The Greatest Master Muhyiddin Ibn al-Arabi is a renowned Sufi figure of the Middle Ages, and one of the most influential authors in Islamic history. His writings had a deep influence on many intellectuals and mystics in the Islamic civilization throughout the centuries that followed, and have more recently attracted broad interest in the West.
He was born in Murcia, in eastern Andalusia, in the year 560 AH / 1165 AD, into a pious and cultured family. They moved to Seville when he was eight years old, and around the age of 16, he “entered the path (of Sufism).” He quickly became famous amongst all renowned scholars for his unique and profound opinions concerning the fundamental theological issues. He traveled throughout and between Andalusia and Morocco for more than two decades, before a vision compelled him to go to the East.
His primary purpose was to perform the Hajj of the year 598 AH, but he eventually lived there and never returned to the West. He visited Egypt, Palestine, the Arabian Peninsula, Iraq, Anatolia, before he finally settled in Damascus in 1224 AD. His many distinguished works eventually brought him fame and notoriety, until he came to be popularly called Muhyî al-Dîn (The Reviver of Religion) and al-Shaykh al-Akbar (the Greatest Master, or: Doctor Maximus). At the age of 78, he died in Damascus in the year 638 AH / 1240 AD.
His two most influential works are al-Futûhât al-Makkiyya (The Meccan Revelations), an encyclopedic discussion of Islamic wisdom, and the shorter Fusûs al-Hikam (The Bezels of Wisdom), which comprises twenty-seven chapters named after prophets who characterize different spiritual types, containing abstruse and extremely profound cognition.
In addition to that, he also wrote several hundred lesser-known works, many of them are now available in print, such as ’Anqâ’ Mughrib, Kitâb al-Tajalliyyât, Tarjumân al-Ashwâq, Mashâhid al-Asrâr al-Qudsiyya, Mawâqi’ al-Nujûm, ’Uqlat al-Mustawfiz, Inshâ’ al-Dawâ’ir and al-Tadbîrât al-Ilâhiyya, in addition to 29 shorter treatises published in the Hyderabad collection commonly known as the Rasâ’il Ibn ’Arabî, and many other shorter books and treatises.
In one of his treatises, the “Fihrist”, he listed about 250 titles that he could remember at the time. This number increases to more than 300 works when added to other titles he referenced throughout his other confirmed books, including also the Ijazah that he wrote to one the Ayyubid Kings. Nonetheless, more than 850 books have been attributed to him, though some of them are apocryphal or could not be verified. We shall dedicate Volume III of this Series to discuss the Authentic Books by Muhyiddin Ibn Al-Arabi based on the Fihrist and Ijazah, as well as other verified sources.
Before that, in this first volume, we shall give detailed accounts on his biography, starting from his birth and early life in Andalusia, the Shaykhs he met there and how he learned from them the principles of Islamic mysticism, his various discussions with some of the famous figures of his time, his frequent traveling between the cities of Andalusia and Maghrib, before finally moving to Mecca and settling in Damascus, and the various voyages he performed in all these extended regions.
After that, Volume II will be dedicated to discussing the Diffusion of the Akbarian School after Muhyiddin Ibn Al-Arabi, starting from the seventh century after he passed away and up until the current fifteenth century AH, corresponding to the thirteenth to twenty-first centuries AD. In this second volume, in addition to discussing the various Muslim authorities who strongly denounced Shaykh Muhyiddin and considered him deviating from their orthodox doctrine, we shall mention many of the leading Shaykhs who admired him and adopted his teachings and transmitted them to their students who then rapidly spread in all parts of the Islamic world, extending throughout the Arabian Peninsula, the Levant and Anatolia, and then to the far East into Persia, India and North and Central Asia, and also to the far West, in Andalusia and Northern Africa, and including also some parts of Europe. Through all these regions and over the centuries, we will discuss his incontestable influence on both the Islamic and Christian intellectuals in the East and in the West.
Although there will be no dedicated sections to discuss his complex theological doctrine and philosophical and ontological views, this will be adequately elaborated throughout these three volumes as we elaborate on the contents of the various books that he authored in these many cities that he visited or stayed in for intermittent periods, together with the relevant discussions he had with the masters and students he met there.
The title of this book “the Sun from the West” (Shams ul-Maghrib) has no direct relation with Ibn al-Arabi’s illustrious book of ’Anqâ’ Mughrib fî Ma’rifati Khatm al-Awliyâ’ wa Shams al-Maghrib, that speaks about “the Seal of Saints”, although Ibn al-Arabi himself is often identified as “the Seal of Muhammadan Saints”. Nevertheless, this title is drawn from the fact that his life cycle is analogous with the daily voyage of the Sun, except that he rose up from the West, and journeyed back to the East, to rest in Damascus, before rising again and spreading through his students and teachings.
This similarity between the Greatest Master and the Sun applies to many significant details of his life. We shall see that in each subsequent chapter of the six chapters comprising Volume I. Hence, they are identified after the different periods of the day: Dawning, Morning, Forenoon, Noontime, Afternoon, and Evening; that is the Day-time of his name. Volume II also consists of two parts that will be called: Dusking and Twilight; that is the Night-time; after he passed away. We shall also discover that the mystery behind this symbolic analogy is connected with the periodic motion of time, and particularly the seven days of the week, that are also profoundly connected with the seven main divine attributes: Living, Knowing, Willing, Ability, Hearing, Seeing and Speaking. We have discussed these concepts and explained their significance in the Single Monad Model of the Cosmos and Duality of Time Theory.