The Writings of Ibn 'Arabi
Ibn 'Arabi is one of the most inventive and prolific writers of the Islamic tradition, with a very large number of books and treatise attributed to him. He wrote a number of works whilst still living in Andalusia, but the majority of his writings date from the second part of his life when he was living in Mecca, Anatolia and Damascus.
Of the heritage which has come down to us, there is a core of about 85 works which we can be certain are genuine works by him. These include the encyclopaedic "Meccan Revelations" (al-Futūḥāt al-Makkiyya) which numbers more than 2,000 pages in the printed edition, and around 15 substantial long works, including a Dīwān (collected poetry) of about 800 poems and his master work "The Ringstones of Wisdom" (Fusūs al-ḥikam). The remainder are short treatises, some just a few pages long written in response to a student’s need or request.
His best known works are:
Fusûs al-hikam ("The Ringstones of Wisdom")
Considered to be the quintessence of Ibn 'Arabi's spiritual teaching, it comprises twenty-seven chapters, each dedicated to the spiritual meaning and wisdom of a particular prophet. Over the centuries Ibn 'Arabi's students held this book in the highest esteem and wrote over one hundred commentaries on it.
Al-Futûhât al-makkiyya ("The Meccan Openings")
"This is a vast compendium of metaphysics, cosmology, spiritual anthropology, psychology, and jurisprudence. Topics include the inner meanings of the Islamic rituals, the stations of travellers on the journey to God and in God, the nature of cosmic hierarchy, the spiritual and ontological meaning of the letters of the Arabic alphabet, the sciences embraced by each of the ninety-nine names of God, and the significance of the differing messages of various prophets." This work was written over a twenty-year period as Ibn 'Arabi travelled in the Near East, and revised in a second recension during the time he lived in Damascus.
Tarjuman al-ashwaq ("The Interpreter of Yearnings")
This short collection of love poetry was inspired by his meeting during his first pilgrimage to Mecca with Nizam, the beautiful and gifted daughter of a great scholar from Isfahan. He later wrote a long commentary on the poems to prove to one of his critics that they deal with spiritual truths and not profane love. It was the first of Ibn 'Arabi's works to be translated into English.
Translations and articles in this section
Selected major works of Ibn 'Arabi. Ibn 'Arabi's output was prodigious, ranging from the enormous Futuhat al-Makkiyya, which fills thousands of pages of Arabic, to treatises no more than a few pages long. The selection provides a brief overview of the best-known titles. This article is reproduced from The Unlimited Mercifier – The spiritual life and thought of Ibn 'Arabi, by Stephen Hirtenstein.
Seleção das maiores obras de Ibn 'Arabi, (the same article, translated into Portuguese)
Establishing Ibn 'Arabī's Heritage: First findings from the MIAS Archiving Project (2012), Jane Clark and Stephen Hirtenstein (pdf). This paper represents the results of a decade of studying manuscripts of works by Ibn 'Arabi, primarily in Turkish collections, and part of the Ibn 'Arabi Society's digital archive. The definitive bibliography of Ibn ‘Arabi's works, Histoire et Classification de l’Oeuvre d'Ibn ‘Arabi, was published by Osman Yahia in 1964. Although the Histoire was invaluable in measuring out the ground for a catalogue of the manuscript base and what can be deduced from that, it included errors of detail, and scholars have made revisions to a number of entries. Stephen Hirtenstein are Jane Clark among the very few people to have undertaken a systematic examination of a large part of the manuscript base since Osman Yahia.
Ibn 'Arabi's own Summary of the Fusûs, introduced and translated by William Chittick. The importance of Ibn 'Arabi's Fusûs al-hikam as the quintessence of his writings and thought and a major source of his influence is well-known, and is attested to by the more than one hundred commentaries written upon it. Ibn 'Arabi also wrote a work called Naqsh al-fusûs (the "Imprint" or "Pattern of the Fusûs"), in which he summarized briefly the main discussions of the Fusûs itself. Abd al-Rahman Jamî's work, Naqd al-nusûs fi sharh naqsh al-fusûs, written in the year 863/1459 incorporated the text of Ibn 'Arabi's summary, and had his own commentary in a mix of Arabic and Persian. William Chittick's translation of about one-sixth of Jamî's work was first published in Sophia Perennis (1975), then in the Journal of the Ibn 'Arabi Society (1982). (pdf 156KB)
The Chapter Headings of The Fusûs by William Chittick. This is a study of the significance of the chapter headings of the Fusûs as understood by four major commentators on the work. The first was Sadr al-Dîn al-Qûnawî (d. 673/1274), Ibn al-'Arabi's son-in-law, chief disciple, foremost interpreter, and the author of al-Fukûk, a commentary on the central themes of each chapter of the Fusûs. At his behest his disciple Mu'ayyid al-Din al-Jandi composed one of the earliest and most extensive commentaries on the Fusûs itself. Two other commentaries were written by 'Abd al-Razzâq al-Kâshâni (d. 730/1329 or 736/1335-6), who studied the Fusûs with al-Jandi, and Dâwûd al-Qaysari (d. 751/1350), who studied it with al-Kâshâni. From the Journal of the Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi Society, Vol. II, 1984. (pdf 188KB)
Extract from the Fusûs al-Hikam "The calling by revelation of the Brides of Absoluteness in the places of absoluteness of the Wisdoms of the bezels" and "Of the Divine Wisdom (al hikmat al ilâhiyyah) in the Word of Adam". Extract from Fusûs al-Hikam, Volume 1, translation from the Arabic into Ottoman Turkish with commentary, rendered into English by Bulent Rauf with the help of Rosemary Brass and Hugh Tollemache. Published by the Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi Society.
Introduction to The Meccan Revelations, written by James Morris. This is the Introduction to The Meccan Revelations, translations of chapters from the Futuhat al-Makkiyya by Michel Chodkiewicz, William Chittick and James Morris (Pir Publications Inc, 2002). This volume consists of the English portions of what was originally a bi-lingual book, published in Paris, 1988. It gives a valuable overview of the Futuhat al-Makkiyya and to publications about it in French and English.
Understanding, and translating, the Futūḥāt al-Makkīya. Eric Winkel is engaged in translating the Futūḥāt al-Makkīya in its entirity into English. Although he does not go into existing translations of the Futūḥāt in English, these do not cover more than one sixth of the text. "The level of expertise required even to understand this huge, complicated work has certainly been an obstacle to translation. The Futūḥāt is not a conceptually organized text, and key themes and terms are not explained when they first appear. Instead, Ibn al-ʿArabī seems to be speaking extemporaneously. Thus, in order to understand what Ibn al-ʿArabī is saying in any particular instance, the translator must know (and reference for the reader) the full context, drawn from the entire text. In a sense the Futūḥāt is an oral work, and explanations are needed to fill in the contextual gaps which a contemporary listener, in tune with Ibn al-ʿArabī and his subject matter, would not have needed." Some introductory notes are followed by a translation of the first chapter of the Futūḥāt.
Six Printed Editions of al-Futuhat al Makkīyah – A brief survey. Since the Futuhat al Makkīyah first began to be a printed book in 1853, printed books have been the chief means by which it has been known. This brief review by Julian Cook and Claude Addas of six editions published between 1853 and 2010 summarises information about the manuscripts used for each edition.
How to Study the Futûhât: Ibn 'Arabi's Own Advice by James Morris. This includes a translation of key sections of the complex Introduction (muqaddima) to the Futûhât al-Makkiya. This article is also available in Swedish (Hur Man Studerar Futûhât : Ibn 'Arabis Egna Råd).
Two Chapters from the Futuhat, introduced and translated by William Chittick. This is the full text of Chapter 317 (Concerning The True Knowledge of the Waystation of Trial and its Blessings) and Chapter 339 (Concerning the True Knowledge of a Waystation in which the Shari'a kneels before the Reality, seeking Replenishment). The chapters deal with several themes. Among these, two of the central ideas of Ibn al-'Arabi's spiritual universe stand out: the 'Oneness of Being' (wahdat al-wujud) and 'Perfect Man' (al-insan al-kamil). These translations first appeared in Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi - A Commemorative Volume, ed. S. Hirtenstein and M. Tiernan, Element Books, Shaftesbury, 1993. (pdf 108KB)
On the Inner Knowledge of Spirits Made of an Igneous Mixture: Chapter 9 of the Futūhāt al-Makkiyya, Gracia López Anguita. It is perhaps stating the obvious to say that, from an Akbarian perspective, all the elements of creation constitute a theophany. However, it is worth recalling in the case of the genies, given the misgivings which this element of Islamic cosmology can give rise to and the negative connotations which accompany it. The study of the figure of the genie or jinn in Ibn 'Arabī's Futūhāt reveals both the network of connections between the genie and other elements of his cosmological system and the different levels of interpretation of this concept.
Ibn 'Arabi on the Barzakh - Chapter 63 of the Futûhât (pdf 160KB), James Morris. One of Ibn 'Arabi's most extensive and widely influential discussions of the Imagination/Barzakh, in all its humanly relevant dimensions, was in the set of five eschatological chapters (61-65) within the long opening section of the Futûhât. Those chapters, whose arrangement follows the traditional ordering of the symbolic "events" and "places" of the Resurrection mentioned in Islamic scriptures, begin with descriptions of Gehenna and the "Fires" and other torments of its residents (chapters 61-62) and conclude with the stages of redemption and eventual bliss of souls who have reached the Gardens of paradise (chapters 64-65).
The Mahdi and His Helpers - Chapter 366 of the Futûhât (pdf 296KB), James Morris. The primary focus of Chapter 366 of the Futûhât is the distinctive set of spiritual qualities and capacities marking this particular spiritual stage (manzil)--characteristics which Ibn 'Arabi finds symbolized in the various hadith concerning the eschatological role of the Mahdi and his "Helpers" or "Ministers," but which he insists are already realized by those saints (awliya') who have attained this degree of spiritual realization, who have already reached the "end of time."
The Spiritual Ascension: Ibn 'Arabî and the Mi'râj - Chapter 367 of the Futûhât (pdf 368KB), James Morris. The initial indications in the Koran and hadith concerning the Prophet's Ascension (mi'raj) or nocturnal voyage (isra', at Kor. 17:1) and the revelatory vision in which it culminated (Kor. 53:1-18) subsequently gave rise to a vast body of interpretations among the many later traditions of Islamic thought and spirituality. Ibn 'Arabi's personal adaptation of that material, in at least four separate longer narratives, reflects both the typical features of his distinctive approach to the Koran and hadith and the full range of his metaphysical-theological teachings and practical spiritual concerns.
The Futuhat Makkiyya: Some Unresolved Enigmas, Michel Chodkiewicz. This seminal paper demonstrated in a new way the intimate connection between the Qur'an and the writings of Ibn 'Arabi, by showing how the 114 chapters of the section of the Futûhât (called the fasl al-manāzil) correspond to Surahs of the Qur'an in sequence on a one-to-one basis. It exposes an underlying structure to the Futûhât never previously described in public commentaries, which makes untennable common scholarly characterisations of it as a disorderly encyclopedia of bookish knowledge or a heterogeneous collection of passages juxtaposed simply as a result of the caprices of inspiration. Themes in this paper were later developed by Michel Chodkiewicz in An Ocean Without Shore – Ibn Arabi, The Book, and the Law, New York, 1993.
On Knowing the Station of Love: Poems from the 78th Chapter of the Futūhāt Al-Makkiyyah, by Ralph Austin. Translations of five poems.
Diwān and Tarjumān al-ashwāq
The Dīwān of Ibn 'Arabi by Roger Deladrière. The 475 large format pages of the Boulaq edition correspond to a selection of more than 800 pieces of verse. A dīwān being by definition a collection of poems which have been sanctioned by the writer, one would expect to find in the Shaykh al-Akbar's the pieces of verse that can be read in his major works, such as the Futūhāt. Yet when a detailed inventory is made, it turns out that less than a tenth of his known output is to be found in the Dīwān. This is an important survey of this very important book.
Selections from Ibn 'Arabi's Tarjumān al-ashwāq (Translation of Desires), four poems translated by Michael Sells.
Ibn 'Arabi's "Gentle Now, Doves of the Thornberry and Moringa Thicket", by Michaels Sells. An introduction to and translation of Poem 11 from the Translation of Desires, which contains what is surely the most-quoted passage in Ibn 'Arabi's works, "O marvel! a garden amidst fires! My heart has become capable of every form..."
Ibn 'Arabi's Poem 18 (Qif bi l-Manâzil) From the Translation of Desires, Michael Sells. "...the journey is the constant movement and transformation (taqallub) of the heart, which in each moment must give up a manifestation of ultimate reality (a manifestation symbolized by the beloved) in order to receive a new manifestation."
Notes on the manuscripts of Ibn 'Arabi's Diwān, by Stephen Hirtenstein. Recent research has shown that the substantial collection of poems printed in Bûlāq in 1855 under the title of Diwan Ibn 'Arabi is merely a part of the overall corpus. The full extent of Ibn 'Arabî's poetic output remains quite a mystery. This article reviews four manuscripts of the Diwan.
"See Him in a tree, and see Him in a stone" by Denis McAuley. This article looks in detail at how one of Ibn 'Arabī's poems works, a poem written in a very unusal form. In it Ibn 'Arabī explores the relation between God and His creation. Each verse returns unfailingly to God.
The Preface to the Tarjumān al-ashwāq, by Jane Clark. A provisional translation by Jane Clark, based upon the text by R.A. Nicholson in The Tarjumān al-Ashwāq (Theosophical Publishing House, London, 1911). This translation correlates with the article by Jane Clark in Vol. 55 of the Journal of the Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi Society.
A Letter to Imām al-Rāzī translated by Mohammed Rustom. Ibn ʿArabī's Letter to Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī is a letter addressed to one of the great scholars of his age, among other things the author of an eight-volume Tafsir on the Qur'an. Al-Rāzī was famous for his belief in rationalism. Ibn 'Arabi mentions in this letter that he had heard from one of al-Rāzī's companions that he had seen him weeping one day, and when ask why, replied, ‘A position to which I have adhered for the past thirty years has become clear to me thanks to a proof which has just dawned upon me. [It turns out that] the [truth of the] matter is contrary to my previous position. So I cried and said to myself, “perhaps that which has occurred to me is also like the first position!”’. In other words, he was baffled by his inability to find certain knowledge by this means. It is a wonderfully wise and generous letter.
The Journey through the Circles of Inner Being according to Ibn 'Arabî’s Mawâqi' al-nujûm, by Denis Gril. Every spiritual path, starting from the corporeal and ordinary being and extending to the spiritual and sanctified being is, in fact, a whole life’s journey. In Mawâqi' al-nujûm, “The twilight of the stars”, Ibn 'Arabî tells us about this progressive journey, through lights and shadows, happiness and sadness, success and danger.
Ibn al-'Arabī's Book of the Fabulous Gryphon ('Anqā' Mughrib), by Gerald Elmore. Of the principal extant works of Ibn al-'Arabī, the 'Anqā' mughrib is one of the half-dozen or so earliest, and its manuscript appears to be the oldest surviving text of any book by the Shaykh. Apart from the the Fusūs al-hikam and Al-Futūhāt al-makkīyah, the 'Anqā' seems to have been commented upon by Arab writers more times than almost any of Ibn al- 'Arabī's other books, perhaps because of its subject matter, the meaning of the Seal of the Saints, and because of the complexity of its language.
On Majesty and Beauty - The Kitâb Al-Jalâl Wa-l Jamâl of Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi, translated by Rabia Terri Harris. "Written in the space of one day in April/May 1205 (601) in Mosul, it discusses various Quranic verses in terms of two apparently opposing aspects, Majesty and Beauty, alluding to the third aspect which integrates them, the balance of Perfection." This translation first appeared in Volume VIII of the Journal. (pdf 68KB)
Ibn al-'Arabi's Testament on the Mantle of Initiation (al-Khirqah) translated by Gerald Elmore. Written towards the end of Ibn 'Arabi's life, this short work expands from the Quranic verse: "O Children of Adam, We have sent down upon you a Vestment (libâs) to cover your shameful parts, and beautiful Raiment (rîsh); and the Robe of God-fearing (libâs al-taqwâ) - that is best." (pdf 300KB)
Introducing Ibn 'Arabî's "Book of Spiritual Advice", James Morris. (pdf 156KB) Among the shorter treasures his more famous works have sometimes overshadowed is ibn 'Arabi's remarkable book of spiritual aphorisms, the "Book of Spiritual Advice" (Kitâb al-Nasâ'ih). These short sayings are meant to function as a probing mirror of one’s spiritual conscience, examining the authenticity and proper integration of each reader's states and stations.
Book of the Quintessence of What is Indispensable for the Spiritual Seeker, James Morris. (pdf 192KB). A partial translation of Adab al-Murîd.
Kitâb al-fâna' fi-l mushâhadah, translated by Stephen Hirtenstein and Layla Shamash. Its central topic is the path of mystical unveiling which leads to the contemplation of God. Although at first sight it may seem like a defense of the spiritual way against the attacks of rationalists and dogmatic theologians, it turns out to be a set of indications and exhortations for those on the path to undergo the spiritual death (fanâ') and be realised in contemplation.
The Kitab al-inbah of 'Abdallah Badr al-Habashi, translated by Denis Gril. In one sense the Kitâb al-inbâh is not by Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi, for it was written by his companion of twenty-three years, beloved friend and student, 'Abdallah Badr al-Habashi. However it records what al-Habashi says he heard Ibn 'Arabi say, and may be trusted as a faithful account.
I entrust to you a bequest Three passages from the Kitab al-Was'il by Isma'il Ibn Sawdakîn, in which he recorded things he asked Ibn 'Arabi about, and answers he received. These concern servanthood, retreat, and what was said to Bayazid al-Bastami - "Leave yourself and come!". Translated by Stephen Hirtenstein.
Some Dreams of Ibn 'Arabî pdf, translated by James Morris. These are four of the eighteen dreams recorded in the Shaykh's short "Epistle of Good Tidings" (Risâlat al-Mubashshirât), whose title alludes to a famous hadith where the Prophet explains that these "'good tidings...are the dream of the muslim, either what that person sees or what is shown to them, which is one of the parts of prophecy.' ...So I decided to mention in this section some of what I have seen in dreams that involves a benefit for others and points out for them the means for reaching the Good, since there is no need to mention what only concerns myself."
Love Letters to the Ka'ba. A presentation of Ibn 'Arabi's Tâj al-Rasâ'il, Denis Gril. In this book, The Crown of Epistles and the Path to Intercessions, Ibn 'Arabi addresses eight love letters to the Ka'ba. This contains all the variations that Arabic literature has to offer on the theme of love. This is an unusual love, for a being made of stone, though oh so sacred, situated in an intermediate world between the human and the divine. Denis Gril introduces a treatise, as rich as it is difficult, which must take its place beside the Tarjumân al-Ashwâq and the chapter on Love in the Futûhât.
Three Dimensions of the Rûh by Huzayfa Mangera. Ibn 'Arabi's Rûh al-Quds is well-known through the Sufis of Andalusia, which includes the extraordinary pen-pictures which make up the middle part of the book, combined with similar descriptions from another work. This article is the first study of the Rûh al-Quds as a whole, and brings out the context in which those memorable biographies were set. It is an excellent introduction to the book.
"Unveiling from the Effects of the Voyages". Angela Jaffray. An Introduction to the Kitâb al-isfâr 'an natâ'ij al-asfâr. The theme of movement and transformation runs through all of Ibn 'Arabi's works. Part cosmology, part Qur'anic exegesis (tafsîr) and stories of the prophets (qisas al-anbiyâ'), part spiritual vademecum, its seventeen chapters deny categorization. After an initial chapter discussing "the three voyages" – to God, from God, and with God – subsequent chapters are given titles characterizing the specific voyage dealt with, such as The lordly voyage of the All-Merciful from the Cloud to the Throne; the voyage of creation and command, or the voyage of origination; the voyage of the Qur'an; and the voyage of the vision in the signs and the esoteric significations (Muhammad's mir'âj).
An Introduction to Ibn 'Arabi's Mishkat al-Anwar. The Mishkat al-Anwar consists of 101 hadîth qudsi collected by Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi. It has few of Ibn 'Arabi's own words in it. This collection is a selection and an arrangement. In some cases only part of a long hadîth is given, and a long hadîth may be broken up into short sections. There is a broad progression from the first hadîth, which expresses God's complete independence of us, and our complete dependence on Him, to the last hadîth, which reports His welcome to the people of Paradise. These sayings are full of mercy and generosity.
Created for Compassion : Ibn 'Arabī's work on Dhū-l-Nūn the Egyptian Cecilia Twinch. Ibn 'Arabī's book about Dhū-l-Nūn's life and teachings, al-Kawkab al-durrī: fī manāqib Dhī-l Nūn al-Misrī (The Brilliant Star: On the Spiritual Virtues of Dhu-l-Nūn the Egyptian), not only collects together stories and sayings connected with this great Egyptian master but provides some insightful, if brief, commentary by Ibn 'Arabī himself. Dhū-l-Nūn's coming to the spiritual path, his quest for beneficial knowledge in his constant wanderings, the miraculous events he encounters, the rigorous life of the ascetic and the longing of the lover, provide the rich backdrop woven by the mysticism of the time.