The Tunisian Sufi master, CAbdal-CAzizal-Mahdawi, played a timely role in the coming-of-age of the great mystical theoretician, Muhyi 1-Din Ibn al-cArabi (known to later ages as al-Shaykh alAkbar, "the Greatest Master"). The latter's monumental Futuhdt al-makkiyah was dedicated to alMahdawi, but, more significantly, the passages that were addressed directly to him often seem to evince more personal susceptibility than was customary in pre-modern literature. In this article we examine all of the available information on al-Mahdawi-from Ibn al-CArabi's writings and from later sources, as well as a written work that has been ascribed to him-with a view to understanding the nature of the relationship between the two men and the sense in which Shaykh al-Mahdawi can, mentor. indeed, be described as Ibn al-CArabi's


ONE OF THE TRULY pivotal figures in the career of the great Sufi theorist, Muhyi 1-Din Ibn al-CArabi (d. 638/ 1240), was the Tunisian shaykh, Abu Muhammad CAbd

al-CAziz b. Abi Bakr al-Qurashi al-Mahdawi (d. 621/
1224), but we know surprisingly little about him beyond what is related in a few of the Shaykh al-Akbar's books. This is frustrating because CAbd al-'Aziz alMahdawi was crucially involved as the mentor of Ibn al-CArabi's final development in the Maghrib into an

accredited "professional" Sufi and mature, "published"
writer. Moreover, it is obvious that the encounter between the two men was at times galvanized by the kind

of emotional energy and friction that would serve to delineate sharply the contours of both characters in juxtaposition. To help gauge some of the motivational affect underlying Ibn al-CArabi's extraordinarycreative achievement, it will be revealing to gather together all
that we know or can surmise about Shaykh al-Mahdawi

ments of correspondence, is his only known literary work still extant. Ibn al-CArabi (who was born and raised in Andalusia, where he spent most of the first half of his life) stayed for a time with Shaykh al-Mahdawi in Tunis, the Maghrib's "window on the East,"on two differentoccasionsin 590/1194 and 597-98/1201-2. During the first visit, when he was thirty years old, he participatedfor a while as a student in al-Mahdawi's center for Sufi instruction (dar tadrisi-hi)l where he seems to have lived at close quarters with the other disciples-one of whom happened to be his paternal cousin, Abu 1-Hasan CAli b. CAbdAllah b. Muhammad Ibn al-CArabi.2 also kept He at that time with another, older shaykh who company lived at nearby MarsdaAydun, named Abu Muhammad CAbdAllah b. Khamis al-Kinani, who was best known as al-Jarrah (the wound-dresser) al-Murabit (the templar, or "dweller in a fortress-convent"). Shaykh Jarrfh al-Kinani was the master of al-Mahdawi, but both paid 1 His school also (wherehe probably resided)was so called

in order to try to understandwhat attractedthe younger man to him so powerfully in the first place, and, secondly, why their relationship was fraught with disappointment that eventually derailed it. In this paper we begin by reviewing three extended texts in which Ibn alCArabi directly addresses his teacher and friend, taking particular note of any hint of personal animus or ambivalence. Then we will see what other information may be gleaned about Shaykh al-Mahdawi as a way of rounding out an impression of him. Finally, I will present excerpts from a stylized prayer of benediction that has been ascribed to him and which, apart from some frag-

in the Risalah ild ashab al-Shaykh al-Mahdawi, cited below

(see n. 9). Nowhereis it actuallyreferredto as a ribat or a
zawiyah. 2 He was a son of Ibn al-'Arabi's uncle, CAbdAllah, whose late conversion to Sifism is described in the R. Ruh al-quds and Al-Durrah al-fakhirah (see Ralph W. J. Austin, tr., Sufis of Andalusia [London, 1971], 99-100). He cannot be the wayward son mentioned in those accounts, however, since the latter died in Ibn al-CArabi's youth. His kunyah has been mistakenly given as Abiu -Husayn in some recent studies.



Journal of the American Oriental Society 121.4 (2001)
that the stopover in Tunis was prolonged beyond its intended length because of the severe famine that had gripped Egypt for the past year.8 Incidents from the first Tunisian sojourn are recounted by Ibn al-CArabi primarily in three main texts, all of them the prologues of major works-namely, the

homage to the great Shaykh al-shuyikh of the West, Abu Madyan Shucayb (d. circa 594/1197-98).3 It would appear that that initial sojourn in 590 H. could not have much exceeded six or seven months.4 The second stay, months eight years later, was somewhat longer-nine from the end of 597 H.5-and constituted the terminus of the first leg of Ibn al-CArabi's fateful pilgrimage-trek to Mecca, from which he was never to return to his homeland. He was now accompanied by his faithful new servant and disciple, CAbd Allah Badr al-Habashi (and another man whom he had just met in Fez),6 and there is no indication that he actually studied under al-Mahdawi on this occasion (meanwhile, Shaykh Jarrah had died shortly after the first visit). Rather, it is likely that Ibn al-CArabi was largely preoccupied with writing-for example, he was then redacting his Inshii al-jadawil wa-l-dawa'ir, a concise but abstruse metaphysical treatise, which was (perhaps somewhat quixotically) intended for al-Habashi's higher education.7 It is possible

Mashdhid al-asrar al-qudsiyah, the Risalat Ruh alquds, and Al-Futiihdt al-makklyah. (The second visit is also touched upon in the Futiiuht passage, but not in any real detail.) As I have edited and translated the first of these texts in a study that will be published in the near future,9 here I shall simply give a brief description of that text as it relates to our present concerns.

3 On Ibn al-CArabi's "ambiguous" relationship (or lack 'Cinthereof) with Abu Madyan, see my study, "Ibn al-CArabi's quain' (Tahmis) on a Poem by Abu Madyan," Arabica 46 (1999): 63-96. Regarding the controversy over Abu Madyan's deathdate, see pp. 69-71seq. 4 Ibn al-CArabi was in Algeciras in 589 H. (see his Al-Futihat al-makkiyah [Cairo, 1911], I, 617.3) and in Ceuta, North Africa, in Ramadan of the same year (see 32.3). As we know, also, that he visited Tarifa, Andalusia, in 590 (see 577.2) and was back in Seville by the end of that year, then, considering that by Ibn al-CArabi's own reckoning the caravan-journeyfrom Tunisia to Andalusia took three months each way (see III, 339.1), that would not allow for very much more than half of a year in Tunis. His statementin the Durrah, therefore,that he had been with Jarrahal-Kinani for "less than a year" might seem to be something of an understatement(see Austin, tr., Sufis, 141). 5 See Futihat, I, 10.6 (translatedbelow). The oldest surviving text of the K. CAnqad mughrib was authorized by Ibn alCArabi Fez in Jumada 1-Ula, 597 H., and he is known to have in been in Bejaya later that year. As he celebrated the fast of Ramadan, 598, in Cairo, his nine-month stay in Tunis must have commenced in the final months of 597. 6 See my Islamic Sainthood in the Fullness of Time (Leiden, 1999), 74. On al-Habashi, whom Ibn al-CArabi probably met in Fez in 594 H., see below, n. 61. 7 The Inshdaal-dawdair was edited and discussed by Hendrik S. Nyberg in his Kleinere Schriften des Ibn al-CArabi (Leiden, 1919), and translatedby Paul B. Fenton and Maurice Gloton as "The Book of the Description of the Encompassing Circles" in S. Hirtenstein and M. Tiernan, eds., Muhyiddin Ibn CArabi: A CommemorativeVolume(Shaftesbury,Dorset, 1993), 12-43.

The "prologue" of the Mashahid al-asrar is presented in the form of an open letter to the disciples of Shaykh al-Mahdawi-or, specifically, to one of them, the author's cousin. Composed sometime after Ibn al-CArabi's return to Andalusia late in the year, 590/1194,10 it deals generally with such subjects as knowledge, sainthood and prophecy, the Divine Speech, etc., but a good portion of the risdlah is devoted to enumerating some of the excellent qualities (manaqib) of al-Mahdawi (and his disciples) as they were observed first-hand by Ibn alCArabi during his initial visit. Thus, the Shaykh's little community is commended for honoring such "righteousancestral (salihi) attitudes" as regarding prayer as a positive benefit rather than an obligation, and for observing traditional customs (cleaning the teeth before prayer, fasting and ascetic practices during the month of Rajab, etc.) and avoiding contemporary abuses (youths were segregated from the communal gatherings and the participation of women was eschewed altogether). Shaykh 8 For references, see Claude Addas, Quest for the Red Sulphur (Cambridge, 1993), 194 n. 45. 9 Entitled "An Open Letter to the Disciples of Sayh al-Mahdawi," it will be included in a forthcoming collection of epistles of Ibn al-CArabi Sufi confreres in the Maghrib. The risalah, to which has been prefixed to the Mashahid al-asrar as a kind of prologue, was edited by Hamid Tahir Hasanayn under the title of "Sainthood and Prophecy: A Study and Edition of an Episin tolary Manuscriptby Ibn CArabi" Alif 5 (Cairo, 1985), 7-38 (Arabic text). 10 It has frequently been asserted that the letter itself dates from that year, but this is not what is actually stated in the prelude, and it is very unlikely that it was composed before 591/ 1195 (possibly it dates from even later). The question is quite significant, since the risalah would appear to be the oldest extant writing of Ibn al-CArabi.

ELMORE:Shaykh CAbdal-'Aziz al-Mahdawi


al-Mahdawi's achievement of rare mystical states (ahwal) and the telepathic efficacy of his himmah (psychospiritual energy) are attested by Ibn al-'Arabi's personal experience, and the Shaykh is praised, above all, for his magisterial discretion in translating the more indigestible esoteric knowledge of the Secrets of Unveiling into a pedagogical pabulum suitable to the capacities of the uninitiated (al-jumhir).ll For the most part, there is nothing very revealing of the actual relationship between the two men in the Mashahid prologue. This is not to say that Ibn al-CArabi shies away from sharing his personal feelings, but these are directed primarily towards his cousin, the addressee, who, in the second half of the letter, is berated rather soundly for his spiritual incapacity and unworthiness. The impression given of al-Mahdawi in this early risdlah is effusively complimentary-he is the perfect SSufi "a great and weighty master"-but the picture shaykh, of him therein remains unduly antiseptic,'2 too ideal for our purposes here, to explore the factual nature of the role that he played in Ibn al-CArabi's coming-of-age. For that we will need to avail ourselves of the other two texts mentioned above, from the Ruh al-quds and the Futuiht. There is one observation of possible relevance that we can derive from the Mashahid, however. At the beginning of the manaqib portion of the epistle, Ibn alCArabi states that he has felt it necessary to bear witness to Shaykh al-Mahdawi's virtues because, he writes, "in our time there is one who has enviously defamed himanother although he had never seen him before-and who had seen him but whose soul disdained to be fair."13 We do not know who either of these critics of al-Mahdawi were, but it is at least possible that the first one was none other than Ibn al-CArabi's own father, who once censured Shaykh al-Mahdawi's occasional practice of enjoying the public baths with his disciples.'4 Our next passage, the prologue to the R. Ruh al-quds, is addressed directly to Shaykh al-Mahdawi. It was writ-

ten in Mecca in 600/1203, about a year and a half after the second sojourn in Tunis. The letter begins:'5 In the Name of God, the Compassionate Compassionator! And May God bless Muhammadand his family. From [this] insignificant servant, the solicitous, sincere counselor, commanded to give sincere counsel to his brethren16and pressed to that service more than anyone else of his time-Muhammad b. CAllb. Muhammad Ibn al-'Arabi al-Tfii al-Hatimi (May God grant him success!)-to his friend in God (Exalted be He!) and his brother, the strong support, Abu Muhammad CAbdal-CAziz b. Abi Bakr alQurashi al-Mahdawi, resident of Tunis (May God grant him continuance, safe-guarded; and, by the Eye of divine preservation and protection, well-regarded!)-Peace be upon you, and the mercy of God and His blessings! Verily to you do I praise God, Who-"There is no God but He!"17And I bless our Lord, Muhammad,and his family, and wish [them] all peace! Now, then,-my brother,verily, sincere counsel is best for two associates to trade in, or for two friends to spend the evening conversing over-especially these days when there is scarcely any friendship except for flattery. It is established that the Prophet (Peace be upon him!) declared: "The Truth (al-haqq) did not leave to CUmar[Ibn al-Khattab] a [single] friend."18And Uways al-Qarani19said to a man 15 The Ruh al-quds has been edited many times, most recently in Cairo (1989). Here I have followed the excellent seventh/thirteenth-century manuscript,Istanbul University 79A (ff. 1-2). The remainder of the Ruh not already available in Austin's translationof the hagiographical portion has been rendered into English by Roger Boase and Farid Sahnoun as "Excerpts from the Epistle of Holiness" in the commemorative 44-72 (the part translated here volume, MuhyiddinIbn CArabi, may be found on pp. 45-47). 16 An allusion to the well-known hadith:"Religionis the giving of sincere counsel (al-nasihah) for the sake of God, His Prophet, the communalleaders,and all Muslims"(al-Bukhari, alAl-JamiC sahlh, Imdn:42; and Muslim, Al-Jami' al-sahih, Imdn:95). Qur'an 2: 163 et passim. 18 Cf. al-Tirmidhi, Al-JamiCal-sahlh, Maniqib: 19. CUmar, of course, is the second truly-guided caliph. 19 Uways b. 'Amir al-Qarani was a Yemenite proto-Stfi with whom the Prophet Muhammad was said to have been in telepathic communication (on his significance in Ibn al-'Arabi's doctrine of sainthood, see my article, "The Uwayst Spirit of Autodidactic Sainthood as the Breath of the Merciful,"Journal of the Muhyiddin Ibn CArabiSociety 28 [2000]: 35-56). His case is discussed at length by Ibn al-CArabilater in the Ruh al-quds (see Boase and Sahnoun, tr., "Excerpts,"55-61).

11 All of these points are attested in Part II of the Mashahid prologue ("Sainthood and Prophecy" [cited in n. 9], 29-32). 12 For instance, we learn only in the Durrah al-fakhirah association (redacted long after the period of Ibn al-CArabi's with al-Mahdawi) that the real nature of Shaykh Jarrah alKinani was a closed book to al-Mahdawi-his disciple and long-time consociate! (see Sufis, 141). Also, there is no hint in the Mashahid prologue of the pique we sense in the Ruh and Futiihat passages (translated infra). 13 "Sainthood and Prophecy,"29.12-13. 14 Ibid., 30. The passage is translated in Islamic Sainthood, 23-24.


Journal of the American Oriental Society 121.4 (2001)

from Murad: "O brother of Murad, death and the recollection of it leave the believer no happiness; his knowledge of the due "rights" (huquq) of God spares him neither silver nor gold among his possessions, and his endorsing the Truthfor God's sake leaves him no friend." Every man will accept counsel concerning another, [but] not concerning himself-except for one to whom God grants success, for then he will take pleasure in hearing about the faults of [his] lower-soul (al-nafs). When you speak unrestrainedly[about] them, my brother,during your teaching session (majlisu-ka),20speaking of them generally, without specification, [the lower-soul] will concede to you that this is the truth.But if you say to [your listener]:21"It is you that I intend by this speech," [well, you know that] 'the believer is the mirrorof his brother.'22 Now, I have seen in you something that compels me to speak to you about it... The lower-soul is haughty and says [in response to a direct criticism in the light of that saying]: "Glory be to God! Rather, I am [merely] the mirror of your own self [which] you see in me; and I, for my part, am [simply] the image of one about whom this may be said." (Because the lower-soul is blind to its own defects but acutely perceptive of the defects of anotherthan itself ).23 Thus, our counsel to [the listener] in one [particular]matter has led to the perpetration of many [further] sins of falsehood and hypocrisy. My friend (waliy-l), rare it is these days that you might find for one who gives sincere counsel any friend (sadlq). We have declared regarding that: When I committed myself to counsel and inquiry,24 in all existence they left not a single friend to me.25

Thus far, although, the work is cast in the genre of a personal epistle, it has not delved into material of any obvious biographical import. As we infer from what follows, however, Ibn al-CArabi had been charged by an unnamed accuser in al-Mahdawi's group of some kind of falsehood, or deception in his speech (kidhb)-at least this affront he attributes to his having implicitly-and offered, pursuant to the Prophetary command, some sincere counsel (nash) to his brethren. But Ibn al-CArabi defends his behavior with the self-assurance of a clean conscience:26 By the eternal Existence of God, I did not speak deceptively, nor did I say anythingthat I had not found [to be true]! My friend knows well (May God grant him continuance!) that all the days of my stay with him my association with him was only based on the sincerest intentions (al-mundsahah)until he mentioned to me one day during supper, telling me to my face: "Really, you are very critical,"justifying [the rethen citing mark]to me by the case of IbrahimIbn Ad'ham,27 the verse of the poet by way of attestation: The eye of contentment is slow to [perceive] any fault, but the eye of discontentbringsto light the shortcomings.28 But I stated clearly to [my friend] (May God grant him success!) that that [verse expressed] the position of one who loves you for his own sake. As for one who loves you for your sake, that is not the way he behaves. Since God's love for us is for our sakes, not His own, He apprises us of our faults and shows us our deficiencies, while conducting us to the Noble Character-traits(makdrimal-akhldq) and the PraiseworthyActs (mahamidal-af Cal), and clarifying for us their open roads and raising for us their ladders. And since we do love [God, albeit] for our own sakes, not having been able in reality to love Him for Himself-Far be He above that!-therefore, we should be content with what proceeds from Him, even if it does not coincide with our interests or is rejected by our lower-souls or despised by our natures. The happy one is he who will be content with that from [God], while others than he experience dissatisfaction and displeasure. But we ask pardon for myself and for you and for [all] Muslims. The first sentence in the above quotation probably refers to Ibn al-CArabi's inspired recitation of the seem26 MSIstanbul Univ. 79A, ff. lb-2. 27 AbO Ibrahim b. Ad'ham

Following MS Istanbul University 79A (f. lb), which glosses majlis as maqamah (to distinguish it from hadrah). All of the printed editions read the plural, majalisu-ka. Ibn al'Arabi adds: "We received this from the traditionof Mukhallad b. Ja'far, who had it from Muhammadb. Jarir,who had it from Muhammad b. Hamid, ... from Zafir b. Sulaymn, ... from Sharik b. Jabir, ... from al-Shacbi, ... from a man of Murad." 21 That is, to "the believer" mentioned in the next clause, since the pronoun is masculine (and cannot, therefore, refer to the lower-soul, as some of the printed editions suppose). 22 Cf. Abu Dauid, Al-Sunan, Adab: 49; and al-Tirmidhi, Birr: 18. 23 This sentence is not to be found in MSIstanbul Univ. 79A, leading me to suspect that it is a commentator'sgloss that has been inadvertently incorporatedinto the text. 24 Al-nash wa-l-tahqiq (following the margin of Istanbul Univ. 79A, where the first is substitutedfor al-bahth, 'research'). 25 Following Istanbul Univ. 79A. The metre of this verse is al-rajaz (catalectic).


(d. circa 160-70/776-86), Ishaq the "Siufisultan" of Balkh, who was famous for his abstinence and self-abnegation. I am not familiar with the passage of Ibn Ad'ham'sstory alluded to here. 28 Metre: al-tawil. The source of the verse is unknown to me.

ELMORE:Shaykh CAbdal-'Aziz al-Mahdawi


ingly blasphemous verses beginning Ana l-Qurain waI-sabc al-Mathdni (I am the Qur'an and the Seven Repeated [Verses]) before his shocked fellow-Sufis in Tunis, which is recounted in the prologue (khutbah) of the Futiuhdt, translated below (see at n. 46). Then he goes on to recall with arresting frankness a moment of dramatic confrontation between the two friends when Ibn al-CArabi was accused of being too critical, or hypocritical. But he quickly shifts gears and turns to fulsome praise of al-Mahdawi in the hyperbolic rhetoric of sajc (rhymed prose):29 You have obtained, my brother, some qualities (khilal) that I have not been able to discern in anyone other than you in your generation (May God make you and me to be among those who obtain!). Among these is your realization of the status of knowledge and its exponents and your not turningtoward miracles and spiritual states (al-karamat wal-ahwdl). Another [quality] is your yielding to the Truth and abasing yourself before it, and your willingness to dismount to it at the place of anyone you come across [who has found it], whether he be one of whom eyes take notice or one scorned. You take no notice of your worldly station-of people glorifying you and kissing your hand, and rulers coming to your door-and this is the utmost justice (May God establish you [therein]!) Another [excellent quality] is your saying, when you do not know something, "I do not know," and, when you do know, that you would like to hear it from someone other than yourself. You have taken control, by God, my friend, by means of this "skewer" [khilal,30homonymous with the word for 'qualities',above] without which the heads of men shall fly31-a station which the spiritual states will never alter, nor shall the supererogatoryexercise of works ever increase it in excellence and purity. Then, your search for knowledge of men and of the times I have not seen in anyone other than you, and your conviction that that is an obligation for the people of distinction is one of the most marvelous things that ears have heard, that bosom-companions have spent the night discus29 MSIstanbul Univ. 79A, f. 2. 30 Bi-hadha l-khildli lladhi. The

sing, or that horsemen have carried abroad. Finally, how God has endowed you with force and ascendancy over the jurisprudentsby the signs of Noble Deeds (daladil al-makarim) and the chivalry that follows the proofs of prophecy (al-futuwah al-jiriyah maca barahin al-nubuwah)! But this is not mere rhetoric, for we have in the above passage, I think, a good indication of the real distinction in Shaykh al-Mahdawi that drew the very learned, astonhis ishingly brilliant young Andalusian to him-namely, appreciation of the value of "knowledge and its exponents," among whom Ibn al-CArabi might well be styled by some the "greatest master." The indomitable selfconfidence of our Sufi is admirably reflected in the final verses of the long, opening poem of the Futuhdt almakkiyah, which is addressed directly to CAbd al-CAziz al-Mahdawi. As the passage immediately following contains an important description of the first Tunisian sojourn, I will present here the entire section:32 God is Most Great! and the Great one is my outer garment;33 the light is my full-moon, the radiance my shining sun.34 Then the east is my west, the occidents my orient; distance is my nearness, remoteness my proximity. Hell-fire is my absence, Paradise the sight of me, the new creation's realities35are my servant-girls. If you should have a mind to take a stroll through my garden, you would view all of creation in me as my mirror; And if I go-I am the imam, and I have no one whom I can leave as my caliph36to come after me. So, praise be to God, to Whom I am as microcosm37 for the realities of Creator and creation! This is my poetry, communicating wonders, 32 Futihdt (Osman Yahia's revised edition, Cairo, 1972), I, 68-73. The metre of the opening poem (rhyming in -d'i) is al-kamil. 33 Ridad-i. In the Istildhdt al-sufiyah (Beirut, 1990), 72, Ibn al-'Arabi glosses al-ridad as "the manifestation of the Divine attributes." 34 Dhukali, a metonym for dhakda-i, "my intelligence." 35 Haqdaiq al-khalq al-jadid. The "new creation" generally denotes the resurrectionof the body after death (see Qur. 13: 5 et alibi; and cf. 14: 19 et al.). 36 Ukhallifu-hu: "(whom) I can appoint/leave behind me as my 'caliph'."This verse could be rendered less literally: "I am the leader; and when I go, I will leave no one behind who could follow me." 37 Jdmi' (li-haqa'iq al-Munshi' wa-l-inshda).

gender of the noun indicates that a pun on the word, khilal (plural of khallah, 'a quality'), is intended. 31 That is, without the "skewer" of the "qualities,"the separate pieces of kebab cannot be held together-a droll grotesquery. Compare Ibn al-CArabi'sominous quip to Averroes: "Between the 'yea' and the 'nay' the spirits shall take flight from their matter and heads go flying from their bodies" (Futiihat, I, 153.3-4).


Journal of the American Oriental Society 121.4 (2001)

the ways of which are straitened [even] for the eloquent. al-CAziz, So, give thanks to our God along with me, CAbd and let us give thanks, surely, also, for our legal "plea,"38 For, verily, God has [Himself] declared: "Give thanks to Me and to your parents,39and you'll be the choice of My judgment!"40 Now, then-after the praise of God with the praise of praise (bi-hamd al-hamd),41not otherwise, and after the complete blessing upon him who was carried by night to [God's] Throne (mustawa-hu)-know, 0 discerning one bred in the rules of courtesy, beloved friend, that the wise-man (alhakim), if his abode keeps him far away from his partnerand the vicissitudes of time come between him and his intimate, he must acquaint him with all that he has acquired in his absence and with the implements of wisdom (al-amticahalhikmiyah) which he has collected in his traveling-bag, in order to confide in his friend the subtle secrets that the Merciful Benign One has conferredupon him, the favors He has grantedhim, the wisdom He entrustedto him and His words He has made him to hear. It is as though his friend is not absent from him in that of which he has knowledge. When some vexation due to an incidental cause (Carad) afflicted the purity of the friend's affliction (May God grant him continuance!) and bad feeling arose in him at the time of [their] partingfor the accomplishment of a purpose,42 his friend [that is, Ibn al-'Arabi himself] closed the eye-lid of criticism to that and regarded him who is the friend (May God granthim continuance!) with the most generous conviction. For no one is anxious over you except for him who inquires about you; and the friend has good will (May God (= Cudhr).The "plea, or excuse" is that God has promised in scripture (see the following verse) that if we are duly thankful, He will be forgiving of our failings in the judgment. 39 Cf. Qur. 31: 14: "Give thanks to Me and to your parents." 40 CAynqadad-i: the 'apple of My eye' as to My Divine decree. Ibn al-CArabi's paraphrasingthe Qur'an here is something of a bold stroke. 41 On this topic, see my article, "Hamd al-Hamd: The Paradox of Praise in Ibn al-CArabi'sDoctrine of Oneness," J.M.I.A.S. 21 (1997): 59-93. 42 If this took place in 598 H., then the "purpose"(gharad) is Ibn al-CArabi's intention to perform the pilgrimage to Mecca; but if, as would seem more probable (see next paragraph),the "vexation" occurred in 590, then the reference could be to the author's need to return to Seville to attend to his father, who would soon be on his deathbed. 38 Al-'udhra'

grant him continuance!), for, truly, the heart is sound, and affection (al-wadd), as is well known, abides in the breast. And the friend knows quite well that the affection within him is of God (illl)-not [merely] incidental (Caradi) or selfish (nafsl). Of old this [affection] was established in [my friend] for me, without any deficiency, nor lack nor insufficiency, demanding no reward, wary of no penalty. But sometimes during the first trip that I made to the friend (May God-Exalted be He!-preserve him!), in the year, 590 [= 1194 C.E.], there was on his part during [that visit] a certain turning away from me and an aversion to the course of my intentions and my beliefs when he noticed therein (May God be pleased with him!) some imperfection, but I excused him for that. For, indeed, the external aspect of [my] condition (zahir al-hal) and the evidence of appearance (shahidal-nass, 'citationof the proof-text')gave him that [impression], and I concealed from him and his sons (banuhu)43what I really was in myself in that to them I showed myself in the 'vileness' of my [external]condition (sii hal-i) and the [natural]avidity of my senses (sharah hiss-i).44 Now and again, perhaps, I would intimate to them by way of subtle exhortation, but God disdained that a single one of them should view me with insight (bi-Cayn al-tanzih, 'with the eye of deanthropomorphism'). Then one day I intoned some verses before them during one of the teaching sessions (al-majalis)-and the friend (May God grant him continuance!) was seated in the midst of that gathering-and I recited them [then and there]-and I [later] incorporated them in The Book of the Night-Journey(K. al-Israd)45-and they are: I am the Qur'an and the Seven Repeated [Verses],46 and the spirit of the Spirit-not the spirit of time. 43 This could be understood as a trope for 'disciples', but there is reason to believe that al-Mahdawi had at least one son who followed him in the Sufi way (see below, at nn. 103 and 106). 44 The language here may seem quite colorful, but our author is probably not acknowledging anything more than a show of candor and honesty-insufferable traits in plenty of contexts. But also it must be kept in mind that Ibn al-CArabi espouse did the "anti-social" attitude of the Malamiyah-Siifis who opted to exhibit to society their hinder parts as a way of somehow redressing man's inveterate tendency to put on a false face to make himself out to be 'better'than he is. 45 See the critical edition of SuCadal-Hakim (Beirut, 1988), 58. In the IsraDversion (written down in Fez in 594 H.) three extra verses are added at the end. 46 Wa-l-sabcal-mathani. "Seven" is said to refer to the seven verses of the opening sarah of the Qur'an, Al-Fatihah. As for the meaning of al-mathani, see E. W. Lane, Arabic-English

ELMORE:Shaykh CAbdal-CAziz al-Mahdawl


My heart abides with my Ideal [Lord],47beholding Him,48 while my tongue is with you, [reciting what I hear from Him]. Pay no heed to my body, directing your gaze thereto, but deem [me] as enjoying the [ethereal] abodes; And drown in the Ocean of the essence of the Essence, and you will see wonders that are not obvious to sight49 As well as mysteries appearing as obscurities, veiled by the spirits of the commendable qualities!50 But, by God! I did not recite a single verse of this poem except it was as though I were a dead man hearing it. The cause of that is a certain underlying 'reason' (hikmah) which I seek to satisfy and [as we read in the Scripture] "a need (hijah) in the soul of Jacob which he gratified."51No one took notice of me in that noble gathering save Abu CAbd Allah Ibn al-Murabit,52 prominent [among them] as their disLexicon (rpt., Cambridge, 1984), s.v. mathnd, for some of the In interpretations. any event the reference is to Qur. 15: 87: "We have given you [Muhammad] seven of the repeated/doubled [verses] and the great Qur'>n"(cf. also the usage in Qur. 39: 23). 47 "My Ideal [Lord]": maclum-i (literally, 'my known one'). This is the intelligible logos-idea, the personal image of God known/beheld immediately in the heart. 48 Yushahidu-hu.Instead of this, al-Hakim reads yundji-hi (conversing with Him) in the Isrd' version. 49 The wonders of the metaphysical world are aptly likened to the strange sights of deep-sea coral reefs. 50 Al-ma'aCnl. They are such qualities as knowledge, piety, generosity, etc. 51 Qur. 12: 68. When Joseph, disguised as Pharaoh'sminister, requiredhis brothersto bring Benjamin with them to Egypt, their father, Jacob, insisted that they enter the city by different gates, hoping thereby to baffle any possibility of failure (not unlike the strategy of spermatazoain penetrating an egg cell). The ruse is described as "a need in the soul of Jacob which he satisfied" despite the fact that everything is ordained by God alone. Moreover, Jacob is lauded in the same verse as "a possessor of knowledge (dhui ilm) because We had taught him; but most people know not." 52 The name means "son of the Almoravid (a dweller in a ribdt)."He was a chief disciple of al-Mahdawi (see also below, at n. 59), devoted to his service (see Ruh al-quds, in MSIstanbul Univ. 79A, f. 97b), and he was described as his pupil (tilmidh) and menial servant (khadimal-zinbil) by Ibn al-Qunfudh in Uns al-faqir wa-'izz al-haqlr (Rabat, 1965), 98. Addressing wrote of Ibn al-Murabit in the Ruh: al-Mahdawi, Ibn al-CArabi "[He was] among the people of the night and the Qur'an [terms reversed in the later editions], over whom your lights triumphed-with a first-rate mind and quick wit" (MS Istanbul Univ. 79A, f. 72b, translatedby Austin in Sufis, 140, n. 50).

tinguished spokesman53-but [even he only] took partial notice, and doubt concerning me overcame him [as well]. As for the aged Shaykh (now departed) Jarrah[AbTMuhammad b. Khamis al-Kinani],54 he and I had already revealed our true natures to each other,55deliberately and in an exalted presence. I have not stopped remembering the friend (May God grant him continuance!) even after my separating from his presence, nor have I ceased praising his mystical states and articulating his virtues, passionate for his [accomplishment in the Prophetary]courtesies (ddabu-hu), and at times I have recorded in [my] writings such things as that,56the fame of which has spread far and wide, becoming renowned abroad. But the friend has already been informed of that and has well discerned [therein] some of his state of mind. And my affection for him was well established before any cause could make it requisite and before any objective, urgent or deferred, could be established in the soul and executed. Next, Ibn al-CArabi evokes fond memories of his second stay in Tunis, in 597-98/1201-2, which was to be the last time he would see al-Mahdawi. Apparently it was a time unclouded by bad feelings of misunderstanding, but this may have been due to the fact that the Shaykh al-Akhbar was no longer trying to fit into the mold of being student to a teacher who could not comprehend his capabilities. For, despite his praise of alMahdawi's commitment to knowledge, it is clear that Ibn al-CArabi did not consider his friend to be very perceptive of the depths of character.57 The wonder is that he cared enough to be deeply offended by the incidents of the first visit. But now, at the time of his writing the around 601/1204prologue to the Futiuhat-perhaps he knew he would not be returning to Tunis as was the 53 Kalimu-humal-mubarrizal-muqaddam.This hardly seems consonant with Ibn al-'Arabi's description of Ibn al-Murabitin the Ruh al-quds as al-Mahdawi's servant (see preceding note, and below). 54 Ibn al-CArabi wrote of him in his Durrah al-fakhirah: "He was from [Marsi CAydun] the region of Tunis, a prominent in man among the people. He was one of the masters of CAbd alCAziz al-Mahdawi who, nevertheless, did not realize his true worth, since the Shaykh concealed much of himself from him. He was brought to the Way while attending the sessions of AbT Madyan" (translated from the unique MSEsad Efendi 1777 by Austin in Sufis, 141). 55 The verb is takashafa, which implies a mutual disclosure of one's secret faults, sins, etc. 56 See above, at n. 11. I have edited and translatedthe list of maniqib al-Mahdawi in the study cited in n. 9. 57 See n. 54, above.


Journal of the American Oriental Society 121.4 (2001)

original plan (see infra), and in this passage we can see the relationship with al-Mahdawi taking on a more abstract, "cosmic" dimension in our Suifi's mind, becoming sublimated from the hopeless, messy world of human touching and feeling into an idealized logic of mystical hierarchy:58 Thereafter, my [next] meeting with the friend (May God take charge of him!) did not take place until [eight] years later, in his most-radiantdomicile [in Tunis], when I spent nine moths with him, give or take a few days, in a most agreeable and wholesome way of living, a life of spirit and form, and each one of us gave generously and magnanimously of himself to his bosom-companion(safi-hi): I [also] had a partner(rafiq) and he had a partner,and both of them were truly veracious and true friends (siddlq wa-sadiq). His partner was a judicious shaykh, accomplished and commanding, known as Abu CAbdAllah Ibn al-Murabit, possessed of a proud soul, pleasing character,blameless deeds and pleasant qualities, spending the night in the praise [of God] and [reciting] the Qur'an59-"and he remembers God most of the time,"60secretly and openly-a champion on the battlefield of social intercourse, acutely discerning for what the Master of the way-stations and the [Divine] descents (sahib al-manazil wa-l-munazaldt) shall bring, equitable in his mystical state, distinguishing between his "truth"and his "impossible." And as for my partner, [he is] a clear radiance and pure Allah, Badr [that is, light. An Abyssinian, his name is CAbd a 'full-moon'] which no eclipse can overtake.61He acknowledges the due right of the one deserving it, and delivers it; and he attends to them [proportionately],without exceeding what is due.62He achieved the degree of distinction (darajat al-tamylz) and 'became refined in the smelting' (takhal59 See n. 52. 60 For references to many traditions of the Prophet incorporating variants of these words, see A. J. Wensinck et al., Concordance et indices de la tradition musulmane (Leiden, 1936-69), II, 179a. 61 This, of course, is a play on the name of Ibn al-CArabi's faithful companion, CAbdAllah Badr al-Habashi, who accompanied his master in all of his travels for some twenty-three years until he died in Malatya in 1218 (for his biography in the Durrah, see Sufis, 158-59, no. 71; see also Denis Gril, "Le Kitab al-inbah Caldtariq Allah de CAbdallah Badr al-Habasi," Annales islamologiques, 15 [1979]: 97-164, translated into English in J.M.IA.S. 15 [1994]: 1-36). 62 Oddly enough, this sentence could be construed to read: "He will acknowledge the Real/Truth (al-Haqq) to his people [the Abyssinians?], and he will deliver It [to them]; and he will call the attention of [the Real = God] to them while not overstepping [the Truth]."
58 Futtihat (Yahia, ed.), I, 71-73.

lasa Cindal-sabk), like pure gold. His speech is truth and his promise sincerity. And we were the four pillars (al-arbacah al-arkan) upon which are based the figure of the world and of man.63 Thus did we part [forever], with us in this condition, on account of a "deviation" (inhirdf) that occurred in one of these places [that is, in Mecca, whence Ibn al-CArabiis writing, rather than Tunis, al-Mahdawi's home]. For I had intended to perform the major and the minor pilgrimage [to Mecca], then I would hasten back to [the friend's] noble gathering [in Tunis]. But when I reached the Mother of Townships (ummal-qurd) [sci., Mecca] after my visit to our Father, al-Khalil [sci., Abraham = Hebron], who enacted the law of entertaining [guests] (sanna l-qird),64and after my prayer at the [Dome of] the Rock (al-sakhrah) and the Furthest [Mosque] (al-aqsd) [in Jerusalem], and the visit to my Lord [Muhammadin Medina], the Lord of the progeny of Adam,65the registry of encompassment and enumeration (dlwdn al-ihatah wa-l-ihsaV)66-[when I reached Mecca after making all of those visits], God roused in my mind [the thought] of apprising the friend (May God grant him continuance!) of the various kinds of gnoses that I have obtained in my absence [from him], that he might be guided (May God honor him!) by the gems of knowledge which I have acquired in my exile. So I wrote to him this incomparable epistle which the Real originated as an amulet (tamimah) to [treat] the symptoms of ignorance-and, also, for every pure companion and S.ifi-realizer, and [specifically] our beloved, "the friend" [viz., al-Mahdawi], and our blameless brother and our well-pleasing son, CAbdAllah Badr al-Habashi, the Yemenite, the freedman of Abuil-Ghana'im b. Abi 1-Futiuh al-Harrani67-and I entitled it: "The Epistle of the Meccan Revelations concerning the Gnosis of 63 Shakhs al-calam wa-l-insdn. The first word signifies 'a body, figure; person', etc. The other two terms denote the macrocosm and the microcosm, personified in the perfect man. Addas has pointed out that Ibn al-CArabitreats of the correspondence between the arkan al-bayt (pillars of the temple) and the four hierarchic awtad (literally, 'tent-poles') in Futuhat, I, 160, and II, 5. 64 Cf. Qur. 51: 24-27, 15: 51seq., and 11: 69. 65 See Abu Da'ud, Sunnah: 13; Ibn Majah, Al-Sunan, Zuhd: 37; and Ibn Hanbal, Al-Musnad, I, 5. 66 A reference to Adam as containing in posse in his loins the seed of all mankind. 67 At the beginning of Ibn al-'Arabi's Hilyat al-abdal (in Rasadil Ibn al-CArabi [Hyderabad, 1948], risalah 26, p. 1), alHabashi is said to be the freedmanof Abu Muhammadb. Khalid al-Sadafi of Tlemcen as well as al-Harrani;and in the Durrah al-fakhirah several other former "companions"are enumerated (see Sufis, 158-59).

ELMORE:Shaykh CAbdal-'Azlz al-Mahdawi


and the Secretsof the [Divine]Sovereign the Sovereignty"
(Risdlat al-Futuhat al-makklyahfi maCrifatal-asrar al-malikiyah wa-l-mulklyah). For most of what I have put down

al-CAziz al-Mahdawi can easily be found in print. In
principle there might not seem to be anything unusual about that. Many of the SSufishaykhs portrayed so memorably in Ibn al-'Arabi's writings, especially in the Riuh al-quds, are otherwise utterly unknown to history,72 and some of the most anonymous, not surprisingly, are those festooned with the highest-sounding titles in his esoteric

to is in this epistle68 whatGodhasrevealed me whileI was or His Temple[theKacbah] else circumambulating honored while I was seated,gazinguponit in His SacredPrecincts, noble and revered.I have made it [to consist of] noble the and doors/chapters have set downtherein highlysubtle meanings... Besides these three texts and a passing reference to
him in the sixth chapter of the Futuhat al-makkiyah,69

hierarchy.73 Shaykh al-Mahdawi was only one of perhaps several dozens of masters, or teachers of Su.fism, whom the young Andalusian seeker acknowledged as
such; and, after all, the two were only together for a little over a year, as we have seen. Nevertheless, there

the only occasion (at present known to me) where Ibn mentions al-Mahdawi occurs in the long chapal-CArabi ter 70 of the Futuhat, in the context of a legal disquisition on almsgiving (zakdh, sadaqah)-specifically, on the vice of 'saving', or hoarding (iddikhar). As the passage is not without biographical import, we may consider it here. Ibn al-CArabihas been speaking about people who save in anticipation of times of need (mawdqit al-hajah), how there are those who do so in accordance with true discernment-the great Sufi master, CAbd al-Qadir al-Jili (d. 561/1166), is an example-and those who merely accumulate goods out of covetousness. As an instance of the second case Ibn al-CArabi indicts his old friend:70 In connectionwith this we remonstrated alagainstCAbd
CAzizb. Abi Bakr al-Mahdawi concerning his "saving." He paused and could not find a response, for indeed, he saved without a discerning insight (la 'an basirah) that that was to be by his own hand, and without a genuine discernment that he was the rightful possessor of that assigned [saving] in his mind. Thus was he disgraced before us at that moment. For such a one as this should not save [indiscriminately].

is something unique about Ibn al-CArabi's relationship to his Tunisian friend, as every student of his life and
works has always recognized. Not only are the passages addressed to him markedly personal, they are also untherefore, profoundly usually candid and probing-and, revealing. In the above two prologues from the Ruh and the Futuiht we come much closer to the real, living heart of the author than was ever customary in premodern literature (authenticity is one of the hallmarks of the Shaykh al-Akbar's mastery as a writer). We have asked the question, Why was Ibn al-CArabi so drawn to from the texts themselves this particular teacher?-and have inferred that one reason was probably the latter's due appreciation of intellectual accomplishment. But what else can we adduce about CAbd al-Aziz al-Mahdawi that might account for his privileged role as Ibn al-CArabi's mentor?

Not only do Ibn al-CArabi's writings present the fullest description of Shaykh al-Mahdawi that is to be found this is a critical pointanywhere, they are also-and

What is especially noteworthy about this final mention
of al-Mahdawi in the Futulhdt is that it almost certainly dates from many years later than all of the other passages we have considered,71 long after the relationship between the two men had grown distant through separation. Other than these several passages from the pen of Ibn al-CArabi very little reliable information relating to CAbd

the sole first-handaccounts of him, and the only source that may be trusted as completely reliable. All of the other informants known to me are either Stfi biographists or late, regional historians.74 The earliest of these
72 His first formal master, Abu Jacfar al-'Uryani, was an

68 The reference here mustbe to the khutbah of (prologue)
the Futiihdt, including the opening poem. 69 Futuhdt (1911), I, 120.26. Al-Mahdawi is also addressed at the beginning of chap. 4 (I, 98). 70 Ibid., I, 588.6-8. 71 We know that the initial chapters of the Futuhat (which contain all of the references to al-Mahdawi found in that book, apart from the present one) were redacted soon after Ibn alCArabi's first arrival in Mecca in 598/1202.

illiterate nomad (badawi ummr)from the Algarve frontier (see Sufis, 63). 73 For instance, Muhammadb. Ashraf al-Rundi was said to be one of the seven abdil (substitutes), but he was a recluse who rarely came into contact with people (see Sufis, 116). 74 Most of the books listed hereafter were mentioned by Denis Gril in the monograph cited in the following note. It is very likely that additional, better sources will be published in the future (I note two such desiderata below, at nn. 107 and 120), but I doubt that much substantive information on alMahdawi will be forthcoming.


Journal of the American Oriental Society 121.4 (2001)

is the Egyptian shaykh, Safi al-Din b. Abi 1-Mansuir b. Z.afir (d. 682/1283), author of the Risalah that was edited and translated by Denis Gril in 1986.75 Safi al-Din (who had paid homage to Ibn al-'Arabi in Damascus)76 never met al-Mahdawi, although he quotes a disciple of CAbdal-Razzaq al-Jazuli as attesting that he stayed with him on one occasion in Alexandria.77 More signally, the author of the Risalah was personally acquainted with a Sufi shaykh of the Nile province of Bahnasa (between Beni Suef and Minya), CAbd al-CAzim al-Sharuni, who actually traveled to Tunisia to study under al-Mahin doing so, became, as Gril points out, the dawi-and, only Egyptian SSufi known to have "gone west" to the Maghrib to pursue his mystical education.78 Regrettably, Safi al-Din provides no further details of al-Sharuni's discipleship. Another, very important seventh/thirteenth-century source of information on al-Mahdawi is to be found in the Macdlim al-imdn fi macrifat ahl al-Qayrawan, by the regional historian, CAbd al-Rahman b. Muhammad al-Dabbagh (d. 696/1297), who was the son of a prominent member of the group of Tunisian disciples of Abu Madyan, named Abu CAbd Allah Muhammad b. CAli alAnsari al-Dabbagh (d. 618/1221).79 There we learn about a friendship (suhbah) of long standing between Shaykh al-Mahdawi and the last personage treated in the MaCalim, the Sufi, Abu Yusuf Yacqub b. Thabit al-Dahmani (d. 621/1224), whose particulars we shall outline here

by way of drawing out whatever may be gathered concerning our primary subject. Born in a village in the desert of Ifriqiya,80 for a time he lived in a Sufi convent (rabitah) by the sea in Mahdiya.81 While there (as well as in Zuweila, and other places) al-Dahmani was in close association with al-Mahdawi.82 At some point relatively early in their careers the two Sufis traveled to Bejaya to further their spiritual development under Abu Madyan.83 After the visit out west, in 595/1199 al-Dahmani made the pilgrimage to Mecca,84 sailing from Mahdiya to Alexandria. Some years later he was back in Tunisiain Gabes and Tunis, and winding up in Kairawan. In the latter place he offered Sufi instruction, prosecuting a special mission God had given him to teach the ways of religious discipline to the unruly tribes of Arab bedouin in the area.85 During all this time, al-Dahmani and al-Mahdawi maintained an affectionate correspondence (al-tawddud wa-l-tardsul) between Kairawan and Tunis.86 Elsewhere, al-Dabbagh recounts a very significant anecdote that took place during the two Tunisian codisciples' visit of homage to the Master of masters in the Maghrib:87 When Shaykh Abu Yfisuf [al-Dahmani] and Shaykh Abu Muhammad CAbdal-CAziz[al-Mahdawi] visited Abu Madyan in Bejaya, [the latter] declared to some of their companions:88"Take care of these two masters, for they shall have the poleship (al-qitdbah) for seven years." "My lord," [someone] asked him, "will they have it in partnership 80

75 La Risala de Safi al-Din Ibn Abi l-Mansur Ibn Zafir: Biographies des maitres spirituels connus par un cheikh egyptien du VIIe/XIIesiecle (Cairo: Institutfrancais d'archeologie orientale, 1986). 76 See Risala, 184. 77 See Risala, 168. Gril states that this visit took place after 600 H. (in Risala, 205), but I am not sure on what basis he has determined that. Also, there is no certain evidence that alMahdawi traveled furtherto the "Orient"than Alexandria. Notwithstanding, one would assume, of course, that he made the pilgrimage to Mecca, and he may well have met the disciples of CAbdal-Razzaq in Alexandria on that occasion. I would think that he had performed the hajj long before 600, however (and the fact that he returned from Alexandria to Mahdiya could be taken to suggest that he had not yet taken up residence in Tunis). 78 See Risala, 162 and 205. Thus, al-Mahdawi was, indeed, a link between west and east in the propagationof Abu Madyan's way, although his role was evidently quite minor (I cannot concur with Gril's reading of the Uns al-faqir on p. 206). 79 On the father, see Macilim al-imiin fi macrifat ahl alQayrawan (Cairo-Tunis, 1968), III, 210-12.

By name, al-Masruqin, according to Muhammadal-Bahli al-Nayyal (see infra, at n. 113), who locates the village between Sousse and Kairawan. Some of the information that I give in the present account of al-Dahmani is derived from alNayyal, who, unfortunately,does not always furnish references to his sources. 81 He was visited there by an old friend of Ibn al-CArabi, Abu l-CAbbas Ahmad al-Harrar,who was also the master of Safi alDin, authorof the Risalah (see Gril's translation,Risala, 88-91 and 225). 82 See Macalim, III, 220. 83 See Macalim, 213. Al-Nayyal specifies that this visit to Bejaya took place in 570 H. (when al-Dahmani and al-Mahdawi would have been aroundtwenty years old), but he does not state his authority for the datum-which is not to be found in the Macalim, at any rate (cf. p. 223 of Al-Haqiqah al-ta'rikhiyah, 223, cited at n. 113, below). 84 See Macalim, 213 and 220-21. 85 86 Ibid., 220. 87 Ibid., 213. Ibid., 227. 88 Some of these I have mentioned below, at nn. 115-16.

ELMORE:Shaykh CAbdal-cAziz al-Mahdawi


(sharikah)?" "[No]" he replied, "it will be to the first [viz., al-Dahmani]; then, if he dies, the remainderof the term after him [will pass to the other, al-Mahdawi]."Now, Shaykh

of died al-Dahmani in al-Muharram is, thefirstmonth] [that
the year, 621 A.H., and Shaykh al-Mahdawi died in Rajab

of [theseventhmonth]89 thatsameyear. From this alleged pronouncementof Abu Madyan, then, it would appear that CAbd al-CAziz al-Mahdawi served as the veritable "pole" (qutb) of the Sufi brotherhood for about six months until his demise in 621/1224. If
the statement genuinely represents Abu Madyan's view,

it would obviously constitute a compelling proof of Shaykh al-Mahdawi's status, but, although the report dates from only about a century after the great master's death, it is patently suspect.90 Moving along chronologically, the next biographical collection in which Shaykh al-Mahdawi is (apparently) mentioned was also the subject of Denis Gril's pathblazing research: Al-Wahid fi suluk ahl al-tawhid, by CAbd al-Ghaffar b. Ahmad al-Quisi (d. 708/1308),91

another Sufi from Upper Egypt. Here al-Mahdawi is represented as a disciple of the famous Abu l-Hajjaj
Yusuf b. CAbd al-Rahim al-Aqsuri (d. 642/1244), who

roughly contemporary with that of Ibn al-CArabi,we might conjecture that the 'Abd al-CAzizal-Mahdawi introduced by al-Qusi was the grandson of his namesake known to most of the other sources. There may be some slight support for that hypothesis, which I will adduce later, but for now suffice to say that for our purposes the Wahiddata must remain questionable. After Ibn al-CArabi's works, the most accessible printed source on al-Mahdawi is the Uns al-faqir waCizzal-haqir, a biographical dictionary of the teachers and disciples of Abu Madyan, by Abu l-CAbbfsAhmad b. Hasan b. CAlib. al-Khatib, better known as Ibn alQunfudh (d. 810/1407). Born and raised in Constantine (not far from Tunisia), Ibn al-Qunfudh moved to Morocco after his adolescence, and it was there that he came in contact with the order of Abu Madyan-at least to the extent that he became an avid pilgrim to Sufi shrines all across North Africa as far as Tunis. He later moved back to Constantine, and it was undoubtedly from there that he visited the hallowed cemetery at where al-Mahdawiwas buried. But Marsa CAydin/Jarrah, prior to that, while still in Morocco, Ibn al-Qunfudh came under the influence of the seminal seventh/thirteenth-century hagiography of Abu Yacqub Yiisuf b.
Yahya al-Tfdili, Al-Tashawwuf ild rijdl al-tasawwuf,

was himself a disciple of the aforementioned Shaykh
CAbd al-Razzaq.92 Manifestly, it is quite improbable that the CAbd al-CAziz al-Mahdawi treated in the Wahid is

the same Shaykh al-Mahdawi known to Ibn al-'Arabi and described in the Risalat Safi al-Din as a friend of the disciples of CAbdal-Razzaq. Not knowing al-Mahdawi's birthdate, we cannot determine his age at the but time when he was in association with Ibn al-CArabi, he was evidently of the generation preceding the latter's.93As the lifetime of Abu 1-Hajjaj of Luxor was
89 That

upon which he depends heavily in his own work, which, however, does contain some additional material-the following passage relating to al-Mahdawi being a prime example:94
... Abu Muhammad CAbdal-CAziz b. Abi Bakr [al-Mahdawi] (May God be pleased with him!) entered upon his retreat in Qasr al-Munastir95and continued therein for forty days. The imam of the cathedral mosque of Mahdiya said: "If CAbdal-CAzizdies, one may not pray for him since he will have killed himself"-that is, by starvation. That reached [al-Mahdawi's hearing] and he retorted: "He will die [first] and CAbd al-CAzizwill pray for him!" And it happened just as he declared. After the forty days some broth was sent over to him but he was unable to drink it, so he was asked what was the matter, to which he replied: "I have lived a life after which

is, in July-August of 1224. Around the preceding settled permanently in Damascus. year Ibn al-CArabi 90 Else why do we not hear of such an importantdeclaration from any other source? Also, there is the question of what precisely the speaker might have meant by the "poleship" (could it

not be merelymetaphorical the leadership the Tunisian for of
party of disciples?). 91 "Une Source in6dite pour l'histoire du tasawwuf en lgypte au VIIe/XIIIe siecle," Livre du Centenaire (Cairo: I.F.A.O., 1980), 441-507. 92 See "Source," 477; and above, at n. 77. No disciple by al-CAzizal-Mahdawi is mentioned in any name similar to CAbd M.'s study, Al-CArif bi-Llah tacald, Abu l-Hajjaj

I will neverdie."
Next, Ibn al-Qunfudh relates how al-Mahdawi-in

the company of six other Tunisian shaykhs, including
94 Uns al-faqir waCizz al-haqir (M. al-Fasi and A. Faure,

al-Uqsuri(Cairo,1968).Cf. below,at n. 173.
93 This is implied in a statement made by Ibn al-CArabi the in prologue of the Mashdhid.

eds., Rabat,1965),97.
95 Present-day Monastir, about 40 km. to the north of Mahdiya.


Journal of the American Oriental Society 121.4 (2001)

Abu CAll al-Nafti (d. 610 H.) and Abu Yusuf al-Dahmani to Bejaya "to complete his Suifi (d. 621)-journeyed upbringing (tarbiyatu-hu)" with the renowned Abu Madyan, who singled out al-Mahdawi in praise of his ascetic proclivities and called him the "Lion of souls" (sabc alnufus).96 According to Ibn al-Qunfudh, he was also affectionately known among his fellows as "our father (abu-nd), CAbdAllah,"97 since, he explains, whenever he had reason to think that any of them were hungry, he would say: "Now your father, CAbd Allah, is coming!" (As we learn below,98 however, this would appear to be a mistaken rationalization). Next, Ibn al-Qunfudh makes what would appear at first sight to be an incredible assertion-that al-Mahdawi was illiterate (ummi), which handicap did not prevent him, nonetheless, from authoring some fine writing and outstanding poetry! In particular, he is said to have corresponded with Abu Madyan, and Ibn al-Qunfudh quotes the following verses as an instance thereof:99 O Shucayb, the friend of God and secret of His servants, Abu Madyan, enricher of mankind in his glory; O garden of refuge and sign of [salvific] guidance, and publisher of the knowledge of God by His Command; You are present and not present, absent and not absent; 00 and how you are in everyone, added to their "tower,"101 For your light shows the way unerringto the Light of God, and who among humanity can extinguish His Light? Until we can critically examine the sources of Ibn al-Qunfudh's information it would probably be inadvisable to take his anecdotes of al-Mahdawi as containing much more than the proverbial grain of truth. In our next authority, the Ta'rikh al-dawlatayn, al-muwahhidiyah
96 Uns, 98. 97 This is confirmedin Ibn al-Qunfudh's Al-Fairisiyah(Tunis,

wa-l-hafsiyah, of the Tunisian historian, Abu CAbdAllah Muhammad b. Ibraham al-Zarkashi (d. late-ninth/fifteenth century), we seem to have a contradiction of Ibn al-Qunfudh's assertion as to al-Mahdawi's alleged nickname of Abu-na CAbdAllah. Al-Zarkashi has been discussing the much-mentioned cemetery of Siufi shaykhs (jabanat al-sadah al-akhyir) at present-day La Marsa (the anchorage), on the coast some dozen kilometres northeast of Tunis, and he continues:'02 Among the masters [interred] in the cemetery: our lord, CAbd al-CAzizb. Abi Bakr al-Qurashi al-Mahdawi, and "our Allah b. CAli father, 'Abd Allah"-his [real] name is CAbd al-Hawwari al-Nabuli, which was replaced [by the sobrial-CAzizal-Mahdawi, is the one who quet]. Our lord, CAbd is named "the father" (al-ab), and people call upon him to this day by that expression, [an allusion to the fact that] Abu CAbdAllah Muhammad, known as "the penitent" (altadib), and Abl CAll CUmar,his full brother, are the two Tunisian sons103of Abt Bakr [al-Mahdawi].'04 If I have interpreted this passage correctly, alZarkashi would appear to be setting the record straight regarding the fact that al-Mahdawi was often referred to as "the father," and, in addition, that a rationale explaining the nickname, found in the popular Uns al-faqlr, was fallacious, based on a misattribution of another man's sobriquet.105 Recalling our hypothesis that the 'Abd al-CAziz al-Mahdawi of al-Qusi's Wahid is the homonymous grandson of Ibn al-CArabi's mentor, we might further speculate that the younger namesake was the scion of one of two sons of Shaykh al-Mahdawi mentioned by 102Ta'rikh

1968), 146. 98 See at n. 105. 99 Uns, 98-99. Metre: al-tawil. 100 That is to say, he is both present and absent in all things as the light of consciousness, as we are told in the following two hemistichs. 101 That is, as we may infer from the next verse, the tower (tur) of a lighthouse, or mandrah, such as could be seen on the coast off of Tunis.

al-dawlatayn, al-muwahhadiyah wa-l-hafsiyah (Tunis, 1966), 52. 103 I read the text: ibni [not abnai] Abi Bakr al-'ajilayn altunisiyayn. The first adjective means that they are his flesh and blood, or 'temporal'sons, not 'spiritual'ones (that is, disciples), and the second may imply that he had other sons who were born and raised in another place (say, Mahdiya). 104 The other defunct denizens of the cemetery mentioned by al-Zarkashi are Jarrah al-Kinani, Abu CAll Hasan al-Zindiwi, Abu Zayd CAbdal-Rahman al-Tamimi (known as Ibn al-Wadi, Abi cUthman Sacid al-Khadim (buried at the feet of al-Mahdawi), Abu Wakil Maymun al-Kammad, Abu CAbdAllah b. CAtiq al-Baji (buried in front of al-Mahdawi), and the brothers, Abu Faris CAbd al-cAziz and Abu CAbd Allah Muhammad(sons of Abu l-Futuh al-Siqilli), Abu Ishaq Ibrahim al-Sayyad, and others (see Ta'rikh, 52). 105 See above, at n. 98. On p. 37 of Ta'rikhal-dawlatayn we learn that Abu-na CAbd Allah (= al-Hawwari al-Nabuli) was buried at La Marsa in 659 H.


Shaykh CAbdal-'Azlz al-Mahdawi


al-Zarkashi, with the same name as his grandfather (a common practice of Arabs). An alternate scenario might have the younger al-Mahdawias anotherson, thus accounting better for the expression, al-ab (= senior). Whether or not there is any merit in these speculations, we still must account for the anomalous situation presented in the Wahid,and, meanwhile, we now know that al-Mahdawi had at least two offspring and perhaps more. Incidentally, Ibn al-CArabi expressly refers to alMahdawi's sons (banu-hu), apart from his disciples, in the prologues to both the Mashihid and the Futiihdt.106 The impression one gets is that the parentwas especially enriched in his progeny. Shaykh al-Mahdawi is reportedly treated in the still
unpublished Irghdm awliya' al-shaytdn bi-dhikr mand-

him!). He read the Qur'aneven thoughhe was illiterate

He used to wear a Sufi'spatchedfrock (muraqqacah) that weighed ninety rotls, while he chastised himself through spiritual striving (mujdhadah)to the extent that if he started to notice any laxity thereinhe wouldenterthe sea in his
[weighty] patched frock, and then come out and pray continuously until [the frock] dried as a punishment for it. He performed saintly miracles (karamdt), among which was the following: When news of [Shaykh al-Mahdawi's extreme self-abnegation] reached the imam of Mahdiya,l10 the latter quipped: "When he dies I will not pray for him since he is a killer of himself (qdtil nafsi-hi)." But [when that reached Shaykh al-Mahdawi] he, for his part, rejoined:

"He is the one who will die beforeme, andI will prayfor
him!" And so it happened. Shaykh [al-Mahdawi] himself died in 671 [sic]. No doubt the deathdate given is an editorial lapsus and should read 621 (= 1224). If intentional, however, then

al-Ra'uf b. Taj al-'Arifin qib awliydaal-Rahmdnof CAbd b. al-Munawi (d. 1031/1622),107 it is unlikely that the but notice furnishes much new information.Nevertheless, as al-Munawi also wrote a commentary on Ibn al-'Arabi's Mashdhid al-asrdr,'08 then perhaps his account takes on some new perspective worth looking into. It is exceedingly surprising that another polygraphic Egyptian Sufi and devotee of Ibn al-CArabianwritings, CAbd alWahhabal-Shacrani(d. 973/1565-66), has evidently not given any notice of al-Mahdawi in his many books, including the Tabaqat (nor is he mentioned in Ibn alMulaqqin's Sufi biographical compendium). The omission is especially hard to account for when we consider that al-Shacraniflourished at a time when the phenomenal popularity of Ibn al-CArabi's books among the conquering Osmanll Turkswas, as we shall see, beginning to draw renewed attention to his one-time teacher in Tunis. From the tenth/sixteenth century on, Muhyiddin Ibn'iil Arabi's star was ever on the rise wherever the Ottomans raised the flag of their far-flung empire, and in Tunisia the ruling Turkish deys sought to conciliate their new Arab subjects by honoring the memory (and sometimes reviving it) of such Sufi shaykhs as al-Mahdawi. In the last century the Palestinian scholar and litterateur, Yuisuf b. Ismacil al-Nabhani (d. 1350/1932), included a brief entry on al-Mahdawi in his hagiographical collection, Jamic karamdt al-awliya'. As it contains

it is erroneous (perhaps a confusion with our postulated grandson?). After al-Nabhani's Jamic, another modern
source that has been cited is the Tunisian biographist

of Malikite jurisprudents, Muhammad b. Muhammad
Makhluf's (d. 1360/1941) Shajarat al-nir al-zakiyah fi But, in fact, al-Mahdawi is tabaqat al-malikiyah."' only mentioned there en passant in the biography of Abu Yusuf al-Dahmani as the latter's co-disciple of Abu Madyan.112

In 1965 another Tunisian scholar, Muhammad alBahli al-Nayyal, published a notable study, Al-Haqiqah

al-ta'rlkhlyah li-l-tasawwuf al-islami (The Historical Reality of Islamic Mysticism),"3 which offered a few random data to add to our account.1l4 For instance, we are told that al-Mahdawi met Abu Madyan in Tunis (en route to Bejaya from the latter's pilgrimage in Mecca) in a Mosque of the Scabbard-market,which to this day
is known as the Masjid Abi Madyan.115 Among the other

local Sufis who visited him there were Jarrah al-Kinani,116 al-Dahmani and the elder al-Dabbagh (d. 618),
110 Al-Nabhani's text reads "Imam al-Mahdi." Shajarah, 168-69, nos. 530-31. The way al-Mahdawi's name is enumeratedit may appear that the lines following refer to him, but it is actually al-Dahm8ni who is described as having the special relationship with Abu CAllal-Nafti. 113 Published in Tunis the Maktabat by al-Najah. 14 See Haqiqah, 218-19. 15 Ibid., 206.
116 See n. 54.

one new anecdote, I will give it here:109
CAbd al-CAzizb. Abi Bakr al-Qurashi al-Mahdawi studied

under ShaykhAbu Madyan(May God be pleased with
106 See at n. 43, above. 107 See MSDar al-Kutub, ta'rikh 397, f. 94 (cited by Gril).

112 See

111Rev.ed., Beirut,1930-31.

108 See Osman Yahia, Histoire et classification de l'oeuvre d'lbn CArabi (Damascus, 1964), 371-72. 109 Jamic kardmdt al-awliyda (Beirut, 1972), 72.


Journal of the American Oriental Society 121.4 (2001)

Abu Sacid al-Baji (d. 628) and Abi CAli al-Nafti (d. 610).117As for Abi Sacid Khalaf b. Yahyd al-Baji, he was especially close to al-Mahdawi: the at Abu Sacidused to frequent lighthouse (al-mandrah)
[the ruins of] Carthage, secluding himself there with his companions. He had a strong bond (ittisdl matin) with and a deep-seated respect (ihtirdm makin) for Shaykh CAbdalCAzizal-Mahdawi. When Shaykh CAbdal-CAzizdied, Abu Sacid came forward and prepared his body for burial, [prayed for him at the funeral] and laid him in his grave [at Marsa CAydun].118 Abfi Sacid al-Baji died in 628 [1231]. His tomb (maqdmu-hu)is well-known, on the mount of the lighthouse. He was buried there where he used to perform devotions with his companions.119 The sources of al-Nayyal's information are not always properly indicated, and the lack of an index and consistent critical notes renders his study less serviceable to scholars than it might have been. He does call attention in passing to one very promising resource work, however, a collection of Sufi biographies by one Abu 1Hasan CAli b. 'Umar b. Muhammad b. Abi 1-Qasim alHawwari (fl. after 664/1266), who was a disciple of Abu Sacid al-Baji.'20 Al-Hawwari is said to have been distinguished by righteousness and known for his compiling the virtues of celebrated contemporary masters of Tunis, but al-Nayyal fails to specify either the title of the book or its archive serial-number (if it has not been published). 117 For the biographies of the last four, see Haqiqah, 211-18

PRAYER TO A BENEDICTORY ASCRIBED AL-MAHDAWI Nevertheless, as a good example of how gems of real value may be found in even some substandard scholarship published in the Arab world, al-Nayyal is to be credited with the first account of a brief written work that has been attributed to CAbd al-CAziz al-Mahdawi, entitled Al-Salah al-mubdrakah Cald l-rasil al-aCld (The Blessed Prayer for the Paramount Apostle). An elaborate benedictory prayer for the Prophet Muhammador, rather, his apotheosis, the hypostatic "Muhammadan Reality," the first existent/intellect and veritable Spirit of is reportedly attested in a manuscript preprophecy-it

served at the library of the Zaytiinah Mosque in Tunis, which, as far as I have been able to determine, has never The been cited by a Western scholar.121 prayer itself was actually mentioned long ago-by Wilhelm Ahlwardt in his catalogue of Arabic manuscripts at the K6niglichen Bibliothek in Berlin, now the Germannational library.'22 I had been aware of that notice but was inclined to discount its credibility since the work in question there is
described as being concerned with the Caliph, CAli [b. Abi Talib]-that is, presumably, a ShICite devotional piece, which did not seem apposite in the case of al-

Mahdawi. After learning of the Tunis manuscript,however, I ordered a microfilm of the Berlin codex and was

intrigued to discover that 1) the text was evidently identical to the one from which al-Nayyal's excerpt derived, and 2) even more unexpectedly, there did appear to be some evidence that the author may have harboredmoderate CAlid sympathies that are disguised under a facade of more normative (sunnl) devotion to Muhammad

and 223-26. 118 Cf. Haqiqah, 219, at n. 1. Yahia reads this name thus in Futuhat (1972), III, 183.1. The appellation probably denotes tall palm trees. Al-Nayyal follows Asin Palacios and CA.-R. Badawi in reading [Ibn] CAbdun,while Austin, Addas and others vocalize C'dun.It is apparently the same place that Ibn al-CArabicalls Marsa Laqit in the prologue of the Mashahid (see MS Manisa 1183/6, f. 59) and in the Futtihdt (1972), X, 338. It is about 2 kms northwest of the point now named after Abi Sacid al-Baji (see next note). 119 Haqiqah, 226. The place is called Sidi Abu Sacid, and it is actually just north of the ruins of Carthage and the harbor of Tunis. Al-Nayyal also writes that the important tartqahfounder, Abu 1-Hasan CAli al-Shadhili (d. 656/1258), studied for a time under al-Baji before passing on to Alexandria (see 225). .Haqiqah, 120 See Haqiqah,218, n. 1. The CAli... al-Hawwarimentioned here may be the father of the CAbdAllah b. CAll al-Hawwari that al-Zarkashi refers to in the quote that follows the citation for n. 102 above.

(though it is certainly misleading to characterize the prayer as being primarilyan homage to CAll).The manuscript is undated, but decidedly not ancient. The first indication of this putative Shicite interpretation of the prayer is given in MS Berlin 3645/4 (f. 122)

in an opening statement inscribed by the copyist of the manuscript which seems to read: "We shall conclude
these exhortations (al-wasayat) with a prayer of benediction for the Lord of lords (sayyid al-sddat) which

Shaykh CAbdal-CAziz al-Mahdawi [addressed] to CAli,
121 Osman Yahia's monumental Histoire et classification et

l'oeuvre d'Ibn CArabi been published in the preceding year had (1964). [Since completing this article I learned that Pablo

Beneitoand StephenHirtenstein have concurrently been preof paringan edition and translation the prayerbased on MS
Ahmadiyah 3832]. 122 See Verzeichniss der arabischen Handschriften (Berlin, 1891), III, 326, no. 3645/4 (Pm. 65).

ELMORE:Shaykh CAbdalC-Aziz al-Mahdawi


guided by his guidance and drawing from his wellsprings." I will give now the opening paragraphs of the introduced by the liturgical expression, prayer-each Alldhumma (O God!), very common in late-classical Arabic litanies-and the reader should note that, even though the Qur'anic references will certainly be understood by the majority to refer to the Prophet Muhammad (obviously the second person, "thou," addressed in the Scripture), they could be construed by a determined sectarian to secretly allude to the super-prophetic "Lord of lords," Imam 'Ali. Be that as it may, it is worth remarking that Muhammad's name is not actually evoked at all in this passage-it is enunciated only three times in the entire prayer-and, more significant, the stock ritual benediction (May God bless and keep him!) which invariably indicates reference to the Prophet even when stylistic choice may omit his name, is conspicuously missing throughout. The text begins: O God! bless (salli) the tablet of Thy mercificity (lawh rahmanlyati-ka) upon which Thou hast written with the pen of Thy mercifulness (qalam rahmiyati-ka)and the ink of aeons of Thy merciability (midad mudad rahamutiyati-ka):123"But God will not punish them [sci., mankind] when thou art [the Prophet Muhammad]124 among them."125 O God! bless the throne of the seating of Thy (mostbeautiful] Names (Carshistiwda asmdai-ka) with respect to the comprehension of the unity of Thy Divinity (ahadiyat uluhiyati-ka), Thine all-inclusive mercy and Thy perfect benediction, from Thy saying: "We sent thee not save as a mercy to the worlds"126-0 God, Lord of the worlds, bless [Muhammad]the mercy of the worlds! O God! bless the pupil of the eye of the universe (insdn Caynal-kull) in the presence of Thy singularity (hadrat

wahdaniyati-ka) and in the integration of the integration of with regard to the Thy unity (jamcu jamci ahadiyati-ka)127 comprehension of Thy saying: "O Prophet! Verily, We have sent thee as a witness and a bringer of good news and warner, and as a summoner unto God by His leave, and as a lamp that gives light."128 the "bringer of good news" For (al-mubashshir) is himself the very good news brought.129 Then, O God, grant us of his spiritual power (barakatuhu),130and open, O God, the locks of our hearts with the key of his love, sharpen our inner perceptions with the of antimony131 his light, and purify the secrets of our innerspirits with his witnessings and his nearness [to Thee]132until we see not [anything] in existence except Thou art there, and from the sleep of our heedlessness we are awakened! O God! bless the 'K' of Thy sufficiency (kifayatu-ka),the 'H' of Thine essentiality (hiwdyatu-ka),133 'Y' of Thine the auspiciousness (yumnu-ka), the 'C' of Thy preservation [from sin] (Cismatu-ka),and the 'S' of Thy path (siratuka)-"the path of those whom Thou hast favored, not those with whom Thou art angry, nor those who have strayed!"134-"the path of God unto Whom belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatsoever is on the earth. Do not [all] things wind up with God?"135 Apart from its obvious purport of enumerating attributes of the Prophet as the quasi-divine haqlqah almuhammadiyah, it might be difficult to account for the particular series of Arabic letters, K - H - Y - C - S (the cryptic opening logotype of Surat Maryam), given in the last paragraph. Perhaps it is to be understood in terms of the verse following it in Sirah XIX: "A mention

123 The last clause is not found in al-Nayyal's partial edition of the text (hereafter, T). 124 In most of what follows the Prophet Muhammadis undeniably the ostensible referent. The question at issue is whether CAliis the real, esoteric dedicatee of the prayer. 125 Qur. 8: 33, referring to Muhammad. On the artificial terms, rahmdnlyahand rahmlyah, etc., see below. The "(wellpreserved) tablet" is a metonym for the universal soul, and the "(exalted) pen" is the first intellect in the traditional hierarchy of Muslim cosmology. Here the Prophet is identified with the psychic-mental "tablet" upon which the pneumatic-intuitional "pen"of the divine logos impresses the commands of God. The pure ummi Prophet is the immaculate matrix, or womb (rahim), which receives the words of God from the angelic Revelator. 126 Qur. 21: 107, again, referring to Muhammad as an instantiation (or personification?) of divine mercy.

127 T omits this expression. 128 Qur. 33: 45-46. The author also quotes the first clause of v. 47. 129 Fa-kand l-mubashshiru Caynal-mubashshari bi-hi (T has: al-mushiru bi-hi, 'the indicator of it'). In Christian terms, the evangelist is the evangel, or the messenger is the message. Also, the medium/means is the end. 130 Not in T. 131 Ithmid, 'antimony, collyrium, or kohl' (the latter cognate with the preceding imperative verb, kuhhil, 'outline [the edges of the eyelids] with kuhl'). 132 Bi-mashahidi-hi wa-qurbi-hi. MS Berlin 3645 (hereafter, B) has bi-mushahadati-hi wa-qarrib-hu (with the immediate vision of him, and bring him near [to us]). 133 Spelled thus by poetic license to rhyme with kifayah. B has hidayatu-ka (Thy true guidance). 134 Qur. 1: 7.

135 Qur. 42: 53. T has this quote before the preceding.


Journal of the American Oriental Society 121.4 (2001)

of the mercy of thy Lord unto His Servant, Zechariah"-a reference to John the Baptist, forerunner of Jesus Christ. Beyond that, such hurufi symbolism would be expected to carry some esoteric message, but I have not been able to decipher anything beyond the fact that the numerical value of the letters amounts to 165 by the Maghribi system of computation (195, otherwise)which happens to be the value of the name, CAli [b.] Abi Talib. Could this be taken as sustaining the copyist's assertion that the present prayer is devoted to CAli? But if Imam CAli, thus, is the personage alluded to in that paragraph, should we not consider that he may also be the real referent of the preceding ones, despite appearances to the contrary? It is not uncommon in Shicite hermeneutics for the partisans of CAli to apply to him scriptural passages normally assumed to refer to Muhammad. The presumed instances here (especially in the third paragraph) might seem rather extreme, to be sure. But it should be pointed out that if the author of the prayer may be characterized as an CAlid of some sort, he evidently was not a "rejectionist" Shicite (rdfidi) since, at the end of the text, homage is duly paid to Dhui l-Niirayn, who is none other than cUthman b. 'Affan, CAli's Umayyad rival, along with the other rightly-guided caliphs. 136 Further, in the paragraphs following the above quotation the blessing does turn specifically to the Prophet, whose names, Muhammad, Ahmad, and Abu l-Qasim, are spelled out in a similar (but more transparent) cryptographic manner. Then in the ninth paragraph the angel Gabriel is blessed, and in the tenth, God's "most-exalted Word" (kalimatu-ka l-'ulya), the Divine-creative Command. Thereafter the evocations become more diffuse, being applicable to the individual Sufi as instantiation of the perfect man, but even here it is definitely evident that the author has ostensibly in mind the person of Muhammad with his honorific attributes as venerated in canonical tradition:

O God! bless the one who is assimilated to Thine attributes (al-mutakhalliq bi-sifati-ka), immersed in the immediate vision of Thine essence, the Real/Truth (al-Haqq). [For] the one who assimilates to the Real/Truth is [as] the reality of the Real/Truth.137 "Say: 'Yea, by my Lord, verily, He is Real/True!'"138 "Indeed, God and His angels bless the Prophet. O ye who believe, bless him and salute him with a worthy salutation!"139 O God! We, indeed, are too weak as regards the comprehension of our intellects, the limit of our insights and the precedents of our spiritual energies (himamu-na) to bless him for himself-how could we do that when Thou hast made Thy Speech to be his very nature140and Thy Names his place of manifestation (mazharu-hu)?l41For Thou art his Sanctuary and his Support, and Thine angelic host are [for] his association and assistance (Casbatu-hu wanusratu-hu). Bless him, O God! with respect to the connection (taCalluq) of Thy power to [all] created things and the realization (tahaqquq) of Thy [Divine] Names by Thy will. The intellectual perceptions (al-macllumat)originate out of him and unto him Thou hast made the end of all ends [of knowledge] and by him Thou hast established the authoritative proofs against the created entities (al-makhluqdt),he being one (aminu-ka),the treasurer Thy knowlof Thy trustworthy the edge, bearerof the bannerof Thy praise,142 mine of Thy mystery, the manifestation of Thy glory, the point of the circle of Thy dominion as well as its circumference-its compound nature and its simplex. Very significant here is the occurrence of the technical terms, tacalluq (the "connection" of divine omnipotence to all created things, or their ontological himself?), Prophet Muhammad or Jesus (and/or Ibn al-CArabi the Seal of sainthood, the reference is evidently not to cUthmian in that context. 137Al-mutakhalliqubi-l-.Haqqihaqiqatu l-Haqqi. I am not at all sure what the author intends here. 138 Qur. 10: 53. 139Qur. 33: 56. 140 to a traditionrelated by cA'ishah bt. Abi Bakr, According the Qur'an was Muhammad'svery nature (khuluqu-hu). 141 Rather, the opposite: Muhammad (as the perfect man) is the place of manifestation of the Divine names. The author's apparent confusion continues in a following clause, wa-mansha'u kawni-ka min-hu, which can only be translated:"and the place of origin/fountainheadof Thine existence is from him"which is absurd. 142An eschatological epithet of the Prophet (concerning which, see J. Mercer, ed., Praise [= J.M.I.A.S. 21 (1997)]: 48, 51-54 and 66-67).

B, f. 124; and T, p. 221. It if be thought inconceivable that an CAlidwould pay homage to CUthman,it could be that by "inner intent" our author applied the honorific, "possessor of the two lights," to some other referent. As a matter of fact, Ibn al-CArabihimself may have done so in the CAnqaD mughrib (see Islamic Sainthood, 284 n. 24), where he seems to associate the epithet, Dhu l-Nurayn (which would be applied to CUthmanin Futuhat [1972], I, 44.8, mistranslated in Islamic Sainthood, 590) with the possessor of two seals (khdtamd-hu) which are the "Light upon light" of Qur. 24: 35. While it is unclear whether the latter personage should be identified as the

136 See

ELMORE: Shaykh CAbdal-'Aziz al-Mahdawi


"dependence" thereupon) and tahaqquq ("realization" of the more epistemic, or gnostic relation between God's omniscience and creation), in the last paragraphquoted, and a cognate of takhalluq ("assimilation," the moralmystical "adoption of the divine nature,"or theomimesis) in the first. This trinity of notions constitutes a doctrine in Akbarian theology that may be examined, for instance, in Ibn al-'Arabi's K. Kashf al-macnd aan sirr asma3 Allah al-husnd,143 a systematic explication of the ninety-nine names of God. More importantly,however, apparent adumbrations or rudimentary forms of the fully-developed teaching may be detected in a particular maxim that has been ascribed to the great Abu Those who are convinced that the present Madyan.144 prayer is, indeed, the work of CAbdal-'Aziz al-Mahdawi, a disciple of Abu Madyan, will not only view this as proof of that fact, they will also proclaim that here, finally, we have a concrete instance of Ibn al-'Arabi's own debt to the Shaykh al-shuyukh of the Maghrib. But as I have argued elsewhere,145 besides evincing a completely different usage of the terms, the saying attributed to Abu Madyan is probably a forgery since it is not to be found in any of the sources of the Uns al-wahid and wa-nuzhat al-murid146 appears only to have been introduced in the early-ninth/fifteenth century by Ibn alQunfudh in his Uns al-faqlr.'47 In my judgment it seems very likely that Ibn al-Qunfudh (or some other compositor familiar with the Ibn al-'Arabian school) has fathered the tenet upon Abi Madyan, and, furthermore,
the same source could be responsible for our present work ascribed to al-Mahdawi, as well.

Frankly,although it is not without interest, the Arabic is of a ratherpoor quality and the ideas are largely inconsequential when not simply sophomoric. In form and content the text does not suggest to me the mental caliber of someone whom Ibn al-CArabi would have favored with his friendship and admiration so much as that of one who, for all the wrong reasons, had been attracted by the vacuous license of an uncritical hyper-intellectualism that became one of the unintended effects of the Shaykh al-Akbar's own engulfing influence as a In writer.148 general tone and manner the prayer strikes me as reminiscent of the sort of work that Akbarian "want-to-bes" were churning out by the eighth/fourteenth century, and I am inclined to suspect that the halfbaked usage of the notional triplicity described above is nothing but a particular example of that. Another instance of our author'sprobable familiarity with the Ibn al-CArabian school may be detected in the third paragraph from the beginning, quoted earlier, in the expression, jamcu jamci ahadiyati-ka, which I translated faute

de mieux as "the integration of the integration of Thy unity."'49This and the proliferation of such fake distinctions as rahmiyah, rahmdniyah and rahamutiyah'50

In any event, I find it difficult to believe that the Salah al-mubarakahcould be the work of Shaykh al-Mahdawi.
143 Recentlyedited and translated by

in the opening sentence are the kinds of vain mannerisms that exercised the talents of too many purveyors of "mysticism" after the failure of Sadr al-Din al-Qunawi's implicit effort to reduce Ibn al-CArabi's teachings to a systematic "philosophy." Having said that, there is no strong evidence that CAbd al-'Aziz al-Mahdawi cannot have been the author of the prayer; and if he was, it certainly casts an interesting, unexpected light upon his character. Here and there a boldly original insight looms up, at least momentarily, as when, alluding to the famous "Light upon light" passage of Surah XXIV: 35, the author identifies "the
final, second light" (al-nur al-thani al-akhir) of that

Pablo Beneito as El

Secreto de los nombres de Dios (Murcia, 1996). 144 See Vincent Cornell, The Way of Abu Madyan (Cambridge, 1996), 148-49 (and n. 146, below). I translate the say-

ing concerned:"In the names of God are three [modes]: assimilation realization. and is dependence, 'Dependence' the of of (shucar) themeaning a givenname;'assimapprehension ilation'is thatmeaning's in subsisting you (taqimubi-ka);and 'realization' yourbeingannihilated is (tafnd)in thatmeaning." 145Inmyreviewof Beneito's edition/translation theKashf of
al-macnd, in J.M.I.A.S. 27 (2000): 86-87. 146 In addition to the manuscriptsof the Uns al-wahid noted

148While unfamiliar with the greatbody of the admittedly I literature, have yet to come across any Akbarian epigone al-Karim (with the possibleexceptionof CAbd al-Jili) whose own originalintegrity couldwithstand being swamped Ibn by
al-CArabl's overpowering influence. 149 Cf. also below, at n. 161. In Futuhait, II, 133.10, Ibn al-CArabi glosses jamc al-jamc as "total absorption (al-istihlak bi-l-kulliyah) in God with the vision of beauty." 150 Another example of an unusual usage in the text: alnash'ah al-hubbiyah (? the 'love-natured arising'). Typically, such abstractadjectival constructions as wujudiyah,judiyah, jabarutiyah and ihsaniyah, etc., are symptomatic of post-seventh/ thirteenth-century"silver age" writing in Arabic.

citedabove(n. 144),I can addthat by Cornellin the reference
neither MS Faith 5375 (dated 959 H.) nor MS Princeton 2685

includesthe saying.

147 See The Way of Abu Madyan, 148 n. 46.


Journal of the American Oriental Society 121.4 (2001) the presenceof the integration the integration of (hadrat in jamcal-jamc),161 whichis no divisionor obstruction! Were this last sentence really the authentic pronouncement of CAbd al-CAzizal-Mahdawi, there would be some justification in al-Nayyal's assertion that "without any doubt, [al-Mahdawi's]position (nazcatu-hu)was one inclining to philosophical principles"'62and that he even tended to espouse the radical metaphysics of "the unity of existence" (wahdat al-wujud).163 Thus, he finds in the teachings of his erstwhile obscure compatriot, Shaykh al-Mahdawi (and Abu Madyan), the native roots of Ibn al-CArabi's monistic doctrine. And what are we to make of the possible Shicite tendencies of the Saldh? How can we ignore that the copyist of the Berlin codex introduced it as an homage to CAliand that the fourth paragraphmay consist of a cryptic nomination of him as the "Path of God" before the explicit mention of Muhammad (who is never once blessed with the salutary benediction normally requisite in any Islamic document)? I know of no evidence showwas especially tolerant of Shicism ing that Ibn al-CArabi (particularlyduring his tenure in the Maghrib), but it is well known that Persian-speakingseekers began to flock to his cause even during the latter half of his lifetime, and in the centuries following a host of Imamites, from Haydar Amuli (fl. eighth/fourteenth century) to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomayni, would hail the Shaykh-iAkbar as a truly kindred spirit, astute in all things except, evidently, for his neglecting to recognize the imamate
of cAli.164 Notwithstanding, perhaps we should not over-

expression as the light of Muhammad (or CAll?) "to which similitudes are struck in the [ideal] world of allegory."'51 From this, one might gather that the secondary light there symbolizes the concrete intellect, or imaginain the next tion-a rather tantalizing hypothesis-but it appears that Muhammad/CAli's light is none paragraph other than that which is contained in the "glass" (zujajah) of the bodies of the prophets, apostles, and angelsthat is, the quasi-divine "Muhammadan" light itself. Muhammad/'Ali is that primary, Divine Light to which God guides "whomever He wills of His creation."152 He is the intercessor for the angels and the prophets before God,'53 being the very essence of His transcendent reality and the summum genus of all creation. God's Throne is borne aloft by his universal light-but earlier in the same passage the author had stated that the pillars of the Throne were merely "beautified" (zuyyinat) by its lustre. 154 The penultimate paragraph features invocations of all four righteous caliphs (successors) of the Prophetrelieving the prayer of any suspicions that it might be heretically "rejectionist": O God! by the dignity155of [the Prophet's] Most-faithful companion (sdhibu-hu l-Siddiq);156the Discriminator [between truth and falsehood] (al-Friiq),157 laden with faithfulness; the Possessor of the Two Lights (Dhi l-Nurayn);158 and the Seal of the caliphate (khdtam al-khildfah)-[the 0 Prophet's]paternal cousin, cAli,159properly speaking:160 God! integrateus in Thee by Thee, returnus from Thee unto Thee, and cause us to witness [the Reality of Muhammad]in
151 Al-madrub bi-hi l-amthalfi Cdlamal-mithal.

152 Qur. 24: 35, upon which verse all of the symbolism here is based. 153 Al-mutashafficilay-ka in B (T has al-mushaffaC).

look the fact that al-Mahdawi's name ties him to Mahdiya, formerly the Fatimid-Ismadiliimperial capital, and his other surname, al-Qurashi, identifies him as having an aristocratic, "legitimist" pedigree. Could these be
vestiges, at least, of an 'Alid affiliation in the background of Ibn al-CArabi's mentor? It would seem more

154B, f. 123b.

155 Bi-jdh in B. (T has bi-haqq). This Persian lexeme would not seem to be the kind of expression that a sixth/twelfthcentury Tunisian shaykh would be expected to employ. 156 Viz., Abu Bakr al-Siddiq, the first caliph. 157 The epithet of 'Umar b. al-Khattab,the second caliph. 158 The the epithet of cUthmanb. CAffan, thirdrightly-guided caliph, so-called because he married two of the Prophet's

judicious to treat any putative Shicite sympathies detectable in the prayer as indicating that al-Mahdawi was probably not the author. As it is, however, I think that it would be prematureto pronounce for certain on any of these questions.

and daughters, Ruqayyah UmmKulthiim. 159All b. AbiTalib,thefourth lastof the and perfectleaders. 160 That is, in the historicalsense, in which CAli ordinary wasmerely (failed)fourth the caliph.Speaking metahistorically, couldarguethatthe "reality" ImamCAli of however,sectarians his incarnation-aswell as thatof Muhammad preceded human (cf. John8:58).

62 163 Haqiqah, 221. Haqiqah, 222. 164 See, for example, Henry Corbin, Creative Imagination in the Siifism of Ibn CArabi(Princeton, 1969), 25-26; and, on

161 T has simply hadrat al-jamc. Cf. n. 149.

ImamKhomayni's interestin Ibn al-CArabi, Alexander Knysh, Revisited: Khomeini theLegacyof Islamic and "Irfan Mystical
Philosophy,"Middle East Journal 46 (1992): 631-53.

ELMORE:Shaykh CAbdal-CAziz al-Mahdawi



the the al-Mahdawi, Diwan [of Ibn al-'Arabi], Musamarat
[= Muhiidarat al-abrdr], the Tafsir of [Abu 1-Hakam]Ibn Barrajan,and [portions of] the Futuihat.167

Apart from the short epistolary poem quoted by Ibn I al-Qunfudh that we saw,165 am not aware of any other extant literary remains attributedto Shaykh al-Mahdawi besides the Saldh al-mubdrakah. It would not be at all surprising if some should eventually be discovered when more of the regional chronicles and local hagiographies that have not yet been favored with modern editions finally come to light, but it is less probable, I am afraid, that such works will prove very revealing. There is every reason to hope that something of real value relating to al-Mahdawi will yet emerge out of the ocean of Ibn al-'Arabi's own oeuvre, however, especially if we include the unchartedreservoir of ancillary material cultivated and preserved through the seventh/ thirteenth to the ninth/fifteenth centuries by the school of Ibn al-CArabi. Osman Yahia called attention to a very good instance of this sort of datum in a note that he found inscribed by the copyist of a manuscriptformerly in the possession of Sadr al-Din al-Qunawi, MSSehid Ali
Pasa 2796, f. 56. The note reads:

This memorandum,in fact, bears some marks of authenticity. It is significant that Tafsirs (probably explications of relatively brief passages from the Scripture) of both al-Mahdawi and Ibn Barrajan (d. 536/1141) are cited since it is known that Ibn al-CArabi studied the Idiih alhikmah (The Elucidation of Wisdom) of Ibn Barrajan under Shaykh al-Mahdawi at his center of instruction in

Furthermore, CAbdal-Haqq al-Azdi (d. 581/

We foundin the library Sadral-DinQanaw[sic] works of writtenout by Ibn al-CArabi, as: The K. alsuch actually Jamicof AbuMuhammad al-Haqq CAbd [al-Azdial-Ishbili,
known as Ibn al-Kharrat],'66 Tafsir of [CAbdal-'Aziz] the 165 See at n. 99. 166 CAbd al-Haqq b. CAbdal-Rahman b. CAbdAllah al-Azdi al-Ishbili, better known by later biographists as Ibn al-Kharrat, a prominent khatib and muhaddith of Bejaya. He was the student of Abu 1-HasanCAlib. Ghalib, a favorite disciple of the Almerian master, Abu l-CAbbasIbn al-CArif.Accused by the Almohad authoritiesof conspiring with the insurrectionistBanu Ghaniyah of Ifriqiya, when the latter were finally eradicated in 581/1185 CAbdal-Haqq al-Azdi was arrested and tried for treason-a trial that he did not survive (see CAbdal-Wahid al-Marrakushi,Al-MuCjib talkhis akhbar al-Maghrib [Amfi sterdam, 1968], 197; and M. R. Mulin, CAsral-Mansur almuwahhidi [Rabat, n.d.], 94-96). Interestingly, although Ibn

1185), as head of the expatriate Andalusian school of Sufi hadith in Bejaya, also represents a connection with the Almerian master, Abuil-Abbas Ibn al-Arif (d. 536/ A 1141) and, through him, with Ibn Barrajan.169 Tafsir of Shaykh al-Mahdawi would appear to be quite viably apposite in that context, therefore, and any scholar with an opportunity to search through the remnants of Sadr al-Din al-Qunawi'swaqf libraryin Konya would do well to keep an eye out for traces of these reported writings in Ibn al-CArabi's own hand. As for the benedictory prayer discussed in our preceding section, I have argued that internal evidence militates against al-Mahdawi'sauthorshipthereof and tends to point, instead, to a later provenance,perhapsthe ninth/ fifteenth century, by which time Akbarianteachings had become widely current and, in many quarters, diluted and distorted. External, circumstantial evidence may also be seen to support that hypothesis, since Shaykh al-Mahdawi appears to have gone largely unnoticed by later posterity until his supposed tomb (darih) was furnished with a dome (qubbah) by the early-twelfth/eighteenth-century Ottoman ruler, Husayn b. CAll,founder of the Husaynid beylicate-dynasty that governed Tunisia from 1705 to 1957.170 In fact, however, though HIusaynBey had, indeed, intended to honor Ibn al'Arabi's teacher, the structurewas actually erected over the tomb of another Abu Muhammad CAbd al-CAziz

al-CArabi barelytwentyyearsold at the time of al-Azdi's was all death,he claimsto havereceiveda licenseto transmit of his
many hadith collections, not to mention Zahirite works by the great literalist idealogue, CAlib. MuhammadIbn Hazm (d. 456/ 1064), of which al-Azdi was a transmitterthrough Shurayh b. Muhammadb. Shurayh(see Ibn al-CArabi's Ijazah li-l-Malik alMuzaffar [CA.-R.Badawi, ed., "Autobibliografia," Al-Andalus 20, 1955]: 114-15; and his Muhadaratal-abrar wa-musdmarat al-akhydr [Cairo, 1972], 81). As Addas pointed out, the abovecited passage from the Muhddarahindicates that Ibn al-'Arabi

evidently received his instruction from al-Azdi through corre-

and (kitdbatan) the two probably nevermet in perspondences son (see Quest,313, n. 8).
167 Histoire et classification, 293, no. 242. 168 See the edition of Ibn al-CArabi's prologue to the Mashd-

hid in H. TahirHasanayn's 31. "Sainthood,"
169 Cf. Ibn Farhun, Al-Dibdj al-mudhhab fi macrifat acydn Culamd'al-madhhab (Beirut, n.d.), 175-76 (cited in Quest, 45

n. 47).

170 See Haqiqah, 219.


Journal of the American Oriental Society 121.4 (2001)

al-Qurashi, surnamed al-MuCallaqi,l7lwho was buried (where he used to reside) in an ancient village called alMucallaqahby the ruins of Carthage-that is, just down the coast from the Sufi cemetery at Marsa CAydun/ Jarrah. The mistake was not discovered until nearly a grandcentury later, during the reign of Husayn b. CAll's son, HammuidahBey (1782-1814), when the current grave-site at La Marsa was determined.172 Al-MuCallaqi al-Qurashi, incidentally, had himself been a religious scholar and revered Sufi saint who died in 668/1270and so, could possibly be the younger CAbdal-CAziz [al-Mahdawi] cited by al-Qusi in his Wahid.'73If so, he would undoubtedly be a descendant, probably a grandson, of the elder Shaykh al-Mahdawi. Be that as it may, the point is that Husayn Bey was not communicating with any grassroots local tradition keeping al-Mahdawi's memory alive in Tunis-his final restingplace was not even known, at least not to the governing authorities-but the shrewd Turkish-Arab ruler was clearly motivated primarily by the idea of honoring the master/confrere of Ibn al-CArabi,whose own tomb in Damascus had been transformed into a mausoleummosque by the great Ottoman conqueror of the Islamic heartland, Selim Yavuz, in 922/1516.174 We inquired into what might have attracted Ibn also CArabi compellingly to Shaykh al-Mahdawi as to set him apart from all of his many other instructors and associates-raising him up on a pedestal, so to speak, as a virtual mentor, unique in the actual working out of the younger man's formative life-story-and we noted that the portraitof him in the Riuhal-quds stressed his willingness humbly to appreciate intellectual excellence in his peers, irrespective of their worldly status.'75Hence,
171 See Haqiqah, 256-57. Al-Nayyal's source on al-MuCal-

workby Muhammad Abi 1-Qasim b. allaqi is an unpublished Hamiri (see his n. 3 on p. 256).
172 See Haqiqah, 257; and Ibn Abi l-Diyaf, Ithaf ahl al-zamdn bi-akhbar mulik Tunis wa-Cahd al-aman (Tunis, 1963), II,

101. A photograph the present-day of shrineis featuredin
Stephen Hirtenstein's The Unlimited Mercifier: The Spiritual Life and Thought of Ibn CArabi (Oxford-Ashland, 1999), 146.

173See after n. 92, above. Note, also, that al-Muallaqi's deathdate similar the(erroneous) givenforal-Mahdawi is to one

in al-Nabhani'sJdmic (see after n. 110). 174 See Shams al-Din Ibn Tuluin, Mufakahat al-khillan fi hawadith al-zamdn (Cairo, 1962-64), I, 36 and 70; and Muhammad Adnan Bakhit, The OttomanProvince of Damascus in the Sixteenth Century (Beirut, 1982), 15-16.

even an untried student, if he was especially gifted, might hope to be recognized for his true worth by such a teacher and called up to the head of the class. That in itself can hardly account for Ibn al-CArabi's obviously deep emotional commitment to this particular man at one moment of his life, however, nor could all of the latter'sundoubted merits, as a matter of fact, even if we were able to know them. It is deplorable that so little data remains to inform our picture of al-Mahdawi (and probably no genuine writings) that we cannot really substantiate any impression we may have of him and, consequently, of his friendship with Ibn al-CArabiwhom, by contrast, we may be in a position potentially to "know" better than almost any other figure in premodern history by virtue of the exceptional quality and quantity of his literary remains. Without wishing to make too much of my own perspective on the relationship, then, it seems to me that the affective dynamism of Ibn al-CArabi's attempted bonding with Shaykh alMahdawi at the pivotal, midway point of his life could plausibly be viewed in terms of a psychologicallycreative existential search for the "father figure." It is known that Ibn al-CArabi Senior, who served as a career soldier (jundi) in the standing Almohad army, had little use for Sufism or Sufis throughouthis life,176 and that he was to pass away shortly after his son's first expedition to Tunis in 590/1194.177 On the other hand, as I have shown elsewhere,178 biographical facts tend to indicate that Ibn al-CArabi deliberately avoided meeting the phenomenally famous master of Bejaya, Abu Madyan, precisely because his genius would not allow him to be dominated by human authority-especially such a doctrinaireproponentof obedience and "service to the master" (khidmat al-shaykh). At the same time he did feel the need to touch base with the provincial Sufi movement in the Maghrib before passing on to broader climes, and CAbdal-CAzizal-Mahdawi turned out to be the right man in the right place at the right time, for reasons we can only guess about now. No doubt the fact that a cousin was already a resident student in Tunis was an initial factor in the choice. Of course, any reader of Ibn al-CArabi's works is well aware that he acknowledged many masters, formal and informal, in the west and elsewhere. He lauds so many, in fact, that one begins to realize that the gracious praise
176 See Islamic

Sainthood, 21-24 and 26-29 (and cf. at n. 14,

177 See Futuhat, I, 222.4-13 (and at n. 42, above). 178 In "Ibn al-CArabi's 74-75. 'Cinquain',"

175See aftern. 29, above.


Shaykh CAbdal-CAziz al-Mahdawi


actually reflects more upon its one subject than its many objects. I believe that the critically discernible "influences" on Ibn al-CArabiwere all literary-he was an avid readerof books of all sorts, much more so than has been demonstrated by scholarly expositors thus farand the kinds of personal contacts that would have been decisive in his life would be those less imposing characters who were the fortuitous carriers of books, especially dangerous books-men like Abu Muhammad CAbdAllah b. al-Ustadh al-Mawruri, "the teacher's son who introducedthe Sevillean neophyte to of Mor6n,"179
pseudo-Aristotle's Secretum secretorum (Sirr al-asrdr),

at both horns of Islamdom; but the real anchor-line of his spiritual life's journey, as Henry Corbin insisted so perceptively,'83was his affinity with the mysterious itinerant of the Sirat al-Kahf known as al-Khadir,or Khidr (= Elijah), the master of the masterless and teacher of the unteachable.184
Like that other immortal super-wall, Jesus son of Mary, whom our Sufi identified as his "father," counter-

and Muhammad b. Qasim b. CAbdal-Karim al-Tamimi (d. 603/1207), a native of Fez who had spent fifteen years wandering in the East, culling the teachings of cermany shaykhs into a compendium that Ibn al-CArabi tainly perused (since he claimed to have mastered all of Al-Tamimi's vehis works in his autobibliography).180 racity as a transmitter was not so highly esteemed by some, however-such as Ibn al-Abbar, who accused him of publishing "conjectures and mistakes" (awhdm wa-aghl.t).181But when we consider that critical scholarship, were it to be honestly consistent, would have to characterize the works of Herodotus, Philo Judaeus, Dionysius the Areopagite, and even Abu l-Rayhan alBiruni as largely made up of "conjectures and mistakes," then we must wonder whether this might not be precisely the kind of creative "influence"that we should be looking for. Al-Tamimi was also one of four Sufi shaykhs who enjoyed the distinction of bestowing upon Ibn al-CArabi mantle of initiation (al-khirqah), prethe in Fez at the Azhar Mosque.182 second initiA sumably ator was also from the west, and the two others from CIraqin the east, thus grounding the Shaykh al-Akbar
179 See Ibn al-CArabi's Tadbiratal-ildhlyah in H. S. Nyberg,

part, and beloved,185al-Khadir was for the Uwaysl Ibn in al-CArabi, the final analysis, no more and no less than his own theophanic alter ego, the mystical personification of his innate Lord and the psychodramatic experience of his own salvific healing, or becoming whole. One so much in touch with his inmost self, the truth of his being, has no need of "masters"in the proper sense of the term, even if, in the involuntary play of life's tragicomedy, his soul may fleetingly long for human acceptance. But "few are the sons who attain their father's and stature,"186 most of us are given teachers to point us in the right direction of self-realization. When Telemachus, burdened by the evils of his life, sought a savior to deliver him, Athene, the goddess of wisdom, appeared to him in the form of Mentor, the old friend and counselor of Odysseus. Her purpose was to encourage him to find the strength within himself, but, more immediately,

she advised him to travel abroadin search of knowledge of his father. Similarly, it was divine providence that took the form of Shaykh al-Mahdawi, Ibn al-CArabi's mentor, but, equally, that caused him to realize that it was time to move on in pursuit of his heritage in the
Arab-Islamic fatherland. In the end, however, the pilgrimage of the heart leads back to the heart when the sun of truth breaks through the heart's darkness. 183

ed., Kleinere Schriften des Ibn al-CArabi (Leiden, 1919), 12021. He was a disciple of Abu Madyan, but it is important to note that the accounts of Abu Madyan's teaching sessions which al-Mawruri related to Ibn al-CArabi(and that are recorded in the latter's Muhddarat abrdr) are manifestly pure fiction. (I am currently working on a study of these particular narrativesin the Muhadarah, which come close to the genre of maqdmat in Arabic literature). 180 See Ibn al-CArabi's Ijazah li-l-Malik al-Muzaffar, 120. 181 See Ibn al-Abbar,Al-Takmilahli-Kitdb al-Silah (Madrid, 1886), I, 374-75, no. 1064. 182 See my translation of the Nasab al-khirqah in "Ibn alCArabi's Testament on the Mantle of Initiation,"J.M.I.A.S. 26 (1999): 27, at nn. 127-28.

Although the textual and biographic components of his analysis of Ibn al-CArabiand his teachings were egregiously inadequate (even for the dubious purposes of "metahistoriography"), for all its faults of omission and commission I suspect that Corbin's over-all exposition would still come closest to meeting with the Shaykh al-Akbar's own approval of all of his latter-daydragomanhopefuls. At least he had the courage to stay focused on the sublime issues and never reduce his subject to vapid simplifications or undebatable minutiae. 184 See Creative Imagination, 53-67. Ibn al-'Arabi explicitly claims to have been initiated by al-Khadir in the Nasab alTestament,"31). khirqah (see "Ibn al-CArabi's 185 See Futuhat (1911), I, 3.2, and II, 49.33. 186 Homer, The Odyssey, 2.275, as translated by T E. Lawrence (New York, 1932; rpt. 1992), 21.

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