Seal of the Saints : Prophethood & Sainthood In the Doctrine of Ibn ‘Arabi,
*[A5] Paperback - 192 pages,
by Michael Chodkiewicz
Published by The Islamic Texts Society, Cambridge, UK.
In recent years a number of important studies have helped acquaint the Western reader with Ibn Arabi’s metaphysics and this process is now greatly enhanced by the present volume in which Michael Chodkiewicz explores for the first time, the Master’s ‘hagiology’ or teaching on sainthood.
Founded on a careful analysis of the relevant texts, Chodkiewicz’s work examines this essential aspect of Ibn Arabi’s doctrine of sainthood, defining the nature and function of sainthood, while also specifying the criteria for a typology of saints based on the notion of prophetic inheritance.
The book concludes with a detailed description of the two phases of the initiatory journey, the ascent to God, followed by the descent to created beings which, once accomplished, makes a saint the necessary mediator between Heaven and Earth.
‘This is by far the best available explanation of the central importance
of sanctity for understanding both the practical and the theoretical
teachings of Sufism.’ ---William Chittick.
‘An extraordinarily good book about an extremely difficult thinker...
Chodkiewicz not only knows the texts remarkably well, but also
avoids and rejects certain errors of perspective common among
other scholars.’ ---TLS.
This book was originally written in French by Michel Chodkiewicz under the title 'Le Sceau des Saints' and was published in 1986. It is the most important book on the concept of sainthood in the writings of Ibn al-‘Arabi.
Chodkiewicz begins the book with a brief survey of the history of Ibn al-‘Arabi studies in Western scholarship and then devotes a good deal of time to discussing the idea of sainthood in Islam before Ibn al-‘Arabi. Here he shows how devotion to the saints in classical Islam was not simply a manifestation of popular piety. On the contrary, it seems to have been a natural consequence of Islamic practice.
Michel Chodkiewicz’s depth of knowledge on the subject matter is particularly noteworthy. Bringing over forty years of knowledge of the works of Ibn al-‘Arabi to this study, he draws on the many texts written by the Shaykh and presents his ideas in as coherent a fashion as possible. But he also takes into account what members of the school of Ibn al-‘Arabi had to say about their masters’ ideas, how thinkers in the later Islamic tradition responded to his notion of the Seal of Muhammadan Saints, as well as the severe criticisms leveled against Ibn al-‘Arabi and members of his school by, for example, Ibn al-Taymiyyah.
Chodkiewicz does an especially good job in this book of showing how the Haqiqah Muhammadiyyah (The Muhammadan Reality) is at once the beginning of all sainthood in Islam and the end, as it were, and how this reality is percolated throughout the generation of Prophets and Messengers sent by God. His discussion of how the cosmic hierarchy, with the Qutb, Awtad, Imams, Hawariyun etc. (who are all Afrad at the same time) are a physical “Refraction” of the Muhammadan light (Nur Muhammadi) was particularly appreciated; and especially how he was able to tie this in with the fact that the many generations of saints who belong to similar cosmic hierarchies are themselves in turn reflections of the refractions of Muhammadan light.
The vast spiritual anthropology of the Sufi cosmic landscape is often overwhelming and this book certainly makes it much easier to understand the basic ideas upon which these complex hierarchies are based. At the same time, although it does seem like not enough was said about the connection between the Insan al-Kamil (the Perfect Man) and the role of the Qutb and the Seal of Muhammadan Sainthood, Chodkiewicz did successfully manage to explain how it is that there could be other people after Ibn al-‘Arabi who also claimed to be Seals of Sainthood without fundamentally challenging the Shaykh’s exclusive claim to being the Seal of Muhammadan Sainthood.
- Table of contents :
---Key to Transliteration,
---Editions and Abbreviations,
---Chapter . A Shared Name;
---Chapter . 'He
who sees thee sees Me';
---Chapter . The Sphere of 'Walaya
---Chapter . The Muhammadan
---Chapter . The Heirs of the Prophet;
---Chapter . The Four Pillars;
---Chapter . The
Highest Degree of 'Walaya
---Chapter . The Three Seals;
---Chapter . The Seal of
---Chapter . The Double Ladder;
*Dimensions : 23.4 x 14.6cm.