The Greatest Master Muhyiddin Ibn al-Arabi
The Greatest Master Muhyiddin Ibn al-Arabi

Most of these introductory articles are exracted from Volume I of the Single Monad Model of the Cosmos: Ibn al-Arabi's View of Time and Creation... more on this can be found here.

Dimensions of the Unseen world

Since we are now ordinarily 3-D creatures, we can not in general see jinn and angels because our ordinary sensory tools are used to detect only 3-D phenomena. In contrary to that, jinn and angels can see us - not because their senses are capable of perceiving 3-D phenomena, but because they rather perceive and interact with our souls and intellects which are of their own nature (of 2-D and 1-D respectively). Likewise jinn and humans can not in general see the angels. However, it is possible for humans to cross over to the jinn and angel worlds by transforming into 2-D and 1-D [I.168.20] and this is what happens to the seeker at the beginning of his path and in the spiritual ascension, which is why advanced human beings are able to speak and interact with spirits easily [III.332.11], until they ultimately witnesses the Real Himself. But in order to reach this final stage, the spiritual seeker must be 'annihilated' into 0-D, because the Real can only be witnessed by His secret ('the real through whom creation takes place') which He has implemented in everything [I.168.22, see also III.540.33].

Dimensions play a very important role in modern cosmology and mathematics. There are real dimensions and abstract dimensions. In principle, we can - mathematically - assign a dimension to any parameter of a specific function. For example the weather at any point on the earth is a function of many parameters such as time, place, the nuclear reactions on the sun, the amount of clouds in the area, the direction of winds, etc. Each one of these parameters can be considered as an abstract dimension for the sake of simplifying the mathematical study of the dependency of weather on these parameters/dimensions. Real dimensions, on the other hand, are only those three dimensions of space (i.e., length, width, depth; or x, y, z), and no more. Although time is considered as real dimension in Relativity, it is not a spatial dimension and so we shall not consider it as real in this regard (see also section II.5 above).

So here we shall speak only about the three real dimensions of space. In fact those three dimensions make six (as Ibn al-Arabi often points out), if we take into account that each dimension has two directions. Those six dimensions/directions are: (up, down), (right, left), (front, back); or (-x, +x), (-y, +y), (-z, +z).

I have to mention, however, that Ibn al-Arabi never arranged the creations in terms of dimensions as we are suggesting in this section; but this possibility is quite evident from his various texts, and many of his ideas can be easily understood on this basis, as we shall see shortly.

With regard to dimensions, existence can be divided into five categories, as we shall explain in the remainder of this chapter:

The Real:

He is the Being of 'zero dimension' (0-D): i.e., of no dimensions, which means He is independent of space and time. That is why Ibn al-Arabi sometimes symbolically indicates God as a dot or a point [III.275], for example as the centre of the circle of creation as we have seen in the cosmogonic diagram in Figure V.1; also, the dot that is used in many characters of the Arabic alphabet, especially the letters ba’ (?) and nun (?). However, 'the Real' here may refer to Allah Himself or also to the Greatest Element who is the Image of Real, or the 'real through whom creation takes place' (al-haqq al-makhluq bihi), and he is the true 'Image of God', as we have discussed in the two preceding chapters. So when we speak about the Real with regard to the creation and spatial dimensions, we usually mean the Greatest Element rather than Allah, since Allah Himself, His Essence, is beyond all descriptions including dimensions.

Figure VII.1: 0-D, a point. It actually has no length, width, or breadth. This is what is called a geometrical point.


As we have seen in an earlier diagram in Figure V.1, Ibn al-Arabi symbolically represents the world as a 'circle' whose centre is always the Real/real. The abstract point in the centre is one unit: i.e., it can not be divided or fragmented, nor can it be even described because it has no dimensions. However, this point faces the infinite multiplicity of the points in the circumference of the circle. Moreover, each point of the circle is similar to or an image of the central point. This is identical to the meaning of the hadith that Allah created the Human Being (and the world, according to Ibn al-Arabi) 'on His own Image' (see section III.1). Also each point in the circumference can be a centre to a new circle [III.275], just as everyone/everything has his own world, in his imagination. Also, any point of the circumference can be considered the beginning of it and also the end [I.259.24], so 'He is the First and the Last and Hidden (centre point) and Manifest (circumference)'. And each line that goes out of the central point reaches a point on the circumference. This means that everything originated from the Real (in the centre) and it returns to Him (on the circumference) [II.538.26], which can be understood as the cosmogonic meaning of the verse: to Him you return (2:28) and to Him everything returns (11:123). Finally, because all the points are in essence a manifestation of the Real, therefore 'the worm and the First Intellect are equal with respect to the essence, but the difference appeared in the form' [III.452.33]. Similarly, as Ibn al-Arabi points out:

Since the lines (the radii) that go out from the Point in the centre of the circle to the circumference that comes to exist through that Point are equal to all parts of the circumference, so likewise the (creative, existentiating) relation of the Real, the Exalted, to the totality of all existents is the same: there is no change in that relation at all. So all things are looking to Him and accepting from Him that (existence) which He bestows on them, just as the parts of the circumference are facing the Point (in the centre).


Moreover, any object is composed of a number of points which are similar but have different attributes; the object is the sum of those points. But we can not say that the object is (nothing but) the (particular) point, nor we can say that it is not the point. Similarly, the world is the sum of the manifestations of all the divine Names of Allah, the Real, but we can not say that the world is the Real, nor we can say that the world is not Him [III.275.32].

For Ibn al-Arabi, the Real is creating the world by continuously and endlessly manifesting Himself in different forms and forming the cosmos point by point (in series as we explained above), including the perceived, perception and the perceiver [II.484.22]. Therefore at any single instant of time (the 'now', or the real existence, hal) there exists only Him. This is not like saying that the things are Allah, 'because He is He, and the things are the things' [II.484.28], but they are the manifestations of the Names of Allah. In this sense, as we have just seen, 'every name in the world is His Name, not a name of other than Him; for it is the Name of the Manifest in the locus of manifestation' [II.122.14].

The identity or essence of each one of us (i.e., the individual soul) is a point in the circle of Creation, and so is the identity of everything in the world. So we can here clearly see the meaning of the verse: We shall show them Our signs on the horizons and within themselves until it becomes clear to them that it/He is the Real (41:53),[2] which can be then considered the most obvious Qur’anic basis of Ibn al-Arabi's understanding of the 'oneness of being'. Also, since each point of the circle is similar to the central point, 'whoever knows himself knows his Lord' [I.328.31, II.298.30].


The angels are beings of one dimension (1-D) and they are made of light (Insha’ al-Dawa’ir: 27). Angels are the first creatures: the Pen himself is an angel, and he is the first creature and everything else is 'written' by him in the Soul (the Protected Tablet), which is two dimensional as we shall see further below: so their relationship is just like a normal pen and writing-board, in that they are one- and two-dimensional respectively. Angels occur by the repeated manifestations of the Real (at least two subsequent manifestations); just as the line is composed of at least two points [III.276.3]. Ibn al-Arabi says:

The reality of the angel does not accept deviation, because he is the origin of the straight line connecting the two nines (of the divine Source and its human receptacles).[3] For bending (from that straight connection) is deviation, and he (the angel) does not have any bending, but he goes back and forth between the straight (creative) motion and the reverse motion (returning from the creature to God). So he is precisely the subtle thread (raqiqa: connecting the Source and the creatures) itself.


On the other hand, there is strong evidence in Ibn al-Arabi's texts that some angels indeed function as, among other things, forces of Nature: 'They are called angels (mala’ika) because they are links, conductors that link the godly rules and divine effects by material worlds because "al-malak" (the angel) in (Arabic) language means the "force" and the "intensity".' (Insha’ al-Dawa’ir: 27)

And he also says: 'There is no place in heaven or earth but that there is an angel in it. And the Real continues to create angels from the (creative divine) Breaths of the worlds, as long as they are still breathing.' [I.123.2]

It is also known in physics that there are four fundamental forces in nature, which are: the force of gravity, the electromagnetic force, the weak nuclear force, and the strong nuclear force. Nature is built upon these four forces. Those four forces can be conceived as manifestations of the four prime Archangels - Malik, Jibra’il (Gabriel), Mikha’il (Michael) and Israfil (Seraphiel) - , because Ibn al-Arabi affirms that those four angels are the ones who bear the Throne (al-‘arsh). Although it is mentioned in Qur’an that eight shall, in that Day (of resurrection), bear above them the Throne of thy Lord (69:17), he asserts that when this verse was recited before Muhammed, he said 'and they are today (in this world) four' [I.148.2, III.184.28, ad also: ‘Uqlat al-Mustawfiz: 43-4], 'and tomorrow (in the Hereafter) they are going to be eight' [I.149.29]. Ibn al-Arabi also explains that al-‘arsh (usually translated as 'the throne') in the Arabic tongue refers to 'the Kingdom' in addition to 'the Throne' [I.147.33], so if this verse refers to the divine Kingdom, then its bearers or holders are those who are in charge of its affairs, and these are like the four supports (awtad) who hold up the house. For this reason we find that Ibn al-Arabi also affirms that the four awtad (spiritual Pillars) by whom Allah sustains the earth get their power from the spirituality of these four angels [I.160.25, II.7.1], though he mentions here ‘Azra’il (the angel of death) instead of Malik (the master of Gehenna). In the Hereafter, he explains elsewhere, the three prophets Adam, Muhammed and Ibrahim (Abraham) in addition to angel Ridwan (the Warehouser of Paradise) shall also contribute, so those eight will be the holders/bearers of the Throne/Kingdom in the Hereafter [I.148.11]. We shall see further below that this helps explain why the Hereafter could be considered as four-dimensional (4-D).

Here Ibn al-Arabi also shows that the Throne is the Kingdom, and that it is confined in four things: body, spirit, food, and state. So those eight sustainers of the Throne are assigned the various duties as follows: 'Adam and Seraphiel for forms (for bodies), Gabriel and Muhammed for spirits, Michael and Abraham for subsistence, and Malik and Ridwan are for threat and promise (i.e., the states in Gehenna or Paradise).' [I.148.3]

Therefore, if we want to compare those four angels who hold up the divine Kingdom and the four elementary forces which operate in Nature, we can clearly see, for example, a correspondence between gravity and Seraphiel, since both operate upon the forms, the bodies. We can also see clear relations between the electromagnetic force and Michael, because both are responsible for subsistence and food, when remember that all the food that we eat is in the end produced by light and heat which are electromagnetic waves (forces) emitted by the sun. It is, however, not easy to establish the relation between Gabriel and Malik on the one hand and the weak and strong nuclear forces on the other hand, but we can mention that Gehenna is said in the Qur’an to be 'fuelled by stones' (2:24, 66:6), and this could mean the nuclear energy that is available inside the atoms for which those two nuclear forces are responsible.

Figure VII.2: 1-D, a line segment. It has a length, and it is created by moving a point.


On the other hand there are so many types of angels who also have different states or levels (37:164) and different structures. Some of those various types are mentioned in the Qur’an (37:1-3, 51:1-4, 77:1-5, 79:1-5, etc.), and Ibn al-Arabi talks about them in some detail very often in his writings [III.445.35-446.6, and also: Insha’ al-Dawa’ir: 27]. And it is quite clear by studying these types that they are assigned specific duties, just like the different forces in Nature (including the elementary and other forces).

Therefore, our suggestion that angels are beings of 1-D appears justified because such natural forces always operate in one dimension (they are also represented as vectors '?' in physics and mathematics), though their effects might appear in two or three dimensions as well.

Notice also that, just as the real (the Greatest Element) is 0-D and can be represented by a dot, the Single Monad is 1-D and can be represented by a line. In letters, the letter alif is made by the flow (sayalan) of the dot. So also the Single Monad is made by the flow (the repeated creative manifestation) of the Greatest Element (see figure 2 above).

The Jinn:

The jinn are beings of two dimensions (2-D) or four directions, and according to traditional sources they are made of fire. Ibn al-Arabi affirms that:

The fire jinn got the four (of letters) because of the facts they are based on that caused them to say as the Real, the Exalted, told: then I will approach them from between their hands, from behind them, from their right side and from their left side (7:17), and then their facts are over, they have no further fifth fact to seek through it further level, and you should be aware not to think that this is possible for them that to have the height (up) and its counterpart (down) by which the six directions are complete, because the (their) reality does not permit that as we affirmed in the book 'al-Mabadi wal-Ghayat'.


It is evident, therefore, that jinn can only move in four directions; the plane or the surface. They have no sense of height, so their space is a sub-space of ours, and that is why we do not see them, they are too thin and tenuous, just like the surface of a heat wave or flame. It is also noteworthy in this regard here that Allah said in Qur'an that the angels say: 'to Him (to Allah) belongs what is between our hands and what is behind us and what is between that' (19:64); so He did not mention the sides as in the case of jinn. This therefore supports what we said above about the angels being only 1-D.

Figure VII.3: 2-D, a unit square. It has length and width, and it is created by moving the line segment in a direction perpendicular to the line on which the segment lies.


In fact, just as the structure of angels is like our spirits, the jinn's structure is similar to the structure of our souls, as Ibn al-Arabi affirms: 'the inner (batin) of the human being is in fact jinn' [I.85.6], and also it is possible that the inner of jinn is angels and the inner of angels is the real, which is again another form to express the oneness of being.


Humans of course are beings of three dimensions (3-D) and they are made of earth or clay. As we said above, humans can decompose into 2-D and 1-D so that they may interact with jinn and angels, and they may also decompose into 0-D so that they may witness the Real, but they may not of course become like the Real as God though they may become like the 'real through whom creation takes place' who is the perfect Image of God, or the Perfect Human Being. And as we've said that this is the aim of the Sufi; to decompose into 0-D, which means to purify one's self and get rid of all the earthly (3-D) attachments.

Figure VII.4: 3-D, a unit cube. It has length, width, and depth. It is created by moving the square in a direction perpendicular to the plane. Notice that seven motions are needed to make up the cube.


The Hereafter:

We can not talk too much about the Hereafter, because it has been mentioned that it is different from what we may imagine [Kanz: 39236, 39241], but as we've mentioned above that the holders of the Throne/Kingdom are now four and in the Hereafter they shall be eight. So it is possible that the Hereafter will be four dimensional (4-D) because doubling the number of forces requires new dimensions for the new forces to operate.

Moreover, we notice that our major senses relate to dimensions in the following manner. Hearing requires only 1-D, because the propagation of sound waves is received by the ear one bit at a time. Seeing, on the other hand, requires 2-D because at any instance we may perceive a picture that occupies a surface. To conceive 3-D, however, we need imagination because the 3-D space that we conceive is built up as a result of the integration of 2-D pictures that we perceive through the flow of time. We only perceive 1-D, by hearing, and 2-D, by seeing, and we conceive 3-D, by imagination. So our thoughts, or imaginations, that we have in our memory are indeed mostly 2-D pictures (but also 1-D sounds) but by integrating them over time we conceive the volume. Thus, it is possible, and plausible, that in the Hereafter we shall gain new faculty, more advanced than imagination, that allow us to conceive of 4-D. In this case our thoughts shall be 3-D as confirmed by Ibn al-Arabi and many hadith that describe the Paradise. For example Ibn al-Arabi confirms that people in Paradise shall have the power of creating through the command 'be', just as Allah does in this world [al-Masa’il: 126, I.84.21, II.157.26, II.440.35, II.441.26, III.295.17], and he also affirms that this is also attainable (by some people) in this world [al-Masa’il: 126, III.295.14]. This is also called: al-fi‘l bil-himma (doing by intention or determination) [I.259.33].

On the other hand, and since we have seen that the Real is 0-D and that the angels are the first repeated manifestation of the Real, and so on the jinn are manifestations of the second order (in 2-D). Thus humans are more advanced and complex that jinn because they are created by the manifestations of the Real in the third order. Likewise, it is expected that the Hereafter shall be the fourth order manifestation.

The Creation is done through the Pen who is writing the words of the All-Merciful. This Pen started by writing the dot (absolute Spirits, including the real; 0-D) and then the angels by making a line (1-D), and he continued until a certain term where he started another line, thus making a plane (2-D) and that is the creation of jinn. After that and at the certain term also, he started making new planes, thus forming the volume (3-D) as we are in now. And eventually the Pen will start, at a certain term (ajal), a new dimension to open the life in the Hereafter (4-D). This 'term' is either the time of our death (al-ajal) or possibly the time of spiritual realization (al-fateh) which is also a kind of voluntary death [IV.354.19] (Morris 2002: 105-7). We have already seen in section II.11 that Ibn al-Arabi specified the starting times between those different terms (see Figure II.1).

It is also possible in Paradise that the Creation will continue, endlessly, into higher dimensions (n-D, where n is any integer number), more than 4. Maybe that is what it means when Ibn al-Arabi says: 'seeking (al-suluk; into Allah) is always requested in this life and also in the Hereafter. For if there was a destiny, it would have been possible to achieve (but there is no destiny)' [al-Masa’il: 203]. It is probably here where abstract mathematics - which can deal with any number of dimensions and different types of topological spaces - has anticipated this hypothetical structure of the world, whereas physicists up till now can not conceive of more than three dimensions.

Finally, we must add that conceiving the world in this way according to the dimensions will greatly help in any possible future computer simulations to test the Single Monad Model, because in this way we should be able to see whether the current structure of stars and galaxies could have happened starting from the initial conditions and rules that we described above and in Chapter IV when we discussed the actual flow of time.


[1] Wim van den Dungen, 'On Being and the Majesty of the Worlds', Reg. N°51, in SofiaTopiaNet; Sophia Society for philosophy, [].

[2] For Ibn al-Arabi's various comments on this verse in the Futuhat [I.156.15, I.238.13, I.279.16, II.16.32, II.150.34, II.209.9, II.225.6, II.296.6, II.298.33, II.556.32, III.275.33, III.315.6, III.344.30, IV.28.28, IV.93.3].

[3] Ibn al-Arabi explained before this text that angels correspond cosmologically to eighteen characters of the alphabet, which are produced as a result of the meeting between the nine divine donating (ilqa’) orbs and the nine human accepting (talaqqi) orbs, [I.54.12].

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