The Most Universal Being

In Islamic mysticism, the human being is not merely a creature besides other creatures; rather, he is a comprehensive being who contains within himself all beings. Since man is the greatest manifestation of God, the world in its totality is summarized in him. In other words, since man reflects all names of God, he encompasses everything and is present in all worlds.

In this view, the human being is not only a species among others; rather he is a world that contains all other worlds. Mystics recognize four stages of worlds: the world of fixed entities (‘alam al-a’yan al-thabitah), the world of intellects (‘alam al-’uqul) the imaginary world (‘alam al-mithal ), the world of nature (‘alam al-tabi’ah ) and the world of most universal being or the world of human being (‘alam al-insani).[^8]

Since the human being in his arc of descent (al-qows al-nuzuli ) has crossed all worlds and contains and comprehends all, he has a kind of unity with all worlds.[^9] The unity of the perfect man with the world and his presence in all stages of the world is likened to the unity and presence of the soul with and in its faculties.[^10] Hence, Ibn Arabi says that the perfect man is the spirit of the world and the world is his body. The world without the perfect man is like a body without soul, i.e., a dead body.[^11] Therefore, the perfect human being is called the minor world or the microcosm (al-’alam al-saghir ) and the world is called the greater human (al-insan al-kabir ). This description is according to the outward form, however, in reality, the human being is the macrocosm and the world is microcosm.[^12]

Since the human being represents both God and the world, knowing the human is the key to knowing God and the world. As a prophetic hadith says, “one who knows himself knows his lord;” or knowing the self is the most beneficiary knowledge and the key to all knowledge.[^13]