Jīlī, al-


Jīlī, al-
born 1365
died с 1424

Islamic mystic.

Little is known of his life, though he is believed to have visited India in 1387 and to have studied in Yemen (1393–1403). Influenced by Ibn al-Arabī, he developed his doctrine of the "perfect man," which he outlined in his Studies in Islamic Mysticism. He asserted that the perfectly moral individual can attain unity with God, a unity already experienced by Muhammad and the other prophets, and then become a channel by which the whole community can enjoy contact with the divine being.

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▪ Islamic mystic
in full ʿabd Al-karīm Quṭb Ad-dīn Ibn Ibrāhīm Al-jīlī
born 1365
died c. 1424

      mystic whose doctrines of the “perfect man” became popular throughout the Islāmic world.

      Little is known about al-Jīlī's personal life. Possibly after a visit to India in 1387, he studied in Yemen during 1393–1403. Of his more than 30 works, the most famous is Al-Insān al-kāmil fi maʿrifat al-awākhir wa al-awā ʿil (partial Eng. trans., Studies in Islamic Mysticism), which contains his complex doctrine of the perfect man. The work shows clearly the influence of the pantheistic Spanish mystic Ibn al-ʿArabī (d. 1240).

      Al-Jīlī maintained that the perfect man can achieve unity with the Divine Being. This unity is experienced not only by the prophets, from Adam to Muḥammad, but also by others who reach the highest level of being (wujūd) and become, as it were, the most select of the select. At this level, all contradictions, such as being with non-being, and vengeance with mercy, are resolved. Al-Jīlī also maintained that in every age the perfect man manifested the outward appearance and inner essences of the Prophet Muḥammad. The perfect man was thereby a channel through which the community could enjoy contact with the Divine Being. Al-Jīlī claimed that, in the town of Zabīd in Yemen in 1393, he had met the Prophet Muḥammad, who then manifested himself through al-Jīlī as sheikh, or spiritual leader.

      Al-Jīlī's doctrine of the perfect man later degenerated into a belief that all holy men and mystics were able to achieve contact and unity with God.

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Universalium. 2010.

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