A Prayer for Spiritual Elevation and Protection

A Prayer for Spiritual Elevation and Protection

by Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi
     
 

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Widely used for centuries in Sufi circles, the prayer known as "The Most Elevated Cycle" (al-Dawr al-a’la) or "The Prayer of Protection" (Hizb al-wiqaya), written by the great Sufi master Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi, has never before been available in English. This book provides a lucid English translation and an edited Arabic text of this

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Overview

Widely used for centuries in Sufi circles, the prayer known as "The Most Elevated Cycle" (al-Dawr al-a’la) or "The Prayer of Protection" (Hizb al-wiqaya), written by the great Sufi master Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi, has never before been available in English. This book provides a lucid English translation and an edited Arabic text of this beautiful and powerful prayer. It includes a transliteration for those unable to read Arabic, who wish to recite the prayer in the original language. Showing the importance of Ibn ‘Arabi’s devotional teaching, the book explores the prayer’s contemporary life, properties and historical transmission. It gives full details of generations of well-known scholars and Sufi masters who have transmitted the prayer, providing an intimate and fascinating insight into Islamic history.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The importance of having a stable text with full vocalisation based upon the best manuscripts is evident. But the author's careful study of the chains of transmission and the detailed information about the recitation of the prayer in the contemporary world are also of the highest interest."  —Professor Michel Chodkiewicz

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780953451302
Publisher:
Anqa Publishing
Publication date:
06/01/2007
Pages:
150
Product dimensions:
5.75(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.41(d)

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A Prayer for Spiritual Elevation and Protection


By Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi, Suha Taji-Farouki

Anqa Publishing

Copyright © 2006 Suha Taji-Farouki
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-905937-19-6



CHAPTER 1

The Dawr Today

Contemporary contexts


Like all liturgical texts originating with sufi figures, the Dawr al-a' la effectively has a double life in the modern world. One of these, a continuation of its traditional past, is hidden, mediated through spiritual authority to permit its use exercised by the sufi shaykh to his disciple (murid) typically in the context of a sufi order or tariqa affiliation, and symbolised by the granting of a special authorisation (ijaza). The other is visible, open and public, a destiny arising out of the shattering of traditional systems and modes in the acquisition and transmission of religious knowledge in Muslim societies, and driven by the impacts of print and other modern information technologies alongside mass literacy. The following examples illustrate this double life, and at the same time convey something of the diversity of contemporary users of the prayer. In general terms, while it appears in some of the many collections of prayers readily available across the Muslim world today, the Dawr is not as well known as other, comparable, prayers.


Damascus

The prayer is recited collectively during certain of the open weekly gatherings devoted to calling down prayers and blessings upon the Prophet (majalis al-salat 'ala al-nabi) held at the mosque adjacent to Ibn 'Arabi's mausoleum in the Shaykh Muhyi'1-Din neighbourhood, the Salihiyya district, Damascus. During 2003, for example, it was read collectively at two of the eight majalis scheduled each week. One was established quite recently and is held between noon (zuhr) and afternoon ('asr) prayers on Friday:the other, which takes place before dawn (fajr) prayers on Saturday, is long–standing. The text of the prayer is available in the form of a photocopied sheet stored in the imams' room in the mosque, from where it is occasionally distributed. It also appears for distribution from time to time in the form of a small pamphlet, often printed together with a hadith or Qur'anic verses. In addition, some of the larger pamphlets printed specifically for use in various majalis (and effectively the property of those majalis) encompass the prayer. Reaching a wider circulation, it appears in a popular collection of prayers compiled by former Mufti of Syria Muhammad Abu'1-Yusr 'Abidin (d.1981) and published by his heirs, and in a more recent collection distributed free, published as a joint venture between Turkish and Syrian publishers. It can also be found on the margin of editions of al-Jazuli's popular Sunni prayer manual Dala' il al-khayrat that circulate in Damascus. Finally, it is presented in one of the many privately published works of an Egyptian sufi shaykh and interpreter-disseminator of Ibn 'Arabi's thought long settled in Damascus, Mahmud al-Ghurab.

The prayer is thus easily accessible to people of all backgrounds in Damascus. At the same time, in some circles there traditional sufi modes of transmission continue. The ijaza in this context is understood to unlock the prayer's secrets for the murid in a way that protects him from potential harm: it also ensures that these secrets remain the preserve of those suitably prepared to receive them. The ijaza often encompasses an instruction concerning the time and frequency of recitation. It may require the murid to situate the prayer, whenever they recite it, within a cluster of other prayers and formulae, or involve making precise additions at certain points in the text. Specific to each murid, such prescriptions are not arbitrary, and may indeed have been received by the shaykh in a dream or vision. Tailored to the murid's level, they may be changed as he advances on the spiritual journey.

The vitality of this mode of transmission can be illustrated through the practice of Ahmad al-Harun (d.1962), widely recognised in Damascene sufi circles as an important saint, and his prominent disciples. For example, al-Harun granted an ijaza to his disciple Mahmud al-Ghurab to read the prayer once every thirty-six hours (this ijaza also encompassed the Awrad, Ibn 'Arabi's daily prayers). He gave an ijaza to his disciple Mamduh al-Nass to read it once every twenty-four hours (again, in addition to the Awrad). Al-Nass in turn gave his son Muhammad Samir an ijaza to read the prayer daily, this time preceded by al-Nawawi's Hizb and followed by recitation of surat al-Fatiha for the souls of the Prophet, Ibn 'Arabi and al-Harun.

Such instructions for reading the prayer sometimes migrate out of the sphere of esoteric transmission to accompany printed copies, thereby becoming available for general application. For example, 'Abidin prefaces the prayer with a note explaining that his grandfather had received a direct instruction from Ibn 'Arabi (through a karama or act of spiritual grace granted the two of them) to read it twice daily, once following the morning (subh) prayer and again after the sunset one (maghrib). In the case of a specific matter of importance, Ibn 'Arabi had instructed him to read it three times following the afternoon prayer. Abidin also provides detailed instructions concerning what must be recited before and after the prayer.

From the ulama to the illiterate, conviction of the prayer's potency is widespread in Damascene sufi circles and among Ibn 'Arabi's local devotees, who attach themselves to his mosque. One such devotee attributes this potency to the fact that the prayer encompasses many Divine Names, another to its special quality as the summation of all of Ibn 'Arabi's teachings, indeed 'the essence of his entire knowledge.' Devotees believe that if the prayer is recited with right intention, absolute certainty of its power and the aim of pleasing God while repudiating the pull of this world, it can draw the reciter into the Prophet's presence (al-hadra al-Muhammadiya): the Prophet then appears to them 'through Ibn 'Arabi', especially in dreams. Drawing on their personal experiences, some point out that whoever reads the prayer with sincerity of heart and utter conviction while making a specific plea will have their wish granted. They relate how they read it with the intention of seeking help in relation to concrete problems, and are always confident of a positive response. For example, one devotee tells how when he recites the prayer with this specific request in mind, Ibn 'Arabi appears to him in dreams and shows him how to solve practical problems at work that require technical knowledge in which he has no training. Whenever he is guided to solve a work problem in this way, he refuses payment for the job, for he attributes his success in it to Ibn 'Arabi's baraka or blessing, through the prayer, rather than his own effort. He relates with gratitude how he has developed a new career and improved his family's material circumstances through the help granted him in response to requests mediated through the prayer.


Istanbul

The earliest printed versions of the prayer appeared in Istanbul during the late 19th century, in Gümüshanevi's Majmu'at al-ahzab and the Dala' il al-khayrat, for example. The first modern Turkish transliteration of the prayer was published in 1998 by a publishing company owned by a devotee of Ibn 'Arabi. This small booklet also provides the Arabic text and a clarification of the prayer's meanings in Turkish. By 2004, more than thirty thousand copies had been printed, distributed free throughout Turkey in response to internet requests, via bookshops, in mail-shots, etc. It is reprinted every few months to meet demand, and people of all kinds order and read it, including many who are outwardly 'çok-modern'.

While the prayer thus circulates openly in print, it is also still transmitted through ijaza granting in 'hidden' sufi circles in Istanbul. For example the Naqshbandi Shaykh Ahmed Yivlik (d.2001) granted ijazas to read the prayer to certain of his own disciples and to other sufis in Istanbul. For some his instruction was to read it twice a day, in certain cases following the Awrad; for others, on its own. His own ijaza to read the prayer is connected to a line of Naqshbandi shaykhs.


The United Kingdom

During the late 1960s, a copy of the prayer was brought to London by Bulent Rauf (d.1987), a western-educated descendant of the Ottoman elite. Rauf was the great-grandson of Ismail Pasha (d.1895), khédive of Egypt from 1863 to 1879. Ismail's daughter, Rauf's maternal grandmother, was Princess Fatma Hanim (b.1850), who died some time after the end of World War I. Fatma Hanim had commissioned a copy of the prayer to be made for her by the 'Head Calligrapher', apparently in AH 1341/1922-23 CE: it was bound in red leather and embellished with gold. After she died, it came into her grandson's possession.

Rauf became the pivotal figure in a new religious movement that emerged under the name 'Beshara' in the south of England during the early 1970s. In response to the requests of young counterculture seekers interested in the spirituality of 'the east', he conveyed the teaching of Ibn 'Arabi as the basis of a monistic, experiential and supra-religious spirituality. He designed courses in 'esoteric education' aiming at self-knowledge, which were eventually offered in dedicated schools established by the movement. Some of the early students noticed Fatma Hanim's beautiful copy of the Dawr in Rauf's possession, and his printed copy of the Awrad. They enquired whether these prayers could be made available in transliteration. Rauf agreed and assigned two students to the task, one of whom could read Arabic. This student rendered the text into Hebrew transliteration (his native tongue), and from that into English transliteration (they had no knowledge of a transliteration system for Arabic). Rauf corrected and completed the text with diacritical marks, and it was distributed to all involved in Beshara. He did not give guidelines for its recitation, but emphasised its protective effect. This text was published in 1981 alongside the original by the Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi Society (MIAS), which had been established during the mid-1970s by some of those involved in Beshara. The inclusion of the phonetic English transliteration is specifically aimed at the non-Arabic-speaking Beshara constituency (which today has international extent) and others unable to read the Arabic original, making it possible for them to recite the text. The MIAS website suggests how the prayer can be used for the purposes of protection: 'this prayer ... protects its recipient. In microfiche form, it is frequently carried as an amulet or displayed in a significant place.' Many involved in Beshara wear the microfiche form in a silver encasement on a neck-chain: they also position it above the inside of a main door at home. Sometimes a framed photocopy of the first page of the prayer is displayed. Some read the prayer regularly, while others resort to it in times of difficulty or to ward off perceived evil.

CHAPTER 2

A Prayer across Time

Historical dimensions

on the manuscript collection in the Suleymaniye Library (Istanbul), which holds over forty distinct copies, it is possible to construct a picture of the transmission, presentation and use of the Dawr during the last four hundred years. Around a half of these copies are explicitly dated, or can be dated approximately based on contextual information: the earliest dates from the late 11th/17th century, the greatest number from the 13th/19th century. The prayer appears in a variety of settings. For example there are seven commentaries, four in Arabic and three in Ottoman Turkish, the earliest probably from the late 12th/18 th century. Beautiful individual copies bound alone or with another short prayer and embellished with gold were most likely produced at the request of important figures (like that brought to London by Rauf). The Dawr sometimes appears as the only prayer alongside several non-devotional works, of which some may also be attributed to Ibn 'Arabi. It is found in compilations devoted exclusively to prayers and prayer-commentaries, including at times other prayers attributed to Ibn 'Arabi, and other kinds of devotional text. It appears also in collections of prayers and non-devotional tracts, the latter sometimes attributed to figures associated with the school of Ibn 'Arabi. There are copies of the prayer in personal notebooks that hold an intimate record of an individual's favourite poetic verses, prayers, Qur'anic verses and fragments from the works of various Islamic authorities, in addition to spiritual reflections, supplications, talismans, numerological codes and short devotional texts.

The repeated copying of the prayer in diverse settings bears witness to its circulation and use over the last four hundred years. Pointing to its constituency of readers during the closing years of Ottoman rule, the Suleymaniye copies have been drawn from collections gathered from tekkes and dergas associated with diverse tariqas (such as Sazeli and Dügümlü Baba), madrasas attached to mosques, pashas' collections and collections endowed by sultans. The earlier copies provide some indication of the prayer's users four hundred years ago, but chains of transmission or authorities (sanad, pl. asnad) attached to seven copies make it possible to trace the history of its use and transmission beyond the date of our earliest copy to the time of its author. These chains illuminate two aspects in the prayer's transmission. Vertically, they identify key figures in its passage from generation to generation, while suggesting that it has indeed been in continuous use in every generation since its author's day. Horizontally, the chains elucidate the circles within which the prayer was disseminated, pointing to their geographical loci, tariqa affiliations and intellectual orientations and identifying figures who served as a nexus between different circles within the larger network. We give below biographical information concerning figures in six chains, arranged by century from the earliest to the most recent. The treatment does not aspire to be exhaustive, but focuses on significant historical figures. The chains themselves are presented as they appear in our sources in an Appendix. A diagram of these chains is also provided below, using readily identifiable names as elaborated in the biographical notes. After each name in these notes, the chain(s) in which the figures concerned appear are identified by a capital letter, for ease of location in terms of sources (as set out in the Appendix), and in the diagram (overleaf).

Any discussion of such chains must pay due attention to the cultural and social setting from which they emanate, with its associated practices and priorities. With this in mind, they can be investigated in terms of the plausibility of their individual links, encompassing chronology and the circumstances of the ijaza implicit within and underpinning each link. We attempt such an investigation below. Finally, we consider how the picture that emerges from these chains can illuminate important trends and tendencies in Islamic culture and thought during specific historical periods.

Transmitters of the prayer

7th century AH

Sa'd al-Din Muhammad b. Muhyi al-Din Ibn 'Arabi

{E} [d.656/1258]

The second son of Ibn 'Arabi; born in Malatya in AH 618. He left an important diwan. A student of hadith, he visited Cairo and lived in Aleppo.

Radi al-Din Ibrahim b. M b. Ibrahim b. Abu Bakr b. M al-Tabari al-Makki {D} [d.722/1322]

Also known as al-Radi al-Tabari and Radi al-Din Abu Ishaq, a Shafi'i born in AH 636 who held the position of imam at the Maqam Ibrahim ('Station of Abraham') in Mecca. Son of a shari-fian (Husayni) family respected far and wide for its learning and one of the oldest of the established families in Mecca (Radi al-Din's ancestor settled there c. 570), well-connected and with top-ranking positions of qadi (judge), imam, mufti, khatib (preacher) and teacher passing from generation to generation. Writing in the 17th century, the biographer al-Muhibbi reported that from 673/1274 the family had held the imamate of the Maqam Ibrahim exclusively and continuously. Radi al-Din studied under prominent figures and became learned in the Shafi'i madhhab (school of law). He was outstanding in piety, humbleness and charitableness, and never left the Hijaz. The many examples listed by the biographer Ibn al-'Iraqi suggest that he was a significant figure in transmitting works to his contemporaries, including many visitors to Mecca.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from A Prayer for Spiritual Elevation and Protection by Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi, Suha Taji-Farouki. Copyright © 2006 Suha Taji-Farouki. Excerpted by permission of Anqa Publishing.
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Meet the Author

Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi was a Sufi master. Suha Taji-Farouki is Senior Lecturer in Modern Islam at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, the University of Exeter, and Research Associate at The Institute of Ismaili Studies (London). She has written extensively on modern Islamic thought, including (ed.) Islamic Thought in the Twentieth Century and Modern Muslim Intellectuals and the Qur'an.

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