1.1. The Passage from Ibn ʿArabī’s Tarjumān on Qurrat al-ʿAyn
And part of it [i.e., of the composition of the collection] is a conversation in the course of an episode that happened during the circumambulation [of the Kaʿba]. I was circumambulating one night around the House [of God], when my [spiritual] moment (waqt) became propitious and shook me up a state I already knew. I then left the paved space to [get away from] people and continued to walk around on the sand. Then some verses presented themselves to me and I began to recite them, making them audible to myself and to whoever might have been with me, if anyone could have been there. And [the verses] are:
Would that I were aware whether they knew what heart they possessed!
And would that my heart knew what mountain-pass they threaded!
Dost thou deem them safe or dost thou deem them dead?
Lovers lose their way in love and become entangled”4.
[After quoting the enigmatic verses, the passage continues]
I felt nothing but the touch, between my shoulders, of the palm of a hand softer than silk. When I turned around, [I found that] there was a maiden from among the daughters of Rūm5. I have never seen a more beautiful face, nor [heard] sweeter language, nor more penetrating glosses, nor more subtle meanings, nor allusions so delicate, nor conversations so graceful. She is ahead of [all] the people of her time in grace, courtesy, beauty and knowledge. Then she said: ‘My Lord, how hast thou said [when declaiming …]’? And I answered [repeating the first verse] …”
I then asked her: ‘Cousin, what is your name?’ and she said: ‘Qurrat al-ʿAyn [Pleasure of the Eye]’. To which I replied: ‘[The pleasure is] mine’.
1.2. The Dating of the Tarjumān in Relation to Its Structure
I asked God Most High for inspiration (istakhartu) and I have gathered in this section (juzʾ) [of my poetic production] which I have called The Interpreter of desires the verses I have composed, in the style proper to erotic and amatory lyric poetry (ghazal / nasīb), in the city of Mecca—with the good omen (tayammun) and the blessing conferred by the nobility of this place, whose elevation God has so exalted—from what was inspired to my in the [holy] months of Rajab, Shaʿbān and Ramaḍān—and exclusively in that period (lā ghayr)—of the year 611 … (ms. Ragib Pasha 1453, fol. 181b, ll. 8–12)9
1.3. The Kaʿba, Heart of Existence, and the Human Heart
This Kaʿba is the heart of existence (qalb al-wujūd) and My Throne is for this heart a delimited body. Neither of these [neither My heavens nor My earth] encompasses Me, nor do I give notice of Me through what I have referred to [in prophetic revelation]. But My house, by virtue of which your heart ‘contains Me’—the purpose [of creation]—is deposited in your perceptible body, so that those who circumambulate your heart are the secrets (asrār), which are in the abode of your bodies when they circumambulate these stones. The circumambulators who circle [and carry] Our Throne that surrounds you [on the spiritual plane] are like those who circle around you in the world of [perceptible] tracing (ʿālam al-takhṭīṭ). Just as, with respect to you, the degree of the [composite] body is lower than that of your simple heart (basīṭ), so [is the degree of] the Kaʿba with respect to the [lower degree of the] Throne that encompasses everything (al-ʿarsh al-muḥīṭ).
When God created your body, He placed within it a Kaʿba, which is your heart. He made this temple of the heart the noblest of houses in the person of faith (muʾmin). He informed us that the heavens, in which there is the Frequented House (al-bayt al-maʿmūr), and the earth, in which there is the [physical] Kaʿba, do not encompass Him and are too confined for Him, but He is encompassed by this heart in the constitution of the believing human. What is meant here by ‘encompassing’ is knowledge of God.
1.4. On the Meaning of the Expression Qurrat al-ʿayn
The feminine term qurra, from the root q-r-r, means ‘comfort’, ‘relief’, ‘freshness’, ‘consolation’, ‘solace’ and, in that sense, ‘pleasure’, ‘joy’. By virtue of the original basic meaning of its lexical root, which, as can be deduced, metaphorically links cold – in a sense of relief from the desert heat - with solidity (as in reference to the solidity of ice), it also has the meanings of qarār: ‘stillness’, ‘permanence’, ‘rest’, ‘residence’, ‘dwelling’, ‘stability’.
God bless the one to whom He reveals Himself in the most beautiful form (ṣūra) [… the one], distinguished with universal perfection and the descent [of the angel of revelation] in the image of Diḥya (al-tanzīl al-diḥyī)…
2. Progressive Commentary on the Episode with Qurrat al-ʿAyn
2.1. Around the Four Corners of the House of God
And part of it [i.e., the composition of the Tarjumān] is a conversation (ḥikāya) [in the course of an episode] that took place (jarat)22 during the circumambulation (ṭawāf) [of the Kaʿba]. I was circumambulating one night around the House [of God], when my [spiritual] moment (waqtī) became propitious (ṭāba) and shook me up (hazza-nī) a state I already knew …
2.2. Circumambulating on the Sand: The Imaginal Geomancy of the Interpreter
I then left the paved space (balāṭ) to [get away from] people (li-ajli l-nās) and continued to walk around on the sand (al-raml).
The Latin term geomantia imprecisely translates the Arabic ʻilm al-raml, the “science of sand”; like other Arabic terms for the art (khaṭṭ al-raml, ḍarb, ṭarq), this refers to its original procedure of drawing 16 random series of lines in the sand or dirt to generate the first four tetragrams of a geomantic Reading […]
2.3. The Arrival of the Four Verses
Then some verses (abyāt) presented themselves to me (ḥaḍarat-nī) and I began to declaim them, making them audible to myself (nafs-ī) and to whoever might have been with me (man yalī-nī), if (law) anyone (aḥad) could have been there (hunāka).
The most joyful day for me is a day in which I see the light of my own eye-entity (ʿaynī): / this is the eye of the heart, a full moon, a freshness of the eye (qurrat ʿayn) for every eye-entity. / My beloved, God did not separate (farraqa) in between your breaths (anfāsu-kum) and me.
2.4. The Subtle Touch of a Hand and the Appearance of the Maiden (jāriya)
2.5. Six Aspects and Four Attributes of the Maiden
I have never seen a more beautiful face, nor [heard] sweeter language, nor more penetrating glosses, nor more subtle meanings, nor allusions so delicate, nor conversations so graceful. She is ahead of [all] the people of her time in grace, courtesy, beauty and knowledge. Then she said [to me]: ‘My Lord, how hast thou said [when declaiming …]’? And I answered [repeating the first verse …].
2.6. On the Name and Ascent of the Maiden and the Imaginal Earth
I asked her: ‘Cousin (yā Bint al-khāla), what is your name?’ and she said: ‘Qurrat al-ʿAyn (Pleasure of the Eye)’. [To which] I replied: ‘[The pleasure is] mine (lī)’.
3. Qurrat al-ʿAyn according to Bosnevi: The Perfect Mirror of Muhammadian Sainthood
Conflicts of Interest
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This article is based on the text presented at the MIAS Symposium Counsel my people, celebrated at the Wolfson College, Oxford, October 2019.
Known in Arabic, among other denominations, as ḥisāb al-jummal, the language of arithmosophy is very significantly used and transmitted by the author, a master par excellence in this contemplative art, in many of his writings, especially in Chapter II of al-Futūḥāt al-makkiyya. See Winkel’s translation (Ibn ʿArabī 2018c, pp. 161–286). On the science of letters see the general studies by Pierre Lory (2004) and Denis Gril (2004). On the use of the ḥisāb al-jummal, see for example, Patterns of contemplation (Beneito and Hirtenstein 2021) and, among the many works by ʿAbd al-Bāqī Miftāḥ, his Mafātīḥ fuṣūṣ al-ḥikam (Miftāḥ 1997, p. 62). As a tool for counting, including a table of letter values, see also the Abjad Calculator (https://www.abjadcalc.com, accessed on 10 January 2021) which follows Ibn ʿArabī’s main abjad rules (although it never considers shadda, ‘reduplication’, and always counts tāʾ marbūṭa as a hāʾ).
I differ from Nicholson’s thesis (Ibn ʿArabī 1911a, pp. 3–6), who considered this second, more extensive preface, in which Niẓām appears explicitly mentioned, as the original one. I consider, on the contrary, that the analysis of the manuscript copies (in particular ms. Ragib Pasha 1453/181b–202b and ms. Manisa 6596/81b–90a) shows that the short version—without mentioning Niẓām, the poet’s beloved friend—is the original preface of the collection, conceived of as a ‘section’ (juzʾ) of a wider inclusive dīwān before it became, after the addition of the author’s own commentary, a complete independent book by itself. On more details and references of these textual issues, see (Beneito 2022, sub voce).
On the meaning of this expression, see below Section 2.4.
On the question of the six directions (jihāt) and the three dimensions (abʿād) of the human constitution, see (Ibn ʿArabī 2017, vol. 6, pp. 300–1). On the six-fold character of the heart (Ibn ʿArabī 1911b, vol. 3, p. 305) and the illumination Ibn ʿArabī experienced in Fez in 593/1197, of which he says ‘I had no sense of direction, as if I had become completely spherical’, see (Ibn ʿArabī 1911b, vol. 2, p. 486; Hirtenstein 2010, p. 40).
See the references on this episode as translated by M. Gloton (Ibn ʿArabī 1996a, p. 51).
The episode (ḥikāya) with Qurrat al-ʿAyn is dated by the author at the very end of the original text of the Tarjumān (see ms. Ragib Pasha 1453, fol. 202b, l. 1), where he states that it happened precisely (khāṣṣatan) the year 604. This copy of the Tarjumān is dated ten years later the fifth of Rajab of the year 614 h. in Malatia (ll. 4–5) and it contains a certificate (samāʿ) of Ibn ʿArabī’s direct audition and approval of the text which reads as follows: ‘Says Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b. Muḥammad Ibn al-ʿArabī al-Ṭā’ī: ‘The faqīh, imām and most complete scholar (al-ʿālim al-akmal) ʿImād al-Dīn Ḥibr b. ʿAlī b. ʿAlī al-Barmakī has read in my presence this juzʾ, entitled Tarjumān al-ashwāq, composed by me (min inshā’ī), while I listened to him in the course of a single session (majlis wāḥid) and I have given him permission to transmit from me (al-ḥadīthʿannī) the entirety of my transmissions (riwāyātī) and my own compositions (muṣannafātī) according to the conditions customary among the people of this purpose (bayna ahl hādhā l-shaʾn) [it is interesting to note that this last nūn appears as a complete circle with the dot in the centre, symbolising the transmission of both exoteric and esoteric knowledge, this last corresponding to the otherwise invisible part of the circle in the common writing of the nūn] and I have formulated my [general] authorisation (talaffaẓtu la-hu bi-l-ijāza) to him on the third of Rajab of 614’ (ms. Ragib Pasha 1453, fol. 202b, ll. 6–10). Because it was not reproduced in other copies, the particular date of the meeting with Qurrat al-ʿAyn in 604 has not been mentioned by any scholar previously. On other related events of the year 604, see the appendix on chronology in Addas (1993). I will comment more on the significance and details of this and other dates in Beneito (2022, sub voce).
The same passage and date are reproduced in the ms. Manisa 6596 (Tarjumān, fols. 78a–91a, not dated), copied from the copy of a close disciple of Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī, Ibn ʿArabī’s adoptive son. An annotation on the cover page, after the title, reads, ‘I have written this risāla and those that follow it from the copy of the virtuous Bahāʾ al-Dīn b. Ḥāmid b. ʿUthmān … one of the disciples of the shaykh and most complete guide (min talāmīdh al-shayḫ al-imām al-akmal...) Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī’ (fol. 78b, ll. 7–14). For the passage containing the date of composition 611 h., see fol. 79a, l. 6.
The passage rhymes in -ūd -humā and -īṭ (three rhymes of numerical value 10 = 1), as well as -ār (of value 3).
On this matter see also (Beneito and Hirtenstein 2021).
On the seven attributes and this correspondence, see (Ibn ʿArabī 2018c, pp. 148–51).
The translators, without exception, have numbered 61 odes following Nicholson, but it seems clear that the four-line poem in the preface has to be considered separately by virtue of its specificity. There are 60 odes that together symbolise the hexad (six faces of the Kaʿba and the heart, corresponding to the total value of the title of the work) represented by the letter ṣād = 60 (see Ibn ʿArabī 2018c, pp. 235–41) and the letter wāw = 6 (ibid. pp. 247–48), symbol of the Perfect Human Being.
As an example of transjectivity in the context of a commentary on the divine Name al-Shahīd, see (Ibn ʿArabī 1996b, p. 345).
This hadith (al-Tirmidhī, Jāmiʿ, Tafsīr al-Qurʾān, Book 47, Hadith 3541; al-Tabrīzī, Mishkāt al-maṣābīḥ 725, Book 4, Hadith 154) says in Arabic,
The expression ‘in the best form’ (fī aḥsan ṣūra) also resonates with the expression fī aḥsan taqwīm in Q 95: 4, referring to the creation of human being in the best form.
According to well-known transmissions (see for example Muslim, Ṣaḥīḥ, Īmān, 167; al-Tirmidhī, Jāmiʿ, Manāqib, Book 49, Hadith 4010; al-Nasāʾī, Sunan 47/7, 4991), the angel Gabriel appeared to the Prophet under the appearance of Diḥya b. Khalīfa al-Kalbī, one of his companions (ṣaḥāba) whose face, according to the sources, stood out for its beauty.
On this character and her signification, see (Ibn ʿArabī 1996a, pp. 19, 29–34), where Gloton’s very rich commentary does not differentiate al-Niẓām from Qurrat al-ʿAyn.
See (Ibn ʿArabī 1996b, pp. 30–32).
Note that the name of this beautiful woman, epitome of virtues, means ‘harmony’, ‘order (of the cosmos)’, and ‘poetry’ (naẓm). Niẓām is equivalent to 18 (= al-Ṣamad, thus 1 + 8 = 9) in the western (or gharbī) abjad system favoured by Ibn ʿArabī and to 19 (= wujūd = wāḥid = 1 + 9 = 1) in the eastern (sharqī) system, but with the article, more significantly (as this is how she is mentioned in the prologue), al-Niẓām is equivalent to 22/2 + 2 = 4 (corners of the Kaʿba), in western system, or 23 (= 5, value of the letter and pronoun hā’ which symbolises the huwiyya or Divine Identity throughout the book), in eastern system.
The verb jarat is in the same form and lexical root of the term jāriya (its active participle) which will later be commented on in relation to Qurrat al-ʿAyn as jāriya.
There are six other related expressions in the Quran (see Q 20:40, 25:74, 28:9, 28:13, 32:17, and 33:51).
It is also interesting to note that all the hemistiches of the four verses end in wāw-alif (= 6 + 1), except the third which ends with the word darā, with the same value (4 + 2 + 1), in correspondence with the seven circumambulations.
On the same page we read, ‘As with I Ching trigrams, the four lines of a geomantic figure (shakl) are generated by the odd (fard) or even (zawj) result of each line, creating a binary code represented as either one dot (nuqṭa) or two dots respectively—hence the science’s alternative name of ʻilm al-nuqṭa or ʻilm al-niqāṭ, whence its close association with lettrism (ʻilm al-ḥurūf), coeval Arabic twin to Hebrew kabbalah. This binary code is then deployed according to set procedures to capture the flux patterns of the four elemental energies (fire, air, water, earth) as a means to divine past, present and future events, and indeed the status of every thing or being in the sublunar realm’. This theme will be further developed in our book El compás de la inspiración.
Muslim, Ṣaḥīḥ, Masājīd, 3.
Melvin-Koushki (2020, p. 789) adds, ‘The number of possible combinations of figures in a geomantic tableau is 164, or 65,536 in all. Each of the 16 geomantic figures acquired a full suite of specific elemental, astrological, calendrical, numerical, lettrist, humoral, physiognomical and other correspondences; the first 12 houses of the geomantic chart were likewise mapped onto the 12 planetary houses, and occasionally constructed in the form of a horoscope. Detailed information can thus be derived from the figures and their relationships about virtually any aspect of human experience, whether physical, mental or spiritual, whether past, present or future’. This has to be related to the verse in the ode 11 of the Tarjumān where Ibn ʿArabī refers to himself, symbolically, as a munajjim or ‘astrologer’ (Ibn ʿArabī  2003, p. 46). Note that geomancy is a very inclusive science: ‘Arabo-Persian geomancy in its mature form is predicated on the deployment of cycles (sg. dāʾira), or specific orders of the 16 figures (sg. taskīn), to reveal with precision such categories of data as the following: numbers, letters, days, months, years, astral bodies and divisions, body parts, physical and facial characteristics, minerals, precious stones, plants and plant products, animals and animal products, birds, fruits, tastes, colors, places, directions, regions, topographies, genders, social classes, nations, weapons, diseases, etc.’ (Melvin-Koushki 2020, p. 790).
As for the number of verses in the Dhakhāʾir, it is interesting to note that in the 1995 Lebanese edition, the preliminary poem incorporates three verses that only appear in a single manuscript. If these three added lines are counted together with the addition of two lines to the original ode 10 and the two isolated verses at the beginning of the preface to the Dhakhāʾir, the final total of the verses in the work (597—that is, the initial 598, minus one omitted in the final version—plus 7) would be equivalent to 604, precisely the year of the meeting with Qurrat al-ʿAyn.
Counting the western values (1 of shīn and 3 of sīn), ʿAyn al-shams wa-l-bahāʾ = 7 + 1 + 5 / 1 + 3 + 1 + 4 + 3 / 6 + 1 + 3 + 2 + 5 + 1 = 13 + 12 + 18 = 4 + 3 + 9 = 16 = 7. See the mention of this nickname in Ibn ʿArabī ( 2003, p. 8).
The term niẓām can be found six times in the following five odes: 4/verse 2, 19/16, 28/14 (twice), 45/14 and 54/4. The term qurra is not used in the poems. The term ʿayn appears four times in the poems (in 24/9, 27/11, 44/2 and 44/6), i.e., six times in total in the Tarjumān if we count the only two mentions of the word in the preface (in the names Qurrat al-ʿAyn and ʿAyn al-Shams). The related word ʿīn (in plural), with different vowels but the same writing, appears twice in 8/5 and 12/5.
The full rhyme –not just the rāwī or main rhyming letter- is composed graphically of the letters kāf-wāw-alif (= 2 + 6 + 1 = 9).
In the eastern system nafs-ī = 5 + 8 + 6 [+ 1 of the pronoun] = 19 (= 1, without pronoun) or 20, value of the name al-Kaʿba(h), with article, and of the name Muḥammad.
‘… if (law =9) had been (kāna =9) there (hunāka = 13 = 4) someone [one] (aḥad = 13 = 4)’, equivalent to saying, ‘if the 9 (rhyme) were there 4 (verses)’ or ‘if multiplicity were there only unity’. The poem is thus in the tone of unreality in consonance with this particle law that also appears in the third hemistich of the poem with the same meaning, that is, the non-realisation of the answer to those four questions of the poet that necessarily add to the perplexity of lovers.
In the context, it is relevant to note that this is the first verse of a seven lines poem on the ʿayn. The letter ʿayn has a value 7 corresponding to the seven verses and to the value of the rhyme in -aynī (1 + 5 + 1 = 7). The poem can also be found in ms. Leiden Or 2687, fol. 54b. In Arabic, the verse reads as follows:
In this short poem, fully translated here, the third final verse is almost the same that concludes the previous poem whose first verse I just quoted. Only a pronoun changes: ‘God did not separate (farraqa) in between your breaths (anfāsu-hu) and me’ (Ibn ʿArabī 2018b, p. 389). Note that the word anfās is significantly connected to the word nufūs (souls). In the continuation of this article, to appear soon, the figure of the Fatā inspiring Futūḥāt makkiyya (Ibn ʿArabī 2018c, chp. 1, pp. 131–58) will also be considered at the light of this perspective.
I do not proceed to analyse these verses now, as their detailed study, together with Qurrat al-ʿAyn’s questions, Ibn ʿArabī’s later explanation and Abdullah Bosnevi’s late and revealing commentary, will be the subject of a large section in my book El compás de la inspiración.
As in other cases, I try as far as possible to maintain the literalness and syntax of the expression, because although translating ‘I felt the touch of a hand …’ would be more fluid, the author’s expressions contain subtleties that would be lost by altering the structure of the sentence. Here denial introduces us into a climate of ambivalence and rules out any other perception: ‘I felt nothing but the touch of a hand …’, that is, everything else vanished in that sensation of the spiritual instant.
The successive translators of the work have not indicated that here there is a very significant allusion to the hadith in which the Prophet says, ‘… and [the angel] placed the palm of his hand between my shoulders (fa-waḍaʿa kaffa-hu bayna katifay-ya)’. See above note 17.
The word khazz (= 4; with the article = 8, as ḍarba = 8), which in addition to ‘silk’ also means in contrast ‘to prick’ or ‘to wound’, resonates here, as an alliteration and play on related words, with the verb hazz (to shake) used before. The intensity of the blow, the shudder and the change of state is, nonetheless, as soft as silk and, at the same time, as intense as an open wound when pricked.
In the major system 3 + 1 + 200 + 10 + 5 = 219. However, if alternatively the tāʾ marbūṭa is counted with value tāʾ = 400 (instead of the graphic value 5 of hāʾ), then jāriya(t) (3 + 1 + 200 + 10 + 400 = 614 / 6 + 1 + 4) is equivalent to 11, corresponding to the name Muḥammad (= 92 / 9 + 2 = 11) and to the divine name Huwa.
In the geomantic tableau or shield chart (takht), ‘from right to left, the first four figures in the top row are termed Mothers (ummahāt), which are combined to produce the second four in the same row, termed Daughters (banāt); the four figures the Mothers and Daughters produce in the next row are termed Nieces (ḥafīdāt, mutawallidāt) …’ (Melvin-Koushki 2020, p. 789).
See, for example, ms. Manisa 6596, fol. 78b.
On these four types of love (ḥubb, wadd, hawā and ʿishq) see Gloton’s full translation of the Dhakhāʾir (Ibn ʿArabī 1996a, pp. 60–61), the most valuable available version of the text.
Yā bint al-khāla(h) = [1 + 1 = 2] + [2 + 5 + 4 = 11] + [1 + 3 / + 6 + 1 + 3 + 5 = 19] = 5, value of the letter hāʾ of the huwiyya - as in the calculation of khāla(t), counting tāʾ = 14 = 5—which, according to ode 41 (Ibn ʿArabī  2003, p. 161) is the only object of the poet’s search. On other numerical values of this expression and the polyvalence of its symbolism, see Beneito (2022, sub voce).
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