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.

The Principle of Ever-renewed Creation

The Principle of Ever-renewed Creation:

Ibn al-Arabi's conception of time is profoundly rooted in one of the most famous and distinctive - and uniquely and problematically experiential - features of his world-view, the principle of the 'ever-renewed creation' of all the manifest worlds at every instant. Thus he affirms, in a more abstract statement of this perception:

There is no doubt that the 'accidents' [i.e., the particular forms taken by creation in all the different levels of existence at each moment] become nonexistent in the second instant-of-time after the instant of their coming into existence. So the Real is continuously watching over the world of bodies and the higher and lower (spiritual and imaginal) substances, such that whenever a (particular) form through which they exist becomes nonexistent, He creates at that same instant another form like it or opposed to it, which (new creation) preserves it from non-existence at every instant. So He is continuously creating, and the world is continuously in need of Him.


He also makes it clear that this continuously renewed 'return to non-existence' is an intrinsic condition of all the created forms, and not due to any external force [II.385.4]. Typically Ibn al-Arabi relates this fundamental insight to the Qur’anic verse: but they are unaware of the new creation (khalq jadid) (50:15), which he frequently quotes[1] - along with the famous verse concerning the 'Day of the divine Task' (55:29) that he cites in relation to his intimately related concept of the quantisation of time.

Therefore the existence of things in the world is not continuous, as we imagine and observe, because Allah is continuously and perpetually creating every thing whatsoever - at every level and domain of existence - at every instant, or in every single 'Day of event' [II.454.21, II.384.30]. This means that, just as time (for Ibn al-Arabi) may exist only at one atomic instant at a time, so also space (and whatever it may contain) also exists only one instant at a time. In fact there is no difference between space and time: they are both containers for events (see sections II.1 and III.6).

We have already seen in previous chapters that according to this principle of ever-renewed creation, Ibn al-Arabi explains motion (section II.6) in a new unique and unprecedented manner, and he also explains the 'intertwining' of days (section IV.4) as well as some other related philosophical and theological concepts. Indeed this hypothetical (though Ibn al-Arabi affirmed it through unveiling) principle forms the basis of Ibn al-Arabi's overall view of the world, and we shall use it as one of three key hypotheses in the following chapter in which we explain his 'Single Monad Model of the Cosmos'.

Of course this re-creation must be happening at extraordinarily high 'rates of refreshment', but Ibn al-Arabi has no difficulty in finding scriptural allusions and theological and other arguments supporting this distinctive conception, in addition to the direct experiential evidence of the spiritual 'knowers' (‘urafa’). He says:

The form becomes non-existent in the next instant-of-time after the time of its coming into existence, so the Real is always Creator, and the monad (substance, jawhar) is always in need (of the Creator for its existence). For if the form would remain (for two instants of time or longer), those two principles would not hold. But this is impossible [at least theologically speaking, since otherwise the creatures would be independent of Allah, whereas only Allah maybe described as (completely) Self-sufficient (al-Ghani), while everything created has the essential intrinsic quality of ontological 'poverty' (faqr) or need of the Creator for its very existence], so it is impossible for the (created) form to remain for two instants of time (or longer).

(Al-Tanazzulat Al-Layliyya: 55)

So from the theological point of view, neither the forms nor the essences of the created world may remain (constant) for more than one moment because if they do they would be independent of the Creator - whereas both the essence and the 'accidents' or form of the creatures are always in need of their Creator. The essence needs ever-renewed forms because it exists only when it wears a form; and the form does not stay the same, because if it did so, the Real would not be Perpetually-Creating (Khallaq), and the individual form would be at least partly independent of the Real.

In addition, Ibn al-Arabi argues in similar theological terms that there are never any two truly identical forms, since otherwise Allah will not be described as 'the Infinitely Vast' (al-Wasi‘). But because of this unique divine Vastness (al-ittisa‘ al-ilahi) [I.266.8], the monad will never wear two identical forms: i.e. it never wears exactly the same form for more than one instant; nothing is ever truly repeated [I.721.22]. The new forms, he admits, are often 'similar' to the previous ones but they are not the 'same' [II.372.21, III.127.24]. Ibn al-Arabi summarized this argument as follows:

The world at every instant of time (zaman fard) is re-formed (takawwun) and disintegrated. So the individual entity of the substance of the world (‘ayn jawhar al-‘alam) has no persistence (in existence) except through its receiving of this formation (takwin) within it. Therefore the world is in a state of needfulness perpetually: either the forms are in need (of a creator) to bring them forth from non-existence into existence; or else the substance [jawhar: i.e., the substrate for the created 'forms' or 'accidents'] is in need to preserve its existence, because unavoidably a condition for its existence is the existence of the formation of those (newly re-created forms) for which it is a substrate.


Elsewhere Ibn al-Arabi gives a very short statement of this general ontological argument which is rather difficult to follow. There he says:

The doer (al-fa‘il) may not do nothing (although we use this expression widely in our daily language, but it is logical nonsense to say 'do nothing'.), and the thing may not become non-existent (simply) by its opposite, because (the thing and its opposite) may not meet, and (also) because the opposite does not exist (at that same time)... So that is why we said that (the form) becomes non-existent by itself (not through an external force or action) and is impossible to remain (in existence for two moments or longer).

(Al-Tanazzulat Al-Layliyya: 55, see also: I.39.8)

Ibn ‘Arabi also made the same basic arguments near the beginning of the Futuhat, through the tongue of a mysterious 'western Imam' who summarizes in an extremely condensed form - usually using rhymed prose and the language and terminology of kalam theology - a series of challenging ontological premises subscribed to by those who have moved beyond the simple creed of the common believers, which forms the second of the four levels of faith Ibn al-Arabi explained at the beginning of the Futuhat, and the mysterious speaker's remarks in this section are roughly based on Ghazali intentionally popular kalam treatise al-Iqtisad fi al-I‘tiqad:

…(4) Then he said: 'Whatever individual entity (is said to) appear, but which does not give rise to any (distinctive) quality, then its existence is obviously impossible, since it does not give rise to any knowledge (as would be the case with anything that actually exists).'

(5) Then he said: 'And it is impossible for it to fill different places, because its travelling (from one place to another) would be in the second instant of time of the time of its existence in itself, but it does not continue to reside (over two instants). And if it were possible for it to move by itself, then it would be self-subsistent and would have no need of place. Nor does (the advent of) its opposite make it cease to exist, because it (the opposite) does not exist (at the same time in the same place). Nor does (another) doer ('make it into nothing'), because although people do use the expression 'doing nothing', no intelligent person maintains that (is possible).


These statements are based on two issues: 1- the forms in the worlds of manifestation may not remain longer than a single instant of time, since otherwise they would be independent and self-subsistent; and 2- the created forms intrinsically return to non-existence after every instant. Otherwise they would either be brought into non-existence by the existence of their opposite (which can not exist at the same time and place, and therefore itself has to be newly created), or by another doer who 'makes them non-existent', which is also not logical, because it is nonsense to take literally the expression 'do nothing', where the result of an action is pure non-existence.

Something verbally resembling this notion of the 're-creation' or the perpetual 'recurrence of creation' had earlier been employed by the kalam scholars (MacEy 1994: 47, MacDonald 1927: 326-44) and particularly the Ash‘arites who, like Ibn al-Arabi, maintained that the world is composed of substances and accidents (Corbin 1969: 203, Wolfson 1976: 466-517), or monads (substances: jawhar) and their forms or 'accidents' (‘arad). Ibn al-Arabi acknowledged their contribution - and certainly borrowed much of their theological language, giving it his own distinctive meanings - but he also took it a very important step further by saying that even those existing monads are only copies or reflections of the Single Monad/Substance that alone has a real existence [III.404.25, Al-Masa’il: 32]. Therefore, all the forms and monads in all the worlds are continuously and perpetually created and re-created by this Single Monad. Understanding the world therefore requires us to explain and understand how this Single Monad creates the monads and the forms, or in other words: how to link the unique oneness of the Creator and the observable multiplicity of the world.

We shall also see in section VII.6 that with the re-creation principle one can easily resolve the standard EPR criticism of the (apparent) inconsistency between quantum theory and the theory of relativity, which arises due to our inadequate understanding of the nature of time.



[1] See for example in the Futuhat: [I.79.5, I.461.25, I.735.17, II.356.26, II.372.23, II.451.33, II.471.32, II.554.18, III.105.27, III.199.11, III.288.16, III.362.16, IV.9.9, IV.320.5, IV.343.16, IV.367.18, IV.379.1, IV.397.22, IV.418.20].

Please note that some contents are translated Semi-Automatically!