Ibn Arabi: Love

Ibn al-‘Arabi has dedicated a complete chapter of his Futuhat al-Makkiya to love, which has been translated by Maurice Gloton as ‘Traité de L’Amour’ (ISBN 2-226-02715-7).

He describes 3 types of love (pp. 67-127):

1. Divine love
2. Spiritual love
3. Natural love.

For those not knowing Arabic or French Stephen Hirtenstein has described these 3 types of love in his ‘The Unlimited Mercifier’ (ISBN 1-883991-29-3). See pp. 191-203. A condensed description with all the major features of the exposition of the shaykh is given on pp. 194-195:

“Know that Love is according to three degrees. (Firstly) there is natural love, which is the love of ordinary people, whose aim is unification in the animal spirit… It ends in the act of physical union, in which the passion of love spreads through the whole body like water permeating wool, or rather, like the permeation of colour in the coloured.
(Secondly) there is spiritual love of the soul, whose aim is becoming like the Beloved, accomplishing what is the Beloved’s due and knowing His decree.
(Thirdly) there is Divine Love, which is the love of God for the servant and the love of the servant for God, as in His word: “He loves them and they love Him”. Its greatest degree occurs in two ways:

(According to the first way) the servant sees that he is a place of manifestation for God, while it is God Who is the Manifest. This is like the spirit is for the body, its interior, in which it is always invisible and never seen. So he only sees Him as a lover.

(On the other hand) God may become a place of manifestation for the servant, so that He is qualified by whatever qualities the servant is qualified by, in terms of limitation, scope and non-essential characteristics, and the servant sees this. Then he becomes the beloved of God.

As things are as we have said, there is no limit to love, by which it could really be known. It can be limited in speaking or writing, though not otherwise”.