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Books and Documents (11 Dec 2014 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Ibn Al Arabi (ra): a Controversial Mystic – Concluding Part – His Doctrine of ‘Unity of Being’


By S. M. Pasha for New Age Islam

Chapter IX

“His Doctrine of “Wahdatul Wujud” Or “Unity of Being”

Imam  Rabbani  Shaikh Ahmed al Farooqi al Sirhindi,   - the chief Mureed  of the great Sufi, who introduced the Naqshbandiyah   Sufistic Order in India and who is popularly known as the “Mujaddid Alif Thani” { the “Renovator”  or “Reformer “of Islam, who comes to the scene once in a thousand years} and who was a contemporary of the great Mughal Emperors  Jahangir and Akbar – bitterly attacks the Shaikh ul Akbar’s doctrine of ‘’ Wahdatul Wujud” or “The Unity Of Being”  In his ‘ Maktubat –e- Rabbani  he preaches that  the Creator cannot  be identified with His Creations. The Mujaddid  Alif  Thani  expounded a new and opposite philosophy called  ‘ Wahdatus  Shuhud ‘  { “ Unity Of Witness’ or Phenomenon-Logistical  Monotheism”}   to check  the then growing trend  towards   pantheism  { because of the Shaikh ul Akbar’s teachings}  and also to harmonize the Doctrines of Sufism with the teachings of orthodox Islam.

Whilst Ibn al Arabi was of the opinion that ‘Unit Of Being” is an “ Objective Experience’ , the Mujaddid  professed that it is an “Subjective Experience”  because , though a mystic  might feel as if he is identified with God almighty, in fact it is NOT so. What actually happens, according to him, is that in his or her ‘” Sukr” {Rapturous Ecstasy} the mystic loses himself or herself in the object of his or her love and therefore feels as if he or she has reached the stage of “’Fana {total annihilation}   and thus attained “Baqa {Eternal Life}.  This experience, Shaikh Sirhindi declares, is both  illusive and transient  because the mystic reverts  from “Hal: { ecstatic  intoxication}   to his or her original  state of “Sahu” { sobriety}  which is  the stage  of  “Abdiyath’  {servitude}.   Hence, “Abdiyath” {servitude}.    Hence, “Abdiyath” (servitude} is, according to the Mujaddid, the Summum Bonum of the spiritual life of one who believes in a transcendental God almighty   and that the stage of “Abdiyath”  can be reached only when one is completely free from all kinds of worldly attachments.”

Dr. Yusuf Husain, the author of ‘’Glimes Of Medieval Indian Culture’  says  that : “ the Mujaddid’s theory of “Modified Monoism” silenced all discussion  on Theoretical Mysticism in India for nearly a century but it was Shah Waliullah Muhaddis Dehlavi  who re-opened  the  controversy afresh “

Shah  Waliullah Muhaddis Dehkavi, in his  illuminating treatise  “ Fais Lathul Wahdatul Wujud Wash Shuhud “ { “Judgement On The Doctrine Of The ‘Unity Of Being” And ‘ Apartentism”}  claims  to have been appointed by God Almighty to effect a  COMPROMISE between  and synthesize the two diametrically opposite points of views.  The Shah describes, in one of his VISIONS and says that he saw a large number of ‘men of God” who were divided into two groups.  One group looked fresh with their faces shining and the other consisting of people with dark and drawn faces.  The first group belonged to those remembered Allah Subhan ahu Ta’ala whilst the latter were the believers in the doctrine of the “Unity of Being” and those who devoted themselves to penetrating the mystery of existence.   Shah Waliullah further says that  the two groups were disputing between themselves  trying to prove the superiority  of their respective doctrines, He further states that , on hearing their arguments, he was convinced that  both the parties were UNAWARE of the “ Aqiqath ul  Jamia” {  “ the comprehensive reality}  without  which the refinement of the soul is not possible.  Thus, the great Sufi has dispassionately appraised the value of the two doctrines and he opines that both the Shsikhul Akbar and the Mujaddid maintain that the Real Being belongs to Allah Subhan ahu Ta’ala and only HE really exists. He further maintained that Sufism is based on intense religious experience and that Its Essentials Cannot Be Presented in a Logical Form. He, therefore, felt that, to interpret the feeling of Union with Allah Subhan ahu Ta’ala through a logical system, the Shaikh al Akbar had to give it a form of Pantheism and to maintain his position; Ibn al Arab took liberties and many concessions with the Shariat (the Path) and this consequently and naturally resulted in a great confusion of thought.

In  his letter to Shaikh Afandi Ismail bin Abdullah of Madinathul Munawwarah  { which is a part of, what are known as the “Madina Letters” ) Shah Waliullah  justifies the Two Doctrines  by declaring that “ Wahdatul Wujud”  and “ Wahdatush Shuhud”  are but relative terms  used  on different occasions as arguments about the existence of the DIVINE BEING  and His relation with human beings and the world.  The Shah further feels that the difference of interpretation was due to the metaphorical language used by the two Sufis,

In his “Tafhimate Ilahiyah” Shah Waliullah asserts that in the mystic path, the Stage of the “Apartentism” Is Higher than that of the “Unity of Bing”

Khwaja Mir Dard –yet another eminent Sufi of the Naqshbandi  Sufistic Order and contemporary of Shah Waliullah,   in his “ Ilm ul Kitaab”criticises  the Shaikh ul Akbar’s doctrine of “Unity Of Being”   The Khwaja makes it clear that he criticizes the Shaikh ul Akbar’s doctrine in the light of his {Shah Waliullah’s} own inner experience.  Subjectively speaking, however, the Khwaja justifies it as it helps to disassociate the mystic from the phenomenal existence which is other than God.  In the ultimate analysis, the Khwaja feels that both the doctrines have one and the same object in view. He is of the further view that the doctrine of the ‘unity of being’ is expanded by those in the state of “Haal” {ecstatic intoxication}

Khwaja’s  main argument   Against  Ibn al Arabi’s doctrine  is that it is highly dangerous  for the uninitiated and unguided  common masses to give expression to such lofty ideas. Nevertheless, the Khwaja seeks to amend Ibn al Arabi’s doctrine by substituting the word ‘Noor’ [ Light} for it is   a more comprehensive word and also because “Wujud” and “Noor” imply self-manifestation without the help of the other,.”

The Shaikh ul Akbar’s doctrine of mystical philosophy, which flung an imposing challenge against orthodox Mullaism  in his days, continues even today  to have an enormous influence on Muslim Thought>

Quite recently an eminent Islamic scholar Maulana  Ashraf Ali Thanvi   in his  “ Attanbihath Tarrabi Fi Tanzih Ibnu’l Arabi’  declares that the Shaikh ul Akbar Ibn al Arabi  Upheld The Shariah And Orthodox  Islamic Dogmas And Rituals And That These Texts  [ viz., ‘Futhuhath’ and ‘ Fusus” }  Neutralizes  His { Ibn al Arabi’s} Apparently Heretic Utterances.’’   Ashraf Ali Saheb feels that “it is unfair to pick and choose and isolate his utterances and pronounce a judgement on the Shaikh on the strength of those utterances alone.

“Man’s life is his fair name and not his length of years

Man’s death is his ill-name and not the day that nears.

-         Shaikh Abu’l Atahiy

Chapter X

The Shaikh - Sufi or Shaitan?

In the honest view of the humble writer of this mini booklet on a macro subject, the Shaikh ul Akbar Ibn al Arabi was more sinned against than sinning. His style and method of presenting his ideas were undoubtedly uncommon and extraordinarily obscure. He presents the ideas purposely because writing in Simple, Direct and matter of fact language meant to him courting of trouble and even death.  Because of this, one should not jump to the hasty and erroneous conclusion that the Shaikh was a coward.  Is not discretion the best part of valour?  Is it a sin or a crime to make the best of a bad bargain?  Can the taking of precautionary measures to safeguard not only his LIFE but also his valuable Works, be considered to be erroneous?  Despite  his desperate attempts to a adopt a fantastic style , credulous theologians, orthodox fanatic  and bigoted Ulema  saw and made the gullible masses to see red rags of pantheism in  his works of the Shaikh ul Akbar.

I admit that the views of Ibn al Arabi were NOT in accordance with the common faith of the man-in-the – street.  This is a plus point to his opponents and it helped, in no small way, to fan the flames of misguided fury against him.

Ibn al Arabi’s philosophy was, is and may be in the future too, beyond the comprehension of many.  To appreciate  or to at least understand the real significance of the doctrines and pronouncements of the Shaikh ul Askbar  sans the  cobwebs of misunderstandings  and blind prejudices, a minute, dispassionate, systematic, dedicated and through scrutiny of his works, is a must.

The Author Of This Tiny Booklet Will Consider Himself A Coward Of The First Waters If He Fails To Loudly And Clearly Proclaim With All The Strength At His Command That The Shaikh Ul Akbar Was A Poet Par Excellence, A Professed Scholar, A Philosopher Of Lofty Merit, A Copious Writer, A Perfect Sufi In The Widest Sense Of The Term And A Rare Ascetic Of Rare Talents.

Whether Ibn Al Arabi was a Sultan among Sufis or a Substitute for Shaitan, Only the Common Creator of Sufis and the Shaitan Alone Knows

As Far As I Am Concerned I Seek Refuge Under The Sagacious Saying: “Wallahu Aalam Bis Sawaab” – meaning: Allah alone knows.

“Praise Allah and walk round the Kaaba seventy times, not seven and yet impious remain!

Devote is he alone who, when he may feast his desire is found with courage to abstain” – Shaikh Abu’l ala Ma’arri”

URL of Part 3: http://www.newageislam.com/books-and-documents/s-m-pasha-for-new-age-islam/ibn-al-arabi-r--a-controversial-mystic---part-three---at-damascus,-shaikh-the-man-and-his-works/d/100274

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/books-and-documents/s-m-pasha-for-new-age-islam/ibn-al-arabi-(ra)--a-controversial-mystic-–-concluding-part-–-his-doctrine-of-‘unity-of-being’/d/100434



  • Assalamu ;Alaikum wa Rahmatullah,
    I don't mean to praise anybody but Allah that you deserve great appreciation and His reward for many things in the journal. May He be pleased to reward all those behind both here and in the Hereafter; may He be pleased to realise the ideal Islam popularly accepted, revered and practised,Ameen. 
    May I ask you what happened to the chapters: VII,VII AND IX of the book about Ibn Al Arabi? 

    By C S Ibrahim Kutty - 12/16/2014 2:54:48 AM

  • Dear JNU, you can find great deal of knowledge about the life and works of Abul ʿAla Al-Maʿarri on the internet. Here is a briefed info about him taken from the Wikipedia:

    Abul ʿAla Al-Maʿarri (Arabic أبو العلاء المعري Abū al-ʿAlāʾ al-Maʿarrī, full name أبو العلاء أحمد بن عبد الله بن سليمان التنوخي المعري Abū al-ʿAlāʾ Aḥmad ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn Sulaimān al-Tanūẖī al-Maʿarrī; 973–1058) was a blind Arabian philosopher, poet, and writer.

    He was a controversial rationalist of his time, attacking the dogmas of religion and rejecting the claim that Islam or any other religion possessed the truths they claimed. He was equally sarcastic towards the religions of Muslims, Jews, and Christians.

    In 2013, almost a thousand years after his death, the al-Nusra Front, a branch of al-Qaeda, beheaded the statue of Al Maʿarri during the conflict in Syria.[1] The motive behind the beheading is disputed, theories range from the fact that he was an heretic, to the fact that he is believed by some to be related to the Assad family.[2]

    He started his career as a poet at an early age, at about 11 or 12 years old. He was educated at first in Maʿarra and Aleppo, later also in Antioch and other Syrian cities. Among his teachers in Aleppo were companions from the circle of Ibn Khalawayh. This grammarian and Islamic scholar had died in 980/1 CE, when al-Maʿarri was still a child. Al-Maʿarri nevertheless laments the loss of Ibn Ḵh̲ālawayh in strong terms in a poem of his Risālat al-ghufrān. Al-Qifti reports that when on his way to Tripoli, Al-Maʿarri visited a Christian monastery near Latakia where he listened to debates about Hellenic philosophy, which planted in him the seeds of his later skepticism and irreligiosity; but other historians such as Ibn al-Adim deny that he had been exposed to any theology other than Islamic doctrine.


    Al-Maʿarri was a skeptic in his beliefs and denounced superstition and dogmatism in religion. Thus, he has been described as a pessimistic freethinker.[10] One of the recurring themes of his philosophy was the rights of reason against the claims of custom, tradition, and authority. Al-Maʿarri taught that religion was a "fable invented by the ancients",[11] worthless except for those who exploit the credulous masses.[11] Al-Maʿarri criticized many of the dogmas of Islam, such as the Hajj, which he called, "a pagan's journey."[13] He rejected claims of any divine revelation.[14] His creed was that of a philosopher and ascetic, for whom reason provides a moral guide, and virtue is its own reward.[15]

    Al-Maarri's fundamental pessimism is expressed in his anti-natalist recommendation that no children should be begotten, so as to spare them the pains of life. In an elegy composed by him over the loss of a relative, he combines his grief with observations on the ephemerality of this life:

    Soften your tread. Methinks the earth's surface is but bodies of the dead,

    Walk slowly in the air, so you do not trample on the remains of God's servants.[16]

    His religious skepticism and anti-religious views are expressed in a poem which states, "The inhabitants of the earth are of two sorts: those with brains, but no religion, and those with religion, but no brains."[17]

    He was equally sarcastic towards the religion of Islam as he was towards Judaism and Christianity. Al-Maʿarri remarked that monks in their cloisters or devotees in their mosques were blindly following the beliefs of their locality: if they were born among Magians or Sabians they would have become Magians or Sabians.[18]


    An early collection of his poems appeared as "The Tinder Spark" (Saqṭ al-zand; سقط الزند). It gained great popularity and established his reputation as a poet.

    A second, more original collection appeared under the title "Unnecessary Necessity" (Luzūm mā lam yalzam لزوم ما لا يلزم أو اللزوميات ), which is how Al-Maʿarri saw the business of living; also Luzūmīyāt "Necessities", alluding to the unnecessary complexity of the rhyme scheme used.


    His third famous work is a work of prose known as "The Epistle of Forgiveness" (Risālat al-ghufrān رسالة الغفران). In this work, the poet visits paradise and meets the Arab poets of the pagan period, contrary to Muslim doctrine which holds that only those who believe in God can find salvation (Quran 4:48). Because of the aspect of conversing with the deceased in paradise, the Resalat Al-Ghufran has been compared to the Divine Comedy of Dante.[20] which came hundreds of years after

    "Paragraphs and Periods" (Al-Fuṣūl wa al-ghāyāt) is a collection of homilies.

    By Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi - 12/12/2014 10:55:43 AM

  • When we believe that God is eternal, he existed when nothing existed. That is nothingness is God from that nothingness, the being came into being. We believe that God made or ordered them to be everything what we see or perceive in the universe. That is he created everything from his own being. Every thing came out of his Being because no raw material was present before he made everything. If we believe that the raw material for all the creations was present before Him, we will assert that something existed before him or someoneelse made something. This way we will negate the beliefe that He is the only Creator as He Himself claims. Suppose, a man wants to make tea. He takes tea leaves (that is present already there), sugar (which is also present there), milk and water (which is also present there). He takes them in a kettle (which is present there already) and boils it on the stove (which is also present there already). The result is tea which is different in form and taste and a new thing. Man made tea but the tea leaves, sugar, water, milk, the kettle and the stove were not made by man. But in case of God, He says that nothing was present before he created the universe. If he made the earth, the ingredients of the earth were also created by Him. If he made the sky, the stars, the comets, the milky way, man, mountains, rivers, animals, birds etc were all created by him and all the ingredients and constituents were also created by him. So from where all these came? Naturally, all the ingredients came from his own being as a child comes out from the mother's being. So, all the creations are the part of His Being as they have emanated from within his Being. Nothing was existent outside him before. If we believe that some thing or the raw material for the universe were present and He made the universe from them, he would not be called the sole Creator and the only God.
    This is the point of the believers of the philsoophy of Wahdatul Wujud. If people think about God and universe from this perspective, they will not be wrong.

    By ahmad - 12/12/2014 5:33:53 AM

  •  what was the name of Shaikh Abu’l ala Ma’arri”, how many books did he wrote, in which year he was born and died. what extraordinary did he do in his life? 
    By JNU - 12/11/2014 7:51:32 AM

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