Islam in the West; Ibn Tumart and the Muwahhids; philosophy in the West under Muwahhid protection; Ibn Bajja; Ibn Tufayl; Ibn Rushd; Ibn Arabi; Ibn Sa‘bin.
WE have now anticipated one of the strangest and most characteristic figures and movements in the history of Islam. The preceding account, except as relates to Ibn Khaldun, has told of the triumphs of the Ash‘arites in the East only. In the West the movement was slower, and to it we must now turn. The Maghrib--the Occident, as the Arabs called all North Africa beyond Egypt--had been slow from the first to take on the Muslim impress. The invading army had fought its way painfully through, but the Berber tribes remained only half subdued and one-tenth Islamized. Egypt was conquered in A.H. 20, and Samarqand had been reached in 56; but it was not till 74 that the Muslims were at Carthage. And even then and for long after there arose insurrection after insurrection, and the national spirit of the Berbers remained unbroken. Broadly, but correctly, Islam in North Africa for more than three centuries was a failure. The tribal constitutions of the Berbers were unaffected by the conception of the Khalifate and their primitive religious aspirations by the Faith of Muhammad. Not till the possibility came to them to construct Muslim states out of their own tribes
did their opposition begin to weaken. And then it w as rather political Islam that had weakened. When the Fatimids conquered Egypt in 356 and moved the seat of their empire from al-Mahdiya to the newly founded Cairo, Islam assumed a new meaning for North Africa. The Fatimid empire there quickly melted away, and in its place arose several independent states, Berber in blood though claiming Arab descent and bearing Arab names. Islam no longer meant foreign oppression, and it began at last to make its way. Again, in the preceding period of insurrection the Berber leaders had frequently appeared in the guise and with the claim of prophets, men miraculously gifted and with a message from God. These wild tribesmen, with all their fanaticism for their own tribal liberties, have always been peculiarly accessible to the genius which claims its mission from heaven. So they had taken up the Fatimid cause and worshipped Ubayd Allah the Mahdi. And so they continued thereafter, and still continue to be swayed by saints, darwishes, and prophets of all degrees of insanity and cunning. The latest case in point is that of the Shaykh as-Sanusi, with whom we have already dealt. As time went on, there came a change in these prophet-led risings and saint-founded states. They gradually slipped over from being frankly anti-Muhammadan, if also close imitations of Muhammad's life and methods, to being equally frankly Muslim. The theology of Islam easily afforded them the necessary point of connection. All that the prophet of the day need do was to claim the position of the Mahdi, that
[paragraph continues] Guided One, who according to the traditions of Muhammad was to come before the last day, when the earth shall be filled with violence, and to fill it again with righteousness. It was easy for each new Mahdi to select from the vast and contradictory mass of traditions in Muslim eschatology those which best fitted his person and his time. To the story and the doctrine of one of these we now come.
At the beginning of the sixth century a certain Berber student of theology, Ibn Tumart by name, travelled in the East in search of knowledge. An early and persistent western tradition asserts that he was a favorite pupil of al-Ghazzali's, and was marked out by him as showing the signs of a future founder of empire. This may be taken for what it is worth. What is certain is that Ibn Tumart went back to the Maghrib and there brought about the triumph of a doctrine which was derived, if modified, from that of the Ash‘arites. Previously all kalam had been under a cloud in the West. Theological studies had been closely limited to fiqh, or canon law, and that of the narrowed school of Malik ibn Anas. Even the Qur’an and the collections of traditions had come to be neglected in favor of systematized law-books. The revolt of Ibn Hazm against this had apparently accomplished little. It had been too one-sided and negative, and had lacked the weight of personality behind it. Ibn Hazm had assailed the views of others with a wealth of vituperative language. But he had been a controversialist only. There is a story, tolerably well authenticated, that the books of al-Ghazzali were solemnly condemned by the Qadis
of Cordova, and burnt in public. Yet, against that is to be set that all the Spanish theologians did not approve of this violence.
Ibn Tumart started in life as a reformer of the corruptions of his day, and seems to have slipped from that into the belief that he had been appointed by God as the great reformer for all time. As happens with reformers, from exhortation it came to force; from preaching at the abuses of the government to rebellion against the government. That government, the Murabit, went down before Ibn Tumart and his successors, and the pontifical rule of the Muwahhids, the asserters of God's tawhid or unity, rose in its place. The doctrine which he preached bears evident marks of the influence of al-Ghazzali and of Ibn Hazm. Tawhid, for him, meant a complete spiritualizing of the conception of God. Opposed to tawhid, he set tajsim, the assigning to God of a jism or body having bulk. Thus, when the theologians of the West took the anthropomorphic passages of the Qur’an literally, he applied to them the method of ta’wil, or interpretation, which he had learned in the East, and explained away these stumbling-blocks. Ibn Hazm, it will be remembered, resorted to grammatical and lexicographical devices to attain the same end, and had regarded ta’wil with abhorrence. To Ibn Tumart, then, this tajsim was flat unbelief and, as Mahdi, it was his duty to oppose it by force of arms, to lead a jihad against its maintainers. Further, with Ibn Hazm, he agreed in rejecting taqlid. There was only one truth, and it was man's duty to find it for himself by going to the original sources.
This is the genuine Zahirite doctrine which utterly rejects all comity with the four other legal rites; but Ibn Tumart, as Mahdi, added another element. It is based on a very simple Imamite philosophy of history. There has always been an Imam in the world, a divinely appointed leader, guarded by isma, protection against error. The first four Khalifas were of such divine appointment; thereafter came usurpers and oppressors. Theirs was the reign of wickedness and lies in the earth. Now he, the Mahdi, was come of the blood of the Prophet and bearing plainly all the necessary, accrediting signs to overcome these tyrants and anti-Christs. He thus was an Imamite, but stood quite apart from the welter of conflicting Shi‘ite sects the Seveners, Twelvers, Zaydites and the rest--as far as do the present Sharifs of Morocco with their Alid-Sunnite position. The Mahdi, it is to be remembered, is awaited by Sunnites as by Shi‘ites, and is guarded against error as much as an Imam, since he partakes of the general isma which in divine things belongs to prophets. Such a leader, then, could claim from the people absolute obedience and credence. His word must be for them the source of truth. There was, therefore, no longer any need of analogy (qiyas) as a source, and we accordingly find that Ibn Tumart rejected it in all but legal matters and there surrounded it with restrictions. Analogical argument in things theological was forbidden.
But where he absolutely parted company from the Ash‘arites was with regard to the qualities of God. In that, too, he followed the view of Ibn
[paragraph continues] Hazm sketched above. We must take the Qur’anic expressions as names and not as indicating attributes to us. It is true that his creed shows signs of a philosophical width lacking in Ibn Hazm. Like the Mu‘tazilites, e.g. Abu Hudhayl, he defines largely by negations. God is not this; is not affected by that. It is even phrased so as to be capable of a pantheistic explanation, and we find that Ibn Rushd wrote a commentary on it. But it may be doubted whether Ibn Tumart was himself a pantheist. All phases of Islam, as we have seen, ran toward that; and here there is only a little indiscretion in the wording. But it may easily have been that he had besides, like the Fatimids, a secret teaching or exposition of those simpler declarations which were intended for the mass of the people. Among his successors distinct traces of such a thing appear; both Aristotelian philosophers and advanced Sufis are connected with the Muwahhid movement. That, however, belongs to the sequel.
The success of Ibn Tumart, if halting at first, was eventually complete. As a simple lawyer who felt called upon to protest--as, indeed, are all good Muslims in virtue of a tradition from Muhammad--against the abuses of the time, he accomplished comparatively little. As Mahdi, he and his supporter and successor, Abd al-Mu'min, swept the country. For his movement was not merely Imamite and Muslim, but an expression as well of Berber nationalism. Here was a man, sprung from their midst, of their own stock and tongue, who, as Prophet of God, called them to arms. They obeyed his call, worshipped
him and fought for him. He translated the Qur’an for them into Berber; the call to prayers was given in Berber; functionaries of the church had to know Berber; his own theological writings circulated in Berber as well as in Arabic. As Persia took Islam and moulded it to suit herself, so now did the Berber tribes. And a strange jumble they made of it. With them, the Zahirite system of canon law, rejected by all other Muslim peoples, enjoyed its one brief period of power and glory. Shi‘ite legends and superstitions mingled with philosophical free thought. The book of mystery, al-Jafr, written by Ali, and containing the history of the world to the end of time, was said to have passed from the custody of al-Ghazzali at his death to the hands of the Mahdi and was by him committed to his successors. If only in view of the syncretism practised by both, it was fitting that al-Ghazzali and Ibn Tumart should be brought closely together. Yet it is hard to explain the persistence with which the great Ash‘arite is made the teacher and guide of the semi-Zahirite. There must have been something, now obscure to us, in their respective systems which suggested to contemporaries such intimate connection.
The rule of the Muwahhids lasted until 667, nearly one hundred years, and involved in its circle of influence many weighty personalities. With some of these we will now deal shortly.
It has been told above how narrow in general were the intellectual interests of the West. Canon law, poetry, history, geography were eagerly pursued, but little of original value was produced. Originality
and the breaking of ground in new fields were under a ban. Subtilty of thought and luxury of life took their place. Above all, and naturally, this applied to philosophy. And so it comes that the first philosophic name in the Muslim West is that of Abu Bakr ibn Bajja, for mediæval Europe Avenpace, who died comparatively young in 533. For him, as for all, and still more in the West than in the East, the problem of the philosopher was how to gain and maintain a tenable position in a world composed mostly of the philosophically ignorant and the religiously fanatical. This problem had two sides, internal and external. The inner and the nobler one was how such a mind could in its loneliness rise to its highest level and purify itself to the point of knowing things as they really are and so reach that eternal life in which the individual spirit loses itself in the Active Intellect (νοῦς ποιητικός, al-aql al-fa‘‘al) which is above all and behind all. The other, and baser, was how to so present his views and adapt his life that the life and the views might be possible in a Muslim community.
Ibn Bajja was a close disciple of al-Farabi, who is to be regarded as the spiritual father of the later Arabic philosophy; Ibn Sina practically falls out. In logic, physics, and metaphysics he followed al-Farabi closely. But we can see how the times have moved and the philosophies with them. The essential differences have appeared and Ibn Bajja can no longer, with a good conscience, appear as a pious Muslim. The Sufi strain also is much weaker. The greatest joy and the closest truth are to be found in
thought, and not in the sensuous ecstasies of the mystic. The intellect is the highest element in man's being, but is only immortal as it joins itself to the one Active Intellect, which is all that is left of God. Here we have the beginning of the doctrine which, later, under the name of Averroism and pampsychism ran like wild fire through the schools of Europe. Further, only by the constant exercise of its own functions can the intellect of man be thus raised. He must live rationally at all points; be able to give a reason for every action. This may compel him to live in solitude; the world is so irrational and will not suffer reason. Or some of the disciples of reason may draw together and form a community where they may live the calm life of nature and of the pursuit of knowledge and self-development. So they will be at one with nature and the eternal, and far removed from the frenzied life of the multitude with its lower aims and conceptions. It is easy to see how the iron of a fight against overwhelming odds had entered this soul. Only the friendship of some of the Murabit princes saved him; but he died in the end, says a story, by poison.
With the next names we find ourselves at a Muwahhid court, and there the atmosphere has changed. It is evident that, whatever might be the temper of the people, the chiefs of the Muwahhids viewed philosophy with no disfavor. Their problem, as in the case of the Fatimids, seems rather to have been how much the people might be taught with safety. Their solution of the problem--here we proceed on conjecture, but the basis is tolerably sound--was that the bulk
of the people should be taught nothing but the literal sense of the Qur’an, metaphors, anthropomorphisms and all; that the educated lay public, which had already some inkling of the facts, should be assured that there was really no difference between philosophy and theology that they were two phases of one truth; and that the philosophers should have a free hand to go on their own way, always provided that their speculations did not spread beyond their own circle and agitate the minds of the commonalty. It was a beautiful scheme, but like all systems of obscurantism it did not work. On the one hand, the people refused to be blindfolded, and, on the other, philosophy died out of inanition.
In accordance with this, we find the Muwahhid chiefs installing the Zahirite fiqh as the official system and sternly stopping all speculative discussing either of canon law or of theology. "The Word so stands written; take it or the sword," is the significant utterance which has come to us from Abu Ya’qub (reg. 558-580), son of Abd al-Mu'min. The same continued under his son Abu Yusuf al-Mansur (reg. 580-595), who added a not very carefully concealed contempt for the Mahdiship of Ibn Tumart. All such things were ridiculous in his philosophic eyes.
Under these men and in adjustment with their system lived and worked Ibn Tufayl and Ibn Rushd, the last of the great Aristotelians. Ibn Tufayl was wazir and physician to Abu Ya’qub and died a year after him, in 531. His was a calm, contemplative life, secluded in princely libraries. But his objects were the same as those of Ibn Bajja. He has evidently
no hope that the great body of the people can ever be brought to the truth. A religion, sensuous and sensual alike, is needed to restrain the wild beast in man, and the masses should be left to the guidance of that religion. For a philosopher to seek to teach them better is to expose himself to peril and them to the loss of that little which they have. But in his methods, on the other hand, Ibn Tufayl is essentially at one with al-Ghazzali. He is a mystic who seeks in Sufi exercises, in the constant purifying of mind and body and in the unwearying search for the one unity in the individual multiplicity around him, to find a way to lose his self in that eternal and one spirit which for him is the divine. So at last he comes to ecstasy and reaches those things which eye hath not seen nor ear heard. The only difference between him and al-Ghazzali is that al-Ghazzali was a theologian and saw in his ecstasy Allah upon His throne and around Him the things of the heavens, as set forth in the Qur’an, while Ibn Tufayl was a philosopher, of nee-Platonic+ Aristotelian stamp, and saw in his ecstasy the Active Intellect and Its chain of causes reaching down to man and back to Itself.
The book by which his name has lived, and which has had strange haps, is the romance of Hayy ibn Yaqzan, "The Living One, Son of the Waking One." In it he conceives two islands, the one inhabited and the other not. On the inhabited island we have conventional people living conventional lives, and restrained by a conventional religion of rewards and punishments. Two men there, Salaman and Asal, have raised themselves to a higher level of self-rule.
[paragraph continues] Salaman adapts himself externally to the popular religion and rules the people; Asal, seeking to perfect himself still further in solitude, goes to the other island. But there he finds a man, Hayy ibn Yaqzan, who has lived alone from infancy and has gradually, by the innate and uncorrupted powers of the mind, developed himself to the highest philosophic level and reached the Vision of the Divine. He has passed through all the stages of knowledge until the universe lies clear before him, and now he finds that his philosophy thus reached, without prophet or revelation, and the purified religion of Asal are one and the same. The story told by Asal of the people of the other island sitting in darkness stirs his soul and he goes forth to them as a missionary. But he soon learns that the method of Muhammad was the true one for the great masses, and that only by sensuous allegory and concrete things could they be reached and held. He retires to his island again to live the solitary life.
The bearing of this on the system of the Muwahhids cannot be mistaken. If it is a criticism of the finality of historical revelation, it is also a defence of the attitude of the Muwahhids toward both people and philosophers. By the favor of Abu Ya‘qub, Ibn Tufayl had practically been able to live on an island and develop himself by study. So, too, Abu Ya‘qub might stand for the enlightened but practical Salaman. Yet the meaning evidently is that between them they failed and must fail. There could only be a solitary philosopher here and there, and happy for him if he found a princely patron. The people which
knew not the truth were accursed. Perhaps, rather, they were children and had to be humored and guided as such in an endless childhood.
It is evident that such a solitary possessor of truth had two courses open to him. He could either busy himself in his studies and exercises, as had done Ibn Bajja and Ibn Tufayl, or he could boldly enter public life and trust to his dialectic ingenuity and resource--perhaps, also, to his plasticity of conscience--to carry him past all whispers of heresy and unbelief. The latter course was chosen by Ibn Rusted. He was born at Cordova, in 520, of a family of jurists and there studied law. From his legal studies only a book on the law of inheritance has reached us, and it, though frequently commented on, has never been printed. In 548 he was presented to Abu Ya’qub by Ibn Tufayl and encouraged by him in the study of philosophy. In it his greatest work was done. In spite of the shreds and patches of neo-Platonism which clung to him, he was the greatest mediaeval commentator on Aristotle. It is only part of the eternal puzzle of the Muslim mind that the utility of Greek for a student of Aristotle seems never to have struck him. Thereafter he acted as judge in different places in Spain and was court physician for a short time in 578 to Abu Ya’qub. In 575 he had written his tractates, to which we shall come immediately, mediating between philosophy and theology. Toward the end of his life he was condemned by Abu Yusuf al-Mansur for heresy and banished from Cordova. This was in all likelihood a truckling on the part of al-Mansur to the religious prejudices of the
people of Spain, who were probably of stiffer orthodoxy than the Berbers. He was in Spain, at Cordova, at the time, and was engaged in carrying on a religious war with the Christians. On his return to Morocco the decree of exile was recalled and Ibn Rushd restored to favor. We find him again at the court in Morocco, and he died there in 595.
This is not the place to enter upon Ibn Rushd's philosophical system. He was a thorough-going Aristotelian, as he knew Aristotle. That was probably much better than any of his predecessors; but even he had not got clear from the fatal influence of Plotinus. Above all, he is essentially a theologian just as much as they. In Aristotle there had been given what was to all intents a philosophical revelation. Only in the knowledge and acceptance of it could truth and life be found. And some must reach it; one at least there must always be. If a thing is not seen by someone it has existed in vain; which is impossible. If someone at least does not know the truth, it also has existed in vain, which is still more impossible. That is Ibn Rushd's way of saying that the esse is the percipi and that there must be a perceiver. And he has unlimited faith in his means of reaching that Truth--only by such capitalization can we express his theologic attitude. The logic of Aristotle is infallible and can break through to the supreme good itself. Ecstasy and contemplation play no part with him; there he separates from Ibn Tufayl. Such intercourse with the Active Intellect may exist; but it is too rare to be taken into account. Obviously, Ibn Rushd himself, who to himself was
the percipient of truth for his age, had never reached that perception. Solitary meditation he cannot away with; for him the market-place and contact with men; there he parts with Ibn Bajja. In truth, he is nearer to the life in life of Ibn Sina, and that, perhaps, explains his constant attacks on the Persian bon vivant.
All his predecessors he joys in correcting, but his especial bête noire is al-Ghazzali. With him it is war on life or death. He has two good causes. One is al-Ghazzali's "Destruction of the Philosophers;" of it, Ibn Rushd, in his turn, writes a "Destruction." This is a clever, incisive criticism, luminous with logical exactitude, yet missing al-Ghazzali's vital earnestness and incapable of reaching his originality. But al-Ghazzali had not only attacked the philosophers; he had also spread the knowledge of their teachings and reasonings, and had said that there was nothing esoteric and impossible of grasp in them for the ordinary mind. He had thus assailed the fundamental principles of the Muwahhid system. Against this, Ibn Rushd wrote the tractates spoken of above. They were evidently addressed to the educated laity; not to the ignorant multitude, but to those who had already read such books as those of al-Ghazzali and been affected by them, yet had not studied philosophy at first hand. That they were not intended for such special students is evident from the elaborate care that is taken in them to conceal, or, if that were not possible, to put a good face upon obnoxious doctrines. Thus, his philosophy left no place in reality for a system of rewards and punishments or even for
any individual existence of the soul after death, for a creation of the material world, or for a providence in the direct working of the supreme being on earth. But all these points are involved or glossed over in these tractates.
Further, it is plain that their object was to bring about a reform of religion in itself, and also of the attitude of theologians to students of philosophy. In them he sums up his own position under four heads: First, that philosophy agrees with religion and that religion recommends philosophy. Here, he is fighting for his life. Religion is true, a revelation from God; and philosophy is true, the results reached by the human mind; these two truths cannot contradict each other. Again, men are frequently exhorted in the Qur’an to reflect, to consider, to speculate about things; that means the use of the intelligence, which follows certain laws, long ago traced and worked out by the ancients. We must, therefore, study their works and proceed further on the same course ourselves, i.e., we must study philosophy.
Second, there are two things in religion, literal meaning and interpretation. If we find anything in the Qur’an which seems externally to contradict the results of philosophy, we may be quite sure that there is something under the surface. We must look for some possible interpretation of the passage, some inner meaning; and we shall certainly find it.
Third, the literal meaning is the duty of the multitude, and interpretation the duty of scholars. Those who are not capable of philosophical reasoning must hold the literal truth of the different statements in
the Qur’an. The imagery must be believed by them exactly as it stands, except where it is absolutely evident that we have only an image. On the other hand, philosophers must be given the liberty of interpreting as they choose. If they find it necessary, from some philosophical necessity, to adopt an allegorical interpretation of any passage or to find in it a metaphor, that liberty must be open to them. There must be no laying down of dogmas by the church as to what may be interpreted and what may not. In Ibn Rushd's opinion, the orthodox theologians sometimes interpreted when they should have kept by the letter, and sometimes took literally passages in which they should have found imagery. He did not accuse them of heresy for this, and they should grant him the same liberty.
Fourth, those who know are not to be allowed to communicate interpretations to the multitude. So Ali said, "Speak to the people of that which they understand; would ye that they give the lie to God and His messenger?" Ibn Rushd considered that belief was reached by three different classes of people in three different ways. The many believe because of rhetorical syllogisms (khitabiya), i.e., those whose premises consist of the statements of a religious teacher (maqbulat), or are presumptions (maznunat). Others believe because of controversial syllogisms (jadliya), which are based on principles (mashhurat) or admissions (musallamat). All these premises belong to the class of propositions which are not absolutely certain. The third class, and by far the smaller, consists of the people of demonstration (burhan).
Their belief is based upon syllogisms composed of propositions which are certain. These consist of axioms (awwaliyat) and five other classes of certainties. Each of these three classes of people has to be treated in the way that suits its mental character. It is wrong to put demonstration or controversy before those who can understand only rhetorical reasoning. It destroys their faith and gives them nothing to take its place. The case is similar with those who can only reach controversial reasoning but cannot attain unto demonstration. Thus Ibn Rushd would have the faith of the multitude carefully screened from all contact with the teachings of philosophers. Such books should not be allowed to go into general circulation, and if necessary, the civil authorities should step in to prevent it. If these principles were accepted and followed, a return might be looked for of the golden age of Islam, when there was no theological controversy and men believed sincerely and earnestly.
On this last paragraph it is worth noticing that its threefold distinction is "conveyed" by Ibn Rushd from a little book belonging to al-Ghazzali's later life, after he had turned to the study of tradition, Iljam al-Awamm an ilm al-kalam, "The reining in of the commonalty from the science of kalam."
Such was, practically, the end of the Muslim Aristotelians. Some flickers of philosophic study doubt-less remained. So we find a certain Abu-l-Hajjaj ibn Tumlus (d. 620) writing on Aristotle's "Analytics," and the tractates of Ibn Rushd described above were copied at Almeria in 724. But the fate of all Muslim
speculation fell, and this school went out in Sufiism. It was not Ibn Rushd that triumphed but Ibn Tufayl, and that side of Ibn Tufayl which was akin to al-Ghazzali. From this point on, the thinkers and Writers of Islam become mystics more and more overwhelmingly. Dogmatic theology itself falls behind, and of philosophical disciplines only formal logic and a metaphysics of the straitest scholastic type are left. Philosophy becomes the handmaid of theology, and a very mechanical handmaid at that. It is only in the schools of the Sufis that we find real development and promise of life. The future lay with them, however dubious it may seem to us that a future in such charge must be.
The greatest Sufi in the Arabic-speaking world was undoubtedly Muhyi ad-Din ibn Arabi. He was born in Murcia in 560, studied hadith, and fiqh at Seville, and in 598 set out to travel in the East. He wandered through the Hijaz, Mesopotamia and Asia Minor, and died at Damascus in 638, leaving behind him an enormous mass of writings, at least 150 of which have come down to us. Why he left Spain is unknown; it is plain that he was under the influence of the Muwahhid movement. He was a Zahirite in law; rejected analogy, opinion, and taqlid, but admitted agreement. His attachment to the opinions of Ibn Hazm especially was very strong. He edited some of that scholar's works, and was only prevented by his objections to taqlid from being a formal Hazmite. But with all that literalness in fiqh, his mysticism in theology was of the most rampant and luxurious description. Between the two sides, it is true,
there existed a connection of a kind. He had no need for analogy or opinion or for any of the workings of the vain human intelligence so long as the divine light was flooding his soul and he saw the things of the heavens with plain vision. So his cooks are a strange jumble of theosophy and metaphysical paradoxes, all much like the theosophy of our own day. He evidently took the system of the mutakallims and played with it by means of formal logic and a lively imagination. To what extent he was sincere in his claim of heavenly illuminings and mysterious powers it would be hard to say. The oriental mystic has little difficulty in deceiving himself. His opinions--so far as we can know them--may be briefly sketched as follows: The being of all things is God: there is nothing except Him. All things are an essential unity; every part of the would is the whole world. So man is a unity in essence but a multiplicity in individuals. His anthropology was an advance upon that of al-Ghazzali toward a more unflinching pantheism. He has the same view that the soul of man is a spiritual substance different from everything else and proceeding from God. But he obliterates the difference of God and makes souls practically emanations. At death these return into God who sent them forth. All religions to Ibn Arabi were practically indifferent; in them all the divine was working and was worshipped. Yet Islam is the more advantageous and Sufiism is its true philosophy. Further, man has no free-will; he is con-strained by the will of God, which is really all that exists. Nor is there any real difference between
good and evil; the essential unity of all things makes such a division impossible.
The last of the Muwahhid circle with whom we need deal--and, perhaps, absolutely the last--is Abd al-Haqq ibn Sa‘bin. He was as much a mystic as Ibn Arabi, but was apparently more deeply read in philosophy and did not cast his conceptions in so theological and Qur’anic a mould. He, too, was born. in Murcia about 613, and must very early have founded a school of his own, gathered disciples round him and established a wide reputation. High skill in alchemy, astrology, and magic is ascribed to him, which probably means that he claimed to be a wali, a friend of God, gifted with miraculous powers. He is accused of posing as a prophet, although in orthodox Islam Muhammad is the last and the seal of the prophets But against this, it may be said that he had no need of the actual title, "prophet"; many mystics held--heretically, it is true--that the wali stood higher than the prophet, nabi or rasul. He had evidently besides this a more solid reputation in philosophy, as is shown by his correspondence with Frederick II, the great Hohenstaufen (d. 1250 A.D.). The story is told on the Muslim side only, but has vraisemblance and seems to be tolerably authentic. According to it, Frederick addressed certain questions in philosophy--on the eternity of the world, the nature of the soul, the number and nature of the categories, etc.--to different Muslim princes, begging that they would submit them to their learned men. So the questions came to ar-Rashid, the Muwahhid (reg. 630-640), addressed to
[paragraph continues] Ibn Sa‘bin as a scholar whose reputation had reached even the Sicilian court. Ar-Rashid passed them on; Ibn Sa‘bin accepted the commission with a smile--this is the Muslim account--and triumphantly and contemptuously expounded the difficulties of the Christian monarch and student. In his replies he certainly displays a very complete and exact knowledge of the Aristotelian and neo-Platonic systems, and is far less a blind follower of Aristotle than is Ibn Rushd. But his schoolmasterly tone is most unpleasant, and we discover in the end that all this is a mere preliminary discipline, leading in itself to agnosticism and a recognition that there is nothing but vanity in this world, and that only in the Vision of the Sufi can certainty and peace be found. So we have again the circle through which al-Ghazzali went. As distinguished from Ibn Rushd, the prophet, with Ibn Sa‘bin, takes higher rank than the sage. Beyond the current division of the soul into the vegetative, the animal and the reasonable, he adds two others, derived from the reasonable, the soul of wisdom and the soul of prophecy. The first of these is the soul of the philosopher, and the other of the prophet; and the last is the highest. Of the reasonable soul upward, he predicates immortality.
His position otherwise must have been practically the same as that of Ibn Arabi. Like him he was a Zahirite in law and a mystic in theology. "God is the reality of existing things," he taught, and it is evident that he belonged to the school of pantheism in which God is all, and separate things are emanations from him. In life we have flashes of recognition
of the heavenly realities, but only at death--which is our true birth--do we reach union with the eternal, or, to speak technically, with the Active Intellect.
Apparently it was quite possible for him to hold these views in public so long as the Muwahhids were strong enough to protect him. But their empire was rapidly falling to pieces and the time of freedom had passed. An attack on him at Tunis, where the Hafsids now ruled, drove him to the East about 643, and there he took refuge at--of all places--Mecca. The refuge seems to have been secure. He lived there more than twenty years amid a circle of disciples, among whom was the Sharif himself, and died about 667. There is a poorly authenticated story that he died by suicide. The man himself, with so many of his time and kind, must remain a puzzle to us. For all his haughty pride of learning, it is noted of him that his first disciples were from among the poor. His contemporaries described him as "a Sufi after the manner of the philosophers." The last vestige of the Muwahhid empire passed away in the year of his death.