Fatima Bint Al-Mathnaa

Sheikh Mohyed-din Ibn Arabi, may Allah bless his soul, mentioned in his book Fotoohat, “For many years I served this lady and she lived beyond ninety five years of age. I was so shy around her and could not even glance at her because of her young and beautiful appearance. No matter who saw her, they would estimate that she was only fourteen years of age.

Her Haala (Momentary State of Heart) with Al-Haqq (The True & Absolute Reality, The Lord) was one of the strangest ever. She had chosen me from amongst all the men to serve her (learn from her).  She used to say (about me), “I have not seen anyone like him. When he comes to me he brings his entirety and leaves nothing outside, and when he leaves he takes away his entirety and leaves nothing with me”.

Ibn Arabi quotes her, “I wonder about the person who says, “I love Allah Almighty and is not frolic around It. They claim the Haala (Momentary State of Heart) with Allah as if they see It and indeed claim seeing It in all things. If their eyes were upon Allah (if they actually saw that Divine Beauty) they would never blink away even once. So how could they claim Mahab-bat (Divine Love) for It and then they cry (for worldly pains & sorrow)?”

Then she said, “My child what is your opinion about what I just said” and I replied, “My words are exactly what you said” (meaning he grasped what she said). After that she continued, “By Allah I am bewildered at my Beloved who has given me the Fatiha (Opening of the Book, the first chapter of Koran) as a servant. And I swear by Allah that Fatiha (Opening of the Book) has never busied me to become a veil (Reading Fatiha blocking the Divine Light)”. (The first chapter of Koran or Surah Al-Fatiha (The Opening) has eight gates within that serve as portals to the other world, indeed eight distinct entrances. From what follows in this story I gather that she was given some of these portals. She also added that she did not abuse this privilege.)

Ibn Arabi further adds, “Once we were sitting with Fatima and a woman came upon us mentioning the name of a city where her husband had gone in pursuit of a new wife. I asked her, “Do you want him to come back to you?” she replied affirmative. I turned my face to Fatima and said, “O mother! Do you hear what she is saying?” She replied, “What do you want?” [1] I replied, “Her need is satisfied if her husband returns” Fatima acknowledged, “Hearing & Obeying”. In a moment I will send Fatiha (Opening of the Book), thus commissioning it, to bring her husband back. She started reciting the Fatiha (Opening of the Book), so I joined her in unison. I came to know that while she recited the Fatiha (Opening of the Book) a man appeared (or perhaps a dead man was raised) and she sent him off advising him as such, “O Fatiha (Opening of the Book) go to such and such city and find this woman’s husband do not let him loose until you bring him back”. Ibn Arabi said, “From the time Fatiha (Opening of the Book) left until the husband showed up was no more than a round trip time to that city”. (Source: Nafahatol Ons by Jaami)

Fatima’s diet consisted of eating what food was left on the outside of people’s doors i.e. unwanted left-overs or trash. She was infinitely frugal & stinting about food.

The Lord bestowed upon her Its Dominion but she did not pay any attention to any worldly objects, except she used to say, “You are everything & unblessed the rest”. She was in love with the Lord. Whomsoever saw her called her stupid. I, who is Ibn Arabi, say the stupid is the one who knows not his Lord.

This woman that was the mercy & blessing for both worlds, was whipped & lashed by Abu ‘Amer Mo’azzen (The one who calls to prayer in the mosque) during the night of the ‘Eid (Islamic New Year) inside the Jaama’ Mosque! She turned her face from the man; she was perturbed and could not sleep that night. She heard him at dawn calling for prayers so she said, “My Lord, do not let me be disturbed at a man that prays the nights while people asleep” and she used to love to repeat this phrase, “My Lord do not punish him because of my disturbance (anger) of him”.

Then came the next day and after the ‘Eid prayers the scholars of the town entered upon the sultan to convey their greetings. So the Mo’azzen (The one who calls to prayer in the mosque) followed them as well with the hope that he may gain some money or gift. The sultan was quick to ask, “Who is this man?” they said the Mo’azzen of the Jaama’ Mosque. Sultan was angry yelling who brought him here? And ordered for him to be thrown out. So the scholars interceded for him with the sultan and his punishment was to shave his mustache! (Very light punishment for such audacity)

So the news traveled to Fatima and she said, “Had I not begged the Lord for a lighter punishment for him, he would have been slaughtered”.

Her rank indeed amazingly lofty & may Allah bless her soul. (Source: Risalah Rooh Alqodos by Ibn Arabi)


[1] Reading her words carefully—indeed those people spoke very carefully & very little—I gathered that she did not ask, “What she wants?” Instead she asked, “What YOU i.e. Ibn Arabi want?” She was not in the business offering miraculous help to strangers. She could only be of service to those whom she was attracted to via the Mahab-bat (Divine Love). She could grant a favor to Ibn Arabi who was her devout student, she could not grant favor to the woman who showed up from no place.

© 2004-2002,  Dara O. Shayda