Mystical Union of Ibn Al-‘Arabi

Beverly Lanzetta Lectures

This month’s talk is on the stages of mystical annihilation or fana in the thought of Ibn al-‘Arabi.  One of the most influential mystics in the history of Sufism, Arabi was born in Spain to a religious family in 560/1160, and at an early age was singled out for his mystical wisdom. In subsequent years, he travelled and taught throughout the Middle East, attracting followers and disciples.

Ibn al-‘Arabi was initiated into Sufism when he was about twenty and throughout his life various women saints influenced his spiritual development.  Of Fatima of Cordova, who was in her nineties and only ate scraps of food left by people at her door, Arabi writes: “Of those who come to see me I admire none more that Ibn al-‘Arabi.”  She said the reason for this is “that the rest of you come to me with part of yourselves, leaving the other part of you with your concerns, while Ibn al -‘Arabi is a consolation to me, because he comes to me with all of himself.  When he rises up, it is with all of himself and when he sits it is with his whole self, leaving nothing of himself elsewhere.”