Mystic, philosopher, poet, sufi, Muhammad ibn al-Arabi was one of the world's great spiritual teachers. In particular, he taught how to keep faith with reason. An important lesson for our society disrupted by tensions.
Known as Muhyiddin (the 'Revivifier of Religion') and the Shaykh al-Akbar (the 'Greatest Master'), he was born in 1165 AD during the Golden Age of Islam, in Murcia, into the Moorish culture of Andalusian Spain, which benefited from the cultural influence arriving from Baghdad. In this booming city, in fact, the enlightened Caliph al-Mamum had founded, around 800 AD, the House of Wisdom, a school where many brilliant scholars of that time, alchemists, philosophers, mathematicians, academics of hieroglyphics, opticians, physicians and astronomers researched and shared information and culture in a climate of freedom. Most of them were Arab, but there were also Persian, Indian, Jewish and Christian scholars. Ibn Rushd one of the greatest Moorish philosopher and the Jewish theologian and physician Maimonides were both born in Cordoba, which was once the capital of Al-Andalus, the Moslem-occupied territories in the Iberian Peninsula during the period referred to in Northern Europe as the Dark Ages.
Ibn Arabi's fame spread far. He often quoted the Arab al-Kharriz: 'Perfection is not exhibiting miraculous powers, but sitting among people, selling and buying, marrying and having children, without forgetting, not even for a moment, the Divine Presence". Ibn Arabi stated that there are three forms of knowledge. The first is 'intellectual knowledge', which is in fact only information and the collection of facts, and the use of these to arrive at further intellectual concepts. This is intellectualism. Second comes the 'knowledge of states', which included both emotional feeling and strange states of being in which man thinks that he has perceived something supreme but cannot avail himself of it. This is emotionalism. Third comes 'real knowledge', which is called the 'Knowledge of Reality'. In this form, man can perceive what is right, what is true, beyond the boundaries of thought and sense. Scholastics and scientists concentrate upon the first form of knowledge. Emotionalists and experientialists use the second form. Others use the two combined, or either one alternatively.
Ibn Arabi distrusted intellectuals' language; he knew that God's spirit blows where it wishes and that truth has often confused many scholars. And he looked for the truth. He wrote over 350 works including the Fusûs al-Hikam, an exposition of the inner meaning of the wisdom of the prophets in the Judaic/Christian/Islamic line, and the Futûhât al-Makkiyya, a vast encyclopaedia of spiritual knowledge which unites and distinguishes the three strands of tradition, reason and mystical insight. In his Diwân andTarjumân al-Ashwâq, he also wrote some of the finest poetry in the Arabic language. These extensive writings provide a beautiful exposition of the Unity of Being, the single and indivisible reality which simultaneously transcends and is manifested in all the images of the world. Ibn Arabi shows how Man, in perfection, is the complete image of this reality and how those who truly know their essential self, know God.
He has profoundly influenced the development of Islam since his time, as well as significant aspects of the philosophy and literature of the West. He died in Damascus in 1240 AD. (K.L.)
Pope Francis Mission Intention for August
"That Christians may live the Gospel, giving witness to faith, honesty, and love of neighbour." Let us Pray.
The Letter to the Hebrews says that ". . . the word of God is living and active" (4: 12). This "word" is first of all Jesus himself. Jesus is the word that God spoke to the world - God's perfect communication of who He is. This "Word became flesh and he lived among us" (John 1: 14).
Through the Church, the Body of Christ, the word takes flesh and is "living and active" today. The words which Jesus taught us are not meant simply to be repeated but lived, for, as the saying goes, "actions speak louder than words."
In this intention, Pope Francis says that there are three things that show Christians are living the Gospel. The first is "faith." This is more than believing that God exists. It involves a relationship with God that includes trust. Jesus told us not to worry (see Matthew 6: 25-34) and the trusting peace that follows will lead people to wonder what our secret is.
Secondly, living the Gospel involves honesty. Jesus said he was the truth (John 15: 6) and
that he came to witness to the truth (John 18: 37). Our honesty with God, others, and ourselves is a hallmark of our Christianity.
But perhaps the greatest witness to our living the Gospel is our love for others. As Jesus said, "This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13: 35).
We pray with Pope Francis that all Christians may live the Gospel, for we may be the only Gospel that some people will ever see or hear.
Colossians 3: 12-17 "Let the word of Christ, in all its richness, find a home with you."
Pope Francis General Intention for August
"That sports may be an opportunity for friendly encounters between peoples and may contribute to peace in the world." Let us Pray.
Many people are keen on sport. A tremendous amount of money is spent on stadiums, player and management salaries, tickets and marketing - not to mention gambling! Sporting events are a form of entertainment but can still be given more importance than they deserve. Moreover, the competition inherent in sporting events can lead to cheating, drug misuse, disrespect, and even violence.
Yet sports also have potential to do good. Pope Francis sees them as an opportunity for "encounter" in which the other person is recognized as good. Speaking to the International Olympic Committee, he said this, "Engaging in sports, in fact, rouses us to go beyond ourselves and our own self interests in a healthy way; it trains the spirit in sacrifice and, if it is organized well, it fosters loyalty in interpersonal relations, friendship, and respect for rules. It is important that those involved at the various levels of sports promote human and religious values which form the foundation of a just and fraternal society. This is possible because the language of sports is universal; it extends across borders, language, race, religion and ideology; it possesses the capacity to unite people, together, by fostering dialogue and acceptance. This is a very valuable resource!"
Sports carry the potential for promoting "peace, sharing, and coexistence among peoples." This is so important to Pope Francis, that the Vatican will be hosting a first-ever conference this October - "Sports at the Service of Humanity." We pray that sports may always be used, in the Pope's words, to "build bridges, not walls".
1 Timothy 4: 7-10 "Physical exercise is useful enough, but the usefulness of religion is unlimited."
Institute Intention for August
"That the Lord may make us instruments of his preference for the poorest by means of the daily practice of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy." Lord hear us.
Prayer of the Month
Lord Jesus Christ, help athletes and sports people to be your friends and witnesses to your love. Help them to put the same effort into personal asceticism that they do into sports; help them to achieve a harmonious and cohesive unity of body and soul. May they be sound models to imitate for all who admire them. Help them always to be athletes of the spirit, to win your inestimable prize: an imperishable crown that lasts forever. Amen!
--from Pope John Paul II in 2009