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From his Mother Nūr al-Anṣāriyya to his Šayḫ Fāṭima bt. Ibn al-Muṯannā: Important Female Figures around Muḥyī l-Dīn b. al-ʿArabī (d. 638/1240)

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Abstract Muḥyī l-Dīn b. al-ʿArabī (d. 638/1240), well known for his favorable views on woman, is of the idea that there is a very strict love-bond in the God, man and woman trinity: God created Adam/man in His own image, and created woman on Adam/man’s image. Thus, God is the waṭan (country of origin) of Adam, and in turn Adam is the waṭan of woman. His mother Nūr al-Anṣāriyya, his wife Maryam and his daughter Zaynab should be regarded as the immediate important women around him. As he believed that man and woman were equal in everything, he followed both female and male šayḫs. Ibn al-ʿArabī’s esteemed female šayḫs include Fāṭima bt. Ibn al-Muṯannā, about whom he used the term “Divine mother;” Šams Umm al-Fuqarāʾ, and Faḫr al-Nisāʾ bt. Rustam, a scholar and the šayḫ of Ḥiğāz.

1. FN11 Annemarie Schimmel, “The Feminine Element in Sufism”, in A. Schimmel, Mystical Dimensions of Islam, Chapel Hill, The University of North Caroline, 1975, p. 426-35.
2. FN22 For the former see H.M. Zihni Efendi, Meşhur Kadınlar, ed. B. Cetıner, Istanbul, Şamil, 1982, II, p. 25. For the latter see Süleymaniye, Ayasofya, no. 2020. Other copies (Süleymaniye, Esad Efendi, no. 1522; etc.) lack the title of Kašf al-kunūz.
3. FN33 In another copy: I (men in Persian). See ʿAlī l-Huğwīrī (d. 465/1072), Kašf al-maḥğūb, ed. V.A. Zhukovskii, Tehran, Tāhūrī, 1374/1995, p. 258-9.
4. FN44 For details, see Abū Ṭālib al-Makkī (d. 386/996), Qūt al-qulūb, ed. S.N. Makārim, Beirut, Dār Ṣādir, 1424/2003, I, p. 180-8.
5. FN55 The term tulātiyya (Trinity) plays a central role in Ibn al-ʿArabī’s writings. To him, the number 3 (three) is the first of the odd numbers, since 1 (one) cannot be deemed a number. See Ibn al-ʿArabī, K. al-Bāʾ, Konya Yusufağa Library, no. 4868/2, f. 5a, 8a.
6. FN66 Dāwūd al-Qaysarī (d. 751/1350), Maṭlaʿ ḫuṣūṣ al-ḥikam fī maʿānī Fuṣūṣ al-ḥikam, Qum, Muʾassasat muḥibbīn, 1423, II, p. 158-9.
7. FN77 See Aḥmad Sirhindī, Maktūbāt, transl. M.M. al-Munzāwī, Beirut, Dār al-kutub al-ʿilmiyya, n.d., I, p. 6-7.
8. FN88 For the tradition see, al-Nasāʾī (d. 303/915), Sunan, Istanbul, Çağrı, 1401/1981, II (ʿIšrat al-nisāʾ), 1.
9. FN99 See Ibn al-ʿArabī, al-Futūḥāt al-makkiyya, Cairo, al-Maṭbaʿa l-amīriyya, 1293/1876 [1st ed. M.Q. al-ʿAdawī, 1274/1857], IV, p. 106. Note that several editions of this work have been used in this article. The present one (1293/1876) is our main/default reference, abridged simply: al-Futūḥāt. When we use a different one, the precision of the edition will be mentioned between parentheses.
10. FN1010 A.A. Konuk, Fusûsu’l-Hikem Tercüme ve Şerhi, eds. M. Tahralı and S. Eraydın, Istanbul, İstanbul Üniversitesi İlahiyat Fakültesi Vakfı, 1992, IV, p. 353.
11. FN1111 See ibid., IV, p. 338-9.
12. FN1212 Ibid., IV, p. 339 f.
13. FN1313 Ibid., IV, p. 353.
14. FN1414 Ibn al-ʿArabī, Ḏaḫāʾir al-aʿlāq Šarḥ Tarğumān al-ašwāq, Beirut, al-Maṭbaʿa l-unsiyya, 1312, p. 82-3.
15. FN1515 See al-Futūḥāt, IV, p. 588.
16. FN1616 See ibid., II, p. 613; IV, p. 522.
17. FN1717 See Konuk, Fusûsu’l-Hikem Tercüme ve Şerhi, IV, p. 342-3.
18. FN1818 See ibid., IV, p. 352-3.
19. FN1919 For a general outlook to the issue of “woman in Ibn al-ʿArabī’s works”, see Suʿād al-Ḥakīm, “Ibn ʿArabī’s Twofold Perception of Woman as Humanbeing and Cosmic Principle”, Journal of Ibn Arabi Society, 31 (2002), p. 1-29; Saʿdiyya Shaikh, Sufi Narratives of Intimacy. Ibn ʿArabī, Gender and Sexuality, Chapel Hill, The University of North Carolina Press, 2012, p. 113-228.
20. FN2020 For the former, see ʿU.R. Kaḥḥāla, Aʿlām al-nisāʾ fī ʿālam al-ʿarab wa-l-islām, 2 vols, Damascus, al-Maktaba l-hāšimiyya, 1377/1958, II, p. 303; for the latter see ʿA. Ğāmī, Nafaḥāt al-uns, ed. M. Ābīdī, Tehran, Intišārāt-e ittiilaʿāt, 1373, p. 628-9; Meḥmed Zihnī Efendi, Meşhur Kadınlar [Mashāhir al-nisāʾ], 2 vols, ed. B. Çetiner, Istanbul, Şâmil, 1982, II, p. 120.
21. FN2121 See al-Futūḥāt, II, p. 459; see also Nihat Keklik, İbnü’l-Arabi’nin Eserleri ve Kaynakları için Misdak olarak el-Fütûhâtü’l-Mekkiyye, Ankara, T.C. Kültür Bakanlığı, 1990, p. 262. Ibn al-ʿArabī frequently mentions al-Anṣār in his al-Futūḥāt. Even in the exortations which are located at the end of his al-Futūḥāt, he admonishes his novices “to love al-Anṣār”. See al-Futūḥāt, IV, p. 605.
22. FN2222 Al-Futūḥāt, II, p. 459.
23. FN2323 See ibid., II, p. 820. We do not know the date of this ascension. Cf. Stephen Hirtenstein, The Unlimited Mercifier. The spiritual life and thought of Ibn ʿArabī, Oxford, Anqa, 1999, p. 257, n. 13.
24. FN2424 See Ibn al-ʿArabī, al-Futūḥāt al-makkiyya, foreword by M. Maṭarağī, Beirut, Dār al-fikr, 1414/1994, IV, p. 108.
25. FN2525 For these terms and more, see, for instance, al-Futūḥāt (1414/1994), I, p. 358-66; III, p. 238; Ibn al-ʿArabī, Ḏaḫāʾir, p. 55; see also Suʿād al-Ḥakīm, Muʿğam al-ṣūfiyya, Beirut, Dandara, 1401/1981, p. 114-26, 217.
26. FN2626 Ibn al-ʿArabī, “Rūḥ al-quds”, in Sufis of Andalusia, The Rūḥ al-quds and al-Durrat al-fākhirah of Ibn Arabī, transl. and ed. R.W.J. Austin, Sherborne, Beshara, 1988, p. 118.
27. FN2727 See Ibn al-ʿArabī, al-Durra l-fāḫira, Süleymaniye, Esad Efendi, no. 1777, 84a-122a, n.d., f. 89a.
28. FN2828 See al-Futūḥāt, IV, p. 148-9.
29. FN2929 See Ibn al-ʿArabī, K. al-Mubašširāt fī l-ruʾyā, MS, Süleymaniye Library, Fatih, no. 5322, fols 90-3, n.d., f. 93a.
30. FN3030 See Ibn al-ʿArabī, K. al-Kutub, MS,, no. 1, 1324, 90 fols, accessed on 02/12/2010, f. 55-63.
31. FN3131 See al-Futūḥāt (1414/1994), I, p. 519; see also Keklik, Misdak, p. 129, 263.
32. FN3232 Cf. M. Asin Palacios, El Islam cristianizado, Madrid, Editorial Plutarco, 1931, p. 37 (Addas is of the idea that Asin Palacios’s categorical assertation needs strong qualification. See Claud Addas, Quest for the Red Sulphur, The Life of Ibn ʿArabī, transl. P. Kingsley, Cambridge, The Islamic Texts Society, 1993, p. 40, 86); Keklik, Misdak, p. 260; G.T. Elmore, Islamic Sainthood in the Fullness of Time: Ibn al-ʿArabī’s book of the Fabulous Gryphon, Leiden, Brill, 1998, p. 32; M.E. Kılıc, Şeyh-i Ekber: İbn Arabi Duşuncesine Giriş, Istanbul, Sufi, 2010, p. 37.
33. FN3333 Cf. Asin Palacios, El Islam cristianizado, p. 37; Keklik, Misdak, p. 260; Elmore, Islamic Sainthood in the Fullness of Time, p. 32; Kılıc, Şeyh-i Ekber, p. 37.
34. FN3434 See Ibn al-ʿArabī, al-Futūḥāt al-makkiyya, ed. ʿUtm̱ān Yaḥyā, Cairo, al-Hayʾa l-miṣriyya l-ʿāmma, 1401-1414/1980-1994, IV, p. 260-1.
35. FN3535 Ibid., IV, p. 260-1.
36. FN3636 Al-Futūḥāt, III, p. 311.
37. FN3737 See Ibn al-ʿArabī, K. al-Mubašširāt, MS, Yusufağa Library (Konya), no. 7851 (formerly: 5624/16), fols 350-360b, n.d., f. 353a, 359b. See also Elmore, Islamic Sainthood, Leiden, Brill, 1998, p. 33, 34-5; Hirtenstein, Mercifier, p. 260.
38. FN3838 See Ibn al-ʿArabī, K. al-Mubašširāt (Süleymaniye, 5322), f. 93a.
39. FN3939 For details, see Addas, Quest, p. 85, 87.
40. FN4040 See Ibn al-ʿArabī, al-Mubašširāt (Yusufağa 7851), f. 359b.
41. FN4141 For other problems relating the issue, see Elmore, Islamic Sainthood, p. 34-5.
42. FN4242 See al-Futūḥāt (1414/1994), VIII, p. 480.
43. FN4343 See Hirtenstein, Mercifier, p. 149-50. To my opinion, it would be much more appropriate to receive Ibn al-ʿArabī’s words concerning his aversion to women and to sexual intercourse as referring to his spiritual state alone, not to his marital state. Furthermore, an earlier researcher, Keklik, takes these 18 years as referring to his years before entering the Path. See Keklik, Misdak, p. 264.
44. FN4444 Cf. Addas, Quest, p. 87, 228. It is a pity that we do not know the name of such an important woman who was related to two leading Sufi philosophers, as the wife of Ibn al-ʿArabī, however this may be disputed somewhat, and the mother of Ṣadr al-Dīn al-Qūnawī.
45. FN4545 For details, see Hirtenstein, Mercifier, p. 189.
46. FN4646 Since in 608/1211, Ibn al-ʿArabī was in Iraq and Zaynab was about one year old as will be amplified.
47. FN4747 See al-Futūḥāt, III, p. 22.
48. FN4848 See al-Futūḥāt, (1414/1914), IV, p. 293. Keklik considers that this was in Ibn al-ʿArabī’s pilgrimage in 598/1202. See his Misdak, p. 260, 265.
49. FN4949 See al-Futūḥāt, IV, p. 148-9, 522.
50. FN5050 As instances for these he cites under this title, see ibid., III, p. 158.
51. FN5151 Cf. Keklik, Misdak, p. 261.
52. FN5252 See al-Futūḥāt (1414/1994), I, p. 341.
53. FN5353 Ibn al-ʿArabī, Dīwān, ed. and commentary A.Ḥ. Basağ, Beirut, Dār al-kutub al-ʿilmiyya, 1416/1996, p. 240, 55, 58 respectively.
54. FN5454 Cf. Addas, Quest, p. 146.
55. FN5555 See Ibn al-ʿArabī, Dīwān, p. 54-60. Elmore and Hirtenstein are of the opinion that Ṣafiyya was Zaynab’s daughter. See respectively Elmore, Islamic Sainthood, p. 32; Hirtenstein, Mercifier, p. 182.
56. FN5656 See Keklik, Misdak, p. 265.
57. FN5757 See al-Futūḥāt, IV, p. 149.
58. FN5858 See ibid., IV, p. 598.
59. FN5959 His unveiling concerning Ibn al-ʿArabī’s elder sister Umm ʿAlā and admonishment of Ibn al-ʿArabī were mentioned previously. See Ibn al-ʿArabī, al-Durra, f. 89a.
60. FN6060 For some brief notes on these people, see Addas, Quest, p. 61-73, 87, 95, 127-31.
61. FN6161 See Keklik, Misdak, p. 480.
62. FN6262 See al-Futūḥāt (1414/1994), I, p. 619.
63. FN6363 See Ibn al-ʿArabī, al-Durra, f. 95a; id., Rūḥ al-quds, Cairo, Maṭbaʿat al-ḥağar, 1281, p. 78; see also M.M. al-Ġurāb, Šarḥ Risālat Rūḥ al-quds fī muḥāsabat al-nafs, Beirut, Maṭbaʿat Naḍra, 1414/1994, p. 133.
64. FN6464 Ibn al-ʿArabī, Rūḥ al-quds, p. 78; see also al-Ġurāb, Šarḥ, p. 132.
65. FN6565 See Ibn al-ʿArabī, al-Durra, f. 95a; id., Rūḥ al-quds, p. 78; see also, al-Ġurāb, Šarḥ, p. 133.
66. FN6666 See al-Futūḥāt, II, p. 459.
67. FN6767 Ibn al-ʿArabī, al-Futūḥāt al-makkiyya, ed. ʿUṯmān Yaḥyā, Cairo, al-Hayʾa l-miṣriyya l-ʿāmma, 1401-1414/1980-1994, XIII, p. 245.
68. FN6868 This term alludes to the creation of the universe as a consequence of God’s exhalation.
69. FN6969 See al-Futūḥāt (1414/1994), I, p. 619.
70. FN7070 See al-Futūḥāt, II, p. 459.
71. FN7171 Ibn al-ʿArabī, al-Durra, f. 95a.
72. FN7272 Ibid., f. 95b.
73. FN7373 Ibn al-ʿArabī, Rūḥ al-quds, p. 78; see also, al-Ġurāb, Šarḥ, p. 132.
74. FN7474 Ibn al-ʿArabī, Rūḥ al-quds, p. 78; see also, al-Ġurāb, Šarḥ, p. 132.
75. FN7575 Al-Futūḥāt, II, p. 459.
76. FN7676 See ibid., II, p. 459.
77. FN7777 See Šihāb al-Dīn al-Suhrawardī, ʿAwārif al-maʿārif, Beirut, Dār al-kutub al-ʿilmiyya, 1426/2005, p. 54.
78. FN7878 Cf. al-Ḥakīm, al-Muʿğam, p. 124-5.
79. FN7979 See al-Futūḥāt, II, p. 459; Ibn al-ʿArabī, al-Durra, f. 95b.
80. FN8080 Ibn al-ʿArabī, Rūḥ al-quds, p. 78; see also, al-Futūḥāt, II, p. 459 (only for the first part of her words); al-Ġurāb, Šarḥ, p. 132.
81. FN8181 Ibn al-ʿArabī, Rūḥ al-quds, p. 78; see also, al-Ġurāb, Šarḥ, p. 132
82. FN8282 Al-Futūḥāt (ed. Yaḥyā), XIII, p. 245.
83. FN8383 Ibn al-ʿArabī, Rūḥ al-quds, p. 78; see also, al-Ġurāb, Šarḥ, p. 132.
84. FN8484 Al-Buḫārī (d. 256/870), Ṣaḥīḥ, Istanbul, Çağrı, 1401/1981, III, Riqāq, p. 38.
85. FN8585 Al-Futūḥāt (ed. Yaḥyā), XIII, p. 245.
86. FN8686 Ibid.
87. FN8787 “Divine enviousness or jealousy” is God’s being jealous of His servant’s love for Him. See ʿAbd al-Karīm al-Qušayrī (d. 4651/1072), al-Risāla, ed. M. Zarrīk and ʿA.ʿA. Baltağī, Beirut, Dār al-ḫayr, 1413/1993, p. 255.
88. FN8888 See al-Futūḥāt, II, p. 459; Ibn al-ʿArabī, al-Durra, f. 95b-96b; id., Rūḥ al-quds, p. 78; see also al-Ġurāb, Šarḥ, p. 133. See also Keklik, Misdak, p. 287 (Note that probably because he did not translate the beginning of the narration, here Keklik depicts Fāṭima bt. Ibn al-Muṯannā as a female šayḫ who is amusing her disciples by playing the daff and dancing).
89. FN8989 Ibn al-ʿArabī, al-Durra, f. 95b-96a.
90. FN9090 See al-Futūḥāt, II, p. 46.
91. FN9191 See ibid., II, p. 46; Ibn al-ʿArabī, Rūḥ al-quds, p. 77; id., Muḥāḍarat al-abrār wa-musāmarat al-aḫyār fī l-adabiyyāt wa-l-nawādir wa-l-aḫbār, Beirut, Dār al-yaqaẓa l-ʿarabiyya, 1388/1968, II, p. 53-4.
92. FN9292 Al-Futūḥāt (1414/1994), I, p. 619.
93. FN9393 One’s concealing his state is a desired and praiseworthy attribute for Sufis. It is given to those who are attributed as being static and Abū l-waqt. See al-Qušayrī, al-Risāla, p. 78-80.
94. FN9494 Ibn al-ʿArabī, Rūḥ al-quds, p. 77-8; see also al-Ġurāb, Šarḥ, p. 131.
95. FN9595 See Ibn al-ʿArabī, al-Durra, f. 106a.
96. FN9696 See al-Futūḥāt, II, p. 46.
97. FN9797 One of Ibn al-ʿArabī’s šayḫs. For information on him, see Ibn al-ʿArabī, “Rūḥ”, p. 103.
98. FN9898 Ibn al-ʿArabī, al-Durra, f. 106b.
99. FN9999 See Ibn al-ʿArabī, Muḥāḍarat, II, p. 53-4.
100. FN100100 Ibn al-ʿArabī, Tarğumān al-ašwāq, Beirut, Dār Ṣādir, 1961, p. 7; id., Ḏaḫāʾir, p. 2-3.
101. FN101101 Id., Ḏaḫāʾir, p. 3.
102. FN102102 Ibid.
103. FN103103 See al-Futūḥāt (1414/1994), II, p. 348.
104. FN104104 See ibid. I, p. 619.
105. FN105105 See Ibn al-ʿArabī, al-Durra, f. 160a-b. I thank Yusuf R. Saraç (Research Assistant, Süleyman Demirel University, Isparta, Turkey) for this hint.
106. FN106106 Ibn al-ʿArabī, “Rūḥ”, p. 154-5.
107. FN107107 Ibn al-ʿArabī, al-Durra, f. 112a.
108. FN108108 Published in Beirut, 1961; and in London, The Oriental Translation Fund, 1911, transl. and ed. R.A. Nicholson.
109. FN109109 Keklik, Misdak, p. 347 (on p. 342, he gives a description of the work saying that it consists of 10,450 couplets but this number indicates the number of his large Dīwān).
110. FN110110 For a brief article concerning Niẓām, see R.W.J. Austin, “The Lady Nizam, An Image of Love and Knowledge”, Journal of Ibn Arabi Society, 7 (1988), p. 35-8.
111. FN111111 Ibn al-ʿArabī, Ḏaḫāʾir, p. 3, 85.
112. FN112112 ʿAbd Allāh Badr al-Ḥabašī l-Yamanī, one of the closest disciples and a companion of Ibn al-ʿArabī. For Ibn al-ʿArabī’s words concerning him, see al-Futūḥāt (1414/1994), I, p. 125.
113. FN113113 Ismāʿīl b. Sawdakīn al-Nūrī, another beloved companion of Ibn al-ʿArabī. He is the author of works like K. al-Nağāt min ḥuğb al-ištibāb. MS Süleymaniye-Fatih, no. 5322, and al-Taʿlīqāt ʿalā l-Tağalliyāt al-ilāhiyya (in al-Tağalliyāt al-ilāhiyya), ed. ʿU. Yaḥyā, Tehran, Markaz-e našr-e dānišgāhī, 1988). Ibn al-ʿArabī wrote some of his works upon his questions or requests, as is the case above. He has even a special work composed to respond to one of his questions, titled Risāla fī Suʾāl Ismāʿīl b. Sawdakīn, in Rasāʿil Ibn al-ʿArabī, Haydarābād, Dāʾirat al-maʿārif al-ʿuṯmāniyya, 1948.
114. FN114114 See Ibn al-ʿArabī, Ḏaḫāʾir, p. 4; see also al-Futūḥāt (1414/1994), VI, p. 488.
115. FN115115 Ibn al-ʿArabī, Ḏaḫāʾir, p. 4; see also al-Futūḥāt (1414/1994), I, p. 594-5, where he states that female names such as Zaynab, Hind, Laylā, Dunyā, etc. should be deemed only as curtains covering the Divine love.
116. FN116116 Ibn al-ʿArabī, Ḏaḫāʾir, p. 39-40.
117. FN117117 For information on him, see Ibn al-ʿArabī, al-Durra, f. 86a-b.
118. FN118118 For information on him, see ibid., f. 87a-88a; al-Futūḥāt (1414/1994), I, p. 619.
119. FN119119 For information on him, see Ibn al-ʿArabī, “Rūḥ”, p. 136.
120. FN120120 See Ibn al-ʿArabī, al-Durra, f. 112b; id., “Rūḥ”, p. 154-5.
121. FN121121 Al-Futūḥāt, II, p. 690-1.
122. FN122122 A visit paid to Kaʿba at times other than during the pilgrimage period.
123. FN123123 A place near Mecca.
124. FN124124 See Aḥmad al-Maqqarī (d. 1041/1728), Nafḥ al-ṭīb min ġuṣn al-Andalus al-raṭīb, ed. I. ʿAbbās, Beirut, Dār Ṣādir, 1388/1968, II, p. 173-4 (I was not able to locate al-Maqqarī’s quotation in Ibn al-ʿArabī’s works).
125. FN125125 See al-Futūḥāt (ed. Yaḥyā), IV, p. 480; VI, p. 499; VII, p. 517; VIII, p. 514.
126. FN126126 See Addas, Quest, p. 223, 264-5.
127. FN127127 See Ibn al-ʿArabī, Dīwān, p. 54-60.
128. FN128128 See ibid., p. 57.
129. FN129129 See ibid., p. 58.

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