Where Two Hands Meet: Human Perfection in Ibn 'Arabi's Fusus al-Hikam


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.

Programme details

Courses starts: 16 Apr 2024

Week 0: Course Orientation

Week 1: An introduction to Ibn 'Arabi and the Fusus al-hikam

Week 2: The Circle of Creation: unity and diversity

Week 3: The truly human being: Adam and the angels

Week 4: Relationships of Dependence and Independence

Week 5: The Two Hands Meet

Digital Certification

To complete the course and receive a certificate, you will be required to attend and participate in at least 80% of the live sessions on the course and pass your final assignment. Upon successful completion, you will receive a link to download a University of Oxford digital certificate. Information on how to access this digital certificate will be emailed to you after the end of the course. The certificate will show your name, the course title and the dates of the course you attended. You will be able to download your certificate or share it on social media if you choose to do so.


Description Costs
Course Fee £140.00
Take this course for CATS points £10.00


If you are in receipt of a UK state benefit, you are a full-time student in the UK or a student on a low income, you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees. Please see the below link for full details:

Concessionary fees for short courses


Mr Stephen Hirtenstein

Stephen Hirtenstein is a Senior Research Fellow of the Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi Society, editor of its Journal, and director of Anqa Publishing. He has been studying the works of Ibn 'Arabi for over 40 years, and has taught courses and seminars worldwide. He is currently working on a new translation of Ibn 'Arabi's masterwork Fusus al-hikam (Gemstones of Wisdom) and a study of his letter poems.

Course aims

To explore what it means to be fully human in the language of Islamic spirituality.

Course objectives:

  • To look at a major Sufi contemplative text in detail.
  • To understand the doctrine of human perfection and fulfilment which lies at the heart of the Abrahamic monotheistic tradition.
  • To explore the relevance of this tradition in the modern world.

Teaching methods

The online course will consist of a one-hour lecture per week, and one hour of group discussion on the weekly theme. Students will be expected to have read the relevant text and secondary materials that are provided prior to the discussion session, and to be prepared to link their own experience and understanding to the themes. Discussions will be based around a detailed reading of and engagement with the texts in a meaningful way, and may take place in larger-group format or in breakout smaller groups. Individual participation will be very much encouraged.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will be expected to:

  • have a deeper understanding of Sufism and Ibn 'Arabi's teachings;
  • have developed a general framework for understanding human capacity and fulfilment according to Islamic spirituality and have an appreciation of how this has provided the basis for deep contemplation.

Assessment methods

Students will be assessed by a single written piece (750 words maximum). Students are free to propose their own suitable essay topics.

Assessment will be based on an understanding of the text and evidence of significant secondary readings as well as the ability to link the material to broader issues.

Students must submit a completed Declaration of Authorship form at the end of term when submitting your final piece of work. CATS points cannot be awarded without the aforementioned form - Declaration of Authorship form


We will close for enrolments 7 days prior to the start date to allow us to complete the course set up. We will email you at that time (7 days before the course begins) with further information and joining instructions. As always, students will want to check spam and junk folders during this period to ensure that these emails are received.

To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an enrolment form (Word) or enrolment form (Pdf).

Level and demands

The course does not require any previous archaeological experience.

Students who register for CATS points will receive a Record of CATS points on successful completion of their course assessment.

To earn credit (CATS points) you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework in order to benefit fully from the course. Only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard.

Students who do not register for CATS points during the enrolment process can either register for CATS points prior to the start of their course or retrospectively from the January 1st after the current full academic year has been completed. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.

Most of the Department's weekly classes have 10 or 20 CATS points assigned to them. 10 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of ten 2-hour sessions. 20 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of twenty 2-hour sessions. It is expected that, for every 2 hours of tuition you are given, you will engage in eight hours of private study.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS)