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Tarjuman al-ashwaq

Ibn al-Arabi did his work on Tarjuman al-ashwaq refuting several claims that his study was engraved on general love and not the actual divine mysteries. Nicholson judged Arabi with a lot of ingenuity but later, this was nullified after reading more about Arabi. It is ridiculous that Nicholson should have judged Arabi from the cognitive blinkers of British rationalism. On his teaching on the Shaykh with reference to locus of vision, he says that this was a vision of reality at a certain level of existence. He supports this by noting that God was very invisible though can be seen in his self disclosure.

Earlier on, he gives a difference between two types of vision. He goes ahead and compares the lower loci of vision meaning the things we perceive with our eyes and the higher loci of vision meaning the spiritual sight. At this point Arabi quotes Shaykh, “Neither My heavens nor My heart encompass Me, but the heart of My servant with faith does encompass Me. ” Though God is invisible, he can be seen through the following forms of vision; 1. Imaginal form of vision 2. Locus witnessing form of vision 3. Locus manifestation form of vision 4. Locus of self disclosure form of vision

5. Spirituality form of vision The difference between “ideas” and “ loci of vision” according to Arabi’s explanation is that a loci of vision can be thought about while ideas are seen, heard, touched, tasted and smelled. This makes them incomparable. The rational faculty works by a process of stringing concepts together and then drawing conclusions. A process Shaykh calls reflection. On the other hand, imaginal faculty works by the inner perception of perceiving ideas in a sensory form. Though this kind of perception may be visual, the vision does not take place within our eyes.

This takes place in our hearts and can only respond to changes initiated by this perception. Dreams prove this right because everyone has a non – physical sense experience. The subject matter of poetry can be described according to the Shaykh as something that is seen with the inner eye and heard with the inner ear. Imagination Imagination can take place in three levels; • Cosmos itself • Intermediate macrocosmic world of imagination • Intermediate microcosmic world of imagination The aspect of imagination is very ambiguous to be understood by human beings.

On whatever level, it is always found between two other realities and it needs to be defined in terms of both. This implies that imagination needs to be defined in terms of both objective content and subjective experience. In the total cosmos, imagination ambiguity pertains to everything other than good because the universe stands absolutely between nothing. God does not exist the same way as we say with cosmos. He is considered non existent though we know he exists in some form. This therefore means the universe is neither existent nor non-existent or it is either existent or non-existent.

The cosmos tells us about God since Gods signs are deployed within it. This clearly indicates that the cosmos is a sign of self imagination or self disclosure of God Himself to us. With the Shaykh referring to the universe as imagination, he means the ambiguous status of all that exists except God. The intermediate macrocosmic world is the intermediate world found between the spiritual and the corporeal worlds. These worlds are contrasted in terms of light and dark, unseen and visible, inward and outward, non-manifest and manifest, high and low.

Here, imagination is between the two sides of each with its own attributes. The macrocosmic world can be described as “neither / nor” or “both / and. ” This means any imagination is mutually exclusive of each other. That is, it is neither dark nor luminous, or both luminous and dark. From this statement then, it can be dark and visible in relation to the spirit but also luminous and invisible in relation to the bodies. The ambiguity of the world of imagination is the way it brings spiritual entities into relationship with corporeal entities.

Imagination gives immaterial qualities to things even if they do not have such attributes. For instance, dreams are the wrong reality of awareness embodied as images. Through imagination, unseen realities are described as having attributes of the visible and the real world. This is so when we say for example that “angels have wings” At the microcosmic imagination, here imagination means the soul. This is the human self. The spirit and body have no common measure . The spirit is luminous, subtle, high and invisible while the body has many parts, luminous and dark, subtle and dense, high and low, invisible and visible.

At times when the soul is both light and dark, humans strengthen the spiritual light and weaken the bodily darkness. The spirit is one while the body has many parts. Reasons for self-disclosure Self disclosure is one of the key concepts through which the cosmos and the soul come to existence. God discloses Himself by manifesting the properties of His name and His attributes. Arabi puts forth Gods incompatibility and His similarity. God is incompatible because He stands beyond all things and he is similar to them because he manifest His own qualities through them.

Imagination allows us to see God in his self-disclosure and similarity. The ability to see our similarity and this self disclosure of God depends on our level of faith. Gods disclosure is not just to all His people, the attributes are not those that we imagine. It happens like the way we never plan a dream. No one can ever predict when ever to meet God. “The sensory and imaginative faculties demand by their essences to see Him who brought them into existence while rational faculties demand by their essences and proofs to know Him who brought them into existence. ” (11 307. 21. ) Gods disclosure embraces everything that exists.

It can either be manifest of non-manifest. The manifest is the visible world while the non-manifest is the invisible world. The body of human being is the visible self disclosure of God and the spirit is the invisible self disclosure. The soul is the self-disclosure that stands halfway between the visible and the invisible. The spiritual journey integrates the body into spirit and the spirit into soul. This journey takes place in the imaginary world. “He who knows himself knows His lord,” meaning that knowing oneself translates to knowing Gods self- disclosure in ones body, soul and spirit.

The Revelation of Similitudes Issues of understanding poetic imagery are closely connected with those that are vital in getting to know Ibn al-Arabi’s concept of divine revelation. In modern times, it is common to explain a script in terms of its modern vehicles but these are looked upon as authors of the text. Arabi explains the vital relation that exists between the word of God which is comparable to human words. He analyzes ways in which the word of God has been pluralized as it enters the cosmos descending down to main receptacles who are the prophets.

These God’s people posses the ability to exist with God. He has disclosed himself to them and gave them the authority to be part of Him. All that he explains is not just theoretical but he bases it on having seen the revelatory process in action and tasted it in himself. The tasting belongs to him not just a prophet but as an inheritor of the sciences revealed to the prophets. On revelation, the Shaykh discusses its relevance to poetic imagery. The word “meaning” is a very important term in theology and literally theory. Here meaning is contrasted with existence of an entity or things found on the cosmos.

Many times Shaykh uses meaning as the opposite of sense perception. The adjective ma’nau derived from ma’nu meaning supra sensory makes it synonymous with spiritual which is the opposite of corporeal. The lines separating sensory from super sensory are ambiguous because imagination which is located between the body and the spirit has Supra sensory as well as sensory characteristics. Supra sensory is composed of four things which are characteristic of corporeal bodies not of imagined bodies. He says that imagination includes supra sensory because it combines sense perception and meaning.

Sufism identifies meaning with the inner visible reality. The word “meaning” has no connection with locus of manifestation. They are non-manifest in relation to the external world. All sensory things have a part of their specific identity that allows them to become manifests in imagination. Gods revelation begins with a dream visions rather than sense perception because intelligible meaning are closer to imagination than they are to sense perception. Revelation means sending down waning by God to the prophets. This takes shape when the prophets have the words from God.

This starts with dreams then to visions. When these revelation come when one is asleep then its called a dream vision. When one is awake it is referred to as an imagination. Prophets receive Gods attributes in a more sensory forms. Many a times, God reveals himself to the prophets when they are asleep thus a dream vision. Creation is a collection of similitudes that God has struck on human beings. It is a collection of vast words. He says that God has made the cosmos a proof of Himself. He quotes the Koran saying that, “God strikes similitudes but He forbids us from striking them for Him.

He also provides us with reason for that, saying that surely God knows and we know not. ” God does not want us to involve ourselves with issues beyond our power and authority because we will automatically do against his teachings. As human being if God gave us the authority to create, it would not work to imitate Him because it would be a problem to realize who exactly is the real God. Striking proper similitude is a quality of a good poet. Arabi uses images and symbols to to make points in his poem. The Koran prohibits human beings from striking similitudes with God.

Therefore we cannot use symbols for God since no one knows God but God Himself. When people strike similitudes, they do so because they know God well. These are the prophets and their inheritors. The meanings that come with revelation are not haphazard. They assure God’s knowledge about Himself. The positive role that poetry can play is to awaken the imaginal perception of Gods self-disclosure. Ibn al-Arabi in this poem depicts himself as an exponent of both reason and imagination. He is very aware that knowledge of imagery demands a living vision. Witnessing the loci of vision

Human beings perceive the visible world through their external senses while through the internal senses they can perceive the microcosm comprising of the body, soul and spirit. Through imaginination, it is when we can achieve the above perception of God self-disclosure. In explaining more about God’s self-disclosure, Ibn al-Arabi uses a lot of imagery for a number of reasons. A possible answer is that he possesses divine self disclosure of God not visions of God. This similarity can only be grasped in relation to the soul. Creation and self disclosure determine points of reference.

Here we deal with God not just as God but in as much as he shows Himself. The poet tries to avoid abstract language therefore adapts a very normal language easy to understand. It is direct to the point taking into consideration a diverse audience that he expects to come along his work. The language is meant to attract listeners regarding spiritual life. He remarks that he adapts a divine light, spiritual, mysterious, intellectual science and Shari’ite admonishments. The expression in the tongue of erotic love and amotony affairs because souls are touched by such expressions. He utilizes courtesy an attribute of wisdom among human beings.

He stresses the role of courtesy in speaking to God. This is in reference to the Koranic verse, “ I breathed into him of My own spirit (15:29), or, Our only word when we want a thing is to say “Be” and it is. (16:40) The Shaykh defines Gods disclosure as the light of the things that are revealed to hearts without being seen. People get to know God through his disclosure to us. The Shaykh does not say what he wants directly but says his poems describe Gods self-disclosure. Like knowledge, imagination was given to prophets as milk. He explains this in a poem of a beautiful woman.

The attributes of the poem are disclosed in the world of imagination. God gave the beauty knowledge about him. This knowledge was like milk and firmness on religion like fetter. He speaks of the realities of the “high spirits” that enters the heart . While making influence to the hadith according to which Gabriel used to appear to prophet in the form of the most beautiful man of the time. The real disclosure of God need not take verbal form in the spiritual world and leave no trace in the soul. This type is incomparable and originates from the divine. This is an expression which can be grasped by a verbal expression.

The reason is that it becomes manifest in the world of imagination and becomes delimited to description. The Shaykh makes an explicit connection between poets and the world of imagination using descriptions of the souls ascent to the presence of the divine. He elaborates this point with the example of a spiritual traveler known as Joseph who was an expert in dream interpretation. God never ceased teaching him the corporealization of meaning within the forms of sense perception and sensory objects and he gave him the knowledge of interpretation. On lighting and imaginal unveiling, the Shayk gives a difference between the two.

He adds that its like the false promise we get that lighting is a hope for rain. It is like lightning that never rains but just like the barren mind. He goes ahead and quotes from Tarjuman and the Futuhai which compares self disclosure of the essence to lightning. He explains the rationale by saying that flashes of lightning are compared to the loci of witnessing the Essence in that they have no subsistence. (11 98:21) The poet further adds that for the lightning breaks its promise then, no knowledge is actualized in the soul of the witness through this locus of witnessing the Essence, since it is a self disclosure without material form.

This means that imagination has nothing to retain and reason has nothing to understand since this self disclosure does not enter under how, how many,state, disclosure or an attribute. (Tarjuman 96) The poet teaches more imaginal experience that refers to high loci of vision and witnessing the loci of vision as well as the self disclosure of God. In his poem, he says that God depicts himself only to those who know Him.

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