The final outcome of the affair (al-amr) is the return from the many to the One, for both the man of faith and the polytheist (mushrik). This is because the man of faith who is granted the unveiling of "things as they really are" is granted [the immediate vision of] this, as He said: "Now We have removed from you your veil, so your vision today is keen" (Qur'an 50:22). And this is before he leaves this world. For everyone who is taken [by physical death] is in [a state of spiritual] "unveiling" at the moment he is taken, so that at that point he inclines toward God (al-Haqq) and toward faith in Him and [the true awareness of] divine Unity. Hence the person who attains this certainty before being brought into the presence [of God at the time of physical "death"] is absolutely sure of his felicity and his conjunction with [that condition of blessedness]. For certainty which comes from sound [rational] inquiry and unambiguous [experiential] unveiling prevents him from straying from the Truly Real, since he has "a clear proof" (Qur'an 6:57, etc.) in the matter and "discerning inner vision" (Qur'an 12:108).
But the person who attains this certainty [only] when he is brought into the presence [of death] is subject to the [ineluctable] divine Will. And although the final outcome is [also] felicity, however that is only after the imposition of torments and afflictions with respect to the person who is punished for his sins. For one is only "brought into the presence [of death]" after having witnessed that (al-amr) to which the creatures (al-khalq) are transferred [after death]. So long as he has not witnessed that, death has not come near him (Qur'an 4:18; etc.), nor is that [what we mean here by] "being brought into [its] presence."
...Now God has brought two Resurrections into existence, the lesser Resurrection and the greater Resurrection. The lesser Resurrection is the transferring of the servant from the life of this world to the life of the intermediate world (barzakh) in the imaginal body, as in [the Prophet's] saying: "When someone dies, his Resurrection has already begun." Thus whoever is among the People of Vision actually sees his Lord. For [as] God's Messenger says, in warning his community about the Antichrist: "No one sees God until he dies." The greater Resurrection is the Resurrection of the Raising (ba'th) [of all men from their graves] and the supreme Gathering (al-hashr al-a'zam) in which all men are joined....
Know that these bodies are the coffins of the spirits and what beclouds them; they are what veil them so that they do not witness [the spiritual world] and are not witnessed. So the spirits do not see, nor are they seen, except through being parted from these [bodily] tombs (cf. Qur'an 102:2)―by becoming oblivious (fanâ) to them [in their absorption in spiritual things], not through [physical] separation. Therefore since they have inner vision, when they become oblivious to witnessing the bodies then they witness the One Who gives them Being in the very act of witnessing themselves.
So "he who knows his self knows his Lord." Likewise he who witnesses his self witnesses his Lord, and thereby moves from the "certainty of knowledge" to the "certainty of seeing." Then when he is returned to his [bodily] tomb he is returned to [the highest stage of] "true certainty" (yaqîn haqq), not to the "certainty of knowledge." This is how man learns the [inner] differentiation of the Truly Real (al-Haqq), through His informing [us] of the true saying concerning the true reality of certainty (Qur'an 56:95), the seeing of certainty and the knowing of certainty (cf. Qur'an 103:3-7). So for [the person who reaches this stage] every property [of reality] becomes firmly established in its proper rank, and things are not confused for him (cf. Qur'an 2:42; 3:71). And he knows that the [prophetic] announcements did not mislead him (cf. Qur'an 6:5, etc.).
Therefore whoever truly knows God in this way has truly known and understood the wisdom [underlying] the formation (takwîn) of the pearl in its shell from fresh sweet [water] in salty bitter [water] (Qur'an 25:53): the shell is its body and its saltiness is its [physical] nature. So the influence of nature predominates in its shell, but the salt is [also] its whiteness―and that is like the Light which is revealed through it. So realize [what is meant by] this sign!
Excerpted from Volume I of The Meccan Revelations (al-Futûhât al-Makkiya) by Ibn 'Arabi. Published by Pir Press (2002, 2005), translated from the Arabic by Michel Chodkiewicz, William C. Chittick and James W. Morris.