al-Insān al-Kāmil

views updated

al-Insān al-Kāmil (The Perfect Man). An expression perhaps first compounded by Ibn ʿArabī in Fuṣūṣ al-Ḥikam (Bezels of Wisdom): ‘Everything the world contains is subject to man. This is known to him who knows, that is to say, to the Perfect Man, and is not known by him who does not know, that is to say, to man the animal. He (The Perfect Man) is the mirror by which God is revealed to himself.’ Ibn ʿArabī identified the Perfect Man with the Prophet Muḥammad the archetype of the universe and humanity; the first symbol of the Lord was Nūr Muḥammad (Light of Muḥammad), and it is in him and through him that prophets and saints find their perfection. ʿAbd al-Karīm al-Jīlī elaborated this notion further: ‘The Perfect Man is the pole (qutb) around which the spheres of existence turn, from the first to the last.’ For al-Jīlī, he (the Perfect Man) is unique for all time but appears in different guises and names: there is no reincarnation but merely the irradiation of the reality of Muḥammad on each occasion upon the most perfect of men, who thus become Muḥammad's representatives on the plane of manifestation. In another development (cf. AL-HALLĀJ), the Creator (al-Ḥaqq) and the Perfect Man (al-Ḥalq) are seen as complementary constituents of total or absolute Being: ‘Man unites in himself both the form of God and the form of the universe…God is necessary to us in order that we may exist, but we are necessary to him in order that he may be manifested to himself’ (Ibn ʿArabī). Such a way of union was of profound importance in Sūfīsm.