Dr. GF Haddad
>Ibn 'Arabi says in Dhakhaairul-A'laaq (p.93):
>"Before today, I used to criticise my companion if my religion was not the one
>which he followed. But my heart changed to accept every image, so pastures for
>the carefree lovers and convents for the monks. A house of idols and the idol
>house at Taa'if, the tablets of the Torah and the mushaf of the Qur'aan. I
>follow the religion of love wherever it takes me, so all religion is my
>religion and belief."
The above is an adaptation from lines of poetry from Ibn `Arabi's work Tarjuman al-Ashwaq ("The Translator of Yearnings"). Its style is highly lyrical and meaning evidently metaphorical. It would be very unfair or rather strange for this slim book to be adduced as precise evidence of a particular belief or used as a proof against Ibn `Arabi's own statement of doctrine in his massive Futuhat al-Makkiyya.
The meaning of these lines would be -- and Allah knows best -- that one's involvement in worshipping Allah can experience a perception of Allah's embracing power and mercy such that one is no longer able to see any escape from true monotheist belief in Him even in ostensibly untrue, idolatrous aberrations. So one becomes overwhelmed by thanks and praise, "love," temporarily forgetting fear and repentence. This is an elated state of mind expressed poetically in very broad terms, not a creed.
>He also wrote in Al-Fusoos al-Hikam (1/95): "So the person with complete
>understanding is he who sees every object of worship to be a manifestation of
>the truth contained therein, for which it is worshipped. Therefore, they call
>it a god, along with its particular name, whether it is a rock, or a tree, or
>an animal, or a person, or a star, or an angel."
Our principle in brief is that anything in the Fusus that contradicts Ibn `Arabi's Aqida as set forth in the Futuhat (his later work) must be dismissed as spurious unless it can be interpreted to conform to it. However, in the above excerpt I see nothing unorthodox, and Allah knows best. Its gist is that nothing in existence can exist without the sustaining directive of the Creator, and pagans have mistaken this act of His and its result for divinities when such a result is only the focus of a divine act. They have misnamed it, yes. But in their own confused way they have nevertheless acknowledged its embodiment of "a manifestation of the truth." And Allah knows best.
>Commenting upon the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabee, Shaykh Muhammad al-Madkhalee writes
>in Haqeeqatus-Soofiyah (p.30 of the English translation):
Does this man not attack also al-Junayd, al-Gilani, and Shah Naqshband in his book? There are some books in Islam which are Proofs against their authors rather than against those he wrote against. The above is probably such a book. Yet even if one is among those who respect such books out of ignorance of anything better, they should try to progress from blindly and exclusively relying upon them to hearing what other, _established_ scholars have said on the issue. I have translated many opinions to that effect concerning Ibn `Arabi. One isolated attack from a rabid anti-Sufi contemporary should not faze anyone endowed with reason and fairness.
>"This is because ibn 'Arabee held that all pagans and idol-worshippers were
>upon the truth since Allah is in his view everything. Therefore, whoever
>worshipped an idol, worshipped a stone, or a tree, or a human, or a star, then
>he has worshipped Allah."
Ibn `Arabi said in the beginning of his `Aqida that that text is his final belief and that every reader of this `Aqida is responsible to convey it on his behalf, which al-hamdulillah we have done. And his `aqida flatly contradicts the above allegations. As a result it is my belief that the likes of Shaykh Muhammad al-Madkhalee and their endorsers will stand accused of grave calumny of Muhyi al-Din Ibn `Arabi on the Day of Judgment. We have nothing to lose, at least, in not hastily endorsing the unverified second- and third-hand accusations of anti-Sufis against Shaykh Muhyi al-Din.
>Shaykh al-Madkhalee goes on to say (p.22, footnote):
>"Despite all the gross deviations of ibn 'Arabee and the fact that the scholars
>declared him to be an Unbeliever, yet he is revered by the Sufis and others who
>do not distinguish between the truth and falsehood..."\
The claim that "the scholars declared him to be an Unbeliever" is a good example of the unreliability of this Shaykh Madkhalee as it deliberately gives the impression that this is a matter of consensus or a majority. Al-hamdulillah I have shown the falsehood of this misrepresentation in part  of this series. Observe the scrupulous fairness of true scholars who said, even though they disagreed with Ibn `Arabi, that "scholars differed concerning him" then count, if numbers impress you, his numerous admirers as against those who withheld judgment and the trickle that apostatized him.
I do not have to revere Ibn `Arabi when it is enough, in order to meet my responsibility in faith and sincerity, that I respect the general sanctity and honor of a Muslim for my own soul's sake, especially since many respected ulamas have declared him to be a knowledgeable Sunni Shaykh and a major scholar; although I, like al-Suyuti, consider him a wali. Salam.
Wahda al-Wujud or Oneness of Being
Perhaps the most famous misrepresentation of the Shaykh that resulted from the Fusus is the attribution to him of the doctrine of "oneness of being" (wahdat al-wujud) in the pantheistic sense of the immanence of the Deity in everything that exists. Al-Qari cites, for example, a verse of poetry which he references to the Fusus, stating:
Subhana man azhara al-ashya'a wa huwa `aynuha Glory to Him Who caused things to appear and is those very things!1
This attribution and others of its type are evidently spurious, and Ibn `Arabi's `Aqida flatly contradicts them. Furthermore, verifying scholars such as Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi in his epistles, Shaykh `Abd al-Ghani al-Nabulusi in al-Radd al-Matin `ala Muntaqid al-`Arif Billah Muhyi al-Din and Idah al-Maqsud min Wahda al-Wujud, and al-Sha`rani in al-Yawaqit wa al-Jawahir and Tanbih al-Aghbiya' `ala Qatratin min Bahri `Ulum al-Awliya have rephrased Ibn `Arabi's expression of "oneness of being" (wahdat al-wujud) as "oneness of perception" (wahdat al-shuhud) in the sense in which the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- defined excellence (ihsan) as "worshipping Allah as if you see Him."2 Al-Buti said:
What is the meaning of the expression "oneness of perception"? When I interact with causes with full respect to Allah's ways, His orders, and His Law, knowing that the sustenance that comes to me is from Allah; the felicity that enters my home is from Allah Almighty; my food is readied for me by Allah - I mean even the smallest details; the wealth with which I have been graced, comes from Allah; the illness that has been put in my being or that of a relative of mine comes from Allah Almighty; the cure that followed it is from Allah Almighty; my success in my studies is by Allah Almighty's grant; the results which I have attained after obtaining my degrees and so forth, are from Allah Almighty's grant - when the efficacy of causes melts away in my sight and I no longer see, behind them, other than the Causator Who is Allah Almighty: at that time, when you look right, you do not see except Allah's Attributes, and when you look left, you do not see other than Allah's Attributes. As much as you evolve in the world of causes, you do not see, through them, other than the Causator, Who is Allah. At that time you have become raised to what the spiritual masters have called oneness of perception. And this oneness of perception is what Allah's Messenger -- Allah bless and greet him -- expressed by the word ihsan [which he defined to mean]: "That you worship Allah as if you see him." You do not see the causes as a barrier between you and Allah. Rather, you see causes, in the context of this doctrine, very much like pure, transparent glass: the glass pane is present - no one denies it - but as much as you stare at it, you do not see anything except what is behind it. Is it not so? You only see what is behind it. The world is entirely made of glass panes in this fashion. You see in them Allah's efficacy in permanence, so you are always with Allah Almighty. None has tasted the sweetness of belief unless he has reached that level of perception.3
Ibn Taymiyya's Unreliability
Ibn Taymiyya is quoted in his Fatawa as being asked repeatedly about "the verdict of Islam concerning Ibn `Arabi who asserted Oneness of Being," and other similar questions. However, it seems that Ibn Taymiyya did not review the Shaykh's huge Futuhat in its totality when he answered these questions. At times, his discussions about Ibn `Arabi depend, as he puts it, on "whether these are his actual words" while at other times he attacks him outright on the basis of these unverified assumptions, or himself levels specific accusations against the Shaykh. Muhammad Ghurab - a contemporary authority on Ibn `Arabi's works - in a book published in the 1980s by Dar al-Fikr in Damascus, states having read the Futuhat several times from cover to cover without finding the expressions for which Ibn Taymiyya took the Shaykh to task while citing this work.
The late hadith scholar of Damascus Shaykh Mahmud al-Rankusi similarly affirmed that Ibn Taymiyya answered questions about Ibn `Arabi without confirming them against his actual writings, and that the sharp temper of the former further complicated his attitude towards the Shaykh. On the basis of these opinions and in the light of Ibn Taymiyya's occasional reservations and his otherwise apparently correct approach to ambiguous expressions, it seems that the misquotations of Ibn `Arabi became so numerous in Ibn Taymiyya's time that it became inconceivable to him that they were all incorrect, whereupon he treated them as facts. The errors causing these misquotations can also be inferred from the fact that since the misquotations revolved around issues of doctrine - in which misunderstandings are fraught with grave dangers - and in light of the Shaykh's complex style and obscure expressions, queries would be commonly sent to muftis concerning what some people thought they had read, without actually citing nor understanding the expressions in question. All this could have been avoided by the due observance of faithfulness (amana) in textual citation, as the early scholars insisted with reference to hadith transmission. Yet many later scholars, beginning with Ibn Taymiyya and after him, relied on second and third-hand paraphrases and attributions, endorsing the accusations against Ibn `Arabi and even generalizing them so as to target all tasawwuf. Finally, Ibn Taymiyya in his letter to al-Munayji actually states his admiration for the Futuhat and reserves his criticism only for the Fusus!4
Other Critics of Ibn `Arabi
Among the scholars cited by al-Qari as condemning Ibn `Arabi as an innovator or even an outright heretic (zindiq) and disbeliever because of Fusus al-Hikam: Ibn `Abd al-Salam, al-Jazari, Sharaf al-Din ibn al-Muqri, Abu Hayyan al-Andalusi, Sa`d al-Din al-Taftazani,5 Jamal al-Din Muhammad ibn Nur al-Din,6 Siraj al-Din al-Bulqini who supposedly ordered his books burnt,7 Burhan al-Din al-Biqa`i, Ibn Taymiyya,8 and his student al-Dhahabi who said:
He may well have been one of Allah's Friends Whom He strongly attracted to Himself upon death and for whom He sealed a good ending. As for his words, whoever understands them, recognizes them to be on the bases of communion-with-the-divine (ittihadiyya), knowing the deviation of those people and comprehending theirs expressions: the truth will be apparent to him as against what they say.9
The Hanafi shaykh `Ala' al-Din al-Bukhari, like Ibn al-Muqri, went so far as to declare anyone who did not declare Ibn `Arabi a disbeliever to be himself a disbeliever. This is the same `Ala' al-Din al-Bukhari who said that anyone that gives Ibn Taymiyya the title Shaykh al-Islam is a disbeliever.
Al-Haytami said in his Fatawa Hadithiyya:
Our shaykh [Zakariyya al-Ansari] said in Sharh al-Rawd... in response to Ibn al-Muqri's statement: "Whoever doubts in the disbelief (kufr) of Ibn `Arabi's group, he himself is a disbeliever":
The truth is that Ibn `Arabi and his group are the elite of the Umma. Al-Yafi`i, Ibn `Ata' Allah and others have declared that they considered Ibn `Arabi a wali, noting that the language which Sufis use is appropriate among the experts in its usage and that the knower of Allah (`arif), when he becomes completely absorbed in the oceans of Unity, might make some statements that are liable to be misconstrued as indwelling (hulul) and union (ittihad), while in reality there is neither indwelling nor union.
It has been clearly stated by our Imams, such as al-Rafi`i in his book al-`Aziz, al-Nawawi in al-Rawda and al-Majmu`, and others:
When a mufti is being asked about a certain phrase that could be construed as disbelief, he should not immediately say that the speaker should be put to death nor make permissible the shedding of his blood. Rather let him say: The speaker must be asked about what he meant by his statement, and he should hear his explanation, then act accordingly.10
Look at these guidelines - may Allah guide you! - and you will find that the deniers who assault this great man (Ibn `Arabi) and positively assert his disbelief, are riding upon blind mounts, and stumbling about like a camel affected with troubled vision. Verily Allah has blocked their sight and hearing from perceiving this, until they fell into whatever they fell into, which caused them to be despised, and made their knowledge of no benefit. The great knowledge of the Sufis and their utter renunciation of this world and of everything other than Allah testify to their innocence from these terrible accusations, therefore we prefer to dismiss such accusations and consider that their statements are true realities in the way they expressed them. Their way cannot be denied without knowing the meaning of their statements and the expressions they use, and then turning to apply the expression to the meaning and see if they match or not. We thank Allah that all of their deniers are ignorant in that kind of knowledge, as not one of them has mastered the sciences of unveilings (mukashafat), nor even smelled them from a distance! Nor has anyone of them sincerely followed any of the awliya' so as to master their terminology.
You may object: "I disagree that their expressions refer to a reality rather than being metaphorical phrases, therefore show me something clearer than the explanations that have been given." I say: Rejection is stubborness. Let us assume that you disagree with what I have mentioned, but the correct way of stating the objection is to say: "This statement could be interpreted in several ways," and proceed to explain them. You should not say: "If it meant this, then... and if it meant that, then..." while stating from the start "This is kufr"! That is ignorance and goes beyond the scope of sincere faithfulness (nasiha) claimed by the critic.
Do you not see that if Ibn al-Muqri's real motivation were good advice, he would not have exaggerated by saying: "Whoever has a doubt in the disbelief of the group of Ibn `Arabi, he himself is a disbeliever"? So he extended his judgment that Ibn `Arabi's followers were disbelievers, to everyone who had a doubt as to their disbelief. Look at this fanaticism that exceeds all bounds and departs from the consensus of the Imams, and goes so far as to accuse anyone who doubts their disbelief. "Glorified are You, this is awful calumny" (24:16) "When you welcomed it with your tongues, and uttered with your mouths that whereof you had no knowledge, you counted it a trifle. In the sight of Allah, it is very great" (24:15).
Notice also that his statement suggests that it is an obligation on the whole Community to believe that Ibn `Arabi and his followers are disbelievers, otherwise they will all be declared disbelievers - and no one thinks likes this. As a matter of fact, it might well lead into something forbidden which he himself has stated clearly in his book al-Rawd when he said: "Whoever accuses a Muslim of being a disbeliever based on a sin committed by him, and without an attempt to interpret it favorably, he himself commits disbelief." Yet here he is accusing an entire group of Muslims of disbelief.11 Moreover, no consideration should be paid to his interpretation, because he only gives the kind of interpretation that is detrimental to those he is criticizing, for that is all that their words have impressed upon him.
As for those who do not think of Ibn `Arabi and the Sufis except as a pure light in front of them, and believe in their sainthood - how can a Muslim attack them by accusing them of disbelief? No one would dare do so unless he is accepting the possibility to be himself called a disbeliever. This judgment reflects a great deal of fanaticism, and an assault on most of the Muslims. We ask Allah, through His Mercy, to forgive the one who uttered it.
It has been narrated through more than one source and has become well-known to everyone that whoever opposes the Sufis, Allah will not make His Knowledge beneficial, and he will be inflicted with the worst and ugliest diseases. We have witnessed this taking place with many naysayers. For example, al-Biqa`i - may Allah forgive him! - used to be one of the most distinguished scholars, blessed with many meritorious acts of worship, an exceptional intelligence, and an excellent memory in all kinds of knowledge, especially in the sciences of tafsir and hadith, and he wrote numerous books, but Allah did not allow them to be of any kind of benefit to anyone. He also authored a book called Munasabat al-Qur'an in about ten volumes, about which no-one knows except the elite, and as for the rest, they never heard about it. If this book had been written by our Shaykh Zakariyya [al-Ansari], or by anyone who believes [in awliya'], it would have been copied with gold because, as a matter of fact, it has no equal: for "Of the bounties of thy Lord We bestow freely on all, these as well as those: the bounties of thy Lord are not closed to anyone" (17:20).
Al-Biqa`i went to extremes in his denial and wrote books about the subject, all of them clearly and excessively fanatical and deviating from the straight path. But then he paid for it fully and even more than that, for he was caught in the act on several occasions and was judged a disbeliever. It was ruled that his blood be shed and he was about to get killed, but he asked the help and protection of some influential people who rescued him, and he was made to repent in Salihiyya, Egypt, and renew his Islam.12
Al-Dhahabi's Warning to Critics of Sufis
Al-Dhahabi voiced something similar to al-Haytami's warnings against those inclined to attack Sufis:
Our Shaykh Ibn Wahb [= Ibn Daqiq al-`Id] said - may Allah have mercy on him: `Among the predicaments that mar the discipline of narrator-discreditation are the divergences that take place between the followers of tasawwuf (al-mutasawwifa) and the people of external knowledge (ahl al-`ilm al-zahir); animosity therefore arose between these two groups and necessitated mutual criticism.'
Now this [animosity against Sufis] is a plunge from which none escapes unscathed except one thoroughly knowledgeable with all the evidentiary proofs of the Law. Note that I do not limit such knowledge to the branches [of the Law]. For, concerning many of the states described by the people of truth (al-muhiqqin) among the Sufis, right cannot be told from wrong on the mere basis of knowledge of the branches. One must also possess firm knowledge of the principles of the Law and be able to tell apart the obligatory from the possible, as well as the rationally impossible from the customarily impossible.
It is, indeed, a position fraught with danger! For the critic of a true Sufi (muhiqq al-sufiyya) enters into the hadith: "Whosoever shows enmity to one of My Friends, I shall declare war upon him."13 While one that abandons all condemnation for what is clearly wrong in what he hears from some of them, abandons the commanding of good and the forbidding of evil.14
Some of Ibn `Arabi's Sayings
It is remarkable that there were very few contemporaries of Ibn `Arabi among his accusers, although he travelled and taught all over the Islamic world and, as Ibn Hajar stated, "he made his mark in every country that he entered"15 while his admirers among the authorities of Islam lived both in his own lifetime and later. Among the Shaykh's sayings:
- "Whoever is truthful in something and pursues it diligently will obtain it sooner or later; if he does not obtain it in this world, he will obtain it in the next; and whoever dies before victory shall be elevated to the level of his diligence." "The knower of Allah knows through eyesight (basar) what others know through insight (basira), and - he knows through insight what virtually no-one knows. Despite this, he does not feel secure from the harm of his ego towards himself; how then could he ever feel secure from what His Lord has foreordained for him?" - "The knower's declaration to his student: 'Take from me this science which you can find nowhere else,' does not detract from the knower's level, nor do other similar declarations that appear to be self-eulogy, because his intention is only to encourage the student to receive it." - "The discourse of the knower is in the image of the listener according to the latter's powers, readiness, weakness, and inner reservations." - "If you find it complicated to answer someone's question, do not answer it, for his container is already full and does not have room for the answer." - "The ignorant one does not see his ignorance as he basks in its darkness; nor does the knowledgeable one see his own knowledge, for he basks in its light." - "Whoever asks for a proof for Allah's oneness, a donkey knows more than him."
His Tarjuman al-Ashwaq ("The Interpreter of Desires") is a masterpiece of Arabic poetry translated in many languages. The following poem to the Ka`ba is taken from the Futuhat:
In the Place of refuge my heart sought refuge, shot with enmity's arrows.
O Mercy of Allah for His slaves, Allah placed His trust in you among all inanimate forms.
O House of my Lord, O light of my heart, O coolness of my eyes,b O my heart within,
4. O true secret of the heart of existence, my sacred trust, my purest love!
5. O direction from which I turn from every quarter and valley,
6. From subsistence in the Real, then from the height, from self-extinction, then from the depths!
7. O Ka`ba of Allah, O my life, O path of good fortune, O my guidance,
8. In you has Allah placed every safety from the fear of disaster upon the Return.
9. In you does the noble Station flourish, in you are found the fortunes of Allah's slaves.
10. In you is the Right Hand that my sin has draped in the robe of blackness.
11. Multazam is in you - he who clings to love for it, will be saved on the Day of Mutual Cries.
12. Souls passed away longing for Her, in the pain of longing and distant separation.
13. In sorrow at their news she has put on the garment of mourning.e
14. Allah sheds His light on her court, and something of His light appears in the heart.
15. None sees it but the sorrowful whose eyes are dark from lack of sleep.
16. He circumambulates seven times after seven, from the beginning of night until the call to prayer.
17. Hostage to endless sadness, he is never seen but bound to effort.
18. I heard him call upon Allah and say, beside the Black Stone: "O my heart!
19. Our night has quickly passed, but the goal of my love has not passed!"
Ibn `Imad said: "He died - may Allah have mercy on him! - in the house of the Qadi Muhyi al-Din ibn al-Zaki and was taken to Qasyun [Damascus] and buried in the noble mound, one of the groves of Paradise, and Allah knows best."16
Next installments will present the full translation of Ibn `Arabi's `Aqida from al-Futuhat al-Makkiyya.