The Eye of Reflection: Al-Nabulusi’s Spatial Interpretation of Ibn ʿArabi’s Tomb
journal article
Upon his takeover of Damascus in 1516, Sultan Salim hurriedly commissioned the building of a religious complex over the grave of the celebrated thirteenth-century Andalusian Sufi master Ibn ʿArabi, an act that was and still is shrouded with mystery and intrigue. The complex was constructed on a steep site at three levels, comprising a mosque, a tomb chamber, and an external garden. For 160 years following its construction, the building itself played no role in the intensifying debates over Ibn ʿArabi’s controversial, yet influential, teachings. In 1678, however, ʿAbd al-Ghani al-Nabulusi, a passionate follower and defender of Ibn ʿArabi, incorporated for the first time the architecture of the tomb in his multifaceted polemics. In a treatise titled Al-Sirr al-mukhtabī fī ḍarīḥ ibn al-ʿArabī, al-Nabulusi presented a sophisticated spatial interpretation of this rather humble building—its setting, design, and spatial layout—based on complex visual hermeneutics, according to which visible and invisible reality interplayed to construct a unique understanding of the tomb’s spatiality. This essay examines the sophisticated visual strategy with which al-Nabulusi interpreted the building to reveal its concealed mystery.
Akkach, Samer. "The Eye of Reflection: Al-Nabulusi’s Spatial Interpretation of Ibn ʿArabi’s Tomb." Muqarnas: An Annual On The Visual Cultures Of The Islamic World 32 (2015): 79-95.
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Samer Akkach