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Friday, April 03, 2020

Michel Chodkiewicz (1929-2020)

Michel Chodkiewicz died on 31 March 2020, at the age of 90.

Chodkiewicz was a leading French scholar of Ibn al-Arabi, a Muslim, and by origin a Traditionalist, once a follower of Michel Vâlsan, the Rumanian Traditionalist who broke with Frithjof Schuon and led  an important tariqa in Paris for many years.

As I wrote in Against the Modern World,
Among other early followers of Vâlsan were a penniless marquis of the pre-Napoleonic nobility and a young French student named Michel Chodkiewicz. The son of a magistrate, Chodkiewicz read Guénon's Crise du monde moderne at 18 while doing his military service at Tours airbase, and then the rest of Guénon's work, and became Muslim in 1950 after being introduced to Vâlsan by the nephew of the penniless marquis. Chodkiewicz was the first French Traditionalist to begin what may be called the revenge of Traditionalism against the Sorbonne. His initial project of a Ph.D. thesis on Ibn al-Arabi had to be abandoned in the face of resistance from Louis Massignon, who dominated French Islamic studies in the 1950s and who had no sympathy for Ibn al-Arabi, and also in the face of the need to support a young family. Chodkiewicz followed his shaykh in many things, but not in his spartan lifestyle. He got a job with the major French publisher Editions du Seuil and remained there until his retirement in 1989, by then du Seuil's president. Despite this career, he continued work on Ibn al-Arabi, publishing various high-quality translations of and studies on his work, and also on his later follower, the Amir Abd al-Qadir (in whose Damascus circle Aguéli's shaykh Illaysh had once been). Chodkiewicz's work received the academic recognition it deserved, and beginning in 1982 he taught as an adjunct professor at the Sorbonne while also running du Seuil. After his retirement from du Seuil he was appointed to a full professorship, from which he retired in 1994, generally accepted as one of the leading figures in the French study of Islam (pp. 134-35).
 His most important works were:

  • An ocean without shore: Ibn ʻArabî, the Book, and the Law (originally Un Océan sans rivage. Ibn 'Arabî, le Livre et la Loi, 1992). 
  • The spiritual writings of Amir ʻAbd al-Kader (originally Émir Abd el-Kader, Écrits spirituels, présentation, traduction et notes 1982). 
  • Seal of the saints: prophethood and sainthood in the doctrine of Ibn ʻArabī (origianlly Le Sceau des Saints, Prophétie et Sainteté dans la doctrine d'Ibn 'Arabî, 1986).

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