This course will explore Ibn 'Arabi’s Fusus al-hikam ('The Gemstones of Wisdom'), perhaps the most famous and influential core-text in Islamic spirituality and Sufism written by Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi (1165-1240), who is known as ‘the greatest spiritual Master’. The book contains 27 chapters devoted to the wisdoms embodied by different prophets, from Adam down to Muhammad.
We will focus on universal themes related to being human as they are developed in the first chapter of the book, entitled The Wisdom of Divinity in a Word of Adam. We will explore fundamental questions such as: what is the purpose of being in this world? what does it mean to be human? what is the Divine Form? what is the perfection and fulfilment of the human being? For Ibn ‘Arabi, these are summarised in the form of the first human, Adam, and presented by way of various symbolic images: the mirror, the seal-ring and the two Hands of God. This chapter gives one of Ibn ‘Arabi’s finest expositions of the rank of the human being (insān), the true purpose of his creation, and in what way the human being is the completion of the created universe. He bases his views on the Quranic account of the superiority of Adam to the angels, in which Adam first manifests his prophetic function.
In the course we will make a detailed study of the original text in a new translation (by Stephen Hirtenstein and others), and encourage group discussion of its major themes, supplemented by readings from secondary literature.