Once, Ibn Arabi fell gravely ill when he was young; his fever brought on a state of profound lethargy. While those around him thought him dead, he in his inward universe was besieged by a troop of menacing, diabolical figures.
But then there arose a marvellously beautiful being, exhaling a sweet perfume, who with invincible force repulsed the demonic figures.
“Who are you?” Ibn’ Arabi asked him.
“I am the Sura Yasin.”
His anguished father at his bedside was indeed reciting that sura (the thirty-sixth chapter of the Qur’an), which is intoned specifically for the sick and for the dying. Such was the energy released by the spoken Word that the person corresponding to it took form in the subtle intermediate world – a phenomenon not at all rare in religious experience. This was one of Ibn ‘Arabi’s first entrances into the ‘alam al-mithal, the world of real and subsistent Images.
‘Alam al mithal or ‘Alam al khayal is the world of similitude, analogies and images. This is the World/Realm of Imagination. It is the isthmus in which the mystery of cosmic ambiguity can be unlocked.