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Sh. Muhyiddin Ibn al-ʿArabī

And the Unfolding of the Islamic Intellectual Tradition

As Interpreted By

Professor William C. Chittick

Edited and Slides by Omar K Neusser



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Slides 01 - 31


08 The Distinction Between ʿilm and maʿrifa

In Arabic the primary word for knowing is ʿilm . Scholars translate the word variously according to context – knowledge, learning, science. The distinction between ʿilm and maʿrifa coincides more or less with that between ‘knowing’ and ‘recognizing’ in English.[7] ‘Knowing’ is such a basic human experience that it cannot be defined, not least because it is presupposed in every definition.

‘Recognizing’ is then a specific sort of knowing, namely recovering in yourself a knowledge that you already know. To speak of recognizing God is to suggest the Qurʾanic notion that knowledge of God pertains to human nature – we are born with it but tend to forget it.

The goal of human learning is then to remember and recognize what we have forgotten. Here the Qurʾanic teaching recalls Plato and his notion of anamnesis – the elimination of our amnesia. Parallels are abundant in ancient texts, such as the teaching of Mencius (6A11) that the goal of life is to recover our lost heart.


Original Title: The Doorway to an Intellectual Tradition, William C. Chittick, [pdf]


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Slides List

01 What Is the Intellectual Tradition?
02 The Final Goal of All Islamic Learning
03 Muhyil-Dīn ibn al-ʿArabī's Living Legacy
04 Statement of tawhīd - No True Reality but the Reality of the Real
05 Passing Beyond Illusory Life & Joining With Real Life
06 The Heart Is the Center of Human Life and Consciousness
07 Achieving The Hearts Life With God: maʿrifa
08 The Distinction Between ʿilm and maʿrifa
09 Knowledge That Comes Inside = maʿrifa = an Unmediated Knowing
10a Knowledge From the Outside: naqlī / ʿaqlī, Intellectual
10b Knowing - - Recognizing
10c Transmitted Knowledge / Intellectual Knowledge
11a Religion Is Based on Transmitted Knowledge
11b In Terms of Being Based on Transmitted Knowledge
12 Metaphysics - Its Subject Matter: The Real
13 Ibn al-ʿArabī's Overall Worldview Rooted in the Real Being
14 The Islamic Worldview: Descent Sustainance Reintegration
15 The Entire Cosmos: the Breath of the All-Merciful
16 The Ascent Back to the One - Human Beings
17a Any Worldview Depends on Transmitted Knowledge
17b Relative, Perspectival Truth in the Context of Absolute Reality
18 Taqlīd - Following the Authority of a Mujtahid
19 The Mindful Acknowledgement of tawhīd
20 Discover the Reality of Things Within Yourself!
21 Discovering the Truth in the Heart: tahqīq, realization
22 Sh. Muhyiddin Ibn al-ʿArabī: muhaqqiq, realizer Of the Truth
23 Translation of ʿaql – Intelligence or Intellect – as Reason - No!
24 Wujūd
25 Ibn al-ʿArabī's Critique of the Philosophers
26a Climbing the Ladder – the miʿrāj – of Inner Realization
26b The Multifarious Dimensions of the Muhammadan Station
27a The Importance of the Prophets as the Source of Guidance for Realization
27b The Ultimate Goal: The Perfect Human Being
28 Seeing the Real With Vision of Transcendence and Immanence
29a On Recognizing the Alchemy of Felicity
29b Seeing With Both Eyes – Intellect and Illumined Imagination
29c Encountering the Spiritual Realities of the Prophets
30 True Insight Into the World of Nondelimited Imagination
31 Perfection Demands Realizing the Real in the Full Expanse


Recognition is intelligence finding the truth and reality of things within itself.
…and it is also the very existence of the mind and heart.
A quote from the presentation

Related texts:
link-out Muhyiddin Ibn `Arabi; Presentation of Some 29 Texts


[7] I discussed the way Ibn al-ʿArab understands the relationship between ʿilm and maʿrifa in The Sufi  Path of Knowledge (Albany: SUNY Press, 1989), pp. 47ff., but in my various translations over the years I have made little attempt to distinguish between the two roots (except in the case of ʿārif, ‘gnostic,’ as contrasted with ʿālim, ‘knower,’ or ‘scholar’).




* Living Islam – Islamic Tradition *