Discourse and the Religious Imaginary: Apophatism in the Thought of Mohammed Arkoun and Ibn Arabi

By Ben Hardman.

Published by The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society

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Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: October 22, 2015 $US5.00

This paper will look at the Mohammed Arkoun’s notion of religious discourse in light of Ibn Arabi’s description of revelation as a process of mutual “finding” in which God and humanity seek one another out. In both systems, historical context and intertextuality play a necessary role in revelation that allows humanity to progress in its knowledge of God. However, this is contingent upon the realization that religious discourse and the structures it inspires are temporary and finite means to express eternal and infinite truth. Thus by nature, they must change. To Arkoun, religious discourse inevitably leads to an orthodoxy supporting a magisterium which both prescribes and proscribes thought in what he terms a “logosphere.” Eventually, this leads to a mental and spiritual sclerosis that obstructs the dynamism of revelation. Ibn Arabi, on the other hand, is a visionary who encourages the quest for personal experience of the Divine. He holds that God’s self-disclosures (tajallī) are necessarily delimited owing to our limited point of view. As with Arkoun, these disclosures are based on a prophetic fact that leads to what the shaykh terms the “God of Belief,” which is rooted in the Absolute, but is subject to our changing perception. To Ibn Arabi, the Infinite God resides between the “Yes and the No” and is only authentically present in the dynamism of the contemplative quest.

Keywords: Islam, Apophatic Theology, Mysticism, Sufism, Deconstruction

The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society, Volume 6, Issue 1, March 2016, pp.61-70. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: October 22, 2015 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 370.258KB)).

Dr. Ben Hardman

Assistant Professor, Philosophy and Religion, University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, Mississippi, USA