Three Friends of God
From Sufis of Andalusia, by Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi
1. Abu Ja’far al-‘Uryani of Loule 
This master came to Seville when I was just beginning to acquire knowledge of the Way.  I was one of those who visited him. When I met him for the first time I found him to be one devoted to the practice of Invocation.  He knew, immediately he met me, the spiritual need that had brought me to see him.
He asked me, ‘Are you firmly resolved to follow God’s Way?’ I replied, ‘The servant may resolve, but it is God Who decides the issue.’ Then he said to me, ‘If you will shut out the world from you, sever all ties and take the Bounteous alone as your companion, He will speak with you without the need for any intermediary.’ I then pursued this course until I had succeeded.
Although he was an illiterate countryman, unable to write or use figures, one had only to hear his expositions on the doctrine of Unity to appreciate his spiritual standing. By means of his power of Concentration  he was able to control men’s thoughts, and by his words he could overcome the obstacles of existence. He was always to be found in a state of ritual purity, his face towards the qiblah  and continuously invoking God’s Names.
Once he was taken captive, along with others, by the Christians.  He knew that this would happen before it took place and he accordingly warned the members of the caravan in which he was travelling that they would all be taken captive on the next day. The very next morning, as he had said, the enemy ambushed them and captured every last man of them. To him, however, they showed great respect and provided comfortable quarters and servants for him. After a short time he arranged his release from the foreigners for the sum of five hundred dinars and travelled to our part of the country. 
When he had arrived it was suggested to him that the money be collected for him from two or three persons. To this he replied, ‘No! I would only want it from as many people as possible; indeed, were it possible I would obtain it from every-one in small amounts, for God has told me that in every soul weighed in the balance on the Last Day there is something worth saving from the fire. In this way I would take the good in every man for the nation of Muhammad.’
It is also told of him that, while he was still in Seville, someone came and informed him that the people living in the fortress of Kutamah  were in desperate need of rain, begging him to go there and pray for them, so that God might bring them rain.
Although there lay between us and the fortress the sea and an eight-day journey overland, he set off with a disciple of his named Muhammad. Before they set off someone suggested to him that it would be enough for him to pray for them without travelling to the fortress. He replied that God had commanded him to go to them in person.
When they had finally reached the fortress they found themselves barred from entering it. Nevertheless, unknown to them, he prayed for rain for them and God sent them rain within the hour. On his return he came to see us before going into the city. His disciple Muharninad later told us that when God had sent the rain it had fallen on all sides of them but that not a drop of it had touched them. When he expressed his surprise to the master that the mercy of God did not descend upon him also, the master replied that it would have done so if only he had remembered when they were at the fortress. 
One day, while I was sitting with him, a man brought his son to the master. He greeted him and told his son to do the same. By this time our master had lost his sight. The man informed him that his son was one who carried the whole of the Qur’an in his memory. On hearing this the master’s whole demeanour changed as a spiritual state came upon him.  Then he said to the man, ‘It is the Eternal which carries the transient. Thus it is the Qur’an which both supports and preserves us and your son.’ This incident is an example of his states of spiritual Presence. 
He was staunch in the religion of God and in all things blameless. Whenever I went to see him he would greet me with the words, ‘Welcome to a filial son,  for all my children have betrayed me and spurned by blessings  except you who have always acknowledged and recognized them; God will not forget that.’
Once I enquired of him how his spiritual life had been in the early days. He told me that his family’s food allowance for a year had been eight sack-loads of figs,  and that when he was in spiritual retreat his wife would shout at him and abuse him, telling him to stir himself and do something to support his family for the year. At this he would become confused and would pray, O my Lord, this business is beginning to come between You and me, for she persists in scolding me. Therefore, if You would have me continue in worship, relieve me of her attentions; if not tell me so.’ One day God called him inwardly, saying, ‘O Ahmad, continue in your worship and rest assured that before this day is over I will bring you twenty loads of figs, enough to last you two and a half years.’ He went on to tell me that before another hour had passed a man called at his house with a gift of a sack-load of figs. When this arrived God indicated to him that this was the first of the twenty loads. In this way twenty loads had been deposited with him before the sun set. At this his wife was most grateful and his family well content.
The Shaikh was much given to meditation and in his spiritual states generally experienced great joy and hope. 
On my last visit to him, may God have mercy on his soul, I was with a company of my fellows. We entered his house to find him sitting and we greeted him. It happened that one of our company was intending to ask him a question on some matter or other, but as soon as we had entered, he raised his head to us and said, ‘Let us all consider a point which I have previously put to you, O Abu Bakr (meaning me), for I have always wondered at the saying of Abu al-‘Abbas b. al-‘Arif,  “That which never was passes away, while He Who ever is subsists.” We all know that that which never was passes away and that He Who ever is subsists, so what does he mean by it?’ None of the others in our company were prepared to answer him so he offered the question to me. As for me, though I was well able to deal with the question, I did not do so, being very restrained in speaking out. This the Shaikh knew and he did not repeat the question.
When he retired for sleep he did not remove his clothes and when he experienced Audition  he did not become disturbed, but when he heard the Qur’an being recited his restraint broke down and he became very agitated.  One day I was praying with him at the house of my friend Abu ‘Abdallah Muhammad al-Khayyat,  known as the starcher (al-‘Assad), and his brother Abu al-‘Abbas Ahmad al-Hariri,  when the Imam  was reciting the chapter of the Qur’an entitled ‘The Tiding’.  When he came to the place where God says, ‘Have we not made the earth a resting place and the mountains for supports…’  I became abstracted from the Imam and his recitation and saw inwardly our Shaikh, Abu Ja’far, saying to me, ‘The resting place is the world and the supports are the believers; the resting place is the community of the believers and the supports are the gnostics; the gnostics are the resting place and the prophets are the supports; the prophets are the resting place and the apostles are the supports; the apostles are the resting place and then what?’  He also uttered other spiritual truths, after which my attention returned once more to the reading of the Imam as he was reciting, ‘. . . and He speaks aright. That is the true day.’  After the prayer I asked him about what I had seen and found that his thoughts concerning the verse had been the same as I had heard him express in my vision.
One day a man rushed upon him, knife in hand, to kill him, at which the Shaikh calmly offered his neck to the man. The Shaikh’s companions tried to seize the fellow, but the Shaikh told them to leave him alone to do what he had been urged to do. No sooner had he raised the knife to cut the Shaikh’s throat than God caused the knife to twist about in the man’s hand so that he took fright and threw the knife to the ground. Then he fell down at the Shaikh’s feet full of remorse.
Were it not for the lack of space I would have related much more concerning this man, of his amazing aphorisms and the discussions we had on spiritual questions.
This Shaikh had turned to God while attending the sessions (maflis) of the Shaikh Abû ‘Abdallah b. al-Hawwâs whom I met and with whom I established a true companionship. I have omitted his Shaikh from this selection since he does not come within the category of persons considered in this work.
Al-‘Uryani was well known for his being engaged in Invocation whether he was awake or asleep;  I myself would often watch his tongue moving in Invocation while he was sleeping. His spiritual states were intense and the people of the locality were ill-disposed towards him, so much so that one of the leading members of the community persuaded them to expel him.  It was in this way that he came to us in Seville.
As a result of their action God sent to the people of that place one of the Jinn,  called Khalaf, who occupied the house of the above-mentioned leader and forced him out. This Jinn stayed in the house and called the people of the place to come to him, which they did. When they had come to the house they heard the voice of the Jinnasking one of their number if something had been taken from his house and whether he suspected anyone of taking it. Having answered in the affirmative to both questions the Jinn told him that he was wrong in his suspicions and that the name of the real culprit was so and so who was in love with his wife and had committed adultery with her. The Jinn then bade him go and see for himself and he found all that the Jinn had told him to be true. In this way the Jinn continued to expose their hidden evils and vices to them and their children until he drove them to despair. When they begged him to leave them alone he replied that he had been inflicted upon them by ‘Abdallah (al-‘Uryani). He remained with them for a period of six months, after which time they came to al-‘Uryani and begged him to return to the town, imploring him to forgive them for what they had done to him. The Shaikh relented and returned to that place to relieve them of the Jinn. The affair became famous throughout …
One day when I was with him he asked for something to drink. One of his female disciples got up and brought him a jug in a copper stand with a lid of copper. When he saw it he said, ‘I have no wish to drink what lies between two unlucky things.  I then brought him another jug. God made of every-thing his senses conveyed to him a means of teaching him some wisdom.
2: Abu Ya’qub Yusuf B. Yakhlaf al-Kumi 
This Shaikh had been one of the companions of Abu Madyan  and had met many of the most prominent Sufis of this land. For a time he had lived in Egypt and had married in Alexandria.  Abu Tahir al-Salafi  had wanted him to marry into his family. On one occasion he was offered the governorship of Fez, but he refused. He was one of those who are well established on the Way. Abu Madyan, who was the spokesman of our order and the one who revived it in the West, said of Abu Ya’qûb, that he was as a safe anchorage is to a ship.
He was much given to private devotions and always gave alms in secret. He honoured the poor and humbled the rich, ministering in person to the needs of the destitute. While I was in his charge he instructed me and looked after me most excellently.
My companion, ‘Abdallah Badr al-H.abashi,  knew him well and the Shaikh died at his house. He used to say of the Shaikh that he could, if he wished, raise the postulant from the lowest depth to the highest spiritual height in a moment. His powers of Concentration were considerable. He followed, for the most part the rule of the Malâmiyyah.  He was seldom to be seen without a frown on his face, but when he saw a poor man his face would light up with joy; I have even seen him take one of the poor into his lap and he himself frequently acted as servant to his followers.
I saw him in a dream on one occasion and his breast seemed to be cleft asunder and a light like that of the sun shone out from it. In the dream he called out to me to come to him. I came to him with some large white bowls which he proceeded to fill to the brim with milk. I drank the milk from the bowls as fast as he filled them.  Wonderful indeed is the spiritual grace I have received from him, as also from Abu Muhammad al-Mawruri, whom I will mention later. 
At our first meeting, the first question he put to me, with all his concentration fixed upon me, was, ‘What is the sin of him who passes in front of one praying, the enormity of which is such he would wish he had stood where he was for forty years?’ I answered him correctly and he was pleased with me. 
When I would sit before him or before others of my Shaikhs, I would tremble like a leaf in the wind, my voice would become weak and my limbs would shake. Whenever he noticed this he would treat me kindly and seek to put me at my ease which only increased my awe and reverence for him.
This Shaikh had a great affection for me, but concealed it from me by showing more favour to others and displaying a distant manner towards me, commending what others had to say, but taking me to task at gatherings and sessions. He went so far in this that my fellows, while we were all together under his charge and in his service,  began to think little of my spiritual progress. However, praise be to God, I alone of the whole group achieved real success in my studies with him, which the Shaikh himself later admitted.
Another experience I had with this Shaikh is worthy of mention. Firstly, it must be explained that I had not at that time seen the Epistle of al-Qushairi  or any other master, being quite unaware that any of our Way had written anything, nor was I acquainted with the proper terminology of the Sufis.
One day the Shaikh mounted his horse and bade me and one of my companions follow him to Almonteber,  a mountain about three miles distant from Seville. Accordingly, when the city gate had been opened in the morning, I set out with my companion who had with him a copy of al-Qushairi’s Epistle. We climbed the mountain and found the Shaikh at the top and his servant holding his horse. Then we entered the mosque at the top of the mountain and performed the ritual prayer.  When we had finished he turned his back on the mihrâb  and gave me the Epistle, telling me to read from it. My awe of him was so great that I could not put two words together and the book fell from my hands. Then he told my companion to read it and expounded upon what was read until it was time for the late-afternoon prayer which we performed.  After the prayer the Shaikh suggested that we all return to the town. He mounted his horse and set off, while I ran alongside holding onto the stirrup: Along the way he talked to me of the virtues and miracles of Abu Madyan.  As for myself, I was so absorbed by what he was telling me, looking up at him all the time, that I was completely oblivious to my surroundings. Suddenly he looked at me and smiled and, spurring his horse, made me run the more quickly to keep up with him. Then he stopped and said to me, ‘Look and see what you have left behind you!’ When I looked back I saw that all the way was waist-high with thorn bushes and that the whole ground was covered with thorns. Then he told me to look at my feet and my clothes. I looked and found not a single trace of the thorns. Then he said, ‘This is the result of the spiritual grace engendered by our talking of Abû Madyan; so persevere on the Way, my boy, and you will surely find salvation.’ Then he spurred his horse on and left me behind. I learnt much from him.
It was a characteristic peculiar to this Shaikh that when he prescribed spiritual exercises for the postulant to perform, he always performed them himself, even if there were two or three of them working on different exercises. This never seemed to weary him.
One day, when I was sitting with him after the late-afternoon prayer, he perceived that I was anxious to leave. When he enquired of me the reason for my unease I explained to him that I had four obligations to fulfil for certain people, that I had only so much time in which to do so and that if I stayed with him I would no longer be able to find the people concerned. At this he smiled and said, ‘If you leave me now and go off, not one of your obligations will be discharged, so sit with me while I tell you of the spiritual states of Abu Madyan. As for your tasks I will ensure that they are carried out.’ I sat with him and when the time came for the sunset prayer he said to me, ‘Go home now and you will find that before you have prayed the sunset prayer all your obligations will have been fulfilled.’
So earnest was I in seeking his company that I used often to wish that he might be present with me in our house at night to deal with some problem or other. At such times I would see him before me, whereupon I would put questions to him and he would answer me. In the morning I would go and tell him what had happened. The same thing would also happen during the day when I was at home, if I wished it.
This Shaikh’s virtues, powers and expertise were such as I cannot possibly enumerate here. 
This Shaikh of mine provided me with much instruction concerning the matter of spiritual Union,  expounded according to the following sayings: ‘I am the chief of the sons of Adam’; ‘Adam and those that come after him are under my banner’; ‘Direction is the half of livelihood’; ‘When God loves His servant He tries him’; ‘The heart of the Qur’an is the chapter “Yasin”.  None other in our land knew more than he on this matter and others which I cannot now remember, may God be pleased with him.
55: Nunah Fatimah Bint Ibn Al-Muthanna
She lived at Seville. When I met her she was in her nineties and only ate the scraps left by people at their doors. Although she was so old and ate so little, I was almost ashamed to look at her face when I sat with her, it was so rosy and soft. Her own special chapter of the Qur’an was ‘The Opening’. She once said to me, “I was given The Opening and I can wield its power in any matter I wish.”
I, together with two of my companions, built a hut of reeds for her to live in. She used to say, “Of those who come to see me, I admire none more than Ibn al-‘Arabi.” On being asked the reason for this she replied, “The rest of you come to me with part of yourselves, leaving the other part of you occupied with your other concerns, while Ibn al-‘Arabi is a consolation to me, for he comes to me with all of himself. When he rises up it is with all of himself and when he sits it is with his whole self, leaving nothing of himself elsewhere. That is how it should be on the Way.”
Although God offered to her His Kingdom, she refused, saying, “You are all, all else is inauspicious for me.” Her devotion to God was profound. Looking at her in a purely superficial way one might have thought she was a simpleton, to which she would have replied that he who knows not his Lord is the real simpleton. She was indeed a mercy to the world.
Once, on the night of the Festival, Abu ‘Amir, the muezzin, struck her with his whip in the mosque. She gave him a look and left the place feeling very angry with him. In the morning she heard him calling to prayer and said, “O my Lord, do not rebuke me that I was affected by one who calls Your Name in the darkness of the night while other men sleep, for it is my Beloved who is mentioned on his lips. O God, do not censure him because of my feeling against him.”
The next morning the jurists of the locality went, after the Festival prayer, to convey their respects to the Sultan. This muezzin, full of worldly aspiration, went in with them. When the Sultan enquired who the fellow might be, he was told that it was only the muezzin. Then the Sultan asked who had allowed him to come in with the jurists and ordered him to be thrown out, which he was. However, after someone had pleaded with the Sultan for him he was let off, although the Sultan had intended to punish him. Fatimah heard about this incident and said, “I know about it, and if I had not prayed for leniency for him he would have been executed.” Her spiritual influence was very great indeed. After this she died.
Some of the believing Jinn would sit with her, seeking her companionship, but she would refuse them and ask them to remain hidden and would remind them of what the Apostle of God had said the night he caught the demon, “I remembered the words of my brother Solomon and used them on it.”
At first she had earned her living on a spindle. Then it occurred to her to earn her keep by hand-spinning, but God caused her spinning finger to become crippled from the moment she started on the work. I had noticed the finger and had asked her about it. She then told me the story and told me that she had, from that day relied upon the scraps of food thrown from people’s houses. She came to the Way while still a young girl living in her father’s house. I met her when she was already ninety-six years of age.
She had married a righteous man whom God had afflicted with leprosy. She served him happily for twenty-four years until he was taken to God’s mercy. When she became hungry and no scraps or offerings of food came her way she would be content and thank God for His favour in that he was subjecting her to that to which He had subjected his prophets and Saints. She would say, “Lord, how can I deserve this great position in that You treat me as You treated Your loved ones?”
One day I built a hut for her of palm branches in which to perform her devotions. That same night the oil in her lamp ran out, something which had never happened to her before. I never learned the secret of that from her. She got up to open the door to ask me to bring her some more oil and, in the darkness, plunged her hand into some water in the bucket(?) underneath her. At this she cursed and the water was immediately changed into oil. She then took the jug and filled it with the oil, lit the lamp and came back to see from where the oil had come. When she saw no further trace of oil she realized that it had been a provision from God.
One day when I was with her a woman came to see her to complain of her husband who had gone away to Sidonia, two days’ journey from Seville. She told us that her husband wanted to seek another wife in that place, which she found hard to accept. I asked Fatimah whether she had heard the woman’s plea and begged her to call upon God to restore her husband to her. She said, “I will make no supplication, but I will cause the chapter ‘The Opening’ (Al-Fatihah) to follow behind him and bring him back.” I then said, “In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate”, and she recited the rest of the chapter. Then she said, “O chapter of ‘The Opening’, go to Jerez de Sidonia to the husband of this woman and drive him back at once from wherever you find him and do not let him delay.” She said this sometime between noon and the late afternoon.
On the third day the man arrived at his home. Then the woman came to inform us of his arrival and to thank us. I then told her to bring her husband to us. When he came we asked him what had brought him back from Jerez, when he had intended to marry and settle down there. He replied that he had left his house in the middle of the afternoon heading towards the municipal building for the marriage and that on the way he had felt a constriction in his heart and everything seemed suddenly very dark to him. At this he became very anxious. Then he left that place and arrived in Triana before sunset, where he had found a boat for Seville. Thus he had sailed the day before and had arrived in Seville that morning, having left all his baggage and effects behind in Jerez. He admitted that he still did not know why he had done it. I have seen various miracles performed by her.
 Esad. Cf. 1777 f. 916.