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On Allah’s Self-Disclosure

From The Teachings of Muhyiddīn Ibn ’Arabi

Exposition by W.C. Chittick;

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The light of God must first dawn to the seeker's heart before he can give news of God. This process [of ’dawning’] is called the 'self-disclosure of God' (tajallī ).

Quotes on the self-disclosure of God – Allah from ’The Sufi Path oF Knowledge’, by W.C. Chittick, based on the teachings of Shaykh Muhyiddīn Ibn `Arabi. The words of the Shaykh are indented.

1. Intro

The Creation of the Heavens and the earth and what is in between [i.e. everything, the cosmos, man] is essentially the revelation of the Divine Being, at first to Himself at every moment – it is a theophany (tajallī ilāhī ).

2. Knowing God's Self-Disclosure

The self-disclosure of God – Allah – "appears in two modes – ontological and cognitive, or as existence and as knowledge." SPK212

Also to remind ourselves "that wujūd or Being/existence means also 'finding'," that "it is a subjective experience as much as an objective occurrence." SPK212

"The Verifiers are the People of Unveiling and Finding (ahl al-kashf wa-l wujūd ), since the reality of things has been disclosed to them and they have found God in both the cosmos and themselves." SPK212

"In short, we come to find our own existence through listening to the Divine Speech, which is 'Be!' (And) we come to find God through listening to His Speech in the form of revelation. Finding and existence are two aspects of the same reality, which at root is God's own Finding of Himself, His Necessary Being. All goes back to Him and His Names." SPK213

"Through the Being (wujūd ) of God, which is Light, all perception takes place (idrāk )."

"Just as light is being, finding, and manifestation, so also it is knowledge, which …is a 'light which God throws into the heart of whomsoever He will."

"There is not one of us who will not see his Lord (ru'ya ) and speak to Him face to face." Shaykh Muhyiddīn Ibn 'Arabi (See hadith in Muslim) …

"But reason doubts this [i.e. the vision of God], because vision of God is one of the things which throws rational faculties into bewilderment and concerning which they come to no conclusions..."
Shaykh Muhyiddīn Ibn `Arabi, SPK215R

The opening of unveiling (futūḥ al mukāshafa ) SPK215

3a. On The Lights of Self-Disclosure

The light of God must first dawn to the seeker's heart before he can give news of God. This process [of ’dawning’] is called the 'self-disclosure of God' (tajallī ). And He"discloses Himself through the cosmos and through all knowledge." SPK216 [Through an all-inclusive, all-encompassing knowledge.]

Shaykh Muhyiddīn Ibn `Arabi says:

”Then God disclosed Himself in an all-inclusive, all-encompassing self-disclosure, and He disclosed Himself in a specific, individual self-disclosure. The all-inclusive self-disclosure is an all-merciful self-disclosure, as indicated in His words,
{ The All-merciful sat upon the Throne.} Sura 20:5

The specific self-disclosure is the knowledge of God that belongs to each and every individual. Through the second self-disclosure there is entrance and exit, descent and ascent, motion and stillness, joining and separation, infringement, and that which stays in its place.”
Shaykh Muhyiddīn Ibn `Arabi, SPK216

He distinguished parts of the cosmos from other parts through place, position, form, and accident. Hence no distinction takes place except through Him, for He is identical to what becomes distinguished and to that through which distinction takes place. He is with each existent thing wherever it is through the manifest form that is attributed to that existent thing. All of this is known by the knowers of God by way of witnessing and finding.” Shaykh Muhyiddīn Ibn `Arabi, SPK216

3b. Self-Disclosure Is a Light

’One of the definitions of self-disclosure is

”the lights of the unseen things that are unveiled to hearts.”

’Self-disclosure is a light, so it is existence and knowledge.’ (Light and existence understood here as their) ’dynamic nature, the fact that the two are constantly moving from non manifestation into manifestation.’ SPK216ro

Shaykh Muhyiddīn Ibn `Arabi:

The divine loci of self-manifestation (al-maẓāhir al-ilahiyya ) are called "self-disclosures." The fundamental Light is not manifest within them and unseen by us, while the forms in which self-disclosure takes place are the locus within which the loci of manifestation become manifest. Hence our sight falls upon the loci manifestation.

”Since knowledge is intrinsic to existence/light, the self-disclosure which brings about existence also brings about knowledge. All things know God to the extent that they share in existence and light, and to the extent of their knowledge they constantly glorify God. However, those creatures who possess rational speech (nuṭq ) do not perceive God's self-disclosure immediately.

Shaykh Muhyiddīn Ibn 'Arabi says:

”Life is intrinsic to all things, since it derives from the divine self-disclosure to each and every existent thing. He created the existent things to worship and know Him, and not one of His creatures would know Him unless He disclosed Himself to it. Then it comes to know Him through itself, since no created thing has the capacity to know the Creator.…

Self-disclosure is forever constant, witnessed by and manifest to all existent things, except the angels, mankind, and the jinn, since this constant self-disclosure belongs only to that which has no rational speech, like all inanimate things and plants.

As for those things which have been given rational speech and the ability to express what is in themselves – that is the angels, mankind, and the jinn in respect of their governing spirits and their faculties - for them self-disclosure occurs from behind the veil of the unseen. Hence the angels' knowledge derives from God's giving knowledge (ta`rīf ), while the knowledge of mankind and the jinn derives from consideration (naẓar ) and reasoning (istidlāl ). But the knowledge possessed by their bodies and by all created things below them derives from the divine self-disclosure. SPK217

The self-disclosure of Allah's Essence is of course "unanimously declared impossible (mamnū' ) by the people of Realities."

Shaykh Muhyiddīn Ibn `Arabi:

However, "they also agree unanimously that … self-disclosure in the forms of beliefs, takes place, as does self-disclosure in rational concepts (ma`qūlāt ). These last two are the self-disclosure through which man 'takes heed' (i´tibār ), since these loci of manifestation – whether they be the forms of rational concepts or the forms of beliefs – are bridges over which one 'crosses' (´ubūr ) through knowledge. In other words, man knows that behind these forms there is Something which cannot be witnessed or known, there is no reality whatsoever to be known." SPK217

There are different kinds of self-disclosure, just as there are different lights, in this example, radiant light and non-radiant light. "If self-disclosure takes place through radiant light, it takes away sight. "

Shaykh Muhyiddīn Ibn `Arabi:

Lights are of two kinds: a light having no rays and radiant light. If self-disclosure takes place through radiant light, it takes away sight. It was alluded to by the Messenger of God when it was said to him, "O Messenger of God, hast thou seen thy Lord?" He replied, "He is a light. How should I see Him?"[fn1] He means "radiant light," since the rays take away sight and prevent perception of Him from whom the rays derive. The Prophet ﷺ also alluded to this with his words, "God has seventy veils of light and darkness; were they to be removed, the Glories of His Face would burn away everything perceived by the sight of His creatures."[fn2] Here "glories" are the lights of His Reality, since the "face" of something is its reality.

As for the light which has no rays, it is the light within which self-disclosure takes place without rays. Then its brightness does not go outside of itself and the viewer perceives it with utmost clarity and lucidity without any doubt. At the same time, the presence in which he dwells remains in utmost clarity and utmost limpidness, such that nothing of it becomes absent from him. Concerning this self-disclosure the Prophet ﷺ said, "You shall see your Lord just as you see the moon on the night when it is full."[fn3]

One of the things he meant by this declaration that vision of God is similar to seeing the moon is that the moon itself is perceived, since the moon's rays are too weak to prevent sight from perceiving it.…

Then the Prophet ﷺ said in the same hadith, "or just as you see the sun at noon when there is no cloud before it." At this time its light is strongest, so all things become manifest through it and sight perceives everything it falls upon when this sun is unveiled to it. But when it desires to verify its vision of the sun itself in this state, it is not able to do so. This declaration of similarity shows that this self- disclosure does not prevent people from seeing one another. In other words, they will not be annihilated. That is why he declared similarity with both the vision of the full moon and the vision of the sun, and he did not restrict himself to one of the two. He emphasized that people will subsist in this locus of witnessing by his words in the rest of the hadith, ”You will not be harmed and you will not be crowded.”
Shaykh Muhyiddīn Ibn `Arabi, SPK217

SPK: The Sufi Path of Knowledge’, by W.C. Chittick, based on the teachings of Shaykh Muhyiddīn Ibn `Arabi; SPK217 for page 217…

fn1: Muslim, Imān 291; Tirmidhī, Tafsīr Sura 53,7
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fn2: Allusion to the ’hadith of the veils’: The version ’His veil is light’ in place of ’God has … darkness’ is in Muslim, Imān 293; Ibn Māja, Muqaddima 13
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fn3: The hadith is found in many versions. The closest to that mentioned here is Muslim, Imān 302; Bukārī, Mawāqīt al.Salat 16, 26; Tafsīr Sūra 50,2; Bukārī, Adhān 129; Riqāq 52; etc.
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