Oldest extant Ibn `Arabi manuscript
April 19, 2008
Last summer’s newsletter from the Ibn Arabi Society described what appears to be the oldest surviving copy of one of Shaikh-e Akbar Ibn `Arabi’s works – the `Anqa Mughrib – in the Berlin State Library and now in the Society’s digital archives. The copy has a date in Shaikh-e Akbar’s (قدّس سرّه) own hand of Jumada al-Ula, 597, which will be 832 (hijri) years ago next month. It also includes two pages of “coded” writing in the masters own hand, one of which is shown here.
Stephen Hirtenstein writes: I can confirm his findings, and add that the remains of the cover page (only the right-hand bottom corner survives) has some fragmentary lines in Ibn ‘Arabi’s own distinctive hand, mentioning al-Habashi, his own name, and the town of Fez in the month of Jumada al-Ula 7H (= Feb 1201). Below this is a barely legible and rather tantalising sama’ certificate in a different hand, mentioning a reading of the whole work in front of at least four people (some of the names are too faint to be identified or are missing).
Two of these, Isma’il b. Muhammad b. Yusuf al-Ansari and ‘Abd al-Rahman b. Muhammad al-Lawati, are known to have also been present at the Cairo reading of the Ruh al-quds in 603H, and so could be counted as part of the original group of disciples and companions who came with Ibn ‘Arabi from the Maghrib. In both cases the association was close and long-lasting: al-Ansari recited the Taj al-rasa’il in 613H in Ibn ‘Arabi’s house (probably in Malatya) while al-Lawati heard the K. al-Isra’ in the author’s house in Damascus in 633H.
If you’re interested in the subject of quasi-historical, secret and mystical (for lack of a better word) alphabets, this is an interesting online find: an apparently 18th century collection of alphabets purchased in Beirut in the ’20s and now at Princeton. Each alphabet is presented first as pronunced, and then as written.