April 29, 2024

Little Death: A Parallel Novel Biography of Ibn Arabi

Little Death

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Biographies of historical figures have often served as valuable tools for documenting their lives with all their complexities and beauties. Particularly when presented in the form of a novel, they deepen our understanding of individual experiences and provide us with a profound insight into the historical and cultural events of their times. They shed light on the inner workings of humanity, with its intricacies, crises, dreams, flaws, and virtues, making them living testimonies to its ability to influence the course of events and shape society. Moreover, they foster empathy and understanding among people by presenting diverse perspectives, thus offering an invaluable contribution to our cultural and literary heritage.

The life story of Sheikh Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi

The novel “Little Death,” by the Saudi writer 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 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 modest family, where his father was part of the royal entourage of the Murabitun, while his mother left less of an imprint on his life compared to his wet nurse, Fatima bint Al-Muthanna, who saw in him a distinguished future and guided him towards the path of spiritual purity.

The pursuit of spiritual purity

As he grows older, Ibn Arabi embarked on a journey filled with spiritual and physical exploration, traveling through sacred and cultural places from Seville to Mecca, and finally reaching Damascus, where his journey concluded. Throughout this journey, he faced significant challenges in his quest to achieve spiritual purity, influenced by the teachings of his spiritual mentor and his relentless pursuit of his four spiritual pillars.

The contemporary political changes during Ibn Arabi’s time

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