Waystations of Being – Theological Writings of Ibn Sab‘īn (ca. 1215-1271 CE)
This is the first translation in a European language of key works of mystical theology by ‘Abd al-Ḥaqq ibn Sab‘īn al-Ghāfiqī, who is one of the most misunderstood figures in the history of Islamic thought. Although he has been discussed by Western scholars for over a century and most of his works have been edited and published in Arabic for more than five decades, there is still no consensus on how he can be categorized and how his ideas should be understood. Some call him a Sufi, others call him a philosopher, and still others call him a pantheist. The historian Ibn Khaldūn (d. 1406 CE) called his theology “clear unbelief” and he was the mystic that the Ḥanbalī theologian Ibn Taymiyya (d. 1328 CE) most loved to hate. However, until now, none of his most significant works has been translated into a European language. This book will be the first English translation of some of Ibn Sab‘īn’s most important epistles (rasā’il), based on the unique manuscript in the Egyptian National Library in Cairo. These texts will demonstrate that Ibn Sab‘īn was one of the most important thinkers of premodern Islam, with a deep understanding of philosophy, theology, and Sufism. Best described as a mystical theologian and a Platonist, he advocated a universalistic vision of Islam that included all people on the path to God, but at the same time subjected the theologians, philosophers, and Sufis of his day to biting critical analysis. His signature theology of “unadulterated oneness” (al-waḥda al-maḥḍa) viewed the Islamic concept of the oneness of God (tawḥīd) through the mystical philosophy of Plotinus (d. 270 CE) and the propositional logic of Proclus (d. 485 CE).
Six of Ibn Sab‘īn’s works will be included in this volume: (1) The Illuminative (al-Risāla al-Nūriyya) is a treatise on the remembrance and invocation of God (dhikr), which also provides an introduction to the spiritual path that Ibn Sab‘īn required for his followers; (2) The Theology of Poverty (al-Risāla al-Faqīriyya) is a study of spiritual poverty that focuses on the essence of poverty as the need for Divine Being in order to maintain our existence; (3) On the Lights of the Prophet (Risāla fī Anwār al-Nabī) portrays the Prophet Muḥammad as the archetype of human perfection and the locus of manifestation of the Divine Light that upholds the universe; (4) On Divine Approval (al-Risāla al-Riḍwāniyya) discusses the primacy of Divine Mercy and Ibn Sab‘īn’s liberal argument for the ultimate salvation of all who believe in God; (5) The Blessed Tablets (Risālat al-Alwāḥ al-Mubāraka) is a treatise on the theology of being that contrasts the ephemeral nature of human identity with the reality of God as True Being; (6) The Book of the Enclosure (Kitāb al-Iḥāṭa), discusses the difference between the divine realm of “eternal being” (al-wujūd al-muṭlaq) and “constrained being” (al-wujūd al-muqayyad), or the world of phenomenal existence.