The Chapters of Mary and Ṭā Hā from the Immense Ocean – Ibn ‘Ajiba (al-Bahr al-Madid)

Michael Fitzgerald, Mohamed Fouad Aresmouk


JUST RELEASED: Surah Maryam & Surah Ṭā Hā from al-Bahr al-Madid.

The Chapters of Mary and Ṭā Hā center on the key figures of Islam’s two sister monotheisms, Mary, mother of Christ, and Moses. Ibn ‘Ajiba’s commentaries on these two sūrahs give reader access not only to the traditional Islamic view of these prophetic figures, but also on metaphors and symbols to be found in their stories that can of use to anyone following an inner path to God. The Chapter of Mary, in particular, give readers access to the story of Christ through the perspective of the woman who was chosen to bear him. The Immense Ocean from which this is an excerpt, is a prime example of writing from the North African sufic tradition.

Al-Baḥr al-Madīd, from which this translation is an excerpt, is the only traditional Quranic commentary in existence which gives both exoteric exegesis and mystical “spiritual allusion” for each verse of the Sacred Book.

Since the completion of its publication in 2002, the Arabic version of al-Baḥr al-Madīd, which existed only in manuscript form before a small excerpt was printed in the 1950s, has sold out three editions. This is a testimony both to its popularity and to a revival of interest in Sufic thought throughout the Muslim world.

This book would be of interest to anyone studying, either from a personal or academic standpoint, the mystical dimension of religion in general and Islam in particular. Because it deals with important figures from its sister monotheisms, it may also be inspiring to those who wish to engage with inter-faith dialogue but on a deeper level comparing on form to another.

Product Description

Special Features

·  The introduction includes an over-view of the history and development of the Shadhiliyya sufic tradition in Morocco.
·  The contents includes extensive footnotes aid the reader in contextualizing certain words, expressions, and ideas mentioned in the text.

It includes four separate indices:

-A biographical appendix of all persons mentioned in the body of the translation
-An index of Quranic verses cited giving the actual wording of the verse,
its chapter and number, and where it appears in the work
-An index of ḥadīth cited similar in format to the Quranic index.
-A general index.

By the time he became part of the Ṭārīqah, in around 1793, Sīdī Aḥmad had already spent more than twenty years of his life studying the formal religious sciences (al-ʿulūm) of Islam, and so during a period of spiritual travel in the area of Rabat and Sale, it was logical that his own spiritual mentor would set him the task of writing and teaching spiritual commentaries on some of the essential works of Sufism, culminating in an exegesis (tafṣir) of the Qur’ān which was to include, for nearly every verse of the holy book, not only an explanation of grammar, morphology, and literal explanations derived from the Qur’ān itself, ḥadīth, and what other tafsīrs had said concerning the verses, but also ishāra — spiritual insights that might arise from the verses and would be of particular benefit to someone traveling the path of deepening his or her knowledge of God.

Mohamed Fouad Aresmouk

Fouad Aresmouk grew up in a traditional Marrakesh family, the son of an Arabic teacher in the public school system and grandson of one of the most renowned Qur’ān teachers in Marrakesh and muqaddam for the Tijānī Sufi order. Fouad completed his degree in Islamic Studies and Arabic at Qadi Ayyad University, Marrakesh, while at the same time plunging into a personal study of Sufism in Morocco that continues to this day. He is the author of al-Rashād fī zabdati al-awrād, a commentary (sharḥ) on the litany of the Ḥabibiyya sufi order of Morocco, and co-translator of four other of the books of the Fons Vitae Ghazali series into English, as well a number of other works from the Moroccan Sufic tradition. In addition to scholarly pursuits, Fouad is a husband and father of two and a co-founder and the human resource manager of the Center for Language and Culture in Marrakesh.

Michael Abdurrahman Fitzgerald

Originally from California, Abdurrahman Fitzgerald and his wife migrated to Morocco in the late 1970s. Since that time, he has been involved in education and the study of Arabic, Islam, and Sufism for the past thirty years. He co-translated Ibn al‑Qayyim on the Invocation of God (Islamic Text Society, 2000), worked on the editing and annotation of Denys Johnson-Davies’s translation of al-Ghāzali’s Kitāb ādab al‑akl (Islamic Texts Society, 2000), and also on Dr. Kenneth Honerkamp’s edition of al‑Rasāʾil al‑kubrā by Ibn ʿAbbād (Dār al-Machreq, 2005). Other works translated with Fouad Aresmouk include The Immense Ocean, a portion of Ibn ʿAjība’s Qurʾānic commentary; The Book of Ascension, Ibn ʿAjība’s spiritual glossary; and a portion of the work, Two Sufi Commentaries, all published by Fons Vitae. Abdurrahman holds degrees from the University of California and Shenandoah University, Virginia, and is the director of the Center for Language and Culture, Marrakesh.