Secrecy in Ismā'īlī tradition and in the mystical thought of Ibn al-'Arabī

Michael Ebstein*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The article surveys some of the main features and functions of secrecy in Shī'ism, primarily in the Ismā'īlī tradition. It discusses the terms taqiyya and kitmān and elucidates their two aspects: that of survival and that of esotericism. In addition, the article describes the role of secrecy in the thought of the famous Andalusian Sunnite mystic Muhcombining dot belowyī al-Dīn Ibn al-'Arabī, with the aim of underscoring links and affinities between Shī'ite- Ismā'īlī esotericism and the esotericism of Ibn al-'Arabī. The theory propounded by the author is that in addition to early mutual influences between the Shī'ite world and Sunnite mysticism, Ismā'īlī thought (imported into Egypt and North-Africa by the Fātcombining dot belowimid empire) had an impact on the development of Andalusian philosophy and mysticism.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)303-343
Number of pages41
JournalJournal Asiatique
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2010


  • Andalus
  • Esotericism
  • Fātcombining dot belowimids
  • Ibn al-'Arabī
  • Islamic mysticism
  • Ismā'īlīs
  • Kitmān
  • Secrecy
  • Shī'ism
  • Taqiyya


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