Ibn 'Arabi Heir to the Prophets

When God opened the door for him, Ibn ‘Arabi found that he had inherited all the sciences of Muhammad.Among these sciences was the knowledge that no one after him – except Jesus at the end of time – would be Muhammad’s plenary inheritor. It was this unveiling that allowed him to see himself as the Seal of Muhammadan Friendship, that is, the last person to actualize the specific mode of friendship that results from embodying the fullness of the paradigm established by Muhammad. 

By no means does Ibn ‘Arabi’s claim to be the Muhammadan Seal imply that he was the last friend of God. Rather, it means that no one after him, with the exception of Jesus, would inherit the totality of prophetic works, states, and knowledge – a totality that had been realized only by Muhammad among all the prophets. 

One should not be surprised that Ibn ‘Arabi privileges Muhammad here. This is the Islamic tradition, after all, and every tradition privileges its own founder. For those who prefer a more universal language, we can say that for Muslims, Muhammad is the full embodiment of the Logos, which is the Divine Word that gives rise to all creation and all revelation. 

Ibn ‘Arabi calls this Logos by several names, including “the Muhammadan Reality.” Ibn ‘Arabi maintains that there are friends of God in every age and that they will continue to inherit from Muhammad,  but they will no longer have access to the entirety of Muhammad’s works, states, and sciences. The modalities of the inheritance will be defined by their connection to specific prophets embraced by Muhammad’s all-comprehensive prophethood. After the Muhammadan Seal, “No friend will be found ‘upon the heart of Muhammad’” (F. II 49.26). 

Ibn ‘Arabi’s claim to be the Seal of the Muhammadan Friends has appeared pretentious and even outrageous to many people over the centuries. Hostile and critical scholars have dismissed it out of hand.The fact remains, however, that no author writing after him has come close to matching the profundity, freshness, and detail of his interpretation of the sources of the Islamic tradition. Whether or not one would like to call him the Seal of the Muhammadan Friends, it is difficult to deny him the title “Greatest Master.” 

If the Muhammadan friends of God inherit all the sciences of Muhammad, this means that they have been opened up to all the knowledge and understanding given to all the prophets. This is the knowledge that was given scriptural form in the Qur’an. Thus the Seal of the Muhammadan Friends will somehow embody the whole Quranic message. This is why Ibn ‘ Arabi can write concerning the Seal, “There is no one who has more knowledge of God ... He and the Qur’an are siblings” (F. III 329.27).

From: Ibn ‘Arabi Heir to the Prophets by William C. Chittick