Within the immense Akbarian corpus, one finds alongside numerous scholarly treatises some quite short texts, which at first sight seem to fall within the domain of simple devotional literature. Yet the reality is utterly different. These prayers, transmitted from master to disciple, are much more than pious litanies. They are inspired invocations, each structured around a series of Divine Names. Every Name conceals the secrets and powers that belong to it: it must arise at a precise moment in the recitation in order for it to be effective. Such effectiveness is not magic, however. It presupposes that certain conditions are satisfied, the most important of which is purity of intention. In addition, the diversity of these forms of prayer and the modes of their use – whether regularly or occasionally, at a particular time or not, recited alone or in groups etc. – reflect the variety of individual or collective situations, and of interior dispositions.
It is one of these prayers, al-Dawr al-aʿlā, which can be found at the centre of the little book before you. At the centre, for it is surrounded by much precious information. Suha Taji-Farouki does not limit herself simply to establishing the text with rigorous exactitude, and providing a translation and transliteration of it. Combining a meticulous examination of written sources with patient fieldwork, she tells for the first time the long history of this prayer, identifying each of the personalities in the chains of transmission. Based upon many testimonies and from her own observations, she shows above all that the practice of the Dawr lives on today in very diverse milieux. With as much knowledge as empathy, she thus demonstrates the continuing currency of Ibn ʿArabi’s teaching.