Friday, October 12, 2007

More on the Raza Library

Apart from the catalogues that are printed (the Persian ones from the mid-90s are more up to date, the Arabic are from the 60s so quite dated), there is a handlist (unpublished) of new acquisitions. Since we know that many manuscripts have ben acquired from personal libraries, it is well worth asking Dr Islahi to look at these. This is of particular importance for mss of a Lucknowi provenance as even the old famed Nasiriyya seems to have been sold off/plundered/squandered (choose according to way you see it).

The printed books collection in the Rampur Raza Library is also valuable with a good selection of philosophy and theology (the madaris in Rampur supported by the nawabs endorsed the 'rationalist' dars-i nizami curriculum). Apart from the obvious (Fārābī, Ibn Sīnā, Ghazālī, Rāzī, Abūʾl-Barakāt, Shīrāzī etc, and logic texts), here is a list of what I found to be worth consulting with call numbers:

القبسات (مع: صحيفة القدس ص2-65

أثولوجيا ص158-323

الإيقاظات ص66-148

رسالة في التوفيق بين امذهب أرسطاطاليس وأفلاطون الإلهي بحدوث العالم ص 149-157

خلسة الملكوت) شماره 43 موجودات خ2033م

طهران 1315

التنبيهات في مبحث التشكيك في الماهيّات لشيخ ولي الله بن حبيب الله بن محب الله لكهنوي متوفي 1270 شماره 8 موجودات 3777م

1251ه لكهنو

الجواهر الغاليّة في الحكمة المتعالية لشيخ عبد الحق بن فضل الحق بن فضل إمام عمري خيرآبادي متوفي 1316 شماره 12 موجودات 2668م

1302ه رامبور

حاشية صدرا لشيخ ولي الله بن حبيب الله أنصاري فرنكي محلي متوفي 1270

شماره 13 موجودات 3725

1303 1885 نول كشور لكهنو

حاشية الفخر (السمّاكي) على الميبدي

شماره 15 موجودات 2160

كنز العلوم لكهنو

الأسفار الأربعة – إيران شماره 16 موجودات 1196م

الحكمة اليمانيّة في المعارف الإيمانيّة لشيخ أبي الحسن محمد المدعو بعبد العزيز الأمروهوي الحنفي

شماره 17 موجودات 365

1303ه رضوي دهلي

أيضاً شماره 74 موجودات 20497

الشمس البازغة لمحمود جونفوري (مع:

الدوحة الميّدة في حقيقة الصورة والمادّة ص20

رسالة في تحقيق الكلي الطبيعي ص21-31)

شماره 37 موجودات 4808م

شرح الهداية لصدرا (مع :

فائدة في بيان الحركة الجوهريّة لميرزا أبي الحسن ص 274-280

رسالة في التشكيك لميرزا رفيع الدين حسيبي ص 363-368

رسالة في بيان النفس كل القوى لشيخ آغا علي ص 380-382

رسالة في بيان ربط الحادث والقديم لميرزا أبي الحسن ص374-380

رسالة فس تحقيق الأسفار الأربعة لميرزا ضياء إصفهاني ص394-396 و397-398

شماره 34 موجودات خ2061م

1313ه طهران

شرح الهداية شماره 32 موجودات 4974

1302ه كانبور

أيضاً – شماره 33 موجودات 7919م لكهنو مع بحر العلوم

شوكة الحواشي على صدرا لشيخ تراب علي بن شجاعت علي لكهنوي متوفي 1291

شماره 38 موجودات 8197م لكهنو 1258ه

كاشف الظلمة في أقساك الحكمة لشيخ عبد الحليم بن أمين الله لكهنوي متوفي 1285

شماره 44 موجودات 7898م لكهنو 1272

الهدية السعيدية في الحكمة الطبيعية لفضل إمام خيرآبادي

شماره 62 موجودات 6943م

لكهنو 1283ه

أيضاً – شماره 65 موجودات 10727 كانبور 1292ه مع تعايقات سيد ساطان حسن بريلوي وسعد الله مرادآبادي

الهدية على الهدية لشيخ عبدالحق بن فضل الحق بن فضل إمام

شماره 66 موجودات 1427

1320ه رامبور

رسالة في الأمور العامّة لسيد كرامت علي


شماره 76 موجودات 27930

حاشية بحر العلوم على صدرا


شماره 82 موجودات 265889

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Manuscripts in India

It is becoming easier to access the Islamic intellectual heritage in manuscript (although some libraries particularly private and waqfi ones still pose challenges) and online resources and digitisation are helping. India has treasure troves all over the country; the Union government is currently undertaking a massive manuscript survey to produce a Union catalogue and eventually allow digital access to the millions of codices in various languages.
Alongside the existing survey of Indian libraries in the al-Furqan World Heritage Survey edited by Geoffrey Roper, Omar Khalidi produced a document that was published in MELA Notes 72-73, Spring 2002-2003.
Two of the most important libraries recognised by the Union government's manuscripts survey are:
Raza Library in Rampur, UP - an excellent and valuable collection set in the old palace Hamid Manzil in the walled Qila area of this small old nawabi town some 180 km from Delhi. The library is run by a truly remarkable retired ASI officer Dr Waqar Siddiqui, a man of impeccable old-style Lucknowi manners. Visiting scholars can stay at the guesthouse in the adjoining Rang Mahal (the former zenana). Access does require some pestering of the librairian Dr Abu Sad Islahi but it is easy enough. Copies require permission and especially full codices require special clearance.
Khuda Bakhsh Library in Patna, Bihar - another valuable collection set in old Azimabad in Patna. The website has the catalogue in pdfs available. The director Dr Imtiaz Ahmed is very approachable and helpful and CD copies of codies can be made.
One 'clearing-house' of microfilms taken from around India is the Noor Microfilm Centre in the Khana-yi Farhang in New Delhi. Established by Dr Mehdi Khajeh-Piri, it has an enviable collection which is fully catalogued (and these catalogues are printed). I obtained some copies of works from the Azad Library at Aligarh Muslim University and from the private collection of the Raja of Mahmudabad from them earlier. The CD copies are perfectly usable - perhaps not as detailed and user-friendly as the digital CDs produced at the Suleymaniye in Istanbul but adequate with 3 folios taken as one frame.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Fath Allah Shirazi I

I'm currently researching intellectual traditions 'migrating' from Iran to India and producing the hybrid intellectual culture of the Deccan and Mughal North India in the early modern period. A pioneering figure in this movement was the Shirazi philosopher and administrator Fath Allah Shirazi. This is the first in a series of sets of notes on him:

Mīr Fatḥ Allāh b. Shukr Allāh Shīrāzī (d. 1589): Avicenna of India?

The mythical status of Mīr Fatḥ Allāh, a Shirazi emigrant to India, in the Mughal period is immense. Numerous works, of an academic and popular nature, stress his role as the foremost philosopher and scientist of his time in the Persianate world, and attribute to him a series of important technological innovations, reforms of the administration (including the adoption of Persian as the official language of the chancellery) and the madrasa curriculum, and as the main conduit for the serious study of philosophy and theology in India, laying the foundations for the 18th century curriculum dars-i niẓāmī that emphasised the study of the intellectual disciplines (ʽulūm ʽaqliyya). It is common, therefore, for intellectual historians of Islamic thought in India to trace a lineage from Shīrāzī (and indeed from the ishrāqī Avicennan tradition that he inherited) to the ‘founder of the dars-i niẓāmī’, Mullā Niẓām al-Dīn Sihālvī Farangī-Maḥallī (d. 1161/1748).[1]

Shīrāzī is praised in the biographical literature by friend and foe; the universal approval reflects his significant political status at the court of Akbar (r. 1556–1605). The arch Sunnī theologian at court, Mullā ʽAbd al-Qādir Badāyūnī, who rarely spared an opportunity to criticise and attack the Shiʽi notables at court, provided the following biographical sketch:

Mīr Fatḥ Allāh Shīrāzī was one of the sayyids of Shiraz and the most knowledgeable of the ʽulema of his time. He spent some time in the service of the rulers and notables of Fars. He was well versed in all the rational sciences such as philosophy (ḥikmat), astronomy (hayʾat), geometry, astrology, geomancy (ramal), arithmetic, preparation of talismans, white magic, and weights and balances (jarr-i athqāl). He was so adept that when the Emperor demanded one of him, he would draw up an astronomical table. He was equally skilled in Arabic grammar, the traditions of the Prophet, Qurʾanic exegesis, and philosophical theology and he has excellent works, but not equal to those of Mīrzā-Jān Shīrāzī (d. 995/1587) who was foremost in his age, a pious and unique teacher in Transoxiana. While Mīr Fatḥ Allāh was extremely courteous, good-mannered and cultured in court gatherings, as soon as he was busy in his classes in times with his students, nothing but obscenities, vulgar talk and mockery issued from his tongue, and because of this aspect, few people came to his class, and he barely had any students. He spent some years in the Deccan whose ruler ʽĀdil Khān [ʽAlī ʽĀdil Shāh] was fond of him. When he came into the service of the empire, he was given the title of Aḍūd al-Mulk. He passed away in Kashmir in 997 H and is buried in a place that is known as Takht-i Sulaymān. The chronogram of his death was: ‘He was an angel’.[2]

His friend Abūʾl-Fażl wrote:

He was so learned that if all the previous books of philosophy disappeared, he could have laid a new foundation for knowledge and would not have desired what had preceded.[3]

Another contemporary and an official historian at court, Khwāja Niẓām al-Dīn Aḥmad Bakhshī (d. 1594) wrote:

He was superior to all the ʽulema of Persia, Iraq and India in his knowledge of the scriptural and intellectual sciences. Among his contemporaries, he had no equal. He was an expert in the occult sciences including the preparation of talismans and white magic.[4]

[1] Muḥammad Riżā Anṣārī Farangī-Maḥallī, Bānī-yi dars-i Niẓāmī, Lucknow: Farangī-Maḥall Kitāb-ghar, 1973, 42: Mullā Muḥammad Niẓām al-Dīn Sihālvī (d. 1161/1748) – his father, Mullā Quṭb al-Dīn Sihālvī (d. 1121/1710) – Mullā Dāniyāl Chawrāsī – ʽAbd al-Salām Dewī (d. 1039/1629) – ʽAbd al-Salām Lāhūrī (d. 1037/1627) – Mīr Fatḥ Allāh Shīrāzī (d. 997/1589) – Jamāl al-Dīn Maḥmūd Shīrāzī – Jalāl al-Dīn Davānī (d. 1502) – Muḥyī al-Dīn Kūshktārī – Khwāja Ḥasan Shāh Baqqāl – Sharīf ʽAlī Jurjānī (d. 816/1413) – Mubārak-Shāh Bukhārī (d. 740/1340) – Quṭb al-Dīn Rāzī Taḥtānī (d. 766/1364). One could continue this lineage to Avicenna in the following manner: Taḥtānī – the eminent Shiʽi theologian ʽAllāma Ibn Muṭahhar al-Ḥillī (d. 725/1325) – his teacher the Shiʽi theologian, philosopher and scientist Khwāja Naṣīr al-Dīn Muḥammad Ṭūsī (d. 1274).

[2] ʽAbd al-Qādir Badāyūnī, Muntakhab al-tavārīkh, ed. Maulvī Aḥmad ʽAlī et al, rpt., Tehran: Anjuman-i āthār va mafākhir-i farhangī, 1379 Sh/2000, III, 105. Cf. S.A.A. Rizvi, A Socio-Intellectual History of the Isnā ʾAsharī Shīʾīs in India, Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1986, II, 196–7.

[3] Abūʾl-Fażl ʽAllāmī, Akbarnāma, III, 401; cf. Rizvi, A Socio-Intellectual History, II, 197.

[4] Niẓām al-Dīn Bakhshī, Ṭabaqāt-i Akbarī, tr. B. De, Calcutta: The Asiatic Society, 1927–29, II, p. 357.

Sufism and Deconstruction

Sounds rather specious? Well read on...

Ian Almond, Sufism and Deconstruction: A Comparative Study of Derrida and Ibn ‘Arabi. London: Routledge, 2004. vii + 166 pp. £ 60.00

The intersection of deconstructive strategies for reading literary texts and the creative (indeed radical) hermeneutics (to borrow Jack Caputo’s phrase) of contemporary theology is becoming the mainstay of an exciting developing in thinking about the nature of God and religious texts. Caputo, Jean-Luc Marion and other eminent Catholic thinkers have already begin the process of juxtaposing the hermeneutical and heuristic insights of Jacques Derrida (and other post-Nietzschean and post-Heideggerian thinkers) with foundational scriptural texts and their pre-modern interpreters. In particular, there has been a notable tendency to compare medieval mystics and their playful usage and deconstruction of language with Derridean dissemination and difference.

The present work under review turns the deconstructive gaze towards the pre-eminent medieval Andalusian Sufi Ibn ‘Arabi (d. 1240) and attempts a critical comparison of his thought with Derrida’s on key issues such as the critique of hegemonic reason, the aporetic value of perplexity, the hermeneutics of the text and secrets of uncovering mystery. As befits a teacher of English literature, Almond’s work is directed towards specialists in literature and literary theory who are increasingly aware in the tradition of Caputo et al of the ‘religious turn’ of Derrida. The work thus focuses on one aspect of the intersection of Sufism and deconstruction and thus renders the main title is bit misleading. Almond links the analyses of Meister Eckhart and medieval mystics present in Derrida’s work with the interpretative strategies of Ibn ‘Arabi, especially since he describes Ibn ‘Arabi as the Muslim Meister Eckhart. He is not the first to notice the possible ‘deconstructive’ elements of the Sufi’s thought; in a work entitled Allah Transcendent: Studies in the Structure and Semiotics of Islamic Philosophy, Theology and Cosmology published in 1989, Ian Netton argued that Ibn ‘Arabi’s theological discourse and hermeneutics of the text is entirely reminiscent of a post-structuralist, deconstructionist reading. The excitement which non-specialists from theology and literature (and even some generally interested observers and practitioners of ‘spirituality’) exhibit towards Ibn ‘Arabi, whose work and studies on them are increasingly available in English and other European languages is reminiscent of the popular appeal of the Persian Sufi poet Jalal al-Din Rumi (d. 1274) in versions by Coleman Barks. Almond’s work is far more esoteric. Drawing upon the excellent scholarship of Ibn ‘Arabi specialists such as William Chittick, he attempts to reach out to new readerships and present Sufi thought beyond the rather restricted intellectual ghetto of Islamic Studies. For those of us who do work within that ghetto, attempt to reach out to our wider disciplinary fields is more than welcome as such moves demonstrate the disciplinary contributions that our work can make. Not for Almond the traditionalism and hesitancy to juxtapose Ibn ‘Arabi, a figure from the 12th and 13th centuries with modern thinkers. The charge of incommensurability and anachronism is pre-empted and discarded.

There is little point in quibbling about details, lack of linearity, selectivity and the oblivion of key aspects of Ibn ‘Arabi’s thought since they go against the grain of the Derridean approach which deliberately violates such barriers. Intentionalist, positivist, conventionalist and historicist scholars will probably be appalled by the method in this book. But that is what makes it potentially exciting and interesting, allowing for historical figures to emerge out of antiquarian interest into living dialogic relationship in contemporary academic fields of religious studies, literary studies and philosophy.

Chapter 1 allies Derrida’s critique of logocentrism and the myth of reason’s rule with Ibn ‘Arabi’s critical stance on the use of ratiocination and philosophical argument. Difference and the Sufi Real are related as similarly elusive notions. But the fleeting nature of definition and the incapacity of human attempts at ‘restricting the Real’ do not amount to any rejection. Admittedly Ibn ‘Arabi’s metaphysics is quite distinct from Aristotelianism. Nevertheless, ontological foundations and commitments are not eschewed, somewhat in the same manner of a critique of Derrida that would pose his explicit rejection of metaphysics to be in itself a ‘metaphysics in reverse’.

Chapter 2 plays on the double sense of the term confusion, a dissipation of meaning as well as the coming together of two flows. Bewilderment is a good thing. But again one wonders whether Ibn ‘Arabi’s sense of perplexity has more in common with the Socratic aporetic than with Derrida’s transgression against the linear clarity of the metaphysical tradition. The ultimate aim for Ibn ‘Arabi does indeed remain gnosis; his method is, to use the title of Chittick’s first famous work on him, the path of knowledge, which must necessarily begin with ignorance and confusion and lead to knowledge even if that is reversed in the notion of the docta ignorantia of the Neoplatonic tradition. Locating Ibn ‘Arabi within this tradition would provide at times for a more fruitful comparison given the works already dedicated to an application of Derrida to Neoplatonisms.

Chapter 3 moves onto the infinite textuality and the lack of closure in the text. However, multiple meaning still require some ethics of interpretation as well as a discussion of how and who may interpret and what their limits are. The inherent elitism of Ibn ‘Arabi (and of Derrida) cannot allow for a free infinitude of meanings.

Chapter 4 examines secrets, dissemination and disclosure. Unveiling meanings, esoteric readings of the text and rending the veil of mystery are common themes of Sufi hermeneutics and Almond could have made a greater contribution by locating Ibn ‘Arabic within the wider tendency. The conclusion ends with a consideration of how both Derrida and Ibn ‘Arabi herald the end of the subject, the death of the author and the dissonance between ‘God’ and the ‘Real’. Their strategies do indeed force us to think carefully and to revise our conceptual schemes. Other potential themes that Almond could have addressed but did not could include a study of the notion of the apocalyptic.

Traditional historians of religion and especially specialists on Ibn ‘Arabi will probably not like this book; it is often too far removed from the text and contexts of the Sufi’s work. Nevertheless, this is a challenging and interesting attempt at communicating Ibn ‘Arabi’s ideas through the prism of Derrida to a wider audience who would neither read the original or the studies of Chittick et al. For this, Almond ought to be encouraged.

[PS I will be posting a review of his latest work The New Orientalists soon]

Plato and Aristotle in Agreement?

Islamic philosophy in the classical period emerged from the late antique Neoplatonic consensus that confined philosophical authority to Aristotle and Plato and sought to reconcile their methods and doctrines. The review below engages with new insights on the formation of this tradition of rconciliation and addresses my interest in ancient and late antique philosophy and their Islamic calques.

Here is my review of a revised Oxford DPhil by George E. Karamanolis, Plato and Aristotle in Agreement? Platonists on Aristotle From Antiochus to Porphyry (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006). Here is another review by Lloyd Gerson. He has recently written a book arguing for a re-assessment of Aristotle as a Platonist.

The Neoplatonic project in Late Antiquity was defined by the attempt to harmonize the teachings and philosophy of Plato and Aristotle. Inherited by early Muslim philosophers, harmonization was enthusiastically championed by al-Farabi in his Reconciliation of the Opinions of the Two Philosophers. (Neo)Platonic pseudo-epigraphica attributed to Aristotle such as the famous Theology of Aristotle further bolstered the harmonizing tendency that was carried through into Latin scholasticism. The modern academic study of ancient and late antique philosophy on the other hand has tended to be somewhat hostile to harmonization and assumed that it rested purely on historical accidents and mistakes. More recently, however, the interest in Neoplatonism has led to a reconsideration of the question of harmonization. Lloyd Gerson, one of the foremost champions and specialists on Neoplatonism has argued in a recent book Aristotle and Other Platonists (Cornell University Press, 2005) that the project of harmonization actually began with Aristotle who himself was a Platonist. The Middle Platonist and Neoplatonist thinkers who often wrote commentaries on Aristotle were not misguided. Karamanolis’s book, a revised version of his Oxford D.Phil, continues this tendency by considering the evidence in the thought of a number of Middle Platonists such as Antiochus of Ascalon (d. c. 68 BCE), Plutarch of Chaeronea (d. c. 125), Ammonius Saccas (3rd century, Plotinus’ teacher), Numenius (2nd century), and Atticus (2nd century), and Neoplatonists such as Porphyry (d. c. 305 C.E.) and Plotinus (d. 270) for and against harmonization. It is a useful companion piece that corroborates much of Gerson’s argument. The problem, however, is that often for many Middle Platonists, there is scant textual evidence to consider.

Karamanolis’ book is divided into seven chapters, one each on thinkers from Antiochus to Porphyry. The longest and most significant chapter in the study, unsurprising given the extensive textual evidence and significance of the figure articulated for example in the Eisagoge and in the commentary on the Categories, is on Porphyry. As he argues, extant commentaries on Aristotle after 300 are all Platonist (p. 1). The systematic writing on commentaries on the Stagirite is thus seen as evidence for the project of harmonization. The role of the works of Aristotle in the Neoplatonic curriculum confirms the view that he was seen as part of the Platonic school. What is more interesting, although it does not play a significant role in the argument, is the Peripatetic agreement on harmony; thinkers such as Aristocles of Messene were harmonists (pp. 36ff). But it seems that whereas later Platonists tended to see the study of Aristotle, particularly of the organon as a propaedeutic to the study of the ‘higher wisdom’ of Plato, Peripatetics reversed the order of study. Of course, all this begs the question: what does one understand by Platonism? Was it a coherent school? Could Aristotle have been a Platonist without adhering to the theory of Forms, for example? Did Plato and Aristotle both adhere to a coherent and systematic philosophy? For example, can the Platonic dialogues as a whole be considered as a corpus proposing a philosophical system? Platonists tended to read Plato’s dialogues as articulations of theory; Karamanolis, on the other hand, argues that, ‘Plato’s thought is elusive, if one confines oneself to the dialogues, since they do not offer us direct expressions of his views’ (p. 9).

Antiochus was the first important harmonizer. He was a pivotal figure for two reasons; as Karamanolis says, he was the last Platonist to continue the Hellenistic concern with ethics in particular, but also the first to insist upon the value of Aristotle as a means for accessing Plato. Antiochus’ project of harmonization is even more wide ranging because he considered the Stoic tradition to be broadly Platonic (p. 51ff).

The chapter on Plutarch shifts the interest to metaphysics. Plutarch’s emphasis on the aporetic nature of Plato’s philosophy was linked to elements of skepticism in Aristotelian dialectic. He considered Aristotle to be a communicator of Plato’s ideas. For example, Aristotelian hylomorphism proposes that knowledge pertains to forms, which at one level may be associated with Platonic forms; whether those forms are transcendent or not is a different matter that would not violate Platonism. Generations of philosophy students have wondered how Aristotle’s universals really differ from Platonic forms.

Three fairly short chapters follow on Numenius, Atticus and Ammonius Sacca, no doubt mainly because we know so little about them; very little has survived. The latter is important particularly as the teacher of Plotinus and seems to have been famous as an ‘arch-harmonizer’. This does not really put him at odds with Plotinus. The chapter that follows on Plotinus seems somewhat conflicted between the Peripatetic influence and material in the Enneads and Plotinus’ fluent and regular criticisms of Aristotle. One of the basic problems of the schemata of school traditions is that a school is not usually so much a body of doctrine but often more an interpretative community that coalesces around particular texts and textual hermeneutics.

The final chapter on Porphyry is the most extensive discussion of harmonization. Karamanolis begins with a discussion of the two texts that Porphyry is supposed to have written on the question of harmonization: On the Harmony of Plato and Aristotle, and On the Disagreement of Plato and Aristotle. Even the latter text seems to have been in a harmonizing vein; one thinks of the parallel with al-Farabi’s Reconciliation and his separate works on the Philosophy of Plato and on the Philosophy of Aristotle. Difference did not lead to hostility to Aristotle (p. 253). It merely indicated distinct perspectives defined by different aetiological approaches to events, for example. A classic example is the difference on the nature of the soul as the entelechy of the body. Later in the Muslim period, in the Theology of Aristotle, one encounters differing views on the nature of the soul as entelechy reflecting Platonic, Aristotelian and arguably Porphyrian perspectives especially in the first chapter (mimar). It was Porphyry’s harmonization that determined the project of late Neoplatonism.

Karamanolis’ book is a welcome and scholarly contribution that addresses the question of what one understands by Platonism. The textual argument is further supported by two appendices on Platonic works and extensive scholarly notes and textual discussions. While it is not as accessible or perhaps influential as Gerson’s book, it is remain an indispensable and useful complement to it.

Islamic Political Radicalism

While everyone seems to have an opinion on radicals, Islamists, jihadis and violent radicals, there is a growing academic literature which one hopes will contribute to the debate and foster understanding.
Here is a review of one recent important collection.

Islamic Political Radicalism: A European Perspective

Tahir Abbas, ed.

Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007. 306 pages.

As jihadi ideology shifts from articulating a perpetual conflict against the ‘far enemy’ (read: the United States and its allies) and the ‘near enemy’ (read: the clients of the US) within the Middle East and the wider Muslim world to taking the conflict to the heart of the far enemy in North America and Western Europe, it is certainly time for academics to take stock of what has happened, how it has happened and why. The ‘radicalisation’ debate, as it is called, tries to ask the pertinent question of why some Muslim men, citizens of these ‘Western’ states feel disenchanted, disintegrated and alienated from their immediate communities enough to perpetrate gross acts of violence such as the bombings in Madrid in March 2004 and 7/7 in London. The challenge of such violent radicalism (and it is important to qualify it as such since radicalism traditionally has been a political virtue of the left demanding change) affects security policy as well as the integrity and dignity of Muslim communities. Tahir Abbas, Reader in Sociology at the University of Birmingham and a leading expert on the sociology of Muslim communities in Britain, has assembled a vibrant interdisciplinary circle of specialists to tackle the question of radicalism, comprising academics and activists, Muslims and non-Muslims. The collection brings together studies in political science, political sociology (the primary area of focus for the debate on radicalism), anthropology, psychology, criminology and related disciplines. The focal point of the studies is Britain, albeit within a European context and it might be of value for those studying Islamism in other Muslim minority contexts (particularly the United States) and even Muslim majority contexts as a base of comparison.

The title suggests a concern with the wide spectrum of Muslim radicalism from Islamism to jihadism. One need not be a constructivist to recognise the significance of contextualisation. Thus the studies examine not only internal issues within Muslim communities but also the role of government, Islamophobia (a reality that many have to live and which was succinctly defined in the famous Runnymede Trust report of 1997, even while it is coming under attack from the left in an ironic twist of events akin to the recent onslaught on the notion of multiculturalism), the media and global events. The structure is remarkably coherent: part one sets the scene with key definitions, part two examines the wider European context, part three which comprises the bulk of the volume focuses on Britain, and the final part brings together a number of short reflections of key Muslim political activists in Britain post-7/7. As such, it successfully bridges the requirements of an academically rigorous volume and the exigencies of informing policy debates. Apart from Abbas’s own introduction which is a brief but excellent summary of the concerns and contents of the volume, the other paper that caught the eye of this reviewer was Ismail Patel’s examination of what one means by political radicalism in the scale from ‘moderate’ Islamists to salafi jihadis. His simple equation of political radicalism as responses to foreign policy is too basic; anti-colonialism and anti-imperialism are strong motivations for the development of modern Islamisms. Advocating mono-causal explanations is problematic. Part one still seems somewhat unsatisfactory in that it assumes a widely held notion of what radicalism is. It also requires some disaggregation: there are clearly a number of overlapping but even mutually exclusive types of radical ideology present within Muslim communities and yet are objectified as belonging to a generic overarching rationale for violence that the media (and unfortunately many in the intelligence community) reify and simplify as ‘al-Qaeda’. The radicalisation debate often also strips young Muslim men of any agency and volition: surely people are not ‘radicalised’ but rather choose certain pathways given certain conditions, motivations, frustrations, opportunities and ideologies.

Part two moves to the European context. Silvestri’s survey of the role and perception of the EU is an important contribution (particularly in the context of Turkey’s bid for accession) as is Yemelianova’s study of former Soviet contexts. But what is lacking here is a study on France and Germany, the main sites of Muslim radicalism in Europe. Aziz’s piece on anti-semitism is critical for understanding a particular European impetus to an element of political radicalism but it does not directly address the question of anti-semitism among radical Muslims in Europe today; rather, it tries to engage in some normative analysis and textual interpretation. Mukhopadhyay’s chapter raises the key issue of identity and belonging but this is not followed up. It would also have been useful in this section to see some engagement with Amin Maalouf’s musings on identity given their ubiquity in sociological debates (despite the impression that one has of their articulating ill-digested theory and an almost vacuous nativist theory of radicalism).

Part three is the best contribution of the volume. Abdullah tackles the key grievance of Zionism. Marranci examines the centrality of the frustration in some communities at the lack of social justice, a central concern of Islamism. Hamid weighs into the debate on Hizb ut-Tahrir and argues that it is not the bogeyman that it is made out to be since its ideology remains constant before and after the rise in jihadism (although some recent defectors from HT might well disagree). Two chapters examine that quintessence of Muslim Britain in the imaginary of the media, Bradford, and focus on the ‘crisis’ of masculinity. Spalek considers whether exclusion is a primary issue in fostering and perpetuating grievance. The penultimate chapter in this part is theoretically the most astute and interesting. Awan locates radicalism in the context of transitional identity formation and disjuncture. The final part deals with policy implications and suggests that not only does violent radicalism need to be dissociated from legitimate political radicalism but that Islam itself needs to be extricated from the context of security policy in which it is merely a geopolitical threat and reality.

In the growing cacophony of voices on Islam, terrorism and politics (in which often Muslim communities ‘need’ to be spoken for), Islamic Political Radicalism is a refreshing change. It represents a genuinely interdisciplinary and communitarian attempt to analyse issues and suggests serious policy implications. Notwithstanding the lacunae and need for greater theoretical clarity mentioned, it is an outstanding contribution to the existing literature and will hopefully be read profitably by academic specialists and those in government concerned with the challenges of ‘political radicalism’.

Ibn 'Arabi: A Brief Introduction

Ibn ʽArabī (1165–1240)

Muḥyīʾl-Dīn Muḥammad ibn ʽAlī al-ʽArabī is perhaps the most influential Sufi of the medieval period and continues to inspire Sufi movements in the contemporary world as well as institutions devoted to him such as the Muhyiddin Ibn ʽArabi Society in Oxford. Popularly known as Ibn ʽArabī, he is often also given the honorific of al-Shaykh al-Akbar (The Greatest Sufi Master) because of his influence, his writings and spiritual authority for Sufis throughout the ages. His impact on Islamic intellectual history has been such that one might appropriately paraphrase Whitehead and argue that the subsequent history of thought, metaphysics, and self-realisation in Islam is a series of footnotes to Ibn ʽArabī.


An Arab of the tribe of al-Ṭayy, he was born in Murcia in Southern Spain in 1165 during the rule of the Almohads. His father may have been a significant courtier of the local ruler Ibn Mardanīsh (d. 1172) and, after his fall, entered the service of the Almohad sultan Abū Yaʽqūb Yūsuf (d. 1224) in Seville. He later claimed to have experienced visions as an adolescent that inspired him to the Sufi path. In the hagiographical account of his meeting with the philosopher Averroes (Ibn Rushd, d. 1198), an acquaintance of his father, in 1180 in Cordoba, he is already presented as a spiritually precocious young man. The philosopher, impressed by his knowledge, embraced him and said, ‘Yes’. The young man replied, ‘Yes’, but seeing the resultant joy on the face of Averroes, said, ‘No’. The philosopher’s colour changed and he asked, ‘What kind of solution have you found through illumination and divine inspiration? Is it just the same as we receive from speculative thought?’ Ibn ʽArabī replied, ‘Yes and no. Between the yes and the no spirits take flight from their matter and necks break away from their bodies’. This highly stylised account is designed to assert the superior insight of the Sufi in comparison to the philosopher at a time when Ibn ʽArabī had not yet taken a Sufi guide. It also reveals his ambivalence towards philosophy: he always claimed to have mastered philosophy and in his works displayed knowledge of philosophical terms and arguments, but remained critical of the inability of rational speculation to arrive at the truth and reality of existence. Alongside his studies in jurisprudence and theology, he studied the works of Sufis such as Ibn al-ʽArīf (d. 1141) and Ibn Qaṣī (d. 1151), and began to frequent Sufi masters in Seville, especially Abūʾl-ʽAbbās al-ʽUraybī, his first master. He claimed a connection with the famous Maghribi Sufi Abū Madyan (d. 1198), both through a spiritual initiation (as he never met him) and through that Sufi’s disciple ʽAbd al-ʽAzīz al-Mahdawī in Tunis. In his work Ruḥ al-Quds, he gives an account of his contacts with Sufis including two female spiritual guides, Shams of Marchena and Fāṭima of Cordoba. In the 1190s, he left Andalusia for the first time to study with Sufi masters in Tunis. He continued his travels in search of knowledge and had further visions of famous Sufis and Prophets. He acquired a companion ʽAbd Allāh al-Ḥabashī who would remain a disciple and scribe.

By 1200, he left Andalusia for good, partly due to the political upheavals and headed East. By this time, his fame had spread and he was met in cities like Cairo by Sufis and scholars. He may also have believed in his superior spiritual authority following a vision in 1198, when he realised that he was the seal of Muḥammadan sainthood, a rank that would place him at the head of the spiritual hierarchy in the totality of sacred space and time after the Prophet. He set out for the pilgrimage to Mecca in 1200 and spent a few years there, pivotal years that inspired his magnum opus al-Futūḥāt al-Makkiyya (The Meccan Revelations), a vast treasury of knowledge, and Tarjumān al-Ashwāq (Interpreter of Desires), a set of allegorical love poems addressed to Niẓām, the daughter of his friend Abū Shujāʽ. His travels took him to Konya in 1210, which established a link later to flourish in the Mevlevi Sufi order that drew upon his teachings. Finally, in 1223 on the invitation of the Ayyubid ruler al-Malik al-ʽĀdil, he settled in Damascus, where he died in 1240 and was buried in the cemetery of the Banū Zakī.


Ibn ʽArabī affected the apophatic style of many Sufis and often claimed that his experiences were ineffable. Yet, perhaps as a corollary of this claim, he was extremely prolific. He wrote short treatises recounting his views, his ‘ascensions’, and his understanding of certain key Sufi texts and doctrines. However, the majority of his tradition and scholarship has focused on two texts. The first is his vast compendium al-Futūḥāt al-Makkiyya (Meccan Revelations) inspired during his first pilgrimage in 1202, the first draft of which was completed in 1231 in Damascus; the second draft was later completed and rehearsed with his disciples in the last two years of his life. An autograph copy that was preserved by his disciple Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī (d. 1274) survives and is known as the ‘Konya manuscript’ because of its provenance. The text is divided into 560 chapters of hugely variance in length, arranged in six sections. The work is prefaced by an introduction that introduces the reader to the epistemological method of Ibn ʽArabī and provides insights into his hierarchy of knowledge. The first section on inspired knowledge (maʽārif) includes a chapter on his key notion of the Perfect Man (al-insān al-kāmil), chapters on the spiritual reality of Islamic worship, and a key chapter (73) on the spiritual hierarchy and his known of sainthood (walāya). The second section on agency and transactions (muʽāmalāt) includes discussions of law, spiritual rank and station. The following section focuses on spiritual states (aḥwāl) and includes an ontological and spiritual commentary on the vast literature of Sufi works preceding him. The fourth section describes ‘points of ascent’ (manāzil) along the Sufi path and includes his discussion of eschatology. The fifth section on ‘mutual points of encounter’ (munāzalāt) draws on insights upon Qurʾanic and other scriptural texts. The final section on spiritual stations (maqāmāt) includes his commentary on the ninety-nine names of God, the return to God and a recapitulation of the whole work. The text has been studied since the thirteenth century although it does not have an extensive commentary tradition although his sixteenth century Egyptian devotee ʽAbd al-Wahhāb al-Shaʽrānī (d. 1565) did write an influential summary entitled al-Yawāqīt waʾl-Jawāhir fī Bayān ʽāqāʾid al-akābir (Rubies and Gems Explaining the Doctrines of the Elders).

His other main text has spawned a vast commentary culture. In 627/1230, he claims to have encountered the Prophet Muḥammad in Damascus who gave him a book to disseminate. This is Fuṣūṣ al-Ḥikam (The Ring-Settings of Wisdom), a work divided into 27 chapters, each one on the particular wisdom associated with one of the prophets mentioned in the Qurʾan. As such it can be seen as a metaphysical commentary upon the prophetology of the Qurʾan, and even as a mystical exegesis of the Qurʾan itself.


Reading Ibn ʽArabī can be quite taxing. He is not a systematic theologian like al-Ghazālī, nor a philosopher like Avicenna. Rather, writings, for him, are aids to spiritual guidance and tokens to facilitate the development of the soul towards perfection. Reading and the pursuit of knowledge thus exist within the context of the spiritually examined life seeking what is found.

Consistent with many gnostic thinkers and Neoplatonists, Ibn ʽArabī espouses a metaphysics and cosmology of the revelation of God or the One through the process of the cosmos’ becoming and the desire from the cosmos to return and revert to its origins in the One. He propounds the Sufi myth of creation based on the famous divine ḥadīth: ‘I was a hidden treasure and wished to be known so I created that I might be known.’ God was hidden but became manifest through love and desire. That creation which was an effect of that original eros then seeks to know itself (expressing the ḥadīth: ‘whosoever knows his self, knows his Lord) and return to its origins through love for that hidden treasure. The function of religion, of spiritual practice and of gnosis is to facilitate the path of self-knowledge and love that reveals for the seeker the Truth. The study of Sufi texts and meditation upon scriptures, therefore, is the quest for grace and provides spiritual ‘switches’ through the striking of words on the heart of the initiate to transform the self into a mirror that can truly reflect the Truth. This quest must further be guided by an appropriate spiritual master. Thus, the process of seeking and finding God requires the confluence of gnosis, love and discipline.

According to Ibn ʽArabī, all that is sought and indeed found is God. The term wujūd that was used in the philosophical tradition to render the metaphysical notion of existence became the name for God, the Truth insofar as only He is found. In one’s phenomenal experience, everything that one encounters is the face and manifestation of God; only He is found in these myriad of forms. God brings everything into existence so that He can be manifest; but nothing exists in itself and therefore is non-existent, only possessing a rather annexed and derivative ‘image’ of existence.

This is Ibn ʽArabī’s famous concept of the unity of existence (waḥdat al-wujūd), although he himself never used the term. Modifying the Islamic declaration of faith, nothing exists except Existence/God. Consonant with Neoplatonic thinkers, he held that God is utterly transcendent, inaccessible to a communicable experience, a pure being (al-Wujūd al-Muṭlaq or al-Ḥaqq) that was devoid of properties. The cosmos, in contrast as a locus of attributes, multiplicities and accidents, is impoverished and completely dependent on that pure being. Only God exists really and all that we perceive as existing does so by virtue of being a self-disclosure (tajallī) or manifestation (maẓhar) of the hidden existence of God. His monism and scepticism about the reality of phenomenal experience did not entail an other-worldly rejection of life in this world, but entailed an ethics of community and moral agency of equivalence across different beings, an idea taken up by his Indian disciples later on and given the name sulḥ-i kull (peace to all). While the universalist intention of this doctrine is clear (since everything one experiences is ultimately the ‘face of God’), it does not mean that Ibn ʽArabī was a moral relativist who did not believe in the superiority of the application of the Law of Islam.

A concomitant of this doctrine is Ibn ʽArabī’s influential notion of the Perfect Man (al-insān al-kāmil) as an ontological presence and comprehensive microcosmic reality that acts as an isthmus (barzakh) between God and the cosmos, since he reflects the perfection of the divine, and in his humanity is their face and hopes oriented towards God. An alternative name for this notion is the Muḥammadan Reality (al-ḥaqīqa al-Muḥammadiyya) since this mesocosmic property existed in the nature of the Prophet and his spiritual successors. This notion of sainthood (walāya) plays a pivotal role in Ibn ʽArabi’s metaphysics. The quest for finding the One is mediated by the Perfect Man and by saints and reflects the manifestation of the One through grades of presence. God is manifest in the cosmos through grades of presence, in the higher intelligible world of forms (or the mind of God), at the level of the celestial beings such as angels, in the celestial spheres, and on this earth and its people. The most intense divine presence that manifests God is the Perfect Man, exemplified in the person of the Prophet Muḥammad and his spiritual successors, the saints. This hierarchy of sainthood has the role of spiritual guidance and perfection, facilitating the process by which people can realise their humanity and move towards the perfection of the Perfect Man. Ibn ʽArabī states that like prophethood, of which it is a mirror image and continuation, sainthood has a seal, indeed two seals. Just as Muḥammad was the seal of the Prophets, so too are there two seals of sainthood: one is the seal of absolute sainthood encompassing all space and time and all religious dispensations, and for Ibn ʽArabī this is Jesus; and the other is the seal of Muḥammadan sainthood, of the religious dispensation of Islam, and according to his own words, that seal is Ibn ʽArabī himself. Saints guide seekers towards finding the One, lead their spiritual development through the prescription of litanies, formulae of remembrance and invocations. They intercede and mediate and even after the death of the body continue to possess spiritual authority.

The doctrine of Ibn ʽArabī may also be categorised as a metaphysics and hermeneutics of mercy. In the Ring-Settings in particular, he stresses the relationship between divine mercy as an essential attribute and the property of existence, and the recognition of the self in and as the other through compassion. The first act of mercy is the provision of existence through God’s self-disclosure. Mercy encompasses everything (a Qurʾanic maxim) even mercy itself and is the most essential of the divine attributes. As such, it is a unitary and unifying entity. It represents God’s goodness, grace and favour towards all creation and especially to humans. The Qurʾan as the word of God, as an act of mercy, as a revelation of the divine speaks directly to the seeker, each particle of which is uniquely disclosing God. Just as God’s mercy is all-encompassing, the gaze of the seeker turned towards Him requires a compassionate approach to His manifestations in this world. God provides mercy within each human in the formation of their primordial nature (fiṭra) that inclines towards perfection, towards mercy (its origin) and recognises the token of its similitude in other human beings and ultimately in God Himself. An important implication of this is that religious and social diversities among humans are also manifestations of divine mercy, and that while the promise and threat of paradise and the hellfire are acts of mercy to encourage one to seek the love of God, God in His infinite mercy cannot permit any of His creatures to languish forever in the hellfire. Thus, Ibn ʽArabī argued that even figures infamous for their evil such as Pharaoh will be redeemed, and hellfire extinguished, a position for which he was severely condemned in later medieval polemics.

The School of Ibn ʽArabī

The increasingly philosophical sophistication of Ibn ʽArabī’s ideas already began in the work of his disciple and stepson Ṣadr al-Dīn al-Qūnawī, who entered into a correspondence with the scientist and philosopher Naṣīr al-Dīn al-Ṭūsī (d. 1274). The legacy of Ibn ʽArabī centred on the teachings of his major works and commentaries upon them. Qūnawī wrote the first commentary on the Ring-Settings, but it was ʽAbd al-Razzāq Kāshānī’s work that began the shift to a more philosophically intuitive understanding of his teachings. This convergence of Sufi metaphysics, philosophical theology and philosophy is a central feature of the later intellectual history of Islamicate societies and reveals the imprint of Ibn ʽArabī on the course of Islamic thought beyond the circles of Sufis. Through the work of the Shiʽi Sufi Sayyid Ḥaydar Āmulī (d. after 1385), these teachings entered and influenced Shiʽi thought and were profoundly transformed and naturalised. But perhaps the most important medieval conduit for the school was the famous Persian poet ʽAbd al-Raḥmān Jāmī (d. 1492). The poetic dissemination of the ideas of Ibn ʽArabī was especially significant in the work of the Persian poets of the Mughal-Safavid period, most notably Mīrzā Bedil (d. 1762) and Mīr Dard (d. 1785).

But there was also an experiential, Sufi initiatic inheritance through developing Sufi orders both in the Maghrib and the Islamic East. Some Sufi orders such as the Shādhiliyya in North Africa, Kubrawiyya in Iran and the Chishtiyya in India adopted wholescale the metaphysics of Ibn ʽArabī. Because the focal idea that they preached was waḥdat al-wujūd, the monistic unity of existence, they became known as the wujūdiyya, a term used pejoratively by detractors and as a badge of honour by like-minded individuals. As the school spread, so did the polemics and attacks upon monism and the spiritual hermeneutics of the school. The metaphysics and spiritual legacy of Ibn ʽArabī was dominant in Muslim India and famous Sufis and commentators on his works, such as Shaykh Muḥammad Ghawth (d. 1563), ʽAbd al-Quddūs Gangohī (d. 1537), ʽAbd al-Raḥmān Chishtī (d. 1683) and Muḥibb Allāh Ilāhābādī (d. 1641) spread his doctrines. From Western India, and especially mediated by the works of the Persian ʽAbd al-Raḥmān Jāmī (d. 1492) and Fażl Allāh Burhānpūrī (d. 1619), the doctrine of Ibn ʽArabī spread to the Malay world where important thinkers such as Ḥamza Fansūrī (d. 1590) and Shams al-Dīn Sumatrānī (d. 1629) were at the forefront of the wujūdiyya. Major commentaries continued into the 19th century, when Amīr ʽAbd al-Qādir, who led Algerian resistance to the French, wrote al-Mawāqif (The Stops) having settled in Damascus, and arranged for the publication of the Meccan Revelations. The Shādhilī-Darqawī-ʽAlawī order in Algeria through the leadership of Shaykh al-ʽAlawī (d. 1934) influenced a number of Sufi and perennialist groups espousing the doctrine of Ibn ʽArabī in Europe and North America, most notably the group following Frithjof Schuon (d. 1998). Even well into the late 20th century the Syrian Shādhilī Shaykh ʽAbd al-Raḥmān Shāghūrī (d. 2004) was teaching classes on the works of Ibn ʽArabī and transmitting his initatic khirqa (mantle). Similarly, the leader of the Iranian Revolution, Āyatullāh Rūhallāh Khumaynī (d. 1989) wrote commentaries on the works of Ibn ʽArabī and in his famous letter to the then Soviet President Mikael Gorbachov urged the study of the work of the famous Andalusian; the works of Ibn ʽArabī are still being studied in the Shiʽi seminaries of Qum.


Works of Ibn ʽArabī:

R.W.J. Austin (tr), The Bezels of Wisdom [Fuṣūṣ al-Ḥikam], New York: Paulist Press, 1981. Another recent translation is Ringstones of Wisdom, tr. Caner Dagli, Chicago: Kazi Publications, 2004. An older, partial translation is Titus Burckhardt’s Ibn ʽArabī: The Wisdom of the Prophets, tr. A. Culme-Seymour, Gloucester: Beshara Publications, 1975. Another translation based on the Ottoman translation and commentary of ʽAbd Allāh Bosnevī (d. 1644) is Bulent Rauf (tr), Fusus al-Hikam, 4 vols., Oxford: Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi Society, 1986.

Michel Chodkiewicz, William Chittick and James W. Morris (trs), Ibn al-ʽArabī: The Meccan Revelations, 2 vols., New York: Pir Press, 2002–2004. These two volumes contain selections from al-Futūḥāt al-Makkiyya. There is a Spanish translation of the introduction to the text: Victor Palleja (tr), Ibn ʽArabī: Las iluminaciones de la Meca, Madrid: Ediciones Siruela, 1996.

Pablo Beneito and Cecilia Twinch (trs), Contemplation of the Holy Mysteries [Mashāhid al-asrār al-qudsiyya], Oxford: Anqa Publishing, 2001.

R.W.J. Austin (tr), Sufis of Andalusia: The Rūḥ al-quds and al-Durrah al-Fākhirah, London: George, Allen & Unwin, 1971.

Reynold Nicholson (tr), The Turjuman al-ashwaq: A Collection of Mystical Odes by Muhyi’ddin ibn al-‘Arabi, London: Theosophical Publishing House, 1978.

Eric Winkel (tr), Mysteries of Purity=Asrār al-ṭahārah, Notre Dame: Cross Cultural Publications, 1995.

Michael A. Sells (tr), Stations of Desire: Love Elegies from Ibn ʽArabī, Jerusalem: Ibis, 2000.

Translations of sections are also available on the website of the Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi Society

Anqa Publishing specialises in producing editions and translations of his works

On his life:

Claude Addas, The Quest for the Red Sulphur, tr. P. Kingsley, Cambridge: The Islamic Texts Society, 1993. The definitive biography.

Stephen Hirtenstein, The Unlimited Mercifier, Oxford: Anqa Publishing, 1999. An accessible introduction that is aimed at Sufis and those seeking spiritual guidance.

On his thought:

Claude Addas, Ibn ʽArabī: The Voyage of No Return, Cambridge: The Islamic Texts Society, 2001. A brief, selective but excellent introduction.

Salman Bashier, Ibn ʽArabī’s Barzakh: the Concept of the Limit and the Relationship between God and the World, Albany: State University of New York Press, 2004. An interesting study of a key doctrine that locates the doctrine within the history of Platonic philosophy.

William C. Chittick, The Sufi Path of Knowledge: Ibn al-ʽArabī’s Metaphysics of Imagination, Albany: State University of New York Press, 1989. A magisterial study based on extensive translations from al-Futūḥāt al-Makkiyya.

, Imaginal Worlds: Ibn al-ʽArabī and the Problem of Religious Diversity, Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994. An effective and perennialist deployment of Ibn ʽArabī to argue for religious pluralism.

, The Self-disclosure of God: Principles of Ibn al-ʽArabī’s Cosmology, Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998. The second volume in his study of al-Fuṭūḥāt al-Makkiyya.

, Ibn ʽArabi, Makers of the Muslim World, Oxford: Oneworld, 2005. An authoritative yet brief introduction.

Michel Chodkiewicz, An Ocean without Shore: Ibn ʽArabī, the Book, and the Law, tr. D. Streight, Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993. An important assessment of Ibn ʽArabī’s relation to traditional and jurisprudential learning in Islam.

, The Seal of Saints: Prophethood and Sainthood in the Doctrine of Ibn ʽArabī, tr. L. Sherrard, Cambridge: The Islamic Texts Society, 1993. Perhaps th best introduction to this key part of Ibn ʽArabī’s metaphysics.

Henry Corbin, Creative Imagination in the Ṣūfism of Ibn ʽArabī, tr. R. Manheim, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969. A pioneering and controversial study of the role of the ‘imaginal’.

Gerald T. Elmore, Islamic Sainthood in the Fullness of Time: Ibn al-ʽArabī’s “Book of the Fabulous Gryphon”, Leiden: Brill, 2000. An excellent study of sainthood which includes an annotated translation of ʽAnqāʾ mughrib.

Masataka Takeshita, Ibn al-Arabī’s Theory of the Perfect Man and its Place in the History of Islamic Thought, Tokyo: Institute for the Study of the Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa, 1987.

Ron Nettler, Sufi Metaphysics and Qurʾanic Prophets: Ibn ʽArabī’s Thought and Method in Fuṣūṣ al-Ḥikam, Cambridge: The Islamic Texts Society, 2003. Stresses the Qurʾanic nature of Ibn ʽArabī’s thought.

Eric Winkel, Islam and the Living Law: the Ibn al-ʽArabī Approach, Karachi: Oxford University Press, 1997. Another work that examines his relationship to Islamic law.

Comparative studies:

Ian Almond, Sufism and Deconstruction: A Comparative Analysis of Derrida and Ibn ʽArabi, London: Routledge, 2004. A creative attempt to bring Ibn ʽArabī to the attention of postmodernism akin to John Caputo’s studies of Meister Eckhart.

Toshihiko Izutsu, Sufism and Taoism, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983. A philosophically sophisticated, comparative study that reads Ibn ʽArabī through the prism of his commentators.

Michael A. Sells, Mystical Languages of Unsaying, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994. A study of apophatic mystical theology comparing Plotinus, Eriugena, Ibn ʽArabi, Marguerite Porete and Meister Eckhart.

Reza Shah-Kazemi, Paths to Transcendence: according to Shankara, Ibn ʽArabī, and Meister Eckhart, Bloomington: World Wisdom, 2006.

On his school:

Syed Naquib al-Attas, The Mysticism of Hamzah Fansuri, Kuala Lumpur: University of Malaya Press, 1970. A pioneering study of the wujūdiyya in the Malay world.

Michel Chodkiewicz, The Spiritual Writings of Amir ʽAbd al-Kader, Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995. An introduction and selection of al-Mawāqif.

Vincent J. Cornell, The Way of Abū Madyan, Cambridge: The Islamic Texts Society, 1996. Edition, study and translation of the works of this famous Sufi who influenced Ibn ʽArabī.

, The Realm of the Saint: Power and Authority in Moroccan Sufism, Austin: University of Texas Press, 1998.

Alexander Knysh, Ibn ʽArabī in the Later Islamic Tradition: The Making of a Polemical Image, Albany: State University of New York Press, 1999. An important study of the polemics around the image, life and ideas of Ibn ʽArabī.

, ‘ʽIrfan revisited: Khomeini and the legacy of Islamic mystical philosophy’, Middle East Journal 46, 1992, pp. 631–53.

James W. Morris, The Wisdom of the Throne, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981. An important work that demonstrates the relationship between Ibn ʽArabī and Mullā Ṣadrā (d. c. 1635) and includes a translation of the latter’s al-Ḥikma al-ʽArshiyya.

Sachiko Murata, The Tao of Islam: A Sourcebook on Gender Relationships in Islamic Thought, Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992. Deploying the school of Ibn ʽArabī for a creative approach to the question of gender in Islam.

Peter Riddell, Islam and the Malay-Indonesian World, London: Hurst, 2001.

Sajjad H. Rizvi, ‘Mysticism and Philosophy: Ibn ʽArabī and Mullā Ṣadrā’, in R. Taylor & P. Adamson (eds), The Cambridge Companion to Arabic Philosophy, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005, pp. 224–46.

Sayyid A.A. Rizvi, A History of Sufism in India, 2 vols., Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1986.

Mulla Sadra links

Just a few useful links if you are interested in the late, great Iranian philosopher and religious thinker Sadr al-Din Shirazi known as Mulla Sadra (1571-1635).
This is the official page of the Sadra Islamic Philosophy Research Institute in Tehran who sponsor conferences, edit his texts, produce translations, and publish an excellent journal Khiradnama-yi Sadra:

And here is a link to a brief encyclopaedia entry: and then search alphabetically for Molla Sadra.

My entry for the Stanford Encyclopaedia of philosophy should be online in spring. Meanwhile here is the link to SEP, the best philosophy resource online:
Ok, so the web does not need another blog, not another series of streaming consciousness, random musings and pontifications. But the aim of this blog is not to present me to the wider world as an open book for analysis - my FB profile probably does that already.
No, the aim of Hikmat, as the name suggests, is to link up ideas, provide text and suggestions for those interested in Islamic philosophical traditions in the East, exegesis and hermeneutics, theology and mysticism, and other thoughts about culture and civilization in Islamic contexts.