An Introduction to the School of Ibn al-'Arabi
Analyzing the intersection between Sufism and philosophy, this volume is a sweeping examination of the mystical philosophy of Muḥyī-l-Dīn Ibn al-ʿArabī (d. 637/1240), one of the most influential and original thinkers of the Islamic world. This book systematically covers Ibn al-ʿArabī’s ontology, theology, epistemology, teleology, spiritual anthropology and eschatology.
While philosophy uses deductive reasoning to discover the fundamental nature of existence and Sufism relies on spiritual experience, it was not until the school of Ibn al-ʿArabī that philosophy and Sufism converged into a single framework by elaborating spiritual doctrines in precise philosophical language. Contextualizing the historical development of Ibn al-ʿArabī’s school, the work draws from the earliest commentators of Ibn al-ʿArabī’s oeuvre, Ṣadr al-Dīn al-Qūnawī (d. 673/1274), ʿAbd al-Razzāq al-Kāshānī (d. ca. 730/1330) and Dawūd al-Qayṣarī (d. 751/1350), but also draws from the medieval heirs of his doctrines Sayyid Ḥaydar Āmulī (d. 787/1385), the pivotal intellectual and mystical figure of Persia who recast philosophical Sufism within the framework of Twelver Shīʿism and ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Jāmī (d. 898/1492), the key figure in the dissemination of Ibn al-ʿArabī’s ideas in the Persianate world as well as the Ottoman Empire, India, China and East Asia via Central Asia.
Lucidly written and comprehensive in scope, with careful treatments of the key authors, Philosophical Sufism is a highly accessible introductory text for students and researchers interested in Islam, philosophy, religion and the Middle East.
Table of Contents
2. The Divine Names and Attributes
3. Divine Knowledge
4. The Origin of Multiplicity
5. The Universal Worlds
6. The Imaginal World
8. The Human Vicegerency
9. The Existential Circle
10. The Supreme Spirit in the Microcosm
11. Prophethood, Messengership and Sainthood
Mukhtar H. Ali is a Research Fellow at the Warburg Institute, School of Advanced Studies, University of London. He specializes in Sufism, Islamic philosophy and ethics, and has published widely in various peer-reviewed venues. He has also translated several works in classical and contemporary Islamic metaphysics, which include The Principles of Correspondences (2013) and The New Creation (2018) and The Horizons of Being: The Metaphysics of Ibn al-?Arabi in the Muqaddimat al-Qay?ari (2020).
“Mukhtar Ali's Philosophical Sufism is his second major contribution to analyzing the intersection between the two disciplines, written in a clear and accessible language and deserving a wide readership. Having supervised his dissertation some years ago, I am gratified to see that he has emerged as a prominent scholar in this field of Islamic Studies.”— Hamid Algar, Professor Emeritus of Persian and Islamic Studies, University of California, Berkeley
“Exceptionally clear and clearly exceptional, Philosophical Sufism presents us with an analytically rigorous and spiritually sensitive explication of the main doctrines of the school of Ibn al-ʿArabī, which dominated spiritual and intellectual life in the pre-modern and early modern Islamic world for well over six hundred years. As such, this book recommends itself to not only intellectual historians and professional philosophers, but also those who would like to bring the riches of the Sufi metaphysical tradition to bear upon the impoverished scene of contemporary Islamic thought.”— Mohammed Rustom, author of Inrushes of the Heart: The Sufi Philosophy of ʿAyn al-Quḍāt
“Philosophical Sufism is a very welcome addition to Islamic studies. Mukhtar Ali’s presentation of the intersections of philosophy and Sufism manages to maintain a balance that is wide-ranging, yet structured; accessible, yet profound. Lucidly written, with careful treatments of the key authors and texts of this important intellectual phenomenon, Philosophical Sufism will be invaluable for both researchers and instructors.”— Cyrus Ali Zargar, author of The Polished Mirror: Storytelling and the Pursuit of Virtue in Islamic Philosophy and Sufism.
“Philosophical Sufism offers a highly accessible account of Islamic mysticism in the language of ratiocination. Undergraduates and adepts alike will benefit from the overview of Sufi themes and scholarly literature. Its pedagogical value lies in the clarity of discussion, the author’s effortless style and firm grasp of the topics. An indispensable contribution that bridges the gap between Islamic philosophy and mysticism.”— Harun Rasiah, Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies, California State University
“With skillful erudition, Mukhtar Ali distills the central philosophical tenets of the school of Ibn al-ʿArabi, systematically covering ontology, epistemology, teleology, human vicegerency, the nature of imagination, and the relation between the macrocosm and microcosm. As one of very few introductory texts on the subject, it will prove invaluable particularly to students.”—Atif Khalil, author of Repentance and the Return to God: Tawba in Early Sufism