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Sh. Muhyiddīn Ibn al-ʿArabī

Impressions from the Meccan Openings

Al-Futūhāt al-Makkiyya

The Possible Things

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Note 01

Translated by professor William C. Chittick from the Futūhāt al-Makkiyya[1]

The Possible Things

Some interpolation was done, especially inside [ ] brackets. Mostly verbatim quotes.

Among the terms Necessary Being, possible thing, and impossible thing, [Muhyiddīn Ibn al-ʿArabī devotes most attention to the possible thing, in order] to explain the nature of existence that is attributed to the possible thing once the Preponderator[6] has brought it into the cosmos.

”Entities” are,
- either the possible things as they exist in the cosmos [as possible existent things],
- or the possible things are nonexistent in the cosmos, but they exist in God’s knowledge.

→ From this follows that all things are possible things. Their reality is either existence or nonexistence.

The entities[4] are called the “possible things” (mumkināt ), since they may or may not exist in the cosmos. In respect to their own possibility, which is their defining characteristic, their relationship to existence and nonexistence is the same.[5]

اعلم ان العالم عبارة عن كل ما سوى الله و ليس الاالممكنات سواء وجدت أولم توجد

The cosmos exists of everything other than God. It is none other than the possible things, whether or not they exist.…
(III 443.5) [8]

فان الامكان حكم لها لازم فى حل عدمها و وجودها

Possibility is their necessary property in the state of their nonexistence as well as in their existence … (III 443.5) [8]

God creates the cosmos in accordance with His eternal knowledge of it. Thereby He gives each thing known to Him existence in the universe = each entity, “immutably fixed” (thābit ) within His knowledge, is given existence in the universe [as He choses and decides.]

The fixed[3] immutable entities (ayān al-thābit ) are the things themselves ”before” they are given existence in the world.[2]

“Fixedness” (thubūt ) is a mode of existence with God possessed by the entities over and above any existence they may have in the cosmos.[7]

لان المعطى و المعطى اياه ما هو سوى عين ملكه فما خرج شىء عن ملكه

This is because the giver and the receiver of the gift are nothing other than His kingdom, since there is nothing outside of His kingdom. (IV 320.13)

الا أن ملكه منه ما هو موصوف بالوجود و منه ما هو موصوف بالثبوت

However in His kingdom there is that which is described by existence and that which is described by fixedness. (IV 320.14)

فالثبوت و الوجود لا بد أن يكون متناهيا و الثابت لا نهاية له

That which is both fixed and existent must be finite, but that which is fixed is infinite.… (IV 320.15)

There is no difference between the entity known in God’s knowledge and the entity in the cosmos except that in the first case it is ”nonexistent” while in the second case it is existent, [and they are both possible things.]

The existent entity (ʿayn mawjūda ) and the fixed entity (ʿayn al-thābita ) are the same reality, one exists in the cosmos and the other does not. The difference between the two corresponds exactly to the difference between the possible thing before it is given existence and the same possible thing after it comes into existence.

However the attribute thābita, ”fixed”, helps remind us that the possible thing never leaves its state of possibility in the Divine knowledge. Though the entity may “exist” in the cosmos, it is still immutably fixed and “nonexistent” in God’s knowledge.

SPK81-83, The Sufi Path Of Knowledge, Ibn Arabi's Metaphysics of Imagination; W C Chittick; p81

  1. الفتوحات المكيّة التي فتح الله بها على الشيخ الإمام العامل الراسخ الكامل خاتم الأولياء الوارثين برزخ البرازخ محيي الحق و الدين أبي عبد الله محمد بن علي المعروف بابن عربي الحاتمي الطائي قدّس الله روحه و نوّر ضريحه ٱمين

  2. The Platonic ideas would ≈ correspond in Muhyiddin Ibn ʿArabi’s teachings to the Names.  ↩

  3. William C. Chittick originally translated the (ʿayān al-thābit ) as ’immutable entities’, but later (in SDG) changed it to ’fixed entities.’  ↩

  4. Short: So what are entities?
    Entity (ʿayn, pl. al-aʿyān ) refers to specificity, particularization, and designation, i.e. what sets one thing apart from another thing. Related is taʿayyun, meaning “to be or to become an entity” or ”the state of being specified and particularized."
    SPK83R  ↩

  5. A “fixed entity” is a nonexistent possible thing. If God “gives preponderance (tarjīḥ )” to the side of existence over nonexistence, it becomes an existent entity, an existent possible thing. SPK12LC

    Existent things are distinguished from relationships. [The Names are relationships.]
    SPK83R  ↩

  6. The Preponderator in none other than God, Allah.

  7. At this instance reference is made to the hadith qudsiy: “O My servants, were the first of you and the last of you, the human of you and the jinn of you to be as pious as the most pious heart of any one man of you, that would not increase My dominion in anything.…” Muslim, Birr 55.
    Also online: sunnah.com

  8. SPK83LCO

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The Other Notes in This Series
link-in The Possible Things
link-in The Veil of Otherness
link-in Being and Existence 1
link-in Being and Nonexistence 2
link-in Wujūd and Infinity
link-in Being, Names, and Nonexistence

Related texts
link-in Insights Into The Nature Of (Being) And Existence From Sh. Muhyiddīn Ibn ʿArabī
link-in Sh. Muhyiddīn Ibn al-ʿArabī And the Unfolding of the Islamic Intellectual Tradition

* Living Islam – Islamic Tradition *