By Dr Muhammad Maroof Shah
01 Nov 2018 10
Ibn Arabi matters because he is amongst the thinkers or sages whose meditations on key questions, we all face, are arguably amongst the most comprehensive and profound.
In physical, moral, spiritual and intellectual distress one seeks relevant healers and one doesn’t ask about the colour or race of the doctor. I find everyone, regardless of creed or IQ in some distress crying for help that Ibn Arabi can offer. The distress over any issue – personal, familial, religious, metaphysical – is overcome by turning to understanding/meaning of the issues in terms that one can’t but testify. If one is in distress over some family issue or has been hurt from someone’s bad words or divorce or is suffering an existential crisis or regretting the course of events on which one had no control or asks why people go astray or why good people suffer or why people die in religions they were born into and arguably earn damnation for choices they hardly make, consider what Ibn Arabi has to say. Ibn Arabi would show you how it is Mercy wrapping us all in all circumstances and not even hell is impenetrable to It. This hermeneutic of Mercy explains diversity of religions, philosophies, styles, temperaments, habits, preferences, obstructions we meet and even the hell we choose. God and His Mercy can’t be defeated and have the last word necessitating ultimate cooling of hell and its turning to heaven and some sweetness in the terrors of hell. Consider what Ibn Arabi stands for and then ask how come one should be troubled by the above mentioned and more problems/distractions/questions.
Ibn Arabi is advocating or better helping us to demonstrate, among other things, the following:
The “view” that attachment to views is to be transcended. One should not make fetish of one’s beliefs. The Perfect Man isn’t limited to/by any belief.
Although Allah is one but the Lord understood as an aspect of the Real that nurtures each creature in a unique way fit for the latter can’t be one. All individuals have their own unique personal Lord and are under divine tuition and are worshipping God in some sense even though they may be ignorant regarding how or fail to see how their every legitimate quest is for the Absolute and their illegitimate (declared so by revelation) searches (such as idolization of self/power/other than God) quests of the Absolute wrongly identified in the object for it is misplaced or misidentified Absolute that they are seeking.
The formless God is, paradoxically, manifested in every form and best revealed in the feminine face (that explains universal adoration of women, “the stars on the earth,” the fairies – pari chahra loag).
The world is made of the substance of mercy and love as existence is ontologically mercy. All events are love letters from God. Some know this and some are compelled to learn this by experience. Some keep doubting but don’t doubt the value of the gift called life and thus living by the mercy and countless gifts and graces that constitute life’s bounties and joys in the form of food, sunshine and rain, smiles and relationships.
We have never loved nor can love anything except God in disguise/for the sake of God. The fact that we love only inexistent things shows this.
God is not an object of knowledge but the one who knows when we know anything and all perception necessarily is perception of God and perception by God. Who can say he sees or hears when it is really God who sees and hears? How is it meaningful to prove God’s existence when God is considered the very being of everything – when one says is, one has already affirmed being or God the ground of being/wujud and one sees anything because of the Light that illuttminates it in the first place and the real perceiver is He. In fact, as Ghazzali would put it, God is the light with which we see the world.
Religions must necessarily differ by the very logic of what constitutes belief –uqdah/knot/a limitation or form imposed – and that atheists have a version – albeit impoverished one – of tawhid. Atheism is choosing not to travel further or closing oneself to what may come or other disclosures of the Real.
Era/Age is under a divine name and its secret or message is addressed to all that needs to be deciphered first rather than judged or reviled. What has manifested in the modern world has a reason/locus that needs first to be appreciated. We are all addressed through every event by the Spirit of Guidance. The Time and the spirit of times can’t be taken lightly.
Whatever happens to us, has been, so to speak, asked for by us. God is wujood giving/actualizing reality and the request, albeit unconscious but quite natural, is ours. This solves problems of determinism and free will.
We all love inexistence, in fact all love is only of the inexistent or God. We love what makes friend or spouse or beautiful object adorable. Beauty, as Plato sought to show, is a guest from the otherworld and a splendor of the Real. Beauty attracts us because God is Jameel and Wudood (the Most Loving). Muhammad is what we call the world of forms and colour – manifest face of the reality/world we seek. Things were originally inexistent (adm) and the Principle of their manifestation we call Muhammad. How come one lives and can casually speak of Muhammad (blessings and salutations on the Principle of life)? Whosever is in love with life and beauty is beholden to Muhammad, to the Light of Muhammad. Beauty is a sort of Messenger of God – in fact every event/ lowly insect has a message to convey to the Gnostic – as it is thus the sermon that interests all.
It is love that drives everything and mercy has the final word and hell gets cooled one day or becomes an object of bliss for its denizens. The root word for azab usually translated in terms of suffering is sweet thing. Imagine how hell has an element of sweetness. Al-Jili illustrates by noting how scratching clot gives pleasure. Hell is a torment for those who can’t face truth or consumption through love. Sorrow is distance from the real and if God/the Real is resisted, one can’t but suffer.
Invitation to belief in God is ultimately open invitation that one may take or decline and one is punished not by some revengeful God in some torture chamber for sinning/refusal but by the sin, by one’s own choice to be veiled from the Truth/Beauty/Love that radical innocence or openness makes accessible.
Ultimate stage is that of bewilderment that assimilates/builds upon various ideas like wonder, ceaseless travelling, utter novelty of everything, no bragging about one’s accomplishment or humility to acknowledge “I know that I don’t know” and surrender of will to truth, to ever-new unveilings or manifestations of the divine – that seeks to encompass, limit and manipulate.
Life can’t be sacrificed for belief/ideology – nothing is holier than human life as it is a divine image. Wherever sacred law allows taking life as last measure it is a means for letting greater life, social equilibrium, freedom and life of the other to bloom.
Possibly infinite meanings or interpretations of scripture are all intended by the Real, the All-Possibility/Infinite and that one must receive anew the meaning with every new reading.
God alone is/counts in the ultimate analysis. Who brags he exists or is proud for any reason is decimated by experiences – suffering, humiliation, encounter with the sublime – or purified by hell fire until realizes one’s error and nothingness.
Whatever we see or happens is a play of divine attributes or effect of divine names and as such “endorsed” at ontological plane though what has been prohibited by scriptures doesn’t please God the Guide with whom man in search of perfection/joy/heaven is concerned. One sins by virtue of God’s leave but suffers for the same by virtue of God’s other names such as al-Qahar (the Subduer). Existence/life has to be approached ultimately in aesthetic terms. Don’t worry for anything or feel like advising God for doing this or that as that implies we fail to appreciate that particular manifestation/tajalli of the Real. God is also Justice that seeks realization through those who work for justice. As such every good work done by anyone or say social activists/NGOs/right policing is worshipping/realizing God.
We are here or the world is there because we desired/have accepted being as against nothing. God is That which grants the requests for being that creatures make – who is ready to die and be gone or be nothing? In fact we are not – He alone is. The world expresses plenitude of the Being whose very nature is to radiate or see itself in a mirror – get recognized by the projected other and that we are all seekers or travelers and are ultimately the projects of Being or hired actors who however also choose to act to further their own ends which are ultimately the play for the sake of playing well.