Who is the most mystical prophet

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Ibn 'Arabi

Primeval cloud and world

Mystical Texts of the Greatest Master
C.H. Beck Verlag, Munich 2002
ISBN 9783406480553
Hardcover, 352 pages, 29.90 EUR


Translated from Arabic and edited by Alma Giese. Ibn'Arabi (died 1240), called the "Greatest Master", is considered to be the most influential mystic in the Islamic world. Even today he is highly revered in Sufi circles - and vehemently attacked by Islamist fundamentalists. The present volume contains a selection of three works by the mystic, who comes from Spain, and for the first time offers an insight into his life and thoughts in German. Ibn'Arabi was inspired for the "Mecca openings" in Mecca. In them he describes the relationship between God, man and the world, the initial primordial cloud from which everything arose, and the intermediate world of the imagination. "The Spirit of Holiness" contains biographies of the teacher Ibn'Arabis, among whom he also counts animals and inanimate things. "Interpretation of Desires" is a collection of love poems that Ibn'Arabi provided with a mystical commentary in order to counteract their overly earthly interpretation. An introduction by the editor into the life and work of Ibn'Arabi, explanations of individual chapters facilitate access to the sometimes dark and complex texts.

Review note on Neue Zürcher Zeitung, April 12, 2003

As important as it may seem to the reviewer Stefan Weidner that, in addition to Avicenna and Averroes, Ibn Arabi, the "most mystical of the Arab philosophers and the most philosophical of the Arab mystics", has achieved not only a Western but also an Islamic reception one can see the pain he suffered while reading the selection of texts published by Alma Giese. Because both from the medieval (i.e. contemporary to Ibn ¡Arab∆) and from today's perspective, Ibn ¡Arab∆’s trains of thought are "foreign" and "inaccessible", as this selection proves rather than refutes. Ibn ¡Arab∆'s point of departure is definitely attractive and justified for the reviewer: His thinking is characterized by the "high-level balanced synthesis" of "spirituality, tradition and reason". He represents the Sufi conviction that divine knowledge is possible for man out of himself, that man is a “self-thinker and independently experiencing God”, which of course means a “loss of authority in tradition”. But Weidner can no longer follow Ibn Arabi's theory of creation. Based on the question "How is the relationship between Creator and creation to be understood? If God is defined as absolute being, what ontological status do the things, ideas and words emanating from him have?" Ibn ¡Arab∆ describes creation as the call of the "not yet existent things" to the names that already exist (and all of them belonging to God) to let them become through the naming. And yet Ibn ¡Arab∆ insisted that things were not then identical with the names. Which - surprisingly - surprises the reviewer. Weidner's tired conclusion is that you need the imagination so often evoked by Ibn ¡Arab∆ to read it.