Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi's 'Fütuhat' represents the 'whole of Sufism'

Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi (1164-1240) profoundly impacted Eastern and Western thought and is one of the most discussed, venerable names in Sufism.

Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi's 'Fütuhat' represents the 'whole of Sufism'

The unfathomably deep and delicate subjects he touched in his great number of works were criticized during his day and are still criticized. Nonetheless, his works are being widely read, translated into many languages and republished as Sufism is gaining worldwide attention. One of those translations is "Fütuhat-ý Mekkiyye" [the Meccan Inspirations], arguably Ibn Arabi's masterpiece and presented as unabridged for the first time. The first four volumes, published by Litera Publishing House, were translated by Dr. Ekrem Demirli, known for his research on Turco-Islamic philosophy classics. We spoke with Demirli, winner of the Association of Turkish Writers 2006 Best Translation of the Year Award, about Ibn Arabi in the Sufi tradition, his works and his profound impact on the world and Turkey.
Where do Ibn Arabi and his works stand within the Sufi tradition?
Ibn Arabi best represents the period of maturity in Sufism. The period of maturity in Sufism carried early Sufism to a higher stage. It dealt with all disciplines of Islamic thought, from philosophy to theology, and it turned into an intellectual movement for everyone, whether a Sufi or not. Sufism after Ibn Arabi is a process like a sequel to reach maturity. In my opinion, his works such as "The Meccan Inspirations" [Fütuhat-ý Mekkiyye], "The Wisdom of the Prophets" [Füsus'u-l Hikem] or "The Divine Precautions" [Tedbirat-ý Ýlahiye], are the highest and most comprehensive books of Sufism.
What was the Ottomans' approach to these classics and their author?
We know that all of Ibn Arabi's works were read by the Ottoman scholars. That there are a large number of commentaries written on "Wisdom of the Prophets" can easily be seen as an indicator of the great interest shown in him. An important group of leading scholars that affected Ottoman thought grew up in this tradition. Another facet of the diamond is the prevalence of his ideas that are not necessarily mentioned with his name every time they are talked about. The sources of "popular" Sufism are mostly the reflections of the ideas seen in Ibn Arabi. In my opinion, if we wanted to see Sufism reflected in one book, that book would be "The Meccan Inspirations," which he wrote in Mecca.
Could you briefly talk about the commentary tradition among the Ottomans?
Since Ibn Arabi and Sadreddin Konevi represent the zenith of Sufism, it is natural that there would soon emerge a commentary tradition. And this is what happened. It is certain that all those works provide spiritual sustenance to people, helping them to get to "know their Creator by knowing themselves." And today new works are written on Ibn Arabi. Our work can be considered a very humble contribution to this long dormant tradition.
In addition to translations of Sadreddin Konevi, Abdülgani Nablusi and Ebu'l-Ala Afifi, you are now translating Ibn Arabi's works to Turkish. What was your motivation for this?
I think it would suffice to say the love of wisdom. However, I must point out that this work has a system of its own. The commentary on Fusus'u-l Hikem was a new phase of the project. It will be followed up by similar works.
"The Meccan Inspirations" is made up of 37 volumes; will it not be difficult to finish translating them all?
Ibn Arabi is a Sufi scholar who encourages boldness. We should not give in to laziness by exaggerating the amount of work we should do. If Allah gives me health to do this, there is no room for hesitation, and for this I ask for and require everyone's prayers.
How will the translations contribute to the Sufi tradition and understanding of Ibn Arabi?
Knowledge must be accessible. The preliminary aim of my works is to overcome this hurdle of Arabic, which makes it impossible for many people to study the translations. The translation of these books will replace the groundless prejudices with sound opinions. Fütuhat will especially build our opinions of Ibn Arabi and Sufism from the ground up.
Along with Mevlana Rumi, now Ibn Arabi is also receiving a great deal of attention in the West.
I would like to be able to say the river is finding its course; however, I still don't think we have reason to be that optimistic. Until the time when a person such as him, of such a high caliber, occupies an important part in cultural life with his art, literature, and poetry, and as long as we don't have films and documentaries on him, I can't say he is receiving the attention he deserves.
Some people are trying to establish a "Sufism without Islam" by focusing only on the mystical sides of Ibn Arabi and Mevlana. What do you think about this?
If people read Ibn Arabi's books, they would not encounter such dangerous problems. However, if there is an aim for which people want to abuse Ibn Arabi's ideas as their tool, then the issue would become a question of morality, not an intellectual one. I think that Ibn Arabi and Mevlana based their ideas on such sound foundations that no one will ever be able to 'convert' them to their own fallacies. When you take Ibn Arabi out of context and out of his environment, he would cease to be Ibn Arabi.

'Those not qualified should not read Ibn Arabi'
"Those who are not familiar with our spiritual state should not read our works," warns Ibn Arabi; "Discriminate between your good words and bad words with the power of discernment, and then convey them to those who aspire; don't obstruct this mercy enveloping you, spread it to everyone."
"Talking about someone, taking an interest in someone and reading someone are different things, I think."
"These are all confused in Turkey. One needs to have made painstaking efforts to be able to read and understand Ibn Arabi; this precondition should never be overlooked."


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Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16