Muhyi ad-Din Muhammad bin Ali al-Hatimi at-Tai Ibn al-Arabi

Ibn al-Arabi or Ibn Arabi, Muhyi ad-Din Muhammad bin Ali al-Hatimi at-Tai (ĭbˌən äl äräˈbē) [key], 1165–1240, a Muslim Sufi mystic b. in Murcia, Spain. As a child in Seville, Ibn al-Arabi had a formative religious experience in the aftermath of a vision. His pilgrimage to Mecca evolved into a two-year extended stay. His numerous travels, punctuated by his prolific writings, ended in Damascus, where he settled in 1230 and lived until his death. Considered one of the greatest of Islamic metaphysical thinkers, his works include al-Futuhat al-Makkiyya [Arab., = the Meccan Revelations] in 37 volumes, begun in Mecca and containing a full exposition of his Sufi doctrine; Fusus al-Hikam, [Arab., = Bezels of Wisdom], a summary of the teachings of 28 prophets, from Adam to Muhammad, dictated to Ibn al-Arabi by the Prophet of Islam in a dream; and Tarjuman al-Ashwaq, a love poem on which he later wrote an extensive commentary to explain its inner or hidden meaning. Ibn al-Arabi viewed the knowledge acquired through reason or through mystic states as inferior to that coming from God and acquired through a profound mystic training. God, in Ibn al-Arabi's thought, is represented as a quasi-unknowable existence free of all attributes. Ibn Arabi viewed human spiritual progress as a series of three journeys, away from, toward, and within the Divine. Not everyone could undertake these journeys, and then, only after completing a set of conditions, including silence, isolation, hunger, and sleep deprivation. Ibn al-Arabi's ideas have always been controversial among conservative Muslims. Many have considered him to be a heretic and, as recently as 1979, his al-Futuhat al-Makkiyya was banned in Egypt.

See H. Corbin, Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn Arabi (tr. 1969); W. Chittick, The Sufi Path of Knowledge (1989).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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