I posted part of this passage in Part one of this series, i thought to post another pertinent passage before continuing onwards. Please keep in mind that Â while reading a readers comment this passage in William Chittick‘s Books Ibn Arabi Heir to the Prophets came up.
The comment asked: Does a mystic who is truly being themselves achieve trueÂ God-ConsciousnessÂ over the spiritual person that spends a lifetime attempting to emulate someone they are not? I thought citing Ibn Arabi’s thoughts would prove fruitful.
The question of how people can gain a prophetic inheritance is central to Ibn âArabiâs writings. The simplest answer is that,to the extent human initiative plays a role, people must follow a prophetâs guidance. However, the guidance of most prophets has not come down to us.The only way to receive an inheritance from those prophets is to take it through the intermediary of Muhammad, whose message comprises everything given to all previous prophets. In the last analysis, however, it is God himself who chooses to bestow an inheritance on any given individual.
Ibn âArabi tells us that effort can take seekers only as far as the door. Having reached the door, they can knock as often as they like. It is God who will decide when and if he will open the door. Only at the opening of the door can complete inheritance occur.This explains the sense of the word âopeningâ in the title of Ibn âArabiâs al-Futuhat al-makkiyya,âThe Meccan Openings.â
The title announces that the knowledge and understanding contained in the book were not gained by study or discursive reasoning. They were simply given to the author when God opened the door to him. The whole Futuhat, in other words, represents a massive series of unveilings and witnessings, or âmystical visionsâ if you prefer.
It is important to keep in mind that Ibn âArabi does not confuse unveiling, witnessing, and opening with ârevelation,â which applies properly to prophetic knowledge. It is preciselyÂ the special nature of revelation that makes it necessary for Godâs friends to follow the prophets. As Ibn âArabi often tells us, the basic distinction between a prophet and a friend is that the friend is a âfollowerâ (tabiâ ) and the prophet is the one âfollowedâ (matbuâ ).
If one wants to achieve opening, the way to do so is to engage in the practices set down by oneâs prophet and to follow the instructions of a shaykh or spiritual master,who,in the ideal case, will be a full heir to that prophet. Among the practices that a shaykh will prescribe are retreat (khalwa), which is seclusion from others in order to devote oneself fully to meditation and prayer, and remembrance (dhikr), which is the constant invocation of a Qurâanic divine name or formula.
When the aspiring traveler clings to retreat and the remembrance of Godâs name, when he empties his heart of reflective thoughts, and when he sits in poverty at the door of hisÂ Lord with nothing, then God will bestow upon him and give him something of knowledge of Him, the divine mysteries, and the lordly sciences. (F. I 31.4)
Notice that it is the âheartâ (qalb) that needs to be emptied of thought. In the usage of the Qurâan and Islamic sources in general, the heart designates not the emotive and affective side of human nature, but the center of consciousness, awareness, and intelligence.The heart is the human faculty that can embrace God in the fullness of his manifestation. In Ibn âArabiâs terms, the heart alone can know God and the realities in a synthetic manner embracing both rational understanding and suprarational unveiling.
THE MUHAMMADAN SEAL
When God opened the door for him, Ibn âArabi found that he had inherited all the sciences of Muhammad.Among these sciences was the knowledge that no one after him â except Jesus at the end of time â would be Muhammadâs plenary inheritor.
It was this unveiling that allowed him to see himself as the Seal of Muhammadan Friendship, that is, the last person to actualize the specific mode of friendship that results from embodying the fullness of the paradigm established by Muhammad.
By no means does Ibn âArabiâs claim to be the Muhammadan Seal imply that he was the last friend of God. Rather, it means that no one after him, with the exception of Jesus, wouldÂ inherit the totality of prophetic works, states, and knowledge âa totality that had been realized only by Muhammad among all the prophets.
One should not be surprised that Ibn âArabi privileges Muhammad here. This is the Islamic tradition, after all, and every tradition privileges its own founder. For those who prefer a more universal language, we can say that for Muslims, Muhammad is the full embodiment of the Logos, which is the DivineWord that gives rise to all creation and all revelation. IbnÂ âArabi calls this Logos by several names, including âthe Muhammadan Reality.â
Ibn âArabi maintains that there are friends of God in every age and that they will continue to inherit from Muhammad, but they will no longer have access to the entirety of MuhammadâsÂ works, states, and sciences.The modalities of the inheritance will be defined by their connection to specific prophets embraced by Muhammadâs all-comprehensive prophethood.
After the Muhammadan Seal, âNo friend will be found âupon the heart of Muhammadââ (F. II 49.26).Â Ibn âArabiâs claim to be the Seal of the Muhammadan Friends has appeared pretentious and even outrageous to many people over the centuries. Hostile and critical scholars have dismissedÂ it out of hand.The fact remains, however, that no author writing after him has come close to matching the profundity, freshness, and detail of his interpretation of the sources of theÂ Islamic tradition. Whether or not one would like to call him the Seal of the Muhammadan Friends, it is difficult to deny him the title âGreatest Master.â
If the Muhammadan friends of God inherit all the sciences of Muhammad, this means that they have been opened up to all the knowledge and understanding given to all the prophets.Â This is the knowledge that was given scriptural form in the Qurâan. Thus the Seal of the Muhammadan Friends will some how embody the whole Quranic message. This is why Ibn âÂ Arabi can write concerning the Seal, âThere is no one who has more knowledge of God … He and the Qurâan are siblingsâ (F. III 329.27).
- SEVEN DAYS OF THE HEART Prayers for the Nights and Days of the Week (mycaravanofdreams.com)
- Ibn Arabi’s “What the Seeker Needs” (3) (mycaravanofdreams.com)
- Ibn Arabi’s “What the Seeker Needs” (1) (mycaravanofdreams.com)
- Ibn Arabi’s “What the Seeker Needs” (4) (mycaravanofdreams.com)
- When did Muhammad became a prophet of Islam (wiki.answers.com)
- What is an interesting Islam fact (wiki.answers.com)
- Parents of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) (aqaid.wordpress.com)
- Ibn Arabi’s “What the Seeker Needs” (2) (mycaravanofdreams.com)
- The Perfect Man as a Mirror (amanitapieces.wordpress.com)
- Shaykh-al-Akbar Ibn Arabi ( RAH)’s wisdom in Fazael-e-Amal of Tabligh Jamat (sanctuaryofserenity.wordpress.com)