Muhyi al-Din Ibn al-`Arabi (d. 638/1240) and his devotees on the `Ama' ("Theophanic Cloud") phenomenon. Some Annotated Translations from the al-Futuhat al-Makkiyya and other writings.
Stephen Lambden UC Merced.
In progress - last revised 03-02-2021.
The `Amā'-"Cloud" has been viewed by Ibn al-`Arabi as the condensation of the "Breath of God, the All-Merciful" which came to enable its inherent potencies to be realized. It came to posses, though it is distinct from, an indirect relationship with Aḥadiyya (an adjectival form of the Arabic, aḥad = "one"), meaning "Oneness", an unfathomable 'Oneness" beyond simple singularity, multiplicity and number. When this Aḥadiyya oriented itself in terms of its theophanic outreach, it came in this theological context to express Wāḥidiyya (cf. the Arabic verb waḥada, "to be alone, single, unique" and the word wāḥid meaning "one"). This may express an inclusive or an embracing "Oneness" of outreach capable of actualizing a link with the Beyond, with realities below. A closely related theologically loaded word is the Arabic Wāḥdāniyya meaning "Oneness, Singleness, Isolation, Incomparability".
After some years of thinking about the theological implications of `ama' - loosely, the "Cloud" hiding God from the realms of lower being - it seems to me that this word, rooted in a key Islamic tradition deriving from the Prophet Muhammad, has multiple implications. It can be viewed as an `Apophatic Horizon', a realm of Unknowing only indirectly glimpsed in awe. It underlines the Impenetrability, Incomprehensibility and Isolatedness of the Primordial Godhead.
`Amā' is also the Pre-Existent Locus of timeless beginnings, when as a `Theophanic Cloud', the potentialities of Existence and Divine Knowability and Activity, become availabe to proto-humanity through the outpouring of Divine Grace. This Divine hubb, a love-generated "Grace" is, in Islamic terms, the tajalli or the glorious, transfigured, Divine Self-Revelation known as the al-fayd al-aqdas, the "Most Holy Outpouring". These two perspectives of the primordial "Cloud" express its hidden Apophatic Reality and its ultimate move towards approachability, God is the Unseen then the Seen or Indirectly Glimpsed.
In numerous Babi-Baha'i theological texts `Ama' has a multitude of further connotations such that its transcendental God-concealing dimensions are often de-transcedentalized. It came to be centered in the nafs-Allah, the Logos Persona of the manifestation of the subordinate Deity, the `Manifestation of God' (mazhar-i ilahi). Both the Bab and Baha'-Allah represent themselves as the theophanic `ama' or theophanic "Cloud" of Reality. It concealed the mystery of their Being at the same time it expressed the disclosure of their Divine "Face", as a "Mirror" beaming forth an outreach to humanity. Within Babi- and Baha'i sacred writ, the term `ama' is linked with other elevated theological expressions. Scores of Babi-Baha'i scriptural texts reflect the `ama' related theology of Ibn al-`Arabi and members of his "school" of mystical gnosis. This within Sufism and within the diverse realms of Sunni and Shi`i theological and philosophical discourse.
The use of the related theological terms `ama' and ahadiyya within the imamologically informed eschatology of the Tafsir Surat Yusuf or Qayyum al-asma' (mid. 1844) of the Bab more than illustrates this relationship. So too aspects of the elevated theology set forth in the first Tafsir al-Ha' (Commentary on the Letter "H") of the Bab most likely written shortly after the 1846 Tafsir Surat al-Kawthar. (Commentary on the Surah of Abundance, Q. 108).