Sufi Master Ibn Arabi lived in Moorish Spain. He is known in the sufi world as “Cheikh Al Akbar”(the greatest Cheikh). This is an english translation of one of his poems with commentary. The poem and commentary where taken from the Ibn Arabi society website, where many of the masters teachings can be found. This philosophy explains the Oneness of Being….love and light—-sufi
1. Allāhu anzala nūran yustadā’u bihi
‘alā fu’ādi nabiyyin sarrahu llāhu
2. Atā bihi rūhuhu min fawqi arqi’atin
sab’in ilā qalbihi wal-sāmi’u llāhu
3. Minhu ilayhi bihi kāna l-nuzūlu lahu
fa-laysa fī l-kawni illā l-wāhidu llāhu
4. Wal-jismu wal-‘aradu l-mashhūdu fīhi wa-mā
fī l-ghaybi mā lam tarāhu dhālika llāhu
5. Wa-lā tanāquda fī mā qultuhu fa-anā
‘aynu l-kathīri wa-‘aynī l-wāhidu llāhu
1. God sent down a light from which light is sought,
upon the heart of a Prophet whom God made contented.
2. His spirit brought it from above seven heavens
to his heart, and the one who hears is God.
3. From Him, to Him and through Him was the descent to him;
for there is nothing in the created world but the one God.
4. The substance and the accidents that are witnessed are both in Him,
and whatever is in the unseen, what you have never seen, that is God.
5. There is no contradiction in what I have said,
for I am the essence of the many, and my essence is the one God.
Ibn ‘Arabī begins by describing the way in which God makes known the ideas that are imparted in the poem. This knowledge descends on the heart of the Prophet (v.1). The fact that the knowledge descends on the Prophet’s heart is consistent with both Qur’anic usage and Ibn ‘Arabī’s own metaphysics. The Qur’an often refers to the heart as the receptacle into which God sends down the Holy Spirit or of the Angel Gabriel, most often for the Prophet or for other specially chosen people. The next few lines of the present poem also echo the Qur’anic statement that “Surely there is a Reminder in that for whoever has a heart, or listens attentively, while he is witnessing.” (Q. 50:37).
The “seven heavens” are consistent with Ibn ‘Arabī’s cosmology, according to which there are seven celestial spheres above which are the footstool (kursī) and the throne (‘arsh). The twist is that the faculties which according to the Qur’an are used to receive the divine message – the heart, and hearing and witnessing – are here stated to be God’s: “the one who hears is God” (v.2), and the revelation is from, through and for God (v.3). Ibn ‘Arabī may have in mind a well-known hadith, which was very often quoted by Sufis, in which God says:
My servant continues to draw close to me through supererogatory acts until I love him. And when I love him, I am his hearing through which he hears, his sight through which he sees, his hand through which he grasps and the leg with which he walks.
In this poem, Ibn ‘Arabī takes the idea one step further: not only does God become the attributes of the perfect Sufi, but He fulfils this role for the whole of creation whether the created beings know it or not: “there is nothing in the created world but the one God” (v.4). It would be easy to see this as an example of straightforward monism. In point of fact, although Ibn ‘Arabī never uses the term wahdat al-wujūd himself, this poem is one of the places where he comes closest, with the phrase al-wujūd al-wāhid in v.15 below. However, what drives Ibn ‘Arabī’s work is less an all-pervasive monism than a sort of creative tension between this idea and a more conventional dualism between God and His creation. Verse 5 is characteristic of Ibn ‘Arabī’s tactic of surprising or confusing the reader, combining as it does a paradoxical statement with the assertion that “there is no contradiction in what I have just said.”
The tension between these two poles – God and His creation – comes out in the next part of the poem:
6. Min a’jabi l-amri anna l-hukma min ‘adamin
fī ‘ayni kawnin fa-ayna l-‘abdu wallāhu
7. Fal-‘aynu tashhadu khalqan jā’a min ‘adamin
wal-amra haqqan wa-‘aynu l-mubsiri llāhu
8. Lahu l-yamīnu lahu l-‘aynāni fī khabarin
atā bihi minhu wal-ātī huwa llāhu
9. Fal-hukmu lī wa-lahu ‘aynu l-wujūdi wa-mā
lil-‘ayni minnī wujūdun bal huwa llāhu
10. Fa-nzurhu fī shajarin wa-nzurhu fī hajarin
wa-nzurhu fī kulli shay’in dhālika llāhu
11. Kullu l-asāmī lahu in kunta ta’qiluhu
huwa l-musammā bihā fa-kulluhā llāhu
6. One of the most amazing things is that (God’s) action
(hukm) comes from non-existence,
and affects the essence of a created being – so where are
the servant and God?
7. For the eye sees a creation (khalq) that comes from non-existence,
and sees the command as the Real (al-Haqq) – and the
eye of the one who looks is God.
8. He has a right hand, and He has two eyes according to a report
which he brought from Himself, and the one who brought
it was God.
9. God’s ruling is for me, and the essence of being is His.
My own essence has no being, but rather that being is God.
10. So see Him in a tree and see Him in a stone,
and see Him in everything, that is God.
11. All of the names are His, if you understand Him;
He is the one named by them, so all of them are God.
God’s creative command appears to come from nothing, but it impacts the essence of something that is in some sense already there (‘ayn kawn); where does this leave the relation between the servant and God (v.6)? Ibn ‘Arabī appears to be referring elliptically to a notion that is developed elsewhere in his writings, that of “permanent essences” (a’yān thābita). The permanent essences are the non-existent (ma’dūm) prototypes of all that exists in the world. They already exist in the mind of God before He gives them existence. To the beholder, the creative act brings something out of nothing, while the command is God’s; yet the beholder’s eye is itself God (v.7). The terms khalq and haqq are usually contrasted, the latter in this context meaning God.
All of this is consistent with Ibn ‘Arabī’s metaphysics as expressed elsewhere. But it is expressed in a slippery form, with many of the terminological ambiguities that can be found in the rest of the Dīwān. The word ‘ayn, for instance, can refer to the eye or to an essence. So when Ibn ‘Arabī writes that the eye sees God’s action coming from nothing, he could just as well mean that the essence – the permanent essence of God’s creation – does the seeing. In the same way, “the eye of the beholder” could also mean that the beholder’s essence is God. The way in which the poem slides between these definitions suggests the similarly paradoxical nature of reality as Ibn ‘Arabī sees it. So far, the poet presents us with a created world that extends from God and appears to be reducible to God, yet can also be seen as something else. The poet continues with a sharp example of God’s immanence: wherever you look, in a tree or a stone, there is God (v.10), and all names point back to Him (v.11). This last verse could also be taken to mean that all of the beautiful names belong to God. Such a reading would be congruent with the topic: God’s names mediate His oneness to the world as we know it.
The next lines look almost like a dialectical scholastic argument. Ibn ‘Arabī considers a potential objection:
12. Fa-law yaqūlu jahūlun qad jahiltu wa-mā
billāhi jahlun fa-mā kawnī huwa llāhu
13. Fa-qul lahu dhāka hukmu llāhi fīhi wa-man
yadrī lladhī qultuhu bi-annahu llāhu
12. So if an ignorant person were to say, “I am ignorant,
but there is no ignorance in God; so my being is not God,”
13. Then answer him that that is how the action of the essence affects him.
And who knows what I have said, that he is God?
The objection is hardly unexpected: if everything we see is a reflection of God’s attributes, then what about ignorance? Ibn ‘Arabī’s answer is given in the same tone, which is cryptic yet proclamatory. It can be taken in one of (at least) two contradictory ways. The “essence” in the first hemistich of v.13 could refer to the permanent essence. In that case, it would mean that the ignorance is not a function of God’s action, but of the thing’s intrinsic nature in the mind of God. One can see how the line of reasoning might go: the permanent essence reflects God’s names, but the way in which it does this is limited by its own nature. But the “essence” could equally stand for God’s essence. In that case, God Himself has ordained that His creation should be unaware of its own significance. Either explanation makes sense. Perhaps this very ambiguity reflects the ambivalent nature of the permanent essences. In the sense that they are emanations of the divine names, the essences are passive; in the sense that they contain within themselves the potentiality of what they become in the actual world, they are active. Once again, Ibn ‘Arabī’s words sound self-confident, but they also manage to imply contrasting ideas. Despite the constant third-person mode, this is not a straightforward exposition of doctrine.
The last four verses round up the argument:
14. Mā thamma wallāhi illā hayratun zaharat
wa-bī haliftu wa-inna l-muqsima llāhu
15. Law kāna thamma wujūdun mā huwa llāhu
lam yanfarid bil-wujūdi l-wāhidi llāhu
16. Bali l-hudūthu lanā wa-mā yutābi’uhu
wa-hādhihi nisabun wal-thābitu llāhu
17. Yanūbu ‘annā wa-innā minhu fī ‘adamin
wa-nahnu nashhaduhu wal-shāhidu llāhu
14. By God, there is nothing but a bewilderment that appeared –
I swear by myself, and the one who swears is God –
15. If there was any being that is not God,
then God would not be unique in having the one being.
16. Instead, the creation (hudūth) is ours, as is all that follows from it.
All of these are relations (nisab), and the permanent (thābit) one is God.
17. He acts for us and we are from Him in non-existence.
We witness Him, and the one who witnesses is God.
If there was something whose existence is completely separate from God, that thing would detract from His uniqueness (v.15). But Ibn ‘Arabī reasserts a position that seems to both affirm and negate the rest of creation. What is truly ours is the being that God has given us (hudūth); but all of this is contingent and exists only in relation to something else, and God alone is permanent (v.16). In this sense, we come from Him; and when we witness Him, He thereby witnesses Himself. In this conclusion, Ibn ‘Arabī brings us back to a common theme in his writings: the idea that through the created world, God beholds Himself.
The theme running through the poem is that everything comes back to God. Ultra-monorhyme is a useful device to drive this point home: every verse similarly comes back to God. At each turn, Ibn ‘Arabī seems to embark on a new line of thought, only for the second hemistich to pull him back to God.
The poem appears at first sight to be a scholastic argument, yet it is more than pieces of prose that happens to have a metre and a rhyme. The argument follows a sort of progression; but it also jumps from one theme to another, alluding to different topics and picking and dropping them at will. It toys with chains of reasoning, not to resolve paradoxes but to revel in them. It is concerned with imparting information, but it is not a teaching text. The metre requires arguments to be formulated tersely, and the link between one verse and the next can be left implicit. This means that readers must use their own imagination to make sense of the poem. The use of ultra-monorhyme is what allows the argument to follow its winding paths while always returning to God.