THE PERFECT MANACCORDING TO IBN AL-
If ever there was a religio-philosophical system difficult to categorize, surely itis that of Abu Bakr Muhammad b. al-
Arabi al-Hätimi al-Täl, the earlythirteenth-century Islamic author best known as Ibn
His writings werecontroversial in his own time and are still so today.
However, he holds asupreme position among Sufi authors, as attested by the titles posterity hasaccorded to him; widely known by the surname
(The Revivifier of Religion), he has also been entitled
(The Greatest Master)"by the almost unanimous voice of those who are best qualified to judge."
Western scholars, in their attempts to categorize Ibn al-
Arabi's complex system,have tagged him with several labels, including pantheist, pantheistic monist,panentheist, existential monist, and exponent of what is called naturalmysticism.
Henri Corbin has appropriated Miiller's term, "kathenotheism."
The doctrine that has earned him these designations is that of
the "oneness of existence," or the "unity of being."That there is ultimately only one, final Reality
"the True," or "theReal") encompassing and transcending all apparent difference is the fundamentaltenet of Ibn al-
Arabi's theosophical philosophy. This doctrine earned him theenmity of much of the ulama, but the most vehement attacks and
(anathemas) leveled against Ibn al-
Arabi were on account of his notion of
al· Insàn al-Kämil,
the Perfect Man. This Man is the perfect microcosm, theculminative realization of divine creation, "only through him does God knowHimself and make Himself known; he is the eye of the world whereby God sees
Born in Murcia in southern Spain in 560/1165, he died in Damascus in 638/1240 where his tombis marked by a mosque which is today still a place of pilgrimage for many Muslims.
Arabrs works were only recently banned in Cairo as the result of pressure by extremistIslamic groups." R.W.G. Austin,
The Bezels of Wisdom
(New York: Paulist Press,1980), p. 9.
Press, 1939), p. 67.
of Ibn al-
Press, 1964), p. 105
in all of his
Sufìsm of Ibn*
tr. Ralph Manheim (Princeton University Press, 1969; originally pub., Paris,1958). Müller coined the term from the Gk.
"one by one," to describe a form of polytheismin which each god for the time is considered single and supreme (usually shortened to "henotheism").What Corbin seems to have in mind is the vertical (Gk.
vertical height, perpendicular line)polarity
which characterizes Ibn al-