In Chapter 1, we meet the Youth, ‘from whom I took from a segmentation of his configured body (which was cobbled like the paving stones at the bottom and sides of a well) what I was made to write into this book, and the mysteries there were between me and him’. Then in Chapter 2, we are shown the letters, which are the guides of the phrases, and the spirits who are the secret of life.
I am the ripened meadow, the universal harvest, so lift my veils and recite what is contained etched in my lines. What you learn from me, put in your book, and speak directly in it to everyone dearest to you.
Chapter 2 continues from the letters to the vowels to the word and the phrases. In Chapter 8, we hear wondrous stories of the Vast Earth, which was made from the tiny portion of clay left over from the creation of the date-palm, which in turn was made from the tiny portion of clay left over from the creation of AdamEve. In this Vast Earth, this Kaʿbah is one of fourteen Houses, and in each one of the seven Earths, ‘there is a creation like us, up to there being in them an Ibn ʿAbbās just like me’.
Chapters 17 through 40 provide the recognition of Jesus and the Pivots associated with him, and of the Family of the House. We are led through alighting places that have many correspondences, especially to nineteen places in the Qurʾān. Ibn al-ʿArabī speaks of his father on his death bed, who tells him, ‘Everything I heard from you: you would say it and I would not acknowledge it, and maybe sometimes I would reject some of it; but it is exactly as I am witnessing it (now).’
Chapters 41 through 64 take us from the People of the Night, who converse intimately with their Lord, who descends in the third remaining part of the night to the sky of this world. We are guided through the membrane between this world and the general Resurrection, through the sisters Jahannam (hell-fire) and Jannat (garden).
‘The imaginal realm is neither a site of being nor non-existent, neither known nor unknown, neither something negated nor something affirmed. It is like what the human beings see of their image in the mirror, knowing certainly that they perceive their image in one perspective, and knowing certainly that what is perceived is not their image from another perspective.’
In Book 5, Ibn al-ʿArabī has us commence our journey through the pillars of Islam, starting with ‘There is no god but God’ and continuing to the mysteries of purity.
Open your eyes and you will see
a mystery of purity, clear,
easy for the people of wakefulness and quick minds.
How many clean people are not described with
when they shun the sea at His Side and abstain?
Book 6 is devoted to the mysteries of the prayer, the intimate conversation with one’s Lord, moving through the places of prayer and the call to prayer, and including the validity of the prayer leadership of the man by the woman.
‘Learn that you, the human being, are a universe in yourself, immense from the perspective of the meaning dimension even if you are insignificant in bodily size.’ In this universe there is a man, a woman, and an unruly child.
We are prepared in Book 7 to receive he mysteries and secrets of the many different prayers, the many different testimonies recited in the prayers, and the prayers for the deceased. What is the relation between the Prophet of Islam and other prophets and messengers? Al-Nābighat sings this verse:
As you are a sun and the kings are planets;
when you set, no planet will appear!
In Book 8 we learn the prayer for choosing the best course of action for us. Other aspects of the prayer are presented, ending Chapter 69. Then begins Chapter 70, on the mysteries of the third pillar of Islam – charity – where we are prepared to receive charity’s mysteries, from the obligatory alms-tax to the voluntary gift.
‘Let us say you are told: “Give a loan to God and you will take on in the otherworld a multiplier, multiplying not a third and not a half; no, the profit and the principal of the wealth, all of it, will be yours! You only have to be a little bit patient, but you can be sure of getting it back, all of it.” But the self refuses, and people give only a little bit.’
In Book 9, the chapter on the mysteries of charity concludes and Chapter 71 on the mysteries of fasting commences. We learn about moonsighting for the month of Ramaḍān, when to finish the pre-dawn light meal, and how to stand the night in prayer.
A Divine name moved Ṣafīyah to visit Messenger of God in his retreat in the mosque, and it made him stand up when he conversed with her. ‘Then it removed him from the place of his sitting when he walked her home, and that is a kind of journey; no, rather it is a journey: the goodness of a man to his woman, honoring her sacredness and her right course.’
In Book 10, we are prepared for the mysteries of pilgrimage, and we hear wondrous stories of the Kaʿbah and the Black Stone, of Zamzam and Mt. Arafat, and of the Station of Abraham. ‘Here there are mysteries very fine and intricate, which we entrust to your self to peruse. Yes, their outward appearance in the general population would be difficult and impractical; so we leave the knowledge of this to the one whom God teaches, who halts before (and learns) what the matter truly is in itself.’
Every moment has a witness;
the one with eyes to witness recognizes it.