Sufi Books & DVDs

Looking for Muhiyuddin – Film Review

Nacer Khemir is a prominent Tunisian filmmaker, who in this movie returns home to bury his mother. After the burial, he visits his Sheikh who gives him an amana, or trust, left from his deceased father that asks him to go in search of the great Shaykh, Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi.

Ibn Arabi is often referred to as the Shaykh al-Akbar – the Greatest Master and remains one of the most important figures and writers in Sufism and Islam, even though he was born in 1165 in a golden period in Spain, when it was called al-Andulus. His teachings are both inspirational and of the highest spiritual attainment. A central theme of Ibn Arabi’s spirituality is to investigate the multiplicity in life and then to link this into the Unity of God’s creation.

So Nacer Khemir becomes ‘the main actor’ in this movie, as he travels to all the countries in which Ibn Arabi lived, and more, pulling his red travel bag behind – but this highlights why this is not a normal movie, as you never regard Nacer Khemir as an actor. He is a pilgrim who has kept the trust his father has given to him, whilst making a movie of both visual and auditory beauty. A strong theme that is woven through the movie is the saying of the Prophet Muhammad, “that God is beautiful and He loves beauty”. This continually reflects throughout this film.

‘Looking for Muhiyuddin’ is 183 minutes long, which provides the time for Khemir to carefully tell this story and inter-weave the various themes into a satisfying whole. The quest leads him to interview many Sufis and leading Ibn Arabi scholars throughout Tunisia, Spain, Morocco, Syria, England, France, the U.S., Turkey, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

Again reinforcing the fact that this is better than your regular movie, Khemir, our main ‘actor’, rarely speaks throughout the movie and never speaks to those being interviewed. This gives the feeling he is an ‘empty cup’ travelling on this quest, whilst recording some excellent and thought provoking interviews and commentary about Muhiyiddin Ibn Arabi. The movie doesn’t follow a ‘talking heads’ nor question and answer documentary format but cleverly blends these interesting interviews into the flow of the movie.

One theme of the movie is that, according to Ibn Arabi, the true spiritual quest is to read and assimilate the book of yourself, that will lead your own inner book, your own source. When this is revealed in the movie, Khemir turns and looks directly into the camera, one of the rare times that he faces the audience during the entire movie, a profound way of highlighting this point. It also highlights that this is not a normal movie – special in it’s content, skillful & intelligent, beautiful in its movie making and satisfying in its overall impression.