Ibn 'Arabî and His Interpreters
Historical Contexts and Contemporary Perspectives
Since our first book on the philosophy of Mulla Sadra [see endnote 4], whose metaphysics already recapitulates several centuries of the diverse influences of Ibn 'Arabî in the Eastern Islamic world, many of our studies have been devoted to exploring and articulating the extraordinary influences of Ibn 'Arabî's works both in the past and throughout the contemporary world [see endnote 5]. Our lengthy study of Ibn Arabî and His Interpreters (JAOS, 1986-87) attempted to survey the broad historical outlines of the multi-faceted influences of Ibn 'Arabî's writings and teachings both in the pre-modern Islamic world, but also in terms of the rapidly growing and increasingly diverse interests of contemporary Western translators and interpreters.
Since that initial overview (written in 1985), we have continued to provide in a number of writings-synthetic studies, more focused original research, and a host of reviews of relevant publications-a broader perspective on the range and significance of the phenomenal 'explosion' of translations, studies and introductions to Ibn 'Arabî's writings that has since taken place, at an accelerating pace, over the past two decades. Above all, two major new historical developments have become clear in that intervening period. First, that the range of interests and uses of Ibn 'Arabî's writings in Western languages and cultures mirrors very closely the immense spectrum we had already found and experienced, in the centuries since his death, throughout the Islamic world. And secondly, that the intensity and depth of cross-cultural interactions, and the common spiritual and practical challenges and circumstances engaging human beings on a global scale, have converged to such a radical extent that by now it would be false and entirely misleading to continue to speak seriously of distinct 'Islamic' and 'Western' spheres and processes of influence, interest and creative adaptation.
Thus, the article which we have reproduced first in this packet (Ibn 'Arabî in the "Far West": Visible and Invisible Influences)-originally prepared, tellingly enough, for a recent conference held in Kyoto on 'Ibn 'Arabî's influences in Asia'-focuses on many of the key contemporary strands of Ibn 'Arabî's influences among originally 'Western' audiences, but in ways whose manifestations (e.g., through English and French translations, or scholarly editions) now are rapidly felt and 'echoed' on a much wider global scale [see endnote 6]. Equally importantly, this article makes explicit some fundamental theoretical observations about the ways in which the complex dimensions of historical 'influences' which once operated throughout the Islamic world are dramatically visible today on the contemporary scene in ways which have too often been egregiously neglected by traditional historians focused on explicit and 'textual' questions of transmission. The second article ("Except His Face...": The Political and Aesthetic Dimensions of Ibn 'Arabi's Legacy) provides a simple, readily accessible overview of the different dimensions of Ibn 'Arabî's interest and influence in earlier Islamic settings. Then the following much longer study (Situating Islamic 'Mysticism': Between Written Traditions and Popular Spirituality) provides a more detailed articulation of the place of writings such as Ibn 'Arabî's in the much larger complex of the Islamic Humanities, in their complex local manifestations, throughout the Islamic world (sections immediately related to Ibn 'Arabi are I-II and V-VIII).
The fourth article in this opening section is the original 'Ibn 'Arabî and His Interpreters' (1986) [not yet included].
Ibn 'Arabî in the "Far West": Visible and Invisible Influences. In Journal of the Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi Society, XXIX (2001), pp. 87-122. [pdf file 164KB]
"Except His Face...": The Political and Aesthetic Dimensions of Ibn 'Arabi's Legacy. In Journal of the Muhyiddîn Ibn 'Arabî Society, vol. XXIII (1998), pp. 1-13. [pdf file 137KB]
Situating Islamic 'Mysticism': Between Written Traditions and Popular Spirituality. In Mystics of the Book: Themes, Topics and Typologies, ed. R. Herrera, New York/Berlin, Peter Lang, 1993, pp. 293-334. [pdf file 249KB]
Ibn Arabî and His Interpreters. In Journal of the American Oriental Society, Part I, vol. 106 (1986), pp. 539-551 (also in pdf format, 75KB]; Part II (pdf format 175k) pp. 733-756, and Part III (pdf format 180k) vol. 107 (1987), pp. 101-119.
II. Influences in the pre-modern Islamic World
All files in Section II are collected in one pdf (254KB).
The following articles and reviews deal with different dimensions of the complex process of assimilation and manifold creative uses of Ibn 'Arabî's writings and teachings throughout the Islamic world in the seven centuries following his death, concluding with the work of one of the major European figures involved in the introduction of his ideas into the mainstream of Western religious, artistic and psychological discourse in the twentieth century. The critical and polemic dimensions of this same historical process are dealt with in the following set of our articles and reviews (= section III. below).
Theophany or "Pantheism"? : the Importance of Balyânî's Risâlat al-Ahadîya, and "la description de abû 'abdallâh balyânî par jâmî." In Horizons Maghrébins (Toulouse), special festschrift issue for Michel Chodkiewicz, no. 30 (1995), pp. 43-50 and 51-54.
The Continuing Relevance of Qaysari's Thought: Divine Imagination and the Foundation of Natural Spirituality. In Papers of the International Symposium on Islamic Thought in the XIIIth and XIVth Centuries and Daud al-Qaysari, ed. T. Ko�, Kayseri (Turkey), 1998, pp. 161-171.
La destinée de l'homme selon Avicenne: Le retour � Dieu (ma'âd) et l'imagination, by Jean Michot, Louvain, 1987. In the Journal of the American Oriental Society, vol. 107 (1987), no. 4, pp. 815-817.
'Le Kitâb al‑Inbâh 'alâ Tarîq Allâh de 'Abdallâh Badr al‑Habashî: un témoignage de l'enseignement spirituel de Muhyî l-Dîn Ibn 'Arabî,' ed. and tr. by Denis Gril, Annales Islamologiques XV, Cairo, 1979. In the Journal of the Muhyiddîn Ibn 'Arabî Society, vol. VI (1987), pp. 61-64.
La Risâla de Safî al-Dîn Ibn Abî l-Mansûr Ibn Zâfir: Biographies des maîtres spirituels connus par un cheikh égyptien du viie/xiiie si�cle, introduction, edition and translation by Denis Gril, Cairo, 1986. In Studia Islamica, vol. LXV (1987), pp. 171-173.
Manjhan, Madhumālatī: An Indian Sufi Romance, translated by Simon Weightman and Aditya Behl, with S. M. Pandey. Oxford, Oxford World's Classics, 2000. To appear in Journal of the Muhyiddîn Ibn 'Arabî Society, vol. XXXI (2002), pp. tba
Mirror of the Intellect: Essays on Traditional Science and Sacred Art, by T. Burckhardt, tr. and ed. W. Stoddart, Albany, 1987. In Critical Review of Books in Religion-1989 (annual supplement to the JAAR/SBL), pp. 470-472.
III. Later Muslim Critics and Polemics
All files in Section III are collected in one pdf (337KB).
One significant measure of the ongoing depth and centrality of Ibn 'Arabî's influences throughout the Islamic world, in ways which continue to be important down to the present day, is the frequency of polemics and public controversies involving his writing. In almost all such cases (including those apparent today), what is actually at stake in such polemics can best be understood in terms of close attention to particular controversial political and social issues in particular Islamic historical contexts. (We have yet to encounter a single polemic work, from any period, demonstrating any even remotely serious engagement with Ibn 'Arabî's actual thought and distinctive methods of investigation and teaching.) However, since the participants in such polemics were typically learned religious scholars, the public 'intellectuals' of their day, such controversies often do provide our only surviving documentary 'window' on the much wider social and cultural processes by which Muslims from all walks of life, especially throughout the Ottoman and eastern Islamic realms, eventually assimilated various aspects of Ibn 'Arabî's teaching.
An Arab "Machiavelli"? : Rhetoric, Philosophy and Politics in Ibn Khaldun's Critique of "Sufism". Chapter to appear in Proceedings of Harvard Ibn Khaldun Conference, ed. Roy Mottahedeh, Cambridge, Harvard, 2003 (title and publisher t.b.a). [Here: pp. 1-49.]
Islamic Mysticism Contested: Thirteen Centuries of Controversies & Polemics, ed. Frederic de Jong & Bernd Radtke. Leiden, Brill, 1999. In Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, vol. 13, no. 2 (2002), pp. 237-239.
Ibn 'Arabi and the Later Islamic Tradition: The Making of a Polemical Image in Medieval Islam, by Alexander Knysh, Albany, SUNY Press, 1999. In Journal of the Muhyiddîn Ibn 'Arabî Society, vol. XXVII (2000), pp. 75-81.
Theodicy in Islamic Thought: The Dispute over al‑Ghazâlî's "Best of All Possible Worlds," by E. L. Ormsby, Princeton, 1985. In Middle East Studies Association Bulletin, vol. 19, no. 1 (1985), pp. 109-112. [to appear here later]
of More Recent Works by and about Ibn 'Arabî (1985-2002) [See endnote 7]
All files in Section IV are collected in one pdf (212KB).
The following reviews of important new books by and about Ibn 'Arabî-first of translations, then of biographical works introducing Ibn 'Arabî and his main ideas, and finally of two foundational studies of key dimensions of his thought and teaching-help to bring up to date the comprehensive survey of related English and French publications (up to 1985) to be found in 'Ibn 'Arabî and His Interpreters' (section I. above).
Ibn 'Arabî: Contemplation of the Holy Mysteries and the Rising of the Divine Lights, translated by Cecilia Twinch and Pablo Beneito, Oxford, Anqa Publishing, 2001. To appear in Journal of the Muhyiddîn Ibn 'Arabî Society, vol. XXXI (2002), pp....
Le Livre de dévoilement des fruits du voyage, d'Ibn 'Arabi. Edition and translation by Denis Gril, Combas, éditions de l'éclat, 1994. In Journal of the Muhyiddîn Ibn 'Arabî Society, vol. XVII (1995), pp.103-105.
The Sufi Path of Knowledge: Ibn 'Arabî's Metaphysics of the Imagination, by William Chittick, Albany, 1989. In Journal of the American Oriental Society, vol. 111.3 (1991), pp. 601-602.
La vie merveilleuse de Dhû-l-Nûn l'Egyptien, by Ibn 'Arabî, tr. Roger Deladri�re, Paris, Sindbad, 1988. In Journal of the Muhyiddîn Ibn 'Arabî Society, vol. X (1991), pp. 71-74.
Traité de l'amour, d'Ibn 'Arabî, tr. Maurice Gloton, Paris, 1986. In Journal of the Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabî Society, vol. XI (1989), pp. 77-79.
La Niche des lumi�res: 101 saintes paroles prophétiques... [= the Mishkât al‑Anwâr of Ibn 'Arabî], tr. M. Vâlsan, Paris, 1983; and Divine Word and Prophetic Word in early Islam, by W. A. Graham, Paris/the Hague, 1977. In Journal of the Muhyiddîn Ibn 'Arabî Society, vol. V (1986), pp. 66-68.
L'alchimie du bonheur parfait, by Muhyiddîn Ibn 'Arabî, tr. S. Ruspoli, Paris, 1981. In Journal of the Muhyiddîn Ibn 'Arabî Society, vol. IV (1985), pp. 59-64. [to be scanned]
Spiritual Body and Celestial Earth: From Mazdean Iran to Shî'ite Iran, by Henry Corbin (tr. N. Pearson), Princeton, 1977 (pb. 1989). In Iranian Studies, vol. 28 (1995), pp. 110-111.
Biographies (with introductions)
The Unlimited Mercifier: The Spiritual Life and Thought of Ibn 'Arabî, by Stephen Hirtenstein, Oxford, Anqa Publishers/White Cloud Press, 1999. In The Expository Times, vol. 111, no. 2 (August 2000), page 395.
Ibn 'Arabi et le Voyage sans Retour, by Claude Addas, Paris, Editions du Seuil, 1996. In Journal of the Muhyiddîn Ibn 'Arabî Society, vol. XXIII (1998), pp. 90-92.
Ibn 'Arabî, ou la qu�te du soufre rouge, by Claude Addas, Paris, Gallimard, 1988. In Studia Islamica, vol. LXX (1989), pp. 185-187.
Teachings and Analytical Studies
Un Oc�an sans rivage: Ibn 'Arabî, le livre et la loi, by Michel Chodkiewicz, Paris, Seuil, 1992. In Journal of the American Oriental Society, vol. 116 (1996), pp. [to be scanned].
An Ocean Without Shore: Ibn Arabi, The Book, and the Law, by Michel Chodkiewicz (tr. D. Streight), Albany, SUNY Press, 1993. In Journal of the Muhyiddîn Ibn 'Arabî Society, vol. XV (1995), pp. 87-90.
Le Sceau des saints: prophétie et sainteté dans la doctrine d'Ibn 'Arabî, by Michel Chodkiewicz, Paris, 1986. In Studia Islamica, LXIII (1986), pp. 182-185.
 In a recent lecture visit to Malaysia and Indonesia, we discovered that virtually all the major English translations and studies relating to Ibn 'Arabî and his influential Muslim interpreters (by Wm. Chittick, S. Murata, and ourself) had been quickly translated into Indonesian within a few years of their publication. Our PhD student, Isobel Jeffrey, has just completed a dissertation - hopefully to be published soon - on the important role of the Ibn 'Arabi Society in facilitating this worldwide network of scholarly activity, and Dr. Soha Taji-Farouki (Durham U.) is working on a new study of the growing influences of Ibn 'Arabî's works and ideas in contemporary Arab social and political thought. Back to the text
 In almost all cases below, the uneven length and coverage of different reviews was originally dictated by the specific editorial policies and length restrictions of the journals concerned; shorter reviews should not be taken as any indication of the significance and depth of the books in question. Back to the text