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Ibn al-‘Arabi, Muhyi al-Din (1164–1240)

DOI
10.4324/9780415249126-H022-1
DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-H022-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved December 11, 2019, from https://www.rep.routledge.com/articles/biographical/ibn-al-arabi-muhyi-al-din-1164-1240/v-1

Article Summary

Ibn al-‘Arabi was a mystic who drew on the writings of Sufis, Islamic theologians and philosophers in order to elaborate a complex theosophical system akin to that of Plotinus. He was born in Murcia (in southeast Spain) in AH 560/ad 1164, and died in Damascus in AH 638/ad 1240. Of several hundred works attributed to him the most famous are al-Futuhat al-makkiyya (The Meccan Illuminations) and Fusus al-hikam (The Bezels of Wisdom). The Futuhat is an encyclopedic discussion of Islamic lore viewed from the perspective of the stages of the mystic path. It exists in two editions, both completed in Damascus – one in AH 629/ad 1231 and the other in AH 636/ad 1238 – but the work was conceived in Mecca many years earlier, in the course of a vision which Ibn al-‘Arabi experienced near the Kaaba, the cube-shaped House of God which Muslims visit on pilgrimage. Because of its length, this work has been relatively neglected. The Fusus, which is much shorter, comprises twenty-seven chapters named after prophets who epitomize different spiritual types. Ibn al-‘Arabi claimed that he received it directly from Muhammad, who appeared to him in Damascus in AH 627/ad 1229. It has been the subject of over forty commentaries.

Although Ibn al-‘Arabi was primarily a mystic who believed that he possessed superior divinely-bestowed knowledge, his work is of interest to the philosopher because of the way in which he used philosophical terminology in an attempt to explain his inner experience. He held that whereas the divine Essence is absolutely unknowable, the cosmos as a whole is the locus of manifestation of all God’s attributes. Moreover, since these attributes require the creation for their expression, the One is continually driven to transform itself into Many. The goal of spiritual realization is therefore to penetrate beyond the exterior multiplicity of phenomena to a consciousness of what subsequent writers have termed the ‘unity of existence’. This entails the abolition of the ego or ‘passing away from self’ (fana’) in which one becomes aware of absolute unity, followed by ‘perpetuation’ (baqa’) in which one sees the world as at once One and Many, and one is able to see God in the creature and the creature in God.

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Citing this article:
Robinson, Neal. Ibn al-‘Arabi, Muhyi al-Din (1164–1240), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-H022-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis, https://www.rep.routledge.com/articles/biographical/ibn-al-arabi-muhyi-al-din-1164-1240/v-1.
Copyright © 1998-2019 Routledge.

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