Critical study of the erroneous attribution of the book Shajarat al-Kawn to Ibn ‘Arabī instead of to Ibn Ghānim al-Maqdisī

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Keywords: Shajarat al-Kawn


Younes Alaoui Mdaghri[1]


Shajarat al-kawn, (The Tree of the Universe) is a beautiful short treatise on Islamic mysticism that describes the universe and its true origin, the role and place of Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him), and his central place in the sacred presence. According to some manuscripts from the 19th century (13th century A.H.), it is attributed to Muhyī d-Dīn Ibn ‘Arabī (d. 638 A.H./1240) . All scholars endorsed this attribution and it was conveyed via fifteen commercial book-prints.

The study by Arabic scholars and orientalists and some translations led to doubt about the origin of the treatise. This was the start of an adventure because what was supposed to be known up to now would become questioned.

During my research, I scrutinised two different unknown manuscripts of Shajarat al-kawn. There was also a third, very old, manuscript written in the year 835 A.H. All these manuscripts refer to the author and poet ‘Izzu d-Dīn ‘Abd as-Salām Ibn Aḥmad Ibn Ghānim al-Maqdisī (d.678 A.H./1280) and not to Ibn ‘Arabī.

Furthermore, I found some proof in the biographical history and the style of writing that pointed to Ibn Ghānim as the author. I came to the conclusion that the work was actually written by ‘Izzu d-Dīn ‘Abd as-Salām Ibn Aḥmad Ibn Ghānim. From the results of my research, we can conclude that the book Shajarat al-kawn is by Ibn Ghānim and not Ibn ‘Arabī.[2]

This study consists of two parts. The first is: How did this treatise, Shajarat al-kawn, come to be universally attributed to Ibn ‘Arabī? The second is a discussion of the doubts that the treatise Shajarat al-kawn was written by Ibn ‘Arabī. This discussion consists of four topics: 1) the problem of copying manuscripts attributed to Ibn ‘Arabī, 2) the catalogues that attributed Shajarat al-kawn to Ibn ‘Arabī, 3) comparison of the text of the Shajarat al-kawn in both content and format with Ibn ‘Arabī and Ibn Ghānim, and 4) the studies and translations of the Shajarat al-kawn attributed to Ibn ‘Arabī.”


[1]      Younes Alaoui Mdaghri is Assistant Professor of Arabic Rhetoric at the Islamic University of Rotterdam;

[2]      I came to these conclusions over eighteen years ago, during my Master’s studies in 1989-1990 at the Sorbonne and after that in the French Institute of Arab Studies of Damascus (IFEAD), in 1991..