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Library Report - December 2004

New Publications on Ibn 'Arabi

Meccan Revelations, Volume 2

by Ibn al-'Arabî, edited by Michel Chodkiewicz, translated by Cyrille Chodkiewicz and Denis Gril, Pir Press, 2004, 269pp.

The French/English edition of Meccan Revelations which appeared in 1988 (Sindbad, Paris) has remained one of the best introductions to Futûhât al-Makkiyya ever published. The English sections by James Morris and William Chittick were reissued last year; now we have the French sections translated into English. They bring us the best introduction we have to the form of the Futûhât and ways of approaching it, written by Michel Chodkiewicz himself, and translations on the themes of 'The Law and the Way', 'The Science of Letters', and 'The End of the Journey' from Denis Gril and Cyrille Chodkiewicz.

Divine Sayings, Mishkat al-Anwâr

Ibn 'Arabî, Arabic text and English translation by Stephen Hirtenstein and Martin Notcutt, Anqa Publishing, 2004, 147pp (English) 59pp (Arabic)

The is the first translation into English of Ibn 'Arabî's collection of divine sayings (hadîth qudsî) utterances attributed to the Prophet Muhammad, but reported outside the Quranic revelation. It is known that Ibn 'Arabî placed great importance on the study of these traditions; he began to collect them in his teens and continued throughout his life to visit the great muhaddithûn, becoming known himself as a reliable transmitter. This selection of 101 hadîth was made in the middle of his life, soon after his arrival in Mecca in 600CE, and reflects his emphasis upon compassion and submission. This fine book also includes the Arabic text based upon the earliest manuscript sources.

The Ringstones of Wisdom

(Ibn 'Arabî's Fusûs al-hikam). translation, introduction and glosses by Caner K. Dagli, Great Books of the Islamic World, 2004, 314pp.

A new translation of all 27 chapters of the Fusûs al-hikam. Unlike the translations from the Futuhât  which appeared in the same series last year, this has a translator's introduction, and carries extensive notes. This is only the third full translation we have of the Fusûs in English, and all give significantly different interpretations. This version gives a very literal translation which could be hard to follow for those not referring to the Arabic text, but is valuable for of the amount of background information it includes on Arabic terms, Quranic references and metaphysical concepts.

Epistle of Cosmic Unification

Ibn 'Arabî's Ittihâd al-kawn, translated by Angela Jaffray, www.wordswithoutborders.org

This is, as far as we know, the first full translation of an Ibn 'Arabî work to be available only on the web. Based upon Denis Gril's 1984 translation into French, Le Livre de l'Arbre et des Quatre Oiseaux, this is a clear rendering of a short early work, in which the author describes the unveiling of the "Universal Tree", and converses with its four birds – a crow, an eagle, a ring-dove and "the strange 'Anqa" – representing Divine realities.

Odes of Ibn 'Arabî

Twenty-seven Muwashshahât and One Zajal, translated from the Arabic by Federico Corriente and Ed Emery. From SOAS Bookshop, Thornhaugh Street, London WC1H 0XG. tel: 0207 898 4470

Muwashshah is the vernacular poetry/song developed in the Maghreb in the middle ages, and was a form shared between Arab, Christian and Jewish musicians. Ibn 'Arabî was the first to use the form to express mystical meanings – a task that Shushtarî was to take further in the following century – and this private publication brings his verses into English for the first time. Based upon a Castilian edition, they are presented in Arabic, Arabic transliteration, Castilian and English. They are not yet in a final version, having been rushed into print for a major conference on muwashshahât in London in October, but are still highly readable, and come with a refreshing request to send alternative readings to the translators.

Sufi Poems

A Mediaeval Anthology, compiled and translated by Martin Lings, Islamic Texts Society, 2004. 104pp. £13.99

Another slim volume, this time containing selected poems (in Arabic and English) and a short biography of 13 writers from Râb'ia al-'Adawiyyah in the 9th century to Abd al-Hasan al-Shushtarî in the 13th, taking in such great figures as Mansûr al-Hallâj, Sahl al-Tustarî and al-Ghazâlî on the way. It includes five poems from Tarjuman al-Ashwâq in new translation, plus a complete translation of Ibn al-Fârid's Khamriyya.

Sufism and Deconstruction

A Comparative Study of Derrida and Ibn 'Arabî, by Ian Almond, Routledge, 2004. Hb, 166pp. £55.00

This slim volume is an intelligent and educating read which superbly demonstrates Ibn 'Arabî's continuing relevance, and the way that his vision can illuminate contemporary secular thought. Recognising that Derrida and Ibn 'Arabî are very different thinkers, with very different concerns, Almond nevertheless makes a case for considering them together, concluding that 'the way that Sufi thinkers like Ibn 'Arabî talk about God is uncannily similar to the way in which post-structuralists like Derrida talk about writing' (p. 128). With chapters on reason, perplexity, infinity, mystery, and 'the post-structural dissolution of the subject'. Almond's assertion at the beginning that 'Ibn 'Arabî is hot' is hard to resist, and it is a shame that the publishers have put such a forbidding price on a very readable book which could interest a great many people.

Ibn 'Arabî's Barzakh

The concept of limit and the relationship between God and the world, by Salman Bashier, SUNY, 2004. Hb, 206pp. £28.25 (amazon.co.uk)

In the same vein, Salman Bashier also argues for Ibn 'Arabî's relevance to contemporary thought. In a very wide-ranging discussion, he considers his unique interpretation of 'the limit' as 'an imaginal mirror that represents the eternal God as eternal and the temporally originated world as temporally originated, although in itself it is neither eternal nor temporally originated' (p. 12). He goes on to consider the power of this idea in relation to both traditional Islamic philosophy (Plato, Ibn Sînâ, al-Ghazzâlî, Ibn Rushd) and contemporary Western (Rorty, Carter). Chapter 8 is a translation and commentary upon Futûhât  451 (On Knowing the Waystation of "In the ways of descent is the knowledge of the ways of ascent") where what Bashier calls 'the limit situation' is clearly articulated.

Sanctity and Mysticism in Medieval Egypt

Richard McGregor, SUNY, 2004, Hb, 246pp. £34.50

This scholarly work is a study of the concept of sainthood as it developed in the   Wafâ' Order in Cairo, concentrating particularly on the works of Muhammad Wafâ' (d, 1363) and his son 'Alî (d, 1405).   McGregor shows how their ideas were based upon the earlier work of Hakîm Tirmidhî and Ibn 'Arabî, and how, strongly influenced by the understanding of the Shadhilî Order, they came to develop an all-encompassing theory of sanctity.

Me and Rûmî, The Autobiography of Shamsî Tabrîzî

translated by William Chittick, Fons Vitae, 2004, Pb, 409pp, $17.13 (amazon.com)

This long-anticipated book brings the Maqalât (Discourses) of the legendary Shamsî Tabrîzî to an English-speaking audience for the first time. The diverse collection of stories, musings, anecdotes, descriptions of people and pieces of advice, has been ordered into sections – 'My years without Mawlana', 'My path to God', 'My time with Mawlana' – but in the end defies classification.   Amongst the stories are a series of encounters with 'Shaykh Muhammed' in Damascus, but Chittick does not feel that there is sufficient evidence to either confirm or disprove that this is Ibn 'Arabî.

Sufi Visionary of Ottoman Damascus - 'Abd al-Ghanî al-Nâbulusî (1641-1731)

Elizabeth Sirriyeh, Routledge Curzon, Oxon, 2005. Hb. 172pp.

The first study in a English of this important follower of Ibn 'Arabî whom HRH Gibb called 'the outstanding figure in the Arabic literature of the Ottoman period'. Born in Damascus at a time when the Shaykh's ideas were extremely controversial, Nâbulusî proved a staunch champion, openly teaching Akbarian works and writing a detailed commentary upon the Fusûs. He was also a poet, a great scholar who became lastingly famous for his treatise on dream interpretation, and a traveller who initiated what Sirriyeh calls 'a new kind of mystical travel literature'.

The Nightingale in the Garden of Love - The poems of Hazret-i Pîr-i Üftâde

Paul Ballanfat, translated from the French by Angela Culme Seymour. 'Anqa Publications, Oxford, 2005. 180pp.

Hazreti Üftâde (1490-1580) was another great Ottoman follower of Ibn 'Arabi, a spiritual teacher and master who founded the Jelvetiyye Sufi Order. This collection of 50-odd poems constitutes the entirety of his surviving writings, although he is equally famous as the subject of a spiritual diary (Wâqi'ât Üftâde) kept by his major student, 'Aziz Mahmûd Hudâyi. Ballanfat has added a substantial 'life and thought' introduction to the translations of these beautiful, simple verses expressing the yearning of the seeker for God.

Papers and Monographs

Une Victoire Eclatante - Le Verus Propheta dans la doctrine d'Ibn Arabî

Claude Addas, Private publication, 2005, 79pp

This short monograph considers the role played by the figure of the Prophet Muhammed within Islam itself, and within the work of Ibn 'Arabi and his school, covering such topics as 'the reality of Muhummed', the 'Seal of Muhammedian Sainthood' and the Prophet as 'a mercy to the universes'.

Ibn 'Arabî's contribution to the ethics of the Divine Names

Qaiser Shehzad

International Islamic University, Islamabad (Pakistan), 2004. 63pp A discussion of Ibn 'Arabî's treatment of al-takhalluq li akhlâq Allah, (the assumption the character traits of God) in the Futühât, comparing his ideas with other writers, particularly al-Ghazâlî.

Some Recent Editions of books by Ibn al-'Arabi published in the Arab world

Gerald Elmore, Arabica 51:3 (2004)

A very useful overview which does not just give a great deal of useful information about the particular publications, but discusses the works themselves. Including reviews of K. Manzil al-Manâzil, Ijâza li al-Malik al-Muzaffar and Fihrist al-Mu'allafât, the infamous Rasâ'il Ibn 'Arabî based upon the Baghdad manuscript, and K. 'Anqâ' Mughrib.

Elmore has also produced interesting reviews of Lloyd Ridgeon's Persian Metaphysics and Mysticism; Selected works of 'Azîz Nasafî (Journal of Islamic Studies, 15:3), Contemplation of the Holy Mysteries by Cecilia Twinch and Pablo Beneito (MESA 38, 2004), and Peter Coates' Ibn 'Arabî and Modern Thought (MESA 38:1, 2004)