Divine Suffering and Human Relief: Job in Ibn al-‘Arabi’s Work Fusus al-Hikam (“The Ring-Gems of the Wisdoms”)
The Biblical story of Job, which is referred to (albeit briefly) in the QurÞÁn, is often interpreted as an attempt to address the problem of evil in the world and to justify God’s conduct in relation to it (theodicy). This interpretation assumes a clear ontological division between man and God: since the latter is the creator of the world and its governor, one may inquire as to the essence of evil in creation and the reasons for the sufferings of the just. In his well-known work FuÒÙÒ al-Íikam (“The Ring-Gems of the Wisdoms”), the famous Muslim AndalusÐ mystic MuÎyÐ al-DÐn AbÙ ÝAbd AllÁh MuÎammad b. ÝAlÐ Ibn al-ÝArabÐ (560/1165-638/1240) construes the story of Job in a most uncommon way, and, one may add, in a most unorthodox manner. Defying the classical monotheistic boundaries that separate God from man, Ibn al-ÝArabÐ views the world at large and man in particular as the external form of God, as the locus for Divine manifestation; God, in his external, manifest aspect, and man are essentially one. Accordingly, in his unique interpretation of the QurÞÁnic verses that refer to Job and his plight, Ibn al-ÝArabÐ offers a new perspective on the problem of evil in the world and human suffering, emphasizing the reciprocal relationship between the Creator and the created.
Michael Ebstein has completed his PhD in the Arabic Language and Literature Department at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The title of his PhD was “Philosophy, Mysticism and Esotericism: IsmÁÝÐlÐ Thought and Andalusian Mysticism”, currently being revised for book publication it as a book. He has received a Yad Hanadiv/Rothschild post-doctoral fellowship and is now conducting his post-doctoral research at the Freie Universität in Berlin, in the Institut für Islamwissenschaft. He is part of the research unit “Intellectual History of the Islamicate World”. He is interested in medieval Islamic mysticism, particularly in the relation between SunnÐ mysticism and ShÐÝÐ thought. He is also interested in the links and affinities between Jewish and Islamic mysticism, especially as these developed in medieval Spain.