by Denis Gril

Reproduced from Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi – A Commemorative Volume, ed. S. Hirstenstein & M. Tiernan, Element Books and the Muhyuiddin Ibn 'Arabi Society, 1993.

This article is also available in Swedish.

Adab and Revelation

One of the Foundations of the Hermeneutics of Ibn 'Arabi

Recent studies of the work of the Shaykh al-Akbar have been bringing more and more clearly to light the fact that his doctrine is rooted in the Qur'an and the Sunna.[1] His major, and sometimes minor, works demonstrate by their means of exposition, and sometimes by their structure, links obvious and subtle with the text of Revelation.[2] Rigorous respect for the letter of the Qur'an and the prophetic model on the one hand, and unlimited grasp of Reality on the other, must balance. Moreover, the Book which came down to Man speaks to him in terms of transcendence and of likeness; it distinguishes the servant and Lord, while calling Man back to the Unique One. Only the heart, receptacle of the Divine Word, can unite all these aspects. Do we not find, in the middle of those verses a Revelation announcing Its principle, intermediary, and the one to whom it is sent, the new and the ancient form:

This is the descent (tanzîl) brought about by the Lord of the worlds. The Faithful Spirit brought it down. Upon your heart so that you might be among the Warriors. In a clear Arabic tongue. And it is found in the writings of the Ancients. (Qur'an 26:1926)

The heart of the Seal of the Prophets (upon him may grace and peace descend), and him alone, is endowed with such comprehension and comprehensiveness. Receptivity to the Word, then, exerts an action of balancing, and consequently inspires the right attitude in any situation, whether it be a matter of doctrine, path of initiation, religious practice or of comportment towards any being whatsoever. Arab and Islamic tradition name this attitude by the term 'adab'.[3]There is then nothing surprising in the fact that it often occurs in the writings of the Shaykh al-Akbar. But, while the classical literature of tasawwuf makes rather more use of the term to express the quality of the attitude which it should be observed in respect of God, or in relation between master and disciples (adab al-subha), Ibn 'Arabi places it on the level of doctrine. He particularly insists on respect, as he himself states it, for the prophetic and Quranic message, and adab towards the text quickly becomes, as we shall try to show, one of the keys to his understanding.


'The adîb - the one who knows and respects adab – is the wise man (hakîm).' This statement begins Chapter 168 of the Futûhât al-Makkiyyah on the maqam of adab. In the Qur'an, the teaching of wisdom (hikma) often goes along with the revelation of the Book. Ibn 'Arabi, for his part, gives a definition and classification of adab which underlines his close relations with the Qur'an:

Know – and may God assist you – that God says, 'And He is with you wherever you may be' (Qur'an 57:4). Thus the adîb is with everyone by the capacity which he has to embrace all things.[4] He comports himself with each spiritual station according to the station; with each state, according to the state, and in the same way for each virtue and aim. The adîb unites in himself the Noble Virtues (makârim al-akhlâq); he knows the ignoble ones without qualifying himself by them. He embraces all degrees of praiseworthy and blameworthy knowledge, for there is nothing, knowledge of which is not preferable to ignorance for any man endowed with intelligence. Adab, then, is the bringing together of Good (jimâ' al-khayr).

Ibn 'Arabi goes on to distinguish four kinds of adab:

Adab of the Law (adab al-sharî'a): 'The divine adab which God undertakes to teach by revelation and inspiration. By it, he formed (addaba) His Prophet (grace and peace be upon him) and by it, the Prophet formed us. We then are the "formed formers" (al-mu'addabun al-mu'addibûn). The Messenger of God – upon Him grace and peace – said: "God instilled adab in me, and brought it to perfection in me" (Inna 'llâha addabanî fa-ahsana adabî).'[5]

Adab of Service (adab al-khidma) draws for its model on royal etiquette. 'Now, the king of the men of God is God Himself, Who instituted for us the varying modes of adab for His service...' It is then a matter of one particular aspect of the adab of the law, inasmuch as the law governs all forms of relations of man and God (mu'âmalâtunâ iyyâhu).

Adab of 'Right' (adab al-haqq) proceeds from the Quranic notion of haqq, which may translate as right, duty, justice, true thing or truth; as a Divine Name, it means 'The True One'.[6] Ibn 'Arabi refers to the verse: 'We have created the heavens and earth only according to Truth (bi-l haqq)' (Qur'an 15:85 and 46:3). We can add to these many others in which the Book is said to have come down according to Truth, or others again in which the Prophet is said to have been sent in the same way.[7]This bi-l haqq, then, establishes a very clear correspondence between the creation of the higher, intermediate and lower worlds, the descent of the Qur'an and the Emissary. Instrument or place[8] of creation and revelation, the haqq confers to each being in the hierarchy of existence a degree or right, and a direction or truth. This adab requires their knowledge and respect. 'Truth, by which the things are created' (al-haqq al-makhluq bihi), a term Ibn Barrajan[9] used to refer to the Muhammadian Reality, the principle of manifestation, of revelation and of the prophetic mission, constitutes the foundation of this adab and consequently the foundation of the law.

It is towards Truth, by which the world was created, that we must respect adab, for It is the cause of the existence of the beings of the world. According to this Truth (or this Right), God will divide men on the Day of Resurrection, and will judge them; by It, He revealed the holy laws. God said to His Envoy, David: 'O David, we have established you as Viceregent on the earth. Judge between men according to Right (bi-l haqq) and do not follow passion' (Qur'an 38:26). Passion is also created by the Truth (bi-l haqq), since it is part of that which is between heaven and earth, or, better, it is the earth itself.[10] The maqam of adab is then to act according to Right and to keep to it. But beware of imagining that truthfulness (sidq) is to be confused with Truth (al-haqq), because we say, 'He told the truth' (haqqan or sidqan) when someone is truthful in his speech. It is the Truth which judges truthfulness or the lie, for good or evil. Now it praises truthfulness, now blames it, forbids it and praises the lie, which is its opposite, prompts it and makes practice of it obligatory. Now, it blames the lie, forbids it, praises truthfulness and orders it. Such is the maqam of adab. Whoever possesses it benefits by it in any circumstances. Attach yourself to it and follow its occurrences and indications in revealed laws and in the acts of the Envoy, which we should take as model, not those which relate to His privilege, for that would not be a respecting of adab in respect of Right (al-haqq). (Futûhât II, 285)

Adab of Essential Reality (adab al-haqîqa): The last form of adab takes account only of God Himself. Insofar as adab presupposes duality, it must be renounced (tark al-adab).

'Adab requires the Other. Now, there is a station at which others vanish; adab ceases, for there is no longer any other [to relate to]' (Futûhât II, 286). In conformity to his own requirement, however, this maqam must in its turn be left behind, for that of the 'abandonment of adab in respect of Essential Reality', which is none other than adab al-haqq. Indeed, 'the whole Qur'an came down in this station, aside from some isolated verses' (Futûhât II, 286). These are verses in which God attributes to Himself the origin of all, evil as well as good, conforming to reality or essential truth, haqîqa.[11]

After mentioning the conflicts which, from the point of view of adab, the delicate relation between haqq and haqîqa may bring about,[12]Chapter 169 on the station of abandonment of adab, ends thus:

Is there greater perplexity? Such is the ambiguous (al-mutashâbih). He to whom God has not given knowledge, must say, 'We believe in Him, all comes from our Lord, but none recollects it but those who have the understanding heart (ulû'l-albâb)' (Qur'an 3:7), 'those who take notice of the kernel of understanding (lubb al-'aql), not of its husk*.[13]

So, we are back again at the Qur'an, the source of the conflict, since it confers upon beings an immediate right or truth, and also the place of its resolution, for it brings them back to their essential truth: He, Whose Word it is.[14]


The first thing God gave to His servants as an order is the meeting (jam'). This is nothing other than adab, a word derived from ma'duba, 'banquet', or the act of meeting for a meal (al-ijtimâ' 'ala 'l-ta'âm), just as adab is the meeting together of all good (jimâ' al-khayr kullihi). The Prophet, upon him grace and peace, said: 'God instilled adab in me', i.e. has brought together in me all forms of good – 'and He made it perfect in me', i.e. has made of me the place of all perfection.

The servant of God is next compared to a tax collector, charged with bringing together everything about which he received orders. At the end of his mission, the good servant receives only praise, but the one who showed himself dishonest must appear before the court of accounts (dîwân al-muhâsaba), the opposite of the faithful servants, the umanâ', who acquitted themselves of the mission entrusted to them (amâna).

What man can bring together best during his life, is acquiring knowledge 'by' God, to vest himself with the virtues of His Names (al-takhalluq bi-asmâ'ihi), is holding fast to what his quality of servant necessitates, and is respecting what the rank of his Lord requires, conforming to His orders (Futûhât II, 640).

Adab, then, is the way of perfection, incarnate by the Prophet, and founded on the distinction of servant and Lord, instituted by the haqq of Revelation. Moreover, the whole proof of this rests on the meaning of 'bringing together' tied up in the root jm', a meaning also included in the roots qr' and ktb from which are derived qur'an, recital or reading, and kitâb, writing and book; and thus both modalities, oral and written, of Revelation.

At the risk of a little repetition, the beginning of Chapter 394, Munâzala[15] is entitled: 'He who observes adab, arrives, and he who has arrived, does not return, even if he is not an adîb.' This illustrates the relation between adab and the Qur'an, or absolute bringing-together and the Prophet, that Universal Man and first among the adîb, who received the Words of Bringing-Together (jawâmi' al-kalim).

Know, may God assist us, that absolute existence is pure good, just as absolute inexistence is pure evil. Between these two, possible beings receive an apportionment of good, insofar as they are receptive to existence, and of evil, insofar as they are receptive to inexistence. Now adab is none other than the bringing together of all good. The banquet (ma'duba) received its name because it is the bringing of several people together around nourishment. Clearly, good appears in the world in a fragmented fashion (mutafarriqan), so that each possible being receives its share of good. The perfect possible being (al-mumkin al-kamil) created according to the Divine Form, and having received as privilege the Sura of the Archetype,[16] must necessarily bring together all good. For that reason, Imamate and Viceregency (niyâba) revert to him as of right. God said: 'And He taught Adam all the Names' (Qur'an 2:31). Now, there is only name and named. Muhammad, upon him be grace and peace, also received the knowledge of the Names when he stated, 'I have known the First Ones and the Last.'[17] This utterance teaches us that he received the knowledge of the Names which belong to primordial knowledge [primordiality coming of Adam, the first in sensory existence]. The Prophet also said of himself that he had, to the exclusion of all others, received as privilege 'the Words of Bringing Together' (jawâmi' al-kalim). Words are the very being of the things named (a'yan al-musammayât); in the verse:'... and His Word He cast upon Mary' (Qur'an 4:171); the Word is none other than Jesus. The beings of all existents are, then, the inexhaustible words of God. Thus Muhammad, having received the names and the things named, brought together all the good and earned lordship over all men. He, himself, said: 'I shall be the Lord of men on the Day of Resurrection.'[18]

In the title of the chapter 'arrived' means arrived at the realization of pure good, described in the hadîth in which God says:'... until I am the hearing by which he hears...'[19] and other like words. Such is the arrival at eternal felicity and the goal sought. Without a doubt, he who has arrived, does not return, for it is impossible, after the 'removal of the blindfold' (cf. Qur'an 50:22) to return to the place marked out by the veil. Once the knowledge has been acquired, the wise man can no longer not know the thing known. God has removed the blindfold which covered up the inner and outer sight of the Men of God who arrived at perfection by reason of the divine qualities realized by them, and of the creaturial qualities practised by them, which, as we have previously seen, are all divine. These are the udabâ' (plural of adîb) worthy to stand on the divine carpet and to sit in the company of God, the People of God, the People of remembrance (dhikr) and of the Qur'an, which is the bringing together (jam'), and was for this reason called Qur'an. As to people of the common kind, the blindfold will be removed from them only at their death, and they will see things as they are in reality. Even if they are not among the blessed, they will see the blessed and their felicity, and also those in misery and their calamity. They will no longer be unknowing after receiving this knowledge, even if they are among the damned. This is the meaning of: 'and he who has arrived, does not return, even if he is not an adîb' i.e. bringing together good. It is said of the adîb that he brings good together, while good is a single reality, for it manifests itself no less in the multiple and diverse forms brought together by the adîb.


It is beyond denying that God can bring the
world together in a single being.

The adîb appears in a form of the True One (surat haqq) in the world:

He separates, by the multiplicity of his forms, that which is together, and he brings together, by his essential being, that of it which is scattered.[20]

Man is not an adîb insofar as he does not possess this quality and this ability. The udabâ' are 'those who, when we see them, bring about our mention of God.[21] And when we do, that mention contains the entire world...' (Futûhât III, 556)

The Qur'an teaches and exhorts. The master's model, it forms – or instills – adab, as much by the word as by the attitude of him who hears and wants to follow it. The munâzala – 'My whole Word is exhortation (maw'iza) for My Servants, if only they would let It go through them' – underlines this aspect of the Qur'an, which is for the Shaykh al-Akbar the best lesson of adab. The introductory poem begins with this verse:

Whatever exhortation you make, let it be by My Word; It alone gives satisfaction to the right of each station.

Without faith, the servant would be unable to receive the Divine Word as a beneficial and formative exhortation. Awareness of the free gift (imtinân) which is faith, must prompt man to respond to the Divine solicitude (i'tina') with the only gift he can give to God in return: '... to work according to His Law and respect that which He has forbidden and ordained.' But whatever his zeal, the servant cannot but recognize his powerlessness before the immensity of Grace. At once the Word instills a double adab: the sense of the freeness of the act[22] and the sending back of the servant to knowledge of himself. It must be noticed in passing that ma'duba contains the meaning of freeness; it is defined thus in the chapter on the maqâm of adab:

The action of coming together for a meal simply because one is called upon to take part, without a specific reason like a wedding, circumcision, initiation or sacrifice at the birth of a child. (Futûhât II, 285)

A hadîth indeed compares the Qur'an to a banquet: 'This Qur'an is the banquet of God; take of it as much as you can...'[23]

Let us return to exhortation. God, knowing the natural tendency of man to stray, reminds him of death. Ibn 'Arabi immediately states that by 'death' he means passage from one state to another. He intends by this to respect the Divine injunction: 'And do not call "dead" those who have been killed in the path of God' (Qur'an 2:154). Martyrs have simply passed from one state to another, but the favour of which they are the objects is no less a matter for exhortation by 'death'. Receptive hearing of the Word requires, then, absolute respect for the letter of the Qur'an.[24]

Thus, are we commanded to say by 'Him Who instills adab' (al-mu'addib)[25] for we have received a share of the Divine adab by which God formed His Envoy, grace and peace upon him. God's adab is not anyone's privilege. The one who receives it, knows felicity, is of the number of those in whom God has instilled adab, and who bind themselves to Him by that adab. God has forbidden us to say of him who is killed in the path of God, that he is dead; we do not, then, think that he is dead, but alive, and, according to my faith, he is provided for [cf. Qur'an 3:169]. (Futûhât IV, 67)

The reminder of the closeness of God, the other form of the exhortation gives rise to an even more precise account of respect for the letter of the Qur'an:

As the extreme closeness of God is the greatest veil separating man from this closeness, God reminds man that He is closer to us than our jugular vein [cf. Qur'an 50:16]. We know it is close to us, but cannot see it. In the same way, we believe God to be close to us, but our looking cannot reach Him (...) and He is with us wherever (haythumâ) we may be, or rather wherever (aynamâ) we may be.[26] We ask God's pardon for our deficiencies in language. Even if this speech comes from God,[27] adab is preferable, particularly regarding what is attributed to the Divine Dignity (al-janâb al-ilâhî). The adîb must not leave it as a matter of meaning. Adab consists in scrupulously respecting the words, for God has not chosen one word over another for no reason. We do not deviate from it for another with the same meaning, for that would be an alteration (Jahrif) without the slightest usefulness. The Enemy of God is content with no more from the greatest ones, if he can make them commit this faux pas, letting them be unknowingly in error, showing such coarseness of soul and lowering themselves to such an extent, all the while imagining themselves to be in the Closeness of God, and of a sublime and superior rank (...). The servant dedicated to genuine servant-hood, does not, even in perfect agreement with his Lord, allow himself the slightest familiarity (idlâl); what if he were to find himself out of agreement? By this reminder of Himself, God sends His servants back to their own souls by saying: 'If you know your souls, you know Me.' Adab requires me to come back and look at myself; to consider only God and neglect my soul,.is not to observe adab. If I am not an adîb, I cannot sit on the divine carpet; I shall be deprived of the contemplation and knowledge which vision confers (...). He who holds fast to what we have said will be utterly clear about the divine exhortation. If he wants, he will take up his share in the inheritance and will exhort in his turn. If not, he will forever remain in that state, his attention directed on himself. The soul is in fact a shoreless sea. We can meditate endlessly upon it in this world and the other. It is the most direct indication (al-dalîl al-aqrab). The more we meditate upon it, the more knowledge of it grows, and the more this knowledge accumulates, the more knowledge of its Lord grows. (Futûhât IV, 68)

In the preceding passage, respect for the Letter contrasted with a freeing of forms in expression, which can come from the greatest saints.[28] The munâzala (Chapter 445) – 'Do you know My saints, those I have formed by My rules of adab – explains this tendency in two ways. Firstly, by reference to the two forms of love expressed in the verse: 'Say: If you love God, follow me; God will love you' (Qur'an 3:31); and 'He who loves God is humbled (dhalla – an allusion to servanthood) and he whom God loves, allows himself some familiarity (dalla).' The hadîth: 'God has instilled adab in me...' quoted next and without any transition, shows that it is adab which differentiates these two modalities of love. A first answer is next given to the question asked. We know the spiritual dwellings of beings, saints or not, either by intuitive unveiling or by observance of divine adab.

This adab is what God has instituted as a law for His servants, in His Envoys and by their mouths'.[29] Sacred laws are the rules of God's adab (al-sharâ'i' âdâb Allâh), established for His servants. By faithful carrying out of what the law requires (haqq al-shar'), we respect the rules of the Adab of the True one (adab al-haqq), and we know the saints of God (awliyâ' al-haqq). When we see a man bringing together the good and seizing it firmly, we know that he has respected the adab of God. The Envoy of God, grace and peace be upon him – the truthful one, the one who knows best concerning his Lord – addresses himself thus to Him: 'The whole, the complete Good is in Your hands'.[30] If you want to know what Good is, know that it is the bringing together of the noble characteristics (jimâ' makârim al-akhlâq), which are known by natural as well as by sacred law (al-'urf wa 'l-shar'). (Futûhât IV, 58)

Certain of the Law's injunctions, such as the application of legal penalties, may seem contrary to the virtues of pardon and leniency, but that is not a lack in the makârim al-akhlaq; the servant's adab consists first and foremost in obeying the order of his Lord. Aside from those who respect the adab of the True One, God or the haqq according to which the Book was revealed and the Law instituted, consider the qualification (sifa) and not the persons themselves (ashkhâs). By 'qualification' we must understand the legal statute, positive or negative, and, ultimately, the final happiness or misery of the beings subject to Universal Law. If such a qualification inevitably attaches to all being, it is because manifestation implies a blending (imtizâj), be it only of essence and quality, of which the haqq keeps count without confusing them.

A difficult distinction: at the end of his ascension, the saint, such as Abu Yazid al-Bistami, may exclaim: 'I have no qualities' (lâ sifata lî), for he is once more in the 'intelligibility of his original simplicity' (fî ma'qûliyyat basâtatihi). This simplicity, however, 'cannot occur in determined, sensory existence, where there are none but composite beings open to happiness or misery according to their blend' (p. 59). The perspective of the Shaykh al-Akbar, following that of the Qur'an and the Prophet, is of the descent of the haqîqa back into the haqq, or rather of their inseparability, like the two modalities of love which we touched upon above. At the end of this chapter, a new answer is given to the title of the munâzala, to conform, as the Shaykh indicates, to the adab of the angels who answer the questions of their Lord, albeit He better knows the truth:

You have brought us to know them by bringing us to know the rules of Your adab. You have attached them to Yourself, saying: 'The saints of God'. They are recognized by this sign: 'When we see them, they bring about our mentioning Allah,'[31] by reason of their realization by God: absolute servanthood, pure and without admixture (al 'ubûda al-mahda al-khâlisa) in no way altered by the quality of Lordship (al-rubûbiyya). Such are Your rules of adab. (p. 60)

We shall return to the distinction which is next made, between the adab of sainthood and the adab of divine vicegerency. The saint must manifest no quality of Lordship, unlike the khalîfa, for 'the saint is wholly God's and the khalîfa is now God's, now the world's.' The khulafâ';here means those who follow in the Prophet's footsteps, 'those who have been left alone (al mufarradûn): those whose rules of adab God Himself has taken into His care.'

Adab was first defined as 'the bringing together of good'; then good as 'the bringing together of the noble characteristics'. It included, then, these characteristics or the virtues and their well-advised practice, in conformity to the haqq. The Law and the Path are themselves not otherwise defined, in reference to the hadîth: 'I have been sent to perfect the noble characteristics,' often connected with the hadîth already quoted: 'I have received the Words of bringing together.'[32] The bringing together in the person of the Prophet of the Words and characteristics results from the divine ta'dîb, which may be explained by the compenetration of his inner being and the Qur'an which descended within him.[33] The Shaykh al-Akbar draws all these conclusions from the hadîth of 'Aisha on the 'character' of the Prophet:

God, may He be exalted, said: 'You are according to a magnificent character' (Qur'an 68:4). When 'Aisha was questioned on the character of the Envoy, upon him be grace and peace, she replied: 'His character was the Qur'an.'[34] She said that because his character is absolutely peerless (afrad al-khuluq), and it must be this peerless character to gather together the noble characteristics. God has qualified this character with magnificence ('azama), as He has the Qur'an, in His Word: '... and the Magnificent Qur'an' (Qur'an 15:87). Whoever wishes, not having known him, to see the Envoy of God, grace and peace upon him, let him look at the Qur'an. There is no difference between looking at him and at the Qur'an. It is as if the Qur'an had taken a bodily form named Muhammad Ibn Abdullah Ibn 'Abd al-Muttalib. The Qur'an is the Word of God, that is to say, His attribute. Muhammad is, then, in his total reality (bi-jumlatihi) the Attribute of the True One, may He be exalted. 'He who obeys the Envoy, has obeyed God' (Qur'an 4:80), for he does not speak according to passion (cf. Qur'an 53:3) but is a tongue of truth (lisân haqq).[35] (Futûhât IV, 60-61)


Adab is a skill in doing, and still more a skill in saying. If the divine word, and so the Prophet, have in them all forms of adab, certain passages of the Qur'an reveal some of the forms with greater clarity. These are the passages in which the beings closest to God, the prophets and angels, address a prayer to God (du'â). God sometimes corrects them in order to instill in them adab, which then comes ta'dîb. Consequently, adab plays an essential role in the interpretation of these verses.

Certain prophetic expressions inspired by revelation illustrate the interpenetration of the innermost being of the Prophet and the Qur'an suggested by 'Aisha's hadîth. Commenting upon a formula of du'a which the Prophet uttered just before the recitation from the Qur'an in the prayer, Ibn 'Arabi observes that it represents the utmost form of adab (ghâyat al-adab). In saying: 'O my God, purify me of sins as the white garment is cleansed of its dirtiness,'[36] the Prophet echoes the divine order: 'Cleanse your garments' (Qur'an 74:4). By using the word 'garment' (thawb, pl. thiyâb) he conforms literally to the divine order by adapting the same form (cf. Futûhât I, 417).

Even the very gestures of the prophet stem from this Quranic shaping. To indicate that the month of Ramadan may be twenty-nine or thirty days long, the Prophet expressed himself thus: 'The month is like this – he showed the ten fingers of his hands – and this – he made the same gesture – and like this too – he first held in one finger to indicate nine, and held it out again to indicate ten.' The Qur'an in fact says: 'O you who believe, it has been prescribed for you to fast ... A certain, counted, number of days (ayyaman ma'dûdât)' (Qur'an 2:183-4). In this verse, revealed before the obligation to fast in the month of Ramadan, the plural ayyâm can mean only a 'counted' number of days from three to ten. The Prophet wanted, then, to make the new obligation coincide with the text of the first revelation (cf. Futûhât I, 628).

A hadîth reports that an 'ifrît from among the jinns attempted to distract the Prophet from his prayer. God having given him power over this jinn, the Prophet wanted to tie it to a pillar of the mosque, to show it to his companions. Then he released it, remembering the invocation of Solomon: 'Lord forgive me and grant me a kingdom which will not be proper to any after me!' (Qur'an 38:35).[37] The man who knows, the Shaykh al-Akbar indicates, is not veiled by the exercise of power. If the Prophet forbears from manifesting it, it is only by adab towards his brother Solomon, for 'will not be proper' means reality, 'which it will not be proper for it to be manifested (lâ yanbaghî zuhûruhu).' There is moreover no lack of adab in Solomon's invocation. He would not have uttered it, had he known that exercise of a power might place a veil between God and him. On the contrary, God confirmed him by His Names 'He who refuses' and 'He who gives' (al-mâni' al mu'tî), in the following verse: 'Such is our gift: grant or restrain without account' (Qur'an 38:39). Interpretation of these two verses of the Sûrah 'Sad' allows us access to a double adab of prophecy (cf. Futûhât I, 585).

The prophets, as guardians of the 'truth of right' (haqq) according to which the heavens and earth were created and the Book revealed, respect to the highest degree the share of existence which accrues to each being. As to pure inexistence, 'evil does not return to You,' says the Prophet in one of his invocations,[38] renouncing thus the adab of essential reality, according to which all proceeds from God. Al-Khidr recalls this adab of the haqq to Moses, who could not refrain from reproaching him for acts apparently contrary to the Law. The explanation which he gives him (cf. Qur'an 18:79-82) presents a model of 'adab of attribution' (adab al-idâfa), one of the categories of adab of the Law listed in Chapter 202 as 'the spiritual state of adab'. When al-Khidr explains why he sank the boat, and said: 'So I wanted to damage it,' he attributes a blameworthy act to himself. When he says, about the murder of the young man: 'We wanted their Lord to replace him by better than him,' he underlines by the plural what the action comprises, blameworthy and praiseworthy. Lastly, speaking of the wall rebuilt for the two orphans, an act in itself praiseworthy, the decision is attributed wholly to God: 'Your Lord wanted them to reach adulthood...' (cf. Futûhât II, 481).

The Prophetic attribution of good to God, also illustrated in the Qur'an by the words of Abraham and Job, is respected in the highest degree by the Prophet himself in his invocations.

The Envoy of God, upon him be grace and peace, would say when a happy event took place: 'The praise is God's, the Worker of Good, the Dispenser of graces', and, at'the time of a misfortune: 'The praise is God's in every state,' as authentic traditions certify. It is by virtue of a divine adab that the Prophet did not link the name Allah to another name, as he did at the happy event. While 'He Who harms' (al-dârr) is one of the Divine Names, like 'the Beneficent' (al-nâfi'), he did not mention 'He Who harms' in the formula of praise, not by passion, but according to a divine revelation.[39] Did he, the Truthful one, not state: 'It is God Who instilled adab in me, and perfected it in me'? We know, then, that this invocation (dhikr), and what it implies, belongs to the rules of adab. God has commanded us in Revelation to follow the Path of Abraham [cf. Qur'an 3:95]. Now, amongst the rules which Abraham observed towards his Lord is numbered his word: 'And when I am sick, it is He Who heals me' (Qur'an 26:80). He attributed healing to his Lord, but not sickness, which men generally consider an evil, even if it contains a good for the believer. God informed His Prophet of the word of Abraham in order that he might in his turn observe that adab, which the Prophet, grace and peace be upon him, did, saying: 'And evil does not return to You' (Futûhât IV, 97-98, Ch. 468).

Ibn 'Arabi notes at the conclusion of this chapter that 'Praise belongs to God in every state' contains in its formulation all praises, and ipso facto belongs to the 'Words of bringing together', which are the exclusive right of the Prophet.

The word of Abraham, conforming to the adab of the haqq, is compared elsewhere to the reply which Abu Bakr gave to those who asked him, at the time of his last illness, if he had consulted a doctor. This reply issued from the adab of the haqîqa.[40]

He replied: 'The Doctor made me sick,' while Abraham, the intimate friend, said: 'And when I am sick, it is He who heals me'. Compare these two statements; you will find Abu Bakr's more true (ahaqq); compare the two adabs, you will find the Intimate Friend's higher. No adab can surpass the rules of adab of Prophethood (...) 'And when I am sick' is an end (nihâya), 'It is He who heals me', a beginning (bidâya); the invocation of the Prophet, upon him be grace and peace, 'there is no healing but Thine,' the end of the end (nihâyat al-nihâya), for it is more accomplished and comprises both aspects. (Futûhât IV, 275-6; Ch. 558, hadrât al-shifâ')

The invocation of Job (Ayyub), who was put to the test by God, proceeds from the same adab: 'And Job, when he called his Lord: "Evil has touched me, and Thou are the most merciful of the merciful!" ' (Qur'an 21:83). The prophet attributes evil to himself and calls from it to the Divine Mercy, beseeching relief from his ills. Far from contradicting the patience of Job, this supplication reveals another dimension of prophetic adab.

If you conceive a desire which sickness and pain prevent you from realizing, hold back your soul from complaining to other than Him, who has given rise to that pain, and has decided for you what runs counter to your desire, as with Job – peace be upon him. Such is the divine adab He has taught to His prophets and envoys. God has brought about in you this pain and has decided contrary to your desire – which is in itself a part of His decision about you – so that you may ask Him to spare you. Not to complain to God when you feel an ill contrary to His desire, is to want to resist the divine constraint (al-qahr al-ilâhî). Abu Yazid al-Bistami, tortured by hunger, wept. To the man who reproached him for it, he replied: 'He gave me hunger in order that I should weep.' Adab, all adab, is in that complaint addressed to God and to Him alone without losing by that the virtue of patience. God said of His envoy Job: 'We have found him patient...' (Qur'an 38:44). Where men are shaken and run to secondary causes, nothing shook him and he addressed himself only to God. (Futûhât IV, 143, Ch. 505)

By beseeching God's pity, Job observes adab at the outset by respecting his condition as servant, as the following part of the verse quoted above states: 'What an excellent servant, he returns unceasingly to God.' In the same way: 'the man who knows', Ibn 'Arabi explains, after recalling the example of Abu Yazid, 'even if he does feel capable of patience, flees to the place of weakness, servitude and perfect adab. (Futûhât II, 29).[41]Moreover, the invocation: 'And Thou are the Most Merciful of the Merciful,' indicates as much turning to God alone, as implicitly, by the request for healing, confirmation of the institution of secondary causes (ithbât wad' al-asbâb). Not only does recourse to causes not contradict orientation to God alone, but, while maintaining the being in a state of poverty and servitude, unveils to him the non-manifested and essential aspect of things, without undermining the order of manifestation. Adab and knowledge coincide in the conclusion of the commentary on the prayer of Job.

We know, then, that patience is none other than holding the soul back from complaining to other than God. We mean by 'other' one particular face from among the faces of God (wajh khâss min wujûhi Allah). God the True has determined among His faces one particular face, called the face of His Self (wajh al-huwiyya). It is by that face that we invoke Him to suppress evil, and not by His other faces called 'causes', which are in the last analysis not other than He. The fact that the knower addresses himself to the Divine Self in order to suppress evil, does not veil him and does not prevent all causes being for him, from a certain point of view, God Himself. These among God's servants who respect adab, and they alone, the faithful custodians of the Divine secrets, may follow this path (wa hadhâ layal-zamu tarîqatuhu illâ 'l-udabâ' min 'ibâdi' llâh al-umanâ' 'ala asrâri 'llâh). God has faithful custodians whom He alone knows, and who know each other.[42] (Fusûs al-Hikam p. 174-5; 'Bezel of the Non-manifested Wisdom in the Word of Job')

In comparison with the adab of the prophets and those who follow them step by step, the bearing of the saints may be considered as a lack of adab (su' adab). This bearing brings about a ta'dîb from God, so that the saint does not enclose himself in a heroism of virtues which would make him lose the sense of servanthood. The Shaykh cites the case of Sumnun, nicknamed the Man in Love' (al-muhibb).[43] He had so well realized the station of patience (sabr) and of total agreement (ridâ) that he ventured to address to God this verse of poetry:

I expect nothing from other than You
Put me to the test however You will

To cure him of this lack of adab, God inflicted retention of urine upon him, so that he would want to recover from this degrading illness, and thus attain the highest degree of sainthood (cf. Futûhât II, 207-8).

The example of Sumnun shows that for the saints, any lack of divine or prophetic adab brings about a sanction or correction (ta'dîb), and consequently a purification and a growth in knowledge. But we can marvel at passages of the Qur'an in which purified beings, prophets or angels, bring God's anger upon themselves by opposing themselves to the action of God's almighty Power (nufûdh al-iqtidâr al-ilâhî).

And when your Lord said to the angels: 'I am about to set a Vicegerent (khalîfa) upon the earth,' they objected. 'Wilt Thou set one there who will sow corruption and spill blood, while we glorify Thee with Thy praise and proclaim Thy holiness?' (Qur'an 2:30)

The angels are speaking in knowledge of course, but doubly contravene adab, since they oppose the divine will, and put themselves in the forefront. For this latter reason, they were obliged to prostrate themselves before Adam, and for the former, to spill their blood assisting the believers at the battle of Badr. Yet they had acted in conformity to their nature, that of the elect in the beyond, which is a dwelling of holiness and closeness (dar walâya). By arousing the divine anger (al-ighdâb al-ilâhî), they were without knowing it participating in the fall of man on to the earth, dwelling place of vicegerency (dâr khilâfa) in order for there to manifest in man the fullness of the Divine Form (kamâl al-sûra). This contains all the divine aspects, certain of which, like Anger and Vengeance, cannot manifest in Paradise, but on this ephemeral dwelling, the earth. Without the fall, man would not have been called to seek among the divine attributes those which embrace all things, Mercy and Knowledge. Because they are maintained in a state of specific election, they cannot grasp the aspect of divine knowledge which includes punishment in mercy. Thus God reminds them, in answer to their objection: 'Certainly, I know what you do not' (Qur'an 2:30). Adab is in such circumstances identified with knowledge, which also brings together all good.[44] Only 'those who are deeply rooted in knowledge' (cf. Qur'an 3:7) are aware of the subtle causes of the divine anger. The Shaykh al-Akbar advises his readers thus:

Apply yourself most exhaustively to the knowledge of that which can give rise to the divine anger, in order to avoid it. That knowledge belongs to the science of secrets, and not all have it. It is the science of Hudhayfa Ibn al-Yaman, the companion of the Prophet of God, upon him be grace and peace, and led to his being known as 'Possessor of the Secret' (sâhib al-sirr).*[45] God gives His saints no knowledge more useful than this. I have seen no one who tasted it, nor heard that its effect had manifested on anyone at all of the People of God after Hudhayfa. This knowledge confers an imperceptible immunity ('isma). He who is favoured with it, scarcely notices it; the removal of veils from him is completely perfect. God grants it only to the udabâ', people of vigilance (ahl al-murâqaba), these who consider things according to the agreement and correspondence between Lord and vassal, Creator and created... (Futûhât III, Ch. 341)

The rarity of this science comes doubtless from its bringing together two types of knowledge, and so of spiritual bearing, the adab of sainthood (adab al-walâya), maintained by the angels and saints, and that of the Divine Vicegerency (adab al-khilâfa), whether it involves the prophets or those who are, in this regard, their heirs.

The saint bears help, but does not seek help (yansuru wa lâ yantasiru); the khalîfa seeks and brings help,[46] for he always finds himself an adversary. If the saint showed leniency, he would be no saint. He prefers nothing to God, for he is completely His. The khalîfa belongs now to God, now to the world, leaning at one moment to God by righteousness, at another, to the world, beseeching forgiveness for faults committed which would attract the righteous condemnation of the saint. This being, and those like him, are the solitary ones' (al-mufarradun) whose rules of adab God assigns to Himself the matter of instilling in them (tawallâ 'llâh âdâbahum bi-nafsihi). The khalîfa at times declares: 'I shall surpass the seventy'; at times he curses Ri'l, Dhaqwan and 'Usiyya.[47] What a difference between one state and the other! States for the khalîfa vary, but not for the saint; thus he can in no way be the object of suspicion, while the khalîfa can be, for his state alters unceasingly. He has no sooner hurled out an assertion, than his powerlessness belies it, while his truthfulness will appear in another situation. The rules of adab of the saints are identical to those of angelic spirits. Did Gabriel, peace be upon him, not take mind to stop up the mouth of Pharaoh and prevent him from speaking the Words of Unicity? He sought to outdo him, even though he knew that Pharaoh had the knowledge of 'There is no God but God'. But Pharaoh prevailed and offered up the Words, as God, exalted be He, has told us in His Incomparable Book.[48] The khalîfa [Muhammad] said to his uncle: 'Say it in my ear; I shall bear witness of it for you before God,' at that time when his uncle refused.[49] What a difference from the word of that other khalîfa [Noah]: 'Lord, leave not a single soul of the unbelievers alive on the earth' (Qur'an 71:26). Now perhaps, had they lived longer, they would have returned to God, or from their loins would have sprung men who would have believed in God, and brought delight to the believers. The rules of adab of the saints are irrevocable anger upon those who incur it from God; likewise irrevocable satisfaction towards those to whom God grants it. Such is the adab of the 'truth of right' (al-haqq) which here means that which necessarily must happen. The rules of adab of the khulafâ' are now satisfaction towards those who deserve it, and forgiveness too, and now anger towards those who incur it. (Futûhât IV, 60, Ch. 445)

When they protested against the appointment of man as Vicegerent of God on earth, the angels were lacking in adab. The ta'dîb which was inflicted upon them, reminded them that they had exceeded their limits. These angels were in fact subjected to the fulfilling of certain functions (malâ'ikat al-taskhîr), like assisting men, and believers in particular. On the other hand, when these same angels, conforming to their mission, brought their help (nusra) to the believers, pleading for divine pardon for them, they showed the most perfect adab, higher even than that of the prophets, with the demands of other exigencies. The first part of chapter 154, devoted to the 'station of angelic sanctity', is organized around the interpretation of these verses:

Those who bear the throne and surround it, glorify the praise of their Lord, believe in Him, and ask pardon for those who believe:
Lord, Thou dost embrace all things in mercy and knowledge; forgive those who have repented and followed Thy way, protect them from the Blazing Fire, Lord, and admit them to the Gardens of Eden which Thou has promised them, and also the just among their parents, wives and descendants. Thou art the Almighty, the Most Wise. And protect them from sin; those whom Thou protectest from sin on that day, Thou wilt have mercy upon, and that is a magnificent victory. (Qur'an 40:7-9)

All interpretation is founded upon the adab of invocation and intercession and engages the most immediate exegetical process, but also the most profound : 'Commentary on the Qur'an by itself (tafsîr al-qur'an bi-l-qur'an). By adding reference to the prophetic example, the Shaykh al-Akbar brings the adab of commentary to its perfection, in the double sense of spiritual propriety and technical competence.

As to those angels, their patronage (walâya), i.e. their help to the believers, consists in this: when the believers commit a sin; when the divine names of vengeance are directed at them, and when at the stations of these names, the names of pardon, leniency and absolution of faults are in their turn directed, these angels, according to the Divine Word 'ask pardon thus for those who believe: Lord, Thou embracest all things in mercy and knowledge.' They add nothing more in favour of the disobedient and unrepentant believer, entrusting the matter to the knowledge which God has of what they intend by these words, by adab towards God, glory to Him. The Divine Dignity in fact requires of the People of God, jealousy for Him, and invocation against the one who disobeys Him, and does not respect His order and that which is proper to His majesty. The angels, observing adab with God, say: 'Lord, Thou embracest all things in mercy, for Thou has said: "... and My mercy embraces all things," ' (Qur'an 7:156). Now these sinners come into 'all things' and 'in knowledge', according to His Word: 'He delimits all things in knowledge' (Qur'an 7:156). This invocation of the angels is comparable to that of the Saintly Servant [Jesus], recorded by God: 'If Thou punish them, they are Thy servants; and if Thou pardon them, surely Thou art the Almighty, the Most Wise' (Qur'an 5:118). He respected adab with God on the matter of his people who had disobeyed and not repented. God saw that he had shown adab in indirectly invoking mercy, knowing that mercy precedes His chastisement.[50] Nonetheless, the souls of angels show greater steadfastness in adab, for they know better than that servant what is proper to the Divine Majesty. They said, not: 'And if Thou pardon them,' but: 'Thou embracest all things in mercy and knowledge.' They were thus recalling to God in an indirect manner, what He had stated about Himself. Moreover, they mentioned mercy in the first place, in the same way that God had, concerning His servant Khadir: 'We have given him, by mercy from Us,' before even saying what He had given to him by that mercy, which He next clarified: 'and We have taught him, from a knowledge' (Qur'an 18:65). For this reason the angels began with mercy, without putting the sinners forward in their invocation. In the matter of adab, a large distance separates the word of Jesus for his people from the prayer of the angels on behalf of the sinners, for whoever looks perceptively at this verse. This is why the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be grace and peace, prayed a whole night long reciting the verse: 'And if Thou punish them, they are Thy servants.' He did not stop repeating it until daybreak. He was reciting the word of another, but his goal was clear.[51] ... he did not do this with the verse containing the angels' invocation, for, by affinity, he was closer to Jesus, who himself was closer to the angels, Gabriel having presented himself 'as a human being of beautiful appearance' (cf. Qur'an 19:17) to his mother, Mary, in order to bring him into existence. Muhammad, upon him be grace and peace, followed an intermediary path to ask forgiveness on behalf of his people. The angels, then, plead for God's help for believers in a state of sin; as for those who have repented, they bring them help, saying: 'Lord, pardon those who have repented and followed Thy path and protect them from the chastisement of the blazing fire.' They refer specifically to them, for, after knocking on the door of repentance during their return to God, they stand in the station of divine closeness. From then on, the angels, doorkeepers of God (hajabat al-haqq), in asking pardon for them, act according to adab. The angels knowing also that there exists between Heaven and Hell an intermediate station, Limbo (al-a'râf), and that God, by the sweetness of His grace, responds to the call of the one who invokes Him (cf. Qur'an 2:186), added: 'and admit them, Lord, into the Gardens of Eden which Thou has promised them,' i.e. do not make them descend to Limbo, but admit them straight to Heaven; 'and also' in the sense of 'with', 'those who have been just among their parents, wives and descendants. Thou art the Almighty, the Most Wise.' None says: 'Thou art the Most Forgiving, the Most Merciful,' by adab towards the Divine Dignity. By the choice of the two other names, they re-situate themselves in the presence of adab with God. At last the angels bring help to the angels vowed to guarding the hearts of the sons of Adam and assisting them by their prayers against the attacks of the demons bound to the hearts of servants, saying: 'And the one Thou protectest from sin on that day, Thou wilt have had mercy upon.' Aside from this, the angels bring their help to all beings on earth, without restriction, believing or no, as this verse shows: 'And the angels glorify the Lord with His praise and ask forgiveness for those who are on the earth' (Qur'an 42:5), in absolute fashion, and without restriction by adab to God. The earth includes all those it bears, so that believer and unbeliever partake in this asking for pardon. Then God announced to those who live on the earth that their request for pardon had been granted, ending the verse thus: 'Is God not the Most Forgiving, the Most Merciful?' (Futûhât II, 250-51)

This long extract, and above all the interpretation of the last verse, which lends colour and shading to what in the first verses is given in black and white, allows us to grasp, by addressing the matter in terms of adab, the multiplicity of Quranic forms, which are themselves bound to the manifestation of the divine names. The turning towards the creatures of a Divine Name imposes upon them a specific adab. The other way round, the divine adab keeps count of what each being can receive of the Divine Word. This is one of the lessons we can draw from an exhortation of the same kind, addressed by God to Noah and to the Prophet. God rebukes the former for mentioning his son who drowned by refusing to enter the ark: 'Do not ask me that of which you have no knowledge. I exhort you not to be of the number of the ignorant' (Qur'an 11:46). Noah, Ibn 'Arabi notes, was an old man; the rebuke is less harsh than the one the Prophet was to receive, then in the strength of his years. Afflicted by the unbelief of his people, he hoped for a sign to convince them, but God reminds him that this does not concern him: 'If God had wished, He would have brought them together in His guidance. Do not be of the number of the ignorant' (Qur'an 6:35). It is not without interest to note that this remark concludes Chapter 167 on the 'alchemy of happiness', the account of the Shaykh's celestial journey, and thus precedes Chapter 168 on the maqâm of adab (cf. Futûhât II, 284 and also II, 617, Ch. 281). In its negative form, this exhortation may be likened to the order given to the Prophet always to seek more divine knowledge: 'And say, Lord, make me grow in knowledge!' (Qur'an 20:114). If God in a few verses instills adab into His Prophet, it is to make of him the receptacle of the knowledge which reflects adab in word and action.


The Prophet received the order to call men to God. Yet he must accept that some will believe and others, not. 'It is only your duty to transmit the message' (Qur'an 3:20) or 'It is not your duty to guide them, but God guides whom He will' (Qur'an 2:272). Whether the message be received or refused is a matter for God's knowledge of His creatures; in no case must the Envoy prefer his desire to attract men to God, to his duty of transmitting knowledge to those who believe.This is the general understanding of the Sârah 'Abasa. The Prophet was conversing in private with some rich Qurashite notables in the hope of converting them to Islam, and thus of attracting a great number in consequence. Then a poor and blind Muslim, 'Abdallah Ibn Umm Maktum, arrived unexpectedly, and insistently asked the Prophet to teach him some verses of the Qur'an. The Prophet, disturbed, turned away from him to devote himself to calling people to God, but then received this rebuke:

He scowled and turned away. Because the blind man came to find him. What do you know of it? Perhaps he will purify himself. Or remember himself, and that reminder will be beneficial to him. As to him who plays the rich man. You turn towards him. It is not your business if he does not purify himself. While as to him who hastens towards you. In the fear of God. You let yourself be distracted from him. (Qur'an 80:1-10)

The Shaykh al-Akbar devotes more than one commentary[52] to these verses, in which he sees one of the best illustrations of the word of the Prophet: 'My Lord has instilled adab in me, and has made it perfect in me.' This is first and foremost because behind the rebuke there is hidden: 'One of the works of excellence of the Envoy of God' (hasana min hasanât rasûli 'llâh). Those only are aware of this who can say, with the Shaykh: 'And we are with the contemplative vision, the "taste" and rank of the Envoy of God, upon him be grace and peace.' 'Indeed for those who have understanding of reality (al-muhaqqiqûn), "him" in "you turn to him" refers to God' (Futûhât I, 563). The Prophet sees in things the divine face which is in them; he turns then not to the rich Qurashi but to the divine attribute of richness (ghinâ'). In the face of that attribute, he himself manifests poverty and indigence in his cry to God. Sent to show the divine signs to those who see, he addresses himself to the one who needs to be enlightened and relieved of blindness, while the blind man, illuminated by faith, is in reality clear-sighted (basîr). Nonetheless, the divine rebuke or ta'dîb teaches him not to see the divine qualities conditioned in contingent beings (cf. Futûhât II, 149), but to grasp divine Reality in the totality of Its attributes.

'As to him who would seem rich, you turn to him', only the quality is mentioned, not the person. Now, richness is a divine quality. The eye of God's Envoy, grace and peace be upon him, did not turn to that quality, because he had fully realized poverty. But God wished to remind him that all His aspects are simultaneously embraced by Him (al-ihâta al-ilâhiyya) in order that attachment to one quality might not prevent him from grasping another. The vision by the Prophet of the divine richness in His Word: 'God is rich beyond comparing with His worlds' (Qur'an 3:97 and 29:6) must not override his vision of the divine entreaty in: 'And I have created jinns and men only that they may adore Me' (Qur'an 51:56). Yet, what a distance between the station of richness and that of entreaty, when God asks: 'And grant to God a goodly loan' (Qur'an 57:18 and 73:20)! From jealous love of the Prophet, God, glory to Him, did not want one quality to condition him rather than another. Subsequently, the Prophet, as was proper, put on a show of friendliness to the rich men, and showed the blind man his joy at seeing him, as it was important to act in the fact of these haughty men. Amongst those of noble character, humility and affability are of course always liked for their own sake. God did not cease instilling adab into His Prophet, upon him be grace and peace, until having fully realized the divine adab, he could say: 'My Lord has instilled adab in me, and has made it perfect in me'. God has a relation with the rich as well as with the poor; no divine aspect must escape the knower in any matter whatever. What a beautiful education God has given His servants! When He opens our eyes, those of our inner vision and of our intelligence, we understand that we are engaged with the rules of adab which He taught His Prophet to respect in relation to all the degrees of existence (al-marâtib). God means this adab for His Prophet, and means us to take him as example and model: 'There is for you a fine example in the Envoy of God' (Qur'an 33:21). We necessarily share in every utterance addressed by God to His Prophet, upon him be grace and peace, to instill adab in him. (Futûhât IV, 170-71, Ch. 527)

To sum up, the reproach is not a sanction upon a lack of adab, but teaches the Prophet another dimension of adab, and so bestows an increase in knowledge. The task of hermeneutics, however, is not limited to unveiling the metaphysical meaning of an instance of prophetic comportment, and thus explaining why Revelation accords such importance to what might seem a minor anecdote. Following the Divine Word, the interpreter comes back down again to the classification of the path to follow in such circumstances. Under his pen, adab, like a master, leads to the understanding of numerous Quranic passages, and then to the imitation of him whose character was formed by the Qur'an.

God, according to him, addressed the reprimand to the Prophet in order to fortify (Jabrari) the broken heart of Ibn Umm Maktum and of people like him, who did not see towards whom he was truly turning. Another verse, associated with the commentary on those above, confirms that the Prophet must in no case turn away from the poorest, materially and spiritually. As the noble Qurayshis had refused to meet him in the presence of companions like Bilal or Khabab b. al-Aratt, of low or servile origin, and as the Prophet had accepted this, again out of desire to see them enter Islam, he received this order:

Be patient in your soul in the company of those who invoke their Lord morning and evening, desirous of His face. Let your eyes not turn away from them, for desire of the finery of life here below. Do not obey him whose heart has been distracted by Us from Our remembrance, who follows his passion and excessive behaviour. (Qur'an 18:28)

The beginning of the following verse reminds the Envoy that he is transmitting the Word, and not faith: 'Say, Truth comes from your Lord. Let him who wants, believe, and him who wants, disbelieve...'

The Envoy of God, upon him be grace and peace, when he saw the said slaves, would exclaim: 'Welcome to those about whom my Lord rebuked me'. While they remained in his company, he would sit with them, it was impossible for him to rise and go until they did so of themselves, for God had said to him: 'Be patient in your soul.' Knowing that, as well as his other obligations, his companions lessened their attendance and stayed only a little time with him, so that he could go about his business. The Prophet then renounced his first attitude, the outcome of an authentic and divine vision (mashhad sahih ilâhî) in order to grant all his attention to the broken hearts. For God is 'beside those whose hearts are broken.'[53] He is thus present in an invisible manner, which faith confirms and the eye denies. He is on the other hand in a visible manner with those who manifest their greatness (al-mutakabbirûn), which the eye affirms, and faith denies. God brought his Prophet, upon him be grace and peace, back from the vision of the eye to that of faith, teaching him that His theophany in the persons of these great and powerful beings belongs to the adornment of life here below, an adornment which God has conferred on this life, not on us. What belongs to us is 'the adornment of God', which is not conditioned by the life of this world' (Futûhât II, 149, Ch. 177).[54]

Adab requires, then, that we take account at once of the divine aspects reflected in the beings, and of the plane of existence in which they manifest. These men, who in their own pretensions were rich, were in reality in extreme poverty with regard to the source of their richness. The verse says: 'As to him who would seem rich', and not 'him who is rich'. When the men of God (ahl Allah), following the Envoy, perform the call to God (al-du'â or al-da'wa illâ 'llâh) in the presence of poor and of rich people, they must turn to the former, and in no way defer to the second group in order not to confirm them in their illusory position. Nonetheless, the one who calls to God must observe 'the balance of right' (mîzân al-haqq).

If he omits it, he very quickly risks falling into error. The measure (wazn) to respect vis-à-vis the rich, well-esteemed man, consists in not showing oneself too attached to him, and also in not speaking to him in an imperious and humiliating tone, for this does not encourage him to humility, but repels him, and only increases his pride. He has received the order to call people to God. Let him do it then, as God has ordered and taught His Prophet, upon him be grace and peace, and this utterance is addressed also to us: 'Say, this is my way; I call to God with clear sight, I and he who follows me' (Qur'an 12:108); or: 'Call to the path of your Lord with wisdom and goodly exhortation; if they dispute with you, answer them in the best manner' (Qur'an 16:125); and again: 'If you had been rough and hard-hearted, they would have dispersed away from you' (Qur'an 3:159). Everyone who calls to God, must be like this.Let his heart not conceive the least hope in the goods of this world, nor the favour enjoyed by the one he calls, for: 'All power belongs to God, His Envoy and the believers' (Qur'an 63:8). Let him not take off the garment God has dressed him in. It is the only sphere in which he may act, and the meaning of 'wisdom'...

The revelation concerning Ibn Umm Maktum or Bilal and those like him, Ibn 'Arabi again notes, comes, before all else, to hearten them, and to remind the Envoy that only transmission of the message is incumbent upon him. The Shaykh draws from it this lesson in inner adab:

The path to follow in spiritual direction (ar-irshâd) and the call to God has for a true balance richness in God (al-ghinâ' bi-llâh), and independence in the matter of what men possess and of what one can obtain through them as intermediaries. If you have not this quality within you, do not call upon God, but busy yourself with calling upon your soul to qualify itself by that virtue. Do not exceed your own limits and do not make your way into what you do not possess; you would be a 'despoiler' and prayer in a 'despoiled' house (al-dâr al-maghsûba) is illicit. (This is a question upon which jurists differ.) Now to call to God, is a prayer. Its pure and sincere performance requires freedom from subservience to the one you are calling. This is where we must make use of richness in God. To move away from it is to unbalance the scale; God has said: 'and do not lessen the balance weight,' and: 'so that you do not exceed the balance weight' (Qur'an 55:9 and 8).[55] (Futûhât II, 256ff., Ch. 163)

Adab could then be defined as the subtle equilibrium between the opposing and complementary divine aspects, which are reflected into creatures. This brings it close to the definition of knowledge by Abu Sa'id al-Kharraz, often quoted by Ibn 'Arabi: 'I have known God by His bringing together of opposites'.[56] Every attitude, whether it proceeds from metaphysical perception, such as vision of the divine face in the beings (see Futûhât III, 219, Ch. 351), or rests on a precept of the Law and the Path, such as calling men to God, must be weighed in the 'balance of truth and right' (mîzân al-haqq). No contradiction obstructs the comportment of the one who perceives Essential Reality, while scrupulously respecting the Law, even if that observance seems to hide the essential from those whose adab has not opened their eyes. It can even bring them blame, just as the Prophet incurred a rebuke because of men's lack of understanding.

The richest of the rich is he who is rich enough in God to do without rich men in God, even if he does not possess enough for one day. He is no less distressed for his dependants, for God has imposed on him the legal obligation to provide for their needs and food. Only the man who scrupulously observes the Law, grasps adab in all its fullness, knows the worth of all that has been instituted for him, and busies himself with that.[57] The path of the udabâ' is hidden. Only those know it who are 'rooted in the science',[58] who understand the realities as God gives them understanding. In the same way that God is not heedless of what His servants need, just so the People of God are not heedless of the order God has given to them, to be present with Him and not distracted from Him. Thus we may see an accomplished man (al-kâmil) concerned with providing for his family. The one whom the veil prevents from seeing (al-mahjûb) imagines that this care comes of lack of certainty, and all the more so if he puts some provisions aside. Yet he is only acquitting himself of adab towards God, and keeping within the limit fixed for him. For a true knower, the light of knowledge does not extinguish that of scrupulousness and does not distance him from adab. He who transgresses God's limits, does himself injustice, and does even more injustice to others. (Futûhât IV, 309, hadrat al-ghina')

Interpretation of the above verses in the light of adab and ta'dîb forms a key to other passages of the Qur'an in which God addresses the Prophet in a tone more or less tinged with rebuke. In the perspective opened up by the Shaykh al-Akbar, we may see there an ever greater growth of the receptivity of the heart to the Divine Word, and so to the Divine Knowledge. These verses, then, touch upon the function of the Envoy as Envoy, and upon the universality of his mission, already underlined by adab's characteristic bringing together. For the Prophet, the greater adab is in the reception of the Qur'an, the more perfect is its transmission; for the Muhammadian heir, the deeper his understanding, for the Qur'an does not cease descending upon the hearts of those who recite it.

The interpretation Ibn 'Arabi gives of the verses in which the Prophet is commanded not to hasten revelation, and to wait for the Angel to bring it, illustrates perfectly the role of adab in hermeneutics: a means, and at the same time, an end. Across several verses, it is Revelation in its principle and in its ultimate meaning which is aimed at. Is that not the meaning of ta'wîl, known to God alone or given as inheritance to 'those who are rooted in the science'?[59]

We must surely attribute the frequent references to adab as points of interpretation, delicate because they touch upon the mission of the Prophet, to the Shaykh's rootedness in the Quranic and prophetic forms of the science. But this rootedness is in its eschatological dimension, itself explained by his specific function by the side of the Seal of the Prophets.[60]

In the paragraph on 'the superiority of the giver of instruction over its receiver, and the adab which the disciple must observe towards his master' in the chapter on the 'Keys of the Treasures of Divine Generosity', the Shaykh takes a revealing detour to show the complexity of the relationship between the Prophet and the Angel of Revelation. From the point of view of Essential Reality, the teacher (mu'allim) is God, and revelation is direct. But the Prophet must observe adab towards his master, Gabriel, by not unveiling that Essential Reality, so that from master to disciple, till the end of time, the chain would not be broken. Reception of divine knowledge by the Calamus or First Intellect makes of Him the first receiver of instruction, and, in His turn, the first master vis-a-vis the Guarded Table of the Soul. This principle is reflected in the institution of the first Khalîfa, to whom God directly teaches all the names, until the accession of 'the Greatest of Lords, whose perfection is attested, Muhammad, upon him be grace and peace.' In addition to the science of the names, he receives 'the Words of Bringing Together'. The wise in his community, the best to be raised up for men (cf. Qur'an 3:110) are the heirs of the prophets 'until the arrival of the Seal of the Saints, the Seal of the Muhammadians who can give a ruling upon the Law (Khâtam al-mujtahidîn al-muhammadiyîn) and indeed until the final accession of the Universal Seal (al-khatm al-'âmm).'[61] The following commentary bears the hallmark of this Muhammadian seal:

The Faithful Spirit, Gabriel – upon him be peace – is the giver of instruction and the master of the envoys. When Muhammad, upon him be grace and peace, was receiving Revelation, he hastened the coming of the Qur'an before revelation of it had been completed,[62] in order to make it known that God had Himself undertaken to instruct him according to a specific mode (min al-wajh al-khâss), imperceptible to the Angel. God made of the Angel, descending to bring Revelation, a form of veil (sûra hijâbiyya).[63] He then revealed to the Prophet: 'Do not move your tongue to hasten its coming' by adab, the master. Now, the Prophet said of himself: 'My Lord has instilled adab in me, and has made it perfect in me.' This shows well that God has undertaken his instruction, as the following verses confirm: 'it is for Us to bring it together and unify its reading (qur'an). And when we have thus unified it, follow its reading. Then it is for Us to expound it' (Qur'an 75:19).[64] In these verses, God mentions only Himself, and attributes to Himself the reading, just as in 'My Lord has instilled in me...' God alone is mentioned, without intermediary or angel. We find this again in all the heirs of the Prophet, wise in exterior forms or in the hearts ('ulamâ' al-rusûm – 'ulamâ' al-qulûb), for instruction with or without intermediary reverts always to the Lord.[65](Futûhât III, 400, Ch. 369)

In the prohibition, 'Do not move your tongue to hasten its coming' there lies the difference between the projection of the Divine Spirit and Word into the hearts of the saints, and the Revelation which the Envoy transmits to institute the Law (cf. Futûhât II, 258, Ch. 159). The adab which he must respect vis-à-vis his master Gabriel, the messenger who descended from Heaven, is necessary for there to take place the passage between the two aspects of Revelation corresponding respectively to haqîqa and sharî'a. Recalling in the 'Hierarchy of the Letters' the special place occupied by the letters of the Bismillah, the Shaykh indicates that they may for that reason be considered under two different aspects.

We know by Unveiling (kashf) that revelation in distinct mode (furqân) was first received by the Envoy of God, grace and peace upon him, in a united and indistinct way (qur'an mujmal), not separated out into verses and Sûrahs. This is why he would hasten its coming when Gabriel, peace upon him, brought him the Revelation in distinct mode. He was told: 'Do not hasten the coming of the Qur'an...', which you know already, for you would then give it out in an indistinct form, and you would not be understood,'... before its revelation has been completed ...' in distinct and detailed mode 'and say: "make me grow in knowledge" by the distinction of the meanings which Thou hast brought together in me in an indistinct way.' (Futûhât I, 83, Ch. 2)


The Prophet, and then all the spiritual men of Islam, have been formed by reception of the Qur'an in its double aspect of bringing together and separation. Adab itself includes these two aspects, and for that reason constitutes the golden rule of interpretation in the Shaykh al-Akbar's work. To a large extent the aspect of distinction prevails in his hermeneutic process because it corresponds to the clarification (bayân) which God Himself has undertaken (cf. Qur'an 75:19) and, in the matter of spiritual realization, to servanthood ('ubûdiyya) of which the Prophet showed the example.

The attribution of good to God and evil to man, some examples of which we have seen, is not to be explained only by respect to the Divine Dignity. We must see it as pointing out a path to follow in order to understand the Qur'an and its descent.

Consider the possible things before their manifestation in the entities proper to them ('ayn). God (al-haqq) manifests Himself in them only in the form of that which they can receive. They are not, then, according to the divine form in reality, but the one who is ruled according to the form of the one who rules him (al-mudabbar 'alâ sûrat al-mudabbir). In the former there manifests only what he is able to receive of the latter, and no more. God is then none other than the modality of being of the creatures (fa-laysa 'l-haqq illâ mâ huwa 'alayhi 'l-khalq). We see and know nothing else of God. He is in Himself as only He knows; to Him belongs that which can in no case be known, as His Word points out: 'God is rich with regard to the worlds' (Qur'an 3:97,29:6). This knowledge about God, exalted by He, to which we have just drawn attention, we are not divulging by free choice, but divine constraint has decided upon it. Keep it as a precious thing and do not neglect it; it will teach you adab with God. From this station His word descended: 'That which strikes you as good, comes from God, and what strikes you as evil, comes from you' (Qur'an 4:79), which means: 'I have given to you only as much as you were able to receive.' The overflowing of divine grace (al-fayd al-ilâhî) is vast, as is His gift which nothing holds back. You get of it, however, only what your own essence is able to receive. It is what limits the vastness and brings you into narrowness. The 'measure' in which His governance is indispensable to you, is the Lord you adore, the only one you know. (Futûhât IV, 62, Ch. 447)

The Shaykh invites the reader of the Qur'an to follow him into this metaphysical setting of the sight and initiatory path in which the other is effaced, while affirming his otherness:

Beware of reading the Qur'an otherwise than as furqân, for God 'misleads many by it' – plunges them into perplexity – 'and guides many by it' – gives them understanding by His own clarification (bayân) – and He misleads by it only the corrupt' – those who overstep His limits and His rules (Qur'an 2:26). You are you and He is He (anta anta wa huwa huwa). Beware of saying, like that impassioned lover (al-Hallaj): 'I am the One I love, and the One I love is me.' Was he able to bring them back to a single entity? By God, he was not, for ignorance is an impossibility. By mentioning himself with the one he loved, he separated them. Have faith in the separation (furqân), you will be of the people of demonstration (burhân) or, better, of those of unveiling and vision ('iyân). You know that a blindfold must be removed [cf. Qur'an 50:22]. You believe that; well, do not delude yourself by saying: 'I am He and He is I.' (Futûhât IV, 401, Ch. 559 ref. to Chap. 367)

The Qur'an came down so that the Divine Word might be revealed in the language of man. God does not, then, ask him to be anything other than himself.

It is not commendable for a servant to adorn himself with the attributes of his master, for it is a lack of adab. On the other hand the master may assume by humility (tawâdu') the attributes of the servant. This descent has no effect upon the master, but he does this kindness to his servant in order to put him at ease. In his heart, in fact, the majesty of the Master is so great that it could not be an indication to His subject, if He did not come down to him. The servant could not, for his part, adorn himself with the qualities of his master, either in His presence or vis-à-vis other servants, his brothers, even if God entrusts authority to him over them. (Futûhât I, 173, Ch. 20)

To understand, and enable others to understand, this Word, the first hermeneutic attitude and rule of exegesis to be respected is that of adab. Otherwise, how would a right balance be held between the aspects of transcendence and similarity (tanzîh-tashbîh) in which God manifests Himself in likeness and otherness to man?

Know, and may God assist you by a spirit proceeding from Him, that affirmation of transcendence of the Divine Dignity is, for the people of the essential realities, only limitation and conditioning. He who affirms divine transcendence is an ignorant man, or one devoid of adab, if he expresses and professes it in an absolute manner. He who professes his faith in the revealed laws, affirming only divine transcendence, seeing nothing else, commits a dereliction of adab and unknowingly belies the Word of God and of the Envoys – the grace of God be upon them. He thinks he is a winner: he is in fact a loser, and is like those who have believed in one part of the book and disbelieved in another (cf. Qur'an 2:85). Yet he well knows that the languages in which the divine laws have been revealed, express themselves, when the subject is God, either in a general fashion according to the first meaning of the expression used (al-mafhûm al-awwal), or in a particular way according to one of the meanings which the expression can take on in the language. God, indeed, manifests Himself in every creature. He is the Exterior in every object of understanding and the Interior, inaccessible to all understanding (huwa al-zâhir fî kulli mafhûm wa 'l-bâtin 'an kulli fahm) if it is not in the understanding of the one who professes that the world is His form and His Ipseity, or, again, His name the Exterior, in the same way that He is, in the order of the meaning of the expression, the spirit of that which is manifested, or His name the Interior. (Fusûs, p. 68)

God in His descent loses nothing of His exaltation, for He is beyond all limits. Because of this, the only way to avoid limiting Him is to respect the form in which He has manifested Himself. We understand, from then on, the importance which Ibn 'Arabi attaches to the exterior (zâhir) meaning of the Qur'an, to its letter, or more exactly to its letters. His vast commentary, now lost, al-jam' wa'l-tafsîr fî asrâr al-tanzîl, 'Unitive and distinctive knowledge of the Secrets of Revelation', makes reference in its very title to the two faces of the Qur'an. It comprised more than three levels of interpretation: the Majesty (jalâl) and the Beauty (jamâl) brought together and surpassed in Perfection (kamâl), the point of view proper to the 'Muhammadian Heir' and founded upon One Science of the Letters.[66] Educated in the respect of the letter of the Qur'an, the Shaykh takes care that no dereliction of adab should slip from his pen. The following example, containing the twelve Poles corresponding to the signs of the zodiac, shows that this care does not stem from a simple respect for convention:

Each of them is upon the heart, or, if you will, upon the foot – it is preferable to say it thus – of one of the prophets. I saw it thus at the unveiling at Seville and this much better respects adab towards the Envoys. Adab is our maqâm, and it is the maqâm which I deem suitable for me and the servants of God. (Futûhât IV, 77, Ch. 463)


The link woven between the Qur'an, the Prophet and adab, by which, as well as the bringing together of good and of the divine words, the separation of the servant and Lord is accomplished, allows us to understand one of the aspects of the function of the Seal. All the examples of interpenetration proposed here indicate veneration, reserve and depth of meaning vis-à-vis the text itself, and those it involves, the prophets in general and the Prophet in particular. That is the characteristic of a being imbued with the Qur'an, in the footsteps of him whose character was the Qur'an. To the question: 'By what quality does the Seal of Muhammadian sainthood merit that function?' he answers:

By the perfecting of the noble characteristics with God. All that men have been able to observe of him comes of the fact that the characteristics he maintains towards them, coincide perfectly with maintenance of the same characteristics vis-à-vis God. In fact, private interests (al-aghrâd) diverge, and noble characteristics are considered, by the one to whom they are practised, as agreement with his own interest, be this praiseworthy or blameworthy for anyone else. But, as the Seal could not, in this life, find himself in total harmony with the universe while holding on to what is, for him, beautiful and good (jamîl), he could, following the example of the wise man who does what is needful, as it is needful because it is needful, find no companion comparable to God (al-haqq), or company comparable to His. Seeing that happiness inheres in His business and conformity to His will, he considered the limits and laws instituted by Him, held to them and followed them. Amongst all He has instituted, God taught him how to comport himself with all that is other than He: purified angel, honoured envoy, every imâm to whom God has entrusted the affairs of His creatures from Khalîfa to customary head ('arîf), companion male or female, close relative, child, servant or governess, animal, plant or mineral, as substance, accident or property if it refers to what can be owned. By devoting his attention to the True Companion (al-sâhib al-haqq), he turned it towards what we have just said. It is, then, with his Master that he observed these characteristics, which merited his being told, like the Prophet, 'You are according to a magnificent character' (Qur'an 68:4). 'Aisha also said: 'His character was the Qur'an;' he praised what God had praised and blamed what God had blamed, holding a language of truth (lisân haqq) 'upon a throne of truthfulness, beside an Almighty King' (Qur'an 54: 55).[67] The excellence of his origin, the observance of the noble characteristics with the entire universe and the extension of his benevolence to all the horizons, earned for him the sealing of Muhammadian sainthood, His words: 'You are according to a magnificent character.' (Futûhât, II, 50, quest. 4)

It matters much, and at the same time little, that this function has been claimed by and for others than the Shaykh al-Akbar. It must above all be borne in mind that the universality of the function is attached at the same time to the excellence of the character, and to inner and outer conformity to the Qur'an and the Prophet. Can we name in the history of tasawwuf a master in whose works exegesis of the Qur'an and hadîth holds such an eminent place, an interpreter who made of adab one of the foundations of his hermeneutics? It is not at all a matter of making an apologia pro Ibn 'Arabi, but simply of showing, following our predecessors, that the function of Seal stemming from the haqîqa muhammadiyya, is fully realized in the hermeneutic and eschatological significance of the ta'wîl; 'The Qur'an and he are brothers, as the Mahdi is brother to the Sword.'[68] The calamus of the interpreter and the sword of the fighter both battle 'to raise high the Word of God'.


1. Cf. Roger Deladriere's introduction to Ibn 'Arabi, la Profession de Fox, Paris, 1978; Michel Chodkiewicz, Le Sceau des Saints, Paris, 1986; and by the same author, 'Introduction to Ibn 'Arabi' in Les Illuminations de la Mecque, Paris, 1988; Claude Addas, Ibn 'Arabi ou la quête du Soufre Rouge, Paris, 1989; 'Abd ar-Razzaq Yahya, L'Esprit Universelde I'Islam, Algiers, 1989; William Chittick, The Sufi Path of Knowledge, State University of New York, 1989.

2. This statement should receive fuller treatment. Meanwhile, see M. Chodkiewicz's observations in the introduction to Les Illuminations (pp. 24-5 and 29) on the composition of the Futûhât, or the correspondence between the number of the mandzil and that of the Sûrahs of the Qur'an.

3. At the end of the Ummayad era and the beginning of the Abbasid, adab, while still endowed with very strong ethical meaning in the works of a certain Ibn al-Muqaffa', takes on the meaning of 'knowing', relating at the same time to action and living. It is progressively reduced, in one of its meanings, to that of belles-lettres and literature. Reduction though it is, this evolution at least initially conserves the double idea of embracing the field of knowledge (or of a part of knowledge) and that of being able to use it advisedly in any circumstances. Given the very frequent use which will be made of this word, it will henceforth be given only in transliteration.

4. Al-adîb ima'a limâ fîhi min al-sa'a. Ibn 'Arabi here turns the generally pejorative meaning of ima'a, 'One who is with everyone', into a positive meaning.

5. This hadîth seems not to be located in the best-known collections. (Abd ar-Rahman al-Sulami (d. 412H) quotes it in more developed form, and with a brief isnâd:
According to Shaqiq, according to 'Abdallah (Ibn Mas'ud), the Envoy of God – Grace and Peace upon him – said: 'God has instilled adab within me, and has perfected it in me, since He has commanded me to observe the noble characteristics, saying: "Show yourself forbearing, command the good and turn away from the ignorant." ' (Qur'an 7:199) (Jâmi' âdâb al-sûfiyya, ed. E. Kohlberg, Jerusalem, 1976, p. 3.)
Sam'ani (m. 562), sometimes quoted as reference for this hadîth, reports it with a different isnâd, though including Sulami among its transmitters; cf. Adâb al-imlâ' wa 'l-istimlâ', ed. Weisweiler, Leiden, 1952, p. 1. Nallino mentions another version after the Nihaya of Ibn al-Athir; cf. La Littérature arabe des origines à l'epoque de la dynastie umayyade.

6. Notably Qur'an 20:114 and 23:116: 'Exalted be Allah, the King, the True One,' or 22:62: 'That is because Allah is the King, the True One, and that which they invoke, which falls short of Him, is the false.' In post-Quranic and post- prophetic usage, al-haqq also means 'God' in relation to the creatures (al-khalq). This usage ensues from the aspect of transcendence in the above verses and accordingly from the separative function of the haqq. One hadîth, nonethe less, suggests a relation between the Divine True One and the Muhammadian Reality. The Prophet said of himself: 'Whoever sees me (in a dream) has truly seen me,' or 'has seen The Truth' (man râ'âni faqad ra'â 'l-haqq). It is worth noting that in all the versions of this hadîth, al-haqq is specifically used. Cf. Bukhari, Ta'bîr, 10, IX, 42-3; Muslim, Ru'ya, II, VII, 54 (Istanbul edition 1332H); Darimi, Ru'ya, 4, II, 124; Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, III, 55.

7. Cf. Qur'an 2:119 and 35:24: 'We have sent you according to the Truth, as an announcer and warner,' and especially 17:105: 'According to the Truth We have brought it down and We have sent you only as an announcer and warner.' The following verse is linked: 'And as a Qur'an which We have divided up that you may recite it with pauses to men, and We have brought it down in a repeated manner' (wa qur'ân faraqnâhu li-taqra'ahu 'ala 'l-nâsi 'ala mukthin wa nazzalnâhu tanzîlan). 'Wa qur'ânan refers to 'it descended', but there is nothing to prevent it from referring equally to the Prophet in his inner and universal reality. Moreover, the expression 'with pauses' concerns the adab instilled by God in the Prophet so that the passage may come about from the unified form (qur'ân) to the separated form (furqân) of Revelation. We shall return to this question at the end of the article. Let us also note, concerning the first verse that Qurtubi comments thus: 'Into Muhammad or upon him, as it is said, "I went down to Zayd's" ' (i.e. Zayd's house – tr.) (nazaltu bi-zayd) (al-Jamî' li-ahkam al- qur'an, X, 339). Other passages of the Qur'an allow us to identify the Prophet with al-haqq, as here in the Sûrah 'Muhammad': 'And they believed in that which was brought down upon Muhammad, and he is (or it is) the Truth from their Lord...' (47:2). In his 'Prayer on the Prophet' Ibn 'Arabi identifies him with the Qur'an in its two aspects: 'Upon the Qur'an which contains the non- manifested and the non-manifestable, and upon the Furqân of the Distinction which discriminates between the ephemeral and the eternal...' (tr. M. Valsan in Études Traditionnelles, 1974, p. 246).

8. The particle of bi-l-haqq has an instrumental or locative meaning.

9. Died 536/1141. See EI(2), III 754-55 for information on him, and on al-haqq al-makhlûq bihi, cf. Futûhât, II, 60, 104; III, 77, 354, 416.

10. We must doubtless see in this point an indication of the difference between adab al-haqq and adab al-haqîqa – between the adab of Revelation or of the prophets, and that of the saints.

11. As in Qur'an 4:78: 'Say, all comes from God...' or 91:8: 'He inspires in it (the soul) its corrupt practices and its pious fear.'

12. In treatises of tasawwuf this question is dealt with as a matter of the relation between Sharî'a and haqîqa. Cf. chs. 262 and 263 of the Futûhât, translated by Michel Valsan (Études Traditionnelles, 1966, pp. 206-17). We shall then refer to this translation and to its very illuminating notes. M. Valsan translates in a note the hadîth which forms the foundation of the haqq-haqîqa relationship. The Prophet had asked a companion how he was, and the latter replied: 'This morning, I find myself truly (haqqan) believing.' The Prophet pointed out to him: 'To every true thing there corresponds a profound reality (haqîqa). What is the reality of your faith?' The companion replied that he felt absolute detachment from this world and had the vision of the Resurrection and the Hereafter. In other words, the initiatory death and resurrection had taken place. We have not found elsewhere the version of the hadîth translated by M. Valsan. Another, very similar but shorter, is quoted in the Futûhât, III, 541, ch. 389. It is found, with some variants, in manuals of tasawwuf, e.g. The Luma' by Sarraj, Cairo, 1960, p. 30. Junayd quoted extracts as of a known tradition: 'Every word has its profound truth' (li-kulli qawl haqîqa). Cf. Majma' al-zawâ'id, re-edited Beirut 1967, I, pp. 57-8; see also al-Kandihlawi, Hayât al-sahâba, Damascus, 1969, III, pp. 430-31. It is interesting to look again at the definition which the Lisan al-'arab gives of haqîqa: 'That which a thing must achieve, such as it really is, and requires to become' (mâ yasîru ilayhi haqq al-amr wa wujûbuhu). This is akin to the meaning of ta'wîl (see below). M. Valsan proposed translating haqq and haqîqa as 'immediate truth' and 'last truth'.

13. On this verse, see below.

14. Cf. Qur'an 10:30: They are sent back to Allah, their master, the True One.' The following verses (32 and 33) repeat the word haqq several times over, and verse 39 says of those who do not believe in Revelation: 'They have treated that as a lie, knowledge of which they could not encompass, while the final meaning (ta'wîl) of it has not yet reached them.' Adab in interpretation of the Qur'an is, then, to wait for the ta'wîl.

15. munâzala means 'meeting halfway between God and man at the exact point where the divine "descent" and the "ascent" of the creature concur,' M. Chodkiewicz, Introduction to Illuminations de la Mecque, p. 30, on Futûhât, III, 118.

16. At-sûrah al-imâmiyya: The sûrah Yâ Sîn, with reference to verse 12, 'And we have numbered every thing in a manifest archetype (imâm mubîn).' This is generally regarded as the Guarded Tablet or the Heavenly Exemplar of The Book. For Ibn 'Arabi it means the Insân al-kâmil insofar as he contains the archetype and the enumeration of all things, by bringing together and separation; cf. Souad Hakim, 'al-mu'jâm al sûfi' pp. 111-13. Yâ Sîn or Yâ insân: 'O man!' is one of the names of the Prophet as universal man. He is called, in the prayer on the Prophet, 'He who numbers the five divine excellencies'; 'and We have numbered every thing in a manifest archetype'; the fifth is 'total' or 'unifying excellence' (al-hadrat al-jâmi'a). Cf. Études Traditionnelles, 1974, pp. 242-3.

17. It seems that this phrase belongs to a hadîth in which the Prophet announces to his companions that he has seen his Lord: 'In the most beautiful of forms'. God asks him a question which he is unable to answer, and inspires him with the answer by striking him with His hand between the shoulders; 'and I felt the freshness of His fingers in my breast,' said the Prophet, adding the phrase: 'then every thing manifested to me, and I knew,' (Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, V, 243). This knowledge is expressed in different ways in the rather numerous versions of the hadîth, but not in the form quoted by Ibn 'Arabi, albeit the phrase does belong to the tradition. (It is not found in any of the references shown by O. Yahya in his edition of the Futûhât, II, p. 510). On the knowledge of 'First and Last', see A. Yahya, L'Esprit Universel de I'Islam, ch. XXI.

18. Cf. for example Bukhari, Tafsîr, Sûrah 17, VI, 105 (at the beginning of a long hadîth on the intercession of the Prophet). See also references in Concordances et Indices de la tradition musulmane, III, 17.

19. Part of a well-known hadîth qudsî. Cf. Bukhari, Raqâ'iq, bâb al-tawâdu' VIII, 131 and Al-ahâdîth al-qudsiyya, Cairo, 1969, I, pp. 81-4.

20. Yufassilu ijmâlahu bi-suwarihi wa yujimilu tafsîlahu bi-dhâtihi.

21. Cf. Ibn Mâja, Sunan, zuhd 4, ed. Abd al Baqi, p. 1379: 'According to Asma' Bint Yazid, she heard the Envoy of God – Grace and Peace be upon him – say: "Shall I not tell you who are the best among you?" "Yes, O Prophet of God!" "The best among you are those who, when one sees them, make one mention God (or: remember God) – may He be exalted." '

22. This is the principal meaning of futuwwa; cf. Futûhât, II, 231-4, ch. 146.

23. Cf. Darimi, Sunan, fadâ'il al-qur'an, 1, II, 422. Here is the rest of this hadîth reported by Ibn Mas'ud: 'I know nothing more unworthy than a house in which there is nothing of the Word of God. The heart which contains nothing of the Word of God, goes to ruin like a house in which no one lives.'

24. See on this subject the article by Michel Chodkiewicz, 'La Lettre et la Loi', Sym posium on Mystique, culture et société, Paris Sorbonne, Michel Mesline, Paris, 1983.

25. God, by the voice of the Qur'an. The reader will note that in Arab countries the term Mu'addib generally means the headmaster of a Quranic school.

26. The two words have the same meaning, except that the second is used in the Qur'an: 'And He is with you wherever you may be' (57:4). Mention of this verse is not limited to a question of adab in respect for the letter, but suggests also that the knowledge that He is with us is a strong prompt to respect adab towards Him.

27. An allusion, doubtless, to the inspired character of the Futûhât.

28. Ibn 'Arabi considers the shatahât or 'theopathic utterance' as stemming from a remaining trace of 'grossness' of soul (ru'ûnat nafs) and from a certain lack of adab. See Futûhât, 1,276, ch. 52; II, 104, question (of Tirmidhi) 107; II, 387-88, ch.185; II, 232, ch. 146.

29. These two expressions mean that Revelation and the Law must first of all penetrate the innermost being of the Envoys (we shall see the illustration of this on the subject of the 'character' of the Prophet) before being clarified by their teaching.

30. This phrase is part of an invocation uttered by the Prophet in the evening prayer (qiyâm al-layl):'... (Qur'an 6:79 and 162-3) Allahumma, Thou art the King, there is no God except Thee. Thou art my Lord and I am Thy servant. I have done injustice to myself and recognize my sin. Forgive me my sins – none par dons sin but Thee. Guide me towards the best of characters – none removes but Thee. Behold I am Thine, behold I am Thine, Thou with Whom is the happiness (labbayyka wa sa'dayka). I am by Thee, to Thee. Blessed and exalted be Thou. I ask Thee for pardon and return, repentant, to Thee.' (Muslim, Sahîh, bâb al-du'â fi salât al-layl, II 185.) This text is in part an example of the adab of the Prophet in invocation; it also in part places good and evil in relation to the characters.

31. See above, note 21.

32. On these two traditions, see the translation of the chapter of the Futûhât on the sharî'a (above, note 11). The first is reported by Malik in the Muwatta', husn al-khuluq 8; with the commentary by Suyuti, Tanwîr al-hawâlik, III 97, and by Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, II 381 (respectively sâlih al-akhlâq and hasan al-akhlâq but not makârim al-akhlâq). The second is reported in numerous hadîths mentioning the privileges of the Prophet, amongst them the following:

I excel in merit over the other prophets by six things: I have received the reunificative words; I have been succoured by fear (cast into the hearts of enemies); booty has been made licit to me; the earth has been made an oratory for me and a means of purification; I have been sent to all the creatures, and by me the prophets have been sealed. The prophets and I are like this parable: a man had built a palace; he had completed and perfected it, except for the placing of one brick. When they saw the palace, men cried: 'How beautiful is this building, if only this brick completed it.' Is it not I who was that brick, is it not I who was that brick? (Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, II, 411-12)

For the other, shorter versions, see Concordances et Indices, VI, 58.

33. Cf. note 29.

34. This word of 'Aisha is sometimes reported with no other context; cf. Ibn Han bal, Musnad, VI, 163, 188, 216. It forms the commonest part of a longer hadîth:

A tâbi'î and grandson of one of the martyrs of Uhud, Sa'd b.Hisham b. 'Amir, betook himself to Medina and declared to a group of Ansar that he had repudiated his wife, and was going to sell some land which he owned at Medina in order to devote himself to fighting in the way of God. The Ansar answered him that six of them had wanted to do that, but that the Prophet had forbidden them, quoting the verse: 'There is certainly a beautiful example for you in the Envoy of God' (33:21). Next, Sa'd questioned Ibn 'Abbas on the way in which the Prophet prayed the witr, the latter sent him to 'Aisha. Sa'd addressed her thus: 'O Mother of believers, tell me what was the character of the Prophet? – Grace and Peace upon him.' 'Do you not read the Qur'an?' she replied. 'Yes!' 'The character of the Prophet of God, Grace and Peace be upon him, was the Qur'an.' 'I wanted at that moment', adds Sa'd, 'to rise and never till I died ask anyone anything again. Then I thought again. Tell me,' I asked, 'what was the evening prayer of the Prophet? – Grace and Peace be upon him.' 'Do you not read: "O Thou Who wrappest Thyself in a cloak?" ' (Sûrah 73) 'Yes!' 'Aisha then spoke of the circumstances of the revelation of that Sûrah and answered another question from Sa'd on the witr. She ended by saying: 'I am not aware of the Prophet ever having recited the whole Qur'an in one night, nor that he ever spent a whole night in prayer until the dawn prayer, nor that he fasted a whole month other than Ramadan.'

Version of Muslim musâfirin, 139, II, 169; cf. also Abu Dawud, Sunan, tatawwu', 26, II 40 No. 1341; Nasa'i, Sunan, qiyâm al-layl 2, III, 99; Darimi, Sunan, salât, 165, III 345; Ibn Hanbal VI 54 and 91 (in this version, it is 'Aisha who counsels him not to vow himself to celibacy). All the teaching of Sayyidi Muhyi '1-Din can be read in this hadîth: Understanding the Qur'an through the reality of the Prophet, and approaching that reality by the Qur'an and its practice (recitation in the night prayer). 'Aisha appears here with all her stature as a spiritual master, instilling in her disciples the adab of her master.

Another version, in which 'Aisha again plays a pre-eminent role, although very different, again refers us back to the Qur'an and illustrates the excellence of the Prophet's character in his married life (this goes far towards explaining the ban on celibacy):

A man of the Banu Su'a reports: 'I asked 'Aisha, "Tell me about the character of the Prophet." "Do you not read the Qur'an?" she replied, "And you are according to a magnificent character? The Envoy of God – Grace and Peace be upon him – was with his companions. I had prepared a dish for him, and so had Hafsa. As she had finished before me, I said to my servant: 'Go quickly and drop her dish.' The other woman was going to place the dish before the Envoy of God. She jostled her. The dish broke and the food was spilled. The Envoy of God picked it all up, put it onto the leather table mat and they ate. He next asked for my dish and handed it over to Hafsa, saying: 'Take this dish in place of yours and eat what is in it.' I saw nothing", said 'Aisha, "appear on the face of the Envoy of God – Grace and Peace be upon him."'

(Version of Ibn Mâja, Sunan, ahkâm 14, p. 782 No. 2333; cf. also Ibn Hanbal, VI 111.

35. Cf. A. Yahya, Esprit Universe! de I'Islam, p. 113.

36. Cf. Bukhari, adhân/salât, 89; Muslim, saldt, 204, etc.

37. Cf. Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, II, 298, and Concordances et Indices, IV, 283.

38. See note 30.

39. Allusion to Qur'an 53:3-4.

40. We have not found the reference to this word of Abu Bakr. Abu Nu'aym gives a similar version of it: ' 'Abu Bakr fell ill. To those who came to visit him and suggested, "Why do you not call a doctor?" he replied: "He has already examined me." "What did he say?" "I do as I wish." ' (cf. Qur'an 11:107 and 85:16). Cf. Hilyat al-awliyâ, I, 34; Ibn Hanbal, Kitâb al-zuhd, new edition, Beirut, 1976, p. 113. We also find this reply attributed to Abu l-Darda: 'Why not call a doctor?' 'It is He who has confined me to bed.' Cf. al-Kandihlawi, Hayât al-sahâba, III, 195-6.

41. See also Futûhât, II, 343 and III, 246, ch. 354, in which Ibn 'Arabi gives an example of himself: 'A pain afflicted my arm. I addressed my complaint to God, as Jacob did – Peace upon him – by adab towards God, in order not to resist the divine constraint in the way of certain people who, by ignorance of God, hold themselves to be people of total submission (taslîm) and abandonment to God (tafwîd), and thus show a double ignorance.'

42. The umanâ' (sing, amîn) are the elite of the malâmiyya (on these cf. Le Sceau des Saints, pp. 136-8 and 218-19; Cf. Futûhât, II, 20, ch. 73 and III, 14-15. This term derives from a hadîth: 'Each community has its faithful depository and that of this community is Abu 'Ubadya Ibn al-Jarrah'; cf. Bukhari, Fadâ'il ashâb al-nabî, 53-5, and Concordances et Indices, I, 11.

43. One of the masters of Iraq, a contemporary of Junayd who died after him (begin ning of fourth/tenth century). Following this test, he named himself 'The Impostor' (al-Kadhdhâb). Cf. Sulami, Tabaqât al-sûfiyya, Cairo, 1969, pp. 195-9; Abu Nu'aym, Hilyat al-awliyâ, X, 309-11.

44. Cf. A. Yahya, L'Esprit Universel de I'lslam, p. 33.

45. This companion said of himself: 'People used to ask the Prophet questions about good. I used to ask him about evil, for fear that it would befall me.' Cf. Ibn al-Jawzi, Sifat al-safwa, I, 610. The Prophet, apart from indications of the troubles to come (Jitari), had entrusted to him the name of 'The Hypocrites', which earned him this adopted name. On him, cf. Bukhari, Fadâ'il ashâb al- nabî, V, 31-2, and on his explanation cf. Futûhât, II, 584, ch. 273.

46. Ibn 'Arabi defines sainthood, human or angelic, as succour (nusra) brought to God, conformably with the concomitance in the Qur'an of the two divine names al-walî and al-nasîr. Cf. M. Chodkiewicz, Le Sceau des Saints, pp. 41-2.

47. The first Word was uttered by the Prophet in answer to companions who were surprised by his accepting the request to perform the funeral prayer for the chief of the Hypocrites, 'Abdallah b. Ubayy b. Salul, and referred to Qur'an 9:80: 'Ask forgiveness for them, or do not; even if you ask forgiveness for them seventy times, God will not forgive them...'; cf. Tabari, Jâmi' al-bayân, ed. M.M. Shakir, XIV, 394-7. The second is part of a curse uttered for a time by the Prophet in the qunût of the dawn prayer against certain enemies of Islam and certain tribes, including these three; cf. Muslim, Masâjid, 294, II, 134-5. These three tribes of the Banu Sulaym had treacherously attacked at Bi'r Ma'una, shortly after the battle of Uhud, a party of forty Muslims who had gone to teach Islam to tribes of the Najd; cf. Ibn Hisham, al-sîra al-nabawiyya, Cairo, 1955, III, 184-5. The Prophet stopped the curse when it was revealed to him: 'Nothing of this matter belongs to you: leave it to God to make them repent or to chastise them, for they are unjust' (Qur'an 3:128).

48. Cf. Qur'an 10:90. On this tradition, cf. Tabari, Jâmi' al-bayân, XV, 190-93.

49. Cf. Ibn Hisham, al-Sîra al-nabawiyya, II, 416.

50. Allusion to a hadîth qudsî. Cf. Bukhari, Tawhîd, IX, 165: 'When God decreed the creation, he wrote next to Himself, above His Throne: "My mercy has preceded My Anger," ' and Ibn Majâ, Muqaddima 13, I, 67, No. 189: 'Your Lord prescribed for Himself, with His own hand, before He created the creation: "My mercy has preceded My anger." ' Other versions read: 'has prevailed over', cf. al-Ahâdîth al-qudsiyya, I, 230-31.

51. Qurtubi reports about this verse, following Muslim, a tradition according to which the Prophet recited this prayer of Abraham on the matter of idols:
Lord, they have led many men astray. He who follows me, is of my people, and as to him who disobeys, Thou are the Most Forgiving, the Most Merciful! (Qur'an 14:36) and recited also the Word of Jesus. Then, raising his arms, he begged, 'My God, my community!' and wept. God then said: 'O Gabriel, go and find Muhammad and ask him what is making him weep.' He ascertained this and God sent him back, saying: 'O Gabriel, go and find Muhammad and say to him: "We shall give you satisfaction for your community, and shall give you no sorrow." ' (al-Jâmî' li-ahkâm al-qur'ân, VI, 379)

52. Cf. Futûhât, I, 562-3; II, 149, ch. 72; 265, ch. 163; III, 219, ch. 351; IV, 169-71, ch. 527; 308-9 (hadrat al-ghinâ').

53. Allusion to the tradition: 'I am close to those whose hearts are broken because of Me.' The origin of this tradition is difficult to determine. Ibn 'Arabi quotes it elsewhere as a simple khabar, and comments on it; cf. Futiihat, IV, 103, ch.471. 'Ajluni is content simply to quote it, after 'Ali al-Qari, Ghazali, with the addition: 'And I am close to those whose hearts are effaced because of Me;' Kashf al-khafâ, I, 203, No. 614.

54. Cf. Qur'an 7:32: 'Say, Who has forbidden God's adornment, which He has brought about for His servants, and the good things with which He has provided them?'

55. In order to understand the meaning of the 'balance', we must note that these two verses are taken from the Sûrah al-Rahmân, which begins thus: 'The All- Merciful. He taught the Qur'an. He created man,' placing the teaching and crea tion parallel. In verses 7-10, the balance is mentioned three times, between the creation of heaven and that of earth, as if to maintain balance between them. We may then consider it as an aspect of the haqq in the function of equilibrium which man is charged to maintain by observance of the Divine Word. Adab must in its turn maintain this 'balance' in the least word and gesture, in imitation of the Prophet.

56. Bi-jam'ihi bayna 'l-diddayn. He next recited the verse: 'He is The First and The Last, The Outer and The Inner...' cf. Futûhât, I, 184, ch. 24; II, 40 q. 1; 379 ch. 188; 512, ch. 219; 660, ch. 292; III, 317, ch. 364; IV, 40, ch. 427.

57. Wa mâ yahtammu bi-dhâlika illâ kullu mutasharri' adîb 'ânaga 'l-adab wa 'arafa qadr mâ shuri'a lahu min dhâlika.

58. This qualifier means, in Qur'an 3:7, those who have permanent recollection of God's Word (wa mâ yadhdhakkaru illa ulû 'l-albâb) whether they know the inter pretation of it or leave the matter to God, according to the two readings of the verse. See the following note.

59. Ta'wîl is the masdar of the verb av/wala - to make something reach its end; it is the factitive form of âla-y'ûlu – to reach its end (ma'âl). The same Arabic roots often carry opposite and complementary meanings, and this root is also that of awwal – first, or, beginning – which confers on ta'wîl a meaning at once eschatological and cyclic. It is, however, the former which generally prevails in the Qur'an, for example: 'We have brought them a book which we have explained in detail according to a knowledge, as guidance and mercy for those who believe. Are they waiting only for its final advent (ta'wîlahu)l On the day it arrives, those who previously forgot it shall say: "The Envoys of our Lord brought us the truth..." ' (7:52-3). In the Sûrah Yûsuf, ta'wîl means the inter pretation of the dream which announces an event to come. As to verse 3:7, the eschatological connotation of the interpretation is confirmed, negatively in the case of 'those in whose hearts there is a deviation,' and for whom ta'wîl is a speculation on the future; and positively in the case of the ulû 'l-albâb who await the resurrection (w.8 and 9, compare with verses 190-94 at the end of Sûrah al-'Imrari).

60. The verses commented on above belong to Sûrah al-Qiyâma (the Resurrection). This treats first of individual and bodily resurrection, and then of the phases of the posthumous evolution of man, returning then to his last moments in this life and to his first creation, proof of resurrection. To first appearances, this passage on the Qur'an in the middle of the Sûrah is difficult to explain, but it is in fact the key to it.

61. On the relation between the two Seals, see Le Sceau des Saints, ch. IX.

62. Cf. Qur'an 20:114: 'Exalted be Allah, The King, The True One. Do not hasten the coming of the Qur'an before revelation of it is decreed to you, and say: "Lord, make me grow in knowledge.' "

63. To reveal means, etymologically, 'to cover again with a veil' (velum).

64. See the commentary on these verses in Tabari, Jâmî' al-bayân, ed. Bulaq, XXIX, 117-19.

65. Mention of the Lord (al-rabb) is no doubt an allusion to one of its traditional interpretations, bringing together the roots 'rbb' and 'rbw' – he who makes to grow, and thus, who educates (al-murabbî), one of the names of the master. This passage of the Futûhât is also translated and commented on by A. Yahya, L'Esprit Universel de I'Islam, pp. 107-8. For the meaning of wajh khâss, see the whole of ch. XIX, 'inspiration et revelation coranique'.

66. Cf. Ibn 'Arabi, Les Illuminations de la Mecque, p. 628, note 283.

67. See commentary on this verse in Futûhât, II 98, quest. 94.

68. Futûhât, III, 329, tr. by Michel Chodkiewicz, Les Sceau des Saints, p. 144.