd 4248). Several short works by Ebn al-ʿArabī on Sufi practice, including al-Anwār, Asrār al-ḵalwa, Ḥaqīqat al-ḥaqāʾeq, and Ḥelyat al-awlīāʾ were translated in the 8-9th/14-15th centuries (for the Persian text of these and other minor works, see Māyel Heravī, 1988). A manuscript (Andhra Pradesh, Jadīd 1461) called Šarḥ-e Fotūḥāt, probably by Shaikh Moḥebb-Allāh Elāhābādī, is the second volume (fols. 357-747) of a work that includes translations of and commentary on long passages from the Fotūḥāt. Several of Elāhābādī’s long Persian works provide extensive translations from the Fotūḥāt.

Among Persian Sufis who were especially influential in the Arabic-speaking countries of Islam, one can mention ʿAbd-al-Karīm Jīlī (d. 832/1428), author of numerous independently-minded works, who settled in the Yemen and contributed to the widespread interest in Ebn al-ʿArabī’s writings there (see Knysh, 1992a). Finally, it is worth noting that most followers of Ebn al-ʿArabī in Persia wrote their theoretical works in Arabic. In contrast, the Indian subcontinent witnessed an enormous outpouring of Persian writing pertaining to this school of thought, a legacy largely ignored by modern scholars, even in the subcontinent itself (Chittick, 1992d).

 

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(William C. Chittick)

Originally Published: December 15, 1996

Last Updated: December 2, 2011

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