Al-Insān al-Kāmil

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In Islamic theology, al-Insān al-Kāmil (اَلإِنْسَانِ الكَامِلْ, also rendered as İnsan-ı Kâmil انسانِ كامل - in Persian, Turkish, and Urdu), is a term used as an honorific title to describe Muhammad. It is an Arabic phrase meaning "the person who has reached perfection."[1] It is an important concept in Islamic culture of the prototype human being, pure consciousness, one's true identity, to be contrasted with the material human who is bound by one's senses and materialism. The term is particularly used by Alawis, Alevis and Sufis,[2] such as Ibn Arabi,[2] who based this on the Hadith.[3]

The Sunni Islamic scholar Muhammad Alawi al-Maliki, has published a Sirah on Muhammad as al-Insān al-Kāmil. Al-Jili was the author of an Arabic text entitled al-Insān al-Kāmil. Ismailis believe that each Imam is a perfect man.[4]

This concept is often explained as the esoteric meaning behind practicing the Sharia, as well as explaining the Qur'anic concept of human beings not having original sin, because the centre of consciousness is pure and perfect. However, esoteric explanations (known as Batini Ta'wil) are commonplace and varied among Alevis due to the plurality of meanings.

The origin of al-insān al-kāmil[edit]

Al-Insān Al-kāmil in Islamic Theology has its origin in both non-Islamic tradition, as well as methodology central to Islam. When examining the non-Islamic influence on the concept of the perfect being, the two most influential trains of thought are that of the primordial man of the Manichean doctrine and the "first man" belief of the Hellenist.[5] These two ideas established the possibility of a being that existed before the beginning and resembled the perfection of God.[5] In explaining the conception of this "first man" the Islamic methodology is somewhat reminiscent of Jewish mysticism.[5] This concept dealt with the issue of the transference of light from the divine to the man, who in turn shines this newly acquired light through the world.[5]

Alternatively, the origin of the perfect being is heavily derived from the Islamic tradition through referring to the hadiths and in-depth interpretation of the Quran.[5] In the Quran, man’s hierarchical status above all beings is seen, as it states that God created humans in the fairest stature.[5] Due to this occurrence the human is favored by God and is said to be given God’s light which leads through them to complete perfection. The previous saying illuminates the idea that behind the true objective behind creation is God’s desire to be known, which is fulfilled through the perfect human being.[5] This perfect human being is reflective of the "pre-existing entity of Muhammad", which is not the prophet Muhammad but rather the divine light created before the beginning.[5] The pre-existing entity is the reflection of God‘s nature in its purest form.[5]

Al-Insān al-kāmil and Ibn al-Arabi[edit]

Al-Insan al-kamil or the perfect being was first deeply discussed in written form by Ebn al-Arabi in one of his most prolific works entitled Fosus al-hekam.[6] Taking an idea already common within Sufi culture, Ebn al-Arabi applied deep analysis and reflection on the issue of the Perfect Human and one’s pursuit in fulfilling this goal. In developing his explanation of the perfect being al-Arabi first discusses the issue of oneness through the metaphor of the mirror.[7] In this metaphor al-Arabi compares an object being reflected in countless mirrors to the relationship between God and his creatures.. God’s essence is seen in the existent human being, as God is the object and humans being the mirrors. Meaning two things, that since humans are mere reflections of God there can be no distinction or separation between the two and without God the creatures would be non- existent.[7] When an individual understand that there is no separation between human and God they begin on the path of ultimate oneness. The one who decides to walk in this oneness pursues the true reality and responds to God’s longing to be known.[7] The search within for this Reality of oneness causes one to be reunited with God, as well as, improve self-consciousness.

The Perfect Human trough this developed self-consciousness and self-realization prompts divine self-manifestation.[7] This causes the Perfect Human to be of both divine and earthly origin, al-Arabi calls him the Isthmus. Being the Isthmus between heaven and Earth the perfect human fulfills God’s desire to be known and God’s presence can be realized through him by others.[7] Additionally through self manifestation one acquires divine knowledge, which is the primordial spirit of Muhammad and all its perfection.[7] Al- Arabi details that the perfect human is of the cosmos to the divine and conveys the divine spirit to the cosmos.[7]

The prophets and the Qutb[edit]

Every being is equipped with a divine name, yet the manifestation or realization is up to the individual to pursue.[7] Prophets and saints pursue this goal and are prime examples of the perfect being and reflection of the Spirit of Muhammad. This perfect reflection of the Spirit of Muhammad does not mean that the prophet or saint house all of the attributes of God like that of the spirit of Muhammad. Rather there is perfect manifestation of a single attribute or name.[7] The Qutb is an unknown individual who contains the essence of the spirit of Muhammad and is the head of the prophets and saints. He serves as the ultimate pole between the divine and the physical world.[7] The Qutb knowledge is not taught via prophet but rather directly from the divine.[7]

The contribution of al-Jili[edit]

Abd al-Karin b. Ibrahim al-Jili was born in 1365 and was a Sufi Monotheist who spent much of his life in Yemen being taught by the Shaiyk Sharaf al-Din al-Jabarti.[8] Al-Jili’s writing al-Insan al-Kamil fi Ma’rifat al Awakhir w-al-Awa’il expounded upon the foundation laid by Al-Arabi by discussing the steps in which are required after becoming the perfect being. Al-Jili insisted that there are three stages for the perfect man. The first entitled (bada’ah) or beginning is when the man is given his divine attributes.Then there is the stage known as (tawassut) when the perfect man being, who is both human and divine, can comprehend both realities and eventually receive all knowledge both seen and unseen. Lastly, the Perfect being is given power that can be used in the natural world and gives him power over any other being.


  1. ^ Leaman, Oliver (2006). The Qur'an: An encyclopedia. Routledge. p. 302. ISBN 0-415-32639-7. 
  2. ^ a b Glassé, Cyril; Huston Smith (2003). The New Encyclopedia of Islam. Rowman Altamira. p. 216. ISBN 0-7591-0190-6. 
  3. ^ Ibn al-'Arabi, Muhyi al-Din (1164-1240), The 'perfect human' and the Muhammadan reality
  4. ^ Corbin, Henry; translated by Liadain Sherrard; Philip Sherrard (1993, original French 1964). History of Islamic Philosophy (PDF). London; Kegan Paul International in association with Islamic Publications for The Institute of Ismaili Studies. pp. 97–98. ISBN 0-7103-0416-1.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i Bowering, Gerhard."Ensan-e-Kamel." Encyclopedia Iranica (1998): Web. 3 Apr 2011. <>
  6. ^ Chittick, William C. "Ebn al-‘Arabi Mohyi-al- Din Abu ‘Abd-Allah Mohammad Ta’I Hatemi." Encyclopedia Iranica (1996): Web. 3 Apr 2011. <>
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Little, John T. "Al-Insan al-Kamil: the perfect man according to Ibn al-‘Arabi." Muslim World 77.1 (1987): 43-54.
  8. ^ Ritter, H. "ʿAbdal-Karīm, Ḳuṭb al-Dīn b. Ibrāhīm al-ḎJ̲īlī." Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Edited by: P. Bearman; , Th. Bianquis; , C.E. Bosworth; , E. van Donzel; and W.P. Heinrichs. Brill, 2011. Brill Online. Augustana. 7 April 2011 <>

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