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4 The Perfect Man: From Shiʿi Sectarianism to Universal Humanism

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Chapter Summary

The notion of human perfection and the concept of &t;the perfect man&t; (al-insā n al-kāmil) play a central role in both the Ismāʿīlī tradition and in the thought of Ibn al-ʿArabī. Ibn al-ʿArabī’s discourse concerning the perfect man is very similar to that of the Ismāʿīlīs, more so than to the philosophical discourse, or, for that matter, the Sufi discourse. Throughout their Epistles, the Ikhwān oscillate between two opposite poles: the sectarian attitude of the Shiʿi-Ismāʿīlī tradition, on the one hand, and their own universal humanism, on the other. Human perfection is attained when man actualizes the full potential of his rational/speaking soul, through the acquisition of knowledge and its realization in deeds; it is then that one "exists as a man, after having existed as an animal".

Keywords:human perfection; Ibn al-ʿArabī; Ismāʿīlī tradition; Shiʿi sectarianism; universal humanism



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