Sufi Wisdom

The Quest

One of mankind’s greatest saints, Muhiyiddin Ibn al-Arabi, known as the ‘Greatest Master’, contemplated the Ninety Name Beautiful Names in depth. He said, “if anything of himself veils him from seeing the whole, he has committed a crime against himself, and he is not a perfect man … by perfection is meant knowledge of self, and knowledge of the Lord. Adam’s original disposition was his knowledge of God, so he knew the original disposition of all things. That is why God says, “He taught Adam all the Names”.

Ibn al-Arabi’s works describe the goal of humanity – ‘al-insan al-kamil’, the station of the ‘perfect man’, which is achieved by a person embracing and exhibiting the constructive characteristics of the Beautiful Names. Mawlana Shaykh Hisham explains this in another way, that the Sufis are striving for the station of Ihsan, that of perfected character. He reminds us of the quote from the Holy Prophet, Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, who said, “I came to perfect your character”.

Then Ibn al-Arabi looks at mankind’s endeavor in a different light, that the goal of striving on the path is not to acquire God’s attributes for oneself, but to negate our own ego driven desires. The aim of the seeker is not to gradually grow in stature until he or she becomes a kind of demigod trying to rival God Himself – on the contrary, one is gradually reduced in stature until there is nothing left of the self. But since nothing belongs to mankind in the first place, once he or she effaces their own self, there remains only that which truly is: the face of God, the Divine Form, the Reality of Muhammad.

As a point of interest, upon his passing, the body of Shaykh Abdullah ad-Daghestani, the teacher of Shaykh Hisham, was kept in state at the Mosque of Muhiyiddin Ibn al- Arabi in Damascus.