The Shaykh al Akbar(ra) is famous as an author of difficult and abstruse works. However what is less well known is that he has authored many smaller works focussed on practical aspects of the Sufi path. These usually have a crystalline precision and can appear deceptively simple. The small tract below, written as a kind of primer for spiritual seekers, is a good example of this. This translation is by Prof James Morris.
The Book of the Quintessence, Concerning What Is Indispensable for the (Spiritual) Seeker
“In the Name of God the All-Compassionate the All-Merciful
Praise be to God, Sustainer of the Worlds! And may God bless our master Muhammad and all his Family and Companions!
You asked, 0 seeker, about the quintessence of what the seeker must do, so I have answered you in these pages. And God is the One Who brings fulfilment, there is no rabb but He!
Know, 0 seeker-may God bring you and us to the fulfilment of freely obeying Him, and may He cause us and you to know what pleases Him !-that (our) closeness to God is only known through His informing us of that. Now He has already done that-all thanks and praise be to God!-through His sending the Messengers and sending down the Scriptures and making clear the Paths leading to the eternal happiness. So once we have faith and hold (all that) to be true, there only remains putting into practice in their proper place those (prescribed) actions set down by the revelation in which we have faith and which have become established in the souls of those who have faith”.
Subject Outline of Ibn’ Arabfs Book of the Quintessence Concerning What Is Indispensable for the Seeker.
1. God’s Unicity and Transcendence.
2. Faith in the Messengers, companions, the ‘people of this Path’ (the true Friends of God), and serving the poor.
3. Silence, focus on dhikr/remembrance of God, and good deeds.
4. Right companion on the spiritual Path.
5. Sincere intention (sidq) in seeking the right guide.
6. Right livelihood.
7. Eating little.
8. Filling the day with prayer.
9. Sleep, eat, and dress only as really needed.
10. How to read the Qur’an.
11. Keeping track of one’s animal self (muhasaba) and shame before God.
12. Staying Conscious: being aware of demands of the ‘Instant’ and eliminating inner distractions.
13. Purity (tahara).
14. Striving for good moral character traits.
15. Right attitude toward spiritual ‘opponents’.
16. Right Behaviour (adab) toward animals, dependents and children.
17. Avoiding the powerful and worldly, while practicing ihsiin and sabre
18. Being present with God at every instant.
19. Generosity (and avoiding stinginess). [incomplete here]
20. Controlling anger and learning how to (not) react to ‘negative’ encounters.
21. Practicing ihsan.
22. Constantly practicing Dhikr/remembrance ofGod and asking His forgiveness.
23. Repentance and untying the ‘knots’ of persistence (in opposition to God). [incomplete
24. Taqwa: Awareness ofGod and its practical consequences.
25. Avoiding self-deception/lblIs. [incomplete here]
26. Practicing spiritual conscientiousness (wara).
27. Practicing ‘non-attachment’ to this lower world (zuhd).
Read the full translation here.