رمزية الألف عند ابن عربي / The Symbolism of the Letter Alif in Ibn ʿArabi


Hala Fouad



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فؤاد, هالة; Fouad, Hala

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Research Article

Publication Title

Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics

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[This article deals with the existential and epistemological symbolism of alif (the first letter in the Arabic alphabet) in the work of Ibn ʿArabi where the letter is transformed from being a linguistic sign to becoming a symbolic image whose dense signification varies from one context to the other. Such multiple significations are revealed through the journey of interpretation and discovery which any seeker of knowledge must undertake, as he/ she penetrates the pages of life and text -- both considered mirror images of the ongoing, never ending, forever new revelations of the Divine. In elaborating this symbolic image of the letter alif, Ibn ʿArabi draws on all the linguistic, formal as well as mathematical, possibilities of the sign. With all this, Ibn ʿArabi constructs the philosophical signification of the symbol as the origin of all signification: it includes, contains and draws on all others. By employing and mixing all the possibilities of alif (including hamz and madd) as a letter, Ibn ʿArabi renders all its existential and epistomological analogies. Hence, alif becomes analogous to the self, the divine and the perfect human being. All relationships between the alif and other letters are elaborated within the framework of these analogies. For alif is the origin and source of all letters; its spirituality and truth permeate all others. However, it is not dependent on these other letters -- it exists on its own, with its own forms. Its disappearance would cause all others to disappear. The multiple significations of the alif do not mean that Ibn ʿArabi falls into contradiction. On the contrary, such multiple significations indicate the multiple facets of the one truth, or rather the dense layering of symbolic signification. For illustration of the letter alif in Arabic writing, see Appendix I, and for modern calligraphic rendering of Ibn 'Arabi's maxims, see Appendix II.]

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