This is an English translation of the first volume of Ibn Arabi's famous book of al-futuhat al-makkiyya.
The Meccan Revelations is considered the most important book in Islamic mysticism. Ibn al-Árabî started working on this book in Mecca in the year 598 AH / 1202 AD; thus from here it takes its name, where he received the immense knowledge that he had broadcasted in this huge book from a spirit he calls the ‘passing young’ (al-fatâ al-fâàt) whom he met at the Kaaba. But it took him around thirty years to finish it in Damascus in the year 629 AH / 1232 AD, and then he rewrote it again between 632/1235 and 636/1239, just two years before he passed away.
The book consists of 560 chapters that vary in length between as short as half a page and as long as several hundreds. Although it is now mostly printed in four condensed volumes, based on Bulaq edition, it is in total contained in 37 volumes according to Ibn al-Árabî's own arrangement, and each volume is normally divided into seven parts which may start or end regardless of chapters; thus some chapters are placed in more than one part or even more than one volume.
Although this volume contains the first chapter of the five hundred and sixty chapters of the Futûħât and a considerable part of the second chapter which is quite long, but we can consider this volume as an introduction to this immense book. As he normally did for other volumes, Ibn al-Árabî divided this volume into seven parts:
1. The First Part is a foreword (khuţbah) to the book, but which can also be considered an abstract summary of Ibn al-Árabî's view of the world. He divided this foreword into two sections; in the first one he enclosed his spiritual addressing before the Prophet, may Allah have mercy and peace upon him, and his Companions and other prophets who all met in the world of imaginational realm (ăâlam al-mithâl) and whom he saw through a disclosure attended metaphysically in his heart. In this addressing he speaks about the spiritual hierarchy and the origin of spiritual and physical creation.
2. The Second Part is a list of the five hundred and sixty chapters which constitute the Futûħât.
3. The Third Part is an introduction to the book, in which he explains the sources of knowledge and the difference between its three types: the intellectual science, the science of states and the science of secrets which he shows that it is highest and all encompassing science which actually includes all other sciences..
4. The Fourth Part starts with the first chapter of the Futûħât in which Ibn al-Árabî explains the occasion that led him to this initiative and how he received the knowledge that he is going to broadcast in the book from a spirit he met while circumambulation around the Kaaba.
5. The Fifth Part is devoted almost entirely to explaining the ambiguous characters at the beginning of some chapters of Qurãn and particularly ﴾ALٓM: الٓمٓ (àlif-lâm-mîîm)﴿ of sûrat al-Baqarah.
6. In the Sixth Part he talks about the properties of the characters one by one.
7. The Seventh Part is devoted to explaining the different terms he had used in this weird science of characters.
From the Author
When I decided to work on this book, I conversed about the idea with some prominent scholars in the field and I was utterly discouraged claiming that translating this book is something absolutely impossible; due to its magnitude, complexity and mystical nature. Although I was definitely aware of that, I decided to try. But when I started, and as I progressed very slowly, I discovered what a daring decision I might have taken. In fact, after I completed the first draft of the first volume (out of 37) and part of the second volume, I had to stop because practically I realized much more difficulties than that I had been initially warned.
For example one honest scholar told me: "I know from decades of experience--and I know that my considered judgment is shared by those mature scholars whose knowledge of this text is more extensive than mine--that the thought of this project would be sheer folly, leading to a result that would be painfully embarrassing (for sure) and potentially incredibly damaging (if people actually took a bad job seriously)." This is certainly true, at least because this text presupposes such vast knowledge of underlying systems of thought and reference like Koran, Hadith, theology, jurisprudence and philosophy, so every single line or phrase of the Arabic typically requires many pages of explanation and commentary in English. Moreover, there are many bolted sentences in almost every chapter that remain opaque and unclear to the most specialized scholars who have studied them for years.
Therefore, after working on the first two volumes I experienced all these difficulties and much more, so I had to stop and give up this seemingly impossible job. Yet I am totally convinced that: "that which cannot be accomplished fully should not be left out fully!"
My principal motivation behind this work was the fact that after I did the research on Ibn Arabi's time and cosmology, based on a total of a very tiny portion of the Futuhat, both in terms of passages size and in terms of the vast extent of subjects tackled in this magnum opus, I discovered how much the world is missing not having access to this historical work, especially that most of the serious scholarship nowadays is performed in English, by students or scholars who may not have full access to the Arabic text, not to mention the fact that this extensive Arabic text itself need to be properly indexed and characterized to allow easier access benefiting from existing computer accessibilities.
For this reason, and with the possibility now to publish in electronic formats which can be rectified and edited easily, I decided to publish the first volume as it is in its first draft after I stopped working on it for more than two years. The result was overwhelming! This certainly reinforced my initial impression about the urgency for a complete translation of this book.
Therefore, the work will be revived, despite all the difficulties and constrains. I am fully aware that there will be many errors and deficiencies; for example in setting out the correct equivalent English terms, the presence of numerous poor expressions due to the complexity of the original text or the lack of explanatory comments in some places, but I will keep looking at the bright side until a mature and satisfactory version is developed, which I think will take some years before this may be achieved.
About the Author
Ibn Arabi was born in Murcia on Monday the 17th of Ramadan of the year 560 AH, that is the 26th of July of the year 1165 AD. In 568/1172 he moved to Seville where he lived for twenty years during which he traveled to Morocco and Tunisia several times, and stayed there for intermittent periods, and then after that he traveled to the East for the Hajj in the year 598/1201 never to return to Andalusia.
In the East he lived in Egypt briefly and then went to Palestine heading to Mecca where he devoted himself to worship and teaching at the Grand Mosque the place where received the secrets and wisdom he deposited in his well-known book of the Meccan Revelations. Then he went to Iraq and entered Baghdad and Mosul and met their men, and then travelled north to Anatolia and Turkey where he dwelt for many years and had a high status with king Kaykaus. After that, the Sheikh took numerous trips between Iraq, Egypt, Syria and Palestine until he settled in Damascus in the year 620/1223 and he stayed there until he passed away in the night of the 22nd of the month of Rabîă the second of the year 638 AH, that is the 9th of November of the year 1240 AD.
Ibn Arabi was both radically original and remarkably prolific author, more than four hundred genuine books can be listed under his name and more than a thousand titles have been attributed to him. His books vary in length between short treatises and long books such as the Futûħât which is contained in thirty seven volumes. He was known in his lifetime for his devoutness to worship, asceticism, and generosity; wherever he goes he had many faithful friends and students attending his councils, and he was a close friend to the Ayyubi kings in Aleppo and Damascus and also to the Turkish king Kaykaus. After his death he became known first as ash-Shaykh al-Kabîr (the Great Master) then ash-Shaykh al-Àkbar (the Greatest Master).