Dr. Averroes, I presume…

There is an account – by Ibn al-‘Arabi self – of his meeting with Ibn Rushd (Averroes). His father was a close friend of the philosopher, who had heard a great deal of the young man and who was curious to meet him. So, on some pretext his father sent him to the house of Ibn Rushd. I have always wondered about the meaning of their curious meeting. In several books different explanations have been offered, but none was really satisfactory. In the Journal of the Ibn al-‘Arabi society I read an article dedicated to this meeting. Therein it was stressed that it is important to ask yourself about the meaning of this meeting between the young mystic and the…

Sufi commentaries on the Qur’an

The Sufis have commented on the Qur’an in different ways. Let’s explore some of these esoteric commentaries. 1. CORRESPONDENCE Shaykh al-Qashani is according to me one of the most interesting Sufi commentators on the Qur’an. It so happened that I’ve seen his commentary in a second-hand bookshop and I almost bought it, although I cannot read Arabic. This commentary is wrongly being attributed to shaykh Ibn al-‘Arabi. Shaykh al-Qashani however belonged to the school of shaykh Ibn al-‘Arabi. Shaykh al-Qashani makes use of the method of tatbiq. His method of interpretation of the Qur’an consists of making correspondences. These correspondences connect the macrocosm with the microcosm. The shaykh explains the Qur’anic verses in terms of spiritual psychology and stages of…

Father

Samuel Johnson, on a visit to friends, which took place in 1781, was to disappear for much of the day. The friends with whom he was staying, were reluctant to ask him where he had been, but, after a silence of several minutes, he explained that when he was a young man and still was living with his father at home, his father was on a certain day very ill. His father, unable to get out of bed, asked Samuel to go to Uttoxeter and look after his bookstall that he used on market days. However, “my pride prevented me,” said Johnson, and “I gave my father a refusal.” He further explained that he had today taken “a post chaise…

Iblis

People say that when Iblis was cursed, he was so excited and overcome by the intensity of his joy that he filled the whole world by himself. Some asked him: ‘How can you act this way seeing that you have been driven from the Divine Presence?’ He replied: ‘By this robe of honour the Beloved has singled me out; neither an angel who has been brought near, wears it, nor a prophet who has been sent forth’.

The inner school of the Sufis

A Chishti shaykh once pointed out to me how it can be observed that the inner school takes place. The dervishes then sit in the shape of a crescent opening up to the light of the ‘star’, their shaykh. And indeed afterwards it was easy to recognise. The subject that is discussed cannot always be judged at face value. I remember that once in my presence the shaykh discussed several things, but all of them dealing with worldly matters. I was feeling rather disappointed having made a long travel to attend. At that very moment the shaykh brought up a new subject, also having to do with outward things, but at the same time I did not only realise that…

The Perfume Seller

Just suppose you are able to make an interview with shaykh Fariduddin ‘Attâr. What would you ask him? Perhaps some of your questions are similar to the ones as given below: Q: What has been your profession? A: I have written my poems in my “dâru-khâne” wherein I combined the selling of drugs and perfumes with the practice of medicine. Q: It is said that one day a dervish called at your dâru-khâne, your dispensary and asked for alms, but you were too busy with your patients to care for him and gave no reply. Hence you took no notice of him on his second polite demand, the dervish remarked: “You are so busy amassing wealth here. How will you…

The sufi interpretation of the letter Alif

Hakim Tirmidhi calls the science of letters (‘ilm al-huruf) the science of the friends of God (‘ilm al-awliya). Shaykh Ibn al-‘Arabi gives it lots of attention by writing about it in his second chapter of his masterpiece “The Meccan Openings”. The alif (the letter a) is isolated in writing. This means that it cannot be written connected to the letter following it. The alif thus symbolizes the transcendent, unqualified essence. The downward stroke of the alif symbolizes universal manifestation from the highest state of Being to the lowest one. Shaykh ad-Dabbagh has been a so-called ummi, an illiterate, just like the Prophet has been called ummi. The shaykh was not truly illeterate, but in his case ummi implies that he…

Listening and Understanding

In the early 9th century, when the Muslim mystics organised their Sufi brotherhoods or orders, they adopted music as a support for meditation, as a means of access to the state of grace or ecstasy, or quite simple as ‘soulfood’, in other words, something that would give new vigour to a body and soul tired by the rigours of the ascetic life. In Sufism the sama’ (meaning literally ‘listening’) denotes the tradition of listening in spiritual fashion to music, chanting and songs of various forms, all ritualised to a greater or lesser degree. The very meaning of the word sama’ suggests that it is the act of listening that is spiritual, without the music or poetry being necessarily religious in…

Who are the just?

A man who cultivates his garden, as Voltaire wished. He who is grateful for the existence of music. He who takes pleasure in tracing a root of a word. Two servants playing, in a café in the South, a silent game of chess. The potter, contemplating a colour and a form. The typographer who sets this page well, although it may not please him. A woman and a man, who read the last tercets of a certain canto. He who strokes a sleeping animal. He who justifies, or wishes to, a wrong done him. He who is grateful for the existence of a Stevenson. He who prefers others to be right. These people, who don’t know one another, are saving…

The independent man

Many hundreds of years ago there were two man of Kabul who fell upon very hard times. They lost all they owned and suffered great hardship and poverty. So great was their misfortune that, try as they might, they could not improve their position. Always something happened to them to cause them a setback. Great were the bodily hunger and distress of mind, which they suffered. Grief and sorrow lay upon them like a heavy cloud. One day one man said to the other: ‘We have suffered much and have toiled hard, yet there seems no hope of improving our lot. Let us leave this country and seek our fortune elsewhere. Surely that would be a wise move. The good…