• Book Title:
 Know Yourself An Explanation Of The Oneness Of Being
  • Book Author:
Ibn al-'Arabi
  • Total Pages
  • Size of Book:
3.5 Mb
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Book Contents

  • Introduction 1
  • Ibn ‘Arabi 4
  • Awhad al din Balyani 8
  • Know Yourself 15
  • Translator’s notes on the text 55
  • The self or soul ( nafs) 55
  • Notes on gender – He 57
  • Passing away (fana’) and remaining (baqa’) 60
  • Divine Names 63
  • The Letters 65
  • History of the translations 69
  • Manuscripts consulted 72
  • Quotations from the Quran, hadith
  • and other sayings 75
  • Bibliography


You yourself are the object of your quest

This short book introduces a view of the world which is very different to that held by many people. For some, it may serve a purpose in shattering pre­ conceived notions and presenting an entirely new perspective which opens up a compassionate and responsive universe. It reflects an ardent desire to reach beyond the peripheral uncertainties of every­ day life and discover, for ourselves, a certainty in the oneness of being which constantly flows through everything that is.

This is a new translation of the first complete work attributed to lbn ‘Arabi to appear in a western lan­ guage. The earlier translation has been instrumental in making Ibn ‘Arabi’s name known again in the West over the last century, even though the author of the book is now considered by many scholars to be Balyani, a near contemporary, who may well have been influenced by his thought.

The translation has been made using several Arabic manuscripts from libraries in the UK, Turkey and Syria. The sheer quantity of manuscripts avail­ able shows how popular this book has remained for more than seven centuries and how many times it has been copied and recopied by hand. It should be borne in mind, however, that each time a manu­ script is copied a few mistakes, alterations and added rn ites by the copyist may creep in. So although the text remains basically the same, there are often 111;111y minor variations on the general theme. In p:111ici1L1r, there are also variations on the title and tlH’ ;111tl1or to whom the work is attributed.

Thl· 111ost  popular title for the book is the Treatise cm Unity (R.isalat al-ahadiyya), which is similar to the title of a work which is definitely by lbn <Arabi, The Book of Unity (Ki tab al-ahadiyya) or The Book of Ali f ((This may explain some of the confusion that has arisen over the authorship of the work. However, the content of these two books is quite different. See Rasa’il Ibn ‘Arabi (Beirut: Dar Sadir, 1997), pp.44-57; translated into English hy Abraham Ahadi in Journal of the Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Ambi Society, 2 (1984), pp. 15-40.)).

Other titles include: Treatise on Being, The Book of Alif, The Book of Answers, The Book of the Self or He (huwa), Treatise of Absolute Oneness, On the Secrets of Unity (tawhid), On the Oneness of Being and the Knower of God. Many of the manuscripts have as the title or as a sub-title: On the meaning of the saying of the Prophet Muhammad, peace on him, ‘Whoever knows their self knows their Lord’.

This edition of Know Yourself is intended to be as accessible as possible to people with no knowledge of Arabic and who do not necessarily have much knowledge of the cultural context of the book. In medieval Arabic, no capital letters or punctuation were used. Occasionally, in some manuscripts, the title and particular phrases – for example, If someone asks you and Then the answer is – are written in reddish brown ink to distinguish them from the black ink of the rest of the text. In modern print­ ing we can use layout and italics to help make the

text clear, as for example in the way the poems are set out, whereas in the Arabic text, it usually simply says ‘Poem’ to indicate where one begins. As well as for the phrases already mentioned above, in this

edition, italics have been used instead of quotation marks to indicate speech, quotations from the Quran and traditional sayings of the Prophet Muhammad. There is a list of these at the back of the book, with Quranic references where appropriate. To help the flow of the text, there are no notes in the text itself. There are some translator’s notes after the text to explain key terms and concepts.

Ibn (Arabi (d.1240)

The wor1-cl is imagination, Yet in reality it is Real ((Fmus al-hikam, ed. A. ‘Affifi (Beirut: Dar al-Kitab al­Arabi, 1946), p. 159. See the poem at the end of the Chapter on S”lomon in the English translations listed in the Bibliography)).

Ibn ‘Arabi was born in Murcia, Spain in 1165 and spent half his life in the West and half in the East. When he was eight years old he moved with his family to Seville, where he was based for the re­ mainder of his time in Spain, although he travelled a great deal both in Andalusia and North Africa. As a young teenager, he felt a strong calling from

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