The works of shaykh Ibn al-‘Arabi [part 3]

Shaykh Ibn al-‘Arabi has written in chapter 558 of The Openings Revealed in Makka about azZâhir and alBâtin, the Manifest and the Hidden, Who manifests Himself to Himself and Who does not stop to manifest Himself, and Who hides Himself to His creation (khalq), without ever stopping to hide Himself. He (i.e. the Hidden) can also never be known.

Let us return to his book dedicated solely to the divine names, wherein he adds this:

  1. Dependence (ta’alloq)

He, glory be to Him, is necessary for you for manifestation in the spiritual mansions (mawâtin) approved by Him and for veiling in the mansions He does not approve of.

  1. Realization (tahaqqoq)

He is the Manifest (azZâhir) by His effects (âthâr) and His acts (af’âl) and the Hidden by His essence. He is the Manifest in his function as a divinity (oluhiyya) and the Hidden in His essential reality (haqiqa).

  1. Adoption or characterization (takhalloq)

The servant who clothes himself in these qualities is the one who manifests himself in the exterior (az-Zâhir) by praiseworthy acts (af’âl hamida) which he performs for his Lord (Rabb) and he is the non-manifest one in the interior (alBâtin) in that which concerns the attributes whereof the manifestation in him would be blameworthy (sifât madmuma). 

The Real (alHaqq) – glory be to Him – is not hidden to Himself. He is manifest to Himself.

As for the existing beings (mawjudât) you can ask yourself if they can be described as hidden (bâtin) in the state of non-being (‘adam), which was prior to their acting existence or if they, in this latent state, are visible (mashhuda) to Him – glory be to Him – and this according to the respective doctrines of those who postulate that the existing beings have immutable entities (a’yân tâbita) in the state of non-being (‘adam) or of those who affirm that existence is not the cause (‘illa) of vision or again of those who postulate that knowledge gives shape to that which is known.


The last-mentioned doctrine implies that knowledge precedes its object of knowledge. Shaykh Ibn al-‘Arabi holds the opposite view according to which knowledge depends on its object, i.e. knowledge (‘ilm) comes later than the object known (ma’lum).

This is what shaykh Ibn al-‘Arabi tells about alWadûd, the Loving One:

  1. Dependence (ta’alloq)

You are in need of Him, may He be exalted, so that He allows you to achieve the consolidation (thabat) of constant love (wadd) for Him and affectionate love for him (the Prophet) whom He (God) has ordered you to love, fixing love for him in your soul (nafs).

  1. Realization (tahaqqoq)

Affectionate love (wadd) consists in the actual manifestation of love (mahabba), from which it originates, and in the constancy (thabat) of that love. Qur’an 78:7 says:

Have We not made pegs (awtâd) of the mountains?

Qur’an 78:7

These pegs [which serve as supports for a tent] are called either watad (pl. awtâd) or wadd, so the term wadd means firmness (ithbat) and constancy (thabat). Therefore, the lover (almohibb) is the one whose love is free and pure and is devoted to the will of the Beloved, whilst the Loving One (al-Wadûd) is the One Whose love is constant.

  1. Adoption or characterization (takhalloq)

If the love (hobb) of Allah – may He be glorified and exalted – and the love of the one whom He has ordered you to love prevail in the heart of the servant in every state (hâl), which may arise unexpectedly from the Beloved (Mahbûb), whether it is agreeable to him or not, then that servant is called loving (wadûd).

It is now a small step to turn to shaykh Ibn al-‘Arabi’s Vocabulary of Love. The shaykh makes it clear (at the beginning of chapter 178 of The Openings Revealed in Makkah; translated by Maurice Gloton into French as Traité de l’amour; Paris; 1986) that love has four names:

  1. Hobb, germinal, seminal or original love, whose purity penetrates the heart and whose limpidity is not subject to accidental changes.
  2. Wadd, affection or the faithful attachment of love, a word to which the divine name Wadûd is related, the Constantly Lovable and Loving.. The faithful attachment of love is one of the divine characteristics. [According to the dictionary], it is to remain in something constantly. The noun Wadd, post, permanent tie, has been given to anything which is fixed in the earth.
  3. ‘Eshq, the spiralling of love or distraught love, extreme love or overwhelming love. This term comes from the same root as ‘ashaqa, convolvulus or bindweed [which winds itself in a spiral round a support, which it succeeds in smothering or causing to disappear; unlike the other three this term is not Qur’anic].
  4. Hawâ, the sudden inclination of love or unexpected passion of love.

According shaykh Ibn al-’Arabi on love, the following can easily be understood:

  1. Hobb = love; habba = grain or seed (seed of love), the two meanings being indissociable from one another: love produces the seed and the seed develops due to the effect of the seed of love, which it contains.
  2. ‘Ashaqa = convolvulus (which grows in a spiral around a support); ‘eshq represents love in an ascending, spiroid form like one of the aspects of movement belonging to the spirit (rûh) and like convolvulus.

Or, tells Maurice Gloton, by considering the polysemy of the root of a single word:

  1. Wadd = stake, nail, peg; wadd = love. The love designated by the term wadd is a solid, rooted and faithful love.
  2. Hawâ = passion; hawâ = love. The love designated by the word hawâ is the surge of love, the passion of loving.

Here we have four names and so four different connotations of love, although in the translations one often finds only this one, same word ‘love’ for all four aspects.

Furthermore we may point out that the third aspect of love that shaykh Ibn al-‘Arabi qualifies by ‘eshq implies an ascending movement whilst the fourth, hawâ also signifies, in the dictionary, ‘to fall from above to below’ and gives rise to the expression: air, atmosphere. Thus, the blowing of the divine breath in its double movement of expansive and contractive spiralling, circulates or evolves in the divine economy or in the creature according to an ascending and descending movement after the fashion of air heated by the sun or cooled by night.

Source: pp. 41-42 of an article of Maurice Gloton on shaykh Ibn al-‘Arabi’s Vocabulary of Love; Journal of the MIAS; vol XXVII; 2000.  

To be continued in part 4