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2.1.3 - The Family of Ibn al-Arabi

In line with the Islamic conquests of the west, many Arab tribes emigrated to the Maghreb and Andalusia, and no doubt that some of the Taiy grandparents of Ibn al-Arabi were among those people, and perhaps among the soldiers who opened Andalusia. Many families of the Aws and Khazraj, who were the residents of Medina, migrated entirely to Andalusia and settled there, and they no longer have any presence in Medina.

The historian Hussein Muanis says in his book: “The Dawn of Andalusia” that the early Arabs first came to Andalusia when al-Hurr Ibn Youssef al-Thaqafi came in Dhul Hijja 97/716, fives years after its opening, accompanied with four hundred men, and they settled in Cordoba and its surroundings [Fajr al-Andalus, Hussein Mounes, Arab Company for Printing and Publishing - Cairo, 1959, p. 400.]. Then more Arab tribes emigrated, such as Rabia, Judham, Gawth and Gafiq, who dwelt in Murcia, in addition to Afsan Ibn Mudar, and all of Yemeni origin. There is no doubt that the family of Ibn al-Arabi was among them, and for that he is proud of Yemeni origins, as we saw at the beginning of the first chapter.

Also al-Muqriy says in Nafh al-Tib that many of the people of Andalusia are from Aws and Khazraj, and some belong Gafiq Ibn Aqq Ibn Adnan Ibn Hazan Ibn Azd, ... and from Kahlan those who belonged to Madhahaj, a hillock in Yemen, ... And Tay is Ibn Adad Ibn Zaid Ibn Kahlan, ... then he adds that Ibn Ghalib said that Banu Siraj are the nobles of Cordoba and they belong to Madhahaj, and that the house of Tay is in the Kebili side of Murcia [Nafh al-Tib: v. 1, pp. 294-296.]. The Kebili side here is a reference to the direction towards Kaaba in Holy Mecca, in Murcia this would be southeast.

As we introduced in Chapter I, the family of Muhammad Ibn al-Arabi is famous in sciences and ethics, and they were close princes and rulers, but as we said before it is very difficult to trace descendants after Abdullah al-Taiy, the great grandfather of Ibn al-Arabi.

It seems that this nickname “Ibn al-Arabi” was common in the Maghreb, because there are many scholars with this name, although they are not necessarily from the same family or tribe. There are two prominent scholars with this title, one is the Sufi Shaykh, who is usually known as “Ibn Arabi”, without the definitive article, and the other is the Judge Abu Bakr Ibn al-Arabi, with the definitive article, as we mentioned in the introduction. These two world scholars, even though they lived in close times and regions, but they are not necessarily from the same family, because they don’t seem to be directly related, although there maybe some distant ancestors since they belong to the same tribe of Tay. There are also others lesser-known scholars who became known as Ibn al-Arabi or Ibn Arabi, as we have also summarized in the introduction. The possible origin for this nickname is due to the fact that the tribes in Maghreb were mostly Berber, so when the Arab Muslims migrated to the west and settled there, this title was used to distinguish some men of Arabian origins.

Abu Muhammad Ali Ibn al-Arabi, the father of Shaykh Muhyiddin, assumed an important position with Ibn Mardanish, then when this Sultan died, he remained in the service of Almohad Sultan Abu Yaqoub Yusuf Ibn Abdul Momin and continued so until the reign of their third sultan Abu Yusuf Yaqoub al-Mansour. We do not know exactly what is the job that was being handled by Abu Muhammad, but despite the notably good behavior of Almohads Kings, comparing to the late Almoravids and other Kings of Sects, but Abu Muhammad had been blamed for taking such a position and working in the court of the kings who might not have been liked by the ascetics whom Muhammad Ibn al-Arabi accompanied; so some of them have advised him to quit and devote himself to worship, as we shall see shortly.

In this honorable and delicate social circumstance, Muhammad Ibn al-Arabi grew up, and he inherited the love of knowledge and good morals. He was naturally characterized by a affectionate intelligence, wisdom and sagacity, with discerning taste, strong emotions, awaken conscience, and all welcomed prospects of active energy and aspiration, until his spirit flew away and high in seeking the greatest horizons, far beyond all the comprehensive sciences and knowledge of the scholars in his time, despite their high rank.