Prophet Muhammad[S] was always a hermeneutical field for the mystical and philosophical thoughts to dig up from his very inception. But Ibn Arabi’s excavation on the meaning of Muhammad[S] stands to most distinct from the large panoply of philosophical and mystical inquiries on his spirit. For, Ibn Arabi’s expansion of the Muhammad[S] was quite beyond the concern of a bodily historical prophet got into being, and was encircled with the meaning of Muhammad ‘s essence. In a case Ibn Arabi transcended all the frontiers of the anthropologic interpretations of Muhammad[S] within the territory of universal order and emancipated his essence to a cosmic reality persisted and persisting in the humanity in whole.
To Ibn Arabi, Muhammad[S] is an ontological function which is an activating and uniting principle that brings together all the archetypes of creation. As it is, drawing the meaning from the hadith “I was a prophet even while Adam was between water and clay” he triumphantly claims that the entire creation began and ended with him. This ever first creation after the ‘real being’, was ‘passive’ in relation to its origin and was ‘active’ over it’s proceedings. In his own terminology Arabi denotes it as al-ruh al-Muhammadi (Muhammaden spirit). The Muhammad’s passivity is reflected in its intrinsic embodiment of uboodiyya (servitude) to the reality and the activity is reflected in its rububiyya(supremacy) over its reflective beings.
Excavating the shallow marines of Muhammad[S], Ibn Arabi claims that, both the cause and goal of creation was Prophet Muhammad[S]. In Ibn Arabi’s thought, the beingness created the beings from it’s desire of being known as it is precise from the hadith qudsi “ I was a hidden treasure and I loved to be known so I created the world in order that might be known”. So, Muhammad was the comprehensive being created to know and all the physical and metaphysical creations are all thus it’s expansion. Thus Muhammad[S] becomes a sole reason for the creation of cosmos where the event and reason merge in one point which positions itself beyond the parameters of logical attainment.
Ibn Arabi sees this as the reflection of an eternal light as in his words al-noor al-muhammadi (Light of Muhammad). As from it, Muhammad[S] is a paramount existence which transcends all the realms of time and space. It is through this means all the prophets and other beings got into being for making the Muhammad dynamic even in its historical absence. And at a particular historical course, as the fate, by wearing the historical entity of Prophet Muhammad, the Muhammad seals the Abrahamic prophecy. So to Ibn Arabi the reality is a duality, the ‘real being’ and the Muhammad, and all the other existences are trans-realities which appear and disappear as for their assignments to historicize the spirit of ‘knowledge’.
To Ibn Arabi, the cosmos is only to existence in the presence of complete human beings whom he address al-insan al-kamil. It is too the essence of Ibn Arabi’s theological anthropology. al-insan al-kamil means an intrinsic potential embedded and hidden in the human beings which are only attained through the vigilance with inner self and the practice of purity towards others. And for him the humans who attain this premium archetype are only prophets, friends of God and Sufis. Prophet Muhammad is the sublime al-insan al-kamil in his mystical cosmology. Since Muhammad[S] was a pre existence prior to its material embodiment, even when all prophets are al-insan al-kamil, Muhammad made or was made distinct in itself.
As the cosmos finds its extinction from the disappearance of last complete human, to Ibn Arabi by the material demise(the completion) of Muhammad[S], the cosmos lost its comprehensiveness and is in a gradual move to its absence. Because, till the birth of the universal spirit in it’s historical form, the cosmos was waiting to attain its comprehensiveness of fulfillment. And by the birth, the real meaning of ‘knowledge’ and the actual validity of creations got its tasks finished and made themselves for a return.
Finally, the Muhammad[S] did not and cannot overstep its boundaries to attain the real authority. And it is this intrinsic quality what made Muhammad to sustain as a trans-historical spirit. Ibn Arabi elucidate as the wholesome of his thoughts on Prophet Muhammad that, this un-trespassed relation of lordship and servitude is the ‘reality of realities’ which is the meaning and possibility of all beings including the ‘absolute’. So, to his conclusion he states that, as all creations are the reflections of Muhammad, their sole duty is to emulate the servitude, which is for what they are meant for. And he completes, since Muhammad[S] is the only ultimate freedom, through this servitude only the complete emancipation of creatures are attained.
Anwar Haneefa is a writer, interviewer and a research fellow in Islamic studies at Jamia Markaz , Kerala.