23 Mar 2015
In attempting a study on Sufism one cannot ignore the theology and life of Ibn Arabi. KnÃÂ¾wn by some aÃ‘â€¢ thÃÂµ grÃÂµatÃÂµÃ‘â€¢t of Muslim philiosophers, Ibn 'ÃÂrabi waÃ‘â€¢ bÃÂ¾rn in MurÃ‘Âia in Ã‘â€¢ÃÂ¾uth-ÃÂµaÃ‘â€¢tÃÂµrn Ãâ€¦pain, during the time of the development of ÃÂndaluÃ‘â€¢ian MÃÂ¾ÃÂ¾riÃ‘â€¢h Ã‘ÂulturÃÂµ. He was born in a situation and moment in time which Jewish, Muslim and Christian intellectuals gained knowledge from each other. Depicting the most sophisticated metaphysical and theoretical philosophy of his era, Ibn 'Arabi generated an astonishing mystical theology that fundamentally developed from his own spiritual realization. He has been recognized for 800 years as the Sheikh al-Akbar, or the Greatest Master, because the sophisticated characteristics of his wisdom.
In these works he presented some unique theological perspectives. One of the most pivotal is his teaching about humanity's unity with God. It is the goal of this paper to attempt to explain why Ibn Arabi stressed this concept as being essential to one's spiritual life.
To understand the oneness of being with God, one must first comprehend what Ibn Arabi's beliefs were between of the universe and ontology. Ontology for him consisted of three different levels of existence. These were rendered as: "Absolute Being, or the unrestricted existence of God, the necessary; the Self Existent, the Absolute non-Being
which is non-Self Existent; and the Mediator or Separator whereby these two are distinguished one from the other." 
God is the only necessary being. All of the rest of creation depends on God for existence. Creation reflects God's attributes. Ibn Arabi believes that "all things pre-exist as ideas in the knowledge of God. The world is merely an outward aspect of that which in its inward aspect in God." 
Â Creation should not be confused with God himself, however it is a reflection of God. When you look at creation you realize that is upheld by God but in its very nature buried in it is God's own nature.
It is natural to say that all that exists has a connection with God. This has to be balanced with still acknowledging tanzih as well.
This might suggest that this is almost a pantheist view. But Ibn Arabi was not claming that God and the Universe are identical. God created the world that is very different from himself but he still wants to hold a relationship with it. This ends up with humankind seeking union with God.
In his manuscript, the Bezels of Wisdom, Arabi makes the claim that what we see and experience is only a dream. While nearly all people are ignorant that we aren not seeing reality, everything that we perceive and sense is an delusion, we know what we see only a representative manifestation of what is the one genuine Reality. Ibn al-Arabi writes, "All
men are asleep; only when they die, do they wake up."  Ibn Arabi does not signify that one has to expire so one can recognize true Reality. However it is showing that the progression human beings have had to undertake so they can understand apparent actuality to reveal the Reality. It was Ibn al-Arabi's estimation, this divine development is a self-annihilation analogous to one's demise. Following the alteration making residence, humans awaken to an totally dissimilar world, liberated of the rationale that conceals the absolute Reality. This "death" or "awakening" which Arabi comprehends as reality directs to a new state of knowning the Reality.
It is inaccurate to articulate that the two are not connected because the absolute Reality is unlike that we perceive to be as reality. Actually Ibn Arabi upholds that they are very much interconnected. We might think that which we perceive as real is not fully worthless, but is a symbolic representation of the Reality. Both our imaginings or reality are not what they appear to be.
The theory concerned in the employment of symbols is a indispensable one. Ibn Arabi labels this as "tawil," which can be defined as bringing something back to its foundation. Nothing is what it appears to be. In Islamic terms, every exterior (Zahir) must have an enterior (batin). Tawil means going from Zahir to the batin, outward reality to the inner one.
The Universe articulates to him in the language of symbols. The progression of tawil can be relevant to all the wonder of Nature and all that encloses humans in this life. The precepts of religion and the experience within the heart of man are also responsible for the
deep-seated method of personal interpretation.
One must undergo five levels of Divine self- manifestation for this "death" or
conversion that one must experience to interpret these symbols. For Arabi there are five levels of Divine self-manifestation. They are:
The plane of the Essence (dhat), the world of the absolute non-manifestation (al-ghayb al-mutlaq) or the Mystery of Mysteries
The plane of the Attributes and the Names, the Presence of Divinity (uhulhiyah)
The plane of the actions, the presence of Lordship (rububiyah)
The plane of Images (amthal) and Imagination (khayal)
The plane of senses and sensible experience (mushahadah) 
Together these create completion, however the exacting planes mirror the stages recorded above. The same as was conveyed previously, everything contained by these stages are a depiction of facet of Divine Existence. The entire entity is "a revelation, an instruction, or a communication from God."  To be capable of discovering the uppermost plane, we need to discover the connection that exists even within the transcendence and immanence of God. We can find this possible if one rejects the corporeal nature but also with some of the sense of reason to reach a level of unadulterated intelligence. While understanding this position we will recover the reason we discarded, just the reason we recover with be an entirely different
type then the one that was thrown away. Liberated of corporeal confines, thethe entirety things on all the planes will be disclose concerning their proper nature. When we distinguish that every of these descriptions are purely diverse varieties of the Divine Being, according to Ibn al-Arabi's theology, we will have arrive at ed the uppermost plane of Being. We will be faultless. Regrettably, though it is achievable to attain this plane and get the capability to know Reality on the greatest sacred point, Muhammad is the only one that has accomplished such consciousness.
Even though Ibn al-Arabi deems every part of of existence is a dream, he too believes it is feasible to arouse from this dream and discover the unqualified Reality. By freeing ourselves from reason and our corporal nature, we are capable to fuse the transcendence and immanence of God. This permits us to deduce the figurative descriptions of the Divine Existence reflected at the distinctive planes of Being, ultimately directing us to recognize that they are entirely one and the same. Each dream, and all of existence, are a expression of the Absolute. Actuality is the Absolute.
Ibn al-Arabi deem that what we see as reality and what we understand of Reality is achievable throughout the course of our minds prospects. Imagination oversee every thing: complete nothingness, the unattainable, the Necessary, and the possibility, and makes them clear through symbols that we can understand. Imagination provides the outline to where all aspects of the Divine Existence, despite whether reason informs us they can or cannot exist. Yet opposites and contradictions, even being in two distinctive places at the same instance, turn out to be reasonable with imagination. Anything that is rational is created by one's imagination. Every part that is reasonable should be interpret. Imagination makes the
sensible world of reality connect with the spiritual. Accepting imagination role is the solution to interpreting the metaphors imagination generates and unleases what they are aiming to communicate.
Humans were originally made in the form of Allah but have forgotten this knowledge and ultimate position that it puts them. Arabi thought that there existed a "Perfect Man" that
remembered and acknowledge the relationship with God and humankind. One should try to become like this person. Ibn Arabi claimed that Muhammad was this "Perfect Man."
The Quran portrays Muhammad as a highly moral man. He saw clearly who he was by through the actualization of divine names.  He stands as an example of knowing God and therefore knowing himself.
This means of realization connects God and our place in the universe. One must follow the path of takhalluq, or assuming the traits of Muhammad.  The knowledge of the oneness of God is not just for the Perfect Man but one who receives the idea and is affected by it. But it is through striving to be the Perfect Man that this can happen.
One must be able to extinguish the self into the presence of God. This happens within the human heart. This changed person achieves unity with God and becomes a reflection of God in humans.
For Ibn Arabi, the soul attains a state of self-annihilation and is able to perceive the unity of all things especially God and its creation. God reveals himself because God wanted to be known.
It seems that the idea of oneness is almost shirk for a Muslim but Ibn Arabi made a distinction between God as the transcendent and the God that related to the cosmos. Humans were only able to draw near to the God that related to the world. This only happens as one becomes perfected. Then one may be able to acknowledge God's presence within oneself.
Man as barzakh, the connection involving Being and non-Being, is important to Ibn Arabi. Humans are given the important role of being the link between God and creation. When
God created Adam and breathed his spirit into him, he placed all of his attributes in humans. We all have the potentional of reflecting God's nature, living the realities of the Divine Names. Humans reflect God's Divine Names. This is comparable to Christians claiming that we are made in God's image.
Humankind may have been created with all of God's attributes in them but we have somehow lost this knowledge. This would correspond with traditional Islamic belief that we have a tendency for forgetfulness. The only path to open up our eyes is through revelation from God.
Unity comes when one has realized that our very existence belongs to God. One must be completely absorbed in God. We are limited but we can be connected to God the absolute.
To connect with God is the aim of the Sufi's life. Within all of us is the desire for God. When we finally come to the knowledge of how the cosmos works and pondering the Divine Names can one attain unity with God. One might even say you must 'get lost in God.'
This can only happen by certain means. Humanity can draw near to God through the experience of oneness through asceticism. There must be self-purification and self-stripping as well as abstinence and solitude. In this environment real conversation can take place with God. There must be certain guidelines that must be followed. Arabi wrote, "do not enter your cell until you are aware of your station and of the extent to which you able to oppose the power of the imagination. If your imagination has power over you, you must go into retreat only under the guidance of a teacher."  People must have the capacity to receive and encounter God on such a deep level. For the Sufi, it is not to be taken lightly.
There is a connection between one's preparedness and the "measuring out" or one's destiny. This is determined by Allah. Before God brought us to be, he knew the qualities we would need to be able to have the capacity to receive. He brings humans from nonexistence to existence. We cannot worship God in His very Essence only by what is allowed by are preparedness and our destiny.
The practice of the dhirk is tremendously important. Dhirk does not simply mean repeating the names of God for a Sufi. It is a liturgy of sorts that includes recitation but also music and dance. These acts will bring to remembrance who God is and what over relationship to him is.
At some point in his days, Muhammad predicted that Islam would be divided just as Christianity had started to be separated. Certainly this prophecy was accurate which can be
seen through the commonness of many sects and atypical viewpoints that are found in the faith of those who assert to be Muslim. One of these division is seen with those who call themselves Sufis. They began engaging in some different behaviors. A number of people initiated in unusual types of devotion and worship. Some began to reject the world surrounding them by way of ascetic exercises. Originally they were regarded as Muslims, though what they were engaged in was an fresh and different. After awhile, a Sufi practice and philiosophy began to advance. Some began to deem those who practiced it to be beyond the religion of Islam. There are similar fanatical Sufi practices that have similarities in Christianity.
Equally Christianity and Sufism have roots in a supernatural outlook of God and the religious experience. It is a personal practice concerning an inner voyage of the person to God, not just an practice of relating truths. It is rooted on spirituality more than reason. The understanding is somewhat purposely fashioned by participant through bodily and intellectual exercises, as the encounter does not manifest itself. One must participate in the exercise. There is an stress put on in encountering a "personal God". This discovery comes through prayer, meditation, music and even chating and meditation.
Another place of common ground is the belief that God addresses people directly to in both Christian and Sufi circles. Christians accept as true that God articulates revelation to them directs them through the "Holy Spirit". The Holy Spirit is one aspect of the trinity, the other essences of God being the Father and also Jesus. Most Christians would agree that they can obtain a relationship with God by communing with the Holy Spirit. This happens through prayer and reflection. Most would say that the Holy Spirit is present in each person
as part as a outcome of Jesus atonement on the cross to rescue and save humankind. The Holy Spirit was sent after Jesus' ascension. The Holy Spirit can articulate openly to people whether they are wide awake or during dreams.
Sufis also claim that God communicates directly to them and divulges to "special hidden knowledge" to them that is not known to others. This idea derives itself from the Sufi belief that Allah inhabits in their souls and that people have divine characteristics. This is precisely the equivalent as the Christian thought of the individual soul that is enlightened and steered by the Holy Spirit. Sufis have created a specific "tafsir" of the Quran in which they utilize, which exposes the concealed connotation of language and terms of passages that are not clear when trying to uunderstanding them. For instance, Ibn Arabi deduces that the verse "Allah has set a seal on their hearts and on their hearings" to mean that "They hear not except from Him (Allah) and understand not except from Him. They see not except by Him, and they neither turn to you nor to what you have because of what We have made and placed with them".  Ibn Arabi purports that Allah has "sealed the hearts" and hearing of Sufis to everything except from what Allah shows them candidly through their prayers and meditation. Ibn Arabi trusts that his tafsir was divinely inspired and inscribed by way of Divine transcription and Allah placing the implication in his heart.
Because there is a focus on personal relationship with the Divine, directly through the Holy Spirit, both religions seem to take on a especially personal manner about them. On the whole the focal point is distracted from the others and society. Their association with God as a whole, only seems to concentrate on the connection to the individual's relationship with
God. The mystical path can become a distinctively individual solitary way to find God, all relying on the self. The Christian and Sufi prays and mediatates; they may even attend worship, whether in a mosque or other group gathering. Nevertheless, the prominence of thought is generally constantly on the self. The accountability to the others is makes one indifferent and narrowed the importance of others appreciably. This is in disagreement to the overall rationale of religion, as God sent prophets to the people and countries not to just individuals. Islam and Christianity both should integrate the society or atleast others from different ways of life. We are all diversely joined and should be inseparable. When focus is taken off the individual the whole scheme of belief changes. Religion should not be something every individual does absent from the society on his or her own; it is also displayed through every deed that the person makes. There is not enough to emphasis on the community and together their relationship to God. One worries about getting people "saved" and not how live in community. If one mainly concentrates on their own individual bond with God, the church and the world populace is lacking because of it.
Another problem that arises from an individualistic way of expressing religion, every person can develop their own system and beliefs supported by anything they sense God fancies them to do, not what God says they should do. This somewhat explains the mystical understanding where imagination, not reason is implemented. This personal tone of Sufism and Christianity is too often the outcome, whether it has been intentional or not, which can isolate people from God, since they are not following there own way not the way God gave them.
In trying to evaluate Ibn Arabi individually from a Christian perspective, he makes some claims one can seem to agree with. Christians tend to claim to want a relationship with God and that we are made in the image of God.
At first glance this seemed to be similar to Christian thought. This is different for the Christian because it was not just forgetfulness that separates us from God but rebellion. We cannot do anything to bridge to gap between us and God. One needs a savior to pay the atonement for one's sins which make it possible for relationship. Knowledge is not path to get someone there.
Christians do talk about how someone "must decrease and God increase" in their lives. This is very similar to the oneness that is spoken in Sufism. The more someone becomes like God, the less we are like themselves. An attempt is made to leave the carnal nature behind.
Those that follow the teachings of John Wesley speak of working towards perfection. Wesley taught that perfection, or sanctification, was possible in this lifetime, though he never
claimed to achieve total perfection. This could only happen by intentional behaviors meant to hone in your carnal nature. This is also completemented by first the working of the Holy Spirit in one's life.
Most Christians would say that perfection is an unattainable goal. Only Christ was the perfect man. We still need to mature in our faith. That will change us into better people.
Sufi's have always honored Jesus as the "ultimate contemplative." Jesus achieved the ultimate ideal for intimacy by displaying the ascetic life and love for God. Jesus had long
periods of fasting and prayer retreats that many Sufi's would consider a good model. Many Christians shrug off fasting and retreat as unnecessary even though it is commanded by Jesus.
This paper sought to explain how for Ibn Arabi, union with God is a pivotal theological concept. This can only be understood by looking at the way he viewed the world including symbolism. These all influence how one sees creation and how one relates to God.
For Christianity, Sufism brings some challenges as well as at time places of agreement. It is important for one to understand other concepts to be able to understand one's one theological framework better. We both agree on a personal loving God. Some other ways, like prayer and meditation, are exceptionally important to both groups.
One can be challenged as we try to understand each other so there can be more peace. Only in that environment can Christianity be heard and understood. Christianity can not make as much an impact if we do not strive to understand other religions. Christ would want us to observe and interact with people of other religions so others could see Christ through us.
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