Muhyi l-Din Ibn 'Arabi (1165-1240) was a hugely influential figure in the development of Sufism, yet although interest in his work continues to grow, his poetry has received very little attention. This book is the first full-length monograph devoted to his Diwan (collected poems). It begins by attempting to define Ibn 'Arabi's poetic style and his understanding of poetics, which is closely intertwined with his metaphysics: the rhythms of poetry echo those of creation, and meaning combines with form just as the spirit descends on matter. Drawing on a pre-Islamic theme, he insists that his poetry was revealed to him word for word by a spirit. At the same time, however, his attitude to the function of poetry and its relation to scripture is closer to mainstream medieval Islamic, Jewish and Christian theology than has usually been thought. Denis E. McAuley focuses on close readings of books in unusual verse forms, including poetic responses to chapters of the Qur'an; imitations of earlier poets; poems that use only one rhyme word; and a cycle of poems modelled on the letters of the alphabet.
In so doing, he makes frequent comparisons with other Islamic and European poets from the sixth century to the dawn of the twentieth, many of them virtually unstudied. Ibn 'Arabi emerges as a highly original poet whose work casts a fresh light on the period and on classical Arabic literature as a whole.
Denis McAuley was Beeson Scholar at St John's College, Oxford, and gained his DPhil in Oriental Studies from Oxford University in 2008. He currently works as a translator at United Nations Headquarters, New York. This is his first book.
Introduction ; 1. "A great theosophist rather than a great poet?" ; 2. Ibn 'Arabi on poetry: three prose texts ; 3. Ibn 'Arabi and the Qur'an: a series of poems ; 4. Ibn 'Arabi and the Poets: Imitations and Replies ; 5. Rhyme and Reason: Five Ra'iyyat ; 6. "Ultra-monorhyme": a stylistic eccentricity in comparative perspective ; 7. Ibn 'Arabi's mu'ashsharat: A Comparative Approach ; 8. Speech, and Cosmology in Ibn 'Arabi's Mu'ashsharat ; 9. Conclusion ; Annex: The Poems ; Bibliography