Muhyiddin Ibn `Arabi
And The Diversity of Beliefs
ed. Omar KN

Intro: Shaykh Muhyiddin Ibn `Arabi is concerned with believers becoming limited to what they have found to be true from the Real. He reminds us that God - Allah - as He really is, is not the same as the God that people may imagine to be, although Allah is not absent from this specific form either [i]. Allah is unlimited, but the believer's imagination, or opinion of God - Allah - is naturally limited.
Lâ ilâha illa-LLâh.

There have been many instances when Shaykh Muhyi al-Din's teachings have either been misunderstood or misused. They are misunderstood by those who don't understand the special concepts which he uses (and the intricacy of his methology) and misused by others who quote from some of his seemingly liberal statements to support their perennialist ideas.

While perennialism maintains that all world-religions are equally valid ways to God, and that it does not matter which religion to adhere to, this is not the Islamic position.(1) → However, we see that all authentic religions are faced with the same satanic dangers which threaten our societies, therefore it is absolutely necessary that those who are aware of those dangers, strive hard against this evil in its various aspects.

Shaykh Muhyi al-Din Ibn `Arabi - also called the Greatest Shaykh - expressed and interpreted the inner (and initiatory) teachings of Sufism (tasawwuf) which form an integral part of islam's orthodox teachings and integrated islam's metaphysical doctrine, so access to his texts is sometimes rather exacting, and support is necessary here as elsewhere on the Way. Certainly
Shaykh Muhyi al-Din is after all a defender and beacon of the Shari`ah, the Divine Law [b] brought by the Messenger of Allah MHMD , the excellence of which is ihsân or tasawwuf and the knowledge of God (ma`rifah).

In the following text-excerpts some of his thoughts are presented on the diversity of beliefs and schools, with our comments [in brackets].
And Allah knows best and most.

No Individual Can Escape Having A Belief

No individual can escape having a belief [a personal, individual belief (i`tiqâd)[e]] concerning his Lord. Through it he resorts to Him and seeks Him [not modern times: atheists, they don't seek Him in any given way.[h] However the Real (God) discloses Himself constantly[d] to this world]. When the Real discloses Himself to him in his belief (personal, individual belief i`tiqâd)[e], he recognizes and acknowledges Him. But if He discloses Himself to him in other than his belief, he denies Him and seeks refuge from Him, thus displaying discourtesy toward Him in the actual situation, though he himself supposes that he has shown courtesy. → hadith: seeing the Lord on the Day of Resurrection, they will first deny Him.(2)

No believer believes in any God other than what he has made in himself, for the God of beliefs is made. [The personal beliefs (i`tiqâd) are a product of the person's specific disposition [h], level of understanding, spiritual tendency, etc; whereas the 'credo' (`aqidah) is a given. However, this does not mean that Allah is absent from 'the belief which is made.'[i]]The believers see nothing but themselves and what they have made within themselves. So consider: The levels of mankind in knowledge of God correspond exactly to their levels in vision of Him on the Day of Resurrection.(2) I have told you the cause which brings this about.

Beware of becoming delimited (muqayyad) by a specific knotting [personal belief (i`tiqâd) in contrast to 'credo' (`aqîdah) [e]] and disbelieving in everything else, lest great good escapes you. Or rather, knowledge of the situation as it actually is in itself will escape you. Be in yourself a hyle (substance, something?) for the forms of all beliefs [see that your heart can receive all aspects of Truth, not just one aspect of it.], for God is wider and more tremendous than that He should be constricted by one knotting [personal belief] rather than another. For He says, "Whithersoever you turn, there is the face of God" (2:115) He did not mention one place rather than another; and he said that the "face" of God is there, and the face of a thing is its reality. Through that He has alerted the hearts of the gnostics, lest they busy themselves with the accidental affairs of the life of this world instead of keeping the like of this in mind [Not to reject other aspects of the Truth]. For the servant does not know in which breath he will be taken. He may be taken in the time of heedlessness, and he would not be equal to him who is taken in the time of presence.(3)

The Men are those who concur ( are in accord ) with the belief of every believer in respect of that which has conveyed it to him, taught it, and established it. [What is meant here and elsewhere is not religions as such, but the correct understanding of what is God.] On the Day of Visitation [→ hadith: visiting their Lord in paradise on Fridays] the Men will see their Lord with the eye of every belief.

He who counsels his own soul should investigate, during his life in this world all doctrines (maqâla) concerning God. He should learn from whence each possessor of a doctrine affirms the validity of his doctrine. [For all conceptions of God - Allah - have their part in the Truth.] Once its validity has been affirmed for him in the specific mode in which it is correct for him who holds it, then he should support it in the case of him who believes in it. He should not deny it or reject it, for he will gather its fruit on the Day of Visitation, whatever that belief might be. This is the all-embracing knowledge of God.

The root which shows the soundness of what we have said is the fact that every observer (nâzir) of God is under the controlling property of one of the names of God. That name discloses itself to him and gives to him a specific belief [personal, individual belief i`tiqâd] through its self-disclosure, such that he is unaware. The divine names all possess a sound ascription to God. Hence his vision of God in each belief with all the diversity is sound; there is nothing of error in it. This is given to him by the most complete unveiling . ....

So turn your attention to what we have mentioned and put it into practice! Then you will give the Divinity its due and you will be one of those who are fair toward their Lord in knowledge of Him [You have good manners and respect of your Lord (adâb)]. For God is exalted high above entering under delimitation. He cannot be tied down by one form rather than another. From here you will come to know the all-inclusiveness of felicity for God's creatures, and the all-embracingness of the mercy which embraces everything.(4) [Allah says:] "And My Mercy embraceth all things ..." (7:156)

If anyone wants entrance to God - Allah, let him abandon his reason and place before himself God's Law, for God does not accept delimitation (taqyîd), and reason is a delimitation. To Him belongs disclosing Himself in each form, just as to Him belongs "composing you in whatever form He desired" (82:8). So praise belongs to God, who has composed us within the form which neither delimits nor confines Him within a determinate form! (see hadith: "My earth and My heaven embrace me not, but the heart of My believing servant does embrace Me," →embracing through knowledge of God. SPK107) ... SPK337

The Real never ceases disclosing Himself constantly to hearts in this world.(5) Hence man's incoming thoughts undergo variation because of the divine self-disclosure in a manner of which no one is aware except the Folk of Allah. In the same way, they know that the diversity of forms manifest in this world and the next in all existent things is nothing other than His variation, since He is the Manifest, for He is the identity of each thing. SPK338

You will know nothing of God except that which comes from Him and which He brings into existence within you, either as inspiration or the unveiling of a self-disclosure which has been occasioned. All of this is a temporary originated object of knowledge. Hence nothing knows anything except a temporally originated possible thing like itself. The possible things are infinite, since they do not enter into existence all at once. On the contrary, they are given existence instant by instant. Hence "None knows God but God," and the temporally originated engendered thing knows nothing but a temporally originated thing like itself, which the Real engenders within it. God says, "There comes not to them a remembrance from their Lord temporary originated, [but they listen to it yet playing, diverted their hearts]" (21:2) This "Remembrance" is His Speech, which had a temporal origination within them and became an object of their knowledge. Hence their knowledge only became attached to a temporally originated thing, [not to God's eternal speech]. (II 552.22) SPK341

Junayd was asked about knowledge (ma`rifa) and the knower (`ârif) . He replied, "The water takes on the color of its cup." In other words, the container displays its effects inwhat it contains. Junayd said this to let you know that you will never judge your object of knowledge except by yourself,since you will never know anything but yourself (your nafs). Whatever may be the color of the cup, water becomes manifest in that color. The person without knowledge judges that the water is like that, since sight gives that to him SPK341

So also are the self-disclosures within the divine loci of manifestation, wherever these might be. The gnostic perceives them constantly. Self-disclosure belongs to him constantly, and he differentiates it constantly: The gnostic knows who is disclosing Himself and why He is disclosing Himself. But only the Real knows how (kayf) He discloses Himself. No one in the cosmos, no one other than God - Allah - , knows that, neither angel nor prophet. For that is one of the specific characteristics from the Real, since the Essence is unknown at root. Hence the knowledge of how He discloses Himself in the loci of manifestation cannot be acquired or perceived by God's creatures. Since there are as many cups as drinkers at the Pool which will be found in the abode of the hereafter, and since the water of the cup takes the form of the cup in both shape and color, we know for certain that knowledge of God takes on the measures of your view, your preparedness, and what you are in yourself. No two people will ever come together in a single knowledge of God in all respects, since a single constitution is never found in two different people, nor can there be such a thing. When there are two, there must be that through which the distinction is made, since the entity of each is immutably established. Were this not so, they could never be two. Hence no one ever knows anything from the Real except his own self (soul). (II 597.4,35) (6)

No-one is loved but God, but the name of the created thing acts as a veil. In the same way, he who worships a created thing here worships none but God, though he does not know. (He names his object of worship in different names) Then when he dies and the covering is removed, he knows that he only worshiped God, for Allah says, "And thy Lord has decreed, that you worship none but Him" (17:23). For this reason the Real shows jealousy for this discription. He punishes them in this world if they do not show reverence to that which they suppose to be their god, and He provides for them and listens to their prayers when they ask from their god. For He knows that they have had recourse to this Level [of Divinity]. (I 328.14) SPK343

The Real is with the belief of everyone who has a belief ... In the same way, He is "with the opinion" which his servant has of Him. (hadith qudsi, where Allah says: 'I am with My servant's opinion of Me' ). However, the levels become ranked according to excellence, while God - Allah - is wider, greater, and more tremendous than that He should be confined by any attribute which would restrain him, such that He would be with one of His servants and not be with another. The "Divine Vastness" refuses that. For God says, "He is with you wherever you are" (57:4); "Whithersoever you turn, there is the face of God" (2:115), and the "face" of a thing is its reality and essence. ... SPK343 ro

Were He to be with one person and not with another, the one with whom He was not would be worshiping his own illusion (wahm), not his Lord. But God has said, "And thy Lord has decreed," that is ordained, "that you worship none but Him" (17:23). [This is not only a commandment, as it is usually understood, but also a statement of the actual situation of the creatures in the worlds: That everything created cannot other than be in worship of the Creator, though in many forms, in ranks and degrees of excellence.] Because of Him the gods are worshiped, but the intention of every worshiper in his worship is only God. So nothing is worshiped in itself except God. He who associates others with God is only mistaken because he has set up for himself a special road of worship which was not established for him by a revealed Law from the Real. That is why he becomes one of the wretched. [As he makes up his own cult or worship, which is not what his Lord has decreed via his Messenger MHMD and it will be rejected.] (I 405.27) SPK343

[Worshiping none but Him: "Thy Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him." (17:23) This is a decree from the Lord, against none in the cosmos can act against, i.e. everyone in creation is worshiping their Lord, although they may not know it. The disbelievers don't know it, while the idol-worshipers know that when they worship their idol, they in reality worship the One God, although with a man-made law which Allah does not accept and for which they will be punished.] For worship is inherent in created things. SPK349

The Share That Ordinary People
(al-`mma) Have In Contemplating Allah

(Concerning) [the share that ordinary people (al-`mma) have in contemplating Him, on the Day of Visitation , it is] according to the extent of which they have understood of what they have (outwardly and formally) taken over and imitated (taqld) [imitated: a following in the sense of imitating the outward forms and practices, while often passing by the heart of the matter. - Abuse (of those forms) by dubious groups claiming spiritual authority.] from the learned [al-`ulam', men of knowledge, here: of 'external' zhir-knowledge], according to their different ranks. Now among them there are those who have received from their learned authority (the formal knowledge) he possesses (with nothing added); and among them are those who have received from their learned authority to the extent of what he learned on the basis of his (limited) intellect and receptivity [see above: outward forms]. For the natural dispositions [here: al-fitar (pl.), syn. with mizj: the particular bodily (and psychic) 'constitution' which is different for each individual. (al-fitrah (sg.) ) refers to mankind's primordial 'spiritual nature', which is identical for all human beings prior to their acculturation.] are different and of various ranks, depending on what God has placed in them, they are divisions (of psychic and intellectual types) whose source is in the constitution (mizj) on which God mounted (their spirits). [referring to: difference between two separate aspects of man's 'creation': the 'generation' of the physical body, and God's 'infusion' of the 'spirit' (rûh) or angelic soul 'mounted' on the body.] That is the cause of the differences of outlook among the learned in their thoughts about intellectual matters (ma`qlt).

Thus the share (of ordinary people) in the pleasure of contemplating (God) is their share in what has been presented to them in images (tukhuyyilat lahum), because the shares of the common people are imaginal and they are not able to transcend material (form) [although subtle, imaginal forms belong to the material level] in (their perception of) the spiritual realities (al-ma`ni) in all those things which they enjoy in this world, the intermediate world and the other world. Indeed, very few of the learned can even conceive of the total transcendance (tajrd) of material (forms). This is why most of the Shari`ah came according to the understanding of the ordinary people, although it also brings allusions intended for the elect [the elect: al-khssa : the full human perfection (kaml) realized by the saints and 'Perfect Man' requiring the simultaneous affirmation and inner realization of both God's 'likeness' (tashbh) with and transcendence (tanzh) of all manifest being], such as His saying: { "There is nothing like Him."} (Quran 42:11), and { "May your Lord be glorified, the Lord of Might, beyond (all) that they describe!" } (Quran 37:180). MER123

SPK: From Chittick's translation and comment on parts of the
Futuhat al-Makkiyya by Ibn `Arabi:

"The Sufi Path Of Knowledge -
Ibn `Arabi's Metaphysics of Imagination"

MER: The Meccan Revelations; Ibn `Arabi
Selected Texts Of Al-Futuhat al-Makkiyya, by James W. Morris


1: On The Common Eternal Principles, And That Islam Reigns by Omar K Neusser [pern_e];

2: hadith: seeing the Lord on the Day of Resurrection, but they will first deny Him.

We said: Messenger of Allah, shall we see our Lord? The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: Do you feel any trouble in seeing the sun on a cloudless day? We said: No.
Narrated by Abu Said Al-Khudri, Sahih Muslim, Hadith No: 353
Chapter Faith (Kitab Al Iman)

3: FUC 113

4: FUT II 85.10,20; SPK337

5: Each receptacle perceives the self-disclosure according to its own preparedness.[g] SPK338ro

6: By knowing himself, the servant comes to know God inasmuch as He has disclosed Himself to the soul SPK342

Disclaimer: First of all it is Islam that reigns (see Sura 5:3).
Traditional Islam does not accept the notion that the world-religions (and even less so any man-made belief system) would be equally valid paths to God, these are perennialistic interpretations. Even so, they (their laws) still reflect some sacred truth, so they did not turn into falsehood by being abrogated. These are 2 (two) different points to be kept in mind.

• In the words of Muhyiddín Ibn `Arabi: ”The religious laws are all lights, and the law of Muhammad MHMD among these lights is as the sun's light among the light of the stars…”

”So all paths return to look to the Prophet's path MHMD : if the prophetic messengers had been alive in his time, they would have followed him just as their religious laws have followed his law.…” [further reading]

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