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Biographical Data :

Name :Ibn Al Arabi
Period :1165 - 1240
Biographical detail : One of the most controversial Sufi, Philosopher and intellectual of his time

In 1194, he embarked on a long journey to the East including Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Anatolia etc. He visited Mecca for pilgrimage and stayed there for a long time. The stay in Mecca seems to have been decisive in formulation of his thought; "he became aware, through a vision, of the Ka'aba as being the point where the ultimate reality impinges upon the visible world." He started to write his magnum opus in 12 volumes known as al Futuhat al Makkiya (The Meccan Revelation). It is a mystical work of great depth. His other work Fusus al-Hikam (The Gems of Wisdom) is another important work explaining and discussing his philosophy.

In Futuhat he discusses the existence of Divinity and its primary symbol that of Light. This Light is an overflowing of love from God. This Light is nothing but God. This Light was a hidden treasure and when it desired to be known it manifested it to its creatures that were created by it. Many Sufi writers have described this aspect: "I was a hidden treasure and I desired to be known, therefore I created the creatures in order that I might be known."

"This creation took place by a manifestation of God's Being through His Names or attributes." This concept has been divided in many aspects and its discussion is complicated and involved. Out of all his discussion emerged the concept of the Perfect Man (al-Insan-e-Kamil). Such Man manifests the nature of God. In his book, Fusus al-Hikam, Ibn Arabi wrote of the sequence of prophets from Adam To Muhammad and concluded that Muhammad, the Seal of the prophets, was the most perfect of these prophetic manifestations.

He also discussed the concept of inner knowledge, which are possessed by the prophets as well as saints. He also alluded to the concept of Qutb (a"pole") for each age. He probably thought himself as a Qutb of his time. In describing the reality of the universe, and the way to achieve His vision Ibn Arabi used the word Wahdat Ul Wajud (unity of being or existence). This word and his interpretation posed lots of difficulties for him in the Islamic world. The way he explained his concept of Wahdat Ul Wajud and his later writings create more controversies and brought numerous fatwas against him. The Ottoman Sultan Selim1 (1512-20) restored Ibn Arabi's tomb in 1516, the only fatwa given in favour of him.

Even among the Sufis he remained a controversial figure. A prominent scholar like Ahmad Sirhindi declared al-Arabi as infidel. Shah Waliullah softened the condemnation saying that Ibn al-Arabi and Sirhindi were two different ways of speaking about the same underlying reality. According to him the difference was only of semantics.

Born Abu Sa’eed Ibn al-Arabi in Murcia in Southern Spain, popularly known as Andalusia. His father was a friend of Ibn Rushd. From the age of eight he was sent to Seville where he learnt all the sciences, which were taught in those days. He studied there for twenty years and learned Qur'anic exegeses, Kalam, Sufism and similar studies.

After long travelling al-Arabi settled down in Damascus in Syria where he finally passed away.
 (Compiler : M. Nauman Khan / Abul Farooque)


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