Factually speaking, Shaykh al-‘Uryabī initiated Ibn ‘Arabī’s contact with Khiḍr in Seville, when he was only a youth. Ibn ‘Arabī says: “I met Khiḍr in Qūs al-haniyya in Seville, and he said to me: “Accept what the Shaykh says!” I immediately turned to the Shaykh [‘Uryabī] and before I spoke he said: “O Muḥammad, does that mean that every time you contradict me, I will have to ask Khiḍr to instruct you in submission to the masters?” I replied: “Master, was that person Khiḍr?” He answered: “Yes!” (I, 331; Addas 63). That was his first meeting with Khiḍr. Later Ibn ‘Arabī met Khiḍr several times. In 1193 at the age of 28 Ibn ‘Arabī visited Tunis and the main intention behind this visit was to meet with the great disciples of Abū Madyan, notably ‘Abd al-‘Aziz al-Mahdawī and Abū Muḥammad ‘Abdallāh al-Kinānī. He stayed there for less than a year during which he realized the station of pure servant-hood and the Muhammadian inheritance. On return from Tunis, he met Khiḍr for the second time; it happened when he was returning from Tunis by boat, on a lunar night he saw a man walking on the water towards him. On reaching the boat, Khiḍr stood on the sea and showed him that his feet were still dry. After that Khiḍr conversed with Ibn ‘Arabī in a language which is peculiar to him (OY: III, 182).
On reaching Andalusia in late 590 AH, Ibn ‘Arabī had his third meeting with Khiḍr, this time Khiḍr performed a miracle to provide evidence to a companion of Ibn ‘Arabī who denies the existence of miracles. A common feature of all these meetings with Khiḍr was that they took place in the presence of a high rank spiritual master initiating Ibn ‘Arabī into the knowledge of Divine mysteries.
Great vision in Cordoba
In the year 586, Ibn ‘Arabī had a rare vision in Cordoba, in which he met all the Prophets from the time of Adam to Muḥammad (PBUT) in their spiritual reality. Prophet Hūd (AS) spoke to him and explained him the reason for their gathering. We can trace what Hūd told him in Rūḥ al-Quds when Abū Muḥammad Makhlūf al-Qabā’ili – a saint of Cordoba – died, the Prophet Hūd said: “We came to visit Abū Muḥammad Makhlūf al-Qabā’ili” (Ibn ‘Arabī, “Rūh al-Quds” 116). According to a tradition among the direct disciples of Ibn ‘Arabī, Hūd (AS) explained that the real reason for their gathering was to welcome him (Ibn ‘Arabī) as the Seal of Muhammadan Sainthood (khatm al-wilāya al-muḥammadiyya), the supreme heir (Addas 76).
Stephen Hirtenstein writes in Unlimited Mercifier: “It is from his return from Tunis, we find the first evidence of Ibn ‘Arabī beginning to write; later in 1194, he wrote one of his first major works, Mashāhid al-Asrār al-Qudusiyya (Contemplation of the Holy Mysteries) for the companions of al-Mahdawī and perhaps around the same time, in a space of four days, also composed the voluminous Tadbīrāt al-Ilāhiyya (Divine Governance) in Mawrūr (Moron) for Shaykh Abū Muḥammad al-Mawrūrī” (91).
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).