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Ibn Al Arabi {r}: A Controversial Mystic - Part One - Early Life


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Ibn Al Arabi {r} -A Controversial Mystic

By Syed Mohd Pasha, al-Hussainy, Khaderi, Bhakhtiari


Bureau of Islamic Publications

“Baith ul Aman” 22/51, Barracks Rd., Periamet

CHENNAI 600003



This booklet was printed by M/s SHALIMAR PRINTERS, situated at Old No: 192, R oypettah High Road, Madras 600014 and released to the public on the 8th of May 1971.  So popular the booklet became that, barring one copy, which is in my possession, the copies were sold out.  I was repeatedly requested by my friends to get it reprinted. For some reason or the other, I was unable to do so. Its time has now come as I have decided to get it re-printed.

“Baithul Aman”

Syed Mohd. Pasha,

22/51, Barracks Rd., 

Periamet, CHENNAI 600003                    

October 17, 2014 C.E.

Earlier Foreword

Some people are allergic to controversies and controversial subjects and avoid them as plague but my good friend Mr. S. M, Pasha  seems to have a fascination for both; otherwise, he would not have chosen Sufism and  Ibn al Arabi  as subjects for this booklet.

Sufism i.e., Islamic mysticism is an enigma inside a riddle – those who know the least about it talk most about it.  And among the mystics who left behind their impact on the minds and hearts of millions, Ibn al Arabi is easily the most controversial figure. Some consider him as “SIDDIQUE” while others deride him as “ZINDEEQ”. Some feel he is worldly; to others he is other-worldly.

The reason for these divergent view is that in all his over 300 works, he discusses delicate subjects like godhead, prophethood,   heaven, hell, etc., with such brutal frankness rarely associated with Sufis and so the orthodox even push him beyond the pale of Islam. Mr. Pasha, however, has tried an objective appraisal of the Sufi’s teachings.  Notwithstanding quotations of chapter and verse from a number of sources, he could not successfully establish whether Ibn al Arabi was a Sultan among Sufis or a a substitute for Shaitan so seeks shelter behind the saying: “WAALAHU ALAM” {God alone knows}

But what deserves appreciation is the tenacity with which Mr. Pasha has collected the source material projecting all sides of the picture in a sympathetic light.  He has done the job well. Like Goldsmith, he does not touch anything which he does not adorn.

It may be difficult to agree in toto with the conclusions drawn in this booklet but no one can deny that the author has done his best. I heartily commend this volume to all scholars of Islamic Sufism in particular and students of mysticism in particular.

A.A. Rawoof


May 10, 1971

Publishers’ Note

Much has been written, much more can be - nay, much more ought to be written on the lives of the Saints of God for verily:

“Lives of great men all remind us

We can make our lives sublime,

And departing, leave behind us

Footprints on the sands of time”

This booklet is the first in the series on the “WISDOM OF THE SAINTS”.  Insha Allah, the other booklets would soon go to the Press. In spite of the ever-increasing cost of printing, we are making our publications as low –price as possible {without, at the same time, not lowering their quality and elegance} so that they may be within the reach of one and all. We earnestly solicit your co-operation and patronage, dear readers, in our humble endeavours.

A Word about the Author

Mr. S. M. Pasha is an Hon. Presidency Magistrate & Justice of the Peace, a dedicated social worker and a teacher turned journalist. He has several l publications to his credit.  During his tour of the  Middle East, he visited Makkah, At the Kabathullah, he  took a vow that he would, henceforth, make use  of his literary talents, bestowed by the Divine Source of all knowledge, only to help his fellow beings to understand and appreciate Islam.  May the Almighty give him strength to hold fast to his pious and laudable resolution, notwithstanding all the incidental stresses and strains, pulls and pressures and may the Shaper of Destinies of Mankind crown his efforts with success and reward him both in this world and  in the Hereafter.


192, Roypettah High Rd

Madras -14

May 8, 1971


I  commence, in the name of Allah, the Master of the Worlds,  invoking His blessings on  Prophet Muhammad {s.a.w}, his “Sahabah {companions),  “Tabayeen”{companions of the companions} and the” tab-e-Tabayeen” { companions of the companions of the companions}  and the Sufis  and in short, all the obedient servants of Allah (swt) and   admirers of “AWLIYA ALLAH”{R}

1.    Islam penetrates into the mystery of existence and transmits one to the realm of Reality. It has brought to many a human heart, tossed in the ocean of doubts and despair.  This booklet is the first in the series to be published with a view to stimulating the layman’s interest in Sufistic literature. I will consider my efforts amply rewarded if the booklet makes the reader so inquisitive about the doctrine of the Shaikh ul Akbar as to seize an early opportunity to examine it in detail.

I am very much indebted to my erstwhile colleague Prof. Syed Ali, Head of the Arabic Department in the New College,  Madras for helping me to gather the necessary material from diverse sources and for his constructive suggestions.

The assistance of Mr. A. Chand Basha, B.A., and Ancha Rahiman, B.Sc I acknowledge with profound thanks.

To   Janab A.A.RAVOOF Saheb – former Editor of “RADIANCE” and at present the Editor of “CRESCENT

English Weekly from Delhi, I m grateful for his thought-provoking and encouraging Foreword

I admit my shortcomings and for that and for all my sins of omissions and commissions in the style of writing and seek the readers’ profound apologies.

I thank the Almighty for inspiring me to pen this booklet, admittedly insignificant though, on such a lofty subject. May He, in His abundant Grace, forgive our trespasses and bestow us with strength  and guidance to walk on the Straight Path - the Path of those on whom He bestows His Grace and not of those who incur His Wrath and of those who astray. Ameen

162, Pycrofts Rd., Madras -5


May 8, 1971






Sr. No                      Topic                                        



                           Publishers’ Note


I                          Early Life

II                         Ramblings

III                        Makkan Revelations

IV                        At Damascus

V                      Shaikh – the Man

VI                     His Works

VII                     His views on God

VIII                   Shaikh – the Mystic

IX                     “Unity of Being”

X                       Saint or Satan?

“The saints of God are known by three signs – their THOUGHTS are OF God; their DWELLING is WITH God and their BUSINESS is in God”

                         ----- Shaikh Maruf al Karkhi (R)

In The Name Of Allah, Boundlessly Bountiful, Infinitely Merciful

IBN AL ARABI {the Controversial Mystic}



Was Ibn al Arabi a “Zindiq (a hypocrite) or a “Siddique” (a man of truth)?  Scholars were and are divided in their opinions about this prolific writer, talented poet and erudite philosopher, to say the least.  The material for a detailed biographical sketch, a thorough enquiry into and dispassionate assessment of his doctrine are too inadequate, abstruse and unyielding to make any conclusive remarks about him.  I content myself with presenting – objectively, as far as possible, a brief account of his life along with , what may be taken to be an apology of an interpretation of his views and the views of others on his doctrine.

Shaikh al Akbar Muhiyuddin Ibn al Arabi (who is known in the West as IBN SURAQA and in the EAST called IBN al ARABI, dropping the definite article “al” in order to differentiate him and SHAIKH ABU BAKR – the Quazi of Seville – who was called IBN al ARABI) was the descendant of HATHIM at THAI - the celebrated benefactor whose philanthropy and hospitality is proverbial.  After the conquest of Spain by the Arabs, the forefathers of the Shaikh are believed to have migrated there.  Ibn Al Abbar, however, suggests that the Shaikh was a MARIAN and that his (the latter’s) father was a carpenter, who lived at Seville till 597 H.  Legend has that Ali bin Muhammad al Arabi - the Shaikh’s father - who was childless for a long time implored the great  VALIULLAH Shaikh Muhiyuddin Abdul Quader Jeelani {R} to pray to Allah Subhan Athallah to bless him with a male child.  The revered Sufi prayed and bade Ai bin al Arabi to name his child MUHIYUDDIN after him.  It is also said that the saint prophesied that the child would grow up to be a “KNOWER OF DIVINE SECRETS’”. Thus, on the night preceding Monday the 17th of Ramadhan 560 H (corresponding to the 26th July 1165 C.E. at MERCIA in Spain was born the great son of Islam Syedina Muhiyuddin Ibn Al Arabi {R}.

 Providence was bountiful enough to bestow on Ibn al Arabi’s father, who was, himself, a scholar of no mean merit, sufficient means to give his child best available education. At the age of eight, he was taken to Seville for his education where he studied the Quran under Syedina Abu Bakr bin Khalaf; Hadith {Traditions} under Syedina Abu’l Qasim of Sharrat in Cordova.  The young and promising Mercian boy was even permitted to narrate Hadith by eminent scholars like Syedina Hafiz al Salafi, Syedina Ibn al Asakir, Syedina Abu’l Faraj and Syedina Ibn al Jawzi.

 The Shaikh, even during his childhood days, was highly devotional.  He used to spend his leisure in the company of Sufis and “Ah al Huq” (people of the Reality).  According to Dhabi, “even as a student, Ibn al Arabi became famous inasmuch as his vocabulary was vast and his sparkling intelligence, splendid memory and dazzling mental force are resplendently displayed by his complete mastery over the details of the problems of Sufism;  his innumerable completions of “IRFAAN” { gnosis illumination etc.,}   When he sang about Allah and His Apostle (s.a.w.s} he used to fall into a sort of a swoon and it appeared as if he was drunk.”

 Ibn al Arabi, when grown into masnhood, gave out that he had the “KHIRQAH” (emblem of discipleship} from the living Prophet KHIZHAR (Alaihis Salam}.   Syedina al-Quthub al Unani writes in his  “Mir ‘at al Zaman” that Ibn al Arabi used to declare that  he ( the Shaikh al Akbar} knew the “ISM-E-AZAM” ( the great name of Allah Subhan Athallah} and that he acquired the knowledge of alchemy  NOT through study but through supernatural sources,”.

The Shaikh was a ‘MUREEDH’ {disciple} of A NINETY YEARS {95} OLD LADY SAINT SAYEEDA FATHIMA BINTAL WALLIYA {R} who, it is said, had the “sight of Allah in everything in the world.”

 The Shaikh al Akbar took up a life of renunciation and poverty in 598 H { corresponding to 1202 C.E} and left Spain once for all  in the same year  and went to Northern Africa and Egypt and thence to Hijaz, Baghdad, Mosul, Aleppo and other places till he settled down in DAMASCUS.

“Faith is the medicine of every grief.

Doubt only raises up a host of cares.”  - Shaikh Abu’l Athahiyah

Free-lance Journalist, Syed Mohd Pasha, al-Hussainy, Khaderi, Bhakhtiari is author of 55 books in English on Islam, Muslims & comparative religion. This book is being published online for the first time exclusively on