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The Kitab al-Hikam ( Book of Wisdom) of Sidi Ahmad Ibn Ata’illah (ra) is one of the classic texts of sufism. In form it is a collection of aphoristic statements in beautiful Arabic. However it is an ocean of meanings whose outer simplicity often veils one from the depth and profundity of its teachings. Masters from a wide variety of tariqa’s have used and recommended it to seekers down the centuries from Sidi Ibn Ata’illah’s time in the 7th century of the Hijra. A contemporary shaykh praised the Hikam thus: “The written teachings (of the Shadhilis) can best be tasted in the Hikam of Ibn Ata ’Illah as translated by the late Shahdili teacher and translator, Sidi Abdu-l-Jabbar Dr. Victor Danner. For anyone interested in the pure pith of Shadhili teachings this book is a must……..The Hikam, like the Mawaqif of al-Nifari, exists in another dimension. It is a thing in itself and works deeply on one, especially when repeatedly read over many years.”

Sidi Ahmad Ibn Ata’illah Iskandari (d. 709/1309) was the third master of the great Shadhili silsila. He was the successor of Shaykh Abu al-Abbas al-Mursi who was in turn the successor of Imam Abu al-Hasan as-Shadhili, the initiator of the Shadhili tariqa. The first two masters did not write any books and it was the destiny of Sidi Ibn Ata’illah to become the ultimate spokesman of this silsila. He authored a number of books on the path such as at-Tanwir but it is the Hikam that is the most celebrated of them all.

There is an excellent translation of the Hikam available in English by Victor Danner called Sufi Aphorisms and more recently a translation of the selection by Shaykh Ali al-Muttaqi al-Hindi (Tabwib al-Hikam) with a commentary by Shaykh Abdullah Gangohi. This selection arranges the hikmas (aphorisms/wisdoms) according to subject.

For a taste of the Hikam go here . To see how the hikam is used in sufi teaching by shaykhs of the path take a look at this.

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