Journey to the Lord of Power: A Sufi Manual on Retreat 
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 Journey To The Lord Of Power A Sufi Manual On Retreat
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Ibn al-'Arabi
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128
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JOURNEY TO THE LORD OF POWER – Book Sample

INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK

By Sheikh Muzaffer Ozak al-Jerrahi

This treatise, which contains divine mysteries, is an illuminating guide for seekers of truth and vision. Those who wish to be intimates of God, who stroll in the garden looking for the rosebuds of inner knowledge, should read this book and learn to •• be.” Since the author of this work is Ibn ‘ Arabi, whoever browses through its words will be conversing with him.

The miraculous spiritual influence of this saint, in the East and in the West, is brilliantly clear. He has taught mankind tawhid,

‘Unity, will continue enlightening it until the Day And of Last Judgment. His teaching of the wonder of Creation and his miraculous knowledge-displayed in such books as aJ­ Futuhat aJ-Makkiyya (” Meccan Revelations”), Fusus aJ-hikam (“Bezels of Wisdom”), and many others, numbering over 500-bear witness to his importance.

He had as many enemies as people who loved him, bigots who like bats were blinded by the l light of the saint. Some men become enemies of those they do not know, cannot know, and cannot understand. Even the ones who named him al-shaykh al­

Akbar (“the Greatest Shaykh”) were among those who did not understand him. Some of them even hated him. The saint not only forgave these deficient people but declared that he would intercede on their behalf on the Day of Last judgment, for they were to be pitied for not having been able to comprehend him. Certainly, just as the goldsmith knows the value of gold, the wise know the value of knowledge and the all-knowing Perfect Man forgives the ignorant their poverty. This compassion of the saint is sufficient proof of his perfection.

One day, one of Ibn’ Arabi’s opponents was taken sick. The shaykh went to visit him. He knocked on the door and begged the sick man’s wife to announce that he wished to pay his respects. The woman took the message and, returning, told the shaykh that her husband did not wish to see him. The shaykh had no business in this house, she informed him. The proper place for him was the church. The shaykh thanked the woman and said that since a good man like her husband would certainly not send him to a bad place, he would comply with the suggestion. So, after praying for the health and welfare of the sick man, the shaykh departed for the church.

When he arrived, he removed his shoes, entered with humble courtesy, and slowly and silently headed toward a corner, where he sat down. The priest was in the midst of delivering a sermon to which Ibn ‘Arabi listened with the utmost attention. During the sermon, the shaykh felt that the priest had slandered Jesus by attributing to him the claim that he was the son of God. The shaykh stood up and courteously

objected to this statement. “0 venerable priest,” he began, “Holy Jesus did not say that. On the contrary, he foretold the good news of the arrival of the Prophet Ahmad (Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him). “

The priest denied that Jesus had said this. The debate went on and on. Finally, the shaykh, pointing to the image of Jesus on the church wall, told the priest to ask Jesus himself. He would answer and decide the issue once and for all. The priest

protested vehemently, pointing out that a picture could not

speak. This picture would, insisted the shaykh, for God, who had made Jesus speak while a baby in the arms of the Holy Virgin, was able to make his picture speak as well. The congregation following the heated debate became excited at this statement. The priest was forced to turn to the image of Jesus and address it: “0 Son of God! Show us the true path. Tell us which of us is right in our claim.” With God’s Will, the picture spoke and answered: “I am not the son of God, I am His messenger, and after me came the last of the prophets, the Holy Ahmad; I foretold that to you, and I repeat this good news now.”

With this miracle, the whole congregation accepted Islam and, with Ibn • Arabi leading them, marched through the streets to the mosque. As they passed by the house of the sick man, he could be seen within, his eyes wide open in astonishment, looking out of the window at this curious sight. The saint stopped, and blessed and thanked the man who had insulted him, saying that he was to be praised for the salvation

of all these people.

Not many people understood the saint during his lifetime. One day he went up the mountain in Damascus where he preached, and said: “People of Damascus, the god which you worship is under my feet.”

On hearing these words, the people jailed him, and were prepared to kill him. In fact, according to one tradition, at that incident he was martyred. According to another tradition, a shaykh of his time, Abul-Hassan, mitigated his words and saved him from death with the following dialogue:

•• How could people imprison someone,” he asked Ibn ‘ Arabi, “through whom the world of angels came to the mortal world?”

“My words were spoken,” the shaykh replied, “through the intoxication of the state you describe.”

Yet Ibn • Arabi’ swords and his works created such a violent reaction in his time that the people destroyed his tomb after his death without leaving any trace of it.

One of his many enigmatic statements was “Idha dalrhaJaal­ sin ila ai-shin / yazhara qabru Muhyiddin, “which means: •• When S will enter SH [the letters sin and shin in Arabic], the tomb of Muhyiddin will be discovered.” When the ninth Ottoman sultan, Selim II. conquered Damascus in 1516, he learned of this statement from a contemporary scholar named- Zembilli Ali Efendi, who interpreted it as a prophecy which meant:

“When Selim [whose name starts with the letter sin] enters the city of Sham [the Arabic name of Damascus, which begins

with the letter shin], he will discover Ibn ‘ Arabi’s tomb.” So, Sultan Selim found out from the theologians of the city the place where the saint had made the declaration “The god which you worship is under my feet,” and had it excavated. First, he uncovered a treasure of gold coins, which revealed what the saint had meant. Nearby he discovered his tomb. With the treasure he found, Sultan Selim built a magnificent shrine and mosque on the site of the tomb. It still stands today in the city of Damascus and is found at a place called Salihiyya on the slopes of the mountain Qasiyun.

Muhibbuddin al-Tabari* attributes the following story to his mother:

Muhyiddin Ibn ‘ Arabi was delivering a sermon at the Kaaba on the meaning of the Kaaba. Inwardly, I disagreed with his teaching. That night I saw the shaykh in my dream. In this dream, Fakhruddin al-Razi, one of the greatest theologians of the time, came to the Pilgrimage with great pomp and ceremony, and was circumambulating the Kaaba. His eyes fell on a simple man in his pilgrim’s shroud who was sitting there quietly. He said to himself: “The insolence of this man, not to stand in the presence of a great man like me! ” A

little while later, he came to preach in the Grand Mosque in Mecca. The whole population of the Holy

City had gathered to hear the words of this great scholar who was the author of the most important interpretation of the Koran. Fakhruddin al-Razi slowly mounted the pulpit and began, “0 great congregation of Muslims”-and nothing else came out of his mouth. It was as though all the contents of his mind had been erased.  He began to sweat with embarrassment. He excused himself, saying he was not feeling well, and left the pulpit without a word. When he reached home, he protested and prayed, “0 Lord, what have I done that you should punish me with such embarrassment?” That night in a dream he was shown the man whom he had secretly reproached for not standing in his presence. It was Muhyiddin Ibn ‘ Arabi. For days he searched for him everywhere. Just as he had given up hope of finding him, there was a knock at the door, and Ibn’ Arabi was standing in front of him. He asked for forgiveness, and his knowledge was returned to him.

In recent times, there was the case of another scholar, Ibrahim Haleri, the imam of the Fatih Mosque in Istanbul, an extremely orthodox man who opposed the religious teachings of Ibn ‘ Arabi. One day in heated discussion with people who defended the shaykh, he stamped his foot, saying, “If I could have been there, I would have crushed his head like that! ” In

so, doing, he stepped on a huge nail. The wound never healed, causing his death. (The Fatih Mosque has a stone, not a wooden, floor.)

According to an oral tradition, one day in Damascus Ibn ‘Arabi saw a beautiful young Jewish boy. As he looked upon him, the boy came to him and addressed him as ” father. ” From that day on the boy never left him. The father of the boy searched, found him with the shaykh, and wanted to take him away. The boy did not recognize him and claimed that the shaykh was his father. The father, in amazement, told the shaykh that he could bring hundreds of witnesses to prove that the boy was his son. The shaykh responded, “If the boy claims that I am his father, then I am his father. ” The father went to court claiming his boy, showing hundreds of witnesses. When the judge asked the shaykh if the boy was his, the shaykh demanded that the boy be asked. The boy claimed the shaykh as his father. Then the shaykh asked the witnesses if this Jewish boy had memorized the Koran. They answered, “How could a Jewish boy memorize the Koran?” The judge asked the boy to recite the Koran, which he did with great skill and beauty. Then the shaykh asked the witnesses if the boy knew the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad. They answered, “How could a Jewish boy know such a science, which does not belong to his way of life?” The judge closely questioned the boy about Prophetic traditions. The boy answered his every question correctly and completely. The Jews who understood this miracle accepted Islam.

The following story is included toward the end of the Futuhat al-Makkiyya: In the school of canonic law, a teacher was explaining the root of the word for heretic (zindiq). Some mischievous students wondered if perhaps it came from the word zenuddin, which means “religious woman. ” Another mischievous student said, “Zindiq is someone like Muhyiddin I bn’Arabi • • • isn’t that so, Master?” The teacher curtly answered yes.

It was Ramadan, the Month of Fasting, and the teacher had invited the students back to his house to break the fast with him. Sitting and waiting for the meal to start, the same mischievous students teased their teacher, saying, “If you cannot reveal to us the name of the greatest saint of our time, we will not break our fast with your foo d.” The teacher answered that the greatest shaykh of all times was Muhyiddin Ibn • Arabi. The students protested, saying that earlier at school when they had given Ibn ‘Arabi as an example of a heretic, he had agreed. Now he claimed that the shaykh was the greatest saint of their times! The teacher answered, a hint of a smile about his lips: ” At the school we are among men of orthodoxy, scholars and legists; here we are among men of

love.

JOURNEY TO THE LORD OF POWER

IN THE NAME OF GOD MOST BENEFICENT, MOST MERCIFUL

Praise is due to God, the Giver a d Originator of Reason, Ordained and Institutor of the Transmission. His are the grace and the might; from Him are the power and the strength. There is no God save He, Lord of the Tremendous Throne. And may the peace and blessings of God be upon him in whom are established the signs of guidance, whom He sent t with the light by which He guides-and misleads-whom He wills; and upon his noble family and pure companions, until the Day of Judgment.

I shall answer your question, 0 noble friend and intimate companion, concerning the Journey to the Lord of Power (may He be exalted) and the arrival in His presence, and the return, through Him, from Him to His Creation, without separation. Certainly, there is nothing in existence except God Most High, His attributes, and His actions. Everything is He, and of Him and from Him and to Him. If He were to be veiled from the world for the blink of an eye, the world would vanish at one stroke; it only remains thro ugh His preserving and watching over it. However, His appearance in His light is so intense that it overpowers our perceptions, so that we call His manifestation a veil.

I shall first describe (may Allah grant you success) the nature of the journey to Him, then the procedure of arriving and standing before Him, and what He says to you as you sit on the carpet of His vision. Then the nature of the return from

Him to the presence (hodro) of His actions: with Him and to

Him. And I shall describe absorption in Him, which is a station less than the station of return. I

Know, 0 noble brother, that while the paths are many, the

Way of Truth is single. The seekers of the Way of Truth are individuals. So, although the Way of Truth is one, the aspects it presents vary with the varying conditions of its seekers; with the balance or imbalance of the seeker’s constitution, the persistence or absence of his motivation, the strength or weakness of his spiritual nature, the straightness or deviation of his aspiration, the health or illness of his relation to his goal. Some seekers possess all of the favorable characteristics, while others possess only some. Thus, we see that the seeker’s constitution, for instance, may be a hindrance, while his spiritual striving may be noble and good. And this principle

applies in all cases.

I must first make clear to you the knowledge of the matrices of Realms, and what those Realms imply in this place. The

. Realms (mowotin) is a term for the substrata of the moments in

which things come to exist and experience actually occurs. It is necessary that you know what the Truth wants from you in any Realm, so that you hasten to it without hesitation and without resistance.’

The Realms, although they are many, are all derived from six. The first Realm is [the pre-existence in which we were asked the question] “Am I not your Lord?” Our physical existence has removed us from this Realm. The second Realm is the world we are now in. The third Realm is the Interval through which we travel after the lesser and greater deaths. The fourth Realm is the Resurrection on the awakening earth and the return to the original condition. The fifth Realm is the Garden and the Fire. The sixth Realm is the Sand Dune outside the Garden. And in each of these Realms are places which are Realms within Realms, and the realization of them in their multiplicity is not within human power.3

In our situation we only need an explanation of the Realm of this world, which is the place of responsibility, trial, and works.

Know that since God created human beings and brought them out of nothingness into existence, they have not stopped being travelers. They have no resting place from their journey except in the Garden or the Fire, and each Garden and Fire is in accordance with the measure of its people. Every rational person must know that the journey is based upon toil and the hardships of life, on afflictions and tests and the acceptance of dangers and very great terrors. It is not possible for the traveler to find in this journey unimpaired comfort, security, or bliss. For waters are variously flavored and weather changes, and the character of the people at every place where one stops differs from their character at the next. The travel er needs to learn what is useful from each situation. He is the companion of each one for a night or an hour, and then departs. How could ease be reasonably expected by someone in this condition?

We have not mentioned this to answer the people fond of comfort in this world, who strive for it and are devoted to the collection of worldly rubble. We do not occupy ourselves with or turn our attention to those engaged in this petty and contemptible activity. But we mention it as counsel to whoever wishes to hasten the bliss of contemplation in other than its given Realm, and to hasten the state of fana’, annihilation, elsewhere than in its native place, and who desires absorption in the Real by means of obliteration from the worlds. +

The masters among us are scornful of this [ ambition] because it is a waste of time and a loss of [true] rank, and associates the Realm with that which is unsuitable to it.5 For the world is the King’s prison, not His house; and whoever seeks the King in His prison, without departing from it entirely, violates the rule of right behavior (adeb), and something of great import escapes him. For the time offana’in the Truth is the time of the abandonment of a station higher than the one attained.

Revelation corresponds to the extent and form of knowledge. The knowledge of Him, from Him, that you acquire at the time of your struggle and training you will

realize in contemplation later. But what you contemplate of Him will be the form of the knowledge which you established previously. You advance nothing except your transference from knowledge (‘ilm) to vision (‘ayn); and the form is one. [In contemplation] you obtain that which you ought to have left to its proper Realm, and that is the House of th e Other World in which there is no labor. So, it would be better for you if, at the time of your contemplation, you were engaged in labor outwardly, and at the same time in the reception of knowledge from God inwardly. You would then increase virtue and beauty in your spiritual nature, which seeks its Lord through knowledge received from Him through works and piety, and also in your personal nature, which seeks its paradise. For the human subtle nature is resurrected in the form of its knowledge, and the bodies are resurrected in the

form of their works, either in beauty or in ugliness.

So, it is until the last breath, when you are separated from the world of obligation and the Realm of ascending paths and progressive development. And only then will you harvest the fruit which you have planted.

If you have understood all of this, then know (may God grant success to us both) that if you want to enter the presence of the Truth and receive from Him without intermediary, and you desire intimacy with Him, this will not be appropriate as long as your heart acknowledges any lordship other than His. For you belong to that which exercises its authority over you.

Of this there is no doubt. And seclusion from people will become inevitable for you, and preference for retreat (thalwa), over human associations, for the extent of your distance from creation is the extent of your closeness to God-outwardly and inwardly.

Your first duty is to search for the knowledge which establishes your ablution and prayer, your fasting and reverence. You are not obliged to seek out more than this. This is the first door of the journey; then work; then moral heedfulness; then asceticism; then trust. And in the first of the states of trust, four miracles befall you. These are signs and evidences of your attainment of the first degree of trust. These signs are crossing the earth, walking on water, traversing the air, and being fed by the universe. And that is the reality within this door. After that, stations and states and miracles and revelations come to you continuously until death.

And for God’s sake, do not enter retreat until you know what your station is, and know your strength in respect to the power of imagination. For if your imagination rules you, then there is no road to retreat except by the hand of the shaykh who is discriminating and aware. If your imagination is under control, then enter retreat without fear.

Discipline is incumbent upon you before the retreat. Spiritual discipline (riyada) means training of character, abandonment of heedlessness, and endurance of indignities. For if a person begins before he has acquired discipline, he will never become a man, except in a rare case.

When you withdraw from the world, beware of people coming to see you and approaching you, for he who withdraws from the people does not open his door to their visits. Indeed, the object of seclusion is the departure from people and their society, and the object of depanneur from people is not leaving their physical company, but rather that neither your head nor your ear should be a receptacle for the superfluous words they bring. Your head will not become clear of the mad ravings of the world except by distance from them. And everyone who “withdraws” in his house and opens the door to people visiting him is a seeker of leadership and esteem, driven from the door of God Most High; and for someone like this, destruction is closer than the shoelace of his shoe. For God’s sake, for God’s sake, protect yourself from the deceit of the ego in this station, for most of the world is destroyed by it. So shut your door against the world; and thus, the door of your house will be between you and your people.

And occupy yourself with dhikr, remembrance of God, with whatever son of dhil! r you choose. The highest of them is the Greatest Name; it is your saying “Allah, Allah,” and nothing beyond. Allah.”

Protect yourself from the misfocuses of corrupt imaginings that distract you from remembrance. Be careful of your diet. It is better if your food be nourishing but devoid of animal fat.7 Beware of satiation and excessive hunger. Keep your constitution in balance, for if dryness is excessive, it leads to corrupt imaginings and long, delirious ravings.

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