Sadia Dehlvi The mystic and philosopher Shaykh Muhyiddin Ibn al Arabi is amongst my favourite early Sufis. Born in Murcia, Moorish Spain in 1165, he came to be called Shaykh ul Akbar, the great master. One of the most prolific writers in Islamic history, Ibn al Arabis writings immensely impacted Muslim communities throughout the world. He remains a refreshing voice that throws light on the human condition in any time and any place. Rooted in Islamic sciences, his work is universal, accepting that each person has a unique path to the Truth. The 19-year-old Ibn al Arabi met the renowned philosopher Ibn Rushd (d 1198) whom the West knows as Averroes. The philosopher asked the young mystic, Do the fruits of mystic illumination agree with philosophical speculation? Ibn al Arabi replied, Yes and no. Between the yes and no, the spirits take their flight beyond the matter. Impressed with the answer Ibn Rushd exclaimed, Glory to Allah. I have lived at a time when there exists a master of this experience, one of those who opens the locks of His doors. Fourteen years later when Ibn Rushd died, Ibn al Arabi attended the funeral and referred to him as a great leader. Born in the town of Muricia in Spain, Ibn al Arabi moved to Seville where he studied religious sciences. Since his father was a devotee of the renowned Sufi scholar Shaykh Abdul Qadir Jilani of Baghdad, Ibn al Arabi grew up in Sufi circles. The Master attributed his education to two women, one of them being the mystic Fatima of Cordova. Ibn al Arabi travelled to many lands studying alchemy, astrology, the Hermetic tradition and neo-platonic philosophy. The Shaykh spent many years in Andalusia and North Africa. While in Morocco, he dreamt that he should travel to Fez where he would meet a certain Muhammad al Hasar with whom he should travel east. The two men met and travelled together to Tunis, Alexandria and Cairo where Hasar died. Ibn al Arabi then travelled alone to Mecca where he joined a group of Sufis. Here, he met Nizam, a beautiful woman who created a lasting impression on the mystic. She was the inspiration behind the book of poetry Tarjuman al Ashwaq (The Interpreter of Desires). Accusations were hurled at him for writing erotic verse, so Arabi wrote a commentary on the book proving that the imagery was not in conflict with Islamic teachings. Ibn al Arabi finally settled in Damascus where he taught and wrote till his death. A prolific writer, he authored numerous books on Sufi philosophy asserting that perfect knowledge of God needed both the eye of reason and the eye of imagination. He coined the term insaan il kaamil, the perfect man, that became the central theme of Sufism. He believed the goal of religion to be the achievement of human perfection. Ibn al Arabis philosophy and articulation of wahdat ul wujood, Oneness of Being, remains the most celebrated and controversial idea throughout the Muslim world influencing Sufi philosophy forever. Among the Masters best-known works are Fusus al Hakim (Bezels of Wisdom) and Futuhat al Makiyah (Meccan Revelations). Ibn al Arabi believed that the ultimate goal of love is to recognise it as Gods essence. Ibn al Arabi explained, It is He who is revealed in every face, sought in every sign, gazed upon by every eye, worshipped in every object of worship, and pursued in the unseen and the visible. Not a single one of His creatures can fail to find God in its primordial and original nature. He believed, the movement which is the existence of the universe is the movement of love. Ibn al Arabi died in 1240, remembered for his contribution in understanding Divine Love in prose and verse: Wonder, A garden among flames My heart has become capable of every form: A pasture for gazelles and a convent for Christian monks, And a temple for idols, and the pilgrims Kaaba, The tables of the Torah and the book of the Koran. I believe in the religion of Love Whatever direction its caravans may take, For love is my religion and my faith. Asian Age