The Self-Disclosure of God

Principles of Ibn al-ʿArabī's Cosmology

By William C. Chittick

Subjects: Mysticism
Series: SUNY series in Islam
Paperback : 9780791434048, 524 pages, December 1997
Hardcover : 9780791434031, 524 pages, January 1998

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Table of contents


Knowledge of the Cosmos

Ibn Basic Themes

The Principles of£ Ibn Cosmology

The Breath of the All-Merciful

Cosmic Language

The Translator's Dilemmas

A Note on Format

I. God and the Cosmos

1. Wujud and the Entities

Signs, Marks, and Proofs

Selves and Horizons


From Chapter 73: The One Hundred and Third Question


God's Knowledge

Chapter 475: God's Waymarks

Chapter 411: The Precedent Book

God's Form

The Nonexistent Entities

From Chapter 463: The Third Pole

Chapter 493: New Arrival

From Chapter 369: The Storehouse of Lights

The Entities and the Names

Chapter 406: Nothing Has Become Manifest

Chapter 451: The Stairs

Thingness of Fixity

2. Perpetual Self-Disclosure


From Chapter 73: The Thirtieth Question

From Chapter 558: The Presence of the Creation and the Command


Unending Renewal

From Chapter 558: The Presence of Bringing Back


From Chapter 198: The All-Merciful Breath

Chapter 524: God's Infinite Words

The One Entity

From Chapter 360: The Ninth Deputyship

From Chapter 198: The Twenty-First Tawhid

Bewilderment in the Many and the One

Chapter 507: Shame

Chapter 542: Blindness

Chapter 391: The Quick-Flowing Course

Chapter 430: Bewilderment in Arrival

From Chapter 369: Annihilation and Subsistence

Chapter 473: Your God Is One God

From Chapter 72: Trotting around the Kaabah

3. The Face of God

The Face


Chapter 165: Realization

From Chapter 73: The Ninety-Seventh Question

Discerning the Face

From Chapter 351: Yielding

Chapter 527: Desiring the Face

The Veil

Chapter 254: The Curtain


Chapter 384: Mutual Waystations

4. Veils of Light

The Veil of Self


From Chapter 198: The Twenty-Fifth Tawhid 127/From Chapter 198: The Third-Second Tawhid

The Identity of the Veil and the Face

From Chapter 370: The Path of Exaltation

Chapter 514: Trust in God

The Specific Face

From Chapter 198: Depending on What Falls Short

Witnessing the Specific Face

From Chapter 379: The Servant of the Praiseworthy

Chapter 265: The Arriver

Chapter 396: The Veils of Knowledge

From Chapter 369: The Storehouse of Teaching


Chapter 458: The Facial Glories

From Chapter 558: The Presence of Light

Chapter 100: The Station of Fear

Chapter 101: The Station of Abandoning Fear

II. The Order of the Worlds

5. The Roots of Order

The Unity of Manyness

Unity and Totality

The Even and the Odd

From Chapter 558: The Presence of Bringing Together

Ranking in Excellence

God's Choices

From Chapter 73: The Fifty-First Question

From Chapter 72: Eating the Forbidden

From Chapter 198: The Twenty-Third Tawhid


From Chapter 360: The Sixth Deputyship

From Chapter 369: The Storehouse of the Servant's Posteriority

6. Divine and Cosmic Relations

The First and the Last

From Chapter 558: The Presence of Firstness

From Chapter 558: The Presence of Lastness

The Manifest and the Nonmanifest

From Chapter 558: The Presence of Manifestation

From Chapter 558: The Presence of Nonmanifestation

Chapter 256: The Shining of the Full Moon

Witnessing the Nonmanifest

Chapter 472: Following the Most Beautiful

Chapter 400: Manifest Mercy

Chapter 394: Arrival through Courtesy

The Center and the Circumference

Chapter 410: The Circle of Mercy

Circles of Wujud

The Two Arcs

Chapter 427: Two Bows' Length

Modalities of Wujud

7. The Worlds of the Cosmos

Absent and Witnessed

Chapter 492: Knowledge of the Absent

From Chapter 369: The Storehouse of Nature

Command and Creation

Heaven and Earth

From Chapter 73: The Forty-Third Question

From Chapter 558: The Presence of the Food-Giver

Two and Three Worlds

From Chapter 69: On the Mysteries of the Night Salat

III. The Structure of the Mocrocosm

8. Spirits and Bodies

Self and Soul

Chapter 267: The Soul

The Divine Spirit


Chapter 447: Essential Governance

The Spirit from the Command

Chapter 268: The Casting of Knowledge


Corporeous Bodies

The Rationally Speaking Soul

Chapter 216: The Subtlety

From Chapter 373: The Wisdom of the Inheritors

Chapter 397: The Soul's Ascent

9. The Natural Constitution

Spirit and Nature

Chapter 225: Increases

The Light of Guidance

From Chapter 71: Fasting on Sunday

Chapter 418: Understanding

From Chapter 73: The Twelfth Question

Chapter 52: Weakness


From Chapter 558: The Presence of All-Embracingness

10. The Imaginal Barzakh



Imagination and Understanding

Bodies Forever

From Chapter 360: The Tenth Deputyship

The Trumpet

Chapter 302: The Spirit's Subsistence

From Chapter 369: The Storehouse of the Final Issue

From Chapter 369: The Storehouse of Humanity

From Chapter 198: The Real Situation

Appendix I: Ibn Views on Certain Sufis

Appendix II: Translation of Technical Terms



Index of Sources

Index of Koranic Verses

Index of Hadiths and Sayings

Index of Proper Names

Index of Arabic Words

Index of Terms

Explicates the cosmology of Ibn al-'Arabi, the greatest mystical thinker of Islamic civilization.


The Self-Disclosure of God offers the most detailed presentation to date in any Western language of the basic teachings of Islam's greatest mystical philosopher and theologian. It represents a major step forward in making available to the Western reading public the enormous riches of Islamic teachings in the fields of cosmology, mystical philosophy, theology, and spirituality.

The Self-Disclosure of God continues the author's investigations of the world view of Ibn al-ʿArabī, the greatest theoretician of Sufism and the "seal of the Muhammadan saints." The book is divided into three parts, dealing with the relation between God and the cosmos, the structure of the cosmos, and the nature of the human soul. A long introduction orients the reader and discusses a few of the difficulties faced by Ibn al-ʿArabī's interpreters. Like Chittick's earlier work, The Sufi Path of Knowledge, this book is based primarily on Ibn al-ʿArabī's monumental work, al-Futūḥāt al-Makkīyah "The Meccan Openings." More than one hundred complete chapters and subsections are translated, not to mention shorter passages that help put the longer discussions in context. There are detailed indices of sources, Koranic verses and hadiths. The book's index of technical terminology will be an indispensable reference for all those wishing to delve more deeply into the use of language in Islamic thought in general and Sufism in particular.

William C. Chittick is Professor of Comparative Studies at State University of New York, Stony Brook. He has published numerous books, among them, Imaginal Worlds: Ibn al-Arabi and the Problem of Religious Diversity; Faith and Practice of Islam: Three Thirteenth-Century Sufi Texts; The Sufi Path of Knowledge: Ibn al-Arabi's Metaphysics of Imagination; The Sufi Path of Love: The Spiritual Teachings of Rumi; and A Shi'ite Anthology, all published by SUNY Press.


"…this book … will serve as the basis for future study on Ibn al-Arabi … The translation is so faithful to the original Arabic that it almost corresponds with the original word for word. " — Wiener Zeitschrift Fur die Kunde des Morgenlandes

"Chittick has refined his way of translating Ibn al-Arabi's terminology to a high degree of perfection. " — Gerhard Böwering, Yale University

"This is the type of work that many will refer to as a tour de force. Among its other accomplishments, it represents a painstaking reading, translation, and analysis of a major Muslim Arab thinker of notoriously intimidating erudition and subtlety. Best of all, it is clear and comprehensible, without sacrificing sophistication and precision. " — R. Kevin Lacey, State University of New York, Binghamton