al-Insan al-Kamil, the Perfect Individual

An Analysis of Ibn al-‘Arabi’s al-Insan al-Kamil, the Perfect Individual,

with a Brief Comparison to the Thought of Sir Muhammad Iqbal

by Rebekah Zwanzig,

  • Abstract:

This thesis analyzes four philosophical questions surrounding Ibn al-‘Arabi’s concept of the al-insan al-kamil, the Perfect Individual. The Introduction provides a definition of Sufism, and it situates Ibn al-‘Arabi’s thought within the broader context of the philosophy of perfection. Chapter One discusses the transformative knowledge of the Perfect Individual. It analyzes the relationship between reason, revelation, and intuition, and the different roles they play within Islam, Islamic philosophy, and Sufism. Chapter Two discusses the ontological and metaphysical importance of the Perfect Individual, exploring the importance of perfection within existence by looking at the relationship the Perfect Individual has with God and the world, the eternal and non-eternal. In Chapter Three the physical manifestations of the Perfect Individual and their relationship to the Prophet Muhammad are analyzed. It explores the Perfect Individual’s roles as Prophet, Saint, and Seal. The final chapter compares Ibn al-‘Arabi’s Perfect Individual to Sir Muhammad Iqbal’s in order to analyze the different ways perfect action can be conceptualized. It analyzes the relationship between freedom and action.

  • Introduction

The goal of this thesis is to articulate a detailed picture of Ibn al- `Arabi’s (560/1165 — 638/1240) concept of the Perfect Individual (al-Insan al-Kamil) by addressing the core philosophical questions surrounding who and what this figure is. Scholarship thus far has produced no detailed, philosophical, reading of this concept. In order to do so, some key concepts must be clarified: Firstly, what is Sufism? It is important to understand the implications of calling Ibn al-`Arabi a Sufi. Not only will this answer provide essential background for this study in particular, but it will also situate Ibn al- `Arabi’s thought within a specific “philosophical” school. Secondly, it is important to understand what perfection means, and how Ibn al- `Arabi specifically defines it. It is important to not only give a general definition of “perfection,” but also to present some of the varying details of this concept within different philosophical schools. Only after “perfection” is understood in this context can any discussion about individual perfection in Ibn al- `Arabi begin. The purpose of this introduction then is to: 1) Define Sufism in order to place Ibn al- `Arabi within a specific school of thought; 2) To provide an understanding of perfection, both in general philosophical terms and for Ibn al- `Arabi; 3) and to outline the key questions and themes that will be addressed in the body of the thesis.

  • Sufism

Sufism is commonly referred to as Islamic mysticism, yet this definition remains obscure and unsatisfactory, lacking the detailed, concrete characteristics vital for an adequate definition.’ There are three points that need to be clarified for anyone who wishes to understand Sufism: 1) The historica’ development of the word itself, 2) to whom it has been and is applied, and 3) Sufism’s relation to Islam.

Most scholars now agree that the origin of the word Sufism is derived from the word suf;   which was adopted in reference to the coarse woolen clothes Muslim ascetics
commonly wore; however, this explains nothing about what Sufism itself actually is. To gain a general understanding of the term, it is helpful to analyze various scholarly definitions. R.A. Nicholson says: “Sufism, the religious philosophy of Islam, is described in the oldest extant definition as ‘the apprehension of the divine realities,’ and Mohanimedan mystics are fond of calling themselves Ahl al-Haqq, ‘the followers of the Real.'”2 Nicholson describes it as a “religious philosophy” seeking the Real. The Sufi is concerned with finding the relationship between creation and God, and understanding the true nature of existence. William Chittick explains that:

Those who used the word [Sufism] in a positive sense connected it with a broad range of ideas and concepts having to do with achieving human perfection by following the model of the Prophet Muhammad. Those who used it in a negative sense associated it with various distortions of Islamic teachings.3

And: “In a broad sense, Sufism can be described as the interiorization and intensification of Islamic faith and practice.”4 Chittick’s passages infer that Sufism is the inner striving for perfection, as modeled by Muhammad, and this perfection is attained through an intense inner practice of Islam. However not all Muslims recognize this path as a legitimate form of worship. Labeled as heresy by some, Sufism, for this group, refers to a distortion of key tenets of the faith, specifically that of absolute monotheism. These definitions have one thing in common, namely, Sufism being described in relation toIslam. Both scholars seem to agree that without the practice of Islam, Sufism would not exist.

2 Reynold Nicholson, The Mystics of Islam (London: Arkana, 1989), 1.

3 William Chittick, Sufism: A Short Introduction (Oxford: One World Publications, 2000), 2.

4 Ibid., 18.

These definitions have been deduced only from statements made by modern scholars. How did the early Sufis themselves describe their practice? Al-Sarraj (d. 378/988), when explaining the difference between a real Sufi and an imposter, says:

They [the early masters] had severed their connection with the materialistic world, had chastened themselves through long and austere prayers, practices, and discipline, and had arrived at the clearest knowledge of reality, which knowledge found its full and necessary expression in their honest, sincere, and truthful actions. Such early masters used to be models of men who having burnt their boats of worldly affairs lived in constant contact with the Almighty.5

Just as Nicholson claimed that Sufism is the search for the Real, so too is al-Sarraj claiming that the early masters of Sufism practiced asceticism in order to live in a sustained unity with the Divine, the Real. Just as Chittick categorized Sufism as striving for perfection, al-Sarraj claims that these early masters became active receptacles for the Real. Through personal discipline, the practice of dhikr6, and inner prayer, these individuals become models of perfection for humanity. One of the most important aspects of this perfection for al-Sarraj is the fact that these individuals live in continual contact with God. In relation to this M. Hamiduddin says of al-Qushayn:

One of the first things that Qushairi emphasizes regarding a Sufi is that he is absolutely convinced that of all the paths of life open to a man his path is the best. This is how Qushairi expresses it: “And the grounds on which their path was built were stronger than the grounds on which the paths of others were established, be they men of tradition and culture, or men of thought and intellect.”7

5 Al-Sarraj quoted in, M. Hamiduddin, “Early Sufis: Doctrine,” in A History of Muslim Philosophy, vol. 1, ed. M.M. Sharif (Kempten, Germany: Allgauer Heimatverlag GmbH., 1963), 312.

6 This is the practice of “remembrance”, usually the recitation of a specific Name of God, prophet or passage from the Qur’an, it is meant to draw the practitioner closer to God. 7-Hamiduddin, 316.

The Sufis, for al-Qushayn, believe that theirs is the best of all paths; it opens a realm of knowledge that the paths of reason, theology and/or tradition cannot open. Having these passages as a guide, Sufism can now be defined as: A school of thought, stemming out of Islam, that seeks to attain human perfection through intimate contact with God. Islam declares the oneness of God, tawhid, and the Sufis specifically stress the importance of understanding and experiencing this Oneness. This is achieved through ascetical disciplines, such as dhikr, and through intuitive knowledge/gnosis.

Earlier it was stated that many Muslims view Sufism as a heresy, therefore a brief discussion concerning the relationship between Sufism and Islam is necessary. Sufism aims at embodying Muhammad’s experience of revelatory knowledge. On the night of ascension, Muhammad received a direct communication from God, and Islamic mystics desire to experience this intimacy. They desire not just to follow the edicts of Islam, but also to experience it. Chittick in his introduction to Sufism explains that:

In general, the Sufis have looked upon themselves as those Muslims who take seriously God’s call to perceive His presence both in the world and in the self. They stress inwardness over outwardness, contemplation over action, spiritual development over legalism and cultivation of the soul over social interaction.8

While most Muslims are concerned with the outward aspects of the religion, saying the daily prayers, following the social and religious laws, etc., the Sufis strive to cultivate a personal connection with God. This is not a totally foreign element within Islam. There are three main aspects of Islam: 1) islam/submission, 2) iman/faith, and 3) ihsan/doing the beautiful. The first two are familiar terms to anyone conversant with Islam: islam implies submission to the laws and will of God. Commonly translated as surrender, it lends its name to the religion itself.

8 Chittick, 19.

Every Muslim is an individual who surrenders him/herself to the wilt of God. Iman is cultivated by following the dictates outlined in the Qur’an: i.e., saying prayers and studying the Holy Scripture and the books of tradition. Ihsan, then, as “doing what is beautiful,” means being a virtuous person by performing, or striving to perform the other two. All three of these are important to devoted Muslims, and the Sufis put particular emphasis on the last. They do not desire to create a new religion, but to emphasize moral cultivation and personal connection to God.

The way to experience this unity is to destroy the individual self, experiencing the annihilation of the self in the Self of God. The most prominent analogy used for this is the desire of the lover for the beloved, the true lover giving up all thought for him/herself in his/her overwhelming desire for the beloved. Many individuals throughout the history of Sufism have sought to exemplify this in their religious life. Early on this produced “mad” mystics who would give up all worldly possessions to wander aimlessly, enraptured with love for the divine. There were many true mystics who followed this practice, but it was also a position that was widely abused. Many would pretend to be Sufis, because, instead of physical labor, they could adopt this “mad” state and collect alms to live on. This led to general distrust and loathing of anyone claiming the name Sufi. Anne-Marie Schimmel quotes fragments that relate to a saying that sprung up due to the true Sufi’s frustration with this state: “Poets have satirized the self-styled Sufi (S666), and in the eleventh century it was repeatedly said: ‘Today Sufism is a name without reality, but formerly it was a reality without a name… the pretence is known and the practice unknown’ (H44).”9

9 Annemarie Schimmel, Mystica! Dimensions of Islam (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1975), 20.

The saying expressed the frustration that this group went through in becoming labeled. The group developed a collective belief in a set of ideals that did not have any clear name. Eventually, this group, being successfully planted within society, was labeled and given a popular definition, but one that did not necessarily fit what the group’s actual intentions were. With this happening it became easy for others to mimic and bastardize the practices of the true followers. In so doing, the essence of the group was lost to the public eye. From this it is easy to understand why someone like Ibn al- `Arabi would not necessarily label himself a Sufi; however, not labeling oneself is by no means a denial of the beliefs of Sufism. Today Ibn al- `Arabi can, without doubt, be labeled a Sufi, because modern scholars and authentic practitioners alike have resolved this historical problem.

  • Perfection

Sufism has been defined as the attainment of human perfection through intimate contact with God, but what is meant by perfection is still unclear. Perfection in general can be defined as the state of faultlessness. What this state entails and how it can be achieved varies within different schools of thought. Three different “philosophies of perfection” will be briefly analyzed. This is not meant as a basis for a comparative philosophy of perfection, but merely to present some examples of how different philosophies have dealt with and developed the concept of perfection. Presenting Ibn al-`Arabi’s own definition of perfection along side these other examples will provide a philosophical basis to begin from.

The first example comes from Plato/Socrates, the “father/s of Western philosophy.” They conceived perfection as the pure understanding of the Forms. The Forms are the abstract, ideal molds of all things and concepts that actually exist. For, example, the “beautiful” or the “just” are given this quality through the Form, in itself, of “beauty” or “justice.” Perfection, then, is complete understanding of the entire Form. Socrates says, in relation to the perfection of the philosopher:

He will do this [perceive the Forms] most perfectly who approaches the object with thought alone, without associating any sight with his thoughts, or dragging in any sense perception with his reasoning, but who, using pure thought alone, tries to track down each reality pure and by itself, freeing himself as far as possible from eyes, ears, and in a word, from the whole body, because the body confuses the soul and does not allow it to acquire truth and wisdom whenever it is associated with it.10

This kind of perfect knowledge is the goal of the philosophical or religious life. Philosophical speculation is the best of all occupations because this perfect knowledge is gained through pure abstract thought. The body distracts the soul from pure recollection; therefore, an individual must strive to repress the carnal desires and free his/her soul to pursue the “beautiful”, the “fust”, etc. The state of perfection for the individual, in this marmer, is the arrival back to the soul’s state of pure contemplation of the Forms.

A different articulation of perfection can be found in the Bhagavadgita, one of the key Hindu texts. Perfection in this context is tied to the performance or completion of an individual’s duty. Krishna says:

A man obtains perfection by being devoted to his own proper action. Hear then how one who is intent on his own action finds perfection.

By worshipping him, from whom all beings arise and by whom all this is pervaded, through his own proper action, a man attains perfection… He whose intelligence is unattached everywhere, whose self is conquered, who is free from desire, he obtains, through renunciation, the supreme perfection of actionlessness.

Learn from me, briefly, 0 Arjuna, how he who has attained perfection, also attains to Brahman, the highest state of wisdom.11

10- Plato, Five Dialogues: Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Meno, and Phaedo, trans. and ed. G. M. A. Grube (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1981), 102.

11- The Essential Vedanta: A New Sourcebook of Advaita Vedanta, trans. and ed. Eliot Deutsch and Rohit Dalvi (Bloomington, Indiana: World Wisdom, Inc., 2004), 78.

Just as Socrates advocated pure philosophical speculation, freed from the desires of the body, so to the Hindu system, as represented here, advocates the renunciation of all earthly/bodily desires and attachments. Proper action, in this case, would be adhering to the guidelines of an individual’s specific role in the caste system. The individual ought also to strive to become completely detached from the world. This requires learning and actualizing the true nature of existence, that all is Brahman. The realization of this fact means acknowledging that everything in the world, all difference, is an illusion, maya. Perfection is freedom from the confines of maya. An individual, who has achieved perfection, has released him/herself from the chains of illusion, that is, he/she is able to see past the multiplicity in the world and all the desires and possessions it contains, to the One/Brahman. In this state he/she understands that “action” is in fact “non-action” or inaction. Since everything in the world is an illusion, all actions taken within it are illusions as well, therefore the enlightened individual knows that action taken by him/her in accordance with his/her duty is in reality “non-action” because it does not affect the Real.

The final example of perfection, before returning to Ibn al- `Arabi, is from Gregory of Nyssa. This example can be directly contrasted with the passage from the Bhagavadgita. While the one equates perfection with emptying the self of the illusion of multiplicity, Gregory equates perfection to “filling” the self with Christ; to be truly called a Christian an individual must actualize all the attributes of Christ. He says:

This, therefore, is perfection in the Christian life in my judgment, namely, the participation of one’s soul and speech and activities in all of the names by which Christ is signified, so that the perfect holiness, according to the eulogy of Paul, is taken upon oneself in “the whole body and soul and spirit,” [1 Thess. 5:23] continuously safeguarded against being mixed with evil.12

12 Gregory of Nyssa, On Perfection in Saint Gregory Of Nyssa Ascetical Works, trans. and ed. Virginia Woods Callahan (Washington D.C.: The Catholic University Press Of America, 1967), 121.

Perfection lies in the total transformation of the individual. He/she must live, act and, essentially be all that Christ was, meaning that, as Christ was God manifest in human form, completely free from evil, so too the Christian individual must sever all evil from his/her being. Thus while the Socratic ideal of perfection requires pure “abstract” thought, and the Hindu ideal requires sublimating difference into Oneness, the Christian ideal requires cultivating the characteristics of Christ and expelling all that is non-Christ-like from oneself.

These three examples provide a general framework for understanding some of the philosophical methods and spiritual practices whereby perfection is achieved, i.e. contemplation, sublimation, cultivation. Ibn al- `Arabi’s idea of perfection can be briefly contrasted with these other ideals to discover his general philosophical position. He says in The Bezels of Wisdom:

The image of perfection is complete only with knowledge of both the ephemeral and the eternal, the rank of knowledge being perfected only by both aspects. Similarly, the various other grades of existence are perfected, since being is divided into eternal and noneternal or ephemeral. Eternal Being is God’s being for Himself, while noneternal being is the being of God in the forms of the latent Cosmos. It is called ephemeral because parts of it are manifest to other, which being is manifest to itself in the forms of the Cosmos. Thus Being is perfect, the whole movement of the Cosmos being the movement of love for perfection, so understand.13

13 lbn al-`Ibn al- `Arabi, The Bezels of Wisdom, trans. and ed. R.W.J. Austin (New York: Paulist Press, 1980), 257-8.

The beginning of the passage states that perfection requires knowledge of the eternal and the material/non-eternal. Similar to the Socratic and Hindu examples, this knowledge teaches the individual about true Reality, but unlike the earlier examples, this knowledge does not negate earthly existence. In fact, the individual must strive to understand both the eternal and the non-eternal, because both elements are required for the individual attainment of perfection. “Being is perfect.” Both the eternal and non-eternal are aspects of Being/God. The eternal is God in Himself, and the non-eternal is the Cosmos, which includes humanity, who ought to strive for the perfection of the eternal. Also, similar to Gregory of Nyssa, is the idea that perfection entails transformation. The Cosmos/universe is moving, expanding and growing out of a love for perfection. It is moving toward perfection, seeking to transform itself into Being. From this it can be concluded that perfection for Ibn al- ‘Arabi is complete knowledge of the dual aspects of reality, and complete transformation/embodiment into eternal Being. With this in mind the key philosophical questions guiding this thesis can be outlined.

  • Key Questions and Themes

From the preceding section it is understood that perfection of the individual is attained through a specific method. Ibn al- ‘Ibn al-‘Arabi’s model was only briefly compared and contrasted to the other philosophical models; therefore the goal is to analyze the exact method involved in the transformation into Ibn al- ‘Arabi’s Perfect Individual. The key questions that will direct this undertaking are: “What does being this Perfect Individual entail?” “How does he/she act?” “What is his/her relation to other people?” To answer these questions the thesis will be divided into four chapters:

1) what type/s of knowledge are necessary to gain a complete understanding of the eternal and non-eternal, and how this transformative knowledge leads to perfection;

2) The Perfect Individual as a level of existence, and how the individual fits into the dichotomy of eternal and non-eternal;

3) The Perfect Individual as a reflection of the Divine in the cosmos, or what the transformation and embodiment of perfection entails;

4) the Perfect Individual as an active agent in the world, and how this individual, after reaching perfection, interacts with the world. Some of the problems that will arise in the proceeding chapters and the proposed solutions are outlined below.

  • The modes of knowledge used in becoming the Perfect Individual

What method of knowledge leads to perfection? To answer this, the three types of knowledge employed by Sufism, revelation, reason, and intuition, must be explored. These three types of knowledge are also important for Muslim ka/am/theology and Muslimfa/safa/philosophy; therefore, it is important to understand how Ibn al- `Arabi’s, and subsequently Sufism’s, use of these is different from the other two factions. It is also important to understand how this knowledge helps to transform the individual into the Perfect Individual. Analyzing how the three factions differ in their use of these types of knowledge will show why Ibn al- `Arabi believes his method to be the most perfect. Thus, only the head of the hierarchy, Sufism, attains true perfection. Read More :1- Revelation, Reason and Intuition

  • The Perfect Individual as related to Prophets, Apostles, Saints and Muhammad

How is status related to perfection? This question essentially asks how the Perfect Individual is different from the rest of humanity, and what his/her function is. The Perfect Individual par excellence for Ibn al- `Arabi is the Prophet Muhammad. He holds the position of the “Seal of the Prophets,” and, as such, marks the end of revealed religion. Holding this position means that he was granted the last divine revelation. Due to this position he has complete knowledge of God and of the world, and thus holds a position superior to the rest of humanity. This being the case, the most important questions to answer are whether or not there are true Perfect Individual’s other than Muhammad, and if there are what is their status in relation to him? To answer these questions the ranks of wali/saint, rasu//apostle, and nabi ‘/prophet must be analyzed in their relation to Muhammad. This analysis will show that the ranking of the varying types of Perfect Individuals, does not affect their initial status of perfection. Read more: 2- The Perfect Individual’s relation to Muhammad

  • The Perfect Individual as a mirror

What role does perfection play within the cosmos? Ibn al- `Arabi says that each individual is a dusty mirror, but the Perfect Individual is a newly polished mirror that fully reflects God. Analyzing the various aspects of this analogy will reveal Ibn al-`Arabi’s ontological system. God is wujud/”Being”, while all that is not God is non-being or nothing. The analogy implies that individuals who are closer to nothingness, mirrors that are dusty and less polished, are further away from God/Being than those who have, or are, polished mirrors. Also important to this investigation is the concept of identity. Identity deals with the individual’s being in relation to God. A polished mirror shows a reflection identical to the object reflected. Are the object (God) and the reflection (Perfect Individual) one and the same? Analyzing the various aspects of the mirror analogy will reveal Ibn al- `Arabi’s ontological system, and will provide answers to the above questions. Read more: 3: The Perfect Individual as a Mirror

  • Iqbal’s Perfect Individual

How does perfection act within the world? The Perfect Individual is an existential being, and therefore must interact with his/her environment. In what manner does this interaction take place? In order to answer these questions Ibn al- `Arabi’s concept of perfect action will be compared to that of Sir Muhammad Iqbal (1877-1938). Iqbal, a poet and philosopher from India, is deeply indebted to the thought of Ibn al- `Arabi. A look at his concept of the Ideal Individual (as related to Ibn al- `Arabi’s Perfect Individual) will show the links between the two thinkers. However great the similarities may be it cannot be ignored that Iqbal fiercely opposed what he called the “other-worldly” Sufism of Ibn al ‘Arabi and his school of thought. To determine whether or not Iqbal’s accusations leveled at Ibn al- `Arabi are correct a thorough analysis must be undertaken. The accusations are two-fold: the first is Iqbal’s claim that this system of thought leads to complete inaction; and the second, a subsidiary claim, is that Ibn al-`Arabi’s system supports the view of predestination and is devoid of any modicum of free will, again leading to inaction. What is of concern here is whether or not this is an accurate critique of Ibn al- `Arabi. Is Iqbal’s criticism just a misinterpretation, or does it point to an inherent flaw in Ibn al- `Arabi’s system? The analysis will provide answers to these questions and a concise outline of what action is for Ibn al- `Arabi’s Perfect Individual. Read more: 4: Ibn al-`Arabi and Iqbal: Action and the Perfect Individual

Conclusion

In general this thesis is a study of perfection within the individual, or humanity’s potential for perfection. Specifically this was accomplished by analyzing Ibn Ibn al-`Arabi’s concept of the Perfect Individual. In conclusion it is important: 1) to summarize the aspects of perfection analyzed in the chapters, and 2) to link the conclusions in the chapters to form a complete picture of Ibn `Ibn al- `Arabi’s concept of perfection.

Chapter one sought to discover the type or types of knowledge linked to Ibn al-`Arabi’s concept of perfection. It explored revelation, reason, and intuition as related to Islam, Islamic philosophy, and Sufism. The exploration showed that intuition, as a form of knowledge separate from the intellect, is the prime mode of understanding for the Perfect Individual. Revelatory knowledge, while closely related to intuition, is knowledge specifically given to the prophets; therefore, it is now closed, open only to individual interpretation. Reason is a tool that must be developed in an individual, and this varies according to the capacity of the individual. Intuition, unlike revelation or reason, is equally open and accessible to all individuals. It is God speaking directly to an individual via his/her heart. The Perfect Individual uses all three forms of knowledge, but the knowledge of intuition outweighs the other two. Because of this, perfection is linked to spiritual knowledge or understanding.

In order to discover how status is related to perfection chapter two analyzed the relationship between the Perfect Individual and Muhammad. This was done in two parts. First it outlined how Muhammad is the physical manifestation of the Reality of Muhammad. Due to this he has the most complete knowledge of God, and he is given the position of the Seal of the Prophets. The second part made a direct link between Muhammad and the Perfect Individual by analyzing the rankings of prophet, apostle, and saint, all of which stem from the Reality of Muhammad. Prophethood and apostleship are ranks, gifts from God, added to sainthood, and the saint is the Perfect Individual in general. The saints inherit their wisdom or knowledge from the prophets. The prophets and saints partake of pieces of the knowledge of Muhammad, except for the Seal of the Saints, who partakes in the full knowledge of Muhammad. The chapter concluded that perfection is linked to the realization of the “Oneness of Being,” to the experience of fana’. The wisdom gained after this realization, are gifts from God. They increase individual understanding of God and the world, but do not increase perfection. Therefore, status among individuals is not equated with greater perfection.

In chapter three, perfection was explored as a state within the cosmological order. The Perfect Individual is analogous to a mirror that reflects God, and he/she holds the ontological and metaphysical position of a barzakh, a limit or boundary between two things that shares the qualities of both sides. The chapter analyzed the various perspectives of this position. It looked at the creation of humanity as a means of God “discovering” Himself. Humans, specifically the Perfect Individuals, are conscious and active agents who explore and analyze the world, discovering God inherent in everything. In a position between God and the world, the Perfect Individual can find qualities to link the two together. The Perfect Individual can use imagination to consciously exist in the paradoxical state of the barzakh. He/she understands that the world and everything in it are both identical and not identical to God, this allows him/her to discover a higher plane of understanding. The chapter came to the conclusion that this higher understanding is due to the individual’s position within the universe; therefore perfection sterns from the individual’s ontological and metaphysical position.

The final chapter questioned how the Perfect Individual exercises action and freedom. Iqbal criticized Ibn al- `Arabi’s school of Sufism as leading to inaction, therefore a comparison was undertaken to see if this was in fact true. This was accomplished by first looking at how Iqbal understood himself as a reformer, and how this meant a re-emphasis on the classical tenets of Sufism, and secondly, by comparing how the self was understood by both thinkers. The analysis of both points showed that the self, in relation to God and the world, although approached differently, was essentially the same for Iqbal and Ibn al- `Arabi. Finally, this led to the discussion of freedom and action, and it was concluded that although Iqbal’s Perfect/Ideal Individual initially has more freedom, e.g., to choose the path he/she will take, action in both cases means doing what the will of God guides the individual to do. The conclusion reached was that perfect action is accomplished by the individual relinquishing his/her own will and self, which is imperfect, lacking true Being, and replacing it with the will and Self of God.

With this summary, a final position on perfection can be articulated. Each chapter dealt with a specific aspect of perfection within the individual, chapter one with knowledge leading to perfection, chapter two with the fact that perfection is not linked to individual status, chapter three with the ontological and metaphysical position perfection has within the universe, and chapter four with perfect action. From all of this it can be concluded that for Ibn al- `Arabi perfection is linked to spiritual understanding and realization. Humanity in general was created in a position of perfection, but individuals must realize this position for themselves. It is complete understanding that allows the individual to actualize this perfection within him/herself, and this understanding leads to perfect action. Perfect action is acknowledging the true nature of existence and actualizing this state, and understanding the true meaning and implications of “God being the seeing, hearing, etc. of the individual. Thus, perfection is the realization, understanding, and actualization of the true nature of the self, God, and the universe.

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