God on the Isthmus


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  • Title: God on the Isthmus: Ibn Arabi and the Dynamic Nature of Faith
  • Author(s): Ben Hardman
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Series: New Directions in the Humanities
  • Journal Title: The International Journal of Literary Humanities
  • Keywords: Philosophy of Religion, Ibn Arabi, Islam, Sufism, Interfaith Dialogue
  • Volume: 13
  • Issue: 3
  • Year: 2015
  • ISSN: 2327-7912 (Print)
  • ISSN: 2327-8676 (Online)
  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.18848/2327-7912/CGP/v13i03/43931
  • Citation: Hardman, Ben. 2015. "God on the Isthmus: Ibn Arabi and the Dynamic Nature of Faith." The International Journal of Literary Humanities 13 (3): 17-26. doi:10.18848/2327-7912/CGP/v13i03/43931.
  • Extent: 10 pages


This paper will look at the thought of Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi (1165–1240 CE) and his view of spiritual dynamism that he expresses in terms of a process motivated by an awareness of the tension between the temporal and divine realm. In the shaykh’s terms, we live in the shadowy isthmus (barzakh) between both worlds. For Ibn Arabi, revelation is a process that includes action on both the divine and human realms as God and humanity seek to “find” one another, as expressed by the notion of wujūd (translated often as “being,” but also meaning “finding”). Knowledge of God is only possible in a metaphorical manner that is likewise in process and necessarily subject to change as our awareness increases. This is necessitated by the fact that God is infinite, but revealed on a finite realm: thus all revelations are necessarily self-limited. This implies that our expressions of God in religious form, which he calls the “God of Belief” are real insofar as they are based on genuine self-limited revelation. Yet these expressions are necessarily subject to our attempts to act upon them. The danger lies in the tendency to confuse these expressions and the structures they inspire with Divinity itself. This phenomenon is described by Mohammed Arkoun as the development of a logocentric “Closed Official Corpus,” developing when revelation is appropriated by a magisterium that produces an authorized discourse to the exclusion of others. Ibn Arabi’s approach suggests that religious philosophy should be in dialogue with all faculties of human thought.