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The Symposium

Each year the Society organizes Symposia in the UK and the USA on an aspect of Ibn 'Arabi's work.

These international gatherings bring together people from many different fields and traditions, and include scholars, students, and anyone interested in what Ibn 'Arabi has to say. These events provide a unique opportunity for both speakers and listeners, specialists and non-specialists, to enrich their understanding of the Shaykh's teachings and their relevance today. The Society also encourages public seminars and lectures and can provide speakers on request.


This symposium is jointly organized by the Society and Professor Stefan Sperl of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. It will be held on May 6th, 2017, at the Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre, SOAS, London WC1H 0XG.

Summary Statement

Ibn ‘Arabi, in reporting meetings with Ibn Rushd (Averroes) on two occasions – once as a ‘beardless youth’ and once at the great Aristotelian philosopher’s funeral – highlighted the differences between their ways of thinking. Philosophical knowledge, he declared, is based on reason (aql) and revelatory knowledge is based on insight (kashf) and inner certainty (yaqin). In some cases they are the same and in others they differ.

However, a difference between points of view is not an essential separation. The Shaykh al-Akbar would surely have agreed with the last recorded words of the great Neo-platonist Plotinus “Strive to give back the Divine in yourselves to the Divine in the All." Greek philosophical texts, first translated in Baghdad in the 8th and 9th centuries, were widely available in Muslim Spain. Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi, who is sometimes called Ibn Aflatun ‘The Son of Plato’, would have had access to these, both directly and indirectly through the Islamic philosophical schools. This symposium aims at delving into these roots by exploring Ibn Arabi’s engagement with the philosophical heritage of his time.


Salman Bashier

Salman Bashier: Dr. Bashier was born in Israel in 1964. His Phd was published in 2004 under the title ‘Ibn Al –‘Arabi’s Barzakh: the Concept of the Limit and the Relationship Between God and the World’. He has since been a research scholar at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute pursuing his research, “Past and Present: Ibn al-Arabi’s Mysticism, Religious Fundamentalism and the Sense of History,” which focussed on the relevance of Islamic mysticism and the role it can play in balancing Religious fundamentalism. He has spoken before at a Society Symposium in Oxford (2007) and at the New York Symposium in 2009. His most recent book (2012) is ‘The Story of Islamic Philosophy:Ibn Tufayl. Ibn Al-‘Arabi, and Others on the Limit between Naturalism and Traditionalism’

Maria de Cillis

Maria de Cillis: Dr de Cillis completed her undergraduate studies in the field of Languages and Literatures (English and Arabic) graduating from the Università degli Studi di Napoli - L’Orientale in Naples, Italy in 2001 (cum laude). She carried out her MA and then PhD studies at SOAS, graduating in October 2010. Her Thesis is entitled: The Discourse of Compromise: Theoretical Constructs of Free Will and Predestination in the Works of Avicenna, Ghazali and Ibn ʿArabi which has since been published . The thesis examines the contributions made by these scholars to the discourse on the doctrines of free will and predestination in classical Islamic thought. Her work shows how these luminaries were committed to compromise between philosophical, theological and mystical outlooks. She is currently working at the Ismaili Institute researching early Shi’ite mystics, especially Hamid Kirmani.

Eric Geoffroy

Eric Geoffroy: Professor Geoffroy is an expert in Islamic thought and spirituality, he teaches Islamic studies at the University of Strasbourg, and other centers (including the Catholic University of Louvain). He is specialist of Sufism and also works on issues of spirituality in the modern world (globalization, ecology). He is president of the International Foundation "Sufi Conscience”.He is a member of several international research groups, such as Kalam Research & Media (KRM), and acts as scientific advisor and editorial on Islam ( Fondapol, The notebooks of Islam, Religion-Adyan...). He is a columnist in the magazine Ultreïa, and writes regularly for The World Religions. He wrote twenty articles in the Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2 and 3, and is the author of over a dozen books. Several of his works are translated into different languages. Eric Geoffroy spoke at the Society Symposium in Oxford in 2012 on ‘ al-Tahqiq through Daily Awakening’.

Husam Al-Mallak

Husam al-Mallak is a Senior Teaching Fellow at SOAS where he lectures on Modern Trends in Islam. He completed his PhD thesis in January 2016, under Dr Cosimo Zene, Dr J.-P. Hartung and Dr Nasr Abu Zayd (d. 2010), on how the mystical thought of Ibn al-‘Arabi can be considered as an Islamic overcoming of Nietzschean nihilism. His MA dissertation at Birkbeck was ‘Beyond Postmodernism and the Crisis of Truth: Re-Reading Ibn Al-‘Arabi’s Qur’anic Hermeneutics’ and he has given public lectures on this subject at The Islamic College, the Royal Asiatic Society and the Oriental Institute in Oxford. He has published book reviews in the Journal for Shi‘a Islamic Studies and has forthcoming articles in the Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies.



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Saturday, May 6th

8.45 am Doors open. Registration begins

9.15 Introduction. Stefan Sperl and Richard Twinch

9.30 Salman Bashier Ibn al-'Arabi's Encounter with Ibn Rushd and the Merging of the Two Seas of Philosophy and Mysticism in Islam

10.30 Coffee & Tea

11.00 Maria de Cillis Ibn 'Arabi views on Free Will and Predestination. Between Mysticism and Philosophy

12.00 pm Eric Geoffroy Some Aspects of 'Supra-reason' in Ibn 'Arabi's Epistemology

1.00 pm Lunch

2.30 pm Husam al Mallak Ibn al-'Arabi and the Postmodern Philosophers: The Return to God After the Death of God

3.30 Tea & Coffee

4.00 - 5.00 pm Workshops with speakers

5.15 pm Plenary

5.45 pm Finish

There may be changes to this programme. Updates will be posted here.

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Salman Bashier
Ibn al-Arabi's Encounter with Ibn Rushd and the Merging of the Two Seas of Philosophy and Mysticism in Islam

It is generally believed that Islamic philosophy died with the death of Ibn Rushd and that its death was caused at least partly by the 'decisive blow' that Ghazali (d. 1111), the Asharite theologian, dealt to it in his The Destruction of the Philosophers (Tahafut al-Falasifa), to which Ibn Rushd (d. 1198) responded in his The Destruction of the Destruction (Tahafut al-Tahafut). Salman Bashier argues however that Ibn Rushd conceived the threat posed by Ghazali to philosophy as coming primarily from Ghazali the mystic and in particular from his Sufi method of acquiring knowledge which he articulated in his The Revival of the Religious Sciences (Ihya Ulum al-Din). Salman Bashier argues further that it was Ibn al-Arabi (d. 1240) who was responsible for the full actualization of Ghazali's Sufi method, a mission which he started in his early works while still in Andalusia and completed in his major work The Meccan Revelations (al-Futuhat al-Makiyya). Salman Bashier explicates the manner in which Ibn al-Arabi with his innovative attitude toward rational philosophical and theological sciences attempted to create a novel approach to the investigation of intellectual problems in the Islamic world and the extent to which his attempt was successful. He also provides some hints as to why the intellectual turn which was initiated by Ghazali and advanced by Ibn al-Arabi and which resulted in synthesizing the rational and mystical sciences was precluded from taking place in the Latin Christian world and whether that had something to do with Ibn Rushd's influence.

Maria de Cillis
Ibn ʿArabī’s views on Free Will and Predestination. Between Mysticism and Philosophy

This study investigates Ibn ʿArabī’s view on free will and predestination assessing to what extent his stances were influenced by philosophical, mainly Neoplatonic, currents of thought and how he managed to harmonise philosophical approaches to his mystical perspective of reality. In particular, through the lens of the doctrine of the unity/unicity of existence (waḥdat al-wujūd), by looking at the notions of the divine names (asmāʾ), attributes (ṣifāt) and immutable prototypes (aʿyān thābita), this study aims at drawing some comparisons between Ibn ʿArabī’s idea of predestination and Avicenna’s natural deterministic perspective.

The analysis will reflect on Avicenna - arguably one of the most significant and well-known thinkers of the entire Graeco-Arabic philosophical tradition - and his re-elaboration of al-Fārābī’s Neoplatonic emanative schema attempting to investigate how its constitutive elements - deemed conducive to determinism - seem to have tiptoed in Ibn ʿArabī’s mystical approach to the issue of qaḍāʾ and qadar.

The discussion will probe into the notions of ‘creation’, ‘divine creative knowledge’ and ‘causality’. Whilst differentiating between the concepts of servanthood (ʿubūdiyya) and servitude (ʿubūda), the discussion will end with a review of Ibn ʿArabī’s understanding of freedom (ḥurriyya).

Eric Geoffroy

Some Aspects of "Supra-reason" in Ibn ‘Arabî's Epistemology

The fact that human reason is utterly limited in the perception of spiritual Reality and that it cannot grasp a sound knowledge of it, was already a common topic before Ibn ‘Arabî. In traditional Sufi epistemology, “there is a knowledge beyond the stage of reason”, which can be reached through inspiration (ilhâm) and unveiling (kashf).

Most of the time, Ibn ‘Arabî confirms, develops and systematizes what has been previously said or written by his predecessors. For instance, the influence of al-Ghazâlî (d. 1111) is quite evident in his epistemological perspective. But obviously, he adds his own genius into the consideration of this dialectic between reason and supra-reason. Taking his rich and complex terminology as the starting point for reflection, may allow us to understand what is at stake in the debates between theologians and philosophers on one hand and Sufis on the other. Ibn ‘Arabî’s insistence on a supra-logical perception of reality, based on paradox, also seems very specific to him. His non-binary and all-inclusive method evokes some modern paradigms in quantum physics and logic, which leave most of our contemporaries in a “wonder without end” (hayra).

Husam al-Mallak
Ibn al-‘Arabī and the Postmodern Philosophers: The Return to God After the Death of God

From the perspective of postmodern philosophy, Ibn al-‘Arabī’s thought represents a (re)turn to god after the ‘death of god’. Heidegger argued that western philosophy had concluded with the thought of Nietzsche. Specifically, the ‘end of philosophy’ is characterised by nihilism, which Heidegger interprets with reference to Nietzsche’s ‘death of god’ statement. Nihilism was a crisis (ontological and ethical) underpinning western philosophy, defined by Nietzsche as the ‘self-devaluation of the highest values’ (and this is a crisis which also underpins modern Islamic thought). According to Nietzsche and Heidegger, the ‘death of god’ was a concept that defined modernity. Accordingly, it is hereby argued that the anatheistic re-turn to god represents an attempt to overcome nihilism.

The overcoming of nihilism was a project that was not clearly articulated by Nietzsche, but he nevertheless outlined features of this ‘overcoming of nihilism’ (revaluation / transvaluation of the highest values). These features are arguably characteristic of Ibn al-‘Arabī’s mystical philosophy. His thought can thus be argued to represent an ‘overcoming of nihilism’, from an Islamic perspective. The contemporary significance and pertinence of Ibn al-‘Arabī’s mystical philosophy lies precisely within this post-modern anathesitic context, which is founded upon Nietzsche’s concept of nihilism.


Member and Standard registration includes a sandwich lunch and teas and coffees. Vegetarian options will be available, but beyond that special diets cannot be catered for. Student rate bookings include teas and coffees but not sandwich lunch.

Registration fees
Student* £10
Standard (Non-member) £50
Standard Early Bird £45
Member £45
Member Early Bird £40

* Please bring student ID to the Symposium.

How to register

Please use the Eventbrite Online Registration Form. (Clicking on this link will take you to another website – Eventbrite – which hosts our registration form.)

  • The online form shows the tickets available to the general public. MIAS Members have been sent a Promotional (discount) Code by e-mail to be entered before selecting any tickets. Press "Enter Promotional Code" top right in blue above Member (or Member Early Bird) registration. You then enter the Code - not case sensitive. This changes the registration rate for the ticket that otherwise shows at Standard rate. Then you select the ticket.

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How to get there

Parking is very difficult in Central London. The nearest tube stations are Russell Square and Goodge Street. Googlemaps

Who to contact

For further information, please contact the Symposium organiser, Richard Twinch

Other events


Ibn Arabi Study Retreats

At Chisholme House, Scottish Borders, July to September 2017

  • The Secrets of Voyaging, July 8-15, with Janet Bowers and Michael Cohen

  • Fusus al Hikam: Prostration and Praise, August 5-12, with Avi Abadi

  • The Ground of Beneficence, August 26-September 2, with Peter Coates

  • Fusus al Hikam: Abraham and Isaac September 4-10, With Jane Clark

These study retreats will be held at Chisholme House in the Scottish Borders - a school dedicated to exploring the essential unity of all existence, the true nature of the self, and how this understanding might affect the way we experience the world. Full details and booking: Tel: +44 (0)1450 880 215