The Seven Days of the Heart: Prayers for the Nights and Days of the Week

The Seven Days of the Heart: Prayers for the Nights and Days of the Week

by Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi

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Overview

Providing a precious glimpse into the practice of the mystical life within the Sufi tradition, this volume marks the first time any of Ibn 'Arabi's prayers have been translated into another language. The 14 prayers include not only the most astounding expressions of devotion and contemplation, but also an unparalleled depth of knowledge of union. The very structure of the prayers is itself a mode of contemplation, making for a unique spiritual experience.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781905937295
Publisher: Anqa Publishing
Publication date: 03/01/2011
Pages: 152
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Ibn 'Arabi was an eminent scholar and teacher of Islam in the Moorish culture of Andalusian Spain during the 12th century. He is the author of Contemplation of the Holy Mysteries, Divine Sayings, and A Prayer for Spiritual Elevation and Protection

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The Seven Days of the Heart

Prayers for the Nights and Days of the Week


By Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi, Pablo Beneito, Stephen Hirtenstein

Anqa Publishing

Copyright © 2000 Pablo Beneito and Stephen Hirtenstein
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-905937-07-3



CHAPTER 1

Introduction

1 The Prayers of Ihn 'Arabi

Ibn 'Arabi (1165-1240) has long been known as a great spiritual master. Author of over 350 works, he has exerted an unparalleled influence, not only on his immediate circle of friends and disciples, but on succeeding generations who have taken his teaching as a superlative exposition of Unity (tawhid). He views the world according to a fundamental harmony, in which all things are intricately interconnected and the human being is given a place of immeasurable dignity. His writings, which were set down in a torrent of inspiration, are living documents, where meanings cascade from the page and no two readings are ever quite the same. Striking to the heart of essential human questions, they illuminate and challenge our view of mankind and the world. His many works of prose and poetry are now becoming more accessible in translation in Western languages, and they possess the remarkable quality of being able to speak to people of all walks of life and belief, across the apparent barrier of many centuries and differing cultures. Despite this growing interest in his works, the prayers which are attributed to him remain little-known. By virtue of their intimate nature, they provide a precious glimpse into the real practice of the spiritual life in the Sufi tradition. This is the first time that any of these prayers have been published in another language, although they have had wide circulation in the Arabic original.

This particular collection of prayers is one of the most celebrated and remarkable. It can be found under many variant titles: "Daily Prayers" (al-Awrad al-yawmiyya), "Prayers for the Week" (Awrad al-usbu'), "Prayers for the Days and Nights" (Awrad al-ayyam wa'l-layai) or simply "Devotional Prayer" (Wird). The term wird (pl. awrad) is difficult to translate into English: the Arabic root carries connotations of arriving, reaching, appearing or being received. For the nomads of the desert, the root primarily refers to a watering place or well, where travellers come to drink. In the context of spiritual practice, the term wird itself is normally applied to private devotional prayers at specific times of day or night. These are supererogatory acts, in addition to the five prayers prescribed for the Muslim community. They often consist of passages from the Quran or prayers upon the Prophet, which are commonly recited at public gatherings. There are several famous devotional prayers of this kind that have come from spiritual teachers. We may mention the following Maghribi examples by Ibn 'Arabi's contemporaries: the Prayer of 'Abd al-Salam Ibn Mashish (d. 1228), the Prayer of the Sea (Hizb al-bahr) of Abu al-Hasan 'Ali al-Shadhili (d. 1258), or the less well-known Prayer of Blessing (al-Salat al-mubaraka) of 'Abd al-'Aziz al-Mahdawi (d. 1224).

Unlike the above, Ibn 'Arabi's "Prayers for the Week" are neither devotional in any ordinary sense, nor do they appear to be intended as prayers for communal recitation. On the contrary, they seem to be more private and intimate affairs, where the requests imply a high degree of understanding and self-knowledge. In reading them, one is immediately struck by the precision and depth of their formulation, which is consecrated primarily to the clarification and celebration of Union (tawhid). They are founded upon the detailed exposition of spiritual Union, expressing the most intimate of converse with the Divine Beloved, and situating the one who prays as the true adorer. Here the reciter and the one recited to are understood to be two sides of the same reality. What is recited is that which "arrives in the heart" (warid) and is "received" by the adorer, on the one hand, and the request that reaches the Real (al-haqq) and is responded to, on the other. For the one who reads them, these prayers are as much educational as devotional.


2 The Divine Work: request and response

Whosoever is in the heavens and the earth is in request of Him; every day He is at work.

For Ibn 'Arabi, this Quranic verse expresses a central issue of existence. At every moment each being, from the greatest galaxy to the smallest particle, is requesting and receiving its nourishment, physically and spiritually. In his comment on the verse, he remarks:

The [Divine] work is the request of those who ask. There is not a single existent that is not requesting [of] Him, the Exalted One, but they are according to different degrees in the asking.


Thus the Divine labour consists in constantly fulfilling the requests of created beings, from the highest to the lowest. God's response is as inherently necessary as the asking of the creature. With the injunction: "Call upon Me and I shall answer you", God has promised to respond to the constant request of the creatures, and this in itself is a request:

He asks the servants to call Him, while the servants ask Him to respond. Thus both are asking and asked for (talib wa matlub).


The response is equally mutual:

Whoever responds when he is called is responded to when he himself calls. He responds when he calls Him, since he has responded to Him, until he actualises the language of the Envoy of God.

If someone responds to the call of God when He calls him by the language of Revealed Law – and He does not call him except through it – God responds to him [favourably] in whatever he has asked for. So tell His faithful servants to "listen to God and His Envoy when they call you ...", since neither He, glory to Him, nor His Envoy call you except "towards that which brings you life".


Ultimately in reality, according to Ibn 'Arabi, it is always God Himself who is being asked for, since there is no other than He. However, from a limited point of view this quickly becomes obscured by the innumerable forms of manifestation. Hence there are different degrees of knowledge in the asking. Given that there is always a Divine response to our request, it is essential to become conscious of what is actually being asked for. In a highly illuminating passage, Ibn 'Arabi describes this intimate moment-by-moment consciousness in terms of Divine closeness. After commenting on the Quranic verse, "I am close, I respond to the call of the caller when he calls upon Me", he writes:

In respect of His attributing to Himself closeness in listening and responding, this is analogous to His describing Himself as being "closer" to man "than his jugular vein". Here He compares His closeness to His servant with the closeness of man to his own self. When man asks himself to do something and then does it, there is no time-gap between the asking and the response, which is simply listening. The moment of asking actually is the very moment of responding. So the closeness of God in responding to His servant is [identical to] the closeness of the servant in responding to his own self. Then [we can say that] what he asks of his self in any state is akin to what he asks of his Lord as a specific need.


The Awrad of Ibn Arabi are a most wonderful example of the possibility of theophanic prayer. Underlying the specific requests, there is a primary aim: to see things as they are from the perspective of the Real. In this sense, the prayers are equally a form of invocation or remembrance {dhikr). In reciting them, the servant is not indulging in mere mechanical repetition, but consciously-acknowledging the Presence of God, opening up to the full force of the Divine Revelation and savouring its manifold "tastes". This realisation of prayer becomes a mutual remembrance, as God says: "Remember Me, and I shall remember You".

We have chosen to call these prayers "The Seven Days of the Heart" to emphasise the intimacy of this relationship. They are a dialogue with the Unseen, a private communion where only one side of the discourse can be visible. We might compare this to what happens in a telephone conversation: on the one side, we can hear and see the speaker talking into the handset, while the other party remains hidden, invisible and inaudible to any but the person making the call. Likewise, the visible text of the prayers is only one part of the conversation, and their recitation is to be drawn into an intimate dialogue with God Himself, invoking Him and being invoked, inviting Him and being invited. This is a returning to Reality, a "conversion" (tawba) that requires constant reiteration. All spiritual traditions emphasise that this is not to be achieved through the normal intellectual processes but only in the deepest centre of the self, referred to as the heart (qalb). It is the heart which is capable of acting as a mirror to the divine revelation, "turning" or "being turned" (taqallub, from the same root as qalb) according to the way He makes Himself known. The capacity of the heart to "see" is precisely what transforms prayer from a repetitive act into meaningful conversation.

Since [prayer] is a secret intimate converse, it is thus an invocation or remembrance (dhikr). And whoever remembers God finds himself sitting with God and God sits with him, according to the Divine tradition: "I sit with whosoever remembers Me." Whoever finds himself sitting with the One he remembers, and is capable of inner vision, sees his "sitting-companion". This is witnessing (mushahada) and vision (ru'ya). If he does not have this inner capacity, he will not see Him. It is from this actuality or absence of vision in the prayer, that the one who prays will know his own spiritual degree.


3 The three worlds and the three persons

Throughout the prayers there are references to two fundamental aspects of existence: on the one hand, the visible or witnessed (shuhid) realm, the world of Creation (khalq) and of the Kingdom (mulk); on the other, the invisible or unseen (ghayb) realm, the world of Command (amr) and of Kingship (malakut). These correspond to "day" and "night", respectively Between the two realms, in Ibn 'Arabi's teaching, there lies an isthmus (barzakh) or threshold which both joins them together and keeps them separate: it is the place where meanings take on form and forms are given meaning. He calls it the world of Compelling Power (jabarut) or Imagination (khayal). It is a realm where the Magnificence of the Divine Presence is witnessed by virtue of inner sight, and where the one who prays is invited for converse. Real prayer takes place in this isthmus between the visible and invisible worlds.

These two realms can equally be viewed as that which is present to us here and now (shuhud), as opposed to that which is absent from us (ghayb). Ibn 'Arabi defines the unseen or absent (ghayb) as "that of you which God has concealed from you, though not from Himself, and thus it indicates Him". The third person (he) denotes someone who is not here, while the first and second persons (I and you) refer to those present and visible. The contemplation of this distinction opens up a different realm. To enter into converse with God is to step from apparent absence into His Presence. This renders the absent One ("He") into the One present ("You"), so that He may be addressed. At the same time there is always that aspect of "Him" which remains unseen and eludes "my" comprehension, for He is too Majestic to be encompassed. Nonetheless, within the ultimate mystery of Union, the "You" who listens is not other than the "I" who speaks. God is thus simultaneously present and absent, I/You and He. As Ibn 'Arabi says: "... and amongst them [the Divine Names and Attributes] are the personal pronouns of the first, second and third persons."

We may speak, in fact, of three worlds, Kingdom (mulk), Kingship (malakut) and Compelling Power (jabarut), which in a certain sense correspond to the three persons. From our perspective, the "I" refers to the Kingdom, that which is present to me and as me, while the "He" refers to the Kingship, the realm of the invisible. The "You" is then a bridge between the two, an isthmus, in the same way as the realm of Divine Power (Jabarut) separates and unites the two worlds.

"He" (in Arabic Hu), the third person singular, denotes "the Unseen which cannot be contemplated. He is neither manifest nor a place of manifestation, but He is the Sought which the tongue seeks to elucidate." It refers directly to the Essence Itself, without in any way qualifying It, even as unqualifiable. Although indicated as "unseen" or "absent", this He-ness or Ipseity (huwiyya) runs through everything: "Nothing becomes manifest in the adorer and the adored except His Ipseity ... He alone adores and is adored." Many formulations in the Awrad are based upon this recognition. For example: "O You, who is the Unlimited 'He', while I am the limited 'He'! O 'He', apart from whom there is no other!"

There are various ways in which God is addressed in the Awrad: sometimes as "lord" (rabb), sometimes as "master" (sayyid), sometimes by a particular Divine Name, whose special quality is thus invoked. By far the most common are ilahi (translated as "O my God") and allahumma ("O God"). These are not simply used for stylistic variation, but are a precise mode of address. The first establishes a relationship between the degree of divinity (ulûhiyya) and one over whom divinity is exercised (ma'luh). Like the Name Lord (rabb), ilah requires an apparent "other", a creature over whom He can be God (hence the use of "my God"). The Quran, for example, speaks of the "God of mankind" (ilah al-nas). The second, allahumma, is an invocational form of the Name Allah. This denotes the absolute transcendent divinity (uluha), by which none other than He can be qualified. Nor is He to be qualified as the Allah of someone, since the Name Allah unites all the Names and rejects such a specific relationship.


4 The structure of the Awrad

At first sight it might seem as if the prayers have been arranged somewhat simply: fourteen prayers, one for each night and day of the week. Is there perhaps a deeper structure? While there is no explicit explanation as to why the individual prayers have been set out in this way, we can find many clues in other parts of Ibn 'Arabi's work which enable us to discern a most remarkable underlying pattern.

First of all, Ibn 'Arabi considers the weekly cycle as sacred. It is a Divine Sign, which points to the reality of Being. The seven days and nights express aspects of Being or spiritual realities, which, when taken together, form a complete whole and encompass all of existence. As we shall see, the seven days have a subtle relationship with seven prophets.

The number 14 itself is charged with significance. In relation to the 28-day lunar cycle, 14 represents the full moon, and is thus a symbol of the most complete beauty, wherein the light of the sun is reflected. It stands for the perfect human soul (nafs kamila), who is fully receptive to the action of the Divine Spirit. In the Arabic language, true beauty is symbolised as "a young maid of fourteen". In his commentary on the fortieth poem of the Tarjuman al-ashivaq, Ibn 'Arabi explains another meaning in attributing 14 to a young woman: "The attribute of perfection is related to her, so the most perfect of the numbers is given to her, which is the number 4, and that is also 10 (1+2 + 3+4= 10). From it comes 14 (4 + 10). The number 4 thus contains 3 and 2 and 1, as well as also containing the number 10." In mathematical terms, the numbers 4 and 14 are both divisors of 28, which was known to the Greeks as the second perfect number (being the sum of its divisors: 1+2+4 + 7 + 14).

We may also view 14 as a doubling of 7: this recalls the 7 verses of the Fatiha which are known as the "seven repeated" (sab' mathani), or the seven heavens and seven earths of Islamic cosmology, which include all the worlds of manifestation from the highest to the lowest. The number 7 itself underpins a major part of Ibn 'Arabi's teaching and can be found in texts relating to the spiritual ascension, the spiritual "climes" or regions and to the human faculties.


5 The seven days and seven nights

The seven days of the week are an ancient symbol of the complete cycle of creation. In both the Biblical and Quranic accounts there are six days of Divine action followed by one day of repose and rest. The association of the seven days with the seven major planets of our solar system has permeated Western languages. Whilst Hebrew and Arabie have retained a basic numerical system, European languages have called each day directly after a planet:

The long-standing association of prophets to planets is here extended to the days of the week. Thus, for Ibn 'Arabi there are two cycles involving the seven prophets (or eight if we include John): the order of the planets in the physical universe, and their order in terms of days of the week. Whether he is considering physical space or temporal space, Ibn 'Arabi views these role-models of mankind as spiritual realities who give meaning to both dimensions.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Seven Days of the Heart by Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi, Pablo Beneito, Stephen Hirtenstein. Copyright © 2000 Pablo Beneito and Stephen Hirtenstein. Excerpted by permission of Anqa Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

Acknowledgements,
Abbreviations,
Introduction,
1 The Prayers of Ihn 'Arabi,
2 The Divine Work: request and response,
3 The three worlds and the three persons,
4 The structure of the Awrad,
5 The seven days and seven nights,
6 The day of Muhammad,
7 The Awrad: manuscripts and translation,
THE PRAYERS: TRANSLATION AND NOTES,
The opening prayer,
Sunday: eve & morning,
Monday: eve & morning 3,
Tuesday: eve & morning,
Wednesday: eve & morning,
Thursday: eve & morning,
Friday: eve & morning 5,
Saturday: eve & morning,
Notes to the prayers,
APPENDICES,
A Time according to Ibn 'Arabi's Ayyam al-sba'n,
B The creative week of the Soul,
C Abjad system,
D On the meanings of the letters Alif and Waw,
Bibliography,

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