We don’t want here to hasten in narrating texts from Ibn al-Arabi’s books, but the subject of his doctrine is important and must be clarified from the outset, because it is often the area of controversy among some groups of Muslims who don’t accept his words and criticize him, and often cursing and throwing him falsely with heresy. We will devote a large part of the seventh and final chapter of this book to discuss some of these opponent views, Allah willing, but it is a good idea to mention here the doctrine of the Grand Shaykh, may Allah bless him, as he himself stated, and he held other people to witness what he testifies.
He declared this testimony right at the beginning of the Meccan Revelations, and he also published it separately in a treatise called ”the Doctrine of the People of Islam”, or ”the Public Faith” (al-aqiida al-aamma), to prevent others from throwing ignorant atheism or disbelief claims, when they will not understand and appreciate what is buried in his books of divine knowledge. He had predicted what would happen in this regard, so he wanted to diminish the brunt of it.
However, the Greatest Shaykh declared that faith has four levels; this public faith is the first level, which is the doctrine of the common Muslims, the people of tradition and the people of consideration, as we shall mention that further below. So this is the general belief that all Muslims should follow, because it is basically the conclusion that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, with some general details about Allah’s Transcendence.
The second level he calls the doctrine of the developing beginners (aqiidat al-naashiya), which includes the main proofs and evidences in Islamic philosophy, needed by those who could be arguing with antagonists and philosophers. Ibn al-Arabi mentioned this doctrine also at the beginning of the Meccan Revelations, using some rhythmic prose and brief statements. This is also sometimes published separately, and it is called ”the treatise of what is known from the doctrines of the people of forms” (aqiidat ahl al-rusuum).
The third level is the doctrine of the elite people of Allah (khaassat ahl Allah), amongst the people of the Way of Allah, who are the Sufis, or the realizing people of unveiling and ontology. He mentioned this doctrine in a book he called ”the first knowledge” (al-maarifa), and it is also called ”the issues” (al-masaail), and he mentioned some of these issues also in the beginning of the Meccan Revelations.
As for the fourth and ultimate level that is the doctrine of the finest of the elite people of Allah (khulassat al-khaassa), the Shaykh never declared it plainly in any single place of his books, because of its ambiguity. Rather, he dispersed it throughout the chapters of the Meccan Revelations, and other books, stated fully but sporadically, as he says; so that whoever is prepared by Allah he is going to find it and distinguish it, because, Ibn al-Arabi explains, it is the true knowledge and the honest saying, and it is the final goal, where the seeing and blind will be alike, and it relates the far with the near and connects the high with the low, since everything is cyclic, and the end of the cycle is connected with its beginning [Futuhat: I.38.2].
In line with this, even though we titled this book as (Biography of the Greatest Shaykh Muhyiddin Ibn al-Arabi and His Doctrine), we will not really allocate any section, or specific paragraphs, to study his doctrine, as Asin Palacios did for example in his book which he divided into two parts: in the first he presented the biography of Ibn al-Arabi, and then he outlined his doctrine. We preferred scattering the different aspects of the doctrine of Shaykh Muhyiddin over the paragraphs of this book whenever we needed to mention any of that throughout the study of his life, and also while discussing some details of the biography of the Shaykhs whom he dealt with or mentioned some of their statements, since he often used this method to define his own beliefs on the tongues of the scientists and saints whom he knows or who are famous in the history of Islam and Sufism, like Abu Yazid al-Bustami and Abu Hamid al-Ghazali and some others.
As for the full description of the doctrine of Shaykh Muhyiddin, there is no substitute for reading his own books, because no researcher can ever encompass this. In fact, we are likely to mishandle his true doctrine whenever we state some of its aspects in any direct manner, except for the purpose of giving some glimpses.
It should be noted also that these four levels of faith are not conflicting or contradictory, but they are compatible and complementary. We cannot ask all people to be philosophers and speakers, and also we don’t expect all speakers to be realized and mystics. Mysticism has many levels and planes, on top of all is the rank of the immediate righteous who drink from the nectar, sealed with musk and mixed with Tasneem, so for this let the competitors compete [Quran, 83:26].
Therefore, we will mention the text of the public doctrine as was set out in the book of the Meccan Revelations, despite its length, because it confronts every allegation to detract from the status of the Greatest Shaykh Muhyiddin Ibn al-Arabi. The Shaykh, may Allah be pleased with him, divided this testimony into two parts, the first is that there is no god but Allah, and the second that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.
Thus he says, after some introduction about the need for such testimony: