Muslim Spain gave rise to two unusual figures in the mystical tradition of Islam: Ibn Masarra (//) and Ibn al-ʿArabī (//). Muslim Spain gave rise to two unusual figures in the mystical tradition of Islam: Ibn Masarra and Ibn al- Arab. Representing, respectively, the beginning and the. b.,Abd All¯ ah al-Jabal¯ı, known as Ibn Masarra, was born in Cordoba in / His father,Abd All¯ah traveled to the East, and had been to .

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Muhammad ibn Masarra is said to be responsible for the first structuring of Andalusian Spanish Muslim philosophy. The thrust of his philosophy was to show the agreement between reason and revelation. The two paths taken by honest philosophers and prophets lead to the same mzsarra of reaching the knowledge of the oneness of God.

We can only know that God exists but not what His nature is. Ibn Masarra held that the divine attributes of knowledge, will and power are a distinct aspect of the simple and ineffable essence of God, and the Neoplatonic theory that all beings have emanated from him through the First Intellect and are either invisible or apparent.

There are two sciences, one of the invisible, transcendental world, the other of the apparent and sensible world. The inner meanings in the sciences can be learned through the science of letters. By studying the enigmatic letters at the beginning of the Qur’anic surahs, one can decipher the secret knowledge of the truth symbolized by them. In a hermitage he had founded for his friends and disciples in the Sierra of Cordoba, Ibn Masarra undertook to instruct them in his doctrines, to initiate them into the use of esoteric knowledge and to practice zuhd asceticism through acts of penance and devotion.

Mysticism and Philosophy in al-Andalus – Ibn Masarra, Ibn al-ʿArabi and the Ismāʿīlī Tradition

His success came from a Socratic style of pedagogy as well as a charismatic personality and skill in communication. After his death the jurists carried out a veritable persecution of his disciples; who had formed themselves into an ascetic order, the Masarriya, in Cordoba and later in Almeria. Both are short tracts which have provided a better understanding of his thought, but because of their conciseness they raise new questions.

It is still not possible to reconstruct his philosophical system until the remaining works are found, especially his Tawhid al-muqinin The Certain Profession of the Oneness of Godwhere he discussed God’s attributes. Andalusian Sufism from Isma’il al-Ru’ayni d. The thrust of Ibn Masarra’s philosophy is to demonstrate the agreement of reason and revelation. Each takes a different path leading to the same goal, al-tawhidthe knowledge of the oneness of God.

By using ‘aqlthe intellect with which God endowed human beings, they reflect on God’s signs and rise step by step to the knowledge of the Truth. Those who ascend by way of reason proceed from the bottom up and discover the same truth the Prophets have brought down from on high. In fact, the Qur’an invites us to reflect on the signs of his creation. Reflection i’tibar only confirms prophecy; what is learned by authority sama’ is confirmed by investigation. Ibn Masarra admits, however, that the philosophers and the ancients had attained the knowledge of the true One well before the age of prophecy and without its mediation, a position not acceptable to the religious scholars.

Ibn Masarra conceives of two sciences both created by God. One, the science of the invisible and intelligible reality ‘ilm al-ghaybwhich cannot be grasped by the senses, is created whole, entire and at once.

The other is the science of the apparent and sensible reality ‘ilm al-shahada Surah 6: The Qur’an, the speech of God, is one whole in its divine essence, but diversified mufassal with respect to creation. It displays three aspects, each the subject of a different science: God transcends all human thought and all we can know about his nature is that he exists. His attributes are distinct from him, that is, from his essence dhat.


They are, however, related to each other. Strangely enough, Ibn Masarra concludes from that relationship the finitude or creation of the attributes. Like many Mu’tazilite theologians of his time in the East, he distinguished between the attributes of the essence, which are eternal, and the attributes of action, which are created. This was a way to which the Mu’tazilites resorted in order to assert the oneness and ineffability of God while maintaining human free will and responsibility.

God’s knowledge is only of universals; were he to know particulars, his oneness would be jeopardized and our moral responsibility denied.

Mysticism and Philosophy in al-Andalus

In making the distinction between God’s essence and his action, Ibn Jbn established three hierarchical attributes, the highest of which is connected to God’s essence and the other two to his actions. These are divinity aluhiyaroyalty mulk and grace ni’ma or creation khalqthrough which God the Artificer al-sani’ is manifested. This hierarchy is reflected in the way human society is organized.

All beings are divided into four categories, some nobler than others in accordance with the following scheme. First, there is the Being, or essence of God dhatseparate, unique, ineffable, infinite and motionless; it is the ultimate, the visible and the invisible. The remaining beings are the signs ibbn point to Him. Second is the Universal Intellect al-‘aql al-kulliwhich is the conception or idea of things. It is spiritual by nature and permanent. It is the Mother of the Book umm al-kitab Surah 3: The totality of what is in the Book is the idea mithalEidos of the universe, whatever was, is or shall be.

It is also the Throne Surah The relationship of the Intellect to God is similar to the relation of the sun’s light to the sun. Third is the Great Soul al-nafs al-kubra that carries the body of the universe.

Ibn Masarra

The relation of the Soul to the Intellect is like the light of the moon to that of the sun. Through this Soul, immersed in materiality, Royalty mulk is constituted and the celestial spheres are held.

To Royalty are predicated government and politics. Finally, lower than the Great Soul is the Physical Soul al-nafs al-tabi’iyawhich is completely immersed in corporeality and is the efficient cause of corporeal beings. The Throne encloses the invisible world ‘alam al-ghayb and the Great Soul encloses the visible ‘alam al-shahada. The origination of the cosmos has been achieved in time by the command ‘Be’ kunexpressing the volition and will according to knowledge.

When the One wants to do something, he causes it to appear in the Preserved Tablet. This in itself is the command amr to set the idea into action by his willing. God, according to him, is concealed from creation by two veils from the perspective of his creation, inasmuch as nothing can conceal him from the perspective of his essence.

Motion is then set by the Throne, since no action ad extra can be attributed to the One. Unlike the pseudo-Empedocles, who conceived of love and discord as the driving force of creation, Ibn Masarra talked about capacity and power designating them as truth haqq Surah 2: In the final analysis God is the Aristotelian unmoved mover, but in Neoplatonic style all creation emanates from him. Unlike PlotinusIbn Massara finds that the processes of emanation and creation are the results of God’s will irada and deliberate action.

Both he and Plotinus agree on the intermediary roles played by the Intellect and the Soul in the creation of the material world, but whereas Plotinus believed in involuntary emanation, Ibn Massara retained the Islamic view of voluntary creation see Neoplatonism ; Neoplatonism in Islamic philosophy. The principles from which all creatures have come are fourteen in number, ten of which are in the sublunar world: The remaining four, the Pen qalamthe Tablet, the Command and the Spiritual locus makan exist in the world above.


From the fourteen are made the Throne, paradise, hell, the seven heavens, the earth, the angels, the jinn, human beings, animals and vegetation.

In his work Kitab khawass al-huruf Book of the Characteristics of LettersIbn Masarra appears as an esoteric batini philosopher investigating the esoteric meanings of the nuraniyathe fourteen separate letters which introduce certain surahs of the Qur’an, basically following the tradition of Islamic gnosis.

The mysterious letters, according to the Batini school, represented the universe so that its entirety is a book whose letters are God’s words. The ‘science of letters’ followed by Ibn Masarra had nothing to do with divination or magic; it is merely a path to the discovery of the truths hidden behind the symbols. In this he was inspired by the work of Sahl al-Tustari d. Reflection i’tibar allows us to decipher the principles of all beings. The basic idea is to show that the different degrees that constitute beings in general correspond to the surah’s fawatih opening letters as well as to the order of being.

The letters are twenty-eight in number, equal to the length of the lunar phases. Fourteen are exoteric and the remaining fourteen are esoteric. These are used by God to manifest his knowledge: The steps leading to paradise and salvation are equal in number to the Qur’anic verses and to the number of God’s beautiful names, excepting the great ihn of Allah.

The first letter, alifis the alpha and omega of all letters inasmuch as it represents the principle of all things. It is the first manifestation of God and his will; it is a metaphor for the production of things takwinthe emergence of justice and the permanent and unchanging primordial decree al-qada’ al-awwal. It never rests and continuously causes generation and corruption. This decree has two aspects. A prior aspect sabiq is connected to the Preserved Tablet, kasarra tablet of the Universal Intellect where all things are inscribed.

This is a decree that does not respond to invocation. The second aspect, the diversifier mufassilparticularizes all things that massrra not permanent.

Like the other attributes, the two decrees manifesting God’s knowledge and power are other than God, although they are not created in time. The concept of huduthor coming to be, is realized only in time; but God’s knowledge, according to Ibn Masarra, whether it is knowledge of the universals or particulars, is not in time. Coming to be in time is the particularization of beings found in a locus performed by that decree that particularizes things and responds to invocation. Human salvation can be achieved through either the via reflectiva or the via propheticaan idea considered heretical by most Muslim theologians see Islamic theology.

In both cases, individuals have to follow certain rules in order to free their souls from the bondage of materiality. Ibn Masarra distinguishes clearly between the soul ruh and spirit nafswith the latter being the prototype mithal of the first.

Ibn Masarra – Wikipedia

There is a tradition in Andalusian literature to the effect that Ibn Masarra enjoyed great respect and veneration in spite of the fact that his teachings were criticized and refuted. On the other hand, his disciples were persecuted. Transformed into an ascetic society, his disciples first in Cordova and later in Almeria put into practice his Sufi and esoteric teachings.

He is certainly one of the first mystical-philosophical Andalusians. His Sufi teachings as well as his works continued to circulate and to be studied for centuries. His influence on Ibn al-‘Arabi is attested by the many references to him in the latter’s works and by similarity in a number of ideas, especially in the continuous use of similes of light and illumination to describe the essence of God.