Ibn al-Arabī in Fez
The next five years were a time when Ibn ‘Arabī entered into a different world. Having been brought up under the instruction and guidance of various spiritual masters of the West, he now came into his own as a Muhammadan heir. As from this point the real genius of Ibn ‘Arabī began to emerge and he became universal. Shortly after his return to Andalusia from North Africa in 1194 AD, Ibn ‘Arabī’s father died and within a few months his mother also died. Now the responsibility of the upbringing of his two young sisters fell upon his shoulders. His cousin came to him with the request that he should take up his wordly duties, and give up the spiritual life (Hirtenstein 110). It was a time of great uncertainty for Seville because of War. The third Sultan, Abū Yūsuf Ya’qūb al Manṣūr offered him a job but Ibn ‘Arabī refused both the job and an offer to marry off his sisters and within days he left Seville heading toward Fez, where they settled.
In Fez Ibn ‘Arabī met two men of remarkable spirituality, one of them was a sufi Pillar (awtād), his name was Ibn Ja’dūn and the second one known as al-Ashall (literally, “the withered” for the reason that he had a withered hand) who was the Pole (quṭb) of his time. It was a happy period of his life, where he could utterly dedicate himself to spiritual work. In Fez in 593 AH, he entered a new degree of vision in the form of light. In that vision, when he was leading a Prayer in the al-Azhar Mosque, he saw a light which was more visible than what was in front of him, he says:
“I lost the sense of behind [or front]. I no longer had a back or the nape of a neck. While the vision lasted, I had no sense of direction, as if I had been completely spherical (dimensionless).” (II, 486)
This light vision is a kind of foretaste of his great journey of light; in 594 AH at the age of 33, Ibn ‘Arabī was taken on one of the most extraordinary journeys of all: the ascension (al-mi‘rāj). Ibn ‘Arabī wrote a book named Kitāb al-Isrā (Book of the Night Journey) immediately after this spiritual experience. Some sections of Futūḥāt and Risālat al-Anwār (Epistle of Light) also elaborate the hidden meaning of these ascensions. It is quite interesting that Ibn ‘Arabī’s (the Muhammadan heir) ascension is an exact and faithful replication of the Prophet Muhammad's ascension; while the Prophet’s ascension took place bodily, his ascension was a dream, vision of a heart or the vision of forms. These divine events are determining the way forward for his ultimate role as the Seal of Muhmmadian Sainthood. Ibn ‘Arabī tells us that in 594 AH, in Fez Allah laid bare to him it’s true import and showed him the signs of his function. In al-Futūḥāt al-Makkiyya Chapter 43 starts with an open claim to the Seal of Muhammadian Sainthood, he says:
I am the Seal of Sainthood without any doubt, أنا ختم الولاية دون شك
by virtue of the inheritance of the Hashimite, لورثي الهاشمي مع المسيح
along with the Messiah (OY: IV, 71; Elmore, “Islamic Sainthood” 56).
These lines have no possible room for doubt: Ibn ‘Arabī is identifying himself categorically and explicitly with the Muhammadan Seal like Jesus (AS).