الرئيسية Contemplation of the Holy Mysteries: The Mashahid al-asrar of Ibn 'Arabi

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A major work of mystical literature, this account focuses on 14 visions in the form of dramatic conversations with the divine, interspersed with dazzling visionary episodes regarding the nature of existence, humans' relationship with reality, and the way to achieve true happiness. The introduction presents a resume of Ibn 'Arabi's life and examines in detail the style and symbolism of the contemplations. Presented for the first time in English, this work is a superb example of Ibn 'Arabi's inimitable style and deep perception.

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2008
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Anqa Publishing
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138
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1905937024
ISBN 13:
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contemplation of the holy
mysteries and the rising
of the divine lights

Also available from Anqa Publishing
Divine Sayings: 101 ±ad¨th Quds¨,
by Ibn ¡Arab¨
Translated by Stephen Hirtenstein and Martin Notcutt
The Universal Tree and the Four Birds: al-Itti¢åd al-kawn¨,
by Ibn ¡Arab¨
Translated by Angela Jaffray
A Prayer for Spiritual Elevation and Protection: al-Dawr al-a¡lå,
by Ibn ¡Arab¨
Study, translation, transliteration and Arabic text
by Suha Taji-Farouki
The Unlimited Mercifier: the Spiritual Life and Thought of Ibn ¡Arab¨
Stephen Hirtenstein
Ibn ¡Arabi and Modern Thought:
The History of Taking Metaphysics Seriously
Peter Coates
The Nightingale in the Garden of Love: the Poems of Üftade
by Paul Ballanfat
Translated from French by Angela Culme-Seymour
Beshara and Ibn ¡Arabi:
A Movement of Sufi Spirituality in the Modern World
Suha Taji-Farouki

Mu¢y¨dd¨n Ibn ¡Arab¨
contemplation of the holy
mysteries and the rising
of the divine lights
Mashåhid al-asrår al-qudsiyya wa ma†åli¡
al-anwår al-ilåhiyya
translated from the arabic by

cecilia twinch

and

pablo beneito

Based on the annotated critical edition by

Souad Hakim and Pablo Beneito

ANQA PUBLISHING • OXFORD

Published by Anqa Publishing
PO Box 1178
Oxford OX2 8YS, UK

© Cecilia Twinch and Pablo Beneito 2001
First published 2001
First paperback edition, 2008
Cecilia Twinch and Pablo Beneito have asserted
their moral right under the Copyright, Designs and
Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as the authors
of this work.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication
may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or
transmitted, in any form or by any means, without
the prior permission in writing of the publisher.
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available
from the British Library
ISBN 978 1 905937 02 8
Jacket design by Gerard Lennox
Back cover: Ibn ¡Arab¨’s signature
(courtesy of the Beshara School, Scotland)
The assistance of Beshara Publications in the
production of this book is gratefully acknowledged.

Printed in the USA by Quebecor W; orld Eusey Press

Contents
Acknowledgements

vii

Introduction

1

Spiritual journey: “Rise beyond and you will discover”
Mu¢y¨dd¨n Ibn ¡Arab¨
This edition
The style and symbolism of the Contemplations
The Arabic language

2
7
11
13
18

contemplations: translation and notes
From Ibn ¡Arab¨’s Preface

21

1 Contemplation of the Light of Existence (wuj¬d)
as the Star of Direct Vision (¡iyån) rises

23

2 Contemplation of the Light of Taking (akhdh)
as the Star of Affirmation (iqrår) rises

31

3 Contemplation of the Light of the Veils (sut¬r)
as the Star of Strong Backing (ta¤y¨d) rises

39

4 Contemplation of the Light of Intuition (shu¡¬r)
as the Star of Transcendence (tanz¨h) rises

49

5 Contemplation of the Light of Silence (ßamt)
as the Star of Negation (salb) rises

55

6 Contemplation of the Light of Elevation (ma†la¡)
as the Star of Unveiling (kashf ) rises

59

7 Contemplation of the Light of the Leg (såq)
as the Star of the Summons (du¡å¤) rises

69

8 Contemplation of the Light of the Rock (ßakhra)
as the Star of the Sea (ba¢r) rises

73

v

contents

9 Contemplation of the Light of the Rivers (al-anhår)
as the Star of Degrees (rutab) rises

77

10 Contemplation of the Light of Perplexity (¢ayra)
as the Star of Non-existence (¡adam) rises

85

11 Contemplation of the Light of Divinity (ul¬hiyya)
as the Star of Låm–Alif rises

89

12 Contemplation of the Light of Uniqueness (a¢adiyya)
as the Star of Servanthood (¡ub¬diyya) rises

91

13 Contemplation of the Light of the Support (¡amd)
as the Star of Singularity (fardåniyya) rises

97

14 Contemplation of the Light of Argument (¢ijåj)
as the Star of Justice (¡adl) rises

101

appendices
1 The manuscripts used in the edition of the text

109

2 Ibn ¡Arab¨’s preface

111

3 Ibn ¡Arab¨’s epilogue

117

4 Correspondences in Contemplation 3

121

Bibliography

127

vi

Acknowledgements
We would like to thank sincerely all those who have helped with
the translation and production of this edition, in particular Stephen
Hirtenstein, Sara Hirtenstein, Michael Tiernan, Judy Kearns, Jane
Clark, Rosemary Brass, Richard Twinch, and especially Souad
Hakim, who has been a constant source of inspiration and help.

vii

Introduction
“Take it with strength and make it known to everyone you see . . .”

Mu¢y¨dd¨n Ibn ¡Arab¨ makes it clear that the inspiration to write
the Contemplation of the Holy Mysteries came from an extremely
elevated level.1 The first instruction that occurred to him concerning the book was “Take it with strength and make it known to
everyone you see”.2 This indicates its universal relevance, even
though it consists of what may appear to be very private visions and
conversations with his innermost Reality. He was also told to verify
it for himself and to scrutinize it carefully, implying that it requires
close attention in order for its meaning to unfold and become
realized.
The Contemplations3 deals with perennial questions such as the
nature of existence, our relationship with the all-encompassing
Reality, the limits by which we define ourselves and the Truth, and
the way to happiness. Ibn ¡Arab¨ makes known the meaning and
value of the human being, who is the secret of existence and the
purpose of creation. He is told, “If it were not for you, the mysteries would not exist nor would the lights shine.” 4
Between the mystery of what is unseen and the clarity of what
is made manifest, between majesty and beauty, compulsion and
freedom, awe and intimacy, the Fire and the Garden, a line is
drawn that allows for the arising of a unified perspective which
1. He states that it is from the hidden, divine Identity (huwiyya). See Ibn ¡Arab¨’s
own preface to the book summarized in Appendix 2.
2. See Appendix 2.
3. The title is abbreviated to Contemplations. See pp. 21–2, n. 1.
4. Contemplation 6.

1

introduction

encompasses all apparent duality. Interspersed with visions of
incredible beauty and wonder, and the promise of eternal
happiness, is the warning: pass beyond the forms of images to their
meaning, act appropriately and be vigilant.

Spiritual journey:
“Rise beyond and you will discover.” 5
The book consists of fourteen visions or contemplations, each of
which is linked to the rising of a star. It begins with “the contemplation of existence as the star of direct vision rises” and continues
in an ascending journey to “the contemplation of the light of
argument as the star of justice rises”, when the traveller arrives
at the Day of Judgement. In this ascending journey, the rising of
each star heralds a new revelation appearing in the heart of the
contemplator.
The style of the Contemplations is similar, in this respect, to a
later visionary account written by Ibn ¡Arab¨, the Kitåb al-Isrå¤ or
The Book of the Night Journey.6 In fact, Ibn ¡Arab¨’s close disciple,
Ibn Sawdak¨n, points out in his commentary that the two works
are inseparable. Both accounts consist of a sequence of events
which follow one another in an ascending series of steps: in the
Contemplations, each vision refers back to the previous one and
leads on to the following.7
Similarly, both books have a connection to the Quranic Sura of
the Star, which begins, “By the star, when it sets”.8 According to
Ibn Sawdak¨n’s commentary, Ibn ¡Arab¨ relates this to a story in
the Quran that tells of Abraham’s seeking for the Reality which
is permanent.9 Abraham looked to the heavens, seeing first a star,
5. Contemplation 5.
6. See M.|Chodkiewicz, An Ocean Without Shore, pp.|78–9.
7. S. Hakim and P. Beneito noted this point in their introduction to the Spanish/
Arabic translation and edition, Las Contemplaciones de los Misterios, p.|XIII.
8. Quran, Sura (or Chapter) 53, verse 1 (Q.|53:|1).
9. See Chodkiewicz, Ocean, p.|156, n.|10.

2

introduction

followed by the moon and then the sun. As each celestial body
set, he concluded, “I love not those that set” and then became
free of his attachment to partial and ephemeral things, turning his
attention to and worshipping only the single, essential Truth
which is the source of all things.10 This detachment from everything transitory, and attachment only to the origin of all existence,
is an underlying theme of the Contemplations, for, as Ibn ‘Arab¨ says
in his epilogue:
The one who stays with the image is lost, and the one who
rises from the image to the reality is rightly guided.11
The Sura of the Star in the Quran continues with a description
of the Prophet Muhammad’s Night Journey and the connection
to the Contemplations can be seen clearly in the verse, “He saw
some of the greatest signs of his Lord.” 12 As Ibn ¡Arab¨ explains
elsewhere, the purpose of spiritual ascension is not to reach God
– for He is never apart from us – but simply for Him to show some
of His wonders and indications.13 He writes:
[God] says, “I only made him journey by night in order that
he see the signs, not [to bring him] to Me: because no place
can hold Me and the relation of all places to Me is the same.
For I am such that [only] ‘the heart of My servant, the man
of true faith, encompasses Me’, so how could he be ‘made to
journey to Me’ while I am ‘with him wherever he is’?!” 14

10. See Q.|6:|76–8. See also C.|Twinch, “Penetrating Meaning”, Journal of the
Muhyiddin Ibn ¡Arabi Society (hereafter JMIAS), XX, p.|70.
11. Manisa manuscript, fol.|82b. See Appendix 1.
12. Q.|53:|18. Ibn ¡Arab¨ often quotes the following Quranic verse, “We shall
show them our signs on the horizons and in themselves until it becomes clear to
them that It is the Real.” (Q.|41:|53) See also Q.|17:|1.
13. See Contemplation 3, n.|8.
14. Ibn ¡Arab¨, al-Fut¬¢åt al-Makkiyya, vol. III, p.|340; see J.|W.|Morris, “Ibn
¡Arab¨’s Spiritual Ascension”, in M.|Chodkiewicz, ed., Les Illuminations de la Mecque/
The Meccan Illuminations, p.|358.

3

introduction

Even after the recognition of the Real manifesting in all images, signs are indications which specifically “increase knowledge
and open the eye of understanding”.15 According to a prophetic
tradition often quoted by Ibn ¡Arab¨, “I was a hidden treasure and
I loved to be known, so I created the world . . .”. This love to be
known is not a static goal but a constantly unfolding revelation.
As the star of unveiling rises in the sixth contemplation, the
contemplator is told, “Know that every day seventy thousand
mysteries from My Majesty pass through the heart of the knower,
never to return . . . You are My mirror, My house and My dwelling-place, My hidden treasure and the seat of My knowledge. If it
were not for you, I would not be known or worshipped, I would
not be thanked or denied.” Yet, if the human being, who has the
potential for perfection, were for a moment to imagine that such
grandeur could in any way be attributed to his limited self, the
divine Reality soon reminds him of his inadequacy:
The looks remain short, the intellects perplexed, the hearts
are blind, the knowers are lost in a desert of bewilderment,
and the understandings, plunged into stupefaction, are
incapable of grasping the least secret of the revelation of
My Grandeur. How then could they encompass it? Your
knowledge is scattered dust. Your qualities are nothing.
Your reality is only a metaphor in a corner of My being.
Through his direct witnessing of spiritual meanings, Ibn ¡Arab¨
is able to illuminate others with regard to what he has realized in
himself. That these meanings are clothed in symbolic forms both
reveals their beauty and conceals their magnificence, protecting
the sanctity of the meanings as well as the vulnerability of those
who consider them:
As for the saints, they have spiritual journeys in the intermediate world during which they directly witness spiritual
15. Morris, “Ibn ¡Arab¨’s Spiritual Ascension”, p.|361.

4

introduction

realities embodied in forms that have become sensible for the
imagination; these [sensible images] convey knowledge of the
spiritual realities contained within those forms.16
These spiritual realities are the secrets of our innermost self
and the journey also is within our own self. The holy mysteries
revealed in these contemplations are in one aspect particular to
the one to whom they were revealed, for what is revealed to each
person is unique to the way they receive it. As Ibn ¡Arab¨ writes in
his later account of his spiritual ascension, “Each person has a path
that no one else but he travels” which comes “to be through the
travelling itself.” 17 Not only are these contemplations personal in
this sense, but it may seem only appropriate for these meanings to
be divulged to someone of equal spiritual understanding. Yet Ibn
¡Arab¨ is clearly aware of the universal value of these revelations,
for he is repeatedly told to inform others of what he has seen,
“. . . tell the servants what you have seen, so that you awaken their
longing for Me and fill them with desire for Me, and you will be a
mercy for them.” 18
The necessity to inform others involves not only a reminder
but a warning. From the inside, the wall that encircles the Garden
of Truth appears as pure mercy in the knowledge of the Divine
Unity, while from the outside ignorance makes it appear as threat
and punishment. The last contemplation, in particular, shows
only a small group who have chosen the path to salvation on the
Day of Judgement, yet the emphasis is on the fact that people
are punished by no one but themselves19 and their own limited
beliefs. Moreover, Ibn ¡Arab¨’s writings generally stress the allencompassing Mercy of Being which excludes no one.20 Hell may
16. Morris, “Ibn ¡Arab¨’s Spiritual Ascension”, p.|361.
17. Morris, “Ibn ¡Arab¨’s Spiritual Ascension”, p.|373.
18. Contemplation 3.
19. See Contemplation 14.
20. See, for example, S.|Hirtenstein, The Unlimited Mercifier, pp.|121 and 247, or
W.|C.|Chittick, The Self-Disclosure of God, p.|220.

5

introduction

then be seen as the suffering which burns off impurity so that what
is real can return to itself. Ibn ¡Arab¨ writes:
If [God’s] Anger were to continue [forever], then the suffering
[of the damned] would continue. But it is happiness that
continues forever, although the dwellings are different,
because God places in each abode [of Paradise and Gehenna]
that which comprises the enjoyment of the people of that
abode.21
At the end of the final contemplation the contemplator is
warned that whether he follows what he has been told or not,
either way he must perish,22 that is, he must wake up from the
illusion of a separate existence, which he can control according to
his lower desires, and acknowledge the singular existence of the
Real. Then he must follow the order, that is, persist in being true
to his Reality. As Ibn ¡Arab¨ was told by the mysterious youth at
the start of his own spiritual ascension:
You are yourself the cloud veiling your own sun!
So recognize the essential Reality of your being!23
Beyond the vicissitudes of all that is transitory, the light that is
constant continues to shine:
When the star of the Real rises and enters into the servant’s
heart, the heart is illuminated and irradiated. Then bewilderment and fear disappear from the possessor of the heart, and
he gives news of his Lord explicitly, through hints, and by
means of various modes of informing.24
21. See Morris, “Ibn ¡Arab¨’s Spiritual Ascension”, p.|367.
22. See Mu¢ammad Ibn ¡Abd al-Jabbår al-Niffar¨, The Mawåqif and Mukhå†abåt,
Mawqif of the Sea, 6, line 10, p.|31: “If thou perishest in other than Me, thou belongest to that in which thou hast perished,” (which implies: “If thou perishest in Me,
thou belongest to Me”).
23. Kitåb al-isrå¤, p.|14; see C. Addas, Quest for the Red Sulphur, p.|202; Hirtenstein,
Mercifier, p.|117.
24. Fut¬¢åt III, p.|116; see W.|C. Chittick, The Su¥ Path of Knowledge, p.|215.

6

introduction

Mu¢y¨dd¨n Ibn ¡Arab¨
Also known as the Shaykh al-Akbar, the Greatest Master, Ibn ¡Arab¨
is one of the Islamic tradition’s most important writers. He wrote
more than 300 works25 and is most famous for his clear explanation
of the unity of existence, which is as relevant now as it was in his
own time. His continuing influence has been demonstrated by a
worldwide surge of interest over the last thirty years or so.
Ibn ¡Arab¨ was born in Murcia in southern Spain in 1165, at a
time when the lands the Arabs called al-Andalus, in the Iberian
Peninsula, had already been under Muslim rule for over 450 years.
At the age of eight, he moved with his family to Seville, which
remained his main home for the next twenty-seven years.
When he was about sixteen, he experienced a strong calling to
turn to God and went into retreat. He tells us that he returned to
the spiritual path due to a vision where he found himself under
the guidance of Jesus, Moses and Muhammad, the prophets of
the three major religions stemming from Abraham. This seminal
vision hints at the breadth of Ibn ¡Arab¨’s thought, which extends
to the meanings brought by all the prophets of these traditions,
and brings them into a unified perspective.
Ibn ¡Arab¨ began to study the Quran and the Hadith26 in earnest
and soon came under the instruction of his first spiritual master,
al-¡Uryan¨. It was in connection with this master that Ibn ¡Arab¨
had the first of his several encounters with Khi‰r, the immortal
teacher who imparts hidden mysteries. During his youth Ibn ¡Arab¨
kept company with many spiritual teachers, both in Seville and
throughout al-Andalus. He went into retreat on several occasions,
and had countless mystical experiences, visions and revelations.
During these retreats he would sometimes receive Quranic verses,
which would descend in a shower of stars, one of the ways in which
25. According to Osman Yahia, about 700 works are attributed to Ibn ¡Arab¨, of
which approximately 400 are extant. See O. Yahia, Histoire et classi¥cation de l’oeuvre
d’Ibn ¡Arab¨. See also Hirtenstein, Mercifier, pp.|236–7 and Appendix 1.
26. Traditional sayings of the Prophet Muhammad.

7

introduction

the Quran was received by Muhammad himself. He would then
have secret conversations with God. He wrote later, “The descent
of the Quran into the heart of the servant is the descent of God
into him; God then speaks to him ‘from his inmost self and in his
inmost self ’.” 27
In 1193, Ibn ¡Arab¨ left the Iberian Peninsula for the first time
and sailed across to North Africa to visit Shaykh ¡Abd al-¡Az¨z alMahdaw¨ in Tunis. Mahdaw¨ was himself a disciple of the great
shaykh Ab¬ Madyan, for whom Ibn ¡Arab¨ had enormous respect
and who appears to have influenced him deeply.28 Ibn ¡Arab¨ spent
almost a year in Tunis in the company of Mahdaw¨ and other great
masters, many of whom were also disciples of Ab¬ Madyan.
Whilst in Tunis that year, Ibn ¡Arab¨ entered “God’s Vast
Earth”,29 or the “Earth of Reality”, an intelligible, spiritual realm
beyond the senses, in which the real and effective adoration of
God takes place: “It is the world that is infinite and has no borders
where it would reach an end.” 30 From then on, according to his
own testimony, Ibn ¡Arab¨ worshipped God in this other dimension
as a complete servant to the Real, knowing himself to be the Heir
par excellence of the Muhammadian knowledge and spirituality.31
It was on Ibn ¡Arab¨’s return from Tunis in 1194 that he composed the Contemplation of the Holy Mysteries, which is one of his
first major works. He was then twenty-nine. In the letter which
serves as a preface to the book, Ibn ¡Arab¨ dedicates and addresses
27. Fut¬¢åt III, p.|94. See Addas, Quest, p.|91; Hirtenstein, Mercifier, pp.|83–4.
28. Even though they did not meet in this world except in the spiritual realm.
See Hirtenstein, Mercifier, pp.|80–90. See also Addas, Quest, pp.|45, 89–90, and
“Abu Madyan and Ibn ¡Arabi”, in S.|Hirtenstein and M.|Tiernan, eds., Muhyiddin
Ibn ¡Arabi: A Commemorative Volume, pp.|175–6. See also G.|Elmore, “The Uways¨
Spirit”, JMIAS, XXVIII, pp.|47–56.
29. See Q.|4:|97, 29:|56. See also Addas, Quest, pp.|117–20, and H.|Corbin,
Spiritual Body and Celestial Earth, pp.|135–43.
30. Fut¬¢åt III, p.|47; see Chittick, Self-Disclosure, p.|358.
31. See Hakim and Beneito, Contemplaciones, p.|IV. See also C. Twinch, “Mu¢yidd¨n
Ibn ¡Arab¨ and the Interior Wisdom”, in Alfonso Carmona Gonzalez, ed., Los dos
Horizontes, 1992, pp. 432–7.

8

introduction

the work to Mahdaw¨’s companions, especially to his own paternal
cousin, ¡Al¨ b. al-¡Arab¨.
For the next few years Ibn ¡Arab¨ continued to travel in Spain
and North Africa, spending much of his time in Fez where he
had many spiritual experiences, including entry into the abode of
light, a spiritual ascension and knowledge that he was the Seal
of Muhammadian sainthood. During his spiritual ascension, Ibn
¡Arab¨ was enveloped by the divine lights until all of him became
Light. There he attained to the Muhammadian station:
I received the meaning of all the Divine Names and I saw that
they all referred to a single Named and to a unique Essence;
this Named was the object of my contemplation and this
Essence my very being. I had only journeyed in myself and it
was to myself that I had been guided; from that, I knew that I
was a pure servant, without the least trace of sovereignty.32
In 1200 he left Andalusia definitively for his long journey east.
In Marrakesh he had another vision during which he was told to
take a certain man from Fez to the East with him. His route took
him to Bugia where, after visiting the tomb of Ab¬ Madyan, he
had a vision that he was married to “all the stars in heaven, being
united to each one with a great spiritual joy. After I had become
joined with the stars, I was given the letters [of the alphabet] in
spiritual marriage.” 33
After spending more time in Tunis with Mahdaw¨, Ibn ¡Arab¨
finally left the Islamic West and headed towards Mecca. Significantly, on the way he visited the tomb of Abraham in Hebron and
the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, before passing through Medina,
the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad on his way to the Ka¡ba.
While he was in Mecca, Ibn ¡Arab¨ again received many spiritual
openings, which he eventually set down in writing in his enormous work al-Fut¬¢åt al-Makkiyya (“The Meccan Revelations”),
32. See Addas, Quest, p.|156; Hirtenstein, Mercifier, p.|122.
33. Hirtenstein, Mercifier, p.|144; Addas, Quest, pp.|178–9.

9

introduction

ostensibly for the benefit of his old friend Mahdaw¨.34 He also
wrote the R¢ al-quds, in 1203, in defence of the Sufis of Andalusia,
which was again addressed to Mahdaw¨. It was also in Mecca that
he met the beautiful Ni™åm, daughter of the keeper of the sanctuary of Abraham, who was the inspiration for his famous book of
poetry, Tarjumån al-ashwåq (“Interpreter of Ardent Desires”).
At this time, Ibn ¡Arab¨ met and befriended Majdudd¨n Is¢åq
b. Y¬suf al-R¬m¨, vizier to the Seljuk sultan, and they travelled
together, via Iraq, to Anatolia. Later, after the death of Majdudd¨n,
Ibn ¡Arab¨ married his widow and brought up their son, Íadrudd¨n
Q¬naw¨, as his own, taking great care over his education. The
latter was to become highly instrumental in the spread of Ibn
¡Arab¨’s teachings through the Islamic world. The great friendship
and mutual respect between Íadrudd¨n and the celebrated Persian
poet, Jalåludd¨n R¬m¨,35 also links two strands of Sufism: although
Ibn ¡Arab¨ has been hailed as the pinnacle of the way of knowledge and R¬m¨ as that of love,36 as Henry Corbin has pointed out:
“Both are inspired by the same theophanic sentiment, the same
nostalgia for beauty, and the same revelation of love.” 37
Ibn ¡Arab¨ eventually settled in Damascus in 1223, where he
continued to teach and write prolifically. In 1229, he had a vision
in which the Prophet Muhammad handed him the book of the
Fuß¬ß al-¢ikam (“The Bezels of Wisdom”), a work considered by
many to be the quintessence of his teachings. By December 1231
the first draft of the monumental Fut¬¢åt al-Makkiyya had been
completed. Ibn ¡Arab¨ remained based in Damascus until his death
in 1240, and his tomb there is still much revered.38
34. See Hirtenstein, Mercifier, pp.|144–7 and 151–3; M.|Chodkiewicz, Seal of the
Saints, p.|53, n.|14; Fut¬¢åt I, pp.|6–9.
35. See, e.g., O.|Benaïssa, “Akbarian Teaching in Iran in the 13th–14th Centuries”, JMIAS, XXVI, p.|96.
36. See, e.g., O.|Sa¥, “Did the Two Oceans Meet?”, JMIAS, XXVI, pp.|55|ff.
37. H.|Corbin, Creative Imagination in the Su¥sm of Ibn ¡Arab¨, p.|70. For comments on this whole period, see Hirtenstein, Mercifier, pp.|173–5 and 238–9.
38. There are now several excellent introductions to Ibn ¡Arab¨’s life and thought:
for example, Addas, Quest and Hirtenstein, Merci¥er.

10

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This edition
This edition of the Contemplation of the Holy Mysteries and the
Rising of the Divine Lights is based on the critical edition with notes
by Souad Hakim and Pablo Beneito. The work first appeared in
a Spanish/Arabic bilingual edition in Spain in 1994, published as
part of a collection of Ibn ¡Arab¨’s works initiated by the Ministry
for Culture and Education for the Autonomous Region of Murcia,
where Ibn ¡Arab¨ was born. A revised and corrected second edition
appeared in 1996.
I was originally asked to translate the book from Spanish into
English but soon realized that it was necessary to learn Arabic in
order to translate directly from the original text. As I had already
been studying Ibn ¡Arab¨’s work in translation for many years and
was familiar both with his ideas and with much of his technical
vocabulary, it was very exciting finally to be able to read his work
in the original. It was also daunting to comprehend the difficulties
of translating such a rich and subtle language, where each word
contains so many meanings and connotations. It has therefore
been of inestimable benefit to work in collaboration with Pablo
Beneito and to have the support and help of Souad Hakim.
However, in this edition we have adapted the introduction
and notes to make the work more accessible to the non-specialist,
English-speaking reader. We recommend that Arabists requiring,
for example, folio numbers and further references to works only
available in Arabic consult the Spanish/Arabic edition.
The manuscript upon which the translation is based includes a
preface and an epilogue. These have not been translated in full but
have been summarized in the appendices. Ibn ¡Arab¨’s preface to
the Contemplations was previously considered as a separate treatise
on sainthood and prophecy, entitled Risåla f¨ ’l-walåya (“Treatise
on Sainthood”).39 It is written in the form of a letter and Ibn ¡Arab¨
39. Edited by H.|Taher under the title “Sainthood and Prophecy”, and published
in Alif, No.|5, 1985, pp.|7–38; see Addas, Quest, pp.|126–9; see also Chodkiewicz, Seal,
p.|47, n.|2 and index under Walåya for other references.

11

introduction

begins by stating that it is addressed to the companions of his
teacher, Shaykh ¡Abd al-¡Az¨z al-Mahdaw¨. However, the text of
the fourteen contemplations constitutes the main part of the work
and stands by itself. The preface and epilogue may be considered
as additions, which both facilitate the reading of the work and
defend the authenticity of inspiration, mystical contemplation and
conversation with the Real.40
In annotating and translating the Contemplations, there has
been constant recourse to the explanations by Ibn Sawdak¨n and
Sitt al-¡Ajam, as well as those contained in the brief commentary
which appears, by way of appendix, in the source manuscript – and
whose authority may be attributed to Ibn ¡Arab¨ himself.41 Ism塨l
b. Sawdak¨n al-N¬r¨ (1181–1248) was one of Ibn ¡Arab¨’s closest
companions. His name first appears in connection with Ibn ¡Arab¨
on a reading certificate for the R¢ al-quds in Cairo in 1206 and
subsequently appears on numerous other certificates for readings, many of which took place at his house in Aleppo. Besides his
commentary on the Contemplation of the Holy Mysteries (Mashåhid
al-asrår), Ibn Sawdak¨n wrote commentaries on the Kitåb alIsrå¤, with which it is closely linked, and the Kitåb al-Tajalliyåt. In
these commentaries, he informs us, he simply wrote down what
Ibn ¡Arab¨ told him. They are therefore an invaluable aid to the
understanding of the text.
Sitt al-¡Ajam bint al-Naf¨s b. Ab¬ ’l-Qåsim (died about 1288)
was a great mystic from Baghdad. Her commentary on the
Contemplations 42 was written less than fifty years after Ibn ¡Arab¨’s
death, and she begins it with an account of a vision during which
she conversed with Ibn ¡Arab¨ before a company of prophets. She
therefore also received information from Ibn ¡Arab¨ about the
Contemplations, but in a visionary way.43
40. See Hakim and Beneito, Contemplaciones, p.|XIII.
41. For information about the manuscripts, see Appendix 1.
42. S.|Hakim and B.|Aladdin have recently published a critical edition of this
work. See Bibliography.
43. See Chodkiewicz, Ocean, p.|79 and pp.|156–7, n.|9.

12

introduction

The style and symbolism of the Contemplations
The Contemplations evokes the style of two works by one of Ibn
¡Arab¨’s predecessors in the Islamic mystical tradition, the Mawåqif
– Book of Spiritual Stayings and the Mukhåtabåt – Book of Spiritual
Addresses by Niffar¨ (d.|965), the inspired Sufi master whom
Ibn ¡Arab¨ himself refers to in his preface as “the author of the
Mawåqif ”.44 Although the speech in Niffar¨’s works is mainly from
the side of the Divine, there are also conversations and narrative
sections, for example in the Mawqif of “Who art thou and who
am I?” 45 The Contemplations differs mainly by the continuity of its
narrative sequence, but there is a striking similarity to the author
of the Mawåqif ’s use of expressions such as “And then He said to
me . . .”.46 In order to avoid excessive repetition in our translation
we have omitted some of these, enclosing each statement within
inverted commas on a new line instead. The Arabic manuscript
has no punctuation and the text runs on almost continuously, as
was common at that time. Modern punctuation and layout of the
text allow for the required pause between statements.
It should be emphasized that the contemplations are visions of
the Real in a holy place. They are not passive contemplations, but
active in the sense of seeing with one’s own eyes and then bearing witness. This active response of witnessing is reflected in the
reply to the question “Am I not your Lord?” alluded to in the first
contemplation,47 and in the need to bear witness to one’s deeds
on the Day of Judgement, or on the day when Truth is revealed,
exemplified in the final contemplation. As Ibn ¡Arab¨ points out
in the Fuß¬ß al-¢ikam, every person is conscious of their own state
of soul: “The human being has an intuitive perception of himself
44. Niffar¨, Mawåqif. See Hakim and Beneito, Contemplaciones, p.|XIII.
45. See Niffar¨, Mawåqif, p.|80.
46. Most lines in the Mawåqif begin “And He said to me”, although this has been
omitted in translation. Notice, for example, Mawqif 13, line 7, which begins “And
He said to me, ‘When I make you contemplate . . .’”, translated as “When I cause
thee to witness . . .”.
47. See Contemplation 1, n.|36.

13

introduction

whatever excuse he may give.” 48 The witnessing described in the
contemplations is not just seeing but actively acknowledging.49
From the very first contemplation, Ibn ¡Arab¨’s frequent use
of opposites and apparent paradox is in evidence. Seen from one
point of view, a particular statement is valid, but at another level
of understanding its opposite is true. For Ibn ¡Arab¨, the singularity of Truth originates at the point where the opposites are united,
and then the Truth expresses itself in all its diverse forms.
The science of letters in Islamic cosmology is fundamental to
understanding the significance of number within the book and
in particular the fact that there are fourteen contemplations. As
Pablo Beneito and Souad Hakim have pointed out in their introduction to the Spanish/Arabic edition of the Contemplations, the
number fourteen is related to the cosmos, the Perfect Man and
the Quran – in particular the opening sura.50 For Ibn ¡Arab¨, there
is a direct analogy between the Breath of the All-Compassionate
through which the world becomes manifest and the human breath
by means of which the twenty-eight letters of the Arabic alphabet
become articulated.51 As God speaks the Divine Word, “Be!”, to
each thing He wishes to manifest, He has compassion on what
each thing is in itself, and it becomes, according to how it is.
Each letter has its own numerical value and is connected to a
day in the lunar cycle, a level of existence, a Divine Name. In fact,
Ibn ¡Arab¨ says, “It is not like people think, that the mansions of
the Moon represent the models of the letters; it is the twentyeight sounds which determine the lunar mansions.” 52
48. Q.|75:|14–15. See also Ibn ¡Arab¨, The Wisdom of the Prophets, translated by T.
Burckhardt/A. Culme-Seymour, p.|131.
49. See Chittick, Su¥ Path, pp.|227–8.
50. See Hakim and Beneito, Contemplaciones, pp.|XVIII–XX. On the signi¥cance
of the number fourteen, see also Ibn ¡Arab¨, The Seven Days of the Heart, translated
and presented by P.|Beneito and S.|Hirtenstein, pp.|9–19, 145–55.
51. See Hirtenstein, Mercifier, Chapter 16; Chittick, Su¥ Path, pp.|128–9 and
Self-Disclosure, pp.|xxviii–xxxii.
52. See T.|Burckhardt, Mystical Astrology According to Ibn ¡Arab¨, p.|35, and the
diagram on pp.|32–3.

14

introduction

There are fourteen solar and fourteen lunar letters in the Arabic
alphabet. This total of twenty-eight is also the number of days
in the lunar cycle, whose fourteenth night corresponds to the
full moon.53 Ibn ¡Arab¨ refers to this full moon in his Tarjumån
al-ashwåq: “Between Adhri¡åt and Bußrå a maid of fourteen rose
to my sight like a full moon.”54 In the accompanying commentary,
Ibn ¡Arab¨ explains that the maid of fourteen means the perfect
soul. He also explains that four is the most perfect number, and ten
consists of four numbers (1 + 2 + 3 + 4) and fourteen is 4 + 10.
Fourteen, as twice seven, represents the seven heavens and
the seven earths of Islamic cosmology, and therefore the Divine
Throne which encompasses all the worlds.55 In the epilogue to the
Contemplations, Ibn ¡Arab¨ refers to the Quranic verse, “God is the
One who created seven heavens and of the earth a similar number.
Through them His command descends so that you may know
that God has power over everything and that God comprehends
everything in His knowledge.” 56 Ibn ¡Arab¨ then adds the declaration made by Ibn ¡Abbås: “If I explained this verse, you would
stone me!” There is a correspondence between the witnessing of
the fourteen contemplations which Ibn ¡Arab¨ recounts and these
fourteen heavens and earths, for according to a traditional saying
of the Prophet Muhammad: “I bring before you as witnesses the
seven heavens and the seven earths.” 57
The perfect self is related to the full moon and is also called the
Perfect Man or the Complete Human Being (al-insån al-kåmil).
Just as the Breath of the All-Compassionate is the Reality of Realities at a cosmic level, so the Reality of Muhammad is the Reality of
53. See Hakim and Beneito, Contemplaciones, pp.|3–4, n.|2.
54. See the Tarjumån al-ashwåq (Interpreter of Ardent Desires), translated by
R.|A.|Nicholson, poem XL, pp.|124–5.
55. See Hakim and Beneito, Contemplaciones, p.|XVIII. See also Burckhardt,
Mystical Astrology, pp.|12–13.
56. Q.|65:|12.
57. Collected by A¢mad b. ±anbal (Musnad, V, 135). See A.|J.|Wensinck,
Concordance de la tradition musulmane. See Hakim and Beneito, Contemplaciones, pp.|3–
4, n.|2.

15

introduction

Realities at a human level, encompassing in a single reality all the
individual possibilities of human perfection. Muhammad therefore
represents the principle of the perfection of the human being.
The enigmatic letters †å ¤–hå ¤, which form the first verse of
the twentieth sura of the Quran and which are mentioned in the
twelfth contemplation, are traditionally considered to be one of
the names of the Prophet Muhammad.58 The Quranic passage is
as follows: “Ê外Hå¤. We have not revealed the Quran so that you
suffer . . .”.59 On adding up the numerical values which correspond
to these two letters (†å¤= 9, hå¤ = 5) the sum of fourteen is obtained.
Moreover, there are fourteen enigmatic letters which appear at the
beginning of many suras of the Quran.60
According to Ibn ¡Arab¨, the Quran is the Word of God and he
explains the relationship of the Quran to the human being when
he writes, “The Total Man, according to the essential reality, is
the incomparable Quran descended from the Presence of Itself
into the Presence of the One who gives existence . . .”.61 The
Perfect Human Being summarizes the whole of existence, from
the lowest to the highest degree. He both encompasses the worlds
and is a copy of the world.62 All that the 114 suras of the Quran
contain in detail are summarized in the opening sura, the Fåti¢a,
which contains seven verses and is also referred to as “the seven
doubled” (al-sab¡ al-mathån¨). The Fåti¢a is regarded as the perfect
prayer and is repeated in all the ritual prayers of Islam. Ibn ¡Arab¨
writes, “It is the Seven Doubled Ones, for it includes the [seven]
attributes [of the Essence].”63 The seven attributes of the Essence
58. See Contemplation 12, n.|15 and Hakim and Beneito, Contemplaciones, p.|XIX.
59. Q.|20:|1–2.
60. See Hakim and Beneito, Contemplaciones, p.|XIX. See also The Holy Qur¤ån,
text, translation and commentary by A. Yusuf Ali, Appendix I, pp.|118–20, and
Chodkiewicz, Illuminations, p.|425.
61. Kitåb al isfår ¡an natå¤ij al-asfår, edited and translated by D. Gril under
the title Le Dévoilement des Effets du Voyage, p.|22. See P.||Lory, “The Symbolism
of Letters and Language”, JMIAS, XXIII, p.|37. See also M.|Chodkiewicz, “Une
introduction à la lecture des Fut¬¢åt Makkiyya”, Illuminations, pp.|42–3.
62. See Contemplation 12, n.|15.
63. Ibn ¡Arab¨, Tanazzulåt, p.|95; see Chodkiewicz, Ocean, p.|111.

16

introduction

are that It is Knowing, Willing, Able, Living, Speaking, Seeing
and Hearing.64
It is significant that Ibn ¡Arab¨ wrote the Contemplations shortly
after his declaration in Tunis, which shocked Mahdaw¨ and his
companions: “I am the Quran and the seven doubled.” 65 When Ibn
¡Arab¨ explains prayer, making particular reference to the Fåti¢a,
he quotes the revealed word of God according to which prayer
is shared between God and his servant.66 With regard to God, he
writes elsewhere, “He is as though He doubled/praised Himself,
and He is the praiser and the praised.” 67 The attributes which belong to God are therefore made manifest in the servant and in the
sixth contemplation, the Divine Reality informs the contemplator,
“I have brought into being in you the attributes and qualities by
which I wish you to know Me.” 68
The seventy veils lifted in the third contemplation along with
the naming of the Stone, the 70,000 mysteries referred to in the
sixth contemplation along with the risings and witnessings equal
to the consonants and vowels of the alphabet, the sailing on the
ocean into the seventh millennium in the ninth contemplation
before diving for the keys to the treasury of the Essence – all of
these emphasize the significance of the science of numbers and
letters in this richly symbolic work, where the heavenly bodies
are seen as divine signs on the horizon pointing to the wisdom
waiting to be revealed within ourselves.
64. See Contemplation 9, n.|29. See also Hirtenstein, Merci¥er, p.|215.
65. (anå al-qur¤ån wa al-sab¡ al-mathån¨); see Q.|15:|87. See also Addas, Quest,
p.|119, and for the full poem from which the quotation is taken, see Hirtenstein,
Merci¥er, p.|88.
66. “I have divided prayer between Me and My servant into two halves, one
being due to Me, and the other to My servant; and My servant will receive that for
which he asks.” See Chapter of Muhammad in the Fuß¬ß al-¢ikam, in Burckhardt/
Culme-Seymour, Wisdom, p.127, and Ismail Hakki Bursevi’s translation of and
commentary on the Fusus al-hikam by Muhyiddin Ibn ¡Arabi, trans. B.|Rauf, p.|1097.
67. See Ibn ¡Arab¨, Wird, fol.|8, Arabic (translated in Beneito and Hirtenstein,
Seven Days, p.|41), the Sunday morning prayer.
68. See Contemplation 6.

17

introduction

The Arabic language
Each word in Arabic contains a wealth of connotations which
are impossible to confine within a word-for-word translation. Yet
despite these limitations, some of the original meanings of the
words seep through and are communicated. Even if taken only at
the level of poetic prose, the beauty of some of the images is able
to reach beyond linguistic and cultural context to resonate with
the profound mysteries within each of us.
In order to facilitate ease of reading, only a few Arabic transliterations have been included in the text itself. However, since
there has been a tradition of using Arabic words in European
translations of Ibn ¡Arab¨’s work, additional transliterations have
sometimes been included in the notes for the benefit of those
non-Arabists who have become familiar with some of Ibn ¡Arab¨’s
precise, technical vocabulary. Besides the notes drawn from the
commentaries by Ibn Sawdak¨n and Sitt al-¡Ajam, a minimum of
notes have been included to clarify certain points that would have
been fairly obvious to a reader who shared the same historical,
cultural and linguistic context as Ibn ¡Arab¨ but which may not be
so obvious now, particularly to those without any background in
Islam and who have little or no knowledge of Arabic.
It is hoped that these will provide a few keys to the ocean of
meanings contained in this book and at least indicate some of
its many possible levels of interpretation. Nevertheless, due to
the clarity of its source, this book of the Contemplations, like other
writings by Ibn ¡Arab¨, remains ever open to fresh contemplation,
allowing new and unexpected meanings to emerge.
Oxford
June 2000

Cecilia Twinch

18

contemplations
translation and notes

From Ibn ¡Arab¨’s Preface
This is the treatise entitled Contemplation of the Holy Mysteries and
the Rising of the Divine Lights.1 We have extracted it for you from
the guarded treasures in the hidden depths of eternity without
beginning, which are preserved from the accidents arising from
desires and defects. I have collected in it fourteen contemplations:















Contemplation of the light of existence
as the star of direct vision rises.
Contemplation of the light of taking
as the star of affirmation rises.
Contemplation of the light of the veils
as the star of strong backing rises.
Contemplation of the light of intuition
as the star of transcendence rises.
Contemplation of the light of silence
as the star of negation rises.
Contemplation of the light of elevation
as the star of unveiling rises.
Contemplation of the light of the leg
as the star of the summons rises.
Contemplation of the light of the rock
as the star of the sea rises.
Contemplation of the light of the rivers
as the star of degrees rises.
Contemplation of the light of perplexity
as the star of non-existence rises.
Contemplation of the light of divinity
as the star of låm–alif rises.
Contemplation of the light of uniqueness
as the star of servanthood rises.
Contemplation of the light of the support
as the star of singularity rises.
Contemplation of the light of argument
as the star of justice rises.

21

from ibn ¡arabi’s preface

Note
1. Mashåhid (plural of mashhad) is here translated as “contemplation”
but it could equally well be translated as “witnessings”. The term
mashhad, the “place-name” of the root sh–h–d (meaning to witness,
see with one’s own eyes, experience personally, bear witness, testify,
give evidence) means “the (meeting) place (or place of assembly)
in which one is present or in which one witnesses something”, and
hence, “contemplative state”. In English, the emphasis is on the
singular, active experience of contemplation, so the title has been
translated as the Contemplation of the Holy Mysteries, although the
book consists of fourteen separate contemplations or visions within
a unified experience. The word asrår may be translated as “mysteries” or “secrets”.
The word ma†åli¡ (plural of ma†la¡) refers to the rising or ascension
of a celestial body. As we do not talk of plural “risings” of the sun
and moon in English, this has been translated as “rising” in the
singular.

22

1

Contemplation of the
Light of Existence (wuj¬d) as the
Star of Direct Vision (¡iyån) rises
in the name of god,
the compassionate, the merciful

The Real made me contemplate the light of existence1 as the star
of direct vision2 rose, and He asked me, “Who are you?”
I replied, “Apparent non-existence.” 3
Then He said to me, “And how can non-existence change into
existence? If you were not an existing [entity], your existence
would not be possible and real.” 4
I replied, “That is why I said apparent non-existence, since
hidden non-existence does not have real existence.” 5
Then He said to me, “If [one considers that] the ¥rst existence
is identical to the second existence, then there is not a preceding
non-existence, nor a contingent existence.6 However, it is established that you are contingent.” 7
“The ¥rst existence is not the same as the second.” 8
“The ¥rst existence is like the existence of the universals, and
the second existence is like the existence of the particulars.”
“Non-existence is real and there is nothing else; and existence is
real and there is nothing else.”
I agreed, saying, “That is so.”
23

contemplation 1

Then He said to me, “Are you a Muslim9 by mere tradition or do
you have your own standard of judgement?” 10
I answered, “I am not a [blind] imitator nor do I follow my own
[rational] opinion.”
He said to me, “Then you are no thing.” 11
I said to Him, “I am the thing without likeness and You are the
thing with likeness.”12
He said, “What you say is true.”
Then He told me, “You are not a thing, nor have you been a thing,
nor are you according to a thing.”
“That is so,” I replied, “since if I were a thing, perception would
be able to apprehend me;13 if I were according to a thing, the three
relationships14 would apply to me, and if I were thing I would have
an opposite, but I have no opposite.” 15
Then I said to Him, “I exist in the parts,16 although I do not
exist,17 so I am named without name, quali¥ed without quality
and described without description, and this constitutes my perfection. However, You are named by the name, quali¥ed by the
quality and described by the description, and this constitutes Your
perfection.”18
Then He said to me, “Only the non-existent knows the existent.”
“Only what is existent knows the existent as it is in reality.
Existence is from Me, not from you, 19 but it is in you, not in
Me.”20
Then He said to me, “Whoever ¥nds you ¥nds Me and whoever
loses you loses Me.” 21
“Whoever ¥nds you loses Me and whoever loses you ¥nds
Me.” 22
“Whoever loses me ¥nds Me 23 and whoever has found Me does
not lose Me.” 24
“Finding and losing are yours, not Mine.” 25
Then He said to me, “Every [kind of] limited and relative existence
is yours and all absolute and unlimited existence belongs to Me.”
24

contemplation 1

“Relative existence belongs to Me not to you.”
“Differentiated existence, which is Mine, is through you, and
integrated existence, which is yours, is through Me.” 26
“And vice versa.”
Then He said to me, “Primordial pre-existence is not [really]
existence,27 but below it 28 is true existence.”
“Existence is through Me,29 it comes from Me30 and it is
Mine.”31
“Existence comes from Me, but it is not through Me, nor is it
Mine.” 32
“Existence is not through Me, nor does it come from Me.” 33
Then He said, “If you ¥nd Me you will not see Me34 but you will
see Me if you lose Me.” 35
“Finding is losing Me and losing is ¥nding Me. Were you able
to discover taking,36 then you would know real existence.”

25

contemplation 1

Notes
(IS) = Ibn Sawdakin; (SA) = Sitt al-¡Ajam. See Introduction, p. 12.
1 “[Ibn ¡Arab¨] is using [the term] ‘the light of existence’ (n¬r al-wuj¬d)
analogically, since light [like existence] manifests itself and manifests other than itself, being perceptible [as light] at the same time as
being the means by which perception takes place, whereas darkness
is perceptible but one cannot perceive by means of it.” (IS)
To understand Ibn ¡Arab¨’s notion of existence, it is necessary to
bear in mind that in Arabic, wuj¬d (“existence”, “Being”) from the
root w-j-d, also means “¥nding” or “discovery”.
Most of the chapters begin with the words: ashhadan¨ ’l-¢aqq bimashhad n¬r . . . wa †ul¬¡ najm . . ., meaning: “The Real (the Truth
or God, al-¢aqq) caused me to witness in the place of witnessing of
the light of . . . and the rising of the star of . . .”. For ease of reading
we have simpli¥ed the translation.
2 The rising (†ul¬¡) of the star of direct vision “that is, the contemplation
(mashhad) of existence from the place of manifestation (ma™har).”
(IS)
“Direct vision” (¡iyån) is immediate knowledge, seeing with one’s
own eyes, the testimony of the eyewitness.
3 “Apparent non-existence” or “apparent nothingness” (al-¡adam
al-™åhir), “that is, apparent to You [the Real], but not to me [the
servant].” (IS)
4 “That is, if you were not existent for Me [God], your existence would
not be real for you [the servant].” (IS)
Ibn ¡Arab¨ uses the term ¡abd, “servant”, to refer to the ontological
condition of the human being, which is synonymous with khalq,
“creation”, and in contrast to al-¢aqq, God as Truth or Reality.
5 “Apparent non-existence”, “potential non-being” or “non-existence
which manifests” is the possible (mumkin), whilst “non-existence or
nothingness which does not manifest” (al-¡adam al-bå†in) is impossible. See S. Hakim, al-Mu¡jam al-߬f¨, “al-¡adam al-imkån¨” (potential
non-being), “al-¡adam al-mu†laq” (absolute non-being) and “ ¡ayn
thåbita” (established potentiality/¥xed entity).
6 “[Ibn ¡Arab¨] is pointing out that the intelligibility of existence is
one.” (IS)

26

contemplation 1

7

8

9
10

11
12

The term “¥rst existence” refers to the pre-eternal existence in
the divine omniscience, whilst “second existence” refers to existence
in the concrete individual essences (a¡yån).
“That is, your consciousness of yourself truly exists.” (IS) The
contingent or “newly-happening” depends on the eternal or “that
which always was” for its existence.
This statement, and the two following ones, are preceded by “Then
He said to me” in the original Arabic text. The Arabic manuscript
has no punctuation and the text runs on almost continuously, as was
common at that time. Modern punctuation and layout of the text
allow for the required pause. Throughout the text, we have indicated
the omission of “And He said to me” between statements by beginning a new line and by using opening and closing quotation marks.
See Introduction, p. 13.
Literally “muslim” means “in submission [to the will of God]”.
Neither the blind imitators, nor those who follow their own rational
judgement succeed in discovering the truth. The negative response to
both possibilities indicates that this spiritual station of the contemplations, which comes after entry into the station of knowledge and
the unveiling of mysteries beyond comprehension by the intellect, is
above erudition and argument. (SA)
The possible is not a thing (i.e. it is nothing, non-existent), for it has
no actual, but only virtual, existence. See n. 15 below.
The term mithliyya, “likeness”, derived from the word mithl, “like”,
relates to Q. 42: 11. In this verse there is a phrase which, according to Ibn ¡Arab¨, may be read in two ways: “There is not anything
like Him”, or, “there is nothing like His likeness.” (The compound
ka-mithl may either be understood as a single preposition, whose
second element only reinforces the meaning of the ¥rst – in which
case it would simply be translated as “like” – or else, as a compound
of preposition and noun, in which case ka, “like”, would be the
pre¥xed preposition and mithl, “likeness” or “similar”, the noun.)
For Ibn ¡Arab¨ (who now has in mind the second reading), this
verse af¥rms the likeness with relation to God (that is, the existence
of the similar to Him), whilst denying any likeness with respect to
His likeness (to which nothing is similar). This likeness which has
no likeness is the Universal Man created “according to the form of
the Compassionate”. See P. Beneito, El Secreto de los Nombres de Dios,
p. 63, n. 3.

27

contemplation 1

13
14

15

16
17
18

19
20
21
22
23

24
25
26

In his commentary on this expression, Ibn Sawdak¨n says: “I am
associated with You in existence, but You are not associated with me
[that is, you do not participate with me] in non-existence . . . It is as
if one said: ‘I am Your similar, whilst You are not my similar’.”
That is, it would be possible to perceive me.
“The three relationships: (1) rational opinion, (2) existence in the
exterior, and (3) existence in the essential reality. When the gnostic
(¡årif ) experiences the annihilation of multiple existence, he necessarily has to divest himself of relationships.” (SA)
“‘Not to be [any]thing’ or ‘[to be] no thing’ (lå shay¤) can only be
opposed to the existence of the Creator, but that which ‘is no thing’
cannot, in any way, be opposed to the existence of the possible, since
what we call ‘possible’ (mumkin) is the same as what we call ‘no
thing’.” (IS)
“That is, in the particulars and in everything.” (IS)
“Because everything that creates the possible is attributed to the Real
(al-¢aqq).” (IS)
The attribution of the things to the servant in a metaphorical way
constitutes his perfection in the station of servanthood, whilst their
attribution to the Real (al-¢aqq) as veri¥ed fact is His perfection.
(IS)
“That is, the existence of the ‘individual essences’ (a¡yån).” (IS)
“That is, the existence of the knowledges (ma¡årif ).” (IS)
“Because the divine perfection only manifests in this Adamic form.”
(IS)
Whoever attributes existence to you loses Me, but whoever does not
attribute existence to you ¥nds Me. (IS)
An allusion to the famous saying of Ab¬ Bakr al-Íidd¨q, “the
Veracious”: “[To realize] the impossibility of attaining knowledge
(idråk) is [itself] knowledge.” (IS) See also Contemplation 3, nn. 16
and 17, Contemplation 6, n. 23 and Contemplation 10, n. 9.
“That is, if he ¥nds Me by means of this existence which has no
similar he does not lose Me.” (IS)
MS. B adds, “Then He said to me, ‘Finding and losing are Mine not
yours.’”
God distributed existence among the created things and the human
being reunites the differentiated existence and returns it to God.
(SA)

28

contemplation 1

27 Existence in knowledge (the divine primordial foreknowledge) is
not differentiated and there is no point in existence except after
differentiation. As it is not differentiated, this pre-existence is not
really considered to be existence, since true existence is in the visible
exterior. (SA)
28 The pronoun “it” refers to the “priority” of the ¥rst existence.
This means that real or actual existence, since it is apparent, is ontologically inferior to primordial existence.
29 “That is, since the Essence necessitates it.” (IS)
30 That is, from My choice. (IS)
31 Or “and it is for My sake.” “This is similar to the verse ‘[I only
created the jinn and humankind] that they might worship Me’
(Q.51:56), where the reason why God created is explicitly expressed.”
(IS)
32 (“Nor is it for My sake”), that is, “I did not create existence for My
sake,” because God is Rich-beyond-Need of the universes. This is
a refutation of the doctrine of causality which postulates cause and
effect with respect to the creation of the world. (IS)
33 “In the sense that there is no correspondence.” (IS) MSS. B and J
add wa-lå l¨: “nor is it Mine”, or “nor is it for My sake”.
34 “Absolute existence (al-wuj¬d al-mu†laq) cannot be limited. Yet
existence is manifested in actual places of manifestation and every
place of manifestation is limited.” (IS) See above, n. 1.
35 That is, if you leave the limited form and return to the unlimited
reality, you will see Me. (IS and SA)
36 This refers to the “taking” mentioned in the Quranic verse: “And
when your Lord took from the children of Adam – from their loins
(literally, ‘backs’: ™uh¬r) – their descendants and made them bear
witness to themselves (ashhada-hum ¡alayhim) [saying] ‘Am I not your
Lord?’, they said ‘Yes, indeed (balå)! We do bear witness.’” (Q. 7: 172)
See Contemplation 2, nn. 1 and 7.

29

2

Contemplation of the
Light of Taking (akhdh) as the
Star of Af¥rmation (iqrår) rises
in the name of god,
the compassionate, the merciful

The Real made me contemplate the light of [Divine] taking as the
star of af¥rmation rose.1
Then He said to me, “Taking is the same as letting go2 but not
everything that is let go of is taken.”3
“You can ¥nd Me4 but you cannot take hold of me;5 I can take
hold of you but I cannot ¥nd you.”
“I do not take hold of you nor do I ¥nd you.”
“I ¥nd you, but I do not take hold of you.”
Then He said to me, “Taking only occurs from behind,6 since if it
were from in front nobody would go astray.”
“I have manifested myself in taking [the servant] and I have
hidden Myself in letting [him] go.” 7
“Taking implies three [aspects]8 and everything that exceeds this
number is no longer taking.” 9
“[In reality,] I took Myself.”
Then He said to me, “Look at the ‘inanimate beings’ and listen
to10 their glori¥cation of God, for that is their responding ‘Yes,
indeed!’ ”11

31

contemplation 2

“If I veiled you with the taking12 [keeping you in this state of
extinction without return to subsistence], you would suffer eternal
pain in everlasting happiness.”
“I only take him [to] whom I have said [‘Be!’, giving him
existence]13 and I have only said [‘Be!’ to] what is owned [by Me].
Nothing is owned unless it is dominated, and nothing is dominated unless it is con¥ned, and nothing is con¥ned unless it is
newly arrived, and nothing arrives newly except the [potential]
non-existence.”
“I took what was dispersed and united it. I took it from the
union and I reunited it. Then I dispersed it and united it [once
more],14 and then there was neither division nor union.”
Then He made me contemplate what is above taking, and I saw
the Hand.15 Then the Green Sea16 poured forth between the Hand
and me. I became immersed in it17 and I saw a tablet.18 I climbed
onto it and [like that] I was saved, since had it not been for [the
tablet], I would have perished.
Then the Hand appeared, and behold! the Hand was serving
as the shore of that sea, upon which the boats sailed until they
arrived at the shore. When they reached it, the Hand pushed them
along to a deserted place.19 The owners of the boats disembarked
carrying with them pearls, jewels and coral; but as soon as they
stepped onto dry land, these all turned into ordinary stones.
I said to Him, “How does one keep the pearls as pearls, the jewels
as jewels and the coral as coral?”
He said, “When you come out of the sea, take away with you
some sea-water, for whilst the water remains, pearls, jewels and
coral will continue in that state; but if the water dries up, they
will turn into ordinary stones. In the Sura of the Prophets20 I have
made its secret clear.”
And so I took [some] of that water to carry with me, and when I
reached the deserted land I saw a verdant garden21 in the middle of
that arid place. I was told, “Come in.”
32

contemplation 2

I went in and I saw its blossoms and radiant ¦owers,22 its birds
and its fruit. When I stretched out my hand to eat of those fruits,
the water dried up and the precious gems were transformed [into
ordinary stones].
Then [I heard] the voice which reprimanded me saying, “Throw
away the fruit that you have in your hand!”23
I threw it away, and immediately the water ¦owed again and the
gems regained their former state.
Then He said to me, “Go to the boundary of the garden.”
So I went there and found a desert.24 “Cross it”, He said. So
I crossed it and [on the way] I saw scorpions, snakes, vipers and
lions.25 Whenever they harmed me, I moistened the place [of the
wound] with water and it healed.
Then, at the end of the desert, He opened up some gardens
before me. I entered them and the water dried up. I stepped out of
them and the water ¦owed again.26
Then I entered a darkness27 and I was told, “Cast off your clothes28
and throw away the water and the stones, for you have found
[what you were looking for].” I discarded everything I had with
me, without seeing where, and I remained [just as I am].
He said to me, “Now you are you.”
Then He said to me, “Do you see how excellent this darkness is,
how intense its brightness and how clear its light! This darkness is
the place from which the lights rise,29 the source from which the
fountains of secrets spring forth and the [original] matter of the
elements. From this darkness I have brought you into being, to it
I make you return and I shall not remove you from it.”
Then He showed me an opening like the eye of a needle. I went
out towards it and I saw a beautiful radiance and a dazzling light.
He said to me, “Have you seen how intense is the darkness
of this light? Stretch out your hand and you will not see it.” I
stretched it out and, indeed, I did not see it.

33

contemplation 2

He said to me, “This is My light, in which none but Me can see
himself.”
Then He said to me, “Return to your darkness, for you are far
from your kind.”
“There is no one but you in this darkness30 and I have brought
into being from it no one but you;31 from it I have taken you.”
“I have created from light everything that exists except for you,
who have been created from darkness.”
“‘They have not valued God as they ought.’ 32 If He were in the
light, then they would appreciate Him properly. You are truly My
servant.” 33
“If you want to see Me, lift the veils from My face.”

34

contemplation 2

Notes
1 An allusion to Q.|7:|172 (See Contemplation 1, n.|36). This Quranic
verse refers to the “Lordly taking”, when God, as Lord (rabb), took
(akhadha) the descendants of Adam from the “back” of the children
of Adam, and to the acknowledgement (iqrår) by the people taken by
the Lord, that He is truly their Lord, expressed in their unanimous
response when they said, “Yes, indeed!” We may note that in this
Contemplation “the taking” (the act of taking hold) belongs to the
Lord, while “the taken” (the one whom God takes hold of) always
refers to the servant.
2 This refers to the taking by which “God removes the man from his
servanthood (¡ub¬diyya) bringing him towards Him by means of the
attributes belonging to the lordly condition (al-awßåf al-rabbåniyya)
which He existentiates in him and [inversely] He removes from him
the lordly attributes which He bestowed on him, to return him to
his condition as servant. In this sense, for God, ‘taking’ is the same
as ‘letting go’.” (IS)
3 “Not everything that is let go of is taken since if [God] had continued letting go without taking, [the servant] would not have replied
‘Yes, indeed (balå)!’” (IS)
MS. B inverts the terms: “Not all that is taken is let go of . . .”.
4 “Since you lean on Me [the Real].” (IS)
5 “Because I am not ‘apprehended’ by you.” (IS)
6 According to Q.|7:|172, the divine taking occurs from behind (™ahr:
the back, from the same root as ™åhir: manifest) which is the rear
(and therefore hidden) side of man. (See Contemplation 1, n.|36.)
7 “That is, I manifested Myself through the ‘coercive power’ (qahr) by
which I obliged you to acknowledge that I am your Lord, since if I
had let go of you, you would not have acknowledged My Lordship
and I would have remained hidden.” (IS)
8 Namely, (1) taking the uni¥ed (akhdh al-jam¡), (2) taking the differentiated (farq), and (3) taking the union of the uni¥ed ( jam¡ al-jam¡).
(SA)
9 All taking (akhdh) which comes after the three kinds mentioned is
no longer taking as such, but the vision of the essential reality of
things.
10 Literally, “take”.

35

contemplation 2

11 The glori¥cation of God by inanimate beings is mentioned in many
Quranic passages (for example, those that refer to the glori¥cation of
all things (Q.|17:|44) or the praise of the mountains (Q.|21:|79), and
the thunder (Q.|13:|13), and so on).
12 “That is, if I veiled you with coercive power (qahr), you would suffer
from your condition of being compelled (maqh¬r).” (IS)
13 An allusion to the creative word, or existentiating command, to which
the following Quranic passage, among others, refers, “When He
decrees a thing, He only says to it ‘Be!’ and it is.” (Q.|2:|117)
14 MS. J repeats once more, “again I dispersed it and reunited it.”
15 The Hand is the attribute of power since he saw the power that
takes. (SA and IS)
16 “Absolute knowledge or omniscience (al-¡ilm al-mu†laq).” (IS)
17 “That is, the situation was unclear to me for I could not distinguish
the substance of the water [in which I was immersed].” (IS)
18 “The tablet (law¢) is the prescribed knowledge (al-¡ilm al-mashr¬¡).”
(IS)
19 “This deserted place (qafr) is the knowledge of perplexity in the face
of inability and limitation.” (IS)
20 An allusion to a verse from the Sura of the Prophets which says, “We
made from water every living thing.” (Q.|21:|30)
21 “This green garden symbolizes the sayings of the Islamic tradition
(a¢ådith al-sunna).” (IS)
22 The names used to designate the ¦owers – whose lexical roots, in
both cases, denote luminosity – refer more speci¥cally to orange
blossom (azhår) and anemones (nuwwår).
23 That is, let go of what you have obtained by means of your own
ability. (SA)
24 “This desert (ßa¢rå¤) is the knowledge of transcendence (tanz¨h) and
the denudation which the knowledge of Unity involves (tajr¨d altaw¢¨d).” (IS)
25 “The ‘scorpions’ and the ‘serpents’ symbolize misleading doubts.” (IS)
26 “This refers to the garden of the verse ‘There is nothing like Him’
(Q.|42:|11), in which there is an implicit negation of the sciences. In
such a garden nothing remains in your hand, which corresponds to
the evaporation of the water.” (IS) See also Contemplation 1, n.|12.
27 An expression referring to the darkness of the “Self” (the third
person huwa implies absence and hiddenness) and the mutual correspondence which the Absolute Reality demands of servanthood. (IS)

36

contemplation 2

28 “That is, divest yourself of yourself by abandoning pretension and
remain in servanthood, for servanthood is the condition of man.”
(IS)
29 “The place from which the lights rise”: ma†la¡ al-anwår.
30 That is, there is no other gnostic (¡årif ) like you in your time. (SA)
31 This expression alludes to the singularity (tafarrud) of the gnostic,
alone in his uniqueness (a¢adiyya). (SA)
32 Q.|6:|91 and 22:|74.
33 Because he is the perfect knower of God.

37

3

Contemplation of the
Light of the Veils (sut¬r) as the
Star of Strong Backing (ta¤y¨d) rises
in the name of god,
the compassionate, the merciful

The Real made me contemplate the light of the veils as the star of
strong backing rose, and He said to me, “Do you know how many
veils I have veiled you with?”
“No”, I replied.
He said, “With seventy veils.1 Even if you raise them you
will not see Me,2 and if you do not raise them you will not see
Me.”
“If you raise them you will see Me3 and if you do not raise them
you will see Me.” 4
“Take care of burning yourself!”5
“You are My sight,6 so have faith. You are My Face, so veil
yourself.”7
Then He said to me, “Take all the veils away from Me. Reveal
Me, for I have given you permission, keep me in the treasuries
of the hidden, so that no other than Me sees Me, and invite
the people to see Me. You will ¥nd behind each veil what the
Beloved found.8 So consider and recite [the verse ] ‘Glory [to God]
. . .’ and when you come to [the words] ‘. . . the Hearer, the Seer’,9
understand well My intention and tell the servants what you have
39

contemplation 3

seen, so that you awaken their longing for Me and ¥ll them with
desire for Me, and you will be a mercy for them.”10
Then He said to me, “Lift the veils one by one.”
I lifted the ¥rst and I saw non-existence11 [and I continued lifting,
successively, the following veils]: existence, the existent, the [primordial] covenants, the return, the seas, the darknesses, yielding,
instruction, derivation, permission, prohibition, transgression,
anger, imprisonment, letters, generation, partial death, total
death, direction, transmission, holding fast, the two feet, universal
privilege, wrapping, splitting open, puri¥cation, recomposition,
interdiction, sancti¥cation, intercession, mounting, travelling,12
milk,13 knocking,14 mixing, spirits, beauty, elevation, mastery,
intimate conversation, dissolution, reaching the end,15 letting
go, love, removal of the intermediaries, the secret [centre] (sirr),
the chests,16 veracity,17 irresistible power, sense of shame, boldness, leave-taking, inheritance, uprooting, annihilation, subsistence, jealousy, spiritual will,18 unveiling, contemplation, majesty,
beauty,19 disappearance of the individual essence (¡ayn), the imperceptible, the inaudible, the incomprehensible, the incommunicable,
symbolic allusion, the whole.
A detailed explanation follows later.20
The servant21 said: When I ¥nished [lifting the veils] He asked me,
“What have you seen?”
“Something magni¥cent”, I replied.
Then He said to me, “What I have hidden from you is even
more magni¥cent.” 22
“By My glory! I have not hidden anything from you, nor have I
shown you anything.” 23
Then He burnt the veils [that remained] behind me,24 and I saw
the Throne.
He said to me, “Lift it.”
So I lifted it and He said to me, “Throw it into the sea.” 25
I threw it and it disappeared. Then the sea cast it up again and
He said to me, “Extract from the sea the Stone of Similarity.”26
40

contemplation 3

I extracted it and He said to me, “Lift up the Balance.” 27 I lifted
it up and He said to me, “Put the Throne and all it contains in
one scale and put the Stone of Similarity in the other.” The Stone
weighed more. Then He said to me, “Even if you put in a million
times the [weight of the] Throne up to the limit of what is possible,28 this Stone would weigh more.”
“And what is the name of this Stone?”, I asked.
“Raise your head and look,” He said. “You will ¥nd it written
on all things.”
I raised my head and I saw, indeed, that alif 29 was in everything.
Then He covered me with ¥fty30 veils and He uncovered from my
face four hundred31 veils so subtle that I never felt them.
Then He said to me, “Add what you have seen in all things
to the veils. The result of this combination is the name of that
Stone.”32
“All this has been written since eternity without beginning, and
all of it is [now] before you.33 So read:
In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
[Letter] from the First Existence to the Second Existence:34
Non-existence preceded you, you being already existent.35 Then I
made a covenant with you in the Presence of Oneness,36 with your
af¥rmation37 that ‘I am God and there is no divinity but Me’ 38 and
you gave Me testimony of that. Then I made you return.39
After that I brought you out40 and I cast you into the sea.41 Next
I ¦ung your parts into the darknesses,42 then I sent you to them
[as a messenger] and they accepted you with obedience and they
yielded. I gave you the company and solace of a part of yourself,43 whose company is licit for you. 44 Then I forbade you45
My Presence, but I allowed you to enter it [against My wishes]. I
became angry with you and I imprisoned you, even though you
are blessed.

41

contemplation 3

After this, I formed the letters46 and I preserved them for you.47
I gave you the Pen48 and I sat you on your throne and you wrote
on the Guarded Tablet49 what I wanted of you. I vivi¥ed part of
you,50 giving you then the plenitude of life. Next I took out some
parts of you,51 I dispersed them in the corners of the prison [of the
world], speaking in different kinds of languages. I forti¥ed them52
with [the gift of] impeccability and seated them on their chairs.
Then I singled out one of them,53 for whose cause I have singled
you out [too], and I strengthened him with the Words.54 I puri¥ed
him from all blemish, I forbade him to turn to created things, I
sancti¥ed his place55 and I granted him the right of intercession in
favour of all.
Then I plunged him into the sea and he mounted one of his
mounts.56 He journeyed by night in the instant57 and I brought
it down upon the Dome of Ar¨n.58 Then I gave him total life and
protected him from his partial nature,59 and I addressed him from
his centre,60 saying, ‘On leaving limitedness,61 I will love you and
on the departing of the spirits,62 I will gladden you. Bring out and
make manifest the heart of the veracious, and conquer. Take the
secret of life and entrust it to whomsoever you wish. Draw the
sword of vengeance: with it raise your sign and with it defeat whoever opposes you.
Then come to Me; let your son go, that he may take your place63
and tell him to be consumed in annihilation by his subsistence,
not to be jealous of [communicating] his revelation64 and to contemplate Me in the attributes, but not in the essences,65 because I
am not contained by them.66 Although he may listen, understand,
know, allude, communicate, particularize or summarize, he will
not comprehend Me. [However], in intuition (shu¡¬r) things show
themselves clearly to the people of vision.’ ”

42

contemplation 3

Notes
1 An allusion to the hadith (saying of the Prophet Muhammad)
according to which God has seventy veils of light and “if these veils
were removed, the glory of His face would burn up any creature who
saw it.” Muslim, Ômån, 293; Ibn Måja, Muqaddima, 13.
2 “Because by placing Me behind the veil you impose limits on Me.”
(IS)
3 “You will see Me in the theophany of non-existence (ma™har al¡adam).” (IS)
4 “You will see Me in the existent places of manifestation (ma™åhir almawj¬dåt).” (IS)
5 That is, “take care to raise the veil”, according to Ibn Sawdak¨n’s
commentary. This seems to be not only a warning of the danger in
negative terms, but at the same time an invitation to persist in the
intention to encounter this unveiling.
6 “That is, through you I see the things.” (IS) According to Sitt al¡Ajam, this refers to the revelation belonging to the Mosaic station
to which the verse: “. . . so that you will be brought up in My sight”
(Q.|20:|39) alludes, and also the Muhammadian station, expressed in
the verse: “. . . for you are in Our eyes”. (Q.|52:|48)
7 “That is, ‘do not show your position in relation to Me to the people’,
for you are My face; an order which is similar to the words of God
to the Prophet Muhammad, ‘Say: I am only a human being (bashar)
like you . . .’ (Q.|18:|110), since by these words He hides him from
the eyes of people so that they do not see his position as the face of
the Real in the world.” (IS)
8 That is, what Muhammad found during his night journey, on passing
through the veils. See Ibn ¡Arab¨, Kitåb al-Isrå¤, edited by S. Hakim.
“What is found behind each veil is not Me, but only a sign (åya)
which indicates one of My places of manifestation. Otherwise, if you
claim that something veils Me, you would limit Me . . . The Beloved
(Muhammad) was taken on the night journey so that he could see
some of the signs of his Lord, since night journeys are for the vision
of signs.” (IS)
9 See Q.|17:|1: “Glory to He who made His servant journey by night
from the Holy Mosque to the Farthest Mosque, whose precincts we
have blessed, in order to show him some of Our signs, for He is the

43

contemplation 3

10

11
12
13

14

15
16

17

18

19

20

One who Hears and Sees!” According to tradition, this verse refers
to Muhammad’s night journey on the Buråq (heavenly steed, see
below, n.|56) from the Mosque in Mecca to the Mosque in Jerusalem
and his ascension through the seven heavens.
Following in the footsteps of Muhammad, who is told in the
Quran: “We did not send you except as a mercy to the universes.”
(Q.|21:|107)
See Contemplation 1, nn.|3 and 5.
Travelling or following a road (sul¬k) is crossing from one thing to
another. (SA)
Milk (laban) is the symbol of knowledge. (SA) This symbolism refers
to a well-known hadith, often quoted by Ibn ¡Arab¨, in which the
Prophet recounts a dream and interprets milk as knowledge (¡ilm).
See for example, Bukhår¨, ¡Ilm, 22, or Muslim, Fa‰å¤il al-ßa¢åba, 16.
The knocking (qar¡) means asking God to increase us in knowledge.
(SA) An allusion to the verse: “Lord, increase me in knowledge!”
(Q.|20:|114)
Reaching the end (intihå¤) is reaching the intended goal. (SA)
The chests contain the certainty of the “secret [centre of the heart]”
(sirr), since the chest is, in fact, the seat of the “secrets” (asrår),
according to the saying of the Prophet: “Ab¬ Bakr does not outdo
you in fasting or in prayer but in something deposited in his chest.”
(SA)
The “con¥rmation of the truth” (ßidd¨qiyya) is the station of Ab¬ Bakr,
the Veracious (al-Íidd¨q). See Contemplation 1, n.|23 and previous
note.
Himma – the spiritual will or concentration of the heart – is the
active energy or creativity which man can direct at will, as a means
of producing an effect, or creating something whose maintenance
depends on it. According to Ibn ¡Arab¨ the best name to refer to it
by is “divine providence” (al-¡inåya al-ilåhiyya). See S. Hakim, alMu¡jam al-߬f¨.
In all the MSS. the name “al-jamål ” (beauty) is mentioned again.
It is possible that this repetition is due to an easy graphical error,
where jamål was written instead of kamål, “perfection”. Kamål is the
synthesis of jamål, “beauty” and jalål, “majesty”.
Further on in this contemplation, he recounts in sequential form
the process of the unveiling of the seventy veils. See Appendix 4 for
further explanation of the veils and correspondences between them.

44

contemplation 3

21 For the ¥rst time in the text, the term ¡abd, “servant”, is used to refer
to the contemplative who is talking with God. See Contemplation 1,
n.|4 and 14, n.|17.
22 “I have hidden from you the knowledge of Me through Myself,
and this knowledge is more sublime than all that you have seen.”
(IS)
23 “I did not hide any of the possibilities (mumkinåt) from you, nor
did I show you anything of what you are seeking, which is the Real
(al-¢aqq).” (IS)
24 “He made me leave the veils behind.” (IS)
25 “The sea of knowledge (¡ilm).” (IS)
26 The Stone of Similarity (¢ajar al-mithl ), an allusion to Q.|42:|11,
refers to the Perfect Man (al-insån al-kåmil). (IS) See also Contemplation 1, n.|12.
27 The Balance is the symbol of justice (¡adl). The act of raising it up
indicates that the Perfect Man, after this, takes Justice upon himself,
without preference. (SA)
28 A theoretical numerical limit.
29 The alif is the ¥rst letter of the Arabic alphabet, although for Ibn
¡Arab¨ it is not a question of a letter (¢arf ) as such. The alif is the
underlying principle of all the letters, where it lies hidden, contained
in their names and graphical forms. In fact, all the names of the
letters include an alif, either explicitly in the name: for example, wåw
(written wåw–alif–wåw); or implicitly, in the name of one of the letters of its name: for example, n¬n (written n¬n–wåw–n¬n). Moreover
the alif, a vertical line, is symbolically the original form of the letter
that gives rise to the others and the substance with which the letters
are modelled. The alif is not con¥ned to any speci¥c degree and
therefore it is the symbol by which one alludes to the unconditioned
Essence. See Contemplation 5, nn.|8 and 9. See S. Hakim, al-Mu¡jam
al-߬f¨.
30 Numerical value of the letter n¬n.
31 Numerical value of the letter tå¤.
32 By joining together the alif–n¬n–tå ¤, the pronoun anta, “you”
(singular) is formed. The graphic representation of the letter tå¤, which
is numerically equivalent to four hundred, contains two dots which
allude to duality. By omitting the tå¤ of the four hundred veils,
the alif “written on everything” and the n¬n of ¥fty veils, which is
written with a single diacritical point, remain. The graphic union

45

contemplation 3

33
34
35

36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43

44
45
46

47
48

49

of both letters represents the pronoun for the ¥rst person singular
anå, “I”, an allusion to the divine I and probably (according to this
interpretation), to the encoded name of the Stone.
Literally, “between your hands”.
This is the detailed explanation announced after the enumeration of
the seventy veils. See n.|20 above.
“That is, it preceded you as ‘you’, since you were already existent
due to My knowledge (li-¡ilm¨) [potentially, implicitly] but not in My
knowledge (f ¨-¡ilm¨) [actually, explicitly].” (IS)
Presence of Oneness: ¢a‰rat al-wa¢dåniyya; MS. B has taw¢¨d.
This is another allusion to the covenant referred to in Q.|7:|172. See
Contemplation 1, n.|36.
Q.|20:|14.
“That is, I made you return to the hiddenness (ghayba) which follows
the covenant.” (IS)
“That is, I made you come out of the hiddenness towards unlimited
Nature.” (IS)
“That is, into knowledge (¡ilm).” (IS)
Limited nature.
The address is directed towards the Intellect, to whom He gave the
company of the Soul (nafs). Just as God created Eve for Adam, so He
created the Universal Soul for the Universal Intellect. (IS)
That is, He gave him permission so that he should know by this
licence the meaning of freedom. (IS)
He forbids the servant so that by this prohibition he may know the
measure of servanthood. (IS)
An allusion to the marriage (of the Soul and the Intellect), the coupling (the third factor or link), and general procreation (tawålud).
(IS)
So that you would know their realities and distinguish the various
degrees. (IS)
“Giving the Pen” means granting power over generating meanings,
because the pen in reality is the creator of the letters which indicate
meanings. The form of the gift implies the transference of creative
power as an attribute. (SA)
It is worth bearing in mind the Quranic passage which states that
“God taught Adam all the names”. (Q.|2:|31) Adam’s knowledge of
the names is what enables human beings to generate meanings.
“The Guarded Tablet is the place where the Pen generates the

46

contemplation 3

50
51
52

53
54
55

56

57

58

59
60
61

manifest form and where the beings are created according to the
Divine Will.” (SA)
The place which receives the Divine Knowledge. (IS)
He is referring to the messengers.
The word that is translated here as “forti¥ed” comes from the same
root as “strong backing” (ta¤y¨d), which appears in the title of this
contemplation. The root also contains the following meanings:
support, assistance, con¥rmation, protection, rendering victorious
and favour. Note the repetition in the following sentence of the
text: “I strengthened him with the Words.” Ibn ¡Arab¨ also uses the
word ta¤y¨d in the epilogue: “When the High God wishes to grant
His servants some of these [special] knowledges, He disposes the
mirror of his heart towards success, looks at it with the eye of
benevolence and help (tawf¨q) and supports it with the sea of strong
backing (ta¤y¨d).” See Appendix 3.
He is referring to Muhammad.
That is, the words of the Quran.
“He means that no other will have access to it [literally, ‘will tread
on it’] in the same way, since it is the place where only he may
ascend, for it is the place of the two feet between the Throne and the
Pedestal.” (SA)
An allusion to the Buråq, whose name comes from the same root
as “lightning” (barq), and which, according to tradition, served as
a mount to Muhammad on his night journey and on his heavenly
ascension to the Throne.
In the instant (al-ån), now, the present and indivisible time of the
state. The whole night journey and ascension of the Prophet is said
to have taken place within a single instant.
The point of equilibrium (i¡tidål) which, since it does not incline
towards any direction, maintains and preserves this human constitution (IS). Ar¨n is a place which is equidistant from the four
cardinal points and therefore represents the centre of the world, according to Islamic cosmography. See Contemplation 8, n.|22, and
also M. Chodkiewicz, An Ocean without Shore, p.|79. Here, the Dome
of Ar¨n may refer to the Dome of the Rock, from which the Prophet’s ascension through the heavens took place.
That is, from the physical world of nature. (IS)
That is, from the “point of equilibrium” (ma¢all al-i¡tidål). (IS)
This means extinction (fanå¤) or death before dying.

47

contemplation 3

62 This refers to natural death. At the moment when the spirit of the
gnostic departs from the physical body, God (al-¢aqq) reveals to him
the promised happiness. (SA)
63 That is, let him succeed you in the function of heir and in (the
actualization of) similarity. (SA)
64 That is, may he not hesitate to reveal his knowledge, since only
people endowed with comprehension (literally, “his people”) will
grasp it. (SA)
65 Because to contemplate God in the essences of created things would
imply the doctrine of “incarnation” (¢ul¬l): the indwelling of one
essence within another – that the Divine Essence is somehow localized in a created thing. (SA)
66 Literally, “My individual essence (¡ayn¨) disappears from them.”

48

4

Contemplation of the
Light of Intuition (shu¡¬r) as the
Star of Transcendence (tanz¨h) rises
in the name of god,
the compassionate, the merciful

The Real made me contemplate the light of intuition1 as the
star of transcendence rose, and He said to me, “I hide Myself in
evidence2 and intuition3 from the people of veils.” 4
Then He said to me, “Poetry is con¥ned and it is the place of
symbol and enigma. If they knew5 that the symbol and enigma
of things is in the intensity of clarity, they would follow that.6 The
luminous verses of the Quran have been revealed as indications of
meanings which [otherwise] would never be understood.”
“See Me in the sun7 and look for Me in the moon,8 but avoid
Me in the stars.” 9
“Do not be like the bird of Jesus.” 10
“Look for Me in the vicegerent and amongst the guardians of
the night11 and you will ¥nd Me.”
Then He said to me, “When you see the cattle, horses and
donkeys immersed in water up to their necks, then ride the
mules,12 and leaning on the walls,13 try to reach the bank.14 If an
obstacle should arise cutting you off from the bank, cover your
eyes with your hands15 and let your hair16 fall over your forehead17
and enter the stream [without fear], for the water will not reach
49

contemplation 4

your saddlebow18 and you will be safe. Whoever is riding a horse
or a donkey will perish in the river, but not he who is riding a
mule.” 19
Then He said to me, “If you stay in intuition, you will be the
middle degree.20 Whoever is beneath you will look towards you
and whoever is above you, will turn towards you, so that there is
no one above you.21 In intuition you will ¥nd the instant.”
“If you are the middle degree then travel in spring!” 22
Then He said to me, “Light is a veil and darkness is a veil. In
the line between them both you will be aware of what is most
bene¥cial. So follow this line23 closely, and if you arrive at the point
in which it originates, make it disappear in the sunset prayer.24
Then sleep after the odd prayer of the night.25 When dawn comes,
the legal obligation will be lifted,26 the burden [of prescriptions]
will fall away, and you will be you, beyond such attributions.”27
“If the Command [of God] descends, do not give up,28 because
if you give up, you will perish.”
“If you ride on the mule, do not look at which side you are on,
for you will die. If you ride, stay silent.”

50

contemplation 4

Notes
1 “Mystical intuition (shu¡¬r) is the integrating, synthetic knowledge
(¡ilm al-ijmål).” (IS) This word, which has the same root (sh–¡–r)
as “poetry” (shi¡r) and “hair” (sha¡r), here means the “intuitive knowledge”, “profound and immediate awareness” or “interior perception”
which one has of something.
2 That is, “I hide in evidence (bayån)” by the very clarity and intensity
of manifestation. (IS)
3 A double allusion to prose and poetry, the explicit and the implicit,
analysis and synthesis.
4 The people of veils (ahl al-sut¬r) are those whose knowledge is
founded only on a super¥cial reading of books and signs.
5 That is, if “the people of veils” knew.
6 That is, the way of clarity.
7 “That is, in the plain and obvious meanings in which there is no
doubt . . . in certainty and perfect clarity.” (IS)
8 “That is, look for Me in the places of manifestation, since in this way
you will only ¥nd yourself.” (IS)
9 “That is, in the Names (al-asmå¤).” (IS)
10 “Do not stay with the [secondary] cause (sabab) which gave you
existence, even if it is immediately perceptible; rather, be with the
one who gave you existence in reality, which is God.” (IS)
An allusion to the bird mentioned in the verse: “I shall create for
you, from clay, something resembling a bird. Then I will blow on it
and it will become a bird, by permission of God.” (Q.|3:|49)
11 The khal¨fa (“vicegerent” or “representative” of God) holds the
highest rank in the spiritual hierarchy, whilst the “nightwatchmen”
(al-¡asas) hold the lowest rank. (IS) According to Sitt al-¡Ajam, the
term khal¨fa refers to the Envoy (the Prophet Muhammad) and the
term ¡asas, “nightwatchmen”, refers to the guardians who watch over
the religion, to the awliyå¤, the saints and friends of God, the gnostics who ask help from the station of the messengers and who, in
their turn, help others. (SA)
12 The mule (baghl) is a cross between a horse and a donkey, and so
a barzakh, “isthmus”, or intermediary between two orders. This
symbol implies that the contemplative is not restricted to a limited
form (in one order), but adopts a form which unites two or more

51

contemplation 4

13
14
15

16
17

18

19

20
21
22

aspects, since if he oriented himself exclusively towards one of them
he would lose the perspective of the other. (IS)
In his summary of the life of the Prophet, Ibn ¡Arab¨ informs us
that the Prophet had a mule called Duldul (see Ihtißår s¨rat ras¬l
Allåh, ed. Muhammad Kamål al-D¨n ¡Izz al-D¨n, Beirut, 1987,
p.|102). See also K. Ayyåm al-sha¤n, p.|4, where Ibn ¡Arab¨ refers to
the Prophet riding a mule.
The wall is what you lean on, whether it is a power attributed to you
or divine support. (IS)
“The bank [¥rm, level ground] is where your knowledge resides.”
(IS)
“That is, stop your imagination and speculative faculties.” (IS) The
word “imagination”(khayål) is from the same root as khayl, “horse”.
Also, speculation is indirectly associated with the donkey in the
Quranic image of the “donkey carrying books”. (Q.|62:|5)
The term sha¡r, “hair”, from the same root as shu¡¬r, “intuitive
knowledge”, alludes to interior vision. See above, n.|1.
“That is, apply your ‘synthetic intuitive knowledge’ (shu¡¬r) to the
centre of your awareness to see what it brings you. If you do this,
you will leave the station of imagination (maqåm al-khayål), you will
reach the river [nahr, from the same root as nahår, ‘day’, ‘daylight’]
and you will be saved, whilst those who ride horses or donkeys –
having restricted Reality (al-¢aqq) to a particular order – will perish,
since God, glory to Him, is not limited.” (IS)
Literally, “the saddlebow of your saddle”. The word sarj, “saddle”,
comes from the same root as siråj, “lamp”. See Contemplation 9,
n.|22.
The donkey, carrying theoretical knowledge, is an allusion to those
who postulate the doctrine of absolute transcendence (such as the
Mu¡tazilites). The horse of the “imagination” is an allusion to those
who postulate the doctrine of absolute immanence (such as the
anthropomorphists and pantheists), whilst the mule represents those
who adopt an intermediate way, the union of the opposites, reconciling the incomparability (tanz¨h) and the similarity (tashb¨h) of God,
which are complementary aspects of knowledge.
The intermediate degree between intelligible meanings and physical
things. (IS)
“Since you are the union of the two extremes.” (IS)
“Spring (al-rab¨¡) [from the same root as arba¡a, ‘four’] is an allusion

52

contemplation 4

23

24

25

26

27

28

to temporality or the advent of time which is the ¥rst principle of
manifestation.” (IS)
“Light veils darkness and vice versa. The line between them unites
them, because it has a side facing towards light and a side facing
darkness. Therefore, be the con¦uence of the essential realities.”
(IS)
At dusk, which is the line or “isthmus” between night and day, the
sunset prayer (ßalåt al-maghrib) is performed. It is the fourth obligatory prayer which consists of an odd number of raka¡åt (sequences of
movements and ritual postures). See Contemplation 12, n.|8.
This oddness re¦ects the singleness of God. The sunset prayer
belongs to the day, whereas there is another odd prayer (witr or watr)
in the night which is a supererogatory prayer. See Contemplation
12, n.|10.
“That is, the legal obligation (takl¨f ) will cease insofar as it is an
imposition, and so it will no longer be a burden, although the
performing of the prescribed works will continue [as is suitable to
servanthood].” (IS)
“That is, beyond attributing a troublesome or formal character to
the ritual action, but performing it in such a way that it is a joy and
loving intimacy with God.” (IS)
“That is, receive the orders of the law with steadiness.” (IS)

53

5

Contemplation of the
Light of Silence (ßamt) as the
Star of Negation (salb) rises
in the name of god,
the compassionate, the merciful

The Real made me contemplate the light of silence as the star of
negation1 rose, and He made me speechless. [However], there did
not remain a single place in the whole universe where my word
was not inscribed, nor was there any writing which did not come
from my substance2 and my dictation.
Then He said to me, “Silence is your essential reality.”
“Silence is nothing other than you, although it does not belong
to you.”
“If you made ‘the silent’3 your object of worship, you would
be following those who worshipped the calf 4 and you would be
amongst the worshippers of the sun and the moon.5 But if ‘the
silent’ is not the object of your worship, then you are Mine and
not its [servant].”
Then He said to me, “I created you with speech which is the
essential reality of your silence, so that, although you speak, you
are silent.”

55

contemplation 5

“Through you I speak, through you I give, through you I take,
through you I expand,6 through you I contract, through you I see,
through you I give existence and through you I am known.”
“For you I speak, for you I give, for you I take, for you I expand
and for you I contract, for you I am visible, for you I am given
existence and for you I am made known.”
Then He said to me, “You are the place of My seeing and you are
My attribute.7 So do not speak except when I look at you. I look
at you constantly, so address the people continuously but do not
speak.”
“My silence is the exterior of your existence and your being.”
“If I had remained silent, you would not exist; if you had spoken,
I would not have been known. Speak, then, so that I may be
known.”
Then He said to me, “The alif is silent 8 whilst the letters speak.
The alif articulates the letters, but the letters do not articulate the
alif.9 The letters are regulated by the alif and the alif accompanies
them always, without their realizing.”
“The letters are Moses10 and the alif is the staff.” 11
Then He said to me, “Your existence is in silence and your nonexistence in articulation.”
“Whoever is silent is not silent; rather, whoever is not silent is
silent.”
“Whether you speak or are silent you are speaking,12 and even
if you spoke for evermore through all eternity, you would remain
in silence.”
“If you remain silent, everything will be guided by you and if
you speak, everything will go astray through you. Rise beyond and
you will discover.”

56

contemplation 5

Notes
1 “Silence (ßamt) is a negative attribute.” (IS)
2 Mådda, “matter”, is from the same root as midåd, “ink”.
3 “The silent” (al-ßåmit) is that which is not endowed with speech.
This is an allusion to the idols and their inability to reply.
4 An allusion to the people of Moses who worshipped the golden calf
when Moses hurried away to meet his Lord. “The people of Moses
made from their trinkets, in his absence, the image of a calf which
lowed.” (Q.|7:|148)
5 In alchemical symbolism, the sun corresponds to gold and the moon
to silver. The people of the sun and the moon are, in this sense,
those whose objects of worship are gold and silver, that is, transient
accidents and everything that is not God. (IS)
6 “Through you I expand” is omitted from the Manisa manuscript
but is included in MSS. B and J.
7 That is “My sight”, one of the seven attributes of the divinity. See
Contemplation 9, n.|29.
8 “This means that the alif is not one of the articulated or voiced
letters.” (IS) See Contemplation 3, n.|29.
9 The alif is implicitly present in all the letters, since the letters, when
they are pronounced, are a discontinuous ¦ow of air, whilst the
alif is a continuous ¦ow, without any determined limit. One could
say that by articulating the alif (the ¦ow of expired air) at the
points of articulation, thereby segmenting it, the various letters are
manifested. (IS) See Contemplation 11, n.|1.
10 That is, the letters are articulated. Moses represents the articulation
of speech, since in the Quran he is called kal¨m Allåh, “the one who
speaks with God”. See Q.|4:|164; also Exodus 34:|5.
11 That is, the alif is not pronounced. According to Ibn ¡Arab¨, the staff
symbolizes silence because it is “silent”. In spite of its silence, the
Divine Miracle was manifested in the staff of Moses. Similarly, the
sign/verse (åya) is in the alif, not in the letters, since only God can
produce an effect. (IS) See Q.|2:|60.
12 “Due to the manifestation of the meanings which arise from you.”
(IS)

57

6

Contemplation of the
Light of Elevation (ma†la¡) as the
Star of Unveiling (kashf ) rises
in the name of god,
the compassionate, the merciful

The Real made me contemplate the light of elevation1 as the star
of unveiling rose, and He said to me, “You have ascended from the
limit and yet you have not separated from it, for if it were not for
the exterior, the interior would not be known;2 if it were not for
the limit, the Watchtower of Elevation would not be witnessed.
The rising of the light is witnessed by darkness, and the rising of
the full moon is witnessed by the sun.”
“From the Watchtower, whoever descends descends3 and whoever ascends ascends.4 Beware of Me in the Watchtower! If I see
that the exterior of your wall exceeds the limit, I will make you
descend from the Watchtower to the exterior;5 however, if you
stay within the limit,6 the Watchtower will want you to stay in
your position.”7
Then He said to me: 8
 “Glory rises in Closeness and the magni¥cence of the world
bears witness to it.
 The Instant rises in time-suspension9 and the sea of Compassionate Beatitude bears witness to it.

59

contemplation 6

 The proper attitude [required by] the knowledges10 rises and


























the correct attribution of actions bears witness to it, recalling
the warning at the Watchtower.
The Watchtower of Elevation rises and the limit bears witness
to it.
Death rises and the power of predestination bears witness to it.
Gentleness rises in the mansion of modesty and the appearance
of speech bears witness to it.
The name11 rises and the veil bears witness to it.
Release rises and vision bears witness to it.12
The eye of internal vision rises and unveiling bears witness to it.
Supplication rises and distance13 bears witness to it.
Forgiveness rises and transgression bears witness to it.
What is not unveiled rises and sainthood bears witness to it.
What is above the Throne rises and the indication of the Real
bears witness to it.
The Sea of Return rises and loss of light14 bears witness to it.
Indigence rises and the manifestation of I-ness15 bears witness
to it.
Grandeur rises and Hidden Identity16 bears witness to it.
Straying rises and whatness bears witness to it.17
The veil rises and whyness18 bears witness to it.
The clothing rises and quantity19 bears witness to it.
Oneness rises and non-existence bears witness to it.
Free will rises and the [primordial] covenant bears witness to
it.20
What is before him rises and the spiritual abodes bear witness
to it.
Quietude rises and establishment bears witness to it.
The heart 21 rises and observation bears witness to it.
Knowledge of the covenant rises and good form bears witness
to it.
The speaking night rises and amazement bears witness to it.
Servanthood rises and staying 22 [in this station] bears witness
to it.
60

contemplation 6






The letters rise and expressions bear witness to them.
Strength rises and drawing near bears witness to it.
Trembling rises and worship bears witness to it.
The perception of veracity23 rises and prostrate submission
bears witness to it.”

When I saw both risings and testimonies succeeding one another
uninterruptedly, I asked, “Will there be an end to all this?”
He said, “Not whilst eternity lasts.”
Then He said to me, “All that you have beheld and all that was
hidden from you and which will occur to you unexpectedly, all
that is for you, because of you, and is in you. But had I revealed
the least of the secrets of the mystery of the essential Unity of
Divinity which I deposited in you, you would not have been capable of bearing its weight and you would have been consumed by
¥re. What would become of you then, if I were to reveal to you
something of Myself or of My essential attributes!”
“Persist for all eternity and you will see nothing but yourself in
every station. Quicker than the blinking of an eye you will ascend
through stations you have never glimpsed and to which you will
never return, but they will remain in you without surpassing your
capacity.”
“If you could evaluate your worth you would limit yourself and,
in reality, you have no limits; so how could your worth be evaluated? Since you are incapable of appreciating your own worth
– which is proper – follow good form and do not seek to know My
worth, for you could never succeed in evaluating it, even if you
were the most noble being in My [eternal] knowledge.”
Then He said to me, “Know that every day seventy thousan