At the end of his long journey he finally arrived at Makkah, the mother of all cities, in 598 AH (July 1202 AD). The Makkan period of Ibn ‘Arabī’s life can be viewed as the fulcrum of his earthly existence; he spent 36 years of his life in the West and the upcoming 36 years in the East, with about 3 years in Makkah in between. This three year period both connects and differentiates the two halves of his life. It was in Makkah that he started writing the very best of his works Al-Futūḥāt al-Makkiyya, It was in Makkah that his status as Seal of Muhammadian sainthood was confirmed in the glorious vision of the Prophet; it was in Makkah that he had the dream of the two bricks and his encounter with the Ka‘ba; it was in Makkah that the love of women was first evoked in his heart by the beautiful Niẓām, who became the personification of wisdom and beauty. It was in Makkah that he first savoured the pleasures of married life, marrying and becoming a father. His first wife was Fāṭima bint Yūnus and their first son Muḥammad ‘Imāduddin was probably born in Makkah (Hirtenstein 148-150). Again it was in Makkah that he produced the very best of his works, like the first chapters of Futūḥāt, the Rūḥ al-Quds, the Tāj al-Rasā’il, the Ḥilyat al-Abdāl and a collections of hadīth qudsī named “Mishkat al-Anwār”. It is also worth mentioning that in Makkah he met some of the eminent scholars of Ḥadīth of his time. Amongst them was Abū Shujā’ Ẓāhir bin Rustam, father of the beautiful Niẓām and Yūnus ibn Yaḥyā al-Ḥāshimī, who had been a pupil of the great ‘Abd al-Qādir al-Jīlānī in Baghdad. He not only introduced Ibn ‘Arabī to the Prophetic tradition but also transmitted to him the teachings of the most famous saint in Egypt in the ninth century, Dhū’l-Nūn al-Miṣrī. Yūnus ibn Yaḥyā also invested him in front of the Ka‘ba with the Khirqa (Mantle) of ‘Abd al-Qādir al-Jīlānī. (Ibn ‘Arabī, “Nasab al-Khirqa”; Elmore “Mantle of Initiation” 1-33). It is believed that after wearing this Khirqa Ibn ‘Arabī formally joined the Qadriyya Traīqa.
Visions at Ka‘ba
Apart from all this, several visions were granted to him in Makkah. The first took place at night during his circumambulations of the Ka‘ba when he met a young beautiful girl Qurrat al-‘Ayn (Hirtenstein 148). In the second vision, during his circumambulations of the Ka‘ba, he met the mysterious figure who had appeared at the beginning of his ascension and here at Makkah. He said to Ibn ‘Arabī, you should circumambulate in my footstep and observe me in the light of my moon, so that you may take from my constitution that which you write in your book and transmit to your readers (OY: I, 218). The third vision also occurs at Ka‘ba in a spiritual conversation with the Ḥaram and the Zamzam stream; Ka‘ba ordered him to circumambulate it and the Zamzam told him to drink this pure water but a soft refusal made Ka‘ba angry and he took revenge on a cold and rainy night in the year 600 AH. Shaykh heard the voice of Ka‘ba loud and clear; later in a meditation God taught him the lesson and to express this gratitude Ibn ‘Arabī composed a collection of letters in rhymed prose, entitled the Tāj al-Rasā’il, in homage to the Ka‘ba. The next vision is also related to Ka‘ba, in the year 599 AH in Makkah Ibn ‘Arabī saw a dream which confirms once again his accession to the office of the Seal of the Muhammadian Sainthood. He saw two bricks – one of Gold and the other of Silver – were missing from two rows of the wall of Ka‘ba. He says: “In the mean time I was observing that, standing there, I feel without doubt that I was these two bricks and these two bricks were me …. And perhaps it is through me that God has sealed sainthood” (Addas 213). In the year 599 AH during circumambulating the Ka‘ba, he encountered the son of Caliph Hārūn al-Rashīd, who had been dead for four centuries and was famous for choosing Saturday for work to gather food for rest of the week. Ibn ‘Arabī asked him: “Who are you?” He replied: “I am al-Sabtī ibn Hārūn al-Rashīd.” Later Ibn ‘Arabī asked him: “What was the reason of choosing Saturday for work?” He replied: “As God has made this universe in six days from Sunday to Friday, and he rested on Saturday, so I, as His servant worked on Saturday and devoted myself to worshiping Lord for the rest of the week.” In another glorious vision at Ka‘ba Ibn ‘Arabī saw his forefathers and asked one of them his time, he replied he had been dead around forty thousand years ago. Finally, at Ka‘ba, behind the wall of Hanbalites, Ibn ‘Arabī was granted the privilege of being able to join a meeting of the seven Abdāl (Addas 216).
Counsel my Servants
The message was clear and it was from God; in a passage of Kitab al-Mubashshirāt Ibn ‘Arabī admits that one evening in Makkah he experienced a brief spell of despondency on the face of his disciples, he thought of leaving all counselling, abandon men to their fate and to devote his future efforts to himself alone as those who truly enter the Path are rare. On the same night, he saw himself in dream facing God on the Day of Judgment. In that dream, He said: “I was standing in front of my Lord, head lowered and fearing that He would punish me for my short comings but he said to me: “Servant of Mine, fear nothing! All I ask of you is that you should counsel My servants” (Addas 218). Faithful to this assurance he would spend the rest of his life giving advice to people from all walks of life, direct disciples, religious authorities and political rulers. This vision probably occurred in the year 600 AH at Makkah, as the very first page of the Rūḥ al-Quds, written following this revelational order mentions it vividly. According to Osman Yahia; Ibn ‘Arabī produced 50 of his works after this Divine order, some of which are short epistles of less than 10 pages but all of these are rooted in the Divine order: “Counsel My servants.”
Ibn Arabī’s life, spanning between 600 to 617 AH is full of journeys, he frequently kept crossing and re-crossing Syria, Palestine, Anatolia, Egypt, Iraq and the Ḥijāz, yet this physical activity stood in no way in his spiritual pursuits and obligations. The two dimension activity had indeed the same spiritual provenance and was motivated by the sublime purpose of higher life unrelated to egocentricity. The year 600 AH witnessed a meeting between Ibn ‘Arabī and Shaykh Majduddīn Isḥāq ibn Yūsuf, a native of Malatya and a man of great standing at the Seljuk court. This time Ibn ‘Arabī was travelling north; first they visited the city of the Prophet Muḥammad (PBUH) and in 601 AH they entered Baghdad. This visit besides other benefits offered him a chance to meet the direct disciples of Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qādir Jīlānī. Shaykh al-Akbar stayed there only for 12 days because he wanted to visit Mosul to see his friend ‘Alī ibn ‘Abdallāh ibn Jāmi’, a disciple of Qaḍīb al-Bān. There he spent the month of Ramaḍan and composed Tanazzulāt al-Mawṣiliyya, Kitāb al-Jalāl wa’l-Jamāl and Kunh mā lā Budda lil-MurīdMinhu (Hirtenstein 176). Here he was invested with the khirqa of Khiḍr (AS), transmitted to him by ‘Alī ibn ‘Abdallāh ibn Jāmi’. Later the group travelled north and arrived at Malatya, Majduddīn’s hometown and then to Konya. In Konya Ibn ‘Arabī met with Awḥaduddīn Ḥamīd Kirmānī, who became his friend like Majduddīn. He transmitted to Ibn ‘Arabī teachings and stories of the many great spiritual masters of the East. Over the next 20 years Ibn ‘Arabī and Kirmānī remained close friends and companions (Hirtenstein 179).
After spending 9 months in Konya, he returned to Malatya where Kaykā’ūs, one of the Kaykhusraw’s sons, had been made ruler of Malatya. Majduddīn was appointed as his tutor and Ibn ‘Arabī also became involved in the young prince’s education.
Return to South
In the year 602 AH he visited Jerusalem, Makkah and Egypt. It was his first time that he passed through Syria, visiting Aleppo and Damascus. In Jerusalem, he continued writing, and 5 more works were completed. These are: Kitāb al-Bā’, Ishārāt al-Qur’ān. In May 602 AH he visited Hebron, where he wrote Kitāb al-Yaqīn at Masjīd al-Yaqīn near the tomb of Prophet Ibrāhīm (AS) (Yūsuf 307). The following year he headed toward Cairo, staying there with his old Andalusian friends , including Abū al-‘Abbās al-Ḥarrār, his brother Muḥammad al-Khayyāt and ‘Abdallāh al-Mawrūrī. In Cairo Rūḥ al-Quds and Kitāb Ayyām al-Sha’n were read again before Ibn ‘Arabī, with the reader this time being a young man named Ismā’il ibn Sawdakīn al-Nūrī (Yūsuf 309). Like Badr al-Ḥabashī, Ibn Sawdakīn attached himself to Ibn ‘Arabī forever. He left value-oriented commentaries on the works of Ibn ‘Arabī notably Mashāhid al-Asrār, Kitāb al-Isrā’ and the Kitāb al-Tajalliyāt. His house in Aleppo was often used for the reading of Ibn ‘Arabī’s works over the next 40 years (Yūsuf 311).
Later in 604 AH he returned to Makkah where he continued to study and write, spending his time with his friend Abū Shujā bin Rustem and family, including the beautiful Niẓām (II, 376; Hirtenstein 181). The next 4 to 5 years of Ibn ‘Arabī’s life were spent in these lands and he also kept travelling and holding the reading sessions of his works in his own presence.
Baghdad, city of the Saints
In the year 608 we find him in Baghdad with his friend Majduddīn Isḥāq and there he met the famous historian Ibn al-Dubaythī and his disciple Ibn al-Najjār. In Baghdad, he had a terrifying vision regarding the Divine deception (makr), In which he saw the gates of heaven open and the treasures of Divine deception fell like rain on everyone. He awoke terrified and looked for a way of being safe from these deceptions. The only safe way he found is by knowing the balance of the Divine law.
According to Osman Yahia in Baghdad Ibn ‘Arabī met with the famous Sufi Shihābuddīn Suharwardī (d. 632), author of the ‘Awārif al-ma’ārif who was personal advisor to Caliph al-Nāṣir. In this meeting, they stayed together for a while, with lowered heads and departed without exchanging a single word. Later Ibn ‘Arabī said about Suharwardī: “He is impregnated with the Sunna from tip to toe” and Suharwardī said about Ibn ‘Arabī: “He is an ocean of essential truths (baḥr al-Ḥaqāiq).
In the year 611 he was again in Makkah, where his friend Abū Shujā had died two years before. Ibn ‘Arabī performed Ḥajj and started compilation of his most famous poetic work the Tarjumān al-Ashwāq. After Ḥajj Ibn ‘Arabī left Makkah, travelling north towards the Roman lands, probably Konya or Malatya and in the year 610/611 he returned to Aleppo. In Aleppo this work caused uproar and consternation in certain quarters, since he came under the blame of writing erotic verses under the cover of poetic allusions. The jurists from Allepo severely criticized the claim that this poetry was a mystical or expresses Divine realities, which made his disciples very upset. Later on the request of his two disciples, Ibn Sawdakīn and Badr al-Ḥabashī he wrote a commentary on these poems by the title of “Dhakhā’ir al-A’lāq” in a great hurry. It was completed in Anatolia in 612. When the jurists heard this commentary, they felt sorry for unjustly exposing Ibn ‘Arabī to scathing criticism (Yūsuf 335).
In Sivas and Malatya
The period of extensive travelling came to an end and for the next few years he seems to have made his home in the Seljuk Kingdom. In the year 612 AH, at Sivas he had a vision anticipating Kaykā’ūs victory at Antioch over the Franks. He wrote a poem in which he enlightened the Sultan of the vision and his future victory. Later Ibn ‘Arabī returned to Malatya and according to Stephen Hartenstein he met Bahā’uddīn Walad, father of the famous Persian Poet Jallaluddīn Rūmī. the famous Persian poet of that time. Little Rūmī was with his father and after the meeting when Bahā’uddīn left with his son tagging along behind him, Shaykh al-Akbar said: “What an extraordinary sight, a sea followed by an ocean!” (Hirtenstein 188).
His reading and writings continued in Malatya, where in 615 AH, we find hearings of Rūḥ al-Quds, finalization of The Tarjumān al-Ashwāq and compilation of a short epistle on the technical terms of Sufism: the Iṣṭilāhāt al-ṣūfiyya. The year 617 was the year of mourning for him as he lost one of his best friends Majduddīn Isḥāq, Ibn ‘Arabī took charge of the upbringing of the young Ṣadruddīn and married the widow as it was necessary according to the customs of the time. (Hirtenstein 189). Lastly his close companion and valet, friend and fellow, traveller on the way of God Badr al-Ḥabashī died.