Little Death


Publishing House: Dar Al-Saqi

Publication Year: 2016

Genre: Novel

Number of Pages: 592

The novel “Little Death,” by the Saudi author “Mohammed Hasan Alwan,” published by Dar Al-Saqi in 2016 and winner of the 2017 International Booker Prize, spans 592 pages. It takes us on a journey through time to the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, where the author narrates the life story of Sheikh Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi, one of the prominent figures of Sufism in Islam.

The novel begins with the story of his birth into a humble family, where his father was part of the royal entourage of the Almoravids, while his mother did not leave as much of a mark on his life as his wet nurse, Fatima bint Al-Muthanna, who saw in him a promising future and guided him towards the path of spiritual purity.

As he grows older, Ibn Arabi embarked on a journey filled with spiritual and physical exploration, traveling through sacred and cultural sites from Seville to Mecca, and finally arriving in Damascus, where his journey concludes. Throughout this journey, he faces significant challenges in his quest to achieve spiritual purity, influenced by the teachings of his spiritual mentor and his diligent search for his four spiritual pillars.

The novel also includes glimpses of the historical events and contemporary political changes during Ibn Arabi’s time, from the conflicts between the Almoravids and the Almohads to the tumults and wars that engulfed the Islamic world, reflecting their impact on his life’s journey.

Alwan also incorporates a secondary narrative thread focusing on an ancient manuscript written by Ibn Arabi, traversing through time and space to narrate significant historical events in each of its twelve chapters. This narrative thread not only adds a historical dimension to the novel but also deepens the narrative aesthetics of the work.

Thus, “Little Death,” illustrates how Sheikh Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi explores the meaning of love and purity, directing his famous philosophy on religion and faith built on love, thereby embodying the profound spiritual experience of this significant historical figure.

When Ibn Arabi describes love as a “Little Death,” this expression carries deep meanings within the context of his Sufi philosophy. The concept of “Little Death,” refers to the idea of detachment and liberation from the self and the lower ego, aiming to achieve spiritual union or unity with the divine truth. In this context, love is not merely an emotion but rather a transformative process that leads the individual to lose their individual identity and merge into the divine presence.

Alwan succeeded in recreating a parallel biography of Ibn Arabi, reshaping the reader’s perception as if facing his original autobiography, whether they had previously read about him or not. This is achieved through a comprehensive and diverse structure of his character.


Read More About Mohammed Hasan Alwan

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