Muhammad ibn Ali ibn Arabi (1165-1240) was one of the most influential mystics and philosophers in the history of Islam. Ibn Arabi was born in Murcia in Muslim Al-Andalus (modern-day Spain), and began having ecstatic visions of God and the prophets – Jesus, Moses, Muhammad among others – while still in his teens. These visions, which would continue throughout his life, are central to the development of his philosophy.
In his early life, Ibn Arabi studied with numerous teachers and spiritual guides in Al-Andalus and North Africa. Around 1201, after traveling in North Africa and Palestine, he embarked on the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, where he remained for approximately three years. While there, he began his greatest work, the Futuhat al-Makkiya (Meccan revelations). The thirty-seven volumes of the complex and deeply-layered book contain numerous visions and a spiritual exposition of all aspects of Islam, from the Quran to metaphysics.
Ibn Arabi left Mecca for Iraq and then Konya in Anatolia (present-day Turkey), and in 1223, finally settled in Damascus, then ruled by one of the members of the Ayyubid dynasty, where he continued writing and teaching and remained until the end of his life.
Ibn Arabi was a remarkably prolific writer, and over the centuries hundreds of works have been ascribed to his authorship. Of the works that have survived, over eighty have been shown to be genuinely his. Of these, the major works include, aside from the Futuhat: Kitab al-Isra’ ("The Book of the Night Journey"), describing his vision of a mystical ascension to heaven and encounters with the prophets, written in the wake of a 1198 vision; Ruh al-Quds ("The Epistle of the Spirit of Holiness"), containing biographies of North African and Andalusian Sufis, written in 1203 in Mecca; Taj al-Rasa’il ("The Crown of Epistles"), comprised of eight love letters to the Ka’ba, the black-clad sacred edifice that stands in the center of the Great Mosque in Mecca, written in the wake of a transformative vision in 1203; Tarjuman al-Ashwaq ("Interpreter of Yearnings"), a collection of love poetry written in Mecca in 1215; the Fusus al-Hikam ("Ringstones of Wisdom"), a summary of his teachings written in Damascus around 1229; and Al-Diwan al-Kabir, a collection of his poems, completed in 1237.