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  • 8/9/2003

1-Unseen Rain

 Quatrains of Rumi

96 pages, Paperback

In some languages of the Middle East the word for "rain" and the word for "grace" are the same. These quatrains are evidence of that invisible gift falling on the mature spirit and master poet, Jelaluddin Rumi. Unseen rain is the second volume, from Threshold Books, of these two translators, John Moyne and Coleman Barks.

2-The Seal of the Saints

Prophethood and Sainthood in the Doctrine of Ibn Arabi

Ibn Arabi—born in 1165 in Andalusia and died in 1240 in Damascus—was recognised in his lifetime as al-Shaykh al-Akbar, the supreme spiritual Master. Over a period of eight centuries he has exerted a profound influence on Islamic mysticism. In recent years a number of important studies have helped acquaint the Western reader with Ibn Arabi’s metaphysics and this process is now greatly enhanced by the present volume in which Michael Chodkiewicz explores for the first time, the Master’s ‘hagiology’ or teaching on sainthood. Founded on a careful analysis of the relevant texts, Chodkiewicz’s work examines this essential aspect of Ibn Arabi’s doctrine of sainthood, defining the nature and function of sainthood, while also specifying the criteria for a typology of saints based on the notion of prophetic inheritance.
Michel Chodkiewicz is Director of Studies at l’Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales,Paris.

‘This is by far the best available explanation of the central importance of sanctity for understanding both the practical and the theoretical teachings of Sufism.’
William Chittick

‘An extraordinarily good book about an extremely difficult thinker...Chodkiewicz not only knows the texts remarkably well, but also avoids and rejects certain errors of perspective common among other scholars.’ TLS

Book Extract
The Muhammadan Reality:

For a saint, to be the heir of one of the prophets is always to be the heir of Muhammad. Indeed, ‘the prophets were his deputies in the created world when he [i.e. Muhammad] was pure spirit, aware of being so, prior to the appearance of his body or flesh. When he was asked, ‘When were you a prophet?’, he replied, ‘I was a prophet when Adam was between water and clay’, meaning: when Adam had not yet come into existence. And this was so until the appearance of his most pure body. At that moment the authority of his deputies came to an end … the authority, that is to say, of the other messengers and prophets.’ As we will see later, other texts by Ibn Arabi define more clearly the nature and function of this primordial Muhammadan Reality(haqiqa muhammadiyya),of which every prophet since Adam, the first prophet, is but a partial refraction at a particular moment of human history.
What is the real meaning of the wordhaqiqa,which we have translated as ‘Reality’? According to theLisan al-arab,it signifies the true meaning of a thing as opposed to its metaphorical meaning(majazi);it also signifies the ‘heart’ of a thing or matter, its true nature, its essence, and thus the inviolable inmost self of a being, itshurma. The concept of a Muhammadan reality which is not only fully constituted and active before the appearance in this world of the person named Muhammad, but is also situated prior to history, has been the subject of heated debate in Islam. Ibn Taymiyya and several other writers, in accordance with their usual practice, attempted to prove its innovative and aberrant nature (bid’a)by challenging the main scriptural reference for it, which is thehadithquoted above where Muhammad says, ‘I was a prophet when Adam was between water and clay’. For the Hanbalite polemicist, thishadith isa forgery and the only permissible version of it is the one quoted by Ibn Hanbal and Tirmidhi, where the Prophet apparently says, ‘I was a prophet when Adam was between spirit and flesh’ (bayna’l-ruh wa’l-jasad). Without stressing the fact that the differences in phraseology between these two concurrently existing forms of the same statement seem to us, ultimately, to be minor, we should point out that the criteria by which traditionists judge the authenticity of ahadith are purely external and have reference essentially to the reliability of the chain of transmission. Yet Ibn Arabi, who, even when an old man, never ceased to study thehadith in the usual ways and knew everything there was to know about the traditions, says on several occasions that an ‘unveiling’ (kashf) is the only sure way of judging the validity of a particular remark attributed to the Prophet, and in so saying he challenges the doctrinal authority of the doctors of the Law.
On the other hand, even though the phrasehaqiqa muhammadiyya made its appearance late and in this sense is indeed abid’a or innovation, the concept that it represents in abstract terms is one of the most traditional in Islam, where it is clearly symbolized as the ‘Muhammadan light’ (nur muhammadi, nur Muhammad). Moreover, the association of the Prophet with a symbolism of light is not, in Islamic terms, a human invention, but is based on the actual words of God. In the Qur’an (33:46), Muhammad is called ‘a torch which illumines’ (sirajan muniran); another verse (5:15) says that ‘a light has come to you from God’, which is interpreted by the commentators as a reference to the Prophet. For Muslims, this ‘light’ is not simply a metaphor. Ibn Ishaq, who was born only seventy years after the Prophet’s death, reports that the Prophet’s father Abdallah, just before his marriage with Amina, met a woman who tried in vain to seduce him. When he saw her again on the day after his wedding, and the Prophet had already been conceived, this same woman turned away from him, and on being asked why, said, ‘The light which was upon you yesterday has left you’. Ibn Ishaq explains that his own father told him that this woman had seen between Abdallah’s two eyes a radiant white mark, which disappeared when the Prophet was conceived. According to a slightly different version of this story, as related by Ibn Ishaq, the woman speaking to Abdallah was no other than the sister of Waraqa ibn Nawfal—the Christian from Mecca who, when questioned by the Prophet after the first visit of the angel Gabriel, assured him of the authenticity of the Revelation—and had been warned by her brother of the imminent coming of a prophet. What she had perceived in the face of Abdallah was the ‘light of prophethood’ of which he was the transmitter.
This story was taken up by later historians such as Tabari (died 310/923) and widely diffused by all the writers who wrote ‘histories of the prophets’. The interpretation of it very soon introduced the explicit theme of theverus propheta,based, among other things, on a hadithquoted by Bukhari in which the Prophet, ‘borne’ century after century and generation upon generation (qarnan fa-qarnan), appears to be travelling through time towards the point where his physical nature becomes manifest. Is this journeying of the prophetic Seed to its final birth to be understood as taking place in the ‘loins’ of his ancestors, of his carnal lineage, or as a series of stopping-places in the persons of the successive bearers of the Revelation, the one hundred and twenty-four thousand prophets of whom he is both the forefather and the final Seal? Ibn Abbas (died 68/687),thetarjuman al-qur’an or ‘interpreterpar excellenceof the Qur’an’, commenting on verse 26:219,seems to favour the second meaning: according to him, Muhammad goes from prophet to prophet (min nabiyyin ila nabiyyin)until the moment when God causes him to ‘emerge’ (akhraja)as a prophet in his turn. Ibn Sa’d, who cites this, also refers to ahadithwhich Tabari likewise mentions, and in which Muhammad says, ‘I am the first man to have been created and the last to have been sent [i.e. as a prophet].’ The truth is that both these themes are bound up with each other, for the traditional genealogy of Muhammad also includes a series of prophets, among whom are Abraham and Ishmael. However, anotherhadith,which is absent from the canonical collections, and in which explicit reference is made toNur muhammadi,was destined to play a major part in the meditation on the Prophet’s primordiality. It is mentioned by one of the Companions, Jabir ibn Abdallah, and runs as follows: ‘O Jabir, God created the light of your Prophet out of His Light before he created things.’

3-Spain under the Crescent Moon

Angus Macnab

 Fons Vitae 1999

This is the most entrancing book on Moorish Spain since Washington Irving's Tales from the Alhambra. It may be even more so, because, where Moorish Spain is concerned, truth is usually stranger than fiction: Agnus Macnab's Spain under the Crescent Moon is composed of a series of historical sketches so irresistibly readable that they might have been lifted straight from the Arabian Nights-except that, unlike Scheherazade, he quotes unimpugnable historical sources for every wonder he recounts.
The book is highly relevant to the pressing contemporary problem of how to relate to the Islamic world. The history of Moorish Spain shows that the question is not a new one, and it seems beyond doubt that the solutions (because they came from a deeper level) reached during the many centuries of Christian-Muslim co-existence were more intelligent than the superficial and often ill-informed blundering so common in this area today.
Macnab writes deftly on art and history, chivalry and religion, Christian and Muslim kings, and Christian and Muslim holy men. His narrative is an open window onto an age of faith. He describes Arab accomplishments in poetry, music, and fine manners, as well as in the more familiar domains of architecture and calligraphy-the Alhambra at Granada being (with the possible exception of the Taj Mahal) the most renowned Islamic building in the world. He paints a fascinating picture of Islamic mysticism in a manner that recalls Ibn 'Arabi's account (published in English as Sufis of Andalusia) of the spiritual guides and masters that he knew as a youth in 12th century Spain.
Most of the chapters of Spain under the Crescent Moon were first delivered as weekly broadcasts on the North American service of the Spanish Radio, a series that gave rise to many appreciative letters. Now presented for the first time in book form, Spain under the Crescent Moon is a rich source of delight and new understanding.
Angus Macnab was born in London of New Zealand-Scots parents. He received a classical education at the ancient "Public School" of Rugby and at Christ Church College, Oxford. He was a gifted translator of Latin and Greek poetry, but as a profession he chose teaching. His interest inSpain began in 1936, and after the Second World War, in which he served as a volunteer ambulance driver, he learned Spanish and decided to make Spain his home. For many years he lived with his Irish wife and three children in the charming Plaza de Santo Tome (opposite the church of the same name) in Toledo. While there he received a number of distinguished visitors from England and America including novelists Evelyn Waugh and James Michener, musician and Tibetologist Marco Pallis, and publisher Tom Burns.
In 1938, under the influence of G.K Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc, Angus Macnab embraced neo-scholasticism and traditional Catholicism. For some this could have been an intellectual straitjacket, but in conjunction with his classical roots and his later oriental studies, it provided Macnab with a fine philosophical tool for a subtle examination of the two traditional cultures (Christian and Islamic) of Medieval Spain. The fruits of his investigation in this field were his books Spain under the Crescent Moon andToledo, Sacred and Profane.

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