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3.1.5 - Before Crossing the Straits (Tarifa, 589/1192)

His student, Moayyaduddin al-Jundi, mentioned that the Greatest Shaykh Muhyiddin Ibn al-Arabi told his disciple Sadruddin al-Qunawi, whom we shall mention later, especially in Chapter VII, that when he arrived at the sea, Shaykh Muhyiddin made a pledge to Allah that he would not cross the straight until all his internal and external states be revealed to him till the time of his death. For this, Ibn al-Arabi turned to Allah praying with sincerity and full presence, so that Allah make witness all his future states until his last days. He told his disciple that he knew from that moment that his father, Isaac Ibn Muhammad al-Isfahani, will be his companion, and that he even was acquainted with his conditions and the states of knowledge that he shall attain, and the experiences, the stations and manifestations that God will grant him, i.e. to Sadruddin. Only then did the Greatest Shaykh crossed the straight with full insight and certainty of his destiny. The shaykh then told him that everything happened with him has just occurred as he witnessed [al-Jundi, Explanation of the Bezels of Wisdom: pp. 215-220, see also: Claudia Addas, The Search for Red Sulfur: p. 111].

However, we should not take this report to mean that Shaykh Muhyiddin knows the unseen, but it is a kind of general foresight that he has often commented on repeatedly, which is to see what is going to happen as a whole, although he gave here some accurate details, but all this is still considered a total knowledge, that may or may not happen in reality, because the true detailed knowledge is to live the events as they are, while this total knowledge is like the visions that one may see in dreams. In any case, this knowledge comes from the Tablet of Erasure and Confirmation, in which Allah the Almighty may erase or confirms what He wants, while the Protected Tablet, that is the Mother of the Book [Quran, 13:39], is fixed in the final foreknowledge of God, that is the Absolute Unseen. For this, we find that Shaykh Muhyiddin, for example, as Claudia Addas noted [Claudia Addas, The Search for Red Sulfur: p. 180], had not decided that he would not return to Andalusia when he first left for Mecca in 598 AH, but he mentioned to his companion Abdul-Aziz al-Mahdawi in the introduction to the Meccan Revelations that he intended the “pilgrimage” then to come back to him in Tunisia, which did not happen [Futuhat: I.10].

Here Claudia Addas wonders if this contradicts the fact that he had learned in general what will happen to him? But I do not see any contradiction, because Shaykh Muhyiddin, may Allah be pleased with him, when it was revealed to him his future states, then may be part of what he knew was what he intended to do but did not; and as we said all this can not be any certain knowledge but a kind of vision that one hopes will be realized, so he behaves as if he is not sure and waits for the future to be revealed until the prophecy is confirmed.

In fact, this reasoning also applies to the foresight that Shaykh Muhyiddin received in Cordoba in 586 AH, and then followed by several assurances, as we shall see, in Tunisia in 590 AH and in Fez in 594 AH and then in Mecca in 599 AH, that he is the seal of Muhammadan sainthood, yet he did not act according to this knowledge until he was assured of it and actually achieved to Mecca in 599 AH. This issue has puzzled many researchers such as Michel Chodkiewicz who suggested that Shaykh Muhyiddin first obtained the position of the Deputy Seal, to get rid of this apparent contradiction [The Seal of Saints: Prophethood and Sainthood in the Doctrine of Ibn Arabi, Cambridge: Islamic Texts Society, 1993, p.140]. We will return to this point when we discuss this issue further in Chapter IV.