Date & time: 15 OCT 2016 (Saturday) 9:30am - 11:30am
Venue: IAIS Malaysia, Jalan Elmu, Off Jalan Universiti, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
For a magisterial Sufi classic, the al-Futuhat al-Makkiyyah (“The Openings of Makkah”) of the eminent Sufi, Muhyiddin Ibn al-‘Arabi (1165-1240) has, curiously enough, yet to be fully translated into English. That monumental task was recently undertaken by Eric Winkel, an Islamic scholar based in the US and former Principal Fellow at IAIS Malaysia. The first volume was recently launched by the publisher, IBT Books Malaysia, in collaboration with IAIS, followed by a lecture by Winkel.
Inspired by the Futuhat, Winkel in his lecture reinterpreted the phenomena of life and death from a Sufi perspective, according to which birth is not the “beginning” nor death the “end”. Rather, the human soul before life in this world underwent phases from its original covenant with God (the day of Alastu bi-rabbikum) when the soul was first created, to worship none but Him alone, through the Throne (‘arsh), the Footstool (kursi) and finally, the mother’s womb, marking its entry into worldly life (dunya). Both life and death are marked by “openings” of light: just as birth is signalled by the light of this world when the baby emerges from the womb (when it could no longer sustain the child), so too, is death—or rather rebirth into next life—signalled by light as the soul leaves the grave when the latter can no longer sustain it. The aforesaid paths, Winkel reminded, represents only the beginning of our journey towards eternal existence. Thus, the true meaning of life is found in the next life, just as the true meaning of a dream is unravelled only once one awakes from slumber.
The cyclical nature of this process reveals but one pattern of the cosmos explored by Ibn al-‘Arabi and the Sufis. Winkel also identified another cosmic pattern called ‘fractals’—now gaining credence among physicists—according to which a single particle in the universe represents the characteristics of the system as a whole. More broadly, the whole of a being is present in all its parts and, conversely, each part also represents the whole. Sufi ‘fractal’ approach to the Qur’an can be seen in its theory that the whole Qur’an is contained in the Surah al-Fatihah, the whole of which, in turn, in the basmallah, and ultimately, in the dot beneath the letter ‘ba’.
These reflections should suffice to remind man of his transient and mortal existence, and to cultivate a deep sense of humility as he realizes the majesty of God and His all-encompassing presence in man’s life.
[Ahmad Badri Abdullah & Tengku Ahmad Hazri]