Ibn Sab‘in, Abu Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Haqq


Ibn Sab‘in, Abu Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Haqq
(614–69/ 1217–70)
   Known in Europe through his philosophical correspondence with Emperor Frederick II and beloved by his followers, the sab‘iniyyun, Ibn Sab‘in’s life was nevertheless a hard one. He led a rather nomadic existence, characterized by controversy, quarrel, persecution and exile, which ended in either poisoning or suicide. This is in part attributable to his thought, for Ibn Sab‘in was perhaps the most radical proponent of philosophical Sufism and put forth a particularly controversial type of monistic pantheism. Building upon the theories of his predecessor Ibn al-‘Arabi, he espoused the Sufi doctrine of the oneness of existence (wahdat al-wujud), albeit in a purer, more comprehensive form. According to Ibn Sab‘in, existence is ultimately an undifferentiated spiritual unity, with God as the sole reality of all things. In his main work, Escape of the Gnostic (Budd al-‘arif ), Ibn Sab‘in deals with the question of how an individual can attain this experiential insight. Examining the opinions of the philosophical schools, he maintains that knowledge of the ultimate unity of all things cannot be reached by way of logical analysis or demonstrative proof, because such tools inevitably reinscribe multiplicity. Although he had a deep familiarity with the thought of the Islamic Aristotelians (and was himself sometimes characterized as a Peripatetic Sufi), he was highly critical of Aristotelian logic as a means for knowing reality and offered in its stead an illuminative logic based on intuition. Ibn Sab‘in ultimately holds out the possibility of a direct, unmediated access to God through our innermost selves, which are of divine origin. He speaks of the divine self as the ‘secret God has entrusted to us’. It is by discovering this secret – by knowing ourselves – that God’s intimate, immanent presence is revealed. In short, the path to God is not the way of discursive reasoning and demonstrative proof, but rather the direct, intuitive, experiential discovery of our unity with the divine.
   See Aristotle; Ibn al-‘Arabi; mysticism; Sufism
   Further reading: Corbin 1993; Nasr and Leaman 1996

Islamic Philosophy. . 2007.

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