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An Ocean without Shore: Ibn Arabi, the Book and the Law by Michel Chodkiewicz; David
An Ocean without Shore: Ibn Arabi, the Book and the Law by Michel Chodkiewicz; David

An Ocean without Shore: Ibn Arabi, the Book and the Law by Michel Chodkiewicz; David Streight Review by: H. T. Norris

Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Vol. 58, No. 1

(1995), pp. 125-126 Published by: Cambridge University Press on behalf of School of Oriental and African Studies

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REVIEWS

125

works,

Nihayat

a favourable view

which was compatible with revealed truth and

a negative

lation,

different ranks of

question of

are

holders

of arbitrarydoctrines,

them as

teachings

of a

Islamic

of

apophthegms is dealt

high

range and is meticulous in its elucidation of the text. The whole work is a valuable contribution

The

sources)

many

was due

classified in the second

why

philosophical specu-

a fact which is also reflected in his use

of the two

Musira'at

al-falisifa

and

al-aqdim ft'Wilmal-kalam)

view of extreme

that Shahrastani had

of the kind of 'wisdom'

and

faylasif

group

terms hakTm'sage'

distinguish

addressing

the

'philosopher' to

philosophers.

In

the Muslim Ibn Sind and his

to

in

part among the Jolivet

(common

suggests that this

Islamic revelation.

Shahrastani's view of

preferred

the

Aristotelians who had

pagan

to those of the

problem

difficult

the

of the erroneous attribution to

Greek

philosophers

with

annotation,

of

a

theories and

by Jolivet in his is of

of references

notes. The

generally,

standard. It covers a wide

to our knowledge

heresiography and history of religions.

of Shahrastdni and Islamic

TAMIMA BAYHOM DAOU

MICHEL CHODKIEWICZ:An ocean with-

out shore: Ibn Arabi, the Book and

the Law. Translated from the French

by David

Albany,

State

Streight.

xiii,

184 pp.

of

NY:

University

New

York Press, 1993,

$12.95

(paper).

Michel Chodkiewicz is a

writing

a

leading authority

and thought of Ibn 'Arabi. The

that he is

on the

titles of his books

principally

since his interests

of the relation of the

on

turuq ta'wil on the

other. This is of wide interest and it will draw

the one

The contents

many

and well annotated

of

the

of Medieval Persian

conference of the

Silfism which was held in SOAS in 1990. His

paper,

of

mediaeval

Commenting

on a number

chapters. In

might suggest

specialist,

yet this is not the case

cover every aspect of Suifism

rapidly reveals,

to the

and to

history

Qur'anic

the

Legacy

expand

author

during

Makkiya and its

enigmas', was

legacy

(London,

1992).

contribution of

the editor Dr.

and, as this book of

Siifi thought

hand,

include five

points

made

readers to the publication.

closely argued a sense these

by

entitled 'The Futihit

specific

the discussion,

remarked,'

demonstrating

precisely

may

commentators: some unresolved

subsequently

published

in

Persian

Sufism

on the

The

Chodkiewicz to

Leonard Lewisohn

charts a skilful course

of

the

chapter sequences of the Futahat and the structure of

that the former's

upon be viewed as

work of

Chittick,

The Sufi

a

the

the

M. Chodkiewicz

through the labyrinth

al-Makkiya, citing

between the

enigmas in the Futihat remarkable correlations

Koran,

structure was

modelled

also

astonishing

latter.' This book

gloss, so to speak

on the

scholarship by

path of knowledge(Albany, NY,

in

William C.

1989; reviewed

BSOAS, LIII,1990, 520).

The intention here is made plain on page 63:

'The analogy that Ibn 'Arabi calls to mind

(between the abrupt breaks in meaning in

the text of the Qur'an and those of his

own

the disorder

in

one

another] a relationship

extremely secret." "If you join each verse

with the one that precedes and the one

that follows, the force of the Divine Word

will make

accompanies it, and does not

attain its perfection but through that which

surrounds it.

the

perfect among spiritual men." This pro-

the Qur'dn

requires

book)

paradoxically

regard,

constitutes a first

for

only

an

consecutive

appearance:

verses

relationship

of

to

affinity, but it is

indication in this

the Holy Book is

"There

is

[between

seemingly without

that which

you

see that this verse

Such is the vision

in

by the

'.

of

is nevertheless

found unity

gnostic ('dirif bi-Lldh).

perceived

One can thus suspect that, for Ibn 'Arabi,

it also exists-and

that it is to some extent

those Futahatwhere there

is nothing "that does not proceed from an

insufflation of the divine Spirit"

discoverable-in

of

The discussion

of

al-Makkiyya (especially fasl al-mandzil), Kitab

Manzil

and Ibn

al-Futahat

The five

chapters

are

an investigation

36: 41

selected verses from saras 31:

Ibn

is developed

Fusas

'Arabi;

al-manazil,

Kitab

'Arabi's Rasa 'il.

6,

and 70.

from chosen works

al-hikam,

al-Tajalliyat

Qur'dniccitations

follows an index of names and technical terms.

This is, in short,

demonstrates

within

formed

which

both the content and structure (with

mathematical

An index of

how

precision)

a convincing study is

Sifft

thought

of Holy Writ.

Chodkiewicz remarks (p. 95):

'The

in

his

are of

doctrine is not simply a meditation on the

Qur'in.

that

Ibn

the Truth,

that the

back to his similitude.'

Qur'an

Way,

work,

character. Ibn 'Arabi's

and architecture

Qur'an's ubiquity

the

work's

permanent

in Ibn 'Arabi's

plays

role that it

development

exceptional

It is

so

organically

linked to him

inseparable. For

"the

the two are

'Arabi,

really

the Word of God is

and the Life." It is in the

voyage

is made that leads man

original status, to his divine

interest

to those who are enamoured of the

general

appeal.

highlight

writings

expanded (perhaps

in Louis

Attention

the

and

'Umar and Ibn Idris.

thoughts of Ibn 'Arabi, the including those which are

expressed in his verse, clearly discernable, but

likewise

has been

this

to

Not only

Shaykh al-Akbar,

in the Naqshabandiyya which, hitherto,

as an order essentially

unfavourable

brings the book almost to the present day. The

While these

chapters

are of a

special

thought of

to

the

Ibn 'Arabi, the introduction is of

In a condensed manner it

paths

This

attempts the influence of Ibn 'Arabi on

The Passion

to the

Rahminiyya,

of

al-Hlijj

are the

Khalwatiyya,

the

'Ayniyya,

regarded

to

him.

Chronologically,

of eminent SiOfs and on the individual

that are followed

will

surely

be further

by respective turuq.

volume,

'Survival'

of al-Hallaj).

on the lines of the second

Massignon's

is

drawn

Tijaniyya, the

the

writings

This content downloaded from 205.133.226.104 on Sat, 24 Aug 2013 13:48:08 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

126

REVIEWS

author

partial explanation for Ibn 'Arabil'simpact:

provide

himself

for

of

(p. 17) can

only

a

letter

Mujaththal, the ruler of

all are printed in full here. The

collection involved journeys between Bergen

and Khartoum. The Arabic texts are clearly

printed and edited, occasionally vocalized, and

with a facing-page translation.

The translation is close

flows with admirable fluency. Despite a

national translating team, there is a unity of

style which helps to bind the chapters together.

and an

terms.

Footnotes and introductions provide comment

where needed and full biographical inform-
ation.

Several

on

are

times

examples are listed

included in the correspondence

such as the lawfulness of

an otiose finger (polydactylism), or

'Abd al-'Aziz; topics

them

are Sfuf Shaykhs; ch.

vii

is

a

addressed to 'Ali b.

'Asir), and

are presented

'Obviously no one can claim to have a

to a

question

precise factors that help answer the ques-

that the

Ottoman

Shaykh

predicted

and, more specifically, their conquest of

Syria. The prediction brought him particu-

lar veneration by numerous sovereigns and

a status

limited the effect of attacks

doctrine

imperial

protection;

Ibn 'Arabi's influence on Indian, Malay-

explain

However, one must not over-

al-Akbar.

tion;

have

this type. Certainly there are

historically provable global response

example, the patronage

accorded the

dynasty

Ibn

that

to the original and

multi-

'Arabi

is

said

to

the coming of the Ottomans

undoubtedly

considerably

his

against

of this

The book ends with a

index of proper names

The

topics

unusual

bibliography

and

Arabic

estimate the

it

is

importance

not

which are raised here are some-

and

almost

page

naive.

12. They

with

Makki b.

Qur'fin

are written

somewhat bizarre. Between pages

al-Ya'qfibi_

(from

the

b. Idris met him in the latter had stayed for

Egypt in

Middle

East,

especially

with

sufficient to

sian, or Chinese sufism, for example.'

H. T. NORRIS

ALBRECHT HOFHEINz and others.

Rasid'il

b.

(ed.

The letters of Ahmad Ibn

and tr.):

IdrYs. General

editors Einar Thomassenand Bernd

IdrTs,

Radtke. viii, 184 pp. London: Hurst

and Company, 1993. ?35.

forward

in the format for the publication

their

letters,

took

true of

allied or interrelated

rulings

turuq.

(for

indeed from

'Oneness of

this is in all probability

only

habit of

level of attainment How rare it is that quite mundane issues are

resolved satisfactorily

legalistic, terms. The joint translators

nationalities)

book that

that further illustrate

other works

saint: Ahmad Ibn Idris and the Idrisi

London,

LVI, 1,

hoods

strictly

or

spiritually intuitive

with

disciples and

method of teaching of eminent

which shed

This book marks a

great

place

light

on the

their

clarity,

in the

significant step

of documents

and

exchanges

that

it is still

life, literary style

Stfis, The

contemporaries.

reveal

the

past (and

to a

degree between members of

the present time)

conflicting, competing,

All of this

given

of

which were

resolution

may

be observed in the

within the Siff orders for the

pressing

practical

issues

We are here remote over such issues as

have

example, legal or medical).

an exchange

Being

'. Yet

a half-truth.

surfacing,

whatever

Earthly problems

be the

may of the greatest

and

(five

literalistic

it will

provide

(namely,

1990,

1993, 151;

in

amputating

the lawfulness and usefulness of eating burnt

date stones, or the lawfulness of leaning a lawh

upon which verses from the

against a wall. On occasions, the criteria for

status and office in the saintly hierarchy seem,

in our eyes,

65 and 67, for example, the sanad of the chain

of initiation of the master of Ahmad b. Idris,

Shaykh Muhammad al-Mujaydri (Limjayderi,

in

Tashumsha of Mauritania, the Idayqub) makes

strange reading.Alhmad

Morocco, although

some

the

the

Limjayderi'received the Way

pole of the jinns' (qutbal-jinn), who is specific-

ally named as Muhammad al-QaqawT(vocaliza-

tion uncertain). this nisba defies

or

such nisbas as (both from the

Hodh), or looking further to the

or

badal) of the inn is puzzling. Was Muhammad

of

Gao, Kawkaw, etc. The pole

human or not? If one turns to the

pages Ahmad b. al-Amin's Kitsb al-WasTt ft tar5jim

udabe'

'Uthmqin

particular. In a letter to Muhammad

al-Mirghaini, dangers of becoming

b.

Hassdniyya)

time

in

world',

the

concerned

Ahmad

absorbed with matters 'of

Idris

remarks that

(tarTq)' from 'the

attempts at

vaguely Maghribi

(qutb

identification. It looks

Sahelian and one

thinks of

al-Qalqami, or al-(Tin) Wajiwi

area of the

a east, to

spiritual

spiritual

Siffi

minds.

in

of various

in

simply

in

all,

'primary

(Cairo, 1958), one observes that

preoccupation of several amongst

b.

the

earned a

poet's prize amongst his peers had his preoccu-

been less time-consuming.

pations

According to Ahmad b. al-Amin (pp. 214-16),

Limjayderi was one of four who were unsur-

passed;

al-'Alawi,

b. al-Hajj Ibrahim al-'Alawi,

al-Yaddli al-Daymdni, that and two Muhammads'.

This group of four, was preceded by another,

is, 'two 'Abdallahs

and Muhammad

Scifismwas a

Shinq.it

Idayqub.

Muhammad

with

One

(p. 221)

Sfifism

great

would

'Abdalldh

poet,

have

b.

al-'Atiq

point out at the start of this short

materials

themes dealt with'

R. S.

O'Fahey's Enigmatic

tradition,

BSOAS,

namely,

Muhammad

reviewed in

known as Ibn Rdzga, Sidi 'Abdallih

and

'Abdallihs)

and A. S. Karrar's The Sufi brother-

the

Sudan,

London,

certainly true,

ought

1992).

This

but the content of

to be recommended to an who take a keen interest

century and

merely

correspondence

of

faith in the Sudan and in Arabia (not all of

between Ahmad

statement is

these letters

extended

readership

similarly named (Muhammads

if Ahmad b. al-Amin is correct (pp. 578-9). There is some lineal linkage (see my 'Sanhaja scholars of Mauritania', in John Ralph Willis (ed.), The cultivators of Islam: studies in West African Islamic history, London, 1979, 148-9). They were taught by a mystic qutb, seemingly

in Islamic reform in the nineteenth

the

history

of Islam in Africa and not

cover the

Stifism there.

The

eight chapters

b. Idris and eminent men

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