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The One Alone

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  • Ibn ‘Arabi

Taken from: Jerry Katz (Ed.):

One; Essential Writings on Nonduality

Published by: Sentient Publications Boulder CO


© Jerry Katz 2007

ISBN-13: 978-1-59181-053-7

(NB. Een Nederlandse vertaling van dit artikel  staat ook op deze website)



Ibn ‘Arabi all his life felt the pain of not being understood. Yet the breadth and depth of his wisdom, insight, vision, and knowledge was and is awesome to whomever catches a glimpse of it. Many of his expressions of divine mysteries have never been improved upon. Many important affairs, which he foretold centuries ago, have taken place and continue to take place.

Despite – or because of – the controversy surrounding him, Ibn ‘Arabi has become one of the most important expounders of Sufi wisdom. His influences quickly spread even beyond the Islamic world, entering medieval Europe. In their famous studies, Asin Palacios and Salverda di Grave have pointed out that Dante, in the Divina Cornedia was often inspired by Ibn ‘Arabi’s works, deriving from them both the grand design of Hell and Paradise and the image of the beautiful young woman as guide to the divine. Through Dante’s prestige, these themes permeated old Europe. Today, the Shaikh’s influence on the spiritual growth of humanity continues to grow as his words become more and more available in the West.

In his prime, Ibn ‘Arabi was a thin, middle-sized man-well proportioned, with small, delicate hands and feet. His skin was white. His head was small, with a round face, a high forehead and a fine slightly curved nose of medium size. He had eyebrows curved like the crescent moon; he wore a thick white beard.

He was courageous and tenacious, extremely patient, and very generous with both the material things he owned and the deep wisdom he possessed.

Although not everyone understood him, all were in awe of his spiritual presence. Always gentle, compassionate, and merciful, he viewed everything with love, including his enemies and dangerous animals. He detested violence. even in the punishment of murderer. He wrote, “Although according to religious law the punishment tor murder is death, it is better to forgive.” He also wrote, “On the’ D,l\~ of judgment, I will intercede tor those who deny me.”

Muhyiddin Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn ‘al-‘Arabi was born on August 7, 1165 (638H), on the twenty-seventh day of Ramadan, in the city of Murcia in Andalusia. He was a descendant of Hatim at-Ta’i the legendary model of Arab generosity.

May Allah have mercy on the soul of Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi, and may He be pleased with him and bestow peace upon his soul.


* *

The One Alone

In the Name of Allah the Merciful,

the One Who is visible

with all His beautiful names and attributes

in the realm of images.

He who knows himself, knows his Lord.“

All praise and thanks to Allah, Almighty, the first with no other before Him. He is the only First, and there is no last but His oneness. The end is with Him alone, and He is the end. He is All-Existing: with Him there is no end. Neither is there nearness or farness; nor is there a will or wish, or time, or above, or below, or place; neither is there a universe. Allah is now as He was before. He is eternal. He is One without oneness and Alone without loneliness. He is not named with a name, for it is He whose name is “He,” the self-named one. There is no name other than “He,“ and none other than He is named.

He is the First without anything before Him. He is the Last without anything after Him. He is Visible in all that is seen. He is Known, clearly, in all that is hidden. He is in all forms and images without any relation to any appearance. He is the secret and the appearance of the first letter announcing the beginning of existence. He is the presence of all the letters that belong to the First and all the letters that belong to the Last and is the presence in all the letters that are visible and all the letters that are hidden. Therefore He is “the First“ and “the Last“ and “the Visible“ and “the Hidden.“ He is the First and the Last and the Visible and the Hidden. All the letters that form the words, from the first to the last of realms seen or unseen, are without any relation to His Being and are without any effect on His Being.

Do not fall into the blasphemous error of the sect called Hululiyyah, who believe that another soul, even another being, can be infused into them and that they may have God materially existing in them. Know that He is never in anything. Nor is anything in Him. He is neither inside nor outside of anything. None can see Him, whether with the eyes of the head or with an inner eye, nor can any conceive Him through the senses, the mind. Intelligence, knowledge, or imagination. Only He can see Himself only He can conceive Himself. None can know Him: only He can know Himself. He sees Himself by Himself; He conceives Himself by Himself: He knows Himself by Himself. None other than He can see Him. No one other than He can know Him. That which hides Him is His oneness None but himself can hide Him. The veil that hides Him is His own being. He hides His being with nothing other than His being the Only One; therefore, none other than He can see Him.

Neither a prophet whom He has sent to humanity, nor a saint, a perfect man, nor an angel close to Him can see Him, for they are not apart from Him. His prophets, His messengers, His perfect men, are none other than He, for He has sent Himself, from Himself, for Himself, without any other cause or means besides Himself. He sent His essence, from His essence, by His essence, to His essence. There is no difference between the One who sent and His messengers who were sent. The letters of His being are the being of His messengers. There is no other being than He. Neither does He become another; nor does His name become another’s name; nor is there any other named by His name.

That is why our Master, the Light of the Universe, the Prophet Muhammad (may Allah’s peace and blessing be upon hi,), said:

I know my Lord by my Lord.

He also said:

He who knows himself knows his Lord.

By this it is meant that surely you are not you, and you – with­out being you – are He. He is not within you; nor are you in Him. He does not exclude you: nor are you excluded from Him. When you are addressed as you, do not think that you exist, with an essence and qualities and attributes – for you never existed, nor do exist, nor will ever exist. You have not entered into Him, nor He into you. Without being, your essence is with Him and in Him. You were not; nor are you temporal. Without having any identity, you are Him and He is you. If you know yourself as nothing, then you truly know your Lord. Otherwise, you know Him not.

You cannot know your Lord by making yourself nothing. Many a wise man claims that in order to know one’s Lord one must denude oneself of the signs of one’s existence, efface one’s identity, finally rid oneself of one’s self. This is a mistake. How could a thing that does not exist try to get rid of its existence? For none of matter exists. How could a thing that is not, become nothing? A thing can only become nothing after it has been something. Therefore, if you know yourself without being, not trying to become nothing, you will know your Lord. If you think that to know Allah depends on your ridding yourself of yourself, then you are guilty of attributing partners to Him – the only unforgivable sin – because you are claiming that there is another existence besides Him, the All-Exis­tent: that there is a you and a He.

Our Master, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), said:

He who knows himself knows His Lord.

He did not say:

He who eliminates himself knows his Lord!

The proof of the existence of something is that when it is pre­sumed nonexistent, its opposite appears. As there is none other than Allah, proving His existence does not depend on the disappearance of some existence other than His. And as you do not exist, you can­not cease to exist, nor be transformed into anything else. Your being is neither temporal nor eternal, for you have no being.

Our Master, the Messenger of Allah, said, “Actually you do not exist, [just] as you did not exist before you were created.”2

Allah has no partners and there is none like to Him.

Allah Most High is the meaning of before the before and after the after; without Him, before and after have no meaning. Were this not so,

He is alone. He has no partners”

would have no meaning. It must be so; otherwise something other than He would have to exist on its own and not depend on Him for its existence. Such a partner would not need Allah for its existence and so would be a second god – and that is an impossibility. Allah Most High cannot have partners, and there cannot be any like unto Him.

If one believes that things exist in Allah – from Him or with Him – and that these things depend upon Allah for their existence, even so, such things are appearing to one as lords. Though their lordship may depend on Allah, still one who believes in them is guilty of recognizing some other lord as a partner of our Lord. It would be a grave error to consider any other existence as valid alongside of Allah the Self-Existent, even if the thing is seen as dependent on Allah for its existence. A being that has given up its existence and has become naught after having given up its existence, is still far from a breath of knowledge.

If one contemplates oneself as such a being, one is far from knowing oneself. If someone thinks of himself as existing among other beings and things that disappear as he does, whose nothingness becomes naught in nothing – if such a person believes that there are others who exist beside Allah, he is nothing indeed, and his nothing­ness will go on as long as he thinks he exists. He will be guilty of the unforgivable sin of attributing partners to Allah, while he may think he knows his Lord, since he knows himself.

The way of knowing oneself and knowing one’s Lord.

Then how, is one to know oneself in order to know one’s Lord?

The answer to this question is: Allah Most High exists and none other exists with Him. He is now as He has always been.

If one sees oneself as other than the only existence, which is Him, or if one does not see oneself as a part of Him, then the answer came from the Messenger of Allah when he said, “He who knows himself, knows his Lord.“ He did not mean by “self” one’s ego – that self which favors the pleasures of the flesh and its lowly desires and which tries to command all of one; nor did he mean the self that first deceives – making one believe that the dirt and the ugliness is proper, then flagellates itself for the wrong it has done and forgets and does it again; nor did he mean the self-satisfied self. He meant one’s truth, one’s reality. When the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) prayed and said:

O my lord, show me the reality of things

what he meant by “things” was those things that appear to be other than Allah. He meant, “Teach me those things other than You. What is all this around me? Let me know. These things – are they You, or are they other than You? Did they exist before or did they come to be? Are they here forever or are they going to pass away?”

And Allah showed him that the “things” had no being and He showed “them” to be Him, and it was seen that all that appeared as other than Allah was His being. He was shown things without a name, without time, without quality, as the essence of Allah.

The name of a thing is suggested by the thing to the one who names it, and by him is given to others. Thus, in a thing, the exis­tence of the thing and the existence of its self are equivalent. There­fore, when the thing is known, the self is known and when the self is known the Lord is known.

You presume others to be other than Allah. There is nothing other than He, but you do not know this. While you are looking at Him you do not recognize Him. When the secret opens to you, you will know that you are none other than He. Then you will also know that you are the one whom he wished (but you need not dis­appear), and that you are forever and will not disappear with time, for there is no passing of time. Your attributes are His. Without a doubt, your appearance is His appearance. What is in you is in Him. Your before is His Before; your after is His After; your after is His After; your essence is His essence – without Him entering into you or you entering in Him, for

Everything is perishing but His Face

(al-Qasas, 88)

That which exists and is visible is He. There is nothing but He, so how could nothing cease to be? There is only Him. His essence, which always will be. Therefore, if one knows that a thing exists that cannot cease to be, then the doubt and the ignorance about that thing will cease to be. That being is eternal. without changing into another being. When one who is sure of an existence joins with one who denies that existence, they do not unite. At best, the doubt about that existence disappears.

Therefore, do not think anymore that you need to become nothing, that you need to annihilate yourself in Him.3 If you thought so, then you would be His veil. while a veil over Allah is other than He. How could you be a veil that hides Him? What hides Him is His being the One Alone.

  1. In this deeply mystical text by Ibn ‘Arabi, Allah is not ‘a’ god nor God as commonly understood in any anthropomorphic sense. Allah has no limitation, nor can “He” be understood from any limited perspective, as the human necessary is. Allah is the designation of the Universal Principle that does not belong to any religion or anything that is limited. “He” is no man nor a woman, nor “It” because Allah has no gender, nor no gender, nor any duality. Words like “Him, “His” and “Lord” and “Almighty” (because all Powers are in “Him” and from “Him”) are merely used to denote what can not be denoted by human terms – because “He” has no name, and therefore no replacement for a name. The insight given in the meaning of Allah in this article shows that Islam is in its core an advaitic – nondualistic – religion. If comparable to any other concepts in other religions, śunyatā (emptiness, zeroness of Buddhism) of Para(brahm) of Hinduism would come closest, as well as the One Principle on which no speculation is possible in Blavatsky’s The Secret Doctrine (Vol. I: Proem, p.14): An Omnipresent, Eternal, Boundless, and Immutable PRINCIPLE on which all speculation is impossible, since it transcends the power of human conception and could only be dwarfed by any human expression or similitude. It is beyond the range and reach of thought … unthinkable and unspeakable. – Ed. []
  2. This might erroneously be understood as Allah creating people. This is not possible, because then “He” would no longer be “the One Alone.” It means to say that any existence is but an illusion. It is our mind which creates the illusions who we see as real, but have no existence on their own behalf. – Ed. []
  3. It is important to notice that Islam thus rejects nihilism, i.e. total annihilation of yourself. The same mistake had been made by Buddhist and especially their occidental interpreters who took sunyata to be nothingness total annihilation of the self or soul on reaching nirvana) instead of no-thingness -Ed. []