Woman as spiritual teacher, guiding shaykh, and divine mother
Tuesday, May 1, 2012 8:04:49 AM
woman of gnosis from Seville, Fatima bint al-Muthanna of Cordoba. In his youth, Ibn 'Arabî
served her, himself, for about two years. This
is longer than any period of time he spent in the "company" of a sufi gnostic, inasmuch as the words "serve" and "company" denote in sufi terminology, taking and learning from, being polished by association and company and service, all of which is unveiled by sufis in an
educational method quite different from that of the faqih who requires intellectual force-feeding.
When Ibn 'Arabî says "I served", it means he took the person served as a shaykh, a guide, and a spiritual teacher. Therefore, Fatima bint al-Muthanna was for Ibn 'Arabî all that a shaykh is to a murid.
Ibn 'Arabî, the murid, acknowledged the role of the Sevillean gnostic in his rebirth, and accepted his spiritual descent from her, which he never did with any of the shaykhs he accompanied and served during his lifetime. She was the only one he called "my mother". And she used to tell him:
"I am your divine mother, and the light of your earthly mother."
The influence of this gnostic lady on the rebirth of Ibn 'Arabî appears in the few passages he relates
in the Futuhat which include her contemplations and the gifts of sainthood that were granted to her. She used to say to Ibn 'Arabî for example, "I wonder at him who says he loves God and yet is not rejoiced by Him, for He is the one witnessed by him, His eye observes him in every eye, and He is not hidden from him, not for one moment."
Ibn 'Arabî came to know her station when she told him that the Fatiha of the Quran served her.
He learned first-hand when she recited the Fatiha for a matter she desired and he read with her. As a result of her reading, she created a three-dimensional ethereal image of the Fatiha, and asked it to carry out such and such an order.
He also mentions benefiting from this gnostic lady's knowledge in the field of the science of letters, which is a science of saints.
Therefore, the Sevillean gnostic manifested in the life of Ibn 'Arabî in the position of guiding saint and spiritual teacher, and he was not embarrassed to learn from her, or to surrender to her leadership, or to stand as a murid before her knowledge. This is practical proof of Ibn 'Arabî's declaration that a woman can be a shaykh and a spiritual guide, and that men are allowed to be among her disciples. So let no attention be paid to those who do not see that a man can be the disciple of a woman on the pretext of the mixing of the sexes, because historically and to this day, women have been numbered among the disciples of male shaykhs.
The issue here is the aptitude for knowledge and learning, which allows a woman to take on her rightful role in the life of a disciple.