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THE SINGLE MONAD MODEL OF THE COSMOS:

Ibn al-Arabi's Concept of Time and Creation

by Mohamed Haj Yousef



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6.1. The Black Stone and the Kaaba:


The most visible example of Ibn Arabi's development of this cosmological symbolism in the Futuhat involves the Kaaba, the 'house of Allah' to which millions of Muslims now go on pilgrimage every year. For Ibn Arabi, those circumambulating the Kaaba are mirroring the circles of higher angels surrounding the divine Throne [I.50.30]. In that symbolic context, the angels also represent the determining forces of the universal Nature (Al-Durratu Al-Bayda : 138, as we shall come back to this later in section VII.10) and the four Archangels who carry the Throne of Allah are the four main sustaining forces of that Nature.

This centrality of the symbolism of the Kaaba is of course rooted in the fact that Ibn Arabi started the first chapter of his Futuhat by mentioning his encounter with the Spirit from whom he took all that he wrote in this book, a Spirit whom he met while circumambulating the Kaaba. There Ibn Arabi establishes a symbolic correlation the seven circles of tawaf that the pilgrim is obliged to perform around the Kaaba during the pilgrimage and the seven main divine Names, in the manner already mentioned in Chapter III: i.e., each one of these seven Names is responsible of one specific Day of the divine Week of creation. Then he says that his Lord told him: 'the Kaaba, in relation to the all-encompassing (divine) Throne, is like your heart with relation to your body' [I.50.29]. So in fact the Kaaba on the earth is symbolically like the Single Monad in the cosmos. This analogy also applies to many related details, because the cubic shape of the Kaaba is in fact the simplest structure which constitutes a body that occupies the three spatial dimensions. As Ibn Arabi mentioned [III.276.4; see explanations in section V.4 above], the body is composed of at least eight points, corresponding to the corners of the cube.

But more importantly for Ibn Arabi, one corner of the Kaaba holds the mysterious 'Black Stone' (al-hajar al-aswad) which, according to tradition, the angel Gabriel brought down from Paradise and gave to Abraham to put it in that corner of the Kaaba. For Ibn Arabi, this Black Stone symbolically represents the foundational role in the process of creation/manifestation of the 'Greatest Element'. In other words, circumambulating the Kaaba starts from the south-eastern corner in which this Black Stone resides, and the pilgrim is supposed to make seven rounds (counter-clockwise) around the Kaaba: this corresponds symbolically to the way the Greatest Element first gives rise to or communicates to the Single Monad/First Intellect, after which the Intellect brings forth the world of manifest creation in the seven divine Days. According to tradition, the Prophet Muhammad said that this Black Stone resembles 'Allah's right hand on earth' [Kanz: 34729]. As is well known, Ibn Arabi holds that the 'Universal Reality' which is also another name for the Greatest Element, because it is the origin of the Single Monad [I.119.10] is identical with the Spirit of Muhammad himself, as that Spirit is also, according to a number of widely known hadith, 'the first thing to be created' [Kanz: 31917].[109]

Thus, at the very beginning of the opening chapter of the Futuhat, when Ibn Arabi begins to speak about the underlying metaphysical reality i.e., the 'Greatest Element' and first creation symbolized by the Black Stone that resembles Allah's right hand, he says in poetry:

People are ignorant of its Essence, so some say it is dense, while others say it is subtle.

He (the Spirit) said to me, when I asked why they do not know It:

'Only the noble may truly know (recognize) the noble!'

[I.47.22]

Ibn Arabi then proceeds in these opening pages to give many mysterious symbolic details about what Allah creates in the Human Being (i.e., the Single Monad/First Intellect) and in the world with each round of the seven circumambulations around the Kaaba, and he relates that metaphysical teaching to the seven main Attributes of Allah which are responsible for the seven Days of the divine creative Week [I.49.32].



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  • ... the four Archangels who carry the Throne of Allah are the four main sustaining forces of that Nature. This centrality of the symbolism of the Kaaba is of course rooted in the fact that Ibn Arabi started the first chapter of his Futuhat by mentioning his encounter with the Spirit from whom ...


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  • ... Cubic Shape =>:

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  • ... Universal Nature =>:

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