Three poems on the nature of Jesus

Three poems from the chapter on ‘The Wisdom of Elevation and Prophecy in the word of Jesus’, from the Fuṣūṣ al-ḥikam by Ibn ʿArabi, translated from the Arabic by Cecilia Twinch

From the water of Mary or the blowing of Gabriel,

     In the form of a human being created from clay,

The spirit was made existent in a being purified

     From the nature which is called ‘prison’.

Because of that, his remaining there has been prolonged

     For a specified time, more than a thousand years.

A spirit from God and no other -

     That is why he brought the dead to life and created the bird from clay,

So that his origin from his Lord would be confirmed,

     And by it he would have influence on the high and the low.

God cleansed him in body and purified him in spirit

     And made him a symbol of His act of creation


As for the spiritual bringing to life through knowledge, this is luminous, sublime, eternal, divine life about which God said, “Or whoever was dead and we brought him to life and we made for him a light with which he walks among the people”( Q. 6:122). Anyone who revives a dead soul through the life of knowledge, with regard to a particular question relating to the knowledge of God, has brought him to life by it, so it is for him ‘a light with which he walks among the people’, that is, among those resembling him in form.

Were it not for Him and were it not for us

     that which is would not have been.

We are truly servants

    and God is our master;

And we are the same as Him. Know this

     when you say ‘human being’

And do not be veiled by human being.

     He has given you proof,

So be the Real (haqq) and be creation (khalq)!

     You will be, through God, All-compassionate.

Nourish His creation through Him,

     You will be a “refreshing repose and reviving scent.” (Q.56:89)

We give Him that by which He appears in us,

     and He gives to us.

The affair becomes shared

     between Him and us.

the one who knows in my heart gives Him life

     when He gives us life.

In Him, we were beings

     and potentialities and moments.

In us, it is not always so,

     but only so at times.


Whoever wants to know the divine Breath (nafas), let them know the world, because ‘whoever knows their self (nafs), knows their Lord’ who manifests in them; that is, the world manifests in the Breath of the All-compassionate by which God relieved the divine Names from the suffering of not manifesting their effects. He bestowed blessings on Himself by what he brought into being in His Breath. The first effect of the divine Breath was in the divine Presence (janāb), then the order continued to descend with the alleviation of distress until the last degree of existence.

All is in the Breath itself

     Like light in the dark before dawn;

And knowledge by proof

     Is in the breaking of the day, for the sleeper-

He sees what I have said as a dream, pointing to the Breath;

     And it relieves him of all distress,

As in reciting the chapter “He frowned” (Q. 80).

     He revealed Himself to [Moses] when he came seeking a firebrand –

He saw Him [in the burning bush] as fire,

     Though He is light for kings and night patrols.

If you have understood my words,

     You know that you are afflicted and needy.

Had he been seeking something else,

     He would have seen Him in that, without transposing.