Salman Bashier

senior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2018/2019
discipline Philosophy and Islamic Studies
Independent Scholar

Research project

An Islamic Account of the Four Stages of the Philosophical-Mystical Journey: Ibn al-'Arabi's School and the Platonic Turn in Islamic Thought


Since the beginning of the 20th century, the so-called Muslim rational philosophers have been revisited by Arab and Muslim scholars in their search for some sort of rational classical basis for a reformulation of modern life and thought. Often this has led into polarized perceptions of modernism and traditionalism. In recent years works have appeared that attempt to provide a novel approach to the study of Islam by unveiling intellectual layers which have not been given proper attention but which prove to have been dominant in Islamic thought. My work on the theme of the "four journeys" (al-asfar al-arba'a), which was developed by the followers of Muhyiddin Ibn al-'Arabi (d. 1240), grows out of this approach.


The theme of the four journeys is depicted by the process of the ascent of the philosopher-mystic from the reality of the shadows, which is represented in Plato's Allegory of the Cave as the reality of prisoners chained in a cave, to the sun, which represents philosophical truth and knowledge, and the process of his return to the cave.


An earliest account of this theme was presented by 'Afif al-Din al-Tilimsani (d. 1290) in his commentary on the work of the tenth-century Sufi Muhammad b. 'Abd al-Jabbar al-Niffari. Another important account was presented by Sa'id al-Din Farghani (d.1300) in his commentary on a famous long poem by the Sufi poet 'Umar Ibn al-Farid (d. 1234). This was followed by what I consider as the most comprehensive and systematically articulated account of this theme introduced in 1290 by the Baghdadi Sufi Sit 'Ajam bint al-Nafis in her commentary on Ibn al-'Arabi's book Contemplations of the Holy Mysteries, which he composed in imitation of al-Niffari's work. A second wave of followers of Ibn al-'Arabi's school provided their accounts of the four journeys, including important figures such as 'Abd al-Razzaq al-Qashani (d. 1329) and Dawwud al-Qaysari (d. 1350). The theme of the four journeys became so dominant in later Islamic thought that the seventeenth-century philosopher and theologian Sadr al-Din al-Shirazi chose the "four journeys" as a title for his major philosophical work. Yet, the theme has not received the proper philosophical attention that it deserves in modern scholarship.


In my research project, I highlight the special significance of the study of this theme for understanding one of the most original and highly innovative aspects of the later Islamic mystical-philosophical tradition. I present my study of this theme, which I conduct in a manner which makes it accessible to philosophical issues and free of ideological debates, as a contribution to the reconciliation of the rational, the mystical and the traditionalist divides in the Arab and Muslim world. I also endeavor to highlight the relevance of the conceptual framework underlying my study to the general understanding of our contemporary Western philosophical investigations.  




Salman Bashier is an Independent Scholar. Salman studied Philosophy, Sociology, and Anthropology at the University of Haifa and holds a PhD in Islamic Sufism and Philosophy from the University of Utah.

His main research interests are Islamic philosophy, Sufism, Islamic theology, Islamic law, Islamic Mystical literature & poetry.


Selected publications


'Ibn al-‘Arabi between al-Mahdawi and al-Niffari', Journal of the Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi Society, vol. 68, 2018, pp. 25-48.


'The Long Shadow of Max Weber: The Notion of Transcendence and the Spirit of Mystical Islam', Journal of Levantine Studies, vol. 1, 2011, pp. 129-151.


The Story of Islamic Philosophy: Ibn Tufayl, Ibn al-‘Arabi and Others on the Limit between Naturalism and Traditionalism, State University of New York Press, Albany, 2011.


Ibn al-‘Arabi’s Barzakh: The Concept of the Limit and the Relationship between God and the World, State University of New York Press, Albany, 2004.


'An Excursion into Mysticism: Plato and Ibn al-‘Arabi on the Knowledge of the Relationship between Sensible Objects and Intelligible Forms', American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly, vol. 77, no. 4, 2003, pp. 499-519.



senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2013/2014
Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study (SCAS)
discipline History
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2017/2018
Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study (SCAS)
discipline Philosophy
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2015/2016
Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study (SCAS)
discipline Cultural Studies
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2012/2013
Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study (SCAS)
discipline Literature