Ibn Arabi : Shams, Mother of the Poor

In his recollection of various Sufis of Andalusia, Mohammed Ibn all Arabi pays special tribute to two women of the path. Here is his account of one of them, whom he calls, ‘Shams, Mother of the Poor.’

She lived at Marchena of the Olives where I visited her often. Among people of our kind I have never met one like her with respect to the control she had over her soul. In her spiritual activities and communications she was among the greatest. She had a strong and pure heart, a noble spiritual power and a fine discrimination. She usually concealed her spiritual state, although she would often reveal something of it to me in secret because she knew of my own attainment, which gladdened me. She was endowed with many graces. I had considerable experience of her intuition and found her to be a master in this sphere. Her spiritual state was characterised chiefly by her fear of God and His good pleasure in her, the combination of the two at the same time in one person being extremely rare among us.

I first met her when she was in her eighties.

One day al Mawruri and I were with her. Suddenly she looked towards another part of the room and called out at the top of her voice, ‘Ali, return and get the kerchief.’ When we asked to whom she was speaking, she explained that Ali was on his way to visit her and that on his way he had sat down to eat by a stretch of water. When he got up to resume his journey he had forgotten his kerchief. This is why she had called out to him; he had gone back and had retrieved the kerchief. Ali was at that time well over a league away. After an hour he arrived and we asked him what had happened to him on the way. He told us that he had stopped at some water on the way to eat and that he had then got up and left the kerchief behind. He went on to tell us that he had then heard our lady Shams calling him to return and get it, which he had done. She also had the power to voice the thoughts of others. Her revelations were true and I saw her perform many wonders.

Translation R. W. J. Austin

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