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“I have been requested by Shaykh, Sidi Muhammad al-Buzidi al-Hasani, as well has his Shaykh, the Qutb, Mulay al-‘Arabi al-Darqawi al-Hasani, to set down in writing a commentary that would combine both exoteric explanation and esoteric allusion, and I have responded to their request…in hopes that this work will benefit many and be a joy to the heart as well as to the ear.”
The 18th century Moroccan mystic and scholar, Ahmad ibn ‘Ajiba, virtually unknown in the west before the 1967 publication of Jean-Louis Michon’s Le Soufi Marocain Ibn ‘Ajiba et son Mi’raj, spent six year towards the end of his life working intermittently on his single greatest work, The Immense Ocean (al-Bahr al-Madid), a complete commentary on the Holy Quran. The finished work would differ from all other previous Quranic commentaries (tafasir) by the fact that in addition to presenting the exoteric explanation for every verse, it also included esoteric commentary (ishara) which related each verse to the mystic path of Islam, Sufism.
The present translation is of one section— the fifty-fourth hizb (or part) containing the Chapters of The All-Merciful, The Event, and Iron—from this unique and monumental work. Its intention is to provide the Anglophone reader with access not only to how the generality of educated Muslims have understood the dominant themes of these Chapters since the earliest days of Islam, but also how traditional Sufic sources have viewed these same themes in respect to the microcosm of the soul and the journey towards God.
To this latter dimension, Ibn ‘Ajiba adds insights arising from his own spiritual quest, that of a man who, in his early 40s, having lived the life of a scholar from a noble Tetouani family, turned away from all the rank and respect he had previously enjoyed in order to become the disciple of two of the greatest Sufic teachers of his day, Mulay al-‘Arabi al-Darqawi and Muhammad al-Buzidi, and immerse himself in the rigorous spiritual training and practice that characterized their way, al-Tariqa al-Shadhiliyya al-Darqawiyya. This translation, then presents both an example of Islamic scholarship based on traditional formal sources as well as insight into Ibn ‘Ajiba’s own personal journey of discovery.
In the course of this work, the reader will find commentary, both exoteric and esoteric, on verses concerning the interrelation between Divine benevolence and human gratitude; the blessings of Heaven and the place of faithful men and women there; the relationship between practice, grace, and salvation; the role and meaning of the invocation and remembrance of God (dhikr Allah); the ephemeral nature of this world; the essential traits of Christians; the meaning of earthy tribulations; and the benefits of charity.
In addition the reader will discover the depths at which Quranic discourse has been understood by the mystics of Islam over the centuries (and up to the present day), a depth at which formal differences between traditions become less and less distinct and the similarities in the human quest for knowledge of the Divine ever more inspiring.