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A thesis submitted to
the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research
in panial fuifilment of the requirements
for the degree of Master of Ans

The Institute ofIslamic Studies

McGill University

November 1990
Shams Alibhai



Shams Alibhai


The Shajarat al-Kawn attributed to Ibn Arabi:

An Analytical Study


The Institute of Islamic Studies, McGill University


Master of Arts

The present study aims to understand the subject matter of the Shajarat aJ-Kawn. In the two
earlier studies of this text - both translations, the frrst in English and the second in French
with extensive notes - the translators approach the text with specifie preconceptions which
influence the translations and analyses. In contrast, om' approach is to focus on the persons,
events and images within the text and thereby to reveal the salient issues and themes, In the
analysis we are led to question the authorship of the text, specifie details reveal that it may
not be by Ibn Arabi. In spite of this problem, the description of the archetypal figures
Muhammad and Iblis - which has elements resembling the description of the same figures by

al-I:Iallaj and CAyn al-Qulat al-Hamadhani - leads us to believe that the Shajarat al-

Kawn makes an important contribution toward understanding sorne of the riddles on how
these complex figures are viewed.

page ii

._-~-_ ...


. _ - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - ----------

Shams Alibhai


Le Shajarat al-Kawn attribu Ibn cArabi:


Une tude analytique


Institut des tudes islamiques, Universit



Matrise s arts

Cette tude pour but de comprendre le sujet du Shajarat aJ-Kawn. Dans les deux tudes
prcdentes - les deux traductions, la premire en anglais et la deuxime en franais, celle-ci
largement annote - les traducteurs abordent le texte en s'y appliquant aux ides prconues,
ce qui influence les traductions et l'analyses. Par contraste, notre dmarche est de montrer les
problmes et les thmes saillants en nous concentrant sur les personnages, les vnements et
les images dans le texte. L'analyse met en question la paternit du texte, certains dtails en
particulier rvlent qu'il se peut que le texte ne soit pas de la main d'Ibn 'Arabi. Malgr ce
problme la description des personnages archtypes Muhammad et Ibls - qui ressemblent
ceux dans les oeuvres de


al-l:IalUij et 'Ayn al-QuQat al-Hamadhani - nous mne

croire que le Shajarat al-Kawn reprsente une contribution importante la comprhension

des nigmes de la manire dont on voit ces personnages compliqus.

page li

The completion of this thesis and the length of rime required, would not have been feas,ible
without the support of my family, teachers, friends and colleagues. Professor Hennann
Landolt has been il source of intellectual stimulus and excitement. Leaming to read texts such
as the Shajarat al-Kawn and the FU$$ al-ijikam under his supezvison, and observing his
attention to detail and ubtlety, has been a mystical joumey of initiation and growth, in itself,
for me. His patience and endurance throughout this study is much appredated.
1 am grateful to the Institute of Ismaili Studies, London and the Institute of Islamic Studies,
McGill University, for financial assistance. The help of the library staff at the Institute of
Islamic Studies has been most beneficial. 1 would like especially to thank Salwa Ferahian for
her continued encouragement during sorne difficult times.
The financial and moral support of both my brother and father has been invaluable. The
encouragement and patience of my father has been a pillar of sttength. Many of my friends
and colleagues have provided assistance, in particular, Steve Miller, Todd Lawson and Zayn
Kassem-Hann. Special thanks go to Shamas Nanji for his computer wizardry, and my dear
friend Dorotha Rudnicka-Kassem.
1dedicate this thesis to my beloved mother, Roshan.

page iv


The system of transliteration for Arabie tenns in this thesis adheres to that used by the
Institute of Islamic Studies, MeGill University. AlI Arabie tenns, foreign words and titles of
books are italicized.
AlI the Quraanic verses have been eited from The Roly QLWan, text, translation and
eommentary prepared by Abdullah Yusuf Ali (Leicester: The Islamie Foundation, 1975),
exeept where indicated otherwise.

page v

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..... ,,~~._ . . . . _.~.,.,._



Abstr3.ct ..................................................................................................................
RsUIIl ......................................... ,....................................................... ,..
AcknowledgeIIJents .................................................................
Technical I::>etails .......................................................................................... ,.. v
1 ..........

Il i . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Introduction .............................................................................................. 1
Chapter 1 : A Structural Analysis of the Text.......................................... 10
unit i : Metaphysical Kun.. ............. ........... ........ ....... ...... .................. Il
umt u : The World of Being (al-Kawn) ................................................. 23
unit i : Stages in the Development of Man .............................................. 34
unit iv : Man's Physical Body and the World ........................................... 48
unit v : The Story of Creation : Iblis and Adam Revisited ............... " ........... 57
Finale ........................................................................................... 64
Mi'rj ........................................................................................... 71

Chapter fi : The Ku. Adam and Muhammad .................................................... 77

Chapter m : The Functions of the Protagonists ............................................... 99
Chapter IV : Adam, IbIls and M.\b.mmad as described by al-ijallij,
al-Hamadhlni. and Ibn cArabl...................................................... 109
Conclusion ................................................................................................................. 131
Appendi.x 1 : Text Editions ........................... ,.......................................... 141
Appendix 2: The Mi'rjin the writingsofIbn cArabi ...................................... 142

Select Bibliography ................................................................................................. 151

page vi

1 : A Structural Analysis of Ihe Text
Unit 1: Metaphysil Kun..... ,....................................................." ................................. 11
praise to Allah ..................................................................................................... 11
diagram 1

scene 1: the authOl contemplates kawn ................................................................ l 3

diagrams 2, 3, 4

intermediate scene: the one struck by light and the one whom it misses .............. 15

scene 2: Adam contemplates wujd.................................................................... 17


intermediate scene: the amhor contemplates the diversity of shajarataJ-kawn ..... 17

scene 3 : Adam and Iblis contemplate kun ......................................................... .19
diagram 7

Unit n : The World of Heing (al-K.wn) ..........................................................................23'

scene 4: Adam contemplates the diversity of shajaratal-kawn ........................... 23

scene 5 : the primordial covenant. ........................................................................ 23


scene 6 : the author's vision:

the seed of kun and its manifestation in a1-kawn ................................................. 26
the f11'st visible manifestation of the tree's iliversity ............................................. 26
diagram 10

the tbree spheres ................................................................................................. 28

the tree' s boundaries.
the throne ....................................................................... ", .................................. 29
creator versus creation ........................................................................................ 30
tablet and pen ...................................................................................................... 30
lote-tree....... 1. .................................................................................................. 30
paradise and heU ................................................................................................. 31
the wall around the tree ....................................................................................... 32
the tree's root (a~l) and its end (iikhir) ................................................................ 32
heaven-hellrevisited ............... " ................ ,........ ,................................................. 32
thecup ................................................................................................................ 33
I l I l I l I l I l I l I l I l I l I l I l I l I l I l It I l I l I l I l I l I l I l I l I l ,



Unitm: StIpS in the DevelopmentofMan.................................................................... 34

stage 1 : the primal constituent of creatures, health and sickness ......................... 34
stage 2 : the two constituents of the whole, light and darkness ............................ 36
diagram 11

stage 3 : Adam and his descendants, the clay of light and darkness .................... 36
diagrrlill 12
stage 4 : the dust of kun ........................................................................................ 37

stage 5 : Allah's cleansing of the seed of kun ..................................................... .37

stage 6: the composition of Muhammad, light. ................................................... 38
stage 7 : the seed and the blade ............................................................................ 40
stage S : the Muhammad(in branch ...................................................................... 40
stage 9 : the leaven .............................................................................................. 42
~tage 10: ~he believers and the unbelievers ....................................................... .42
stage Il : the occurrences in the tree of being..................................................... .44
stlge 12 : the se al. ............................................................................................... 45
stage 13 : Adam, Abraham and Ismacil ............................................................... 45
stage 14: the fruit of each of the three branches ................................................. .47
diagram 13

stage 15' The perf"ection of Adam....................................................................... 47

diagram 14

Unit IV : The Physical Body of Man and the World........................................................ 48

diagrams 15-18

Unit V : The Story of Creation: Ibtts and Adam Revisitcd.............................................. 57

diagram 19

diagrams 20,21

Mjcl(j ............................................................ ~ ................................................................. 71

n :The Kun, Adam and Muhanmad

Metaphysical Kun ............................................................................................................79

Adam(s) ........................................................................................................................... 81
Muhammad or primordial Adam and his shadow ............................................... 81
diagram 23

Comprehensive Adam ........................................................................................ 83

Adam and Ibls .................................................................................................... 83

Adam in the garden (paradise) ..... ,.... ,........... ,..... ,.............. " ......
Adam the 'father' of mankind ............................................................................. 85
Muharnrnad(s) .................................................................................................................. 85
Prelitninary Ranarks ........................................................................................................ 91
Adam .................................................................................................................. 91
te ,

Muhammad ..........................................................................................................91

Metaphysical kun ................................................................................................ 95
Adam .................................................................................................................. 95
MuhRmmad ......................................................................................................... 95

m : The Fonctions of the Protagonists

The Author ....................................................................................................................... 99
First participant. .................................................................................................. 99
Seal of saints ..................................................................................................... 101
Priaxn'dial Adant and Iblis ............................................................................................. 102
Adam tlte fadler of ID8Ilkind.......................................... " ............................................... 103
Muh8llllnad .................................................................................................................... 105
Source of knowledge ........................................................................................ 105
Source of mystical knowledge ........................................................................... 105
Proteetor............................................................................................................ 106
Intercessor ........................................................................................................ 107
Saintship ............................................................................................................ 107

IV : Adarn.lb1is and Muhammli as described by al-Salllj, al-Hamlllhlnl and

Ibn cArati
MuhllDlllJad and Iblis in SpeciflC $iifi Classics .............................................................. 110
MUhammad ............................................................................................................. 110
The lamp............................................................................................................ 110
Source of knowledge ....................... " ....................................... ,........................ 110
Pre~existent ........................................................................................................ Il 0
Mysrical experience .......................................................................................... 111

Iblis ........................................................................................................................ 112

Not before 'another' ........................................................................................ 112
He served Him for the longe st rime ................................................................... 112
He acted in accordance with His secret (i.e. His Will) ............ " ......................... 113
Sing1eo.ess Inlplying 'Iiiplicity....................................................................................... .115
Adam in theFirst Chap1a"ofthe Frq$ al-lfikam ...................................................:...... 119
The funCtians of Adam. ............................................................................................ 122
Father of fi1ankind : perfeet man ........................................................................ 122
The Vicegerent .................................................................................................. 122
The Position of Muharnrnad .... ,. ..................................................................................... 123
Firstcreature ...................................................................................................... 124
Source of knowledge ......................................................................................... 125
Saintship ............................................................................................................ 126
Intercessor .......................................................................................................... 126
Mostperfectmanifestarionofreciprocity .......................................................... 127



1. TeJtt editions............................................................................................................... 141
2.The micrajin Ibn cArabrs writings.............................................................................. 142

Select Bibliography

page x

The Shajarat aJ-Kawn attributed to Ibn 'Arabi is described in Osman Yahia's Histoire et
classification de l'oeuvre d'Ibn 'Arabi in the Rpertoire gnral number 666. 1 This Rpertoire
gnral is a comprehensive classification enumerating 856 works of Ibn 'Arabi. It

incorporates the Fihris al-Mu$annafift and the Ijiiza li-l-malik al-Mv?Bffar, two recensions
compiled by Ibn 'Arabi of his own writings. 2
The oldest dated manuscript of the Shajarat aJ-Kawn mentioned by Osman Yah;a is dated
1270H./1853-4, and a second manu script is dated 1292H./1875-6.3 Yahia mentions the
following editions of the text: 1290H./1873-4 and 131OH./1892-3 Cairo, and 1303H./1885-6
and 1318H./1900-1 Istanbul. An anonymous commentary at Princeton (321), as described
by Brockelmann, is also noted. However, there is a confusion by Brockelmann for he
Osman Yahia, Histoire et classification de l'oeuvre d'Ibn 'Arabi. 2 vols. (Damascus:
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, 1964),2: 457-458.

According to Osman Yahia, the Fihris al-Mu$annafiitis the oldest work of Ibn 'Arabi
which we have on the inventory of his writings, containing 248 works. Although the
Fihris al-Mu$U1nafititself contains no infonnation on when it was written and to whom
it was addressed, two of the thineen manuscript copies (one in the Ysuf aga library,
which is written by Qunaw himself, and one in the Yahya Effendi library) place the
rime ofits redaction to 627H./1229 in Damascus and r.s being addressed to Sadr al-Din
Qunawi, a well-known disciple ofThn 'Arabi. See pages 37-39.
The Ijiiza li-l-malik al-Mu?4ffarcontaining a list of Ibn 'Arab's own works and that of
his principal masters, was compiled in Damascus on the first of MUQarram 632H./1234
and addressed to Sultan al-Mu~far (d.635H./1237), the ruler of Damascus. The
number of works mentloned in it is estimated at between 265 and 286, since the
manuscript copies vary on the exact number. Ibn 'Arabi states in the beginning of the
Ijiizali-l-malik al-Mu?Mfarthat his recension is not exhaustive because his memory may
be imprecise. See pages 48-50. The Shajarat al-Kawn is mentioned in neither of these
two recensions.

Ibid., 2: 457-458.
page 1

identifies the Shajaratal-Kawn with Shajaratal-wujd waal-~al-mawriid,l a separate text

as described by Osman Yahia in number 667. The oldest authority to attribute the Shajarat

al-Kawn to Ibn cArabi is IsmiCU Pishi al-Baghdidi (d.1339H.11920), a successor of Hiijji


are available at present two translations of the texl The fU'St, by Arthur Jeffery, has

becn published in Studia IsJamica, volumes X and XI (1959 and 1960), and is entitled "Ibn
al-cArabi's Shajarat al-Kawn." This is now available in book fonn, published in Pakistan in
1980. 2 The author relies upon a 13608./1941-2 Cairo edition of the text for bis ttanslation. 3
A more recent translation, which includes extensive notes (the translation covers fifty-seven

pages while the 105 notes span seventy-seven pages) is that of Maurice Oloton, published in
Paris in 1982 and entitled: L'arbre du monde. 4 The author has relied upon two editions of
the text: 1386H./1966-7 and 1388H./1968-9 Cairo.s In the preface to his work, Glotoo
points out that the later edition corrects certain errors contained in the earlier edition. Both are
described as almost identical with the earlier 1360H.11941 edition llSed by Jeffery.
For the purpose of this thesis we have rclied extensively on an cvcn earlier 1303H./1885-6
edition of the text, found at the end of Ibn Taymyah's Majm C Rasi:>il. 6 Wc have also

the 1386H./1966-7 edition of the text published in Cairo. 7 The fonner will be

referred to as edition A and the latter, edition B.

Carl Brockelmann, Gcschichte der Arabiscben Litteratur, 2 vols. (Leiden: 'BJ. Brill,
1943, 1949), 1 (H43): 573/13; Supplement band 1 (1937): 794/13.

Arthur Jeffery, Ibn al-'Arabi's Shajarat al-Kawn (Pakistan: Aziz Publishers, 1980).

Ibid., p. 8.

Maurice Gloton, L'arbre du monde (paris: Les Deux Ocans, 1982).

Ibid., p. 12.

Ibn Taymiyah, Msjm CRIISM~l (Cairn: al-MaJb ,cah aJ-I;iusayniyah, 1905-6).

Ibn ~Arabi, Shajaratal-Kawn{Cairo: Muhammad CAli $abi1:t,1967).

page 2

In describing why we have undenaken this thesis, it is tirst necessary to critically evalu.'lte
these two translations. Specific problerns of translation are presented in the notes to the flfS~
chapter of this thesis. Here we wish to describe the perspectives frorn which the two
translators approach the Shajarat al-Kawn and its consequences. Jeffery's approach rnay bt.:
described as of one interested in the history of religions, in this case the history of the logos
doctrine. He presents his interest to be in the content of the treatise and only "incidentally" in
its author. 1 The essential therne of the Shajarat al-Kawn, in his view, is the Muslim doctrine
of the person of Muhammad.
He stans with the premise that since each one of the great religions such as Christianity,
Buddhism, Zoroastrianisrn and Judaism have dernanded sorne theological formulation of a
doctrine of the person with respect to the founder, it is inevitable, according to him, that a
similar atternpt should have been made with the person of Muhammad in Islam.2 Even
though historically the logos doctrine was pre-Christian, he believes that the LogosChristology discussed in the Eastern churches was an important influence on Muslim
thought. This he suggests is due to the J. ?sition of Jesus in the Q\Wiin, i.e., his description as
both the Word (kalimah) and Spirit (~) of Allah.
For Muslim faith and piety it was obviously necessary to set the spiritual
rank of Mu~ammad higher than that, and so, insofar as was consonant
with Muslim theology, every claim made by the Logos-Christology for
Jesus had to be met by a similar clairn for their own Prophet Mu~ammad.3
Four such claims and how they relate to the person of Muhammad are outlined. The logos is:
(i) pre-existent, (ii) light, the tirst created thing (i) the Demiurge, the active agent in creation
and (iv) archetypal man.4 He iHustrates how this may be described not only with respect to
Christianity but other religions also. For example, the description of the logos as light is


Jeffery, p. 8.

Ibid., pp. 8-9.

Ibid., p. 10.

"' ...
page 3

presented with respect to Zoroaster, Mani and Moses. Similarly with respect to the logos as
archetypal man, he describes how the Buddha and Krishna are presented in Indian texts as
exemplary figures.
According to Jeffery, "aIl these developments of Logos-Christianity as transferred to the
person of MulJammad appear in the writings of Ibn al-cArabi."l Citing works such_ as the

al-lJikam anj the FutiiPfit al-Makkiyah and Nyberg's Kleinere Schriften des Ibn

'Arabi, he describes how Ibn 'Arabi draws upon material in many different religious

traditions, as well as the writings of Muslim tbeologians, and applies them "incidentally" to
the person of Muhammad. This is done, in bis view, without synthesis or fusion of the
varied material. However, the contribution of the Shajarat al-Kawn is its drawing together of
the four elements of the logos doctrine "with the express purpose of illustrating the
uniqueness of Mul}ammad in his relationship to Allah, to mankind and to the cosmos. "2 In
tbis way tbe treatise is considered Ibn CArabi's particular contribution to the Muslim doctrine
ofthe person of Muhammad.
The problems with this particular approach are as follows. First, approaching key symbols,
persons and ideas in the Shajarat al-Kawn with respect to their 'place' in the history of
various earlier religious traditions, 3 and not \\'ith respect to the text itself, influences or lends
a particular bias to bath the translation and analysis. The text is not allowed to unfold and
develop within ilS own domain. Secondly, acknowledging no competence in the study of Ibn
cArabi's esoteric philosophy and explicitly expressing his interesl in the content of the text

Ibid., pp. 10-15.

Ibid., p. 15.

Ibid., p. 16.

His perspective on Muhammad as described above is one such example. Another is his
discussion of the creative word and thc tIec. Describing these as ancient cosmological
symbols, he traces their development in various eartier religious traditions. For example,

page 4

alone, only adds to the above mentioned problem. The intrieaeies of the Arabie language, and
the esoteric subtleties masterfully described, escape Jeffery and consequently the translation
contains many errors which change the meaning of significant passages in the text. For
example, in the frrst paragraph of the text the word maknn meaning "hidden" is translated as
"which was caused to be."l He seems to read this passive participle of the verb 'to hide'
(kanna) as a derivative of the verb 'to be' (kana). This mistake significantly alters the meaning

of an important idea developed in the text. In another example, where Adam is surnrnoned
"on the day of witnessing" (yawm al-ishhiid) (Primordial Covenant), Jeffery reads as "the
Day of truthful witnesses (i.e. Judgment Day)" (yawm al-ashhiid).2 The context
demonstrates this is incorrect (see chapter 1Unit il). Thirdly, as we will dernonstrate, there is
a problem with the authenticity of the text which Jeffery does not address.
The second translator, Gloton, describes the therne of L'arbre du monde in the preface and
introduction to his translation as la Ralit mu~ammadienne {tlaqiqa



the introduction by deseribing how this therne has been the objeet of nurnerous

studies since the beginning of $fisrn. Claiming the foundation of this concept to be based
on the Qur)an and prophetie traditions, he quotes specifie verses of the Qur)iin and ~adlths in
the notes to the introduction. Coming to the alleged author of the text, he points out how Ibn
Arabi has endeavoured to be comprehensive in developing this therne with its various

aspects in the Fut~iit al-Makkyah and the Fu~~ al-J:1ikam. As for the present text L'arbre
du monde, Gloton believes that the originality of the text rests with the symbolism of the tree


the concept of a creative word may have its origins in the ancient Near East Le., Egypt.
He then goes on to emphasize its prominence in Jewish and Christian writings.
Jeffery, p. 28.

Ibid., p.31.

Gloton, pp. 12-14.

page 5

which a1lows the author to present the different aspects of this Muhammadan Reality in a
Before describing explicidy how the seed of kun and the tree relate specifically to the
Muhammadan Reality, Gloton chooses to give a brief synopsis of this issue} He
commences by pointing out how the different aspects of this reality are implied in L'Esprit



the origin of all essential detenninations. The

Muhammadan Reality is said to come forth from this spirit or breath of Allah, and movement
of divine love by which the unknown Absolute reveals the contents of the Hidden treasure.
One example used by Oloton to describe how the seed and tree express a particular aspect of
this reality, is that of the perfect man (insankimil).2 This man, also called l'homme universel,
is described as both the seed, the origin of the world, and the tree, the unfolding of all the
possibilities of the divine seed. 010ton continues by distinguishing three principal themes: (i)
the origjn and aim of the Muhammadan tree, (ii) the tree's structural fonnation and its formai
representation, and (i) the spiritual realization (achieved) by ascending the tree.
The translation of the text is on the whole well done. O1oton is precise and careful in
conveying the subdeties within the text. In a tew instances he may he a litde over-zealous for
the translation is 'enriched'.3 His familiarity with Ibn cArabi's writings and general ideas is
clearly demonstrated in the extensive notes. He takes care to point out and elaborate upon
specific ideas and technical terms developed by Ibn 'Arabi in his other works. He also refers

Ibid., pp. 14-17.

Ibid., p. 18.
This is also one of the criticisms made by Michel Chodkiewicz in his review of Oloton 's
"L'arbre du Monde", in Annales Islamologiques 21 (1985): 278-282. Two other
translations of Ibn 'Arabi's texts on the micraj which Chodkiewicz also reviews here
include Rabia T. Harris's Joumey to the Lord of Power and Stephen Ruspoli's
L'alchimie du bonheurparfait.

page 6

to several other authors posterior to Ibn cArabi, for example, al-Sayyid al-Shanf Jurjani's
(d.816H./1413) defmition of specifie key tenns is extensive.
The general problems with Gloton's work are as follows. First, as the description of the
introduction above revealed, he approaches the text as if having preconceived that it focuses
on the Muhammadan Reality. Priorto the exposition of the salient images, persons and ideas
as expressed within the text, he imposes his particular 'interpretation'. This particular problem
leads to the second major problem. The reader is not able to distinguish between Gloton's
own comments and the text itseif. Furthermore, he focuses on issues which the text does not
even mention.} The third problem and one alluded to above, is the continuous and detailed
references to ideas expressed by Ibn cArabi and his interpreters in other texts. This is
particuiarly grave, since as we mentioned, the text's authorship is not certain. The reader is
left questioning what the ShajarataJ-Kawn itself is about. There is very !ittle internaI analysis
of the text.
This critical analysis reveals that both translators have allowed their particular perspectives
with which they approach the text - the logos doctrine and the Muhammadan Reality, to
influence their translatton and analysis. Both men view salient aspects of the Shajarat

al-Kawn Le., be it the images such as the seed of kun and the tree. the persons and the ideas.
with respect to ideas external to the text. Although one acknowledges and appreciates
Gloton's attempts to place the Shajarat al-Kawn within the context and framework of Ibn
cArabi's ideas, in contrast to Jeffery, he has perhaps gone too far. The critical problem with
both translators' works is that between their own interpretation and inclusion of ideas
external to the text, the reader is left questioning what the Shajarat al- Kawn is really about. In
surnrnary, neither of the two translations contribute in a substantial way to a critical
understanding of the issues in the text.

One ex ample of this is the discussion of the four elements; see Gloton, p. 25.

page 7

This thesis attempts to address two specifie problems. One, what is the Shajarat aJ-Kawn
about? Our response includes looking al the structure of the text and considering what are its
salient themes. This leads to our exploring how the kun, Adam and Muhammad are
presented. We will see that the persons are complex and their depietion suggests several
riddles. For example, how does the duality or twoness expressed with the kun relate to the
twoness with respect to the protagonists? Our intention is to reveal such issues but not
necessarily resolve them.The second problem concerns the alleged author of the text. Our
anaysis has led us to specifie cIues which rai se the issue of authorship and to reconsider the
place of the Shajarat al-Kawn.
The frrst chapter presents the complete text in the fonn of a comprehensive translation and/or
paraphrasing. This rnay seem too detailed and lengthy especially in view of the two available
translations. However, it has been necessary for the following reasons. First, as mentioned
earHer, there are nurnerous errors in the two translations. Secondly, our presentation of the
text in the fonn of diagrams and units which emphasize the transitions between the persons
or actors, presents the text in a different, perhaps innovative, perspective. The manifold and
complex images, persons and events are more clearly visible, and render the text accessible
and perhaps more explicable to the reader. Thirdly, this exposure of the textls structure
reveals the somewhat obtruse manner in which the author develops many different,
seemingly disconnected thernes.
Having seen the perspective from which the author of the Shajarat al-Kawn narrates and
develops the rnyriad of images, persons and events, in chapter two we focus on the kun and
the key figures: Adam, Iblis and Muhammad. Each one of these persons contemplates the
seed of kun and/or al-kawn (the world of being) and sees something different. The different
structures of kun as expressed in the unique vision of each person, reveals the position of

each in the world of being and his relationship with the kun.

page 8

In ehapter three wc eonsider the specifie funetions which distinguish each figure. We also
look at the function of the author as a participant and narrator in the SlJajarat al-Kawn.
In the fourth chapter we consider the place of the Shajarat al-Kawn within the context of its
alleged author's perspective. We begin by considering the position of these figures as
prominent mystical prototypes in


al-I:IalHj's (d.3lOH./922) Kitao al- Tawifsin and

CAyn al-QuQiit al-Hamadhiini's (d.526H./1131) Tarnhidiit. Then since Adam, ThUs and
Muhammad feature in the fust and last chapters respeetively of the FU$$ al-J:likam,
described as Ibn cArabi's magnum opus, we present a brief summary of each, highlighting
the critical aspeClS of each person and comparing these with the Shajarat al-Kawn. As for the
kun, we have selected specifie passages from the Futfliital-Makkiyah in which the letters of

which the kun is composed Le., kiff. wifwand nn, are described.

page 9

______ .. __ .... __. . _._ ..__ ... __ ...--..___


. . . _ ..


. . . . . ..

......... _ . . . .

"V ..... --~~,- ....-.., ...... " ' - - " ......- ..... -'i",.._,~


In this fust chapter we focus upon the structure of the Shajarat al-Kawn. This is important
because in our concern with the kun and the persons of Adam, Iblis and Muhammad, we
will see that the kun and the protagonists are not necessarily described in a consistent and

cohesive manner. Adam and Muhammad in particular, are described in different situations
(contexts) and with varying images. Therefore, in order to see how these persons are
presented, it becomes necessary to survey the complete structure of the texl.
Another important dimension of the text, which is critical with respect to the relationship
betwcen the protagonists, is the unfolding and dcvclopmcnt of the persons. As we will see
the order and sequence in which the characters are introduccd reveals a great deal about each
protagonist. This is why we have chosen to describe the fmt part of the text as a tale with
scenes and events. The remainder of the text has been dividcd into units. AlI these divisions
are our own, no such visible sections occur in the text itself.

page 10

Unit 1 : Metaphysical Kun

Praise to Allah
The tale hegins with an introductory formula of praise to Allah. He is described as related to
Absolute Oneness in Essence, and to Singleness in Atttibutes



a1-~adi al-

dhiit al-fardi al-~ifiit).l This fmt line continues with how He is the One whose face

transcends directions, His sanctity transcends things originated in time, His foot transcends
dimensions, His hand, movements, His eye, glances, His sitting, anything implyingjunction,
His creative Power, faults-errors, and His Will transcends desircs.
The text goes on to describe how with the word kun Allah brings into being all the things to
he and He brought into existence ail the things that exist. Just as an existent may only be if it
is in the process of coming out from the hidden true nature of this word kun, so too, the
hidden May only he if it is also in the process of coming out from the preserved secret of the

These two imponant tenns al-atlad and al-fard, have a special place in Ibn 'Arabfs
ontology. In the FU$I al-J:Iikam in the chapter on SiliI:t, al-fard is directly related to the
kun, in which context it implies triplicity (tathlth). As for al-~ad, one of its descriptions
is in the chapter on Ysuf where ~adiyat al-'ayn and atIadiyat a/-kathtah are described.
The fmt refers to the state of the Absolute conceived as 'exclusive' Oneness (the
Absolute in its absoluteness, the Hidden) and the second as 'inclusive' Oneness (the
Absolute in a state of determination, the self-revealing aspect). Sec Mumy al-Din Ibn
'Arabi, Fu~~ al-~am, edited by A.E. Afflfi (Beirut: Dar lJ:lyi) al-Kutub al-cArabiyah,
1946), pp.115, 105. Ali subsequent references are to part 1 except where indicated

In our text, the relative adjective yiP with al-atlad and al-fard, suggests that the author
does not want to define Allah as the Absolute in its 'exclusive' context Toshihiko Izutsu
points out that: "In the technical lenninology of Ibn 'Arabi, the word Allah designates
the Absolute not in its absoluteness but in a state of detennination. The truly Absolute is
Something which cannot he callcd even God." Sec his Sufism and Taoism: A
Comparative Study of Key PhiJosophica} Concepts, new rev. ed. (Tokyo: 1wanami ,
1983), p. 23.

page 11

- - , -' --, -_. _----_. _--._". _.



word kun. 1 "Allah the most exalted said: 'For to anything which Wc have willed, Wc but
say the Word, Be (kun), and it is (fa yakn)

l "


dlagram 1

Scene 1
The author, namlting in the tirst person, now reveals his vision: "1 contemplated the world
of being and the way it is brought into being, the hidden and its being registered (fa innf
nar-artu i1i al-kawn




i1i al-maJcnn


tadwinihi); so, 1 saw this world of

being, an of it, as a tree; the root of the tree's light is from the seed of kun "(fa ra'aytu alkawn lrullahu shajarah wa a$1 nrihi min pabbat kun).
I.1lagram 2

The fruit of this tree is formed when kif al-kawniyah (beingness) is fecundated by the
fecundation of the seed of "N$Ju khalaqnalrum" (It is Wc who have created you, LVI,S7).
This fruit i.e., the created is according to measurc (LIV,49 quoted).
dlagram 3

From this movement of seed to fruit, there become visible two different branches, the root of

which is one; it is the Will (a1-iradah) and its offshoot, Power (al-qudrah). Two different
meanings are visible from the substance of kif: kif al-kamiliyah and kif al-kufriyah, and
from the substance of noo, nD al-nakirah and nD al-maCzifah are visible. In describing alkamilyah and al-kufryah, the author quotes from the Qur4in: "This day have 1 perfected


This implies there is nothing existent or manifest (~) in a sen~e, unless it is hidden
(bapn), and there is no such thing as hidden in a sense, unless it is manifest. The trUe
nature of kun is hidden, yet that which is hidden cornes out from the secret of kun.

page 12



jamiC al-mawjdit

jami' al-k*Jit

diagram 1



Kif al-Kawniyah



diagram 3

page 13

"NafuJu khalaqnikum"

(alanaltu) your religion for you" (V,4) and "Sorne OOlieving and others rejecting (kafara)"

(n,235). The terms aJ-nakirah and al-ma'rifah are not elaborated upon at this point.
dlagram 4

Intermediate scene
Having described his personal vision, the author retums to Allah, describing how He brings
the world into being. He outlines how when Allah brings forth manldnd from the
concealment of non-being, He sprinkles a portion of His light upon them. The one whom
this light strikes looks at the image (timthaI) of the shajarat al-kawn, drawn out from the seed
of Jeun. So, from the secret of the seed's kiff, an image (timthil) describing the Muslim people
as the oost community (III, 110 quoted) becomes visible to him; and. in the opening of the
seed's nn, light (nr) becomes clear to him (XXXIX,22 quoted).

The one whom the light misses becomes subject to accusation at the unveiling of the intended
meaning of the letter kun. He composes the kun the wrong way. He contemplates the image
(mithaI) of Jeun and believes it is kaf kufriyah and nD nakirah. So he is among the

unbelievers (al-kafiriin).l
dlagram 5

Each creature's share of the word kun derives from what he knows of the composition of the
kun's letters, and from what he witnesses from the kun's hidden secrets. The proof of this,

according to the author, is his (Muhammad's) words: "Allah created his creatures in darkness
and then He sprinkled a portion of His light upon them, and so whomsoever that

Although the author does not name these two protagonists, the special terms in the
QlWanic verses i.e., kuntum khayr ummah in m.IIO and niir in XXXIX,22 point
toward the Muslim community and the persan of Muhammad respectively, while
kufrlyah and nakirah point toward Ibls.

page 14

Adam or Mnhamnwt



Kif al-Kami1iyah KM al-Kufriyah Nn al-Nakirah



00 Nn

diagram 4

page 15

Nan al-Ma~fah

- - -

.. "_"_,,,,,,,,__,,,. . . . .- - - - - - - -_ _ _ _



babbat kun


diagram 5

page 16


light reached is rightly guided (ih ta da), but whomsoever that light missed is misguided
(ialla) and goes astray (ghawaj." 1

Scene 2
The author now describes the vision of Adam. He contemplates the circ1e of existence(diPirat
al-wujd) and finds each existent, one of fire and one of clay, circulating in the circ1e of

being (diPirat al-kawn). Then he sees this circle (i.e., al-kawn) according to the secrets of
kun. Whichever way the existent (cllly-fire) tums and revolves in the circle, and wherever it

flies and moves in the air, it returns to the clrc1e, moving around it, neither leaving nor
changing its course. One (clay) witnesses kiff al-kamiflyah and nn al-macrifah, while the
other one (fire) witnesses kiff al-kufrfyah and nn al-naklfah. So according to the decree of
what he (whoever) witnessed, he returns to the point of the circ1e of kun (nuqla diPirat kun).
The one who is brought into being is not able to trespass what is willed for it by that which
brings it into being.
dlagram 6

Intermediate scene
The author, again speaking in the first person, returns to himself describing how when he
contemplates (fa idhii na?artu) the diversity of the branches of the Shajarat al-Ka wn and the
variety of its fruits, he knows (Calfmtu) that its root is growing from the seed of kun, while
differentiaung itself from it (the seed).2
This is the famous light tradition; see Jeffery, p. 29, note 2.

Both translators read the text as addre~;sing the reader, so they read fa idhii na?=arUl. See
Jeffery, p. 30 and Gloton, p. 52. Howl~ver, we suggest it is the author speaking in the
first person, fa idha na?artu. ThIs seems correct since the scenes alternate between the
author, presumably Ibn 'Arabi, and Adam contemplating al-kawn and kun. The author
again takes up in the first person after Adam's 'witnessing' of the Covenant (Unit Il)





diagram 6



Scene 3
ln this scene, Adam is made to enter the school of learning and is taught the Names, a11 of
them. He contemplates the image (mithiil) of kun, and the purpose for which that which
brings into being actually brought into being. The lesson he witnesses is


follows: He

witnesses from the kaf of kun, kaf al-kanzy/h, "1 was a hidden treasure (kanz mukhtaflY),
unknown, so Iloved (aQbabtu) to be known,"l and he sees, from the secret of nn. nn alananyah, "Verily 1 (ana) am God: There is no god but 1" (XX,14). Since the composition of

the letters 1S con'ect, kM al-takrim and kaf al-kuntyah are dlscovered for hlm. The
significance of al-takrim is drawn from the QUfJan where Allah honours (kaITamna) the
sons of Adam (XVII,70 quoted). As for aJ-kuntiyah, this famous I)adth is quoted: ttl a111
(kuntu) for him hearing and seeing and hand."2 In the same way, nn al-nryah and nn alnicmah are drawn out for him. The signiflcance of al-nriyah b abo drawn from the QurJan

where Allah says: "We set for him a light (nr)" (VI,122); similarly for al-mcmah, the author
refers to Allah describing how His favours (aJ-niCmah) may never be ennumerated ( XIV,34

This ~adith is God's reply to the prophet David's question on why He created the world.
Amongst the oldest sources ta quote it are AQmad al-Ghazal and al-Hamadhani. See
Hermann Landolt, Le rvlateur des mystres (Kashif al-Asrar) (Paris: Verdier, 1986),
pp. 156,202. The Qadth is quoted again but 10 a slightly dlfferent form, see here p. 39.

This I)adith qudsis a vanant of the famous canonlcal tradition:

The servant (i.e. believer) never ceases to strive for sllpererogatory works
unti~ 1 love him. And when 1 do love him, 1 am his hearing with which he
hears and 1 am his sight with which he sees, etc
This man is described as one who h'l~ annihilated hlt11self from hls own attributes in the
Attributes of the Absolute. This IS the 'c1oseness of supererogatory works' (qurb
al-nawafIl). However, the-:e is a higher degree than thls as represented by the man who
has annihilated himself a'ld is subsistent in the Absolute. He is the heanng and sight of
the Absolllte. This is the 'c1oseness of the obligatory works' (qurb al-f/ripj). See
Izutsu, pp. 95-98.

As for Iblls, he resided in the schoal of leaming for fany thousand years examining the
letters of kun. The tcacher entrusted him to himsetf, leaving him to depend on his own ability
and strength. He used to contemplatc the image (timthal)l of Jeun and witnessed kif kufrihi,
his own disbelief, and sa he became proud: "he refused and was haughty" (11,34); and he
witnessed nD nanyatihi, bis own fieryness: "Thou didst creatc me from fll'C (nar)" (VII,12).
So the k.ilofhis kuftjyah (disbcUef) is connccted with the nn ofhis nmyah(fieryness).
dl.gram 7'

Although bath Adam and Iblls contemplate the image of kun, two subtly different tenns
are used to refer to this image: in the case of Adam, mitbaJ and Iblis, timthil. In the
intermediate scene between scenes 1 and n mithil refers to the one whom the light
misses and timthaJ to the one whom the light strikes. Perhaps the author uses the two
deliberately in reverse order to show that in this way too, the polarity is in every single
thing. MithaJ is to make an image, to malee a similitude, while timthl1 carries verbal
force; it is the act of image-making and May mean a statue, or an ido!.

page 20

Mitbil KUIJ:

(Hidden Treasure)

Min Il-Anfnlyah
(Divine 'l')


Kif al-Kuntyah

Nn al-Fmfyab





Niin Nidyatihi

(His own disbeliet) (His fietyness)

diagram 7

page 21

~un al-Nitmah



n : The

World of Being (al-Ka.,,,)

The text now shifts from the discussion of the metaphysical kun to the tree in the fonn of the
cosmos. Since the Jeun and the protagonists - our main conccm - are mentioned only at the
beginning of this unit, wc will summarize the highlights alone in lhis segment of the text.

Scene 4: Adam Contemplates the Diversity of the SluJjarlJt al-KawlI

This scene begins with Adam now contemplating the tree, more specifically its diversity and
the variety of its flowers and fruits.1 He holds on to the branch called: "Verily 1 am Allah"
(XX, 14). Then he is summoned to eat from the fruits of oneness


and to seek

shade in the shade of singleness (aJ-tafrid). They are wamed not to approach: "but r;.proach
not (this tree)" (liitaqraba) 2 (ll,35 and VII,19). But Iblis desires to seduce Adam by making
him hold on to another branch: "Then began Satan to whisper suggestions to them both ,.
(Vll,20). "As a result thcy both ate of the tree" (fa alcali minhi) (XX,121); consequently

they slipped (zalaqii) into treacherous places. Having "disobeyed" (XX,121), Adam seeks
forgiveness by holding on to the (third) branch: "Our Lord we have wronged our 80uls"
(Vll,23). Hence, fruits are presented to hirn and he accepts (thcm).
dl_gram 8

Scene 5: The Primordial Covenant

Now Adam is summoned on the day of witnessing (yawm al-ishhiid), in front of witnesses,
with the following question: "Am 1 not your Lord?" (Vll,172). In reply, each one of the
This is like the author's contemplation before in Unit 1between scenes 2 and 3.

Although Eve is implied here in the verbal dual (taqraba) and also in the following
Qur"anic verses, there is no explicit mention of her in the text.

page 22

"Our Lord we hav

wronged our souls'

"Verily 1am God"

(Rabbana pdamna

(Inn ani Allah)


page 23


witncsses lCstifies according to the mcasure of wbat he is able to witness and heu. Then all
come to an agreement on the rcsponse: "Yca" (VU, 172).1 However, explicit differences arise
with respect to each one of the witnesses: one is made to witness the bcauty of bis lord's
essence, one the beauty of His attributes and one the adomment of His creatures. So, one
group of people maltes Him a limited Being, one makes Him non-existent, and one makes
Him a soUd stone. AlI of this is in the secret of the word kun; a secret circling according to

the centre of the circle of kun, flxed on the root of the seed of kun. 2

This covenant between all of mankind - herc rcpresented by thrce differcnt witnesses and their Lord, is bascd on the following QurOanic event:
When thy Lord drcw fonh from the children of Adam - from their Joins their descendents, and made them testify concerning tbemselves, (saying):
"Am 1not your Lord?" They said: "Yca" (XVU,172).
The eveot is elaborately described by an carly ~fi exegete, Sahl al-Tustari. He describes
how on this day of covenant (yawm al-mithaq) (or 'the day of the specks') the whole of
mankind emanates from its prophetical ancestors in the form of particles or specks
endowed with intellects, to acknowledge God's oneness and lordship. This testimony is
tested during man's phenomenal existence in the world of creation. Sec Gerhard
Bowering, The Mystical Vision ofEJeistence in ClassicalIslam: the Hermeneutics of the
$iifi Sahl at- Tustari (d.283/896) (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1980), pp. 153-157.
Jeffery reads this to be "the Day of truthful witnesses (i.e., Judgment Day)", which is
incOITCCt. In bis view the mithiq is taken when Allah grasps Adam from the dust of kun
antl draws out the companions of the right and the left, from bis back (Unit ID, stage 4).
Sec Jeffery, pp. 31, 38. Although, as he points out, the traditions mention this event in
this context, it is not the case here in the text. Our reading concurs with Gloton, p. 54.

One is led to beUeve that each person"s specifie determination of bis Lord in bis physical
existence is determined by how he witnesses Him on this day of witncssing. Perhaps
the point is that this secret is at once moving, tuming, implying cbanging - it circ1es
according to the centre of the circle of Jeun, and yet it is motionless - it is fixed 00 the
root of the kun's seed.

page 24


Theones whom He
made witness:
(i) the beauty of
His essence testified:
() the beauty of His
attributes testified:

(ili) the adomment of

His a:eatures:

'''lbere is nothing whatever

like unto Him 11 (XLD, Il)

"(00<1 is He) than whom there

is no other Gad, the Sovereign.

the Holy One" (LIX,23)
Their testimony varied with
the diversity of that which
was witnessed

diagram 9

page 25

One group made Him

a limited Being(malrdd)
Ile group made Him
non-existent (matclln)

One group made Him

a solid stone @ajarjuJmd)


J'he Seed of Ku" and ils Manifestation in Id-Ka"n

Therc is a transition from the above 'scenes' of primordial events to the visible manifestation
of the seed of Jeun and the fruits of the Shajaratal-Kawn.
Sinee this seed (al-~abbah) (kun) is the seed (badhr) of the Shajarat alKawn, and the seed (bi.zT) of the tree's fruit, and the mcaning of the tree's
form. 1 wanted (~babtu) to make an image (mithil) for the being brought
into being, an image (timthil) for the one that exists, and a way (minwil)
for the words, actions and states which reswt. So, 1pietured (maththaltu)
a tree growing from the root of the seed of Jeun. 1
The fruits of the Shajara t al-Kawn are presented by the author as flowers and leaves. The
flowers are: speech (al-qawl), desire (al-tawq), taste (al-dhawq) and the subtleties of
knowing Oata~al-ma'irit), 2 while the leaves are:
the offerings of those near (qlJ11Jbit al-muqarrabin),
the positions of the pioDs (maqamit al-muttaqn),
the experiences of the righteous (munar.aJit al-~iddqin),
the sect conversation of the knowers (munijit al-'irifIn), and
the contemplations of the lovers (mushibadit al-m~bbin).

The First Visible Manifestation of the Tree's Diversity

The tirst thing which this tree, whieh is the seed of Jeun, made grow are three branches: one
branch takes the right path, these are the companions of the right; one braneh takes the left

The identity of the speaker is unclear herc. Both the translators believe it is the riivine.
Sec Jeffery, p. 33 and Gloton, p. 55. However, we believe it is the author of the text.
Like Adam and Iblis 'before' in the school of leaming, he is now 'imagining' the picture
in bis own way - Le., he is, from nowon, actually prcsenting the 'Trec of Being'.
These flowcrs may bc the scates ~aJ) givcn to the ~fi through the grace of God as he
progresses along the spiJi1Ual path. Speech (al-qawl) may be the same as al-samic
According to an anonymous ~fi mentioned by Nruddn Isfarayini (d.717H./1317),
samie is at the beginning desire (shawq), affection (tawq) and taste (dhawq), wl'ieh
leads Isfarayini to say that it is a subtle, spiritual reality arousing in the lover the desire
for the person desired. Sec Landoll, p. 49. The leaves allude ta a hierarchy amongst the
~iifis; see here p.44.

page 26

path; and one branch grows straight upright, amongst it are those foremost, those drawn

dlagram 10

The Three Spheres

Once the manifestation of the tree (the three branches) is finl1 and stands high, the worlds of
visible form (Ca/am a/-$rah) and spiritual idea (Ca/am a/-maCna) develop from the tree's
highest and lowest shoots. The tIce's outer bark and visible covers are descnbed as the world
of DomInIon (Calam al-mulk) The tree\ inner heurts and the marrow of Its hidden meanings,

are the world of Soverelgnty ('iTlam al-ma/akt). The sap tlowing

veins, by which the tree



the artery of the tree's

and has IIfe, its flowers rise and lts fruits are ripened,



world of (divine) Omnipotence (Ca/am a/-jabart),2 which is the secret of the word kun.

The Tree's Boundaries

The text describes how 1hlS tree grows wlthin estabIished Itmits and contours. There is even
a wall surrounding it. The limits mcIude the vertical and horizontal dImensions: top and
bottom, right and left, back and front. The contours include: celesual spheres and bodies,
possessions and mIes, and signs and marks. These zones are as it were the tree's follage,
while the stars in radiance are as lt were the tree's flowers

Although the companions of the left are not explicitly mentioned, it is implied. AlI three
categories are Qur~anic, see LVI, 7-10.


Since the sap of the tree flows between the outer bark and the tree's inner hearts, it
seems that in this con tex t, Ca/am aJ-}abart IS between Clflam al-mu/k and caJam
a/-maJakt. See Encyclopaedw of/sIam, new edition, ~.v. "CaJam" by Louis Gardel.

Those foremost, those drawn near

panions of the right

(asl)ab al-yamfn)

diagram 10

page 28

The Throne
The throne is made to function as if it were the tree's house of goods (bayt al-mal), from
which the tree's goodness is drawn, and


tree's treasure house of weapons (khizanat a1-

containing its administrators and servants: "And thou will see the angels surrounding

the Throne on aIl sides" (XXXIX,75). They face toward and depend or rely upon the throne,
circumamblliating it, and wherever they are, they point towards it. Whenever an event occurs
in the tree or something of a mishap (takes place), the angels raise their hands in request and
supplication towards the direction of the throne, seeking intercession and forgiveness from
This is because the creator (mjid) of this tree has no direction (jihah) toward Him in which
one may point, nor a structure (abniyah) which the angels may proceed toward, nor a
modality (kayfiyah) which they know. 1 Thus if the throne were not a direction toward which
they could face in order to carry out service to Him and perform obedience to Him, they
wou Id go astray in their search. 2 However, He existentiated (awjada) this throne as a
manifestation of His creative Power, not as a locus for His essence. He existentiated being
(a1-wujd) as a manifestation for His Names and His Attributes, not because He had a need

The branches of this tree and its fruit are described as different and varied. This is so that the
secret of His mercy


is made visible to the one who does weIl, likewise, His

kindness (al-fall) to the obedient, His justice (al- cad1) to the disobedient, His bounty
(al-niCmah) to the believer, and His vengeance (al-niqmah) to the unbeliever.

Both translators ascribe this to the tree rathel than the creator of the tree; see Jeffery, p.
33 and Oloton, p. 57.

So the throne perfonns two functions. First, it is the storehouse of the universe
containing the tree's goods and weapons. Secondly, it is a direction, perhaps a celestial

page 29

Creator versus Creation

Tho author continues to develop the relationship between the Creator and that which He
existentiates, emphasizing a distinction in essence, not in space. He is described in His being
(wujduhu) as


sacred that He is beyond contact, beyond being near, beyond being

connected with or separated from that which He existentiates. AlI of this is because He 'wast
when there was no world of being, and He is now just as He was then. So He is neither
connected with, nor separated from kawn.

'Tablet and Pen

The tablet (al-IawQ) and pen (al-qalam) are made to function as they were the book of the
king (ldtiib al-malik) in which His decrees are written. 1 This includes invalidation and
validation, creation and destruction in the world of being, as well as might and favours, and
the reward and revenge which will he.

A copy of this book of the king, which is the preserved Tablet (al-lawll



received by the angels at the Lote-tree. This tree is made to function as if it were one of the
branches of the shajarat al-kawn. The angels will pass the king's decrees downward and raise
up the fruit of the shajarat aJ-kawn. But only that fruit which has a seal (khutima) on it in a
"book which leaves nothing small or great, but takes account thereof!" (XVIll,49), is raised


The idea of a 'celestial registration' occurred at the very beginning of the text with respect
to the seed (llabbat): "It is We who have created you" (LVI,S7), and the fruit: "Verily
ail things have We created in proportion and measure" (LIV,49). This is a recutTent
problem posed in different guises throughout the text. The secret of the word kun,
preserted as both moving and motionless, is another image via which this problem of
pre-detennination is expressed. The seal as described in the following lines on the lotetree also conveys this idea.

page 30

Whatever occurs in the shajarat al-kawn does n'ot pass beyond this tree. For every one of
them (the angels) there is a known limit (lJadd), allotted share
(rasm): "[There is] not one of us but has a



and decreed shape

appointed [known](maqim maClm) "

(XXXVII, 164).

Paradise and Hell

The King orders the angels to direct the fruit into one of two storehouses. These two are
Paradise (al-jannah) and HeU (al-nit). The fust conta1s all the good (tayyib) fruit, and the
second contains all the bad (khabith) fruit. The .luthor quotes from the QDrlan describing
how the fonner is the Record of the righteous in llliyin, and the latter is the Record of the
wicked in Sijjin (Lxxm,7,18 quoted). Paradise is described as located on the right-hand
side of the mount (al-fI') beside the good blessed tree, and HeU is beside the cursed tree (almalt:nah) (mentioned) in the Qur~an (XVn,60).l The fIrst is a dwelling for the companions

of the right and the second for the companions of the left.
The physical world (aJ-dunyi) is described as a depository (mustawda') for the tree's
flowers, and the next world (aJ-ikhirah) as a dwelling (mustaqarr) for the tree's fruit,2

In the Qur~an, the blessed tree is an olive tree, the oil of which lights the lamp (see
XXIV,35), and the good tree is described where a parable is drawn to a good word perhaps the Divine Word (see XIV ,24). As for the cursed tree, it is the tree Zaqqm, a
bitter and pungent tree described as growing at the bottom of heU (see XXXVn,62-65,
and XLIV,43-46).

Unlike in the previous paragraph in which two separate tret:s are mentioned, here only
one tree is specified. Perhaps the two trees, the good blessed tree and the cursed tree, are

page 31

The Wall Around the Tree

In the carlier discussion on the tree's boundaries, the author mentioned a wall surrounding
the tree. Here he describcs il as the wall of the encompassment of Power; a verse which
describcs Allah as encompassing all things is quoted 10 substantiate this idea (XL1,54). But
the circle of Will also tums around the tree (m,40 and V,2 quoted).

The Tree's Root (ail) and its End


When the tree's root and its shoot are firm, the two outcrmost points meet one another. The
end touches with the beginning: to thy Lord is ilS (the tree's) fmal goal (LID,42 paraphrased).
This is because "whoever is such that his fmt is kon, bis last will be yakn. "This is so, for
even if its shoots are numerous and its seeds of various kinds, its mot is one, it is the seed
@abbat) of the word Jeun, and its end will also be one, the word Jeun.

Heaven-Hell Re-visited
The branches of the celestial tree rbii are described as intertwined with the branches of the
tree al-ZaqqID. The other opposing celestial and infernal natura1 forces which combine
include: the coolness of the breeze al-Qarab described as mixed together with the heat of aJSamm (the Scorching wind Lll,27), and the shade of the heaven aJ- Wa~ is connected with

the shade of Yl$niim (a shade of Black Smoke LVI,43).1 The author, now addressing the

ln the preceding paragraph the two outermost points of the shajarat al-kawn, the root
and ilS end, are described as one. Despite the manifold parts of the tree, its root and end
arc one. The branches of the celestial tree Tbi (perhaps the good blessed tree in
paradise) are described as intertwined with the branches of al-Zaqqiim. The celestial and
infernal naturaI forces, lik:e the two trees, appear to he one. One may infer then that the
storehouse for the fruit of shajarataJ-kawn combines heaven Uld heU into one.

page 32

reader. emphasizes this joining by suggesting that if the reader could see. then he. too. would
see the opposites joining.

The Cup

In the description on the Lote-tree. we leamed that each angel has a known limit, an allotted
share. and a decreed shape. The allotted share of each being is now specified: one drinks
with his cup seaIed (al-makhtm), one drinks with his cup decreed


and one

between them drinks nothing at aIl (m;$m).l

Although the text does not elaborate on what the three kinds of drinks are. one May
malee a few suggestions. In the Q~an. the righteous in Bliss drink "pure wine sealed"
(r~iq makhtm) (LXXXnI,25). The wine is of such purity and flavour that it is
protected with a seaI. As for the decreed. this May be the boiling liquid given to the
wrong-doers and those who dwell in fIre (XXXVII,67. XLVn.15) (Jeffery, p. 37. note
2). So, one drinks wine in Paradise, one drinks the boiling liquid in HeU, and one drinks
nothing at aU.

page 33

Unit III : Stages in the Development of Man
In this segment of the tale one cannot speak explicitly of actual scenes and events. The tale
develops more theoretically in the fonn of stages in the development of man. This division
into stages is again our own for no such visible stages actually occur in the text. The
numbering of these stages may convey the picture of a gradual movement in time while the
text does not explicitly suggest this.

Stage 1 : The Primai Constituent of Creatures, Health and Sickness

In this first stage, creatures described as the children of being are brought out from the plane
of non-being (barazat atfi al-wujd min


al-cadam),l The winds of Divine Power

blow upon them, the subtleties of Wisdom nourish them, and the clouds of Will are made to
rain upon them with the marvels of creating. 2
Each one of the branches amongst them is made to grow according to that which is given (or
assigned) to it in primordial time (ma sabaqa lahu fi al-qidam) (and) the branch's composition

('un$ur) contains health (al-$i~pah) and sickness (al-suqm).

The term wujd in contrast to cadam, may he viewed here as manifestation versus nonmanifestation. The winds, spiritual food (Le., subtleties of wisdom that nourlsh) and the
clouds combine to suggest the image of this creative or manifestation process.

The relationship between al-qudrah (Power) and al-irifdah (Will) is comparable to air
(winds) and water (clouds). This may be compared to the previous description of the
tree's root (Will) and offshoot (Power) and the wall (Power) and circle (Will) around the

page 34

Stage 2 : The Two Constituents of the Whole, Light and Darkness

The world of being, all of it, is made up of two constltuents in the process of coming out
from two parts of the word kun: light and darkness. Good (al-khayr), aU of il, is from light,
and bad (al-shlllT), all of il, is from darkness. So, the assembly of angels is brought into
existence from light, and hence the good is from them. They do not flinch from executing the
commands they receive from God (LXVI,6 quoted). The assembly of the devils is from
darkness, so evil is from them.
dlagram 11

Stage 3 : Adam and his Descendents, the Clay of Light and Oarkness
As for Adam and his descendents, their clay is made of light and darkness. 1 His
composition is prepared from good and bad, benefit and harm, and his essence is made as a
receptacle for knowledge and ignorance. Whichever substance (jawhar) predominates over
him will be attributed to him. So, if the substance of his light overwhelms the substance of
darkness, and if bis spirituality


is victorious over his corporeality

(jisminyatuhu), then he is regarded as better than an angel and ascends to the celestial

sphere. However, if the substance of his darkness predominates over the substance of his
light, and his corporeality is victorious over his spirituality, then he is regarded as worse than
dlagram 12

This is contrary to the angels and devils who do not have the component of clay.

page 35


ma1a~ aJ-shayifin


al sb



malai al~ikah

diagram Il





aJ-khayr aJ-naP


al..ma ,;fab

diagram 12

page 36

Stage 4 : The Dust of Ku li

Allah grasps Adam from a handful of the dust of kun and strokes his back so that the evil (or
ugly) (alMkhabth) is separated from the good (al-fayyib). Then He draws out from his back:
those who are amongst the companions of the right (a$tJab aJ-yamin), who take the right
path, and those who are amongst the companions of the left (a$tJab aJ-shima1), who take the
left path. 1 No one tums away from that which is meant to be (ma ziigha a1Jad Can a1-muriid),
and no one deviates from that (wa ma mils), the one who asks "why?"2 is made to err in

Stage 5 : Allah's Cleansing of the Seed of


He (Allah) makes those who were acting around this tree (Le., evil and good) retum to the
root of the seed of Jeun.3 He squeezes out the choicest portion of the seed's composition,
chuming it until its quintessence appears. Then He purifies it until its filth disappears. Then
He throws upon it a portion of the light of His guidance so that its substance appears.
(Finally) He plunges it into the sea ofmercy so that its blessing is universal. 4

This suggests that the companions of both sides are decreed to be so, rather than it being
their responsibility to take the right or left path.

Maybe this is IbUs.

Both translators apparently read "awwalu" meaning "first" instead of "awwala .. i1a"
meaning "to make retum to." See Jeffery, p. 39 and Gloton, p. 62. The author of the
text used the verb ila in a similar context earlier in Unit l, scene 2 (A 3,6 and B 4,6).

This labour perfonned by the divine person whereby the f('.ot of the kun's seed is
'cultivated' to a substance from which Muhammad's light is Cl ~ated, may he viewed as
stages in the development of prophecy. The quintessence of mankind is prophecy. The
process may be compared to the stages by which wheat becomes bread. See Najm alDin Rw, The Path of God's Bondsmen from Origin to Return (Mer~Rd aJ-'ebad men almabdii' e1a-l-ma Cd), trans. Hamid Algar (NewYork: Caravan Books, 1982), pp. 168172.

page 37

...... _...


.. _._. ____ ._. __ ..._............







Stage (; : The Composition of Muhammad, Light

Then Allah creates from this (the 'cleansed' seed) the light of Muhammad. He adoms this
light with the light of the highest assembly


al-s'li) (the angels), 50 that it shines and

radiates (over everything). Then He maltes thallight function as the source (ap) of alilights.
So, Muhammad becomes the fmt amongsl'them' in the Writing, and the last in manifestation
(fa huws awwaluhum fi al-masfr wa ikhiruhum fi al-plhiir).1 He is their leader at the

resurrection, their messenger of happiness, and their crowner of joy.

He is deposited (mustawda C) in the govemmenl of mankind (diwan al-ins), (and yel) dwells
(mustaqarr) in the garden of proximity (riyii(l al-uns) and in the presence of closeness (Qafrat
al-uns). 2 He (Allah) veils the meaning of his spirituality with the veil of his corporeality, and

He conceals the world of bis witnessing with the world of his presence. He (Muhammad) is
drawn oul (or extemalized) in (the process of) bcing (aJ-kawn) and il is due 10 him thal (the
truc meaning of) being is discovered.
The author goes on to explain that the manestation of manldnd (wujd al-iidam), and the
drawing out of the hidden treasure is the purpose of takwn. The perfection of God's wisdorn
in bringing into being is seen in the manifestation of the nobility of water and clay (wa
dhalika li-i?1Jir sharafaJ-miiJ wa al-pn) (i.e., manldnd). For indeed He broughl into existence

whal (ever) He existentiated, but did nOl say concerning any among these things: "1 will
creale a vicegerent on earth" (n,30), bUl il was the being of mankind. His wisdom in the
This is a variant of a famous prophetie tradition whieh suggests that Muhammad was
the fml amongst the prophets 10 he created and the lasl to be manifest The 'writing' rnay
refer either to the eelestial mother book - the archetype of the Qur~an, or the writing on
Adam's forehead.

Both translators read ins in all three cases. Ieffery translates this line as: "He is
deposiled in the Dwan of mankind. settled in the meadows of mankind, in the
settlemenls of mankind, the meaning of his spirituality being eurtained off by the cunain
of bis eorporeality.... " See Ieffery, p 39. As for Glolon, he translates: "C'est lui qui est
dpos dans l'aropage du genre humain, tabli en pennanence dans les phases du cycle
humain et dans le degr d'excellence de l'homme. " Sec Gloton, p. 63.

page 38

being of man was for the sake of the manifestation of the nobility of the prophet


sharaf al-nabi). Because he (Muhammad) is the wisdom of the bodies (lJikmat al-ajsad) for
~awing out

the kaEof the treasure (al-kanzfyah): "1 was a hidden treasure, unknown" (kuntu

kanzan makhfiyan la aCrifu). So the overall ~urpose in the being (of creation) (al-wujd), is

to know mankind's Creator.

The hean l of Muhammad is especially favoured with the most complete (or perfect) gnosis
for his knowing is by witnessing and seeing, whereas the gnosis of everyone eise is through
verification and faith (wa kana al-makh$$ bi atamm al-macarif qalb sayyidina MulJammad
$alla Allahu Calayhi wa sallam 11 anna macifrif al-kul) kanat ta$diq wa iman wa ma'rifatuhu
S.A.S. mushahadat wa 'iy,Tn). Through the light of Muhammad's knowing, people became

knowing, and with his grace (spread) upon them they came to know.

. -~

Notice the contrast between jasad - in the previous paragraph. and qalb. Perhaps jasad
corresponds to his being deposited in the world, and qalb corresponds to his dwelling in
the spiritual world.



__ ~~

_~ _ _



_ _ T> .. ~~ _ _ ~_ ....~,
... _ _, _ _ _ _
. . ."


___' ___

Stage 7 : The Seed and the Dlade

In this stage Allah draws Muhammad out from the core Oubib) of the seed of kun:
"like a seed which sends fOM its blade, then makes it strong" with its
companions (bi ~apabatihi).l "It then becomes thick" with its kinship (bi
qarabatihi) "and it stands on its own stem" (XLvm,29) with the
soundness of its taste and the strength of its yearning and desire. 2

Stage 8 : The Muhammadan Dranch

When this Muhammadan branch


al-MuPammad) became visible, and the clouds

of acceptance were made to rain and pour forth upon the bmnch, and the newly created, upon
the branch's manifestation, conveyed the good news to one another, the humans and Jinn,
upon his manifest being, rejoiced; the beings, upon bis arrival, perfumed themselves; the
idols, upon his birth, fell down; the


upon his mission, were abrogated; and the

Qur)lin, upon his confIrmation, was sent down - whi1e amongst the branches of this tree
there was the one who look the 1eft path and digressed, desiring error - so then the winds of
mission were sent with the message:

Edition B has ~i1)ibatihi, which is a mistake for five pages later the same edition has
~aQiibah with qarbah (B 15,19). Neither of the two trans1ators pick up on this mistake.
They both read ~iiPibah even though the companions are mentioned by both in the
second reference. See Jeffery, pp. 40,53 and G10ton, pp. 64,75. So, they both read the
pronoun hu as referring to Allah instead of Muhammad. So, Muhammad becomes
strong and thick because of God's companionship (or assistance) and proximity. This
careless mistake alters the meaning significantly.

The author is interpreting the Q~anic verse as referring to Muhammad. He 'is' three
things: the community (the companions), the kinship, and the personal experience of the

page 40


_ _ _ _ _ " ' ._ _ _

"We sent thee not but as a mercy for aIl creatures" (XXI,107), the one
whom We gave the good in primordial time inhaled it, and so inclined
towards it. But the one unable to inhale (mazkm), or deprived (m~)
of the robes of honour of acceptance, the violent winds of power blew
upon him. 1

The (left) branch after its bloom became dry, the hope of its cultivator gone. He was
disheartened, despondent.
The a.uthor now explains the secret of this Muhammadan branch. The secret is that it is the
fecundation of the tree of generosity (laqap shajarat al-jd) (i.e., the bestowal of existence),
and the pearl of the shell of manifest being (dumt ~dafat al-wujd). From the spirit of his
(Muhammad's) spirituality comes the 'refreshment' (mwtJ): "Oh Prophet! Truly We have
sent thee as a Witness, a Bearer of glad tidings, and a Wamer - and as one who invites to
God by His leave, and as a Lamp spreading Light (sirij munir) " (XXXIn,45,46).
The author takes the laner metaphor to describe Muhammad as the lamp in the darkness of


?ulmat aJ-kawn), and the spirit in the body of manifest being

(rutJ jasad al-

wujd). A parallel is drawn between the celestial Ka'bah and the Ka'bah on earth (both of
which correspond to the spirit al-rtJ), and the heavens and the earth (both of which
correspond to material creation, jasad al-wujd).2 The author quotes from the



describe how when the heavens and the earth were asked by Allah whether they come
together, willingly or unwillingly, and they said: "We do come (together), in willing

The author continues after the QtWanic quote to speak in the voice of the divine.
The text suggests that certain men are favoured primordially to re.ceive good, while
others are not. The latter group has two degrees or ranks: those unable to inhale and
those not accepted eternally (perhaps Ibls).


The material creation jasad al-wujd (the heavens and the earth) without the spirit rutJ
(the Ka 'bah on earth and the celestial Ka 'bah) is like the darkness of the world of being
without a lamp.
Heaven and earth - jasad al-wujd - Adam
Celestial Ka'bah and Ka'bah on earth - rtJ - Muhammad.

page 41

obedience" (XLI,ll), it was in reality the two Kacbahs who replied "Yes." So the dust of
the site of the Ka 'bah came to be and became the place of faith on eanh.

Stage 9 : The Leaven

According to the text, when Allah commanded the g!"asping of a handful of earth tor Lht:
creation of Adam, il was seized from all parts of the earth: good (al-fayyib) and bad (alkhabith). However, the clay for Muhammad was created from the site of the Kacbah - the

place of faith. The two clays were subsequently kneaded together.

So, the clay of Muhammad was as it were a leaven (al-khamirah). Were it not for the
presence of the leaven, the collective of mankind would nOl have been able to respond on the
day of witnessing i.e., to say "Yes" to their lord. This is the meaning of the prophet's words:

"1 was a prophet while Adam was between water and clay" (kuntu nabiyan wa Adam bayna

wa al-tin). So the individuals granted manifest being and ilS blessing, owed their

being to the tiny particle of Muhammad's being. The prophetie leaven flowed in parts of their
atoms. Thus they were enabled to speak the talbiyah. 1

Stage 10 : The Believers and the Unbelievers

The leavening remains with the person for whom the clay is receptive to the leavening

(qibiJat li-l-takhmir) according to what was decreed carlier (bi mi sabaqa fi al-taqdr),
abiding like a companion, until it becomes manifest in sensory perception and visible in that
form. So, that meaning cornes out as a conf11lllation of the claim (al-dacwii) (made on the
day of witnessing). The light of the spiritual meaning radiales over the corporeal body facing

That is, because of the presence of the leaven, mankind was cnabled to speak the
talbiyah, jusl as Heaven and Barth were enabled to say "Yes" because of the presence of
the 'two' Kacbahs, i.e., Muhammad is the 'spirit' of ail.

page 42



it, so that the body is, after its darkness, made to shine. The body's proper extremities are
filled with light and perfonn acts of obedience.
However, as for the person for whom the clay was bad, unreceptive to the leavening, the
leaven is influentiaI (upon him) only to the extent or measure of that which he acknowledged
at the witnessing. The leaven had been clear in that acknowledgement but in a state of
stillness ~iil al-istiqrar); then the span of time over the leaven became longer and the leaven
became spoilt with the corruption of the clay.
ln order to emphasize the difference between the two types of clay, the author employs the
terms mustawda' and mustaqarr. He describes how faith (al-imiin) is deposited (mustawda')
in the hearts of unbelievers (but) dwells (or is fmnly established) (mustaqarr) in the hearts of
believers. This, according to the aUthor, is the meaning of the following tradition attributed to
Muhammad: "Each infant is born according to the naturaI disposition (al-fi1Tah) in which He
has made mankind" ( cf. XXX,30). So is their equality (or sameness) (tasiiwfyhim) in faith,
according to the statement: "Am 1 not your Lord?" They said: "yea!" (Vn,172). The
witnesses were equivaIent in the res!,onse, they pronounced the reply because of the flowing
(or spreading sarayan) of the prophetic leaven in parts of their atoms. This (knowledge)
preceded in the knowledge of Allah, and its decree was carried out. Those who continue in
the acknowledgement (testifying yes), do not change to deniaI (al-i~d) and no:.-acceptance

page 43

....._.. ~ . __ ~ ....

~_ .. _._.. _

...........................,...--...._'"-~.. ~ .. _"_IlIIl~! .....


.... WiII'OP .....*4:i(1~:MIi;W ........?;

ail . . . ~

Stage Il : Occurrences in the Tree of Heing
AlI that occurs in the tree of being is atttibuted to the fecundation of the Muhammadan
branch. This includes:
the growth, incteaSe, flowers and fruits of thoughts (at1ciT);
the growth, incrcase, flowers and fruits of obscure desire, clear taste (mutashabih
shawq wa mu.lJkam dhawq) (see m,7), pute secrets, and the breadl of forgiveness;

that by which actions grow, and states are purified, and what bursts into leaf (or
unfolds) thereby, such as: the exercises of sauls (riya{lat al-nufs), the secret
conversations of hearts (munajat al-qulb), the experiences of secrets (muniizalat
al-asrar), and the contemplations of spirits (mushiihadat al-arwiijJ);

the flowers of wisdom and of the subtleties of knowing, which grow up, the good
breaths which rise up, the leaf of friendliness wbich settles, and the winds of joy that
emerge; and that which is bullt on the tree's root, namely: the degrees of the elect
(martib ahl al-ikhti~), the stations of the special (maqiimat al-khawa$$), the

experiences of the righteous (mun.alar al-$iddiqln), the conversations of those who

are drawn near (muniijat al-muqambn), and the contemplations of the loyers
(mushiihadat al-mutJibbn).l

AIl of this is from the fecundation of the Muhammadan branch, kindled from his light,
derived from the expansion of the river Kawthar, nourished by the quintessence of his piety,
and raised in the crad1e of his guidance. For this reason, Muhammad's blessings are
universal, and bis mercy continues (persists) on the creatures: "We sent thee not, but as a
Mercy for a11 creatures" (XXI,107).

Therc may he a deliherate structure which includes: (i) the development of thoughts
(al-alkiT), () the stages along the ~fi path i.e., shawq, dhawq, sirr and istighfir, (iii)
the basis of actions and states and (iv) the degrees of the elect, sec here p. 26.

page 44

Stage 12 : The Seal

The text continues to describe how once He had spread out the dwelling (al-diir) for his
(Muhammad's) sake, made night and day subservient on bis account, drawn the contours and
limited the regions, spoken (of Muhammad) by mentioning him,l and awakened (people) to
his secret and his measure, taken the covenant on his confirmation, and adherence (or
attachment) to the rope of his verification, He (then) unveiled the bride of his law to bis
followers and his party (... akhadha al-mithiJq Cala ta$diqihi wa al-tamassuk bi ~abl


jala 'arus shar'atihi cala atbii'ihi wa shi'ati"l).

He then placed the final seal (khatama) of his (Muhammad's) prophecy, his Book and his
mes"'1ge upon all the prophets, all the books, and all the messengers respectively. So the one
wbo sougbt protection witb the protection of his law was safe, and the one who adhered to
the rope of his nation (religion) was protected (fa man i~tamii bi ~ima shari'atihi salima wa

man istamsaka bi ~abl millatihi 'usima).

Stage 13 : Adam, Abraham and Ismicn

Three particular events with respect to Adam, Abraham, and Isma'il are now mentioned.
When Adam searched with this (the protection of Muhammad's law and the rope of his
nation) he was safe from reprimand; when it was transferred to the loins of Abraham the
friend, the fire became "cold and safe" (XXI,69); when the chance of Isma'il was entrusted
to it, he was redeemed by a "great sacrifice" (XXXVII, 107).


From this point on, both transla!')rs refer to Allah, rather than Muhammad. They
misread this as His secret, His decree, taking the covenant on His confinnation and
adherence tu the rope of His truth, and His shari'ah. See Jeffery, p. 46 and Oloton, pp.
68-69. This is c1early wrong for the earlier context makes it c1ear that it is Muhammad's
secret and decree. Our text in no instance refers to Allah's sharicah, but only to the
sharicah of the prophet. There is an ex ample of this in the following paragraph on the
final seaI, and in Unit IV on the five roots.

page 45

Stage 14 : The Fruit of Each of the Three Branches

The author now describes the fruit of the thrce branches: the companions of the right, those
of the left, and those foremost, those drawn near to God. Three Qur3inic verses are quoted to
illustrate these fruits.
dlagram 13

His blessing is comprehensive (or universal) and bis word is completed

Stage IS : The Perfection of Adam

In our presentation of the fmal stage in this unit, Adam's physical fonn is completed. He
(GOO) created Adam according to the form of bis name, because bis name is Muhammad. Sa
the head of Adam is a circle revolving according to the form of the fU'St mim of his name; the
prottuding of his (Adam's) hand at his side is according to the form of the letter pa'; his
stomach is according to the form of the second mm; and bis two legs in their opening are
according to the fonn of the letter daJ. So He perfects t'te creation of Adam according to the

written form of the name Muhammad. 1

dl.gram 14

The author interprets the famous ~adth: "He created Adam in the fonn of the Merciful
One" (khalaqa Adam cali ~rat al-Ratunan) to mcan, "He created Adam according to the
fonn of the name Muhammad." See Ab I;Iamid al-Ghazili, GhazzaJrs Mishkiit alAnwir(" The Niche for lights''), trans. W.H.T. Gairdner (Pakistan: Shaikh Muhammad
Ashraf, 1953), pp. 134-135; he distinguishes between the image of the Merciful One
and the image of Allah.

page 46

"But God was n

send them a pena,l\Yld_~.
thou wast amongst"



diagram 14

page 47

em andthey
(V,57 paraphrase)

Unit IV : The Physical Body of Man and the World

Although we pre3ent this as a separate unit, it is in fact an explanation of the immediately
preceding Unit ID, stage 15. However, the fonn and content of this segment are different.
The author focuses on Muhammad's body (aJ-jasad) and its correspondence with the world

The author explains how He (Allah) brings the beings into being according to the shape of
Muhammad's drawing (or writing) (kawwana al-akwan cala hay~at rasmihi, the drawing of
the letters comprising Muhammad's name). This is so because the world is (composed of)
two worlds, the world of Dominion ('ilam aJ-mulk) and the world of Sovereignty ('aJam al-

malakt). 'lam al-mulk is like the world of his corporeality and 'alam al-maJakt is like the
world of his spirituality. For the coarseness of the lower world (kathf al-calam al-suflI) is
like the coarseness of his corporeality, and the subtleness of the upper world (lapf al-'alam

al-'ulw) is like the subtleness of his spirituality.

Amongst the parallels drawn by the author between the earth and Muhammad's body are the
following: the earth's mountains are as it were the mountains of his bones; the swollen great
waters are as it were the fluid flowing in the veins of his body; in the same way, the parts of
the earth of his body where nothing grows, are like the earth's barren and salt marsh land;
then in the earth of his body, like the great seas from which rivers branch out, thick veins like
the aorta spread blood and the veins extend from it to the rest of the body.
Thenceforward the upper world's or the sky's composition in correlation with the body is
presented. Subtle organs, such as the spirit and intellect, are described as if they were a
particular aspect of the sky. Specifie reference to the body of Muhammad ceases with the

discussion on the earth; in the section on the sky, only the body in general is mentioned. We

page 48

have chosen to present the author's description in the form of a diagram, illustrating only the
salient points where he describes and draws a parallel between celestial objects and subtle
human organs.
dl_gram 15

The text goes on to describe an analogy between the spirit, the directing agent (mudabbir) of
the human temple, and the directing agent of the worlds (i.e., Ood). He tries to establish the
necessity of the world's directing agent, by describing the l'Ole of the spirit in man. This spirit
is described as an indicator of lordship, and a confirmation of the Muhammadan message. It
is one, invisible, has no modality, and does not occupy any particular place (space) in the
body. Nothing in the body moves except by its knowledge and its desire for it, the body
neither senses nor feels except by il. The same is implied of the directing agent and mover of
the worlds. In order to emphasize this, the author quotes from a Qur)aruc verse which
describes how there is nothing whatever like Him and He is the One that hears and sees (all
things) (XLn,ll).
Since His messenger to His creatures is of two (kinds): a manifest (zahir) - Muhammad, and
a hidden (b,tin) - Jibtil, in the same way, the human temple's directing agent, i.e. the spirit,
has two messengers: a manifest one - the tongue and a hidden one - the Will.
Then just as Allah made an indicator of the soundness of Muhamm:ul's prophecy and the
ttuthfulness of his message (i.e., the tongue and Will) to function, so too He made an
indicator (of that which Muhammad brought) of the fulfillment of his law, and the following
ofhis practice, to function in man (literally the reader) (jacalafika).
The discussion on the fulfilment of this shari'ah and the following of his sunnah is presented
via the image of the hand. The root of the hands is described as consisting of five things and

page 49

ADah makes the SUD (shBms)
fonction like a lamp

Likewise the spirit (al"riB.J) was

made 10 func1ion in the body

the moon (al.qamar)

the intellect (al-"'qI)

the S stars which are the S that

recede, go straight or bide
(LXXXI,15,16) are:

as il were the S senses: taste, touch t smell,

hearing and sight (al-.(Jaws al-khams)

Throne (al-'arsh)*

the heart (al-qalb)

Footstool (al-kursi)

the breast (al-,adr)

In the world of the hereafter.

He made function
Paradise (al-jannah)
(a treasure house of good)

the innerDlOst part of the heart

(suwaydf# al-qalb)

Hell (al-nir)
(a treasure house of evil)

the (lowcr) soul (al-nafs)

Thcn He made the Tablet (al-lawll)

and the Pen (al..qaJam) function
as a copy of the book of the wood
and (the pen as) thatwhich brings
into heing.

the brea.u (aJ-,adr), the tangue (al-Hsin)

magram 15

* The author repeats his earlier discourse stressing how the tbrone was brought into
existence by Allah and made to function as a direction in which the hearts of his servants
may tum to Him. But il is not a locus for His essence nor something of the same kind as
His attributes. Although the 'sitting' (aJ-jstiwi~) is one of His epithets and atttibutes, the
tbrone is unconnected with Him, He is not related to il, nor in need of it The heart is also
described as His throne on earth, towards which He looks to reveal Himself and sends
down His bounty: "My skies and Myearth were not wide enough for Me, but the heart
of My believing servant was wide enough for Me."
page 50




each of these (five) has five (elements). The tirst l'OOt is that on which the structure is buUt,
so the messenger of Allah said:
dlagram 16

The principles of the religion are described as: the establishment of the principles of his
shlllf'ah, the love of bis companions


and the friendship of bis kinship

(al-qarabah). So He made function in man's organs (5) groups of five as an indication of this

(i.e., the five mots).

The five senses are an indicator of the first root. The author, addressing himself to an
audience, describes how the reader i.e., man, will fmd with these five principles the
following: the taste (dhawq) of everything, the perception of gnosis (al-t:irtin), the
recognition (al-ma'rifah) of the Merciful, and knowledge of absolute cenainty ('ilm al-iqiin).
So the five on which Islam is buUt are as it were the five senses: vision summons man to
prayer, touch sommons him to almsgiving, tasle to abandoning the taste of food, hearing to
hearing the 'calI' (al-adhan), and smelI to inhaling the breaths of taw~id.
The next four roots are as follows. He made the five fingers of the right hand function, as if
they were, "Muhammad is the Apostle of Allah and those who are with him" (XLVIll,29).
They are: Ab Bakr, 'Umar, 'Uthmin and CAli. Then He made the five fingers in the right
hand (meaning the left hand)l fonction as a reminder of the five figures. They are the ahl al-

Although the text actually says righl hand, since il has already been mentioned we
suggest il is the left hand. This left hand is generally considered in a negative sense,
perhaps impure and inauspicious. For this reason, in the traditions, both the hands of
Allah are described as righl hands. In this particular conlext where the author refers to
the reader's hands, il may he implying the hands of the perfcet man (Muhammad) or the
position of his hands in prayer. Sec Glolon, pp. 153-154.

page 51

"Islam is bullt OD five:

(i) OD the attestation of 'There is
DO divinity

but ADah and Muhammad

is the messengerof Allah';

() perfonnancc of the ritual prayer

The second root is al-,alib five times.

(i) giving the legal alms (al-zakih);

The thiJd root is al-zskah, a flfth pan.

(iv) fasting (,awm) on Rama4in; and

The founh l'OOt is: "Muhammad is the

Apostle of Allah and those who are
with himlt (XLVIII,29): Ab Bakr.
'Umar, cUthmin and cAU, they are
five widl Muhammad.

(v) and the pilgrimage (al-tJajj)

to the sacrcd house Qf Allllh."

The fifth root is: the family of the

house (ahl al-bayt) they are five:
Muhammad. cAli. fiPmah, al-l;Iasan
and al-l:Iusayn.*

diagram 16
*Muhammad and 'those with him' comlate with fasting, while the ah} al-bayt
comlale with al-lJajj. Pcrhaps the fasting implies a ldnd of purily for
Muhammad's companions.

page 52

bayt, the ones from whom Allah removed the dirt according to His words, "And God only
wishes to remove ail abominations from you, ye Members of the Family" (XXXm,33).
The author quotes Muhammad as describing how this panicular verse was revealed with
refcrcnce to them, the ahl al-bayt: Muhammad, cAli, Fapmah, al-ijasan and al-ijusayn. Then
He made the five tocs of the right foot function as a sign to remember the five prayers, and
the five tocs of the right foot (meaning the left foot) as a reminder to almsgiving.
dl_gram 17

In the discussion on the right hand Le., Muhammad and 'those with him', Adam is also
mentioned with reference to the light of Muhammad being on his forehead. The author
describes how when He (Allah) created the light of Muhammad on Adam's forehead, the
angels used to tum to face Adam and salute Muhammad's light. However, un able to see this
light, Adam requested the Lord to transfer it to one of his organs. So the light was
transferred to the index flOger on his right hand. Adam was able to look at the light and with
it tesrify: "There is no divinity except Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah."
Upon requesting if anything of this light remained in his loins, he was told that the light of
Muhammad's companions remained in his loins. This was manifested in the fingers of
Adam's right hand.
dl_gram 18

The purpose for placing these in ttlan's hand is so he will not distinguish between them and
Muhammad. For Allah brought them together according to His words: "Muhammad is the
Apostle of Allah and those who are with him" (XLVIn,29).
Two points which the text discusses here are resurrection and prayer. According to the


author, Allah made sleep function as an indicator of death. resurrection, and the happiness
and torment of the tomb. The author asks - in the form of a rhetorical question - whether man
page 53

Pive senses:
The firSt mot is:
(i) smell! "1 find the breath of the
(i) "l'hcre is no divinity but Allah
Mtrciful One in the direction of
and Muhammad 15 the mcssenger
of Allah'
() Prayer

() vision: Mubammad said~ "The

consolalion for myeye is in prayer"

(ili) Almsgiving

(ih') toucb: ''rue alms of their wealtht '


(iv) Fasting

(iv) taste: abandoning the taste of food

(v) Pilgrimage

(v) hearing the~: "And proclaim uoto

mankind the pilgrimage" (XXU,27)

The second root is: prayer (five time$)


The thiId mot is: almsgiving (a firth



The founh root is: "Muhammad is the

Aposde of Allah and those who are
with him" (XLVllI,29): Ab Bakr,
cUmar, 'Uthman and 'Ali


The fd\h mot is the ahl al.bayt:



cAlI, raPmah, al-l;Iasan and al-l;Iusayn

diagram 17

page 54

The middle finger is Ab Bakr's light

The index fmger tS Muhamnl' d's

The ring finger is cUmar's light

The littIe finger is tUthman's
The thumb is cAli's 1ght


diagram 18

page 55

~ ,.""~,,~, .-".'...,---~"."..,....,...-_,



can not be resurrected. Amongst those whom he quotes as accepting this (Le., denying
resurrection after death) are the philosophers. He also describes the Mu'tazilah as denying
the tonnent and happiness of the tomb.
The significance of prayer is also explained within this segment of the text as follows. The
reader, (i.e. man) by being able to pray in a standing, bowing and prostrating position,
embodies illlthe acts of devotion of Allah's creatures. Unlike prostrating insects which are
unable to stand up, or bowing mammals unable to prostrate or stand, or upright trees, unable
to bend, man has the excellence of ail His creatures. This is why he is the purpose in aIl
creation (anta al-maq$d min kull al-wujd}, he is the special one amongst the servants.

p:.lgc 56





--- ---


Unit V : The Story of Creation, Iblis and Adam Revisited

After this explanation of why Adam is in the shape of the name Muhammad, and the
correlation between his physical fonn and the world, the tale resumes. Even though the
events in the creation story focusing on Adam were presented earlier in unit l, scene 3 and
unit II, scene 4, the author seems to re-enact L'le scenes here by focusing on ThUs. The setting
has now changed, the essential images of the kun and the tree are not there. It is as if at a
king's court where the drinking companions of God - ThUs amongst them, are sitting in a
circi" and a cup is circulating from one drinker to the next. The events are presented with
reference to God's Will and Commando The new scene begin'i with the prostration of the
The author r.ommands the reader saying: "Know that the highest court (angels) are
subservient for the benefit (good) of the shajarat al-ka wn: are desirous of performing ac dons
for its advantages (interests), and are supportive of the tree's rights (puqilq). This is because
of the specialty of the Muhammadi branch and the A1;lmad light (a1-niir a1-apmadI) (the

light on Adam's forehead).

He continues describing how initially when the day of being (nahir al-wujd) was detached
from the darkness of the night of non-being (p1lmat 1arl al-cadam), the lights of the
Muhammadan suns were shining on the horizon of Adam's forehead. The angels fell down
prostrating and exclaimed: "the king of the throne is Muhammad forever. So when they

were ordered to prostrate, they prostrated and having been favoured with witnessing, they
witnessed. They were told: "The gratitude for this witnessing is to stand in baule in the
service of a tree, for which he (Muhammad) is the root, and of astate which he binds and
loosens." This service includes - amongst other things, being the 'scribes' occupied with the
pure pages; the 'pious' circumambulating the protected ground of the tree; the 'carriers'

page 57


carrying to each agent his act, and the 'guardians' supervising people's actions and counting
the actions both against them and those in favour ofthem.
When the dwelling (al-dir) had been arrangcd and the cup of His Will tumed and revolvcd,
the (lfst one to he ealled to that presence was Ibls. He trailed gannents of glorification (altashbjp) and sanctification (al-taqdis) (of Ood). But these garments were filled with the

corruption of dt;ceit (al-tadls). So when he attended this place and wib1essed the beauty of
that sight (the Muhammadan suns shining on Adam's forehead) and paused at the Mount of
gnosis, he disavowed and persisted in disobedienee. He demeaned the right of this water and
clay (Adam), considering it despicable. \Vhen he was told: "prostrate in the purity of your
cups", "he refused and was haughty" (n,34).
He passed over the cup and the companionship of people endowed with cleverness ($utJbat
al-akyiis) escaped him, he t:mained in the darkness of anxiety and wicked thoughts (alw"3wiis). Searching the bags (akyiis) 1 of his knowledge and aets, 10 and behold (he

realized) they were money bags. So he remained separated in the desert of alienation eut off
from the party (al-shjcah) and the law (al-shari'ah). He wanted to mislead mankind and create
false desires in them (IV,119 quoted). However, man was to he protected: "Lo! As for my
slaves, thou hast no power over any of them" (XV ,42).
So he asked the king for a respite. This was granted so that he could he the leader of the
unbelievers to hell, and the cruteh on which the possessors of sin and crime depend. So
when one of these people slipped (zalla), He (Allah) said: "It was Satan who caused them to
fail (istazalla)" (nl,155), and if he acted, he said: "This is a wurk of evil (Satan)"


The author uses the root of this word in several contexts: (a) ka~s is a cup, (b) kiisa is
the verb to he smru1 or intelligent (e) kis, plural akyis l'efers to a bag.

According to the Qurlan the speaker here is Moses describing his foc.

page 58

So when Adam and Iblis rushed down into the valley of disobedience, this one (lbUs)
renounced what he was ordered to do and that one (Adam) did what he was forbidden. But
fate (divine decree) (al-qadar) brought the two of them together when it was decreed. This is
because He (God) commanded and (yet) what He wiUed differed from that which He
commanded. So, that which the Command granted the Will denied. So when both persons
transgressed it (taCaddayaha) (the Command),l it was decided for Iblis not to go beyond it
(the Will), The villain set up his tent in it and placed his position in its counyard.
As for Adam, he yeamed for the home that would last (dr al-muqmah), remembering it
during his days and nights. So, he turned to himself with blame, and called out amidst the
(drinking) companions of repentance (nudama~ al-nadimab)2: "Our Lord, We have wronged
our own souls" (Vn,23). Then he received the good news of his being brought near: "Then
learnt Adam from his Lord words of inspiration" (11,37),
As for the villain Iblis, the horses of cursing were set free on him with unrestricted reins,
announcing the news of his eviction and distance. As a result of the order, he moved out
from there: "We said: falldown" (n,36,38) (qulnaahbif),

The feminine pronoun ha grammatically refers to the Will. However, logically one
would expect the Command to he 'transgressed', This suggests an eITor in both editions
of the text, it should be taCaddayahu.
There is again an error in both editions of the text, both with al-muqamah and alnadmab, the taJ marbfah is without dots.

page ;'9

Adam look the right path and Iblis took the Jeft path, 50 it became the origin for the
companions of the lefl Since the two accompanied one another, and were close together,
there was an influence from this companionship. Thus, Ibls's place (or position) in relation
to Adam, and his life with him, is such that he is adjoining (adjacent) (yal) his left (Adam's
lefl). Hence this affected what Adam was in his origin on the lefl side. 1 His (Adam's)
descendents ended up in the shadow of the darkness of his (lblis's) opposition. Beeause of
their neamess to him (lblis) and their facing him, they disbelieved.
dlagram 19

But there remained those who were on the right side in the light of Adam's gnosis (nr

ma'rifat Adam). They were safe from the darkness of Iblis hecause of their distance
(remoteness) ft..!m him. However, the neighbourhood (or proximity) of those who did not
believe and sought the protection of the darkness of his error (Iblis's error), had an effect on
them (those of the right side). These are the people of the left side. That affected their
attributes (those on the right side). The lights of their essential nature and their recognition,
are safe with them But the sins and crimes which the people of the right side commit, are
from the effeet of that neighbourhood and the shadow of that cheek (the black shadow - the
beard stubble - on a white cheek).
The author points out that there is another origin and reason for this effeel When the angel
of death came down to earth to grasp a handful from which Adam was to he created, it was
grasped from all parts of the eanh. During this time, IbUs was on the earth. Allah had

appointed him as a vicegerent with a group of pngels, and he had resided (on earth) for a
long lime serving Allah. 50 when Adam's clay was kneaded and his form shaped from that

Jeffery reads these lwo lines completely differently. IbUs is replaced by man in general.
50, il is man who is described as keeping apart from or joumeying with Adam See
Jeffery, p. 64.This changes the whole meaning of the paragraph. Our reading is more in
Hne with Gloton, see his p. 82.

page 60





lert aide


diagram 19

page 61

ript side

clay, he (the angel of death) began to fonn (create) the lower soul from the dust trampled
upon with IbUs's feet, and he fonned the heart from the untrampled dust. So the soul
contained wickedness and the objectionable qualities which were in the trampled land, from
the contact of Iblis's trampling. This is why the soul is the residence of desires and his living
and his power over il are because of his trampling on il. For this reason, Iblis considered
(himselO proud over Adam sine..: he realized the soul was from the dust of his feet. This is
the meaning of the saying of Allah: "Oh Ye who believe! Follow not Satan's footsteps"
(XXN ,21) (Le., the lower soul) which was created from below his footsteps.

page 62

In this new scene the focus shifts once again, this lime to Muhammad. The author redirects
the reader's attention ta theshajarat al-kawn describing how when il emerged three branches
sprouted fonh: a branch of the right path, a branch of the left path, and a branch growing
straight upright, the branch of those foremost. The tree with these three branches was
presented earlier, tirst in Unit n following scene 2, and secondly in Unit m, stage 14.
The spirituality of Muhammad is described as being present, flowing through the tree's three
branches. Each branch has a share (na~ib) according to the measure of the branch's capacity
for this spirituality.1n this conte Xl, the author again quotes from the Qur~an describing how
God sent Muhammad as a Mercy for all creatures (XXI,107).
dlagram 20

When it was time for the manifestation of his carporeality in rnanifest being, the branch of
his being grew straight upright. So when its root was firm and its shoot had grown, the One
who entrusted his govemment summoned him: "Therefore stand frrm (fa istaqim) (in the
straight path) as thou art comrnanded" (XI,112). So Muhammad's characteristic (or
distinguishing mark) is the standing straight (al-istiqimah), and his station is dir almuqamah. 1 So when Muhammad stood upright, he moved away from the two worlds of

being, and when he stayed (dwelt), he was rnoved from one station to another, until he came
to rest in il, the stopping place, so he stayed.
The fmt station is maqiim al-wujd in the physical world. This is according to His words:
"Oh thou wrapped up (in a mantle)! Arise and deliver thy waming!" (XXIV,I,2). The
second station is al-maqam aJ-matund in the hereafter. This is according to His words:
This is the home of those forernost in good deeds (al-sifbiq), see XXXV,32.

page 63

page 64


"Soon will thy Lord raise thee to a station of praise and glory (maqam


(XVn,79). The third station is maqifm al-khuliidin paradise. This is according to His words:

"(He) has, out of His Bounty, settled us in a Home that will last (diT al-muqamah)"
(XXXV,35). The fourth station is al-maqam al-mashhiid, the station of a distance of two

bows for the vision of the deity: "Then he approached and came closer, and was at a distance
of but two bow-Iengths or (even) nearer" (Dana fa tadalla fa kana qib qawsayn aw adna)

The author goes on to de scribe Muhammad as the purpose in the being of creation (idh kana
huwa al-maq$iid min kull al-wujiid). This being is a tree, for which he is the fruit and gem. A

fruit bearing tree bears fruit through the seed from which the tree's root sprouts up.
o\ccording to the author's description the relationship between the seed and tree is like that
between Muhammad's inner being and his outer (or manifest) being. The seed in the
beginning is a speck until it makes the form of the tree visible. His inner being in concept
(like the seed) is prior, as is his being hidden; and his manifestation in the physical form (of
the tree) is subsequent, as is his becoming known. This is the meaning of the Prophet's
saying: "1 was a prophet while Adam was between water and clay."
He is the manifestation of the tree's meaning and the manifestation of its form (fa kana huwa
ma?har maCna hadhihi al-shajarah wa huwa m8?har $Tatihi). The author presents a

similitude describi1g how a merchant stores his clothes one on top of another on a carpet.
The frrst garment he in sens and folds is the last to be visible and appear. Similarly,
Muhammad is the first amongst all in being and their last in manifestation and emergence
(kima awwalli kull wujiid wa akhirahum ?uhiiran wa khuriijan).

The text describes how Allah nourishes, waters, protects and aIlows the branch to grow until
its excess flowers and the pcrfumes of its fragrance spread in ail directions. The perfumes

page 65

._ .. __







.....a_,_ _ _ _ _""


amongst other things, nourishment for the spirits of those who know, light for the insight of
the believers, and aid in quenching the thirst of the sinners.
The author continues with how if from (the side 00 the companions of the left, the hot wind
of sin or the violent wind of revoit were to blow, it would make a branch which Allah
plante(l, b-nd The branch inclines towards one of the actions of the people of the left playing
with its shoot. This affects the greenness of the freshness of the branch's crop. However, its
mot in the canh of faith is tirm, the growth in the branch's offshoot does not hann it (the

So, when one of the companions of the left seizes the branch, the root protects it from that
inclination and makes it incline toward the path of straightness after bending, and gives it the
water of 'asking for forgiveness' until its thirst is quenched. The branch after having wilted,
bursts into Ieaf. Here the author quotes a verse describing how Muhammad is neither astray
nor being misled (mi (lalla


wa mi ghawa) (LllI,l,2).

The branch is presented as coming forth from the spirituality of that which is the substance
(or fundamental constituent) of spirits and from the corporeality of that which is the
substance of visible forms or shapes (aJ-ghu~n aJ-muttammad qad ~~aJa min r~ifniyat ma
huwa middat aJ-arw~, wa minjismiiniyat mi huwa maddat aJ-ashb~).

As for the substance of its spirituality, its 'generosity' (or overflowing) (jd) is in the secret
of His words: "Allah is the light of the heavens and the eanh. The parable of His light is as if
thcre were a niche (mishkit) and within it a lamp (mi~b~)" (XXIV,35). The lamp is the light
of Muhammad made to function as the lamp of the niche of being

(mi~biiQ mishkiit


wujd). He likens the world of being with the niche, Muhammad with the glass, and the

light, which is bis hean, with the lamp.

Although the Muhammadan branch is not specifically mentioned, the context suggests
it is this branch.

page 66

The niche is al-kawn

the glass is Muhammad
the lamp is bis light (his hean).


page 67

The light of his inner being radiates his exterior being like the radiance of the lamp in the
glass. So the light of the lamp becomes fll'C and the glass becomes light because of its purity,
so it (the glass) (Muhammad) becomes light. The share of each creature in this is aeeording
to its nearness to him (Muhammad), following him, entering in bis pany (i.e., al-shicah) and
practicing his law (Le., al-sharfcah) .
The author describes Allah as likening Muhammad with water, corning down from the sky
in measure, for just as water is the life of everything, so Muhammad's light is the life of
every hean, and his being is a mercy for everything. So He (Allah) makes heans function as
val1eys, amongst these are the great and the small, the significant and the insignificant. Each
hean carries water according to the measure of its capability and the measure of its substance,
"eaeh group knew its own place for water" (11,60).
Then He J'kens his corporeality with the


foam canied on the pure surface of

water.1 This is his visible development penaining to eating, drinking, marriage, and the
participation of people in their actions and conditions. But these. all of them, disappear and
come to nothing. It is his prophethood, message, wisdom, knowledge, recognition
(knowing) and his intercession (al-shaficah) which people benefit from, and which remain
The text goes on to state that the purpose in the creation of Muhammad was such that he was
created from subtle (la!if) and coarse (kathif), so that he is the perfeet creature (kamil alkhalq), perfeet in characteristic (kamil aJ-wa~f). Allah created him from two opposite

(components): one corporeal the other spiritual. He made bis corporeal and human aspect
(basharfyah) function for the encounter with mankind (mulaqat al-bashar) and the enduring

The author seems to have the following verse in rnind: "But the torrent bears away the
foam that mounts up to the surface. While that which is for the good of mankind
remains on the earth" (Xill, 17).

page 68

of the fonns (muqiisiit


This human aspect enables him to say: "I am but a man

(bashar) like yourselves" (XVln, 110). The corporeal aspect, whereby he is of the same
nature and resembles men, enables them to face him. Were he to appear in a spiritual, angelic,
luminous guise, men would not he able to stand up (aspire) to him.
Then He made function for him a facully and spiritualily for the encounter with the world of
the spiritual beings (Ciilam al-TtJifniyin) and the kingdom of the celestial beings (malakt al'u1wiyin). So he will he complete in blessing, and in mercy. The spiritual beings may

(thereby) witness his corporeality.

Then He made function for him a special third characteristic outside of these two. This is that
He (GOO) made function in him a divine characteristic (wa~frabbiini) and a divine secret (sin'
ilihi) by which he stands fimy before the manifestation of the attributes of 10rdship, and is

able to witness the divine presence, to receive the secrets of the lights of singleness, hear the
message of the sacred signs, inhale the perfume of the merciful breaths, and rise to the
beautiful pleasant stations. This is the meaning of the secret of his words: "I am not like one
amongst you." "1 have a moment in which no one but my Lord encompasses Me, praise to

Him"2 (li waqt Iii yasicuni lihi ghayr rabbi subbiinahu).

Both editions of the text actually have muq&:vasatwhich we suggest is muqiisit.


This is a variant of a famous ~fi ~adth: '1/ y a pour moi un Instant avec Dieu ou ne
sauraient me contenir ni Ange rapproch ni Prophete envoy. " The oldest sources to
report it include Sahl al-Tustari, Hujwiri and Mustam1i Bukhiiri. Sec Landolt, pp. 180,

page 69

This station (is such that): neither an angel brought near, nor a prophet
who has been sent, may be favored with it; a cup which no one May
obtain except for him, and a bride (carus) who unveils only for him. This
station is exclusive to him (wa huwa hadhi al-maqam al-makh~~ bihi), it
is one of the four stations we mentioned earlier. 1 As for the other three,
they are miracles (karirniit) for the rest of the creatures, which each may
obtain according to the share which is assigned to him.
The four stations are now described as: (one) al-maqiim al-mapmd which is special because
of the world of form (ca/am


and this is the world of Dominion (Ciilam al-mulk) in

the physical world. The presence of his peacefulness, the blessing of his prophecy, and of
his message, reaches 'them': "We sent thee not, but as a mercy for a11 creatures" (XXI,107).
The second station is the praised station (al-maqam al-mapmd) in resurrection, which
concems the share of the highest court (i.e., the angels). On this day permission will be given
to him (Muhammad) to speak. He will stand as the speaker while the angels are in ranks and
the creatures are standir.g. His khutbah will begin with the intercession for his community:
"My community, my community." The reply is: "My mercy, My mercy."
The third station is witnessing (al-shuhd) in the house of etemal life (diir 3l-khuld). The
people of paradise will be granted their share from him. Paradise will increase in light, the
veils will be raised and the evils will cease.
The founh station is the station which is special for him. This is the station of a vision of the
deity, the station of: "A distance of but two bow-lengths or (even) nearer" (LllI,9).
This is because the tree is not intended for itseJf, but for its fruit; Muhammad is this fruit. He
is the pearl of the shell of being, its secret and the meaning of the word kun. So, the tree is
protected and guarded for the gathering of its fruit and the discovery of its flowers. Since the
intention was the presentation of this fruit in front of the One who made the fruit, conducting

Although Gloton describes this as the second station al-maqiim al-mapmd in the
hereafter, this is incorrect. The author explicitly states in what iollows that: "the founh
station is the station which is special for him."

page 70

it in solemn procession to the presence of His proximity, and the going round with it, it was
said to Muhammad: "Oh orphan of Ab ralib, stand up! There is someone wanting you who
has something in store for you i"

The Micrfj
The ascension begins with Jibril approaching Muhannnad while he is asleep on his mattress.
A conversation between the two commences with Muhammad asking: "Oh Jibril where to?"
(ili ayna). Jibril replies that the where (location) (al-ayna) has been eliminated from what is

in between (al-bayna); on this occasion he does not know about the location.
So Muhammad asks what is desired from him. Jibn1 replies with a lengthy exposition,
praising Muhammad.
You are the intention of the Will, the purpose of Desire. So ail is intended
on account of you, you are the purpose because of Him. You are the
choice of the world of being, you are the purity of the cup of love, you are
the pearl of this shell, you are the fruit of this tree, you are the sun of
knowing, you are the moon of subtleties. Al-diir was spread out only to
build your place, this beauty was prepared only for your arrivai, the cup of
love was purified only for you to d.1ink in, so stand up.
The highest coun (the angels) and the archangels await Muhammad's presence. Although the
nobility of his spirituality has reached them, they need a share in his corporeality. So, Jibrl
suggests that just as Muhammad honoured ciilam al-mulk by placing his feet on the surface
of the land, so too he must honour ciilam al-malakt, the summit of the sky, with the
trampling, (wa!') of his feet. l
When the celestial Buriiq is brought by Jibril, Muhammad refuses to acknowledge his
usefulness: "What will 1do with this?" he asks. Though Jibril trics to convince him that this
Barlier this wal:J was described with respect to Iblis trampling the soil of the earth, see
unit V.

page 71

is the vehic1e of lovers, Muhammad is not convinced. He believes his desire (shawq) to be
his vehicle, his yeaming (tawq) to be his provision, and his night to he his guide. He
questions how such a weak animal can carry one such as himself, i.e., one who carries the
weight of God's love, the unshakeable mountains of His knowing and the secrets of His
trust, wbich the heavens, the earth and the mountains lacked the strength to carry.
He also questions Jibril's ability to guide llim, for he was perplexed at the Sidratal-Muntaha.
"Oh librl, where are you in relation to me? 1 have a moment in which no one but my Lord
encompasses Me." He believes that one cannot reach Him with movements, nor be led to
him by foJlowing directions. Jibril responds by pointing out that Buraq and he were sent as a
sign of respect and honour. Buraq is the strongest of the animals and he (i.e., Jibril), the mast
special servant of the king.
libril continues by describing to Muhammad bis own bewildennent in his quest for the Lord,
and his meeting with Michael, who asked: "Where 1L"'e you going? The road is blocked and
the gates before Him are closed. One cannot reach Him al calculable limes nor can He he
found in limited places." So, he suggested to Michael that they ask the throne and seek to be
rightly guided by hllll. When the throne heard what they were considering he e:tclaimed:
"This is a secret... and a question for which then: is no reply. Who am 1 in between (albayna) so as to know the whereabouts (al-ayna) for Him?" He does not see how one such as

himself who was not long ago non-existent and absent, May know the vision of the One who
is ever present, without begetting nor hegotten.
He (the tbrone) goes on to complain that although sometimes He hrings him close to the
positions of His nearness, being companionable towards hi m, yet at other times He conceals
Himself with the veil of His Honour. Sometimes He approaches him with the cups of His
lo"e and so intoxicates him. So, whenever he seeks something sweet from the

contentiousness of his intoxication he is told: "By no means canst thou see Me" (directly)
(VII.143). When he recovers from his intoxication with Him it is said to him: "Oh lover!



_-- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - .

This is a beauty We have preserved and a loveliness We have veiled. Only a friend whom
We have chosen, may see it, and an orphan whom We have raised." Upon hearing (Allah's
speech): "Glory to (Ood) who did take His servant for ajoumey (by night)" (XVn,I) (and):
"Stand in the path of his (Muhammad's) ascending towards Us and his coming towards Us.
Perhaps you will see the one who sees Us and you will achieve the witnessing of the one
who did not see except Us", Jibrl brought his frrst vehicle, Buraq, to Muhammad (who
carried him) to Jerusalem. The second vehicle, the ladder (al-rni'rij), takes him to the sky of
the physical world. The journey through the seven heavens is made on the third vehicle, the
wings of the angels. The ascent to the Sidrat al-Muntahiiis made on the wing of Jibril who
stays behind there: "If 1 advance now (even) by the span of one fingenip, 1 will be bumed."l
Jibril requests Muhammad to remember him when he is with the Beloved One. Then he
hurls him so he pierces through seventy thousand veils of light. Then the fifth vehicle, this is
the cushion (al-rafts/) made of green light, met him. He rode on it until he finally reached the
ln a lengthy speech, the throne acknowledges sorne of the attributes which Muhammad has






This is from the Qadith aJ-mi'rij: "When he (Jibril) reached the Sidrat aJ-Muntahii, he
reached the end of the veils. So, he said, "proceed oh prophet, for 1 am not able to go
beyond this station, if 1 advance now (even) by the span of one finger tip, 1 will be
burned." See B.Furuzanfar, AQiidith-i Mathnaw(Tehran: Danishgah-iTihran, 1915) p.

page Tl

Sometimes He makes you Wmess the beauty of His oneness: "The

(prophet's) (mind and) hean in no way falsified that which he saw"
(LITI.l1). At other times He makes you witness the beauty of His
everlastingness: "(His) sight never swervcd, nor did it go wrong!"
(Lill.17). Sometimes He makes you aware of the secrets of His divine
kingdom: "So did (God) convey the inspiration to His servant (conveyed) what He (Meant) to convey" (Lill. 10). At other times He
brings you close to the presence of his neamess: "And (he) was at a
distance of f'lut two bow-lengths or (even) nearer" (LID,9).
The throne goes on to describe that since he was the most important of His creatures, he was
the one with the greatest and strongest fear. "La iliih illil Allah" was wrinen on his leg.
However, when


wonder~ what will happen

rasl Allah" was added. his uneasiness subsided. He

when the beauty of Muhammad's appearance reaches him.

He believes he has a share on this night as he describes how Muhammad is sent "as a mercy
for all creatures" (XXI, 107). He asks Muhammad to testify, in his favour, that he is free
from Hell, from what the people of falsehood ascribe to him, and what the people of
decepuon say about him. He describes how these people have been mistaken about him.
They believe that he is wider than the One who has no limits, that he bears (or carries) Him,
and encompasses Him. Muhammad, annoyed with the throne for disturbing him at this
particularmoment (al-waqt), scomfully tells the throne to leave him alone (iJayka Canni),l for
he bas more important things to tend to.
Then the sixtb vehicle, the confirmation (al-tJJ 3yid) , approached. A caU came from ab ove
him: "Your guardian is in front of you, here you are and (here is) your lord." Muhammad
was perplexed, not knowing what to say or do. However, when adrop described as sweeter
than honey, colderthan snow, softerthan butter, and sweeter smelling than the scemofmusk
feU on his Hp, he became more knowledgeable than all the propbets and messengers. He

recited praise to Allah.

Both the transJators incorrectly read this to mean: "1 am indebted to you"; see Jeffery, p.
84 and O1oton, p. 102.




Muhammad then describes how when he was called: "Come near, Muhammad" (udnu), he
drew near (danawtu) and then stopped (waqaftu). According to the author, the meaning of
His words: "Then he drew nigh and (it) came down" (LIll,8)1 is that Muhammad "drew
nigh" to his Lord, so the revelation "came down." Muhammad "drew nigh" so He "cam':.
down." The where {location) (al-ayna) has gone from the in between (al-bayna). The author
points out that ifhe was at a distance of two bow-Iengths, il would irnply there is a place for
the Lord. But His word "or nearer" is for negating (such a) place.
A conversation between Muhammad and his Lord follows. Muhammad is first told to
approach, but since the location is no more, the gardens of paradise, which appear as ..l. light,
becorne the bas'! of his two feet. Allah says to him that while he was (still) on the journey of
al-ayna Jibrl was his guide and Buraq his vehicle. When the place disappeared, and the

location became non-existent, and the in between was eliminated from the midst, and only the
distance of two bow-Iengths remained, then He became his guide.
He opens the gate for him, raises the veil and makes him hear the goodness of the message in
the hidden world. "You dec1ared me to be One, affitming and believing. So, now declare me
One in the world of witnessing, witnessing and seeing." However, expressing his inability to
enurnerate the praise for his Lord, Muhammad says "1 (don't know how) to enumerate praise
for You. You are just as You praise Yourself', upon which he is lold He will attire it with
"the tongue of truth" (XIX ,50). He places the robe of guidance upon him so his seeing does
not go astray: "(His) sight never swerved, nor did it go wrong!" (LIII,l7). He lends him a
Iight witil which he will see His beauty and a sense of hearing with which he may hear His

This is from Muhammad Pickthall's The Meaning of the Glorious Qur'in (Tripoli:
Islamic Call Society, n.d.).

The reason for Muhemmad's ascending toward Him is now given. "1 will show you My
paradise so that you (may) witness what 1 have prepared for My friends (li awliyiPi) and 1
will show you My heU so that you (may) witness what 1 have prepared for My enemies.... "
The speech continues with Allah describing that He will make Muhammad witness His
majesty and He win unveil His beauty in order that Muhammad may know that He is
transcendent in His perfection from similar and like, limit and shape, from connection and
separation, from 'sitting with' and touching and so on.
The author describes Allah as saying how various peoples have ascribed specifie things to
Him. For example, the Jews believed Uzayr to be His son; the Christians claimed the
Messiah was His son; the corporealists made Him a form; the anthropomorphists made Him
limited; the MuCattilah made Him non-exis; ~nt denying all attributes, and the Muttazilah
claimed He wou Id not be se en in the Hereafter.
This is the reason why He has raised His veil for Muhammad. Muhammad looks upon Him
and finds Him unique and etemal, not dependent on anything nor in need of anything,
without (physical) structure nor likeness, no fOTm, and not occupying a space: "There is
nothing whatever like unto Hirn, and He is the one lhat hears and sees (a11 things)"
(XLII,!!). This witnessing culminates with Allah describing how it is necessary for
creatures to have both a secret and a time which is unknown. The author ends with a prayer

Our tale has the characteristics of a cosmogonic myth. The text begins tirst with the author,
and then Adam, contemplating kun and al-kawn. The scenes altemate between these two
persons. Then the author creates in his imagination images of the world of being in the form
of a tree, and the cosmos cornes into being. This creative process continues with the divine
Agent creating Adam from the dust of kun and then retuming to the root of the seed of kun
to ~reate the light of Muhammad.
The physical form of Adam is created according to the written form of Muhammad's name.
The explanation in unit IV !laborates on how God brings beings into being according to the
shape of the drawing of the name of Muhammad.The tale th en continues with the story of
creation and the major role of Ibls, however, the images have changed. The light of
Muhammad is now on the horizon of Adam's forehead. In the finale the author describes
Muhammad's corporeal and spiritual qualities and his 'joumey' through the four maqim.
The description in chapter 1 of the f('rm and content of the Shajarat al-Kawn suggests that
neither are quite coherent. Having noted this obtrusenel's, we would like to see if one may
discern specifie issues or themes which are consistently and coherently developed
throughout the text. With this in mind, we focus on the kun and the protagonists.
The division of the text into units and scenes highlights the different settings or contexts in
which each figure is presented at different stages in the tale. The reader is left with the
impression that there are in fact several different 'persons' called Adam and Muhammad. So,

our intention in what follows is rust to review the facts about each and 50 he able to identify
the different Adams and Muhammads, and then consider their respective functions and the
function of the 'author'.

Metaphysic:al Kun
The text begins with kun: the process of creation commences with this commando In one aet,
aU the things to he (aJ-kiPmat) and all the thlngs that exist (aJ-mawjdat), come into being.

The person pronouncing the kun is not described.

The seed (al-bizr) from which the tree's fruit is fonned is composed of two: (1) kM
al-kawnyah (Being), which is fecundated with the fecundation of the seed (lJabbat): (2)
"Na.lJnu khalaqnikum. " In this movement from seed to fruit, two different branches become

visible resulting from kM and nD. The root of these tno br:mches is described as one, 81iridah and its offshoot al-qudrah.

Two different meanings appear from the substance of each letter. The text does not explicitly
define the relationship betwee" these two opposing poles. We may suggest that since there is
Qru!jawhar (for example kat), in (invisible) reality al-kufryah and al-kamilIyah are 'similar'

in essential composition. but in manifest being (al-wujd) the meanings of the two kiffs is
radically different: al-kamilyah (pelfection) may he described as 'positive' and al-kufrjyah
(unbeliet) as 'negative'. The same may be said of al-nakirah (not knowing) and nD 81ma'rifah (knowing). In essential composition the two are similar, both are the letter nD, but

in being the meanings of al-nakirah and nD al-ma'rifah are radically differenL

dlagram 22

page 7R

Kif al-Kufriyah KM al-Kamiliyah







diagram 22



Muhammad or Primordial Adam and his Shadow

In unit 1 wc pointed out that by the one upon whom a portion of the divine light has fallen,
may have been meant Adam or Muhammad. This persan looks at the image of the Shajarat
aJ-Kawn drawn out from the seed of kun. As a result of this, the klif of kuntum khayr
ummah ("You are the best of peoples tl ) and the nn of nUr becomes visible. When the one

whom this light misses, contemplates the image of Jeun, he believes it is the kif of al-kufryah
and the niin of al-nakirah. This is Iblis.
dlagram 23

The two antagonists are not each identical with one branch, but with the opposite meanings
of Kat and Nn. In other words, there is a crossing of the structure of kun as described in
diagram 22. Muhammad, or perhaps primordial or mythical Adam, perceives both the
positive clements of each letter, while Iblis, perceives both the negative elements of eaeh
letter. So, there are in faet two different kuns: one is 'doubly' positive and one is 'doubly'
The kif of kuntum is perhaps kif alkamilyah. As for the nD of nT it signifies enlightenment, perhaps this is nUn al-ma'rifah. The meanings of kat kuntum khayr ummah and nD
al-nTare similar, so too, are the meanings of al-kufrfyah and al-nakirah, however, there is a
shade of difference in the meanings. Despite the similarity, there is a radical difference in
their essential composition: kiif kuntum and nin al-nT are from two separate jawhar, as are
kiif al-kufriyah and nfin al-nakirah. This structure is in contrast to the similarity in essential

comp' I~ition between the derivatives of each individual letter and radical difference in the
meanings of the derivatives in diagram 22.


Kif KunQlDlt-&fl1Ul'


(Muhammad or Primordial Adam)

diagram 23

.page 81


Apart from these two different SU'Ucturcs of kun, we know that the fust persan looks at the
image (timth51) of the Shajarat aJ-Kawn, white the second persan contcmplates the image
(mithil) of kun itself. Consequeny, the latter considers the Jeun ta he aJ-kufryah and
al-nakirah, perhaps this al-kuJiiyah is not bclicving and al-nakirah is not recognizing the

manifestation, the trcc. This kfir aIso composes the lrun the wrong way. Sa. the fmt persan
gets it 'right' and IbUs gets il 'wrong'.

Comprehensive Adam

The fmt explicit mention of Adam is in refercnce to his contemplation of the circle of wujd.
He fmds the existents frre and clay circulating in the circ1e of kawn. Despite the antithetical
visions of the two existents, Adam sees both as one existent retuming ta the point of the
circle of kun. It is as if this outside 'observer' called Adam, is comprehensive of the flfe/clay

Adam and IbUs

In the scene following, Adam has a partner i.e., his colleague IbUs. both of whom are pupils
in the school of leaming. After being taught the Names. ail of them, Adam contemplates the
image (mithiil) of kun and witnesses a particular aspect of the divine: kiff al-kanziyah (the
hidden treasure) and nn al-anifnJyah (divine 'f). Since the composition of the letters is
correct, kiff al-takrim and ka! aJ-kuntlyah are discovered from kaf al-kanziyah.1Vn
al-nwfyah and nn aJ-nicmah are drawn out for him from nD al-anamyah.

IbUs resides in the same school for fony thousand years but receives no assistance. He
contemplates the image (timthiil) of Jeun and witnesses bis own disbelief (kafkufrihi) and so
he becomes proud, and he witnesses his own fieryness (nn niIryatihi).

dlagram 24
page X2


laf .J-lUnziyah
1was a hiddcn treasure unknown,
50 Iloved to be known

Nn al-An6niyah
"Vcrily 1 am Allah: There
is DO God but r (XX,14)

Kif al-Tabim

KM al-Kuntiyab

ND aJ-Nriyah

"Wc have honoured

1 am for him hearing

and seeing and band

"Wc set for him

the sons of Adam"


a light" (VI,122)

lunthil Kun

(His own disbelief)

Nn Ninyatihi
(His ficryness)



"But if yc couot the

favoUlS of God never
will ye be able to
number them" (XIV,34)

The kilof al-kanziyah is from a famous ~adith qudsfi.e., it is auributed direcdy to Allah. It
may be viewed as expressing a polarity within the Reality. The '1 was a hidden treasure
unknown' is deus absconditus, He is not revealed, while '1 loved to he known' is deus

revelatus, He wants or loves to he known by manifesting Himself.

ln the same way, the nn of al-aniinyah. the divine 'f, contains elements of both
transcendence and manifestation. The ani ("Verily I") may represent the divine ego,
absolutely removed aild self-contained; there is no other (li ilih illif ana). Yet, there is also
the element of manifestation in inni ana Allah ("Verily 1 am Allah "). Here. "1" is the subject
and "Allah" the predicate which implies happening and the pure subject. 50, in both kif al

kanziyah and nD al-ananiyah, the elements of transcendence and manifestation are present.
Each is in a sense the Reality, potentially implying the other within itself.
As for kiff al-takrim. perhaps this means nothing else than kiff al-kuntiyah: Adam is
honoured (takrIm) for Allah becomes (kuntu) his hearing, seeing and hand. ln the same way
the significance of nD al-nicmah is nD al-nriyah: the light of Adam is God's bounty.
Now we come to Ibls. He also resides in the school of leaming, but for considerably longer.
Unlike Adam, he is left to himself: God does not become his hearing, his seeing or his hand.
He witnesses his own disbelief, and his fue nature.
This structure resembles the positive and negative kr.ms as described for the one whom the
light strikes (Muhammaci or Primordial Adam), and the one whom il misses (lblis). With
Adam, each derivative is specifically described with reference to the divine Agent, whereas
with IbUs, the derivatives refe- specifically to himself.

Adam in the Garden (Paradise)

This same Adam (the primordial) holds on to one branch of the tree in the garden: "Verily 1
am Allah" (XX,14). However, his 'antagonist' ThUs, succeeds in tempting him. Having
transgressed by eating from the tree, he repents, whereupon he is presented with fruits which

Adam the 'Father' of Mankind

After this description of events on the primordial plane, the uthor describes the creation of
the whole physical universe. Its composition i.e., light and darkness, from which the
assembly of angels and devils is brought into existence, reflects the antithetical positive and
negative kuns. This is followed by the creation of Adam and his descendents Le., mankind.
This time Adam is clearly a composite of two antithetical elernents, unlike the 'doubly'
positive primordial Adam. His clay, composition and essence are each composed of at kast
one pair of opposites. In addition to this, spirituality and corporeality struggle to predcminate
within him. The dust of kun from which Alla." grasps him contains good and evil, as does
the Jo mdful of earth utilized for his creation.

While Adam is described in differcnt scenes, Muhammad is described accurding to different
images at various stages in the text. The structure of the text makes it difficuIt to discem any
specifie issues or ideas which ore consistently and coherently developed. Thereforc, in the


discussion below we have chosen to highlight selected details about Muhammad, following
the sequence found in the text. This is with the intention of fonnulating a picture of this
figure and to see how he i~ different from Adam.

Prior to the fml explicit mention of Muhammad made in connection with the description of
his lighl (Unit Ill, stage 6), there are a couple of implicit references made to him. The frrst
occurs with the person upon whom a portion of the divine light has fallen. We mentioned
how this reference may have been to Muhammad when viewed from the context of the
Qur~fulic verses chosen,

or perhaps it is a reference to primordial Adam. The second implicit

reference occurs with Adam in the 'school'. The hidden treasure I}adith and the


verse on light (VI, 122) again point toward the person of Muhammad.
The flfst time Muhammad is explicitly mentioned is in reference to his light created by Allah
from the core of the seed of kun. Since the dust of kun from which Adam (the father of
mankind) has already been created contains good and bad, the Agent turns back to the
'origin', making the good and bad return to the root of the seed of kun. He churns and
cleanses or purifies this, adding the light of His guidance to il and plunging it into the sea of
mercy. The light of Muhammad is created from this and is made to function as the source of
Muhammad is thus the tirst amongst them (the children of being) in the writing thereof and
the last in manifestation. Though 'deposited' in the govemment of mankind (the material
world), he 'dwells permanently' in the garden ofmankind and the presence of closeness (the
spiritual world). Allah veils the meaning of his spirituality with the veil of his corporeality,
and He conceals the world of his witnessing (al-shuhd) with the world of his physical
presence (al-wujd).
He is drawn out (externalized) in (the process of) Being (al-kawn) and it is due to him that
(the true meaning of) Being is discovered. The purpose in being (Le., of creation) is to know
the creator, and Muhammad is the one who is especially favoured with the most complete
knowing. He is able with his heart to know by witnessing and seeing.

page 86


This drawing out from the core of the seed of kun is: "like a seed which sends forth its
blade." The blade becomes strong and thick with its companions (a1-~Bbah) and its kinship
(al-qaravah), respectively.

The blade is the Muhammadan branch. The secret of this branch is that it contains what may
be interpreted as both the 'beginning' (the bestowal of existence) described as the fecundation
of the tree of generosity, and the 'end', the pearl of the shell of creation. There is another
branch of this tree, which takes the left path and digresses, desiring error.
In contrast to the earth utilized for the creation of Adam, which comes from all parts of the
earth, good and bad, the clay for Muhammad is from the site of the Kacbah - the place of
faith. This clay which is like a leaven is kneaded in with the clay of Adam. The presence of
this leaven enables the collective of mankind to say "Yes" to their Lord on the dayof
witnessing. This is the meaning of Muhammad's words: "1 was a prophet before Adam was
between water and clay."
Returning once again to the image of the tree, the author describes how all that occurs in the
Shajarat al-Kawn is from the fecundation of the Muhammadan brancb. This includes the

development of thoughts (afkiir); the stages along the ~fi path i.e., shawq, dhawq,

sm and

istighfiir; the basis of actions (al-s'mil) and states (al-~wi1); and the degrees of the 'eleet'.

Coming to Muhammad's law, the author describes how God unveils the bride of his law to
bis followers and his party. This 'bride' may be the 'veiled' law or the 'reality' of the law being
unveiled. The followers (al-atMC) and party (al-shicah) are most likely the companions
(al-~~ibah) and kinsbip (al-qaraDah) respectively, mentioned earlierwith the blade.

The author then describes Muhammad as the fruit of the branch of those foremost, those
drawn near to God (al-sabiqn al-muqarrabD), "Muhammad is the Apostle of God; and

page 87

those who are with him are strong against Unbetievers, (but) compassionate amongst each
other" (XLVllI,29).
This is the beginning of the verse. The latter part of the verse was quoted eartier with respect
to Allah drawing Muhammad out from the core of the seed of kun. The author seems to he
suggesting that Muhammad is: the companions (which we suggest are his followers), the
kinship (his party), and the spiritual experience of the community, aIl are 'those with him'.
These people are the straight upright branch.
In the final stage of the creation of mankind, Adam is created ('shaped') according to the
wrltten form of the name Muhammad. Adam's head, hands, stomach and legs are each in the
shape of the letters in Muhammad's name. Those i)fOught into being are (also) according to
the shape of the drawing or writing of Muhammad's Dame. The two worlds, 'alam a1-mulk
and 'aJam aJ-malakt, correspond with his corporeality and his spirituality, respectively.
The function of the tongue and Will (messengers of the spirit), is to indicate the soundness of
Muhammad's prophecy and the truthfulness of his message, while his five senses, the right
and left hands, and the right and left feet, are indicators concerning the fulfilment of
Muhammad's law (al-shari'ah) and the following ofhis practice (al-sunnah).
In the finale Muhammad is described with respect to the tree. His spirituality flows through
the tree's tmee branches. Bach branch receives this according to the measure of its capacity.
This includes Muhammad's guidance and acting in accordance with his sunnah and sharicah
(right branch), protection and security from immediate punishment in the physical world (left
branch), and kinship and companionship with him (straight upright branch).
He is the third branch, he is distinguished with standing upright and his station is diT a1muqiimah. So when he stands upright he moves away from the two worlds of being, and

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when he stays he moves from one station to another \lnti! the stopping place is near to him,
then he stays. The tirst station is maqiim a1-wujd in the physical world, the second is a1maqiImal-m~mdin

the hereafter, the third is maqiimal-khuJdin paradise and the fourth is

al-maqam p l-mashhd, the station oftwo bow-lengths for the (exclusive) vision ofGod.

He is the 'purpose' in all of creation or being. This creation is likened to a tree for which he is
both the fruit and gem (i.e., seed). The relationship between his inner being and his outer (or
manifest) being is comparable to the seed and ttee. Muhammad's inner being (light) is in
concept prior, and his manifestation in the form (body) is subsequent.
This upright branch may be infIuenced by the companions of the left. The branch may bend,
inclining toward one of the actions of the people of the left playing with the branch's stem.
However, its root in the earth of faith is fmn, and the growth in the branch's stem does not
harm the root. The mot makes it incline toward the path of straightness and gives it the water
of 'asking for forgiveness'.
The Muhammadan branch cornes forth from the spirituality and corporeality of that which is
the substance of spirits and visible forms (maddat al-arwiIQ wa al-ashbatJ). The generosity or
overflowing of his spirituality is like the lamp as described in the Qur)anic light verse
(XXIV,35). The light of his inner being, his heart (or the spirit) radiates his exterior being,
the body. This is like the radiance of the lamp in the glass. The light of the lamp becomes fire
(niir) and the glass becomes light (nt) because of its purity i.e., transparency. Muhammad's

body is the transparent glass and in this sense is 'shining light', while his heart is 'burning
light', the fire. Each creature shares in this according to its nearness (qurb) to Muhammad,
following him, entering in his party and practicing his sharicah.
As for his corporeality, likened with foam on the pure surface of water, this is his visible
development i.e., eating, drinking and marriage. They are transitory.

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The purpose of Muhammad's creation is that he is created from 'coarse and subtle' (lapf wa
kathf). So he is the perfect creature, perfeet in description. Allah created him from two

elements: one corporeal the other spiritual. He made his corporeality and his human aspect
function for the encounter with mankind. This enables them to face him.
He (also) made for him a faculty and a spirituality so that he could encounter the world of
spiritual beings and the kingdom of the celestial beings. This enables him to be complete in
blessing and mercy, it allows the spiritual beings to witness his corporeality.
The text explicidy states that apan from these two characteristics, Allah made function for
Muhammad a special third characteristic, a secret divine characteristic. This enables him to
witness the divine presence, and rise to the beautiful pleasant stations. This is the meaning of
the secret of Muhammad's words: "1 am not like one amongst you", and "1 have a moment in
which no one but my Lord encompasses me."
This station is special because of him. It is maqiim aI-mashhd. The stations now mentioned
are: al-maqamal-matJmd in the physical world; al-maqiimal-maQmd in resurrection, which
concerns the share of the angels; al-shuhd which is in the house of etemallife (diir alkhuld), and in which the people of paradise will receive their share; and the station of a

vision of God, which is a distance of but two bow-lengths or (even) nearer (maqiim ru'yat
al-maCbdjalla wa cala wa huwa maqiim qiib qawsayn aw acini). It is at this stage in the text

that the story of the mi'riij is described.

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Preliminary Remarks

The preceding description of Adam reveals that there are severa! different Adams in the
Shajarat aJ-Kawn. First, there is the implied 'primordial Adam', the partner of Iblis. He sees

only the positive elements of kun: kiff al-kamaHyah and niin al-macrifah as witnessed
explicitly, or implicitly suggested with

kaf kuntum

and nn al-nT. This cOlTesponds to the

Adam in the school of leaming who witnesses a particular aspect of the divine in the kun: kiff
al-kanzyah and nn aJ-ananyah.

Then we have the 'comprehensive' Adam. This is the 'observer' who finds the antithetical
existents frre and clay tuming etemally in one circle.
The third Adam is the 'Father of Mankind'. His whole being i.e., his clay, composition and
essence are each a composite of two antithetical ele..nents. Unlike the purely positive
primordial Adam, he has the dynamism of two poles.

As for 'Muhammad', the preceding analysis reveals the manifold images with which he is
presented. Perhaps as with Adam the text is suggesting that there is more than one
Muhammad. For example, does the text suggest evidence of a 'primordial Muhammad', who
witnesses only the positive elements in the kun, and does this Muhammad have a shadow, a
The primordial Adam may he Muhammad. Both are touched by light, and witness only the
positive elements of kun. If this is the case, then Muharnmad's position as one preceding the

comprehensive Adam is significant.

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Although Muhammad's light is CTeated at a later stage of the creative process (i.e., after
Adam) it is from the 'origin'. In contrast to the dust of kun containirag good and evil, from
which Adam is created, Muhammad's light is from the root of the 'purified' seee' of kun. This
seed bears the light of divine guidance. The light of Muhammad becomes the source of all
lights. So, in this perspective Muhammad, the comprehensive being, is the flfst amongst
mankind, to be created.
In reference to this pure light, the author describes the tension between Muhammad's
corporeality and his spirituality, his temporary abode in the material worId and his residence
in the spiritual world, and the world of his physicaI presence vis--vis the world of his
witnessing. So, from the very 'beginning' there is evidence of a twoness or duaIity with
Continuing with reference to this light, the author describes how the world of being is
'discovered' because of Muhammad. This reflects his hean's perfeet knowing. According to
the quoted IJadith qudsi, Goct describes Himself as a hidden treasure which longs to be
known. Muhammad is able (with his heart) to know perfectly, and so draw out kM alkanziyah. With his light of knowing (nT aJ-macrifah), everyone may know. This same kiff
al-kanziyah and nn al-niirfyah are witnessed by primordial Adam in the school. Therefore,

in this perspective Muhammad corresponds to the 'doubly' positive kun i.e., primordial
We know that Muhammad is created from the core (the root) of the seed of kun. His
existence i.e., being drawn out from this root, is like a seed which sends fonh its blade. This
blade, which is the Mu!1ammadan branch, becomes strong and thick with its companions and
its kinship. This suggests that the twoness presented with Muharnmad's light is aIso present
with the Muhammadan branch, the historical prophet.

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The pure light of Muhammad 1S complemented with pl

"e clay.

This clay is from the (sacred)

centre of the earth ~ the Ka'bah. The clay which 1S as it were leaven, is kneaded with Adam's
clay and it is this which enables the collective of mankind to acknowledge their Lord on the
primordial day of witnessing. The prophetic leaven flows in pans of their atoms. This is why
Muhammad describes himself as a prophet before Adam was created.
Another perspective from which Muhammad may be considered as 'prior' to Adam (the
father of mankind) is that Adam i' shaped (created) according to the form of Muhammad's
name. Not only is Adam's 'spiritual' aspect i.e., the leaven, from Muhammad but even his
'shape' is in the form of Muhammad, that is his name. This form may he seen as the form of
the Merciful (sratal~Rapmin).
As for his spiritual and corporeal qualiries, his splrituality flows in all three branches of the
tree: "We sent thee not, but as a mercy for aU creatures" (XXI,I07). Thus, even the
companions of the left are protected by him. However, before his appearance in body this
spirituality may he considered as hidden.
We know that Muhammad's corporeality is present (existent) from the 'heginning' in the
light. When it is time for its manifestation in cr=ation the branch of bis being grows straight
upright It is in this context that the four stations are mentioned.
His corporeality seems to correspond to the fmt station, al-maqam al-maflmiid, in the
physical world. As for bis spirituality, it corresponds to the second station, al-maqiim almalJmiid, in the hereafter Le., the angelic world. Beyond this Muhammad has a special

divine characteristic and a secret wbich enables him to witness etemal Paradise (the third
station) and to have the exclusive vision ofGod (the fourth station).

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We may suggest there are two Muhammads: the primordial Muhammad and the historical
prophet. The flI'St is described with several images: light, clay - a prophetie Ieaven, the name
Muhammad, Muhammad's body i.e., the microcosm, and the seed of the tree.
Amongst aIl these images the author uses the motif of light to raise several important issues.
For example, Muhammad's light is from the 'origin'. The seed from which it is created bears
the divine light of guidance. His light becomes the source of alIlights, so it is the 'origin' in
the 'second version'. With his light of knowing everyone may know, so it is the source of
knowledge for aU. The light contains Il duality, a twoness.
The seeond Muhammad is the historical prophet described as the seed which has become a
blade. This blade reflects the twoness presented with the light of primordial Muhammad,
i.e., the companions and kinship which are his followers and his party. He is the straight
upright branch of the tree of being. Despite the influence from the 1eft branch (the
companions of the left) which makes the branch bend, its root makes it incline toward the
path of straightness.
As for the composition of this Muhammad, he is made from coarse and subtIe, not Iike the
good and evil in Adam. He is described as the perleet creature. As for his corporeality and
spirituality, these two enable him to encounter men and the angels on his journey through the
fIfSt two of the four stations. In the discussion of these four stations there is no mention of
'another' by whom Muhammad is affected or tempted. Perhaps this Muhammad, who
reaches the fourth station, corresponds to the 'comprehensive Adam' or to :he author' (see
chapter TIl).

page 94




Having seen how the kun and the different persons are presented, we would like to return to
the question posed at the beginning of this chapter. What are the salient themes of the

Shajarat aJ-Kawn ? We believe the text points toward one particular theme: the relationship
between the one and the two. Although this is not always clearly developed, there is a
structure of twoness described with the kun, Adam and Muhammad.

Metaphysical Kun
As for the kun, there are two separate aspects of this creative entity. We have described two
specifie structures, two different kinds of duality. In the first structure, while there is one

jawhar in invisible reality, in its manifest being, each letter has two distinctly different
meanings. The letter kifimplies ethics and the letter nn implies epistemology. In the second
structure, while the meanings of the derivatives of kif and nD are similar, these are two
different jawhar, as revealed by th.! distinct difference in their essential composition. This
becomes c1ear with Adam and Iblis.


The difference between the comprehensive Adam and Adam the father of mankind expresses
the relationship between mis idea of the one and the two. The comprehensive Adam views
the rIre/clay in its unity. Whereas, Adam and his antagonist Ibls, and Adam the father of
mankind, manifest the duality of opposition.

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The structure of twoness with respect to Muhammad concems his spirituality and his
corporeality. In the following description it is imponant to view not only the different image~
with which the two are described, but also to consider if there is a con:;istency in the way
these two are described. In the description of his light, created from the root of the 'purified'
seed of kun, the author suggests a semblance of twoness. This may concern his tempornry
abode in the material world and his residence in the spiritual world, or the meaning of his
spirituality being vciled by his corporeality. The text suggests that this 'implicit' twoness
becomes 'exphcit' with Muhammad's community Le., his companions and his kinship.
These two are Muhammad's followers and his pany respectively, those to whom the bride of
his law is unveiled. The tirst group includes Muhammad, Ab Bakr, cUmar, CUthman and
eAU, while the second group, described as the family of the house (ahl al-bayt) inc1udes


Fapmah, al-1:Iasan and al-1:Iusayn. The relationship between these two is

described with respect to the two hands of man, the two 'right' hands. Both groups are "those
who are with him" (XL VnI,29).
Another aspect of this twoness is expressed in the relationship between Muhammad's law
(al-sharicah) and his nation or community (aJ-millah). The text describes how the one who

seeks proteet}')n with




safe, and the one who adheres to the ro:>e of his nation is

proteeted. We suggested the 'rope of his nation' impHes his family or his kinship. It is in this
context that Adam, Abraham and Ism'1 are mentioned. This suggests that both the sharicah
and millah are present from the 'beginning', so to speak. This is again implied in unit V on
the story of creation where Iblis is described as cut off from the law (al-sharicah) and the
party (aJ-sh'ah).
Yet another aspect or point-of-view from which one may consider the relationship between
his spirituality and his corporeality is the formation of his light and clay. The light from the

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root of the 'purified' seed of kun is complemented with clay from the eentre of the earth, the

Kacbah. So, the fonnation of his light and his clay may be described as being of the 'same
In the finale, the imagery of the glass and lamp as described in sTat al-nT (XXIV,35) is
presented to describe the relauonship between his body (the transparent glass) and his heart
(or spirit) (the lamp). His body is 'shinmg light' while his heart IS 'buming light' (fire).
The composition of Muhammad is both coarse and subtle; he is the perfeet creature. As for
his corporeality and spirituality, these are now described as two opposites. His corporeality
enables him to encounter mankind and his spmtuality enables him to encounter the angels,
while on hls joumey through the first two stations, the physical and angelic worlds.
This analysis leads us to the following points. First, there is a structure of twoness with each
of the above i.e., Kun, Adam and Muhammad from the 'beginning'. There are eternally two
aspects. The problem is the relationship between the two dimensions: !here may be a polarity,
a 'difference', or there may be a si mil arity, a 'sameness'. It seems that both structures of
duality described with regard to the kun are also applicable to Muhammad, but not
necessarily to Adam.
The relationship between Muharnmad's corporeality and spirituality is one of 's:uneness' and
'differenee'. For example, we have shown how the fonnation of his light and clay may be
described as being of the 'same nature'. 50 too, the relationship betwcen Muhammad's
followers (companions) and his party (or kinship) is one of sameness. But even though the
image of the two right hands (be it the right hands of God, Muhammad (the perfeet man) or
those in prayer) suggests this 'sameness', there is a subtle differenee between them. As for


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the explicit 'difference', in the finale the author describes Muhammad's corporeality and
spirituality as two opposites (liddifn).1

This relationship of sameness and difference between two entities, is also described in
connection with sorne of the images in the text. In the discussion on the eoming into
being of the cosmos in unit n, there are several groups which imply a structure of
twoness or duality. We have seJ'!cted one specifie example, the descliption of Paradise
and Hell. Paradise is described as containing all the good fruit, and is the dwelling for
the companions of the right. As for Hell, it contains all the bad fruit, and is the dwelling
for the companions of the left (there are even two separate Record books). Each is
located beside a tree: Paradise is bcside the good blessed tree, and HeU is beside the
cursed tree. The structure of the relauon between Paradlse and HeU suggests a
relationship oftwo separate and directly opposite poles.
Despite this clear opposition, th~re is an attempt to show that the two poles are one. It is
suggested that the two tree's clIe reaUy one. In the description of the opposmg celestial
and infernal natural forces, the branches of the tree Tbii are i!1tertwined with the
branches of al-ZaqqIn (Unit II, Heaven-Hell revisited).
Another idea which the author selects to convey this relation of twoness is in the
description of Will (al-iriidah) and Power (al-qudrah). The images used to de scribe this
relation inc1ude: the tree's root (Will) and its offshoot (Power), the wall (Power) and
circ1e (Will) around the tree, and air (Power) and water (Will). It is suggested that the
two are one, but with sorne difference, (see Units I-llI).

page 98

In the preceding discussion on the various Adams and Muhammads, we named the different
persons so as to clarify the differences between them, but, this does not mean that they are
necessarily reconcilable. The discussion focused specifically on the ontological aspects of
their relationships. In what follows here we would like to consider the specifie functions
which distinguish them and also which distinguish the narrator-observer of the text, the
The Author

First Participant
The fnnction of the author is, as we will see, very imponant. The tale begins with his own
'vision' of the world of being. Expressing himself in the fml person 'l', he conlemplates the
world of being and the manner in whieh it is brought into being, the hidden and its being
registered (fa innf na.?JU1u...). He sees the world of being, all of il, as a tree, and the mot of
its light as originating from the seed of kun (fa

ra~aytu... ).

This vision continues with his

i llagination of the world of being in the form of a tree, and the coming into being of the

It is signifieant that the author chooses to describe himself in the f1l'st per~on singular only al
the beginning of the text, elsewhere he speaks in the plural voice we, which is indicative of

page 99

the narrator's role. l Perhaps this suggests his particular function as an active participant in the
unfolding of this drama. His position as the 'tirst' amongst the protagonists is to disclose
how he sees the world of being and then as the narrator-observer to describe how the others,
that is, primordial Adam and his panner Iblis, and comprehensive Adam perceive this.
He sees the world of being as a tree of light, the root of which is from the seed of kun. Even
though primordial Adam (the one whom the light strikes) or Muhammad contemplates the
tree of being, he does not see a tree of light. Although this particular image of the tree of light
is not explained, we may make sorne suggestions.
In the famous


light verse (XXIV,35), a blessed tree (shajarah mubarakah) is

described, this being the olive tree. The significance of this tree is that its oil is presented as:
"well-nigh luminous, (even) though tire 3Carce touched it" (yakiidu zaytuhiI yuli'u wa law
Iam tamassashu niir). The oil is of such purity that it is almost like light itself, it is


light before it is lit. This leads us to suggest that perhaps the author of the Shajarat al-Kawn
employes this image so as to allude to bis own 'luminous' (mystical) position. 2
The root of this tree's light is from the seed of kun. In the later segment of the tale when
Muhammad is introduced, we leam that his light (which is the source of alllights) is from
the 'purified' root of the seed of kun. So, the source of both the tree's light and Muhammad's
light is the seed of lrun. Perhaps this suggests that the author in sorne way shares this light,
perhaps primordially Le., in his spiritual reality.

See unit IV and the fmale: A 7,9 and 12,28; B 12,17 and 24,10.
He also speaks in the first person singular when he 'imagines' the cosmos, see unit II.

AI-Ghazali in his famous commentary on this verse in the MishkiIt al-Anwiir draws a
parallel between this oil and the transcendental prophetie spirit. He describes this spirit
as absolutely clear, as though it were self-Iuminous. This spirit is possessed by saints
and prophets. Al-Ghazali goes on to describe saints as those: "whose light shines so
bright that it is 'well-nigh' independent of that which prophets supply ... !' See Gairdner,
pp. 150-154.

page 100

Once this vision of the tree is described, the tirst structure of Jeun is presented. In the
movement from seed to fruit, two different branches become visible resulting from kM and
niin, respectively. Two opposite meanings become visible from the substances of each letter:
kif aJ-kamiiliyah and kM al-kufriyah and niin al-macrifah and niin aJ-nakirah. This structure

is presented from the perspective of the author as the observer-narrator.

We know from the eartier discussion that primordial Adam or Muhammad, and his shadow
ThUs, each perceive a different structure of kun. Adam perceives only the 'positive' and IbUs
only the 'negative' elements of each letter. However, the 'outside observer', Adam, who
contemplates the circ1e of wujd is 'comprehensive' of this positive/negative opposition. Both
the author and comprehensive Adam 'observe' the same structure of kun, the one (the
author), sees the polarity expressed with the two branches of the tree, while the other (Adam)
sees the two existents tuming in one circle. The two 'observers', the author and the
comprehensive Adam, are perhaps one and the same.
There is one more factor which distingllishes this narrator-observer. He chooses to speak: in
the voice of the divine without indicating this change (see unit nI, stage 8).

Seal of Saints
The presentation of the above points leads us to malee specific comments on the function of
the author. It is clear that he perceives himself as an active pany in this divine drarna, and one
whose 'primordial reality' shares the function of Muhammad. This May he an allusion to Ibn
cArabi, the seal of saints (khatim al-awliyii:l), as pre-existing.
We know from the second chapter on Seth in the Fu~~ aJ-Qikam that there are two sources
of knowledge: the niche of the seal of prophets (mishkat khiitim aJ-nabfyfn) and the niche of
the seal of saints (mishkiitkhatim aJ-awliyii:l). Each prophet, from Adam to the final prophet,

derives his krowledge (al-cilm) (literally, takes: akhadha) from the niche of the seal of
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prophets. So even though the fonnation of Muhammad's clay cornes Iater, his reality is
present (existent) (from the 'beginning') (wa in


wujd pnatihi fa innahu bi

l)aqqatihi mawjiid). This is the meaning of his words: "1 was a prophet while Adam was
between water and clay. "
In the same way, the seal of the saints was a wal "white Adam. was between water and
clay."l So, just as the 'reality' of the seal of prophets (Muhammad) is existent from the
'beginni'lg', so too, the 'reality' of the seal of saints is existent from the 'beginning'. There is
considerable evidence to suggest that Ibn CArabi considered himself to be this seal of saints. 2
Primordial Adam and Iblis

The preceding analysis in chapter

n revealed the different situations in which the two

antagonists appear. Our intention in what follows here is to note specifie traits which
distinguish one counterpart from the other and which May lead us to suggest their function in
the text generally.
In the frrst scene, immediately after the author introduces himself and describes his particular
vision of the world of being, he chooses to differentiate between two opposing parties: one
struck by light and one in darkness (literally the one whom the light misses). The fonner,
which we suggested may be Muhammad or Primordial Adam, looks at the image of the tree
of being drawn out from the seed of kun, while the latter, Ibls, contemplates the image of
kun directly.

Ibn 'Arabi, FU$ii$ al-~am, pp. 62-64.


According to Ibn cArabi there are two kinds of seals: one by which Allah seals general
walayah and another by which He seals the Muhammadan walayah. The seal of the first
is explicitly described as Jesus who will come at the end of time. As for the seal of
Muhammadan waliiyah he is described in the Jawiib mustaqm and the Fu~at
al-Makkyah. One particular passage where Ibn cArabi de scribes himself as the seal is in
the vision of the Kacbah and the two bricks during his visit to Mecca in 599H./1202.
See Michel Chodkiewicz, Le sceau des saints: prophtie et saintet dans la doctrine
d'Ibn Arabi (paris: Gallimard, 1986), pp. 159-161.

page 102

We described how these two antagonists are not identical with each branch of the tree but
with opposite meanings of ka! and nD. The point seems to be that each person manifests
this 'right' and 'wrong'. Both are visible from the beginning, so to speak.
The explicit mention of Adam and ThUs occurs in the (divine) school of learning where each
pupil's vision of contemplating kun is contrasted. Having received divine assistance i.e.,
having being taught the Names, Adam witnesses al-kanzyah and aJ-aniiniyah. He is
honoured (al-taknin) for the divine Agent becomes his consciousness (al-kuntiyah) and he is
favoured (al-niCmah) with light (al-niiriyah).
Ill;!:, however, receives no assistance and is left to himself. Consequently, he witnesses
himself in the kun i.e., disbelief (kM kufrihi) and r1re (nn nifriyatihi). The positive aspect of
kun, as described with primordial Adam, now explicitly reflects

the divine Agent while ThUs

continues to be the antagonist. Primordial Adam is the same as Adam in the school, just as
Iblis is the same as Ibls in the school.

Adam the Father of Mankind

The person within whom these two antithetical elements are combined is Adam the father of
mankind, who con tains the dynamism of both poles. His clay is made of light and darkness,
his constituent contains good and bad, and benefit and harm, while his essence is a receptacle
for both knowledge and ignorance. Even the dust of kun and the handful of earth utilized for
his creation contain good and evil.
Having described Adam and IbUs separately on the primordial plane, and then how Adam
the father of mankind combines elements of both, the author chooses to readdress Adam and
Ibls but this time from a different perspective. The creation story is retold. "Initially when
the day of being was detached from the darkness of the night of non-being, the lights of the

page 103

Muhammadan suns were shining on the horizon of Adam's forehead" (see unit V). The
angels fell down prostrating.
As for IbUs, when he witnesses the beauty of this sight (the Muhammadan suns shining on
Adam's forehead) he disavows (ankara) and persists in disobedience (al-Cisyan). He demeans
the right of this water and clay (Adam), considering it despicable. He refuses to prostrate.
He passes over the cup and so he remains in the darkness of anxiety and wicked thoughts.
So he remains separated, cut off from the party and the law. He is to be the leader of the
unbelievers to hell, and the crutch on which those who have sinned and committed crimes
IbUs and Adam rush down into the valley of disobedience. Both transgress the commando
Adam tums to himself with blame, then after repenting, he receives the good news of his
having been brought near. Contrary to this, !bUs is evicted and sent far.
Adam takes the right path and IbUs takes the left path, which becomes the origin for the
companions of the left. Since the two accompanied one another and were close to each other,
their companionship exened an influence. As a consequence of Ibls's position beside Adam
and his life with him, he is adjacent (yali) to Adam's left. This affects Adam, in his origin,
on the left side.
The text's author cites an addition al origin of and re?son for this influence. The handful of
earth utilized for the fonnation of Adam (father of mankind) was from aIl parts of the earth.
This included the dust which had been trampled upon by Ibls's feet. So although Adam's
heart was molded from untrampled dust, his lower soul was made from the dust trampled by
Iblis's feet and consequently, contains wickedness and objectionable qualities.
How is this different from the description of Adam and Ibls in Unit I? There is no mention
of kun nor of its derivatives; there is no allusion to the divine Agent. The focus is on
page 104

Muhammad and IbUs's refusal to bow to his lights shining on Adam's forehead. This leads to
his being eut off from the pany and the law. The function of IbUs in this context seems
different from that painted earlier in which he could be considered the 'negative' aspect of
kun, the antagonist of Adam.

The distinction between Adam and IbUs as described earlier, is not so explicit. The
description of the influence of Ibls on Adam's descendents makes this c1ear. Perhaps the
author is alluding to the constant battle and influence between the two with respect to


Source of Knowledge
Building upon the facts presented earlier, we may suggest specifie functions whereby
Muhammad is c1early distinguished from the other protagonists. These functions, as will
become clear, are not necessarily separate and distinct, and may overlap. In view of the
earlier discussion in chapter II, the fust function which cornes to mind is Muhammad as the
'source of knowledge' for aIl men. Muhammad's heart is described as especially favoured
with the most complete (or perfect) recognition, for bis knowing is by witnessing and seeing.
Through the light of his gnosis, aIl became knowing, and with his grace upon them, they
came to know.

Source of Mystical Knowledge

Anotber aspect of this function perbaps refers to mystical knowledge for specific kinds of
men. His light is described as made to function as the source of alllights. In this context he is
the fmt amongst the children of being in the writing and the last to be manest. This

suggests the special category of the prophets. However, in another passage in the text aIl that



occurs in the tree of being is attributed to the fr.cundation of the Muhammadan branch. This
suggests that Muhammad is the 'source' of intellectual and spiritual development (see unit III,
stage Il). This is one of five specific instances in which the author chooses to quote the
following verse: "We sent thee not, but as a Mercy for all crea~s" (XXI,107).

Another function which May be ascribed to Muhammad is one of 'protector'. Specifie
passages in the Shajarat al-KaWlI suggest this particular role. For ex ample, in the context of
the discussion of God's unveiling the hidden bride of Muhammad's law to his followers and
his party, the author describes how the one who seeks the protection of his law is safe, and
the one who clings (adheres) to the cord of his community (nation) is safeguarded or
protected. In view


the context of this passage, 1 the cord of Muhammad's community

implies his 'family', his 'kinship'. In the same context, three specifie prophets are mentioned:
Adam, Abraham and Ismatil. Each one of them is 'protected'.
Another dimension of this function as protector arises in the discussion of his spirituality
which is presented as flowing through all three of the ttee's branches: the 'companions of the
right', the 'foremost' (the straight upright branch) and the 'companions of the left'. The
quotation of STat al-Anbiyi~ (XXI, 107) implies the term Mercy is used here in the sense of
protection against sin.

In the immediately preceding lines Allah is described as taking the mithiq on

Muhammad's confmnation and the adherence to the cord of his verification (wa akhadha
al-mithiq cali ta~diqihi wa aI-tamassuk bi ~abl tJJl)qiqihi) .

page 106


Muhammad's role as the 'intercessor' has been suggested earlier. It is mentioned with respect
to the second station, al-maqiim al-mapmiid, when during the resurrection he will intercede
for his community, in the presence of angeIs, ordered by their ranks, and the creatures who
remain standing. This function is also alluded to with respect to the prophets specifically. He
is presented as their leader at the resurrection, their messenger of happiness, and their
crowner of joy (Unit nI, stage 6).

The last and perhaps the most important fonction of Muhammad concerns (the source of) his
'walayah'. This is suggested in connection with the special divine characteristic and secret of

God granted to him which enables him to witness the divine presence: "1 have a moment in
which no one but my Lord encompasses me, Praise to Him." This is, according to our
suggestion, the fourth station specially conferred upon him. At this moment he is at a
distance of but two bow-Iengths or (even) nearer. He is also described as the fruit of the

Shajarat aJ-Kawn. This fruit is to be presented in front of the One who made it, and to be
conducted in solemn procession to the presence of His proxlr.ity.
Another issue, which should he considered in respect to his function of walayah, is the
position of Muhammad and 'those with him' (XLvm,29). 1be fruit of the (straight upright)
branch of those foremost, those drawn near to God, is described as: "Muhammad is the
Apostle of God; and those who are with him are strong against the unbelievers (but)
compassionate amongst each other" (XLYllI,29) (Unit m, stage 15).
ln the finale the share of the foremost is described as the spirituality of kinship with him,

approaching him and companionship with him. They are in the company of those who have

page 107

the grace of god, and this includes the prophets (IV,69). We have suggested that


Muhammad's companions (or followers) and his kinship (or party) are arnongst this group.
The last person whom we may considel 1S the 'reader' of the text This reader is addressed
occasionally (as in preaching) but he is not a real participant or actor in the drarna. The
explicit address occurs in several places in the text. In unit IV on the parallels between the
microcosm (the body) and the macrocosm (the world) the author alludes to mankind in
general. He then addresses the reader with respect to how Allah has placed the five senses,
the right and left hand, and the right and left feet, as indicators conceming the fulfillment of
Muhammad's law and following his sunnah (ja'ala fika aY9an dalaJah 'ala... see unit IV).
This reader is also described as the one intended (the purpose) in all creation, he is chosen
from amongst the servants for the purpose ofthe deity (anta al-maq~d min kull al-wujd wa

anta kha~~at al-'abd li murad al-ma'bd). The same is said of Muhammad with respect to the
founh station (see Finale). Perhaps one may sllggest that this 'reader' may he a potential
mystic who aims to be like Muhammad.

page I08




Having seen how the protagonists are presented in the Shajaratal-Kawn, we now tum to two
specifie mystics in whose thought Muhammad and Ibls feature as prominent mystical
prototypes, Man~iir al-l;IalHij and Ayn al-QuHit al-Hamadhani. The specifie texts in which
these persons are described i.e., al-~IalUij's Kitaoal- Tawasn 1 and al-Hamadhan's Tamhdfi(l.
are classic ~fi works. A brief analysis of the two figures as described by these authors may
help us to see their functions in the mystical tradition preceding Ibn Arab, and aid us to
better understand their function in the Shajaratal-Kawn. This may also enable us to place the

Shajarat al-Kawn in a historical context.

Man~r al-1;IalUij,
Kitao al- Tawasn, ed. by Massignon with Persian text and
commentary by Rouzbahan al-Baqli (Paris: Librairie Paul Geuthner, 1913). AIl
subsequent references to this text will refer to the numbering of each paragraph as in the
Arabie text of each chapter. The following translations have been consulted: Aisha Abd
al-Rahman, The Tawasin of Mansur al-Hallaj (Berkeley: Diwan Press, 1974), and Louis
Massignon, The Passion of al-Hallfij, 4 vols, trans. Herben Mason (Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 1982).

In referring to the Tarnhdfit we have relied upon Peter Awn's Satan's Tragedy and
Redemption: IbUs in Sufi Psychology (Leiden: EJ. Brill, 1983), and Carl W. Emst's
Words of Ecstasy in Sufism (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1985).

page 109

Muhammad and IbUs in Specifie Sfi Classics


The Lamp

The tirst chapter of the Kitab

al-Tawiisn is entied 'Tiisn al-siriij'. A lamp (siriij)

(Muhammad) is described as appearing from the light of the Unseen. It is a lamp which goes
beyond (surpasses) (other) lamps. This lamp is made to shine from the source of divine
generosity (1,2).

Source of Knowledge

The lights of prophecy come fonh from this light of Muhammad. However, Muhammad's
light is the most luminous (anwar) and most clear or manifest (a~ar) (6). AlI knowledge is
but a drop from his ocean, and all wisdom is but a handful from his stream (11). No knower
(Ciilim) has achieved his knowledge (Cilm), no wise man


has fathomed his

understanding (fahm) (13).


His being preceded non-being (7). He was known before created things and existences and
beings (8). He is the frrst in union, and the last to be commissioned a prophet (huwa
al-awwal fi al-wa~lah huwa al-akhir fi al-nubwah) (12).1


Mason translates Massignon's reading as: "he, the 'fust' to have been included in the
divine foreknowledge", 3: 288.

page 110

Mystical Experience
Muhammad is also described in the second chapter entitIed 'TlIsn aJ-fahm'. Here al-I;Iallaj
describes three levels of understanding: the knowledge of reality (Cilm aJ-aqqah), the reality
of Reality


al-J;aqqah), and the Truth (al-J;aqq) (1). In the famous story about the

moth and the flame (or lamp), these three levels are described as: the light of the fIame, the
heat of the fIame, and union with it, respectively (J'; The moth, unsatisfied with the fIame's
light an heat, flies into the fIame. The author now asks how the moth may retum to his
peers and in what state after having achieved (success) (4).
As for the experience of Muhammad, he made himself absent from the two (ereated) worlds,
and he closed his eyes beyond the location (al-ayn) so the eyes would not contain filth and
untruth (7). "And (he) was at a distance of but two bow-lengths" (LIII,9). When he reached
the desert of the 'knowledge of reality', he reported from the (outward) heart (aJ-fu~lId). When
he reached the 'trth of Reality', he abandoned or left desire and submitted himself to the
Bountiful. When he reached the Truth, he returned (or retraced his steps) and said: "The
interior of my heart bowed down to Vou, and the exterior of my heart believed in You."
When he reaciled the outer limits he said: "1 cannot praise You as Vou should be praised."
When he reached the reality of Reality he said: "You are the only One who car. pr~se
Yourself." He renounced his desire (according to Massignon, to possess God) and followed
his vocation (a mortal man destined to prophesy). He did not turn to the right to the reality,
nor to the left to the reality of Reality: "(His) sight never swerved, nor did it go wrong!"
(LIn,17) (8).
This di;tance of two how-lengths is further elaborated upon in chapter five: 'Tlisin al-nuq/ah',
where the author continues to describe Muhammad's presence with his Lord: "And (he) was
at a distance of but two bow-Iengths" (LIII,9). He (Muhammad) aimed at the 'where' with the

arrow of 'between'. He acknowledged that there were two bow-Iengths in order to specify the


location, or because of the imperceptibility of the Essence, "(even) nearer" in the essence of
the Essence (23).

Iblis is the subject of chapter six, entitled: 'Tifsn al-aza/ wa al-iltibifs'. In the frrst paragraph
aI-l;IaIUij says: "The only truthful declarations were those of IbUs and Al)mad (Muhammad),
except that Iblis fell from the Essence whereas for Al}mad, the essence of the Essence was
unveiled" (1). The author goes on to dcscribe how bot' persons disobeyed their respective
commands: Iblis refused to 'bow down' and Muhammad to 'look', he did not twn to the right
or the left: "His sight never swerved, nor did it go wrong!" (LIII,17) (2).

Not Defore "Another"

The reasons for Ibls's refusai are described in two separate conversations between Allah and
IbUs as follows. When told to bow down Iblis refuses to bow before another (lii ghayr) (9).
He questions what Adam is compared to Him and who he is to (Le., that he should)
distinguish Adam from Him (10).

He Served Him for the Longest Time

Ibls describes himself as better than Adam: "Ana khayr minhu" (VTI,11). This is because
he has served Him for the longest rime. He describes how he knew Him in pre-etemity. 1 le
claims that amongst the two worlds of being, no one knows Him better than himself (11).
Iblis aIso points out that Adam was created from clay while he was created from fire; these
two are opposites that cannot be reconciled. (27).

page 112

,j.".. , .

He Acted in Accordance with His Secret (i.e. His Will)

According to al-l;IalUij, there is no monotheist (muw~pid) like ThUs among the inhabitants of
heaven (6). The author also has Ibls describe himself as a 'humble lover' (innimupibbdhall)
(11). During his conversation with Moses on Mount Sina, he rejects that the command was

a command, believing rather that it was a test (a trial). He dec1ares that he did not err with
regard to his decree, that he did not challenge destiny (17). He deseribed h )w he had read in
a 'clear book' what was to befali him (27). "If You kept me from bowing down, You
Yourself were the cause of it." He c1aims that no one amongst the knowers (aJ-ciirifn)
knows Him better than himself (28).
In al-Harnadhan's Tarnhdift the persons of Iblis and Muhammad are described as specific
facial features of the divine. Ibls is the black tress (Iock of har or curI) and eyebrow (black
or lunar light), whereas Muhammad is the cheek and mole of the divine (solar light).l The
imagery conveys both the intimate relationship between each person and God and also the
proximity between Ibls and Muhammad.
This tension of cosmic opposites is also described with respect to the Shahifdah: lif iliih illa
Allah, there is no God. but Allah. The first half of this profession la jliih is described as: "the

realm of falsehood and negation, the realm of aIl that seduces the soui of the mystic away
from God. " The second half illa Allah is described as: "the realm of truth and security." The
guardian or doorkeeper of this divine presence of illif Allah is Ibls. He is presented as the
best qualified and most adept at testing mankind. This divine presence is the source of divine
light and it can only be attained by passing through its opposite, the black light of ThUs.2

Ernst, pp. 74, 77.


Awn, pp. 135-137. Awn is paraphrasing specifie passages in CAyo al-Qu~at alHamadhani's Tamhdat, ed. Afif Osseiran in Mu~annafit (Tehran: Tehran University
Press, 1962), p. 30, pp. 73-75, and pp. 118-119.

page 113

------------- --------------------



Each person may be viewed as reflecting specifie attributes of the Divine: mercy and anger.
This is the perfect conjunction of opposites in the Unique divine Being. On the experiential
plane these attributes are in conflict, however, in the unknowable essence of the Absolute the
tension between the two opposites is resolved. 1
This brief summary suggests that al-Hamadhiini presents both Muhammad and !bUs as the
'intimates' ofGod. Each has a special place on His 'face'. However, Iblis as the representative
of Evil as opposed to Good, has the funetion of testing men. The mystie has to experience
this and go beyond it. 2 So each may be described as opposing yet interdependent spiritual
poles. 3
Seeing how Muhammad and Ibls are described by al-l;IaIHj and al-Hamadhani, we may
note specifie similarities with the same persons as described. in the Shajarat al-Kawn.
Commencing with al-l;IalHij, the description of Muhammad has several parallels with the
Shajarat al-Kawn. This includes the unique position of Muhammad in both texts as the

source of prophetie Imowledge and the source of wisdom or 'mysticaI' knowledge. Also, in
both texts, Muhammad is singled out for his complete knowledge (Cilm) or knowing (atamm
al-macifrif). AI-ijaIHij describes Muhammad as the fmt in 'union' (al-wa$lah) and the last to

be manifest as prophet, while the author of our text describes him as the first amongst the
comprehensive beings in the writing (al-mastr) and the last to be manifest (al-~uhr).
These characteristics of Muhammad are well-known and described by authors prior to ours.
However, the unique description of the 'two bow-Iengths' with respect to Muhammad i.e.,

Ibid., p. 139; Tamhidat, p. 233.


Ibid., p. 137; Tamhdat, pp. 227,270.

Hennann Landolt, "Two Types of Mystical Thought in Muslim Iran," Muslim World
68 (1978): 200. This is a slightly revised version of a paper originally in French in
Iranian Civilization and Culture, ed. by Charles J. Adams (Montreal: McGill University,
1972), pp. 23-37. The English translation is by Linda S. Northrop.

page 114

_. -.. . . . . .

~~.-.~_._., _~



. . __

the 'where' and the arrowof 'between', places the KitaDal- Tawisn in a genre of its own. It is
this 'where' (or location) which the author of the Shajarat aJ-Kawn chooses to focus upon in
the Mi'raj segment of the texte
As for Iblis, al-l;Iallij describes how there is no monotheist (muwatIlJid) like him. He refuses
to bow before 'another'. Describing himself as a 'humble lover', he attributes his refusaI to the
Divine. This description of Iblis where he is compared to Muhammad (both refuse to obey
their respective commands) is clearly different from the IbUs described in the Shajarat

The IbUs in the Shajarat aJ-Kawn is the antagonist of Adam. He contemplates the image of
kun believing it to he kif kulriyah and nD naldrah. SOt he witnesses his own dishelief and

He refuses to prostrate to the Muhammadan suns shining on Adam's forehead, he disavows
and persists in disobedience. So, he is eut off ftclm the party (al-shf'ah) and the law (alshari'ah). His fvnction is to be the leader of the unbelievers to HeU and the crutch on which

those who have sinned and committed crimes depend.

This description seems to resemble that of Iblis as presented by al-Hamadhani rather than
al-ijalUij's muwaIJtJid. However, our author's view is still quite far removed from alHamadhin's description of Iblis as the doorkeeper of the divine presence.

Singleness Implying Triplicity

We have seen how the kun is presented in the Shajarat al-Kawn. It is the creative command
by which all the things to be and all the things that exist come into being. 1 The two different

Sutid al-l;Iakim in her al-MuCjam ol-$fi: al-lJikmah fi tJudd al-kaJimah (Beirut:

Dandarah lil-Tibatah wa al-Nashr, 1981), entry number 560, describes the different
contexts in which Ibn cArab mentions the kun. She shows how the words kalimat
al-tJadrah and kalimat al-takwfn are c.escribed as synonyms for kun, pp. 989-991. She
page 115

kinds of structures r~'Neal the clear emphasis on two letters: kU and nn. The letter waw is
not explicitly mentioned. However, one may argue that its presence is implied in the
discussion on the world of being where various triads are presented (Unit II).
The author may he viewed as pointing - both implicitly and explicitly - toward numerous
groups of three. For example, there are: the three branches to which Adam holds on to in the
garden (paradise), the three kinds of witnesses on the dayof witnessing, the seed of the
word kun expressed as the seed of the tree, the tree's fruit, and the meaning of the t ree's form,
the three branches, left, right, and straight upright, the three spheres, al-mulk, al-malakt, and

al-jabarut, the implicit relationship between the Creator, the throne and the tree, and finally
the three cups.
We have selected three of the se groups to elaborate upon. First, there are the three different
witnesses: the one He makes witness the beauty of His essence, who makes Him a limited
Being; the one He makes witness the beauty of His attributes, who makes Him non-existent;
and the third, l'le one He makes witness the beauty of His creatures, who may he described
as in between, whose testimony varies with the diversity of that which is witnessed. The
description of the three spheres also suggests that the position of the middle tenn is
important. The sap is the life-spirit of the tree and so 'iilam al-jabariit is between Ca/am al-

mulk and ciilam al-malakt. The third example is the implicit relationship described between
the Creator, the throne and the tree.

also mentions two specifie passages in the Fu~iit al-Makkiyah where the kun is the
letter of being: "wa kun ~arf wujd, fa lii yakunu 'anhu illii al-wujd" , 2: 280-281;
3: 284. She even quotes from the fust two pages of the Shajarat al-Kawn where kun is


We should also mention, as she does, that in chapter fifteen of the FU$~ al-l;likam on
the wisdom of prophecy in the word of tsa, tsa is presented as both the word
(kalimah) and spirit (rutJ) of Allah. The word kun is also presented as the word of
Allah. So the word kun is the prophet tsa. We suggest the problem is whether this kun
is either the direct essence of God, or the reality of the forro into which He descends.
page 116

The different subjects of each group of three suggests that the relation hetween the groups is
ambiguous. The text reveals no connection between these triads. They appear haphazardly,
juxtaposed in an impromptu fashion. It seems that the author wants to stress the structure of
the relation within each tri ad , in particular the position of the middle tenn, as important.
So, we may suggest that although there is a clear emphasis on the two letters: kafand nn,
and the waw is not explicitly mentioned, the author may be suggesting that everything in
creation i.e., in the world of being is based on three elements. In other words, with the
differeflt examples of the structure of triplicity, he is alluding to the manifestation of waw in
the world of being.
The problem of whether the kun is composed of two or three letters is important because if
as the text suggests the kun is composed of two letters, this contradicts a fundamental
Ak:barian idea that everything cornes into being from three elements. The divine plane from
which the world cornes to he may he descrihed as: "the ontological plane where the Absolute
is no longer One but Single endowed with an inner triplicity."l This triplicity consists of the
Essence (al-dhiit), the Will (al-iriIdah), and the Word (kun). This corresponds to the triplicity
in singleness in the thing to be created: its thingness (shay:Jyah), its hearing (samifC), and its
obeying (imtithaJ) the Commando Our particular concem here is on the emphasis that
everything cornes into being from three elements: "The source (or origin) of coming into
being is based on triplicity or rather a three from both sides: the Reality and the creature" (fa
qiima a~l al-takwfn Cala al-tathlth ay min al-thalathah min al-jiinibayn min jifnib al-paqq wa
minjanib al-khalq).2

See Izutsu's commentary of Ibn tArab's theory of 'creation' and the concept of'triplicity'
in his translation and commentary on chapter eleven of the FU$~ al-l;likam, on $alil), p.
Ibn tArab, FU$ii$ al-lfikam, p. 116.

page 117

This relationship between singularity and triplicity is mentioned with the kun in the Fufflbat

aJ-Makkiyah. The word kun is presented as the frrst word to be formed, composed of three

letters: kiff, wawand nn. An important discussion on three, the fmt of the singulars (alafriid) follows. The world of being is sai to come to be from singularity not from one (wa

Can al-fard wujida aJ-kawn la 'an al-wlfbid).l

In the two following passages, Ibn 'Arabi describes why the waw is hidden in the command
kun. He describes how the visible form of the word kun (shahadat $Fat kalimat kun) is

composed of two: kaf and nn. This is so because the sensible world ('iilam aJ-shahadah)
has two aspects (wajhan): a manifest (~iihir) and a hidden (bifPn), the manifest is the nn and
the hidden is the kiff.
The letter kafis a gutturalletter (pronounced from the throat - the hidden world), and the nn
is one of the letters of the tongue. As for the waw it is presented as hidden, it is a letter of the
two lips (labial), a weak letter. It is not explicitly visible (la wujd laha fi al-shahadah)
because on account of its silence (sukn) and the 'silence' of the nn (its non-vocalization), it
is omitted. 2
In another passage Ibn 'Arabi explains that if the wifw were explicitly present, the
pronunciation of kiff, wawand nn (kawn) would be slower than the pronunciation of kiff
and nD (kun), which is instantaneous. When the vowelless nD and the silent wifw
(al-saldnan) come together, and the nn wants to unite with the kiff, the outcome is the speed

of the penetration of the command (surcat nufdh al-amr). So the command is more
instantaneous than the glance of an eye. Thus the wifw is necessarily shortened. However,
the waw is manifest in the world of being. This world of being 1S not in adc1ition to kun by
Ibn 'Arabi, Futbift aJ-Makkyah, 4 vols. (Bulaq, 1911; reprint ed., Beirut, n.d.), 1: 168169; all subsequent references are from this particular edition. 1 would like to thank
Professor Chodkiewicz for drawing our attention to these particular passages of the
FutfJatal-Makl6yah, in his correspondence with Dr. Landolt.

Ibid., 2: 331-332.
page 118



--- .. _-~. _- =-==_.,. .,. . .-.",.",__~

. ~-~~-----~11111111
.-, ...,..".,.....'.....,'",..
- , - .." ..,... "",. '" " ..


"f _

, - .~. '

.,_. ""

,~-".~,.,,',.- " " " . """t',....~



,.... 1

its hidden waw (fa laysa al-kawn bi


cala kun bi wawihif al-ghaybyah); al-kawn is

simply the visible form of kun. l

In summary it is clear the idea that the divine plane from which the world cornes to be, is
based on triplicity, which is a critical aspect in Ibn cArabi's concept of 'creation'. As for the
word kun, the passages in the FuttJat aJ-Makkyah reveal why its visible form is composed
of two letters: kiff and nfl. However, the author mentions the msence of wawand why it
is not explicitly present. It is interesting that the author of the Shajarat al-Kawn chooses not
to explicitly mention this wawat all in the text.
Adam in the First Chapter of the Fu,, a}-{likam

The frrst chapter of the Fu~ii$ aJ-Ifikam is on Adam, "the bezel of the wisdom of divinity in
the word of Adam"


tJikmah ilifhfyah fi kalimat ifdamyah). We will see what are the

characteristics of the comprehensiveness of Adam i.e., that which enables him to be called
kawnjiimi c.2 It is this which allows him to be described as both the mirror and the polishing

of the mirror, by which the ~eality is able to see Itself.

Adam may be described as the perfect reflection of the divine comprehensiveness
(al-jam'yah al-ilifhfyah). Within this comprehensiveness one may distinguish that which is

attributed to: God Himself (ilii aJ-janiib aJ-iliih), to the Reality of realities (ilii janib tJaqqat
al-Qaqii'iq), and that which .. in this constitution (the bodily constitution of man) - is

ascribable to what is required by univei'sal Nature, which comprehends all the recipients of
the world from the highest to the lowest. 3

Ibid., 2: 402-40l

Ibn cArabi, FU$$ al-lfikam, p.48.

Ibid., p. 49; the English translation is a paraphrase of Izutsu's translation, p. 227.

page 119

The tirst may br the Divine Essence as qualifip.d by the Name 'God'; the second, the
ontological plane of the pennanent archetypes (al-Cayn ai-thibitah) i.e., the place of all the
possibilities of manifestation; and the third, the universal receptive power. 1
This being who reflects this divine comprehensiveness is called: insifn wa khalifah (Man and
Vicegerent). His humanity (insiinyah) is the comprehensiveness of his constitution, and his
encompassing aIl the realities. His relationship to the Reality is like that of the pupil of the
eye to the eye i.e., the instrument of vision. Through him God looks upon His creatures and
has Mercy upon them.2
As for the second term khalifah, this is


vicegerency. His relationship to the world is

described as like the bezel (setting of the ring) to the seal (seal ring) (fa huwa min al-'aJam ka
fa$$ al-khiitim min al-khiitim). "He is (comparable to) the place (of the seaI) where there is

engraved the device with which the king seals his treasuries. "3
He (God) guards (al-lJiifjz) his creatures with this (Le., Adam) just as the seal (al-khatm)
protects (guards) the treasures. So He has appointed him as the vicegerent in guarding the
universe (fa istakhlafahu fi ~af? aJ-mulk). This universe will not cea~e to be protected so long
as this perfect man (al-inslinal-kiimil) is in it.4
AU the Names in the divine fonn


al-illihiyah) are manifested in this human

constitution. So the rank of encompassment and comprehensiveness is achieved with this

being (fa l;1iizat rutbat al-iPii,tah wa al-jam c bi hadhii al-wujd). Even the angels do not

Izutsu, p. 227. These may be viewed as the three metaphysical categories described by
Ibn 'Arabi in Kitao Inshii3 al-DawiPir: (i) the absolute Being (wujd mu!1aq), (ii)
something of which neither Being nor non-Being may be predicated, and (iii), limited
and determiQed Being (wujd muqayyad). Perhaps more simply we may say: God, man
and the world.

Ibn tArabi, FU$$ al-.flikam, p. 50.

Izutsu, p. 235.




comprehend what the fonnation of this vicegerent implies, nor do they comprehend the
essential worship demanded by the Presence of the Absolute. They comprehend only those
Names which are particular to them, so they praise and sanctify the Reality with these
Names. They are unaware that Allah has Names, the knowledge of which they know not,
and by which they cannot praise Him. So they cannot sanctify Him as Adam does, for he
manifests all the Divine Names. l
Another aspect of Adam's uniqueness concerns his being called


al-khalq. Allah

joined (jamaCa) His two hands for Adam to show his nobility. He combines the two fonns:
the form of the world and the fonn of the Absolute (~rat al-'wam wa ~rat al-~aqq). These
are the two hands of God. He created his outward fonn ($lat al-?ihirah) (also described as

al-jasad) from the realities of the world and its fonns, and He created his inner form ($rat alba,tinah) (also described as a/-~) according to His fonn ($rah). This is the reason for

which He said: "1 am his hearing and his sight" and not "1 am his eye and his ear." He
distinguished between the two forms. No one has this comprehensiveness which belongs to
the khalfah. he who is victorious because of this (fa ma faza illi bi al-majm c).2
It is with respect to this discussion of the two bands that IbUs is introduced. We have

described how the author presents Allah as joining His two hands for Adam. For this reason
He said to ThUs: "What prevents you from prostrating to one whorn 1have created with my
two hands?"(XXXVIll,75). Iblis is (only) a pan of the world, in whom this
comprehensiveness did not transpire (wa Iblis juz 3 min al-ci/am lam taP~uJ lahu hadhihi aljam'iyah).3

Ibid., pp. 50-51. This idea of Adam's perfeet 'servanthooj' is implied in the Shajarat
al-Kawn in the author's discussion of how man who is able to pray in a standing,
bowing and prostrating position embodies all the acts of devotion of Allah's creatures
(see unit IV).

Ibid., pp. 55-56.

Ibid., p. 55.

page 121

The Functions of Adam

Father of Mankind, Perfect Man

In the above summary of the fust chapter of the FU$$ al-J:Iikam we saw what Adam's
comprehensiveness means and the different perspectives from which it is described: his
reflecting the divine comprehensiveness, his manifesting all the Names in the divine fonn,
and his synthesis of the two fonns, the Absolute and the world. Each one of these may be
viewed as different expressions of Adarn's 'comprehensive being', the being described in the
frrst few lines of the text as containing in itself the whole universe. This microcosmic nature
which allows him to perfectly refleet the divine comprehensiveness enables him to be called
'Perfeet Man'.

The Vicegerent

He is described as containing within himself that which is demanded by the people (i.e.,
those over whom he is commanded to exercise sovereign power). They depend upon him
and he must support their needs. 1 Another dimension of this is his role of guarding the
world as described above (see khalfah). In this function Adam is also the maintainer and
preserver of the universe. When he departs (Le., leaves the present world) and the seal on the
treasures of the world is brokell, nothing of that which God stored in the world will remain. 2
How does this compare with Adam as presented in the Shajarat al-Kawn? In the Shajarat alKawn there are several different Adams: the primordial or mythical Adam the partner of

Iblis, who sees only the positive elements of kun; then there is comprehensive Adam, the
observer who sees the antithetical existents tire and clay as one; fmally we have Adam the
father of mankind, whose whole being is a composite of two antithetical elements.


Ibid., p. 50.

page 122

The comprehensive Adam as described in the FU$ii$ al-I;1ikam does not resemble Primordial
Adam as described in the Shajarat aJ-Kawn, for the fonner is clearly a composite of all the
Divine Names. As for his comparison with Adam the father of mankind, the latter's
description is very 'dualistic'. The description of his being, be it his clay, his constitution or
his essence, is always a battIe between two antit.~etical elements. This composition is quite
different from the comprehensiveness of Adam in the Fu~ii~ al-~am.
It is the observer whom we have described as being comprehensive Adam, who resembles

the comprehensive Adam in the


al-l:likam. Both Adams resemble one another with

respect to their reflecting the whole universe. However, the synthesis of Adam as described
in the


aJ-I;Iikam explicitly emphasizes the two fonns, the divine (al-paqq) and the

creaturely (al-khalq).

The Position of Muhammad

Having described both the ontologieal and funetional aspects which distinguish Muhammad
from the other protagonists in the Shajarat al-Kawn, we turn to the salient issues raised with
this figure in Ibn 'Arabi's thought in general. The consideration of Muhammad's position,
which may be viewed as one aspect of the problem of Perfect Man, is perhaps one of the
most difficult issues. Our intention here is to highlight the specifie ontological and funetional
issues raised with respect to Muhammad as described in the FU$ii$


and in the

secondary literature. The comparison and contrast with Muhammad as presented in the
Shajarat al-Kawn may provide sorne clues on the place of this work in Ibn cArab's corpus.

The last chapter of the


al-1;likam is on Muhammad: 'the bezel of the wisdom of

singleness in the Muhammadan word' (fa$$ pikmah fardiyah fi kalimah muhammadyah). In

the v/!ry tirst line on Muhammad's wisdom Le., singleness, he is described as the most
perfect existent in the human species (lnnamii kiinat pikmatuhu fardiyah li-&nnahu akmaJu

mawiiid fi hadhii al-na WC al-insiini). This is why creation began and ended with him. So he
oolle 123

was a prophet while Adam was between waier and clay, and then in his elemental (or

terrestrial) fonnation, he was the seal of prophets. 1

First Creature
The ontological position of Muhammad as suggested with this l,1adith is dcscribed as the
'Reality of Muhammad'

~aqiqat Mu~ammad or al-~aqiqah


In this

cosmic function Muhammad is the 'first' of aIl self-determinations of the Absolute. 2 It is also
called the 'Reality of realities' ataqqat


the fmt form in which the Absolute

begins to manifest itself.

Viewed from another perspective, this Reality is also ca1led the 'light of Muhammad'. In
chapter six of the Fu~at al-Makkyah on the beginning of spiritual creation (al-khalq alru~an),

the beginning is described as al-habiP, the primordial du st. The frrst thing created in

this dust is the Muhammadan Re:ity proceeding from the divine Name al-R~miin. Allah is
described as manifesting Himself with His light to this du st and each being in the dust
receives this light according to the measure of its capacity and its predisposition. The Reality
of Muhammad is the nearest (closest) and most disposed to receive this light. 3 This is why
this 'Reality' is also the 'light of Muhammad'. Though described as the 'tirst' it is presented as
'eternal' and 'non-temporal'. B(,!ing the substance from which Allah creates everything, it is
the 'origin' for the creation of the world. 4

Ibid., p. 214; these are the fmt three lines of the chapter.

Izutsu, pp. 236-237.

Chodkiewicz, p. 88, he is quoting from Fu~iital-Makkiyah 1: 119.

Izutsu, p. 237.

page 124

Source of Knowledge

This Light or Reality of Muhammad has an essential function: it is the source of knowledge
for all the prophets and messengers. In the second chapter of the FU$ii$ al-ijikam on Seth,
Ibn cArab describes the highest (kind of) knower of God (aClii calim bi Alliih). This person
has knowledge but does not profess it, it (the knowledge) instills silence in him. Only the
seaI of messengers (khiitim al-rusul) and the seal of saints (khiitim al-awliyii3) have this
None of the prophets (aJ-anbiyiP) nor messengers (al-rusul) may obtain this (knowledge)
except from the niche (or temple) of the seaI of messengers (mishkat aJ-rasl al-khiitim), nor
may the saints (aJ-awliyii3) obtain it except from the niche of the seal of saints (mishkiit
al-wal al-khatim). He concludes, thus, that the messengers cannot ob tain il, when they do,

except from the niche of the seaI of saints. This is because messengership (aJ-nsiilah) and
prophecy (al-nubiiwah) Le., legislative prophecy (nubiiwat aJ-tashriC) and its messengership,
come to an end (are fmite) whereas waliiyah does not ever end (it is etemal). So the
messengers because (or in so far as) they are awliyii3 0btain this knowledge from the niche
of the seal of saints.!

Ibn 'Arabi, Fu~~ al-IJikam, p. 62. We may determine from this discussion by Ibn
cArabi in chapter two, that although Muhammad's function as a source ofknowledge for
aIl the prophets and messengers is clear, the problem is there may be two sources of
knowledge, both of which are pre-exh,tent Just as the seaI of prophets was a prophet
"while Adam was between water and clay," so too, the seaI of saints was a wal "while
Adam was between water and clay." The relationship etween the two seaIs is unclear.
Although the seaI of saints follows the law brought by the seal of messengers, this does
not diminish his station. Inwardly he receives (directly) from Allah the secret of that
which he is following externaIly because he perceives the divine command as it is. He
receives from the same source as the angel who reveals il to the messenger (p. 63).




Despite the fact that Muhammad is explicitly described as a wali, whether his function in this
role is explicit is problematic. On the one hand, Ibn cArab describes the relationship of the
seal of messengers (Muhammad) with the seal of saints, in so far as his waliiyah is
concerned, as (like) the relationship of (other) prophets and messengers with himseIf. 1 This
suggests that with respect to his waliiyah, Muhammad occupies only a degree of the seal of
saints. Perhaps the author is suggesting that Muhammad is a wali by defauIt, for this is not
his explicit function which is to be the prophet-messenger. 2
On the other hand, this waliiyah is described as one of the perfections (Qasaniit) or
excellencies of the seal of messengers, Muhammad. This suggests that

wal~yah is

a function

of Muhammad. The problem remains: are there two sources (the two niches), or are the
Muhammadan Reality and eternal waliiyah the same? One may suggest that Muhammad is
outwardly the seaI of prophets but inwardly he is also the seai of both Muhammadan and
universal sainthood. 3


In this same discussion on waliiyah, Muhammad is described as the master of the children of
Adam in opening the gate of intercession. He is singled out with this special state which is

Ibid., p. 64.

This is in line with how Izutsu describes aI-Qashan's perspective: "Muhammad was de
facto the Seal of the Saints. Except that Muhammad himself appeared only as a ProphetApostle, and did what he did only in that capacity, not in the capacity of a Saint. He did
not, in other words, manifest the fonn of waliiyah" (Izutsu, p. 272). Since Muhammad
did not manifest himself as the seal there remained the necessity for another person to
appear as a historical phenomenon in the capacity of the Seal of Saints.

Chodkiewicz, p. 156. On this question see Hennann Landolt's critique of Chodkiewicz's

book in Bulletin Critique des Annales Islamologiques 4 (1987): 83-85. He raises the
question of why there are two seals to begin with.



not common. He was victorious in the mastery of this special station (fa fza Muhammad
S.A.S. bi al-siyiidah fi hadhii al-maqiim al-khii~~).l

Most Perfect Manifestation of Reciprocity

In the final chapter of the F'l~ii~ al-1;likam, where several imponant themes are discussed,
perhaps the problem of triplicity in singularity may be singled out as the salient issue. One
aspect of this problem was discussed earlier with respect to the Jeun as described in the
chapter on s~m~. In this chapter on Muhammad the number tbree is described as the fmt of
the single (i.e., odd) numbers, and all the (odd) numbers are derived from il.
Muhammad is presented as the best evidence (sign) to his Lord, because he was given the
totality of the (divine) Words which are the meanings of the Names of Adam. So he is the
closest sign of His triplicity, a sign which is proofin himself. Since Muhammad's reaHty had
been given the primordial singleness - which is the three-fold fonnation - for thlS reason
Muhammad said with respect to love, which is the root of all existents: "Three things have
been made beloved to me in this world of yours." Then he mentioned women (al-nisii:J),
perfume (al-lib) and that the consolation for his eye was found in prayer (al-$alih).2
Commencing with the tirst term, 'women', Ibn CArab describes how the reciprocal
relationship between God and man is parallel to that between man (Adam) and woman (Eve).
Having breathed His spirit into man i.e., created man in His own form, God yeams for
Himself; so too man yeams for his Lord who is his origin. In the same way, man yeams for
womall because she is manifest in his form, like something yeams for itself; so also she

Ibn cArabi, Fu~~ al-~am, p. 64.


Ibid., p. 214.

page 127


(woman) yeams for him as something yeams for the place to which it belongs. So there is in
fact a triad: God, man and woman. 1
The culmination of this yearning (by both) is achieved in the aet of nikiiQ. When a man loves
a woman he seeks union (al-wa$lah), that is the highest degree of union which is possible in
love. In the elemental sphere there is no greater union than between a man and a woman i.e.,
niki?l. This union is described as being like the divine turning toward the one whom He

created according to His form. 2

Another aspect of the frrst term 'women' is that man's witnessing of the Reality in woman is
the most complete and perfect. This is because he witnesses the Reality with respect to Him
being active (m'il) (and) passive (munfa'il).3
Perfume is the middle term between women and prayer. It is described in several different

For example, Ibn cArabi describes how God Himself places perfume in the

context of what he calls al-ilti~iim al-nikahf. He also discusses it with respect to the breath
(nafas) which is the essence of aroma (smells), which may be good or bad. The word pb also

carries the idea of goodness. 4

The third of the three elements is 'prayer'. This witnessing is an intimate dialogue (munjiit)
(shared) between Allah and his servant. It is an act of worship divided in two halves: one
half for Allah and one half for the servant. In order to express this, Ibn CArabi quotes the
fmt srah of the


i.e., the


He describes how the frrst half of the srah

belongs to God, white the second half belongs to the servant.

Ibid., p. 216.
Ibid., p. 217.


Ibid., p. 221.

page 128

This dialogue is (also) a remembrance (dhila). The one who remembers the Reality, is in His
company and He is in company with him. 1 So, even this remembering is by both the servant
and Lord.
This brief analysis reveals both the complexity and wealth of symbolic meanings associated
with each of the three terms. We would concur with the opinion which suggests that each
illustrates sorne aspect or mode of triplicity and polarity. However, the suggestion that
women represent the cosmic pole, and prayer the spirit, with perfume as the relating factor,
seems over-simplified. 2 Our analysis suggests that perhaps the salient point expresse<! with
the images is the idea of 'reciprocity' between God and man.
The fact that Ibn CArabi has chosen to describe this issue by describing the character of the
historical person Muhammad, suggests that this is how Ibn cArabi perceives Muhammad. In
this way Muhammad may be distinguished as the most human of all beings, which implies
that this is his distinction and that which makes him superior.
How does this figure of Muhammad compare with that in the Shajarat aJ-Kawn?
(1) The cosmic stature of Muhammad in the Shajarat al-Kawn is somewhat different.

Adam (the father of mankind) is created fmt from the dust of kun which contains
good and bad. Then seeing that it contains bad the Agent turns back to the seed of
kun, to create a purified version, adding the light of His guidance. So the light of

Muhammad is not the 'tirst creature' of God. However, he is TIrst' in tenns of the
comprehensive being for his light is the source of alilights.
(2) As for the function of this light, in the Shajarat al-Kawn, Muhammad is the SOl.1l'ce
of prophetie knowledge. He is the fmt amongst the children of being in the writing
Ibid., pp. 222-223.

Ralph W.J. Austin, The Bezels of Wisdom (New York: Paulist Press, 1980), pp. 269270.

page 129

and the last to he manifest. We have described how Muhammad may also be the
source of mystical knowledge i.e., the experiences of the ~fis and the elect.
(3) In view of the problems raised with respect to Muhammad's waliiyah as presented
above i.e, in the Fu~~ al-1;likam, this is perhaps the most difficult to discuss. As for
the Shajarat al-Kawn, one has to consider his special characteristic i.e., the divine
characteristic and secret of God whieh enables him to rise through the four stations.
The most imponant station is the fourth, the station of a vision of God. This clearly
suggests his 'proximity' with the divine. So, although Muhammad's waliiyah is not
explicitly stated in the Shajarat al-Kawn, it is implied.
(4) The function of intercession is explicitly described in the Shajarat 'JI-Kawn and in
the Fu~~ al-I;kam. In the latter it is suggested that Muhammad is distinguished by
this panicular state. In popular piety Muhammad's intercession beeame very
imponant. Maybe Ibn CArabi is here drawing upon this element of popular piety.
(5) Having seen how Ibn cArabi draws upon characteristics of the historical Muhammad
- his love for women, perfume and prayer, to de scribe him, one wonders why the
author of the Shajarat al-Kawn does not mention anything of his character, or of
specifie events in his life, except for the rni'riij. This is a salient point since in the

al-I;likam, the prophets may be clearly distinguished according to their

individu al eharaeteristics. 1

For example, in the chapter on Jesus, Ibn cArabi draws upon particular events in his le,
such as his breathing into the clay (the bird), to develop the idea of r~ and the special
characteristic by which Jesus is distinguished.

page 130

The pwpose of this thesis was to address two problems. The fIfst was to detennine what the
Shajarat al-Kawn is about. We began by presenting the complete fonn and content of the
text. 'Then noting that neither of these are quite coherent - there is not a smooth flow in the
story - we approached the text from the perspective of the archetypal figures. We described
the salient persons in the cosmogonie drama and their role or functions.
The complexity in how these figures are presented revealed itself with the description of
severa! Adams and Muhammads. We attempted to differentiate between them by naming
them and showing the relationship between them. However, this does not mean that these
figures are necessarily reconcilable.
We pointed out one particular theme which, though not consistently clear, is pervasive. This
is the structure of duality, he it with the kif and noo of kun, as expressed with Adam and
Iblis, or the different manifestations of the spiritual and corporeal dimensions of Muhammad.
In all the examples there were two issues: (i) the pre-existence of two elements and (ii) the
nature of the relationship between these two clements.
In order to shed more light on our text and also because of the role of Muhammad and IbUs
as prominent mystical prototypes, we went on to briefly describe how these figures are
presented by two specific authors who precede Ibn cArabi. This was followed with a review
of how the same persons are described by Ibn 'Arabi in the Fu,ii~ al-Qikam.

page 131

This brings us to the second problem with which we began our thesis, the authorship of the
text. This question frrst arose because of specifie problems we noted with the style and
content of the mictiij segment of the text. The structure of this particular segment of the

Shajarat al-Kawn, approximately one third of the text, consists predominantly of dialogue
between the persons, which includes several lengthy speeches. The protagonists are:
Muhammad, Jibn1, the throne and Allah.
The stages of the journey may be described as follows. First there is the encounter between
Muhammad and Jibril. Then follows Muhammad's journey to Jerusalem on Buraq (the first
vehic1e). He reaches the sky of the physical world with the ladder (the second vehic1e). The
journey through the seven heavens is on the wings of the angels (the third vehic1e). He
arrives at the Sidrat al-Muntaha on the wings of Jibril (the fourth vehic1e). He then pierces
through the seventy thousand veils of light and with the cushion of green light (the fifth
vehicle) reaches the throne. Finally, with the assistance of the 'confmnation' (the sixth
vehicle), Muhammad is in the presence ofhis Lord. In this 'place' in which there is no locus
and the 'between' is eliminated, only the distance of two bow-Iengths remains. The gardens
of Firdaws are the base of his two feet.
We would like to now present a brief analysis. How are eaeh of the persons presented and
what are their respective funetions? Cummencing with Jibril, the most special seIVant of the
king, he is described as Muhammad's guide on the journey. SeIVing as a vehicle himself, he
accompanies Muhammad to the Sidratal-Muntahi at which point he remains behind.
As for the throne, the emphasis in its lengthy speeches is on how he is only a temporal
creature of God, one who though in 'between' (al-bayna) does not know the location (al-

ayna) for Allah. Although at rimes he is brought close to the positions of His neamess, at
other times He conceals Himself from him, being clearly told: "By no means canst thou see
me (directly)" (VII,143).



The author goes to considerable measure to dispel the idea of 'proximity' between the tbrone
and its creator. In the throne's conversation with Iibril. the author emphasizes how the creator
is neither in need of the throne nor carried by it. The throne points out that although 'the

(al-istiwif~) is

His attribute and description. he. the throne. is neither in proximity of

Him. by way of junction. nor far from Him by way of separation.

One May suggest that the function of the throne is to emphasize the 'transcendence' of Allah,
white at the same time de-emphasizing its own position (orrank). This Une ofthought seems
somewhat contradictory to its function as an 'intermediary' between the creator and the world
as presented earlier in the text where the author c1early states that the throne is a direction
(wijhah) (celestial qiblah) in which tlie hearts of His servants May tum to Him (unit II).

Muhammad is clearly the leading figure. One reason given for the purpose of his ascent is so
that the angels and archangeis i.e., the world of Sovereignty ('ilam al-malakt), May be
honoured with his presence. Since the high rank of his spirituality has reached them, now
they wish to witness his corporeality. Although the four stations are not explicitly mentioned
in the mi'rifj, one May suggest that it is ajourney through the second (al-maqifmal-m~md).
the third (al-shuhd) and the fourth station to: "A distance of but two bow-Iengths or (even)
nearer " (Lm,9).
The role of Muhammad is to be able to witness and see his Lord: "He did not wander from
Him even for the twinkling of an eye ... His sight never served" (LIn, 17). Having testified to
Him, affirming and believing, he is now asked to testify to His tawhid in this world of
witnessing i.e., witnessing and seeing. The other function of Muhammad is to testify to His
transcendence. Muhammad looks upon Him and finds Him unique and etemal, not
dependent on anything nor in need of anything.
In the speech by Allah He describes Himself as transcendent beyond (munazzah 'an): time,

place, beings, night and day. boundaries. regions. limit. and measure. In addition to this
page 133


being beyond 'space', 'time', and 'place', He describes Himself as beyond any 'fotm' Le.,
beyond similar, and like, resembling, and likeness. Ali this suggests that His function is to
emphasize His non-determination i.e., the inconceivable and unappmachable Absolute who
transcends all qualifications and relations.
Having analyzed the structure and protagonists in this segment, it is clear that it does not
contribute in a significant way to the analysis of the kun and the various persons. With
respect to Muhammad, the description repeats and elaborates upon his 'proximity' with Allah
i.e., as described with ''maqiim qiib qawsayn aw adnii" in the Finale. There is little new
infonnation to either change or develop his position as presented up to this point in the text.
However, one discems a change in the style in which he is discussed. There is a rhetorical
tone, intent on persuading the reader of Muhammad's high rank.
The depth and subtlety with which the images are prescntcd and the density of language
developed, has changed, the potency is not the sam,,:. The rhetorieal tone, the repetition and
emphasis of specifie ideas such as the transcendenee of Allah, suggests that the author's
intention with this partieular ending of the text is to affum a 'consClVative orthodoxy'. The
whole dialogue sounds like a summons, all too obvious and leaving little to the reader's
imagination. AIl this along with the (continuous) quotation of the Qawiin, badths, and folklore type language, reminds one of the traditional genre of mi'rifj literature.
When we


to glance at how the miCz'iij is developed in Ibn cArab's works, su ch as

chapters 167 and 367 of the Fu~it al-Makkiyah, the Risilat al-Anwar and Kitab al-IsriP,
there is a clear inconsistency with the Shajarat al-Kawn. (sec Appendix 2). Although the
structure of the four texts is modeled upon the prophet's own mi'rifj, the person of
Muhammad is not the subject of the ascent in any of the four works where the subjects are:

two ttavellers (the follower and the philosopher), the waH, and Ibn 'Arabi himself. Secondly,
Ibn 'Arabi utilizes the mi'rij theme perhaps as suggested by Morris as "a single unifying

page 134


symbolic framework"l to discuss a full range of both metaphysical and practical spiritual
issues such as walayah and alchemy. This is in sharp contrast to the rhetorical content of the

mi'rij in the Shajarat al-Kawn. This is why and how the question of the text's authorship
fmt came about.
Furthennore, the comparison and contrast of the figures as presented in the Shajarat al-Kawn
with the Fu~ii~ aJ-Qikam revealed sorne significant points of difference. For example, the
comprehensiveness of Adam in the


al-?ikam is quite different from that of the

observer Adam in the Shajarat al-Kawn, whom we named comprehensive Adam. As for
Muhammad, there was one critical difference. In the Shajaratal-Kawn there is no mention at
all of the character of the historieal prophet Muhammad or of specific events in his life with
the exception of the miCraj. We acknowledge that considering Muhammad's position is one
of the most difficult and perhaps controversial problems in Ibn 'Arabfs thought. So, we
continued our search for more clues whieh suggested a problem with the text's authorship.
There are more specific tangible details. The distinct absence of the letter waw in the
discussion on kan is one such clue. However, one may argue that even though it is not
explicitly mentioned, the waw is implied in the world of being where severa! structures of
triplicity are visible. But, even though this theme of triplicity is visible, it is not consistently
presented as there is no well thought-out plan. This problem is important because the ide a
that everything comes into being from three elements (or the singular, al-fard) is a
fundamental concept within the framework ofIbn 'Arabfs view of creation.
Another clue is the way in which the term rapmah is used. It is fust mentioned with respect
to the Agent's cleansing of the seed of kun from which Muhammad's light is to be created.
The fmal stage in this process is plunging it into the sea of mercy. This is done to render the

James Winston Morris, "The Spiritual Ascension: Ibn 'Arabi and the MiCraj Part I",
Journal of the American Oriental Society 107 (Oct-Dec 1987): 630.



seed's blessing universal. So, one may infer that in this context ~mah is associated with



(Muhammad's) barakah.
Thenceforward ratJmah is mentioned specifically with reference to Muhammad in the
following verse: "We sent thee not, but as a Mercy for all creatures" (XXI,107). This v(!rse
is quoted in various places and contexts throughout the text. It is the message carried by the
winds of sending, and which is inhaled by those described as "given the good in primordial
time," so (they) incline towards it (unit III, stage 8).
The raQmah and barakah of Muhammad are again mentioned together with reference to all
that occurs in the tree of being. This includes the developrnent of thoughts, the stages along


path, actions and states, and the degrees of the 'elect'. Muhammad's ble4iisings are

comprehensive and his TaQmah is complete on the creatures. So, his mercy is the source of
intellectual and spiritual development.
In the finale this verse is described with reference to Muhammad's spirituality flowing
through all of the tree's branches, including the left branch, the cornpanions of the left. This
suggests that all men receive sorne aspect of raQmah. 1
This specifie use of Tapmah leads one to the following suggestions. First,



specifically to Muhammad. Secondly, it implies the idea of blessing (al-barakalJ) as

suggested above. Thirdly, the term's use in contexts which suggest specific functions of
Muhammad, such as his being the source of knowledge and the protector, conveys the: idea
of 'raQmah' as all comprehensive, as sorne aspect of it reaches all men.

Th,s understanding is different from the typical, technical sense in which the term ra~mah is
understood according to Ibn CArabi. The ordinary common sense understanding of this term

This is the same as Muhammad's riibinyah.

page 136


denotes an emotive attitude Le., compassion and benevolence. 1 For Ibn 'Arabi ra1lmah is an
ontological idea, il is the beslowal of existence (wujd).2 This is called the Mercy of
gratuitous gift (raflmat al-imtiniin). This bestowal of existence is the 'breath of the Merciful'
(Nafas al-RaQmiin), the breath in which all the fonns of Being, material and spiritual, are

manifested. 3 There is another kind of Mercy, the Mercy of obligation (raQmat al-wujb),
which is in reward for an act and is exercised with discrimination Le., according to what each
person does. 4
Another clue is with respect to Isma'il. According to the Shajarat al-Kawn he is the one
redeemed by a "great sacrifice" (XXXVll,107) (unit III, stage 14). In the Qur3anic narrative
of this story, the son whom Abraham is to sacrifice, as seen in a vision, is not specified.
According to Muslim tradition this son is Ismatil. This sacrifice, also described in iiyah 102
of the same srah, is mentioned by Ibn'Arabi in the chapter on Isl,taq in the FU$$ al-f:likam.
A.E. Affifi in his commentary on this (sixth) chapter points out that Ibn 'Arabi believed that
Isl,taq was the son whom Abraham saw in his dream and the one who was to be sacrificed.
He describes how Ibn 'Arabi is one amongst a very small number of Muslims, along with
Ab al-CAla) al-Matarr, who hold this view.5 So too, 'Abd al-Razzaq al-Qashn in bis
commentary on the FU$$ al-I;likam points out that when Allah wanted to show Abraham the
science of interpretation, He made him see the sacrificial victim in the fonn of Isl,taq.6 Since

Izutsu, p. 116.

Izutsu describes how this bestowal of existence commences with the extension of
Mercy to the Absolute itself (al-dhift) and extends to the pvssible beings and actual
existents. In this manner it is indiscriminating, see pp. 119-121.
Ibid., pp. 133-134.

Ibid., p. 121.

Ibn 'Arabi, FU$$ aI-Qikam, 2: 70.

cAbd al-Razzaq al-Qashani, Kim" SharQ al-Qifshiini 'alii FU$$ al-Qikam (Cairo: alMatb.. 1t al-Maymaniyah, 1903), pp. 84, 86.

page 137

this infonnation indicates that Ibn 'Arabi believed


was the son to be sacrificed, one

wonders why Isma'il is mentioned here in the Shajarat al-Kawn.

ln this list of clues, one cannot overlook those which suggest that the text is by Ibn 'Arabi.
The fmt is the way in which Muhammad is presented Le., his function as the source of
intellectual and spiritual knowledge. This aspect of the light of Muhammad may aIso be
viewed as the Reality of Muhammad or the ReaIity of realities. These different perspectives

which are visible in the Shajarat al-Kawn, may he viewed as expressions of Ibn tArabi's
view of the logos. This is the perspective witth which Jeffery and Gloton approach the text.
Secondly, the dominant theme of the Shajarat al-Kawn: the different expressions of the
structure of twoness be it with kun, Adam or Muhammad, is a perenniaI problem in the
Master's world-view. One salient example of this is how he presents the two seaIs, the seai
of prophecy and the seaI of waliiyah. These are different expressions of the same problem:
the relationship between the one and two.
The next important clue here is the position of the author as an important participant with the
other protagonists in the unfolding of the divine drama. His position as the 'fmt' to unveil his
vision is particularly important. It is suggested that his 'primordial reality' shares the function
of Muhammad. As we suggested earlier this may be an indication of himself as the khiitim
al-awliyiP. Hardly anyone else would have dared to speak ofhimself with such implications.

FinaIly, the 'absent' wiiw, may be a clue in suppon of Ibn tArabi


the author of the text.

One may argue, as in the quoted passages of the FutPiit al-Makldyah, that this letter is a
hidden letter and this is why it is not mentioncd. After ail, there is a consistency with the
structures of tbree in al-kawn. The position of Muhammad may aIso be presented as
evidence of this Le., the wiiw is implied with Muhammad. Like the wiiw, Muhammad was
hidden and became manifest in the world of being (al-kawn).

page 138

It is not feasible within the limitations of this thesis to conclusivel)' determine whether the

Shajarat al-Kawn is by Ibn CArabi or not. However, with the preceding cIues one may clearly
suggest a problem with the text's authorship.l Severa! different scenarios may be possible:
(1) Ibn C:Arab began the text himself and it was completed by someone else, most likely a
disciple, someone clearly at ease with the Arabie language and familiar with Ibn cArab's
thought but, perhaps, not so subtle in the development of his thought; (2) Ibn cArab did not
write the text; rather someone has attempted to 'copy' specifie ideas in the fonnat of the

Shajarat aJ-Kawn. This maybe with the intention of making his ideas more palatable to the
conservatve audience ofhis tme.
This doubt about the authorship of the Shajarat aJ-Kawn casts a shadow on the translators.
We may recaIl that Jeffery '/iewed the text as a particular work which presented the Muslim
doctrine of the person of Muhammad, described from the perspective of Logos-Christianity.
In our description of Muhammad we see sorne of these descriptions of the logos e.g. as preexistent, light and archetypal man. Despite his acknowledged disinterest in the author, we.
wou Id suggest that Jeffery's interest in the Shajarat al-Kawn seems to have been in
demonstrating how the Muslim faith, in this case as represented by a renowned theologian
and mystic Ibn cArab, incorporates all four elements of Logos-Christianity to illustrate the
uniqueness of Muhammad. One cannN argue wlth Jeffery when he says that the text
illustrates this uniqueness, but he misses particular points of originality such as the purity of
Muhammad which makes him unlike Jesus.
As for Gloton, who approaches this text from within the Muslim mystical tradition, and as
one who seems famiIiar with Ibn cArabi, it is ironic that the numerous problems of
authorship are blatantly overlooked. Perhaps as suggested earlier, he approaches the text with

The .f.Iikiiyat Ibls appended to the Shajarat aJ-Kawn is even more suspect. See Awn, pp.
59, 112-115.

page 139

preconceived ideas and with the intention of showing how it 'fits in' in a sense with Ibn
cArabi's ideas.
Despite this problem of authorship, one may conclude that the Shajarat al-Kawn represents
an important perspective, specifically with respect to the archetypal figures of Adam and
Muhammad. In this way, it may be seen as contributing, along with the other studies
examined here, toward an understanding of the many riddles on how the se figures are

page 140




Edition A

Edition B








Unit II










Unit IV





Unit V















Story of Iblis



page 141

ln view of the problems raised with respect to the micrij segment in the Shajarat al-Kawn, it
May he ofbenefit to briefly mention how this theme is presented in the works of Ibn 'Arabi.
First, we will de scribe how it is presented in Muslim tradition. Taking root in the Qur)anic
verse quoted below, biographers and companions of the prophet (for example Ibn Is~iiq and
Ibn 'Abbas), tradition-authoriries (Muslim and al-Bukhiiri), as weIl as Qtwan commentators
(such as al-Taban) developed their particular account of the story. 1 These earlier versions
were collected and systematized by people such as Asin Palacios. 2 Eventually, as suggested
by Asin, the tale "... was soon clothed with a wealth of detail and set in a wonderful variety
of episode and scenery.


The following references give an out1ine of the story's essential content and basic early
sources: Shorter Encyclopaedia of Islam, 1974, s.v. "Mi'radl', by Horovitz, p. 383; alTaban, Kirab jami' al-bayan fi tafsir al-qrwan, quoted in Miguel Asin, Islam and the
Divine Comedy (London: John Murray, 1926), p. 33; al-Bukhari, SatJ~ al-Bukhiir,
quoted in Nazeem EI-Azma, "Sorne Notes on the Impact of the Story of the MiCraj on
Sufi Literature," The Muslim World63 (April 1973): 94; Alfred Guillaume, The Life of
Muhammad (Oxford: Oxfoni University Press, 1955, reprint edition., Pakistan, 1967);
Ibn c: Abbas, Kitib al-Isri wa-l-mirij, quoted by Gloton, p. 171.

Horovitz, p. 383.

Asin attempts to systematize sorne of the principal versions extant by dividing them into
three cycles or groups. The first cycle, which has two versions, describes the IsriP i.e.,
the night journey on eanh through purgatory, hell and paradise. The second cycle is
concerned almost exc1usively with the ascension i.e., ~ ". rij. The three versions include:
(i) the most authentic on the authority of al-Bukhiir and Muslim, (ii) a version though
attributed to Ibn 'Abbas, Asin doubts its authorship, and (iii) a version generally
regarded as apocryphal. The third cycle may be called the earliest version. It is important
for it synthesizes the two previous cycles i.e., IsriP and Mi'rij.
Asin, p. 3.

page 142

Glory to (Ood) who did take His Servant for a Joumey by night from the
Sacred Mosque (al-masjid al-~arim) to the Fanhest Mosque (al-masjid alaq~a), whose precincts We did Bless, - in order that We might show him
sorne of Our Signs: for He is the One who heareth and seeth (alI things)
(Smat al-IsliP XVn,l).
The following highlights of the tale are necessary for our context. The tale hegins when the
prophet either in his own house or at the Kacbah in Mecca is visited by Jibril alone, or with
Michael) The prophet is first carried by night on a celestiaI beast Buraq,2 from Mecca to
Jerusalem. Upon arrivai at the mosque in Jerusalem he meets Ibrahim, Msa, and csa with
whom he prays, leading the prayer himself.
The ascension proper now commences. Accompanied by Jibril, Muhammad ascends through
the heavens meeting one of the earlier messengers at each heaven: in the fll'st he meets Adam,
then Yal)ya and 'sa in the second, Ysuf in the third, Idris in the fourth, Hrnin in the fifth,
Msa in the sixth and Ibrahim in the seventh heaven, where he is seen leaning against the
much-frequented House (al-bayt al-macmiit) (Lll,4).3 This may he viewed as the seventh,
eighth or ninth stage of the ascent, for in certain versions the Lotus-tree of the boundary
(Lm,14) is introduced. It is here that Jibrilleaves Muhammad who now ascends to the final

stage on the green wreath, rafraf.

In the final stage of the ascent, the 'form' in which Muhammad witnessed Allah is described
in various ways. This raises metaphysical issues such as whether the ascension was a dream
(Le., a vision) or a physical experience, and whether only the prophet s soul or also his body,
were carried up. AlI of these were questions arousing debate at an early date, and which
continued to he discussed.
The following two paragraphs are a synthesis of: Version Aof cycle II (i.e., the account
of Muslim and al-Bukhliri in Asin), the micriidj article in SEI, Ibn Is~aq and Ibn cAbbas.

Horovitz, p. 383.

Although it is usually understood to Mean the Kacbah, the celestial prototype of the
terrestrial Kacbah. it may also Mean any temple or house of worship, see Yusuf Ali, p.

page 143



Ibn 'Arabi develops the micr~ theme in four specific places: chapters 167 and 367 of the


Fu~it al-Makkyah,

Risi/at aJ-Anwiir and Kitao aJ-lsra~. The basic framework of each will

be outlined below. The first, chapter 167 which falls under the section on spiritual practices

(or conduct) is entied: "On Knowing the Alchemy of Bliss and its Secrets."} The tale
describes the micriij of two travellers: one who 'follows' the prophet and conforms to his law
(al-taoi C), and the other a philosopher who in his search for the Tru th , relies upon his intellect
(si"Qib al-napu).2 The micrifj may be viewed as composed of three phases: (a) the journey

through the seven spheres, each inhabited by a different prophet, (b) from the l.otus-tree of
the boundary to the Thront, and (c) into the divine Presence.3
Ibn 'Arabi describes how the two travellers are instructed on the natural sciences i.e., physics
and cosmology, and the spiritual sciences. This as Asin points out, enables Ibn cArabi to
introduce points of his own theological system so the work in effect becomes an
encyclopaedia of philosophy, theology and occult sciences.4 The discussion below will
provide sorne examples of how the tale incorporates these salient areas of thought in Ibn
Arabi's world-view.

Although in le traditional miCraj story, le seven heavens are not named, here each heaven s
identified commencing with the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.
Despite the two travellers' anival together at each heaven, the adept on rairai' and the
philosopher on Buraq, each receives a different welcome. 5 The follower is received by the

This chapter 167 is in the Futiitliit aJ-Makkyah, 2: 270-284. A French translation has
been prepared by Stephane Ruspoli, L'alchimie du bonheur parfait (Paris: L'le Verte,
1981). Chodkiewicz paraphrases specific segments in the last chapter, 1-: double echelle,
of his Le sceau des saints pp.181-221. Asin provides an abstract frorn the synopsis of
the tale in bis Islam and the Divine Comedy, pp. 47-51.

Chodkiewicz, pp. 195-196; Ruspoli, pp. 51-54.

Ruspoli, p. 23.

Asin, p. 49.

Ibid., p. 48.




pl'Ophet inhabiting each sphere, while the philosopher is received by the spiritual entity i.e.,
the angel goveming the celestial sphere. 1
On the frrst sphere Adam unveils the Divine Names, the archetypes of all creatures, to the
adept according to his measure (or capacity).2 The philosopher on the other hand, leams only
about the natural effects of the moon's direct influence upon the sublunar world. On the
second sphere, Mercury, on which reside csa and Ya1;tya (John), the adept learns about the
in separable relationship between life (?Jayat) (the etymological symbol of YaI)ya) and spirit
(Tp) ~the Qur:lan describes tsa as T.p see N,171).3 tsa possesses both the creative

(spiritual) alchemic power signified by his creating a bird out of clay and breathing into it
(ill,49), and the resuscitation of the dead, as weIl as the natural or medicinal alchemy
demonstrated in his powers of healing.4 The kitib, the angel of this sphere, gives lessons on
the science of Ietters (science of natural magic), in particular the creative secret of the kun.
In the same way, in the subsequent spheres the prophets discuss salient metaphysical issues
with the adept. This includes knowledge of the imaginaI world described by Yusuf, or
knowiedge on how theophanies appear according to the forro of one's beliefs and needs, as
described by Musa.5 The philosopher, however, receives instruction from the sphere's
governing angeis only on the natural sciences.
The final point in this part of the journey is Satum where Ibrahim, seen (as Muhammad saw
him) Ieaning against bayt al-ma:mr, invites the adept into the 'House'.6 Meanwhile, the

Ruspoli, p. 57; Chodkiewicz, p. 196.


Ruspoli, p. 59.

Chodkiewicz, p. 196.

Ruspoli, pp. 66-68.

s Chodkiewicz, pp. 201,205 respectively.

Chodkiewicz, p. 207; Ruspoli, p. 98.

page 145

philosopher is installed by the goveming angel in an 'obscure house', interpreted as his own
ego. He has reached the end of his ascension and must wait here for his companion to retum.
The mysteries of alchemy gradually unveiled by the prophets to the adept during his joumey
through the seven spheres, are summed up on the threshold ofthe Throne.1 In the final stage,

'Blam al-amr, among the things he may witness are: Universal Substance, Nature, the
guarded Tablet and the Pen. Leaving this world of Command he penetrates into the
primordial 'cloud' (al-cAmiP) produced by the breath of the Merciful and reaches the divine
Presence. 2
The Risilat al-Anwir, 3 unlike the above primarily metaphysical text is described as
"... practical in intention and experiential in its tenns ofreference and expression."4 The text
focuses upon the concept of 'proximity' (qurbah), a key-tenn in the definition of walayah.
The author describes the walfs climb to the height of the ascent the 'station of proximity', and
his descent to the sensible plane, the creatures. As will become clear in the following
discussion, the concepts of khalwah 5 and rujCare essential to this particular micrij.
The tale is addressed to a dear friend and close (unknown) companion of Ibn cArab. 6 The
text forms Ibn CArabi's reply to a question posed by this friend concerning the nature of the
journey towards the 'Lord of Power'. Three phases may he discemed: the ascent, the arrivai
Ruspoli, p. 127, note 1.


Chodkiewicz, pp. 210-211, Ruspoli, p. 131.

The full tide is: 'Risa/at al-anwir fi ma yumnat $abib al-khalwah min al-asrir'. The two
French and one English translations include: Michel Chodkiewicz's partial translation
pp. 181-221; Asin's L'Islam christianis: tude sur le soufisme d'Ibn 'Arabi de Murcie
(paris: Editions de la Maisnie, 1982), pp. 321-332; Rabia Terri Harris's Journey to the
Lord of Power (London: East West Publications, 1981).

Morris, " The Spiritual Ascension", p.632.

The text's subtitle is: 'Sur les secrets qui sont onctroys celui qui pratique la retraite
cellulaire', Chodkiewicz, p. 183.

Chodkiewicz, p. 184; Harris, pp. 25-26.

page 146


in His presence, and the retum or descent. The walfs ascension is modeled upon the
prophet's own mi'raj .
As a preparatory method for the ascent, Ibn 'Arabi suggests a few practical roles, amongst
them 'retreat' (khalwah).l He suggests that the wall seclude himself keeping a distance from
men, and that he prefer retreat (khaJwah) to human companionship: "Ta proximit de Dieu

sera la mesure de ton loignement, intrieur et extrieur, des cratures" (Your proximity to
God will be according to the measure of your distance, internaI and extemal from creatures).
cAbd al-Karim Jm (d.717H./1408) in his introduction to the commentary on this tale,2
compares the stages of the voyage to the successive removal of clothing, corresponding to
each one of the degrees of manifestation.3 In this way the ascension may be viewed as one of
decomposition (micrij talJl1) dissolving all that symbolizes the constitution of human nature.4
The arrivaI (al-wu$l) in His presence i.e., the 'station of proximity' (maqam al-qurbah)
though the end of the ascension, is not the final point of the journey. Having reached the
summit, the walire-descends by the steps symmetric to the ones he climbed, revisiting in the
inverse order, the hierarchy of heavens. He sees anew, in different fonns what he had seen
previously. However, rather than seeing with 'the eye of his ego' (bi Cayn nafsihi) he
contemplates with 'the eye of his Lord' (bi Cayn rabbihi). s
The return to the sensible world (re-viewing the creatures in their oneness rather than their
multitude) is described as the place where one acquires the second half of the knowing of

Chodkiewicz, p. 188; Harris, pp. 29-30.

Jlfs commentary published in Damascus 1329H./1911 is entitled: "aJ-isfir 'an al-anwir

fi ma yatajalla li ahl al-dhikr min al-asrir", which Chodkiewicz translates: ilL 'enlvement
du voile de L'pitre des lumires: sur les lumires qui apparaissent ceux qui
s'adonnent au dhiki', p. 183.

Chodkiewicz, p. 190.

Chodkiewicz describes this as an initiatory death or "de-creation" , see pp. 190, 195.

Ibid., p. 215.
page 147

God and which is the essence of sainthood. 1 It is the joining of the 'two bow-Iengths', the
wal arrives in the indescribable place of 'or nearer'. So, khalwah is not only a preparatory

technique, the walfs retreat consists in "se cacher en se montrant" (to hide oneself in
showing or revealing oneself) (khalwah fijalwah).2 It is in effect an antinomy meaning "...
the absolute 'ernptiness' (khaliP) of the Perfect Man i.e., the state of being 'filled' with the
Absolute. "3
Ibn cArabi's account of his own spiritual journey is described in his book: KitaJ


This text in both verse and rhyrned prose, is the earliest and "most personally revealing" of
his works on the mi crj.5 Despite the text's early date it is presented as already describing the
complex metaphysical and ontological frarnework in the Futii~iit al-Makkiyah.6 This is why
it may not be surprising to hear it described as ", .. a remarkable account of Ibn tArabi's
theosophy in its earliest fonn. "7 Two imponant thernes are discussed: the Muhammadan
Reality and the metaphysical universality of the Qu~an. 8
The structure of this traveller's journey resernbles the prophetie journey. Ibn CArabi describes
his journey from Andalusia to Jerusalem, followed by the ascension through the seven
heavens where each one of the prophets transfers to him his particular knowledge. In this


Ibid., p. 219.

Ibid., p. 220.

Encyclopaedia oflslam, new ed., s.v. "khalwa", by H. Landolt.

Asin translates the tide as: 'The Book of the Noctumal Joumey towards the Majesty of
the Most Magnanimous', p. 45.




Morris, p. 631.

Ibid., p. 632.


Morris, p. 631 .



page 148

t<,,"- , ,

way one gains insight into the author's own spiritual achievements "... as they mirror the
even loftier rank of the Prophet. "1
The second treatise in which Ibn c: Arabi describes his own mi'Iij is chapter 367 of the

FutQiit al-Makkyah. 2 The structure of this chapter May he divided into four sections:
section l, the introduction, is on the purpose of the joumey i.e., to make His servant see His
signs; section II deals with the


accounts of Muhammad's micraj, section ilI is an

outline of the spiritual joumeys of the saints (al-awliyiP), and the last, s.

')n IV, is Ibn

account of his personal spiritual journey.3

This final section reveals the author's own spiritual achievements. While on his journey
through each of the heavens, he is welcomed on the fourth sphere, the sun \ by Idris who
proclaims Ibn tArabi to he "l'hritier muhammadien par excellence" (the Muhammadan

The fmale in this treatise occurs at the Lotus-tree which Ibn tArab sees encompassed by a
dazzling light and becomes himself entirely light.S Then he exclaims Allah made the
following verse descend upon him: "Say: We believe in God, and in what has been revealed
to us and what was revealed to Abraham, Ismac, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and in (the
Books) given to Moses, Jesus .... " (llI,84). He interprets this divine communication as the
announcement that he has reached the 'Muhammadan station'. He now claims to know the
significance of all the divine Names.
Ibid., p. 632.

This chapter is in 3: 340-354.

Morris, p. 634.

Chodkiewicz, pp. 202-203, see aIso note 1. Chodkiewicz points out that this is the
supreme pole's (i.e., Idris's) recognition of Ibn tArabi as the seal of Muhammadan
Sainthood. (Likewise in the Kitao al-IsriJ he is welcomed on the same heaven and
proclaimed master of the saints (sayyidal-aw1iya)).

Ibid., p. 209.

page 149

Je vis que tous ces Noms se rapportaient un seul Nomm et une

Essence unique. Ce Nomm tait l'object de ma contemplation et cette
Essence tait mon tre mme. Mon voyage n'avait lieu qu'en moi-mme et
c'est vers moi mme que j'tais guid.
He realizes that it is his own interior planets which he has visited, and the prophets of his
own being whom he knew .



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