This is the first English translation of Miftah al-falah, a thirteenth century Sufi text, written by Ibn Ata Allah, one of the great masters of the Shadhili Sufi order. It is considered to be one of his most important works because it sets out the principles of actual Sufi mystical practices, shedding light on the sacred invocations, and associated practices, such as the spiritual retreat. Written in a clear, lucid style, it offers a glimpse into the Sufi world of the 7th Islamic century and allows us to see almost at first hand how the novice was guided by the Sufi Shaykh and, above all, the purpose and preparation involved in engaging in the invocation, dhikhru'llah. Ibn Ata' Allah sets out to define it, to explain its nature and power, to show its results and to prove that it is part of the Prophet's Sunna, or practice. The author goes to great lengths to point out many Qur'anic verses where dhikru'llah is mentioned and cites many noted authorities.
Ahmad ibn Mahammad Ibn ‘Ata‘ Allah al-Iskandari (died 1309) was a Malikite jurist, muhaddith and the third murshid (spiritual "guide" or "master") of the Shadhili Sufi order. He was born in Alexandria and taught at both the al-Azhar Mosque and the Mansuriyyah madrasa in Cairo. He was responsible for systematizing Shadhili doctrines and recording the biographies of the order's founder, Abu-l-Hassan ash-Shadhili, and his successor, Abu al-Abbas al-Mursi. He is credited with having authored the first systematic treatise on dhikr, The Key to Salvation (Miftah al-Falah), but is mostly known for his compilation of aphorisms, the Hikam al-‘Ata‘iyya. Commentaries on the Hikam have been made by some of the most famous masters of the Shadhili order such as Ibn Abbad al-Rundi, Ahmad Zarruq and Ahmad ibn Ajiba as well as non-Shadhilis like the Islamic law Professor Sa'id Ramadan al-Bouti. The wide circulation of Ibn ‘Ata‘ Allah's written works led to the spread of the Shadhili order in Norrth Africa, where the order's founder had been rejected in earlier attempts. The Wafai Sufi order was also derived from his works. He died in 1309 while in Cairo.
Ibn ‘Ata‘ Allah was one of those who confronted the controversial theologian Ibn Taymiyya, who was jailed several times for his views on religious issues, for his excesses in attacking the Sufis and his opposition to tawassul.