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Title: 'Abd al-Karīm al-Jīlī's Sufi metaphysical treatment of the scriptures in al-Insān al-kāmil
Author: Morrissey, Fitzroy
ISNI:       0000 0004 7654 3589
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2018
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This thesis is a study of the Sufi metaphysics of 'Abd al-Karīm al-Jīlī (d. early 9th/15th century), focusing in particular on his treatment of the scriptures. It begins with an overview of al-Jīlī's general Sufi metaphysics, as presented in his influential yet relatively little-studied work, al-Insān al-kāmil (The Perfect Man). I identify three principal theories within al-Jīlī's Sufi metaphysics: the theories of universal theophany, the levels of existence, and the Perfect Man. I show how these ideas are grounded in the Sufi metaphysics of Ibn 'Arabī, yet are elaborated in a somewhat different way to what we find in the works of Ibn 'Arabī and his best-known interpreters. Having thus set out al-Jīlī's broader intellectual scheme, I subsequently show, through a close reading of chapters thirty-four, thirty-six, and thirty-eight of al-Insān al-kāmil (which have not previously been translated into a European language), how he applies that scheme to the most important scriptures universally recognised in Islam: the Qur'an, Torah, and Gospel. As al-Jīlī sees it, these different scriptures constitute different forms of divine manifestation (tajalliyyāt), and thus reveal different aspects of the divine to differing degrees of completeness. From this idea there emerges a hierarchy of scriptures, as well as a corresponding hierarchy of prophets. At the top of this hierarchy stand the Qur'an, which manifests the simple divine essence itself, and Muhammad, who similarly manifests the divine essence and attributes in the most complete way, and is thus the archetypal Perfect Man (al-insān al-kāmil). Below the Qur'an and Muhammad come the Gospel and Jesus and the Torah and Moses, each of them constituting genuine yet limited manifestations of God. This sense of hierarchy is reinforced by al-Jīlī's discussion of the various forms of knowledge ('ulūm) or mysteries (asrār) contained in the different scriptures, and the various doctrines that are subsequently derived from them by the Jews, Christians, and Muslims. By insisting on the superiority of the Qur'an, Muhammad and Islam, al-Jīlī remains within the overall framework of the orthodox Sunni Islamic view of sacred history, even while presenting a Sufi metaphysical version of that orthodox narrative. The thesis thus serves as a case study into how an important figure in the Ibn 'Arabian tradition engages with and develops an important aspect of the Islamic tradition from his particular Sufi metaphysical perspective.
Supervisor: Nettler, Ronald Sponsor: Clarendon Fund
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Intellectual History ; Religious Studies ; Islamic Studies