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  • 7/9/2003

1-Ibn Arabi: The Voyage of No Return

This is a concise introduction to the life and thought of Ibn ‘Arabi, who is considered as the ‘Greatest of Sufi Masters’. Written by the author of a best-selling biography of Ibn Arabi,Ibn Arabi: The Voyage of No Return traces the major events of Ibn Arabi’s life: his conversion to Sufism; his travels around Andalusia and the Maghreb; his meetings with the saints of his time; his journey to Mecca; his travels in Egypt, Palestine, Mesopotamia, Anatolia and Syria; his most important books. The events of Ibn Arabi’s ‘inner voyage’, however, are far more spectacular than those of his outer life and are here presented directly from the many auto-biographical sections found in his writings. Through her detailed analysis of Ibn Arabi’s works and her profound understanding of his ideas, Claude Addas gives us a comprehensive insight into the major doctrines of this most influential of Sufi, masters: the doctrine of prophethood and sainthood, of inheritance from the prophets, of the ‘imaginal world’, of the ‘unicity of Being’, of the ‘Seal of the Saints’, and many others. Addas also introduces the main disciples of Ibn Arabi down to the nineteenth century and traces both his unequalled influence on the course of Sufism and the controversies that still surround him till today.Ibn Arabi: The Voyage of No Return is essential reading for anyone interested in Islamic mysticism and is a genuine contribution to scholarship in this field.

Claude Addas is a scholar of Ibn Arabi and the author ofQuest for the Red Sulphur: The Life of Ibn Arabi (published by The Islamic Texts Society, 1993).

‘... there can be no question as to the comprehensive scope and scholarly reliability of this work: the author has included all the major themes of Ibn Arabi’s writings, for the most part expressed in his own words, and has placed them carefully in the context of his major writings and both their immediate and wider historical settings.’ James Morris (Journal of the Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi Society)

Table of Contents

1- Should Ibn Arabi Be Burned?
2- The Prince’s Prayer
3-“Flee towards God”
4- The Masters of the Way
5- The Seal
6-“When what has never been disappears ...”
7-“ The distance of two bows, or closer”
8- The Meccan Illuminations
9-“God is, and nothing is with Him”
10-“Wherever you turn, there is the Face of God”
11- The Two Horizons
12-“Benefit from my existence”
13- Opinions of Ibn Arabi
14- Chronology
15- Bibliography

The Prince’s Prayer

"Since I was old enough to wear a sword-belt, I did not cease mounting steeds ... examining sabre blades, parading in military camps (al-asakir), instead of pouring over the pages of books.” It is doubtful that any of those who knew him well would have been able to predict that this boy who was so attracted to the clanking of military armour would soon devote himself to the strict renunciation of the ascetic. Everything pointed the young Ibn Arabi toward a military career. The Spirit that blows where it wills had decided otherwise.
Ibn ‘Arabi’s family was descended from one of the oldest Arab lineages in Muslim Spain. His ancestors, Arabs from the Yemen, emigrated toward the Iberian peninsula at quite an early date; most likely, during the ‘second wave’ of the conquest, the wave that, in 712, brought several thousand Yemenite horsemen into Andalusia. In any case, they were listed among the “great Arab families” that were living in Andalusia in the census that took place during the reign of the first Umayyad amir (756-788). Thus, they belonged to the khassa, the ruling class that occupied the highest offices in the administration and the army.
Proud of his Arab origins, Ibn Arabi would recall, mostly in his poems, the name of his ancestor the famous Hatim al-Ta’i, the pre-Islamic Arabian poet whose chivalrous virtues are proverbial. On the other hand, he alludes on a number of occasions to the important position of his father, who, he states, “was one of the Sultan’s companions”—a phrase that has given rise to much conjecture, and one which some recent biographers have used to conclude that he was at the very least a minister. A document published a few years ago now allows us a much clearer view. According to its author, Ibn Sha’ar (d. 1256), who met the Shaykh al-Akbar in Aleppo on 27 October 1237 and asked him about his youth, Ibn Arabi “was from a military family in the service of those who govern the country”. Although it is elusive, the phrase reminds us that the career of Ibn Arabi’s father evolved within the framework of the political vicissitudes that accompanied the collapse of the Almoravid regime in Andalusia.

A Dazzling Metamorphosis

There is nothing that could have predicted that the life of this adolescent destined for a military career would go through such a radical change from one day to the next. We may never know exactly what happened, or precisely when. The famous text where he describes his interview in Cordoba with the philosopher Averroes provides at least one piece of chronological information. Ibn Arabi describes himself as a still beardless young man, but one who had been granted illuminative knowledge during the course of a recent retreat.

From this account it can be deducted that the event took place when he was about fifteen. What follows in Ibn Sha’ar’s account adds one more detailed piece of information regarding the circumstances of this short and precocious metanoia. “What led me to leave the army, on the one hand, and to take up the Path on the other hand,” Ibn Arabi told him, “was this: I had gone out one day with Prince Abu Bakr [b.] Yusuf b. Abd al-Mu’min in Cordoba. We went to the great mosque and I watched him while he bowed and prostrated himself in humble and contrite prayer. I then remarked to myself, ‘If someone like this, who is no less than the sovereign of this country, is submissive and humble, and behaves in such a way towards God, it is because this lower world is nothing!’ I left him that same day, never to see him again, and undertook the Path.”



This book introduces the philosophical system of Avicenna (980-1037), the most important and influential philosopher in the medieval Islamic world. Avicenna’s thought is here described by reference to a number of texts, most centrally his masterpiece of brief exposition, Pointers and Reminders (al-Isharat wa’l-tanbihat). After a short biography, and a general account of the practice of philosophy in Avicenna’s day, the book presents Avicenna’s logic, metaphysics and psychology, paying special attention to how points in his philosophy are formulated to find a place for the central doctrines of Islam. The final chapter in the book sketches the influence Avicenna exercised over subsequent philosophers, both in Islam and in the West. A section on further reading introduces the reader to more advanced studies on Avicenna’s life and thought, serving as a point of departure for readers who intend to go more deeply into the works of this fascinating thinker.

1-Tony Street is the Hartwell Assistant Director of Research in Islamic Studies at the Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge. He has edited (with Peter Riddell) Islam: Essays on Scripture, Thought and Society (Brill, 1997) and has published a number of papers on medieval Arabic logic.

r="#017b79">3-Teachings of Rumi
re-created and edited by Andrew Harvey (1999) 172pages

The Teachings of Rumi is divided into four different "movements" and is conceived as a rich interconnected "symphony" of mystical instruction. The four movements follow the development, as Rumi understood it, of the journey of the soul to its Origin and the transmutation of the lover into the Beloved. The first movement, "The Call,"...the second movement "Be A Lover," ...The third movement, "Ordeal,"...the last movement... In Union, the Journey to God has become the Journey in God;...The movement ends with a series of Rumi's holiest meditations on death, on the mystery of inner relationships beyond time and space, and most specifically, on the relationship between the humble loving reader and the work and guidance that stream - and keep streaming - from Rumi's own deathless consciousness. - from the Introduction by Andrew Harvey (Shambhala)

4-Early Sufi Women:

As-Sulami's "Dhikr an-Niswa al-Muta 'abbidat as-Sufiyyat"

By: Cornell, Rkia Elaroui
Publication Date: 2000/02
Publisher: Islamic Texts Society U. S. A.


This work is a translation of the long-lost Dhikr an-Niswat al-muta 'abbidat as-sufiyyat, the influential work on Sufi women saints by Abu Abd ar-Rahman as-Sulami (d 1021). As-Sulami, the great systematizer of Sufi doctrine and author of the famous Tabaqat as-Sufiyya (Categories of the Sufis), originally wrote this work as an appendix to his Tabaqat, which only includes hagiographical notices on male saints.

Separated from the original work soon after as-Sulami's death, the Book of Sufi Women was thought lost until 1991, when a unique manuscript of the work was found in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The present translation was made directly form the Riyadh manuscript, which dates to the year 1084, only sixty-three years after the death of as-Sulami himself. This makes it one of the earliest manuscripts of as-Sulami's works in existence and the earliest work on Sufi women to appear in the Islamic hagiographical tradition.

The work contains notices on eighty-four women and provides a picture of independent female spirituality in Islam that calls into question many long-held myths about the status of women in the Muslim world.


Early Sufi Women is the earliest known work in Islam devoted entirely to women's spirituality. Written by the Persian Sufi Abü 'Abd ar-Rahman as-Sulami (d. 1021), this long-lost work provides portraits of eighty Sufi women who lived in the central Islamic lands between the eighth and eleventh centuries C. E. As spiritual masters and exemplars of Islamic piety, they served as respected teachers and guides in the same way as did Muslim men, often surpassing men in their understanding of Sufi doctrine, the Qur'an, and Islamic spirituality. Whether they were scholars, poets, founders of Sufi schools, or individual mystics and ascetics, they embodied a wisdom that could not be hidden.
 This important addition to the growing body of literature examining the historical presence of women in Islam is the first translation into English of a rare study of eighty-two Sufi women by the tenth-century Iranian scholar as-Sulami. The author was known primarily for his studies on Sufi chivalry and the malamitiyya (the Sufi order following "the way of blame," of which his father was a member), as well as a biographical compendium of the lives of one hundred Sufi men. Originally believed to be an appendix to that work, these brief life-stories of Sufi women are now thought to form an independent work, one which scholars long feared lost--with only references in other sources--until a manuscript was found in a university library in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in 1991. An Arabic edition was published in 1993. This edition contains the original Arabic as well as Rkia Elaroui Cornell's translation, along with her extensive footnotes and introduction, which put the work into the context of as-Sulami's life and times and Sufism in general. Cornell has included as an appendix her translation of a similar study of Sufi women, written some two hundred years later by Ibn al-Jawzi.
This book will be welcomed by all scholars working on the early history of Islam, especially those interested in gender issues. Not only does it provide a careful translation of one of the earliest collections of anecdotes about saintly women, it also provides an historical analysis of the role of women in Sulami's time and copious footnotes filled with information on the early personalities and technical discussions of Sufism.

--Sachiko Murata, Professor of World Religions and Islamic Studies, State University New York

n xstyle="font-family: tahoma"> 5-Christianity/Islam
Essays on Esoteric Ecumenism

Frithjof Schuon

In this remarkable collection of articles, Schuon addresses many of the key concepts and enigmas of these two branches of Semitic monotheism. In the section on Christianity, the crucial question of the two natures of Christ is expounded in terms of the relationship between Absoluteness and relativity.

The chapter on the nature of Protestant Evangelicalism is a seminal work upholding the role of intrinsic orthodoxy in reconciling the exigencies of spiritual idealism with those of the everyday human world. In a sense, what's at issue here is the same problem — but on a different plane — as the enigma of diverse subjectivities. The section on Islam includes fascinating explanations of the various confessional divergences within its orthodox framework and their necessity. Both religions are here viewed as providential and integral manifestations of "divine subjectivity," each including three spheres or levels: the apostolic, the theological and the political. In setting forth and contrasting the key-notions of both faiths, the author illuminates the reasons for their differences as well as the underlying unity and universality of their metaphysical truths. While always pointing to the Divine Origin of authentic spirituality, Schuon’s explication of the elements of “intrinsic orthodoxy” — in contrast to its particular manifestations within a religion — restores a sense of degrees in the Divine Order as well as a sense of proportions on the human plane. It's a perspective that transcends the polemics of conflicting confessional viewpoints and affirms the liberating divine content of diverse religious forms.

6-Form and Substance in the Religions

Frithjof Schuon

The modern world is characterized by its fascination with relativity and individualism. Into this morass, the writings of Frithjof Schuon enter like a bolt of lightning that both clears the air and brings serenity in its wake. The perspective of the perennial philosophy restores a sense of proportion in affirming the transcendent Real and then draws all the consequences spiritually and humanly, as well as aesthetically on the plane of forms.
At the level of ideas, Schuon is an unsurpassable expositor of first principles, and included here are seminal chapters such as Atma-Maya and Truth and Presence. Schuon's fluency in so many "languages" of the spirit is widely acclaimed. There are gems here from the traditional worlds of Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam. These essays definitively establish that the Sacred has not only the first but also the final word.

"Schuon offers metaphysical ideas as a practical instrument for leading men back to the traditions in their purity.... In Schuon's writings...an idea that seems functional only within one particular religious system is stunningly linked to general metaphysical principles that apply not only to all the known traditions but to all of reality as we can conceive it.

Readers...will certainly find in the writings of Schuon...completely new perspectives in every aspect of religious thought."

Jacob Needleman

in the Foreword to The Sword of Gnosis

Table of contents:



Truth and Presence

Form and Substance in the Religions


Substance, Subject, and Object

The Five Divine Presences

The Intersection of Time and Space in Koranic Onomatology

The Koranic Message of Seyyidnâ Aïssâ

The Virginal Doctrine

Synthesis of the Pâramitâs

A Note on the Feminine Element in Mahâyanâ

The Mystery of the Two Natures

The Question of Theodicies

Some Difficulties of Sacred Texts

Paradoxes of Spiritual Expression

The Human Margin

Remarks on a Problem of Eschatology

The Two Paradises


r: #017b79"> Excerpt
The following excerpt is taken from the first chapter of Form and Substance in the Religions.

Truth and Presence

The saving manifestation of the Absolute is either Truth or Presence, but it is not one or the other in an exclusive fashion, for as Truth It comprises Presence, and as Presence It comprises Truth. Such is the twofold nature of all theophanies; thus Christ is essentially a manifestation of Divine Presence, but he is thereby also Truth: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” No one enters into the saving proximity of the Absolute except through a manifestation of the Absolute, be it a priori Presence or Truth.
In Christianity, the element Presence takes precedence over the element Truth: the first element absorbs, as it were, the second, in the sense that Truth is identified with the phenomenon of Christ; Christian Truth is the idea that Christ is God. From this arises the doctrine of the Trinity, which would not make sense if the point of departure in Christianity were the element Truth, that is, a doctrine of the Absolute, as is the case in Islam where God presents Himself in paramount fashion as the One Real, or in the measure allowed by a Semitic exoterism.(1)
  Islam is thus founded on the axiom that absolute Truth is what saves, together of course with the consequences this entails for the will; the exoteric limitation of this perspective is the axiom that Truth alone saves, not Presence. Christianity, on the contrary, is founded on the axiom that the Divine Presence saves; the exoteric limitation here is the axiom on the one hand that only this Presence, not another, saves, and on the other hand that only the element Presence can save, not the element Truth in Itself.(2)
To say with Islam that it is Truth that saves—since it is the Truth of the Absolute—means that all the consequences of Truth must be drawn and that It must be accepted totally, namely, with the will and the sentiments as well as with the intelligence. And to say with Christianity that it is Presence that saves—since it is the presence of Divine Love—means that one is to enter into the mold of this Presence, sacramentally and sacrificially—and let oneself be carried towards Divine Love. It is necessary first to love, then to will, and then in due course to know—to know in relation to the love of God; whereas in Islam first one must know, then will, and in due course one must love—to love in relation to this knowledge of God, if such a schematic way of presenting these matters is allowed.

A priori or exoterically, the element Truth in Christianity is, as we have said, the axiom that Christ is God, and that Christ alone is God; but a posteriori or esoterically, the Christic Truth means, on the one hand, that every manifestation of the Absolute is identical with the Absolute and, on the other, that this manifestation is at once transcendent and immanent. Transcendent, it is Christ above us; immanent, it is Christ within us; it is the Heart, which is both Intellect and Love. To enter the Heart is to enter into Christ, and conversely; Christ is the Heart of the macrocosm as the Intellect is the Christ of the microcosm. “God became man that man might become God”: the Self became Heart that the Heart might become the Self; and this is why “the kingdom of God is within you”.
 It is in this gnosis that Islam and Christianity meet, for the Heart is the immanent Koran or the immanent Prophet, if the emphasis is placed on the active and inspiring function of the Intellect. This amounts to saying that in Islam the element Presence is represented by the Koran on the one hand and by the Prophet on the other; to give full value to this element Presence—with respect to the element Truth, which is the point of departure in Islam—is to become identified sacramentally and eucharistically with the Koran,(3) and it is also to be identified with the Prophet by entering the Muhammadan mold, which is none other than the “primordial norm”, the Fitrah. One enters into this mold by enclosing oneself in the Sunnah, the body of rules of conduct prescribed by the Prophet, and personified by him; now these rules are “horizontal” as well as “vertical”: they concern material and social as well as spiritual life.
The Koran itself, too, is both Truth and Presence: it is Truth by its doctrine, which teaches that there is but one Absolute, and it is Presence owing to its theophanic or sacramental quality, which is the origin of Dhikr, the quintessential prayer.


1.  This reservation means that the theological point of view, by the very fact of its devotional and voluntarist perspective, cannot avoid a certain dualism.
2.  The saving Truth of Islam is “Truth”—not “such and such” a Truth—for it concerns the Absolute and not a phenomenon.
3.  There are Muslims who spend their life reciting the Koran, and there are non-Arab Muslims who chant the Koran even if they do not understand it.

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