Insan Kamel

The Universal Being

Concerning the Beginning of the Spiritual Creation

By Shaykh Ibn Arabi (Q)

The beginning of creation was fine dust, and the first existent in it is the Muhammadan reality of the Rahman. It is not contained in any place since it is not contained.

From what did the world come into existence?

It came into existence from the known reality which is described by neither existence nor non-existence. In what did it exist? It existed in fine dust. In what manner did it exist? It existed on the form known in the self of the Real.

Why did it exist? It existed in order to manifest divine realities. What was its goal? Its goal was to be purified of mixture, so that every world wouldrecognize its portion from its origin without mixture. So the goal of the world is to manifest its realities [i.e. the realities of the Real or the realities of creation], and recognition of the spheres of the Macrocosm from the world.

In the usage of the [Sufi] community, it is whatever is other than man. The Microcosm, i.e. man, is the spirit, cause and reason for the world. The spheres of the world are its stations, movements and the separation of its classes. This is a summary of all that the chapter contains.

(Man is the Microcosm) As man is the Microcosm by way of the body, so he is also inconsiderable due to his being in-time. Resembling the divine is valid for him since he is the khalif of Allah in the world and the world is subject to him, a vassal of the divine as man is a vassal of the divine.   Know that the most perfect formation of man is in this world. In the Next world, each man is in one of two parties based on equity in the state, not in knowledge. Each party knows its opposite state. So man is either believer or unbeliever. It is either happiness or misery, bliss or punishment, blessed or punished. Thus the recognition of this world is more complete although the manifestation (tajalli) of the Next world is more sublime.

So understand! Open this lock! In this station, we have a symbol for whoever is clever and it is an ugly and disgusting expression whose meaning is beautiful and unprecedented:  

The spirit of the Macrocosm is this Microcosm The spirit of the great existence is this small existence. If it had not been for that, He would not have said, “I am the great, the powerful. “My in-timeness should not veil you nor my annihilation nor rising.  “If you reflect on Me, I am the Encompassing, the Great,   “My existence belongs to the ancient, and the new has manifestation.”  Allah is Unique, Out-of-time. Deficiency does not touch Him.   Phenomenal being is a new creation which is captive in His hands.  From this it came that I am inconsiderable existence, And every existence revolves around my existence. There is no night like my night and no light like my light. So if someone speaks of me as a slave, I am the poor slave. Or if he says that I am existence, then I am Aware Existence. Proclaim a kingdom for me and you will find me or the rabble, as long as you do not encroach. O you ignorant of My power! Are you knowing, seeing? My existence reports about me, although speech can be both truth and lie. Say to my your people: I am the Compassionate, the Forgiving. Say: My punishment is the destroying punishment. Say: I am weak, incapable, a captive. So how can a person be blessed or destroyed by my hand?    

From Allah comes support and help. (Four known things of existence)   Know that known things are four:

    • The Real, Al-Haqq who is described with absolute existence because He is neither caused by anything nor the cause of anything.
    • He is the Creator of causes and exists by His Essence from own His Essence. Knowledge of Him refers to knowledge of His existence, and His existence is not other than His essence. However, His Essence is not known, but the attributes ascribed to Him are known.
    • This means the attributes of meanings, which are the attributes of perfection. Knowledge of the reality of the Essence is impossible since it is not known by either proof or logical demonstration and is untouched by definition. Allah is not like anything and nothing is like Him.
  • So how can the one who is like things be like the One who resembles nothing and nothing resembles Him? Gnosis of Him is that “there is nothing like Him” (42:10) and “Allah cautions you about Himself”.(3:27 ) The Shari’a includes the prohibition against reflection about the Essence of Allah.

  (The reality of realities)   The second known is the universal reality which belongs to the Real and to the universe, which is not described as existent or non-existent, in-time or out-of-time. It is out-of-time when the out-of-time is described by it,and in-time when the in-time is described by it. In-time and out-of-time known things are not known until this reality is known, but this reality does not exist until the things described by it exist. If something exists without prior non-existence, like the existence of the Real and His attributes, it is said that it is an out-of-time existent since Allah is described by it. If something exists from non-existence like the existence of what is other than Allah, which is in-time and exists by other than itself, it is said that it is in-time. It is in every existent according to its universal reality. It does not accept division, so “each” and “some” do not apply to it. One does not attain to its gnosis free of form by either proof or demonstration. The world exists from this reality by means of the Real. This reality does not exist in its essence, so Allah brings us into existence from an out-of-time existent. Thus out-of-timeness is established for us.   Similarly you should know that this universal reality


  • There is a third known, which is the entire world:is not described as being before the world nor is the world described as being after it.
  • Rather, it is the root of existent things in general.
  • It is the source of the substance (jawhar), the sphere of life, the truth by which creation takes places [See Qur’an 15:85] and other things.
  • It is the intelligible Encompassing Sphere. If you said that it is the world, you would be speaking the truth. If you said that it is not the world, you would be speaking the truth. If you said that it is the Truth or not the Truth, you would be speaking the truth. It accepts all of this.
  • It multiplies with the multiplicity of persons of the world and is disconnected with the disconnection of the Real.
  • angels and spheres and the worlds that they contain,
  • the air and the earth and the world that is between them.
  • It is the Greater Kingdom.
  • Finally there is the fourth known which is man, the Khalif appointed by Allah in this world which is subject to him. Allah said, “He has subjected to you whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth, all together, from Him.” (45:12)

 

 Whoever knows these known things, has no other known which he seeks. Among these four knowns is that whose existence is only known – the Real, may He be exalted! His actions and attributes are known by making examples. Some of them are only known by the model (mithal) – like knowledge of the Universal Reality. Some of them are known by both aspects, and by whatness (mahiyya) and how-ness: the world and man.  

Section (The beginning of the world and its model: dust and the Muhammadanreality  “Allah was and nothing was with Him.” (al-Bukhari) Then he added to this hadith, “He is now as He was.” No quality which He did not already have refers to Him from the fact that He brought the world into existence. He described Himself before His creation and was named with the Names by which His creation calls upon Him. When He wanted the world to exist and began it according to the limit He knew by His knowledge of Himself, it was effected from that pure will by a sort of prescencing (tajalli) from the manifestations of disconnection (tanzih) to the Universal Reality.

A reality was effected from it called dust or nebula (haba’) which like the gypsum the builder casts down in which he can open whatever shapes and forms he wishes.This was the first existent in the universe which was mentioned by ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib,Sahl ibn ÔAbdullah at-Tustari and others among the people of realization, the people of unveiling and existence.  Then Allah manifested Himself by His light to that dust.The philosophers call it the primal whole (al-Hayula al-Kull).  It contains the entire universe by potentiality and by competence.So every thing accepted from Him in that dust according to its potential and predisposition, as the corners of the room accept the light of the lamp, and the intensity of its illumination and acceptance is according to its nearness to that light.

Allah said, “The likeness of His light is as a niche wherein is a lamp.” (24:35) He makes His light like a lamp. So there was nothing nearer to accepting it in that dust except the reality of Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, which is called the Intellect {Ayn,Qaf Lam}.

So it was the master of the entire universe and the first thing to appear in existence. Its existence came from that Divine Light and from the dust and from the Universal Reality. His source existed in the dust. the source of the universe came from his presencing (tajalli). The closest of people to him was Ali ibn Abi Talib, and the secrets of the Prophets.  

As for the model (mithal) on which the entire universe existed without separation, it is the knowledge dependent on the Real. Allah knows us by His knowledge of Himself and brought us into existence according to what He taught us. We have this specific form in His knowledge. If the matter had not been like that, this form would have come to us by accident, not intention, because He would not have known it. It is not possible that a form issue into existence by accident. If it had not been that this specific form is known by Allah and willed by Him, He would not have brought us into existence on it, and this form could not have been taken from any other since it is confirmed that Allah “was and nothing was with Him”. So there only remain the forms He brings out in Himself.

He knows it Himself. He knew us before time, not after non-existence. That is how His knowledge of us is. Our model, which is the same as His knowledge of us, is out-of-time with the out-of-timeness of Allah because it is an attribute of His, and in-timeness does not concern Him. He is too majestic for that!  

(The goal of the universe) As for our statement, “Why was the universe brought into existence? What is its goal?” the answer is that Allah says, “I only created men and jinn to worship Me.” (51:56) He made a clear statement about the reason for which He brought us into existence. It is the same with the entire universe while Allah mentioned us and the jinn in particular. Here the jinn is every hidden thing, be it angel or something else.

Allah said about the heavens and the earth, “Come willingly or unwillingly! They said, ‘We come willingly.'” (41:11) He also said, “But they refused to carry it.” (33:72). That is because it was a offer. If it had been a command, they would have obeyed and carried it since it is inconceivable that they rebel. They were created for that [obedience], but the fiery jinn and men were not so endowed.   (All the universe is alive and articulate)   

Similarly there are philosophers among the people of investigation and proofs who are confined to the senses, necessities and proofs, who say that the obligated person must have intellect in respect of understanding what is said to him. They spoke the truth. The matter is like that with us since the entire universe is intelligent, living, and articulate. This is confirmed in respect of unveiling by the breaking of norms (miracles) which people have, i.e. our obtaining knowledge of this. However they say, “This is an unintelligible inanimate object.” They stopped at what their eyes told them. According to us, the matter is different from that.  

When it is reported from a Prophet that a stone spoke, or a sheep-shoulder or the trunk of a tree or a beast, they say that Allah created life and knowledge in it at that moment. [1] That is not what we consider the matter to be. It is the secret of life which flows through the entire universe and all “who hear the mu’adhdhan, moist or dry, will testify for him” [Ibn Majah, Nasa’i, Abu Dawud] and it only testifies from knowledge. This is confirmed by unveiling with us, not by the deduction of whoever looks into what the apparent information indicates and no more. Whoever wants to grasp it should travel the path of the Men and cling to retreat and dhikr. Then Allah will acquaint him with all of this directly. So he will know that people are blind to the perception of these realties.

(The existence of the universe is the manifestation of the Power of the Names)   Allah brought the universe into existence in order to manifest the power of the Names.

  • Power without the object of power,
  • generosity without gift,
  • provider without provided for,
  • helper without helped,
  • merciful without object of mercy are realities devoid of effect.
  • Allah made the universe in this world a mixture as He mixed the two handfuls in the clay.
  • Then He separated individuals from it and made one handful enter into the other handful.
  • Each handful is mixed with its brother, but the states are unknown.
  • Scholars vary in excellence in extracting the foul from the good and the good from the foul.
  • The goal is purification from this mixture and the distinguishing the two handfuls until this one is alone with its world and that one is alone with its world.
  • It is as Allah said, “until He shall distinguish the corrupt from the good. He will put some of the corrupt on others, and so He will pile it up altogether and put it in Jahannam.” ( 8:37 )

  

  Whoever has some of that mixture remaining in him when he dies is not gathered on the Day of Rising among the trusty. [See Qur’an 15:46; 34:37: 41:40: 44:55, but esp. 27:89.] However, some people are freed of this mixture in the Reckoning, and some are only freed in Jahannam. When he is purified, he comes out. They are the people of intercession. As for the one who is distinguished into one of the two handfuls here, he moves by a reality to the Next World from his grave to bliss, or to punishment and Jahim. He is already purified.  

 

This is the clarification of the goal of the world. These two handfuls are two realities which refer back to an attribute which the Real has in His Essence (like the two feet). From here we say that the people of the Fire see Him as Punishing and the people of the Garden see Him as Blessing. This is a noble secret. Perhaps you will grasp it in the Next Abode by witnessing, Allah willing. Those of realization obtain it in this world.    

 

(The celestial and terrestrial knowledge’s and their likes in man)   As for what we said in this chapter concerning the spheres of the Macrocosm and the Microcosm which is man,

 

  • by it I mean the worlds of its totalities and genera.
  • Its amirs are those who have effect on others.
  • I have made the spheres of the Macrocosm and the Microcosm reciprocal.

 

We say that the worlds are four:

 

  • the celestial world, which is the world of going-on;
  • then the world of change, which is the world of annihilation;
  • then the world of habitation which is the world of going-on and annihilation;
  • and then there is the world of ascriptions. These worlds are in two places: in the Macrocosm, which is what is outside of man, and in the Microcosm, which is man.

 

  The highest world is the Muhammadan Reality.  Its sphere is life. It has an equivalent in man in the latifa and the Pure Ruh. It includes the Encompassing Throne whose equivalent in man is the body. There is also the Footstool, whose equivalent in man is the selfThere is also the Inhabited House whose equivalent in man is the heart.

 

  • There are also the angels whose equivalent in man are the spirits and capacities in him.
  • There is also Saturn and its sphere, whose equivalent in man is the faculty of knowledge and the breath.
  • There is Jupiter and its sphere whose equivalent in man is the faculty of memory and rear part of the brain.
  • There is also Mars and its sphere whose equivalent in man is the faculty of intellect and the crown of the head.
  • There is the Sun and its sphere whose equivalent is the faculty of reflection and the middle of the brain.

 

There is Venus and its sphere whose equivalent in man is the faculty of illusory imagination (imagination) and the animal spirit.

 

There is Mercury and its sphere and its equivalent in man is the faculty of the imagaination (khayal) and the front of the brain.

 

Then there is the moon and its sphere whose equivalent is the sensory faculty and the limbs which have sensation. These are the classes of the upper world and their equivalents in man. The world of change includes the orb of the ether whose spirit is hot and dry.

 

It is the orb of fire and its equivalent in man is yellow bile whose spirit is the power of digestion. It includes the air whose spirit is hot and wet and is equivalent to the blood. Its spirit is the faculty of attraction.

 

It includes water whose spirit is cold and wet and whose equivalent is phelgm. Its spirit is the faculty of expulsion.

 

It includes earth whose spirit is cold and dry and whose equivalent is black bile. Its spirit is the faculty of retention.  

 

There are seven classes of the earth: black earth, dusty earth, red earth, yellow earth, white earth, blue earth and green earth. The equivalents of these seven in man’s body are: skin, fat, flesh, veins, nerves, muscles and bones.   The world of inhabitation includes the Ruhaniyyun whose equivalents are the faculties in man.

 

 

 

  • It includes the world of animal whose equivalent is what is sensed in man.
  • It includes the world of plants whose equivalent is whatever grows in man.
  • It also includes the world of inanimate whose equivalent is what is not sensed in man.

 

  The world of ascriptions includes the non-essential (awrad) whose equivalent is black and white, colours and beings (akwan). Then there is “how” whose equivalent is states like healthy and ill. Then there is “How many” whose equivalent is “the thigh is longer than the forearm”. Then there is “where” whose equivalent is the neck as a place for the head and the lerg as a place for the thigh. Then there is “time” whose equivalent is “I move my head at the moment when my hand moves.” Then there is the relative (idafa) whose equivalent is, “This is my father, so I am his son.” There is place whose equivalent is “my language and my dialect.” There is the active verb whose equivalent is “I ate”. There is the passive verb whose equivalent is “I became full.” Some of them have different forms in the matrices [the other three] like elephants, donkeys, lions and cockroaches.

 

The equivalent of this is the human capacity which accepts forms of meanings which are both blameworthy and praiseworthy. “This one is clever so he is an elephant. That one is stupid so he is a donkey. This one is brave so he is a lion. This one is a coward so he is cockroach.”