Once Upon a Time in Andalucia

For a while I once lived in Andalucia and I used to write a regular journal on this blog that viewed life from a Sufi perspective. I’ve been back in the UK for four years now and I’m busy writing my PhD thesis on Sufism in Israel. What I miss most about Andalucia is the light and a constant feeling of the baraka of Ibn ‘Arabi wherever I went. I sometimes wonder if I was in fact living more in the 12th/13th century than in the 21st century! The inspiration to write flowed easily during my stay in the mountains and I’m now considering writing a novel based on the entries in my blog – much expanded of course – and the work of Ibn ‘Arabi. Inshallah I’ll manage to find some time to write amidst my academic writing.

From the Fusus al-Hikam of Ibn ‘Arabi

La mosquée tombeau d'Ibn Arabi
Image by Ghaylam via Flickr

It is He who is revealed in every face, sought in every sign, gazed upon by every eye, worshipped in every object of worship, and pursued in the unseen and the visible. Not a single one of His creatures can fail to find Him in its primordial and original nature.

Ibn ‘Arabi, Fusus al-Hikam

The photo on the right is of the mosque which contains the tomb of Ibn ‘Arabi.

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Ibn ‘Arabi and Spiritual Refreshment

hirtenstein1I can always rely on Ibn ‘Arabi for spiritual refreshment and feeling greatly in need of drinking close to the source of compassion I have been reflecting on the great Shaykh’s life and work recently. Ibn ‘Arabi is also known as the Shaykh al-Akbar, the greatest Shaykh. He was born in Al-Andalus in the mid twelfth century and lived half his life there before travelling east. He wrote prodigiously and claimed never to write anything he had not experienced personally. His influence on the development of Sufism was immense. Stephen Hirtenstein has written a biography of Ibn ‘Arabi and what I appreciate so much about this biography is the way he introduces the reader to the thought of Ibn ‘Arabi and also describes the historical context in which he lived, wrote, and pursued his spiritual path. Many scholars see Ibn ‘Arabi as being equally significant to our present day concerns alongside the work of Jalaluddin Rumi. To read this book is like stepping into the times of Ibn ‘Arabi in Al-Andalus and bathing in his spiritual wisdom. Having lived in Andalucia I often had a sense of his presence in the places he had been whether in the mosque of Cordoba, the port of Adra, or under the mulberry trees in the Alpujarran Mountains. It felt like remembering his presence in Andalucia brought a special blessing and that I had moved back several hundred years through time, or that time had become blurred and no longer relevant. One day, insh’allah, I hope to visit his tomb in Damascus.

If you would like to read more about this great Shaykh then just click on the image.

Ibn ‘Arabi’s “Seven Days of the Heart”

“Providing a precious glimpse into the real practice of the mystical life within the Sufi tradition, this volume marks the first time any of Ibn ‘Arabi’s prayers have been translated into another language. The 14 prayers include not only the most astounding expressions of devotion and contemplation, but also an unparalleled depth of knowledge of union. The very structure of the prayers is itself a mode of contemplation, making for a unique spiritual experience.”

The following prayer is the prayer for Wednesday. I find it beautiful and powerful. As it says above, “the very structure of the prayers is itself a mode of contemplation”. While reading this prayer it felt like a spiritual experience. These heartfelt words enliven the soul and the love with which they were written vibrates as a palpable force. They certainly provide much to contemplate with awe and even after a lifetime of Wednesdays there will still be plenty to discover anew in the profundity of this prayer.

Wednesday Morning Prayer

IN THE NAME OF GOD, THE ALL-COMPASSIONATE AND MOST MERCIFUL:

O my Lord, confer upon me the honour of contemplating the lights of Your Pure Holiness, and the support of manifesting the power and authority of Your Intimacy, so that I may be turned according to the glories of the knowledges [which flow] from Your Names, and that this variability may disclose to me the secrets of every atom of my being in every sphere that I contemplate. By this may I come to witness what You have placed within the seen and unseen realms, and may I behold how the mystery of Your Holy Power permeates the evidences of Divine nature and human nature. Grant me complete gnosis and universal wisdom, so that there remains nothing knowable [in the universe] without me coming to know the subtle threads of its intricacies, which are spread throughout existence. By this may I drive away the darkness of created things which prevent the perception of the realities of [Your] Signs, and by this may I dispose freely over the hearts and spirits, kindling true love and friendship, right conduct and guidance.

Indeed You are the Lover who is Beloved, and the Seeker who is Sought! O You who makes all hearts turn and turn! O You who removes all distress! You are the One who knows all that is unseen, the One who puts a veil over all shortcomings, the One who covers up all sin with forgiveness! O You who has never ceased to be All-Forgiving! O You who has never ceased to veil and protect!

O Forgiving One! O Veiling One! O Preserver! O Protector! O Defender! O Benefactor! O Truly Affectionate One! O Graciously Indulgent One! O Most Subtle and Benevolent! O Most Mighty and Invincible! O Flawless, Boundless Peace! Forgive me, veil me and preserve me. Protect me, and defend me. Bestow upon me beneficence, affection and indulgence. Be benevolent to me, make me invincible, and grant me peace and security. Take me not to task for the baseness of my actions, and do not requite me for the evil of my works. Correct me without delay through Your complete Benevolence, and purify me with the purity of Your universal Compassion. Do not let me stand in need of any other than You! Protect me and absolve me. Make my whole affair righteous and proper [to You].

There is no god but You! Glory be to You, indeed I have been of the oppressors. You are the Most Merciful of the mercifiers!

May the blessing of God be upon our master Muhammad, and upon his family and companions, salutations to them all. Peace be upon the messengers. And praise be to God, Lord of the universes.

Eternity is Now

clipped from henrycorbinproject.blogspot.com

Delighting in one of the wonderful comparisons of which he was so fond, Corbin recounts a conversation with D. T. Suzuki in Ascona in 1954: “…we asked him what homologies in structure he found between Mahayana Buddhism and the cosmology of Swedenborg in respect of the symbolism and correspondences of worlds: I can still see Suzuki suddenly brandishing a spoon and saying with a smile ‘This spoon now exists in Paradise… We are now in Heaven,’ he explained. This was an authentically Zen way of answering the question; Ibn ‘Arabi would have relished it. ”

– Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn ‘Arabi, 354

Boddhisatvas in the Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves in Turfan, on the Silk Road, Xinjiang, western China.
I found this over at Tom Cheetham’s blog and am delighted with, ‘This spoon now exists in Paradise… We are now in Heaven’ because I have often thought that eternity can have no beginning or end by definition. Therefore, even if this planet is in some way time-bound, it can be no more than a veil, and perhaps a necessary one for our lives here, but nevertheless eternity is now and not at some future time. It also reminds me of something I read recently while studying Mahayana Buddhism for a field study. This sounds very Sufi to me, “Until you reach the path you wander in the world with the precious form of the sugata completely wrapped as in a bundle of rags” and also, “Here it is. You have this precious tathagata wrapped in rags. Unwrap it, quickly!” (1). If we understand ‘sugata’ and ‘tathagata’, as Buddhists do, as Ultimate Reality, the Real, then in Sufi Muslim terms this is Al-Haqq. Under the veils (rags) that appear to separate us from Allah (swt) is our primordial nature, our fitrah, that is a manifestation of the Attributes of Allah. may we all have clean hearts that are clear mirrors reflecting the One.

(1) The Arya-tathagatagarbha-sutra in The door of Liberation translated by Geshe Wangyal, p.205

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