Shaykh Abu Madyan is Shuayb Ibn al-Hussein al-Ansari, a famous and greatly influential Sufi master, known as al-Qutb al-Ghawth or the Shaykh of Shaykhs, and he was also called in the Higher World as “Abu al-Naja”, as stated by Shaykh Muhyiddin [Futuhat: I.184] who also calls him by “our Shaykh” because he was greatly influenced by him although he had never met him physically in person, but only in the spiritual realm, as we shall see shortly. Since he often quotes his statements and stories, we shall mention here some of his biography and qualities, especially through Ibn al-Arabi’s own comments.
Although some scholars who wrote about the biography of Ibn al-Arabi, such as Miguel Asin Palacios [Ibn al-Arabi, His Life and Doctrine, by Miguel Asin Palacios, Translated by Abdul-Rahman Badawi, Publications Agency, Kuwait, 1979, pp. 34-35.], speak of the possibility of Shaykh Muhyiddin meeting with his shaykh Abu Madyan, whom most historians mistakenly believe had died in Tlemcen in 594/1198 (see section
ef(abu-madyan-death further below), while Ibn al-Arabi was in Tlemcen in 590, thus Palacios says that he might have visited him in 590 AH during his first visit to Tunisia. However, Shaykh Abu Madyan died in 589 AH shortly before Ibn al-Arabi left Andalusia, as will be mentioned shortly, and before he reaches Tlemcen. In addition, Shaykh Muhyiddin explicitly stated in the Holy Spirit that Shaykh Abu Madyan told him through one of his companions that God did not ordained them to meet in person, but they have met quite often in the world of spirit and example. This happened, perhaps by the arrival of Abu Madyan to Ibn al-Arabi to teach him and educate him as necessary, since he stated that Abu Madyan used to come, without real physical travel, to Shaykh Abu al-Hajjaj Yusuf al-Shubarbuli (see section
ef(al-shubarbili in Chapter II), who lives in a village near Seville:
I entered upon him with our Shaykh Abu Muhammad, may Allah be pleased with them, and I said: O our master, this is the companion of Abu Madyan. The Shaykh smiled and said: “How wonderful, yesterday we had Abu Madyan with us, may Allah be pleased with him, he is the best Shaykh!” Abu Madyan was then in Bugia, forty-five days away. So this was a case of revelation between them.
[Quds: pp. 53-55].
Shaykh Muhyiddin then adds that this situation occurred very between him and Abu Yaqoub, especially that Shaykh Abu Madyan could not travel because of his age, yet he witnessed many details with and he memorized many of his news that which may not fit in volumes, and he only mentions some narrations to confirm that there are always such firm men through all times.
Or perhaps Shaykh Abu Madyan would sometimes send to him some of his companions to negotiate on many issues, as Shaykh Muhyiddin mentioned also in the Holy Spirit:
Among them, may Allah be pleased with them is Mousa Abu Imran al-Sadarani (see section
ef(al-sadrani in Chapter II). He was an unknown Substitute, with wonders and oddities. The occasion when I met him was that I once sat after evening prayer at my home in Seville, during the life of Shaykh Abu Madyan, and I wished that if I could meet him, while he was in Bugia at that time, forty-five days away. When I finished the prayer, Shaykh Abu Imran entered to me, and I handed him and I sat him beside me and said: from here? He said: I was with Shaykh Abu Madyan in Bugia. I said: When was that? He said: I just prayed with him this evening, and he said to me that Muhammad Ibn al-Arabi in Seville is wishing to met us, go to him now and tell him such and such and say to him that: “The meeting between our spirits was eminent, but God did not ordained our physical meeting in this world, so please calm your thoughts and the promise between me and you have been settled with God in the Hereafter under His mercy.” He then mentioned some other affairs and returned to him.
[Quds: pp. 74-76.]
This must have happened in 586 AH, because Shaykh Muhyiddin mentioned in Chapter 73 of the Meccan conquests when he was talking about the Substitutes, that he met one of them, Mousa al-Sadarani, and that he came to meet him in Seville for a specific purpose in the year six hundred and and eighty [Futuhat: II.682]. Also he says that Abu Mousa was a rich person, but he gave up his properties and entered the Path and he received the opening in eighteen days and became one of the Substitutes, so he can move (instantly) anywhere in the lands [Muhadarat: I.441].