Poetry

In this section students respond to Islamic poetry with samples provided in English translation of Persian and Arabic gnostic poetry.

 

Islamic Literatures: A Selection of Classical and Medieval Pieces

Introduction

The following anthology represents a sampling of the finest products of Islamic literary culture. Though there is quite a bit of variety in terms of style (prose and poetry) as well as subject matter (philosophy, theology, Sufism, politics, etc.), two prominent trends can be discerned through the whole. One is the significance of Persian language side by side with Arabic as the predominant literary language of the Muslim world. Though the Qur’an was exclusively transmitted and written in Arabic, much of the great literature of the Islamic world was produced by speakers of Persian. Indeed the entire tradition of Sufi poetry—represented here by the likes of Rumi, Mahmoud Shabestari and Sanai Ghaznavi, among others—is essentially a Persian phenomenon. Even two of the most prominent writers in Arabic in this collection—Ibn Sina and al-Ghazali—were themselves of Persian origin. This should show the utter futility of trying to extricate Persian culture from Islamic culture as a whole.

The other trend that emerges, which might almost go without saying, is a specifically Islamic worldview. A quick glance through this literature reveals that God is frequently the subject and allusions to the Qur’an abound throughout. It will be of benefit, then, to quickly recall some features of this worldview (which is dramatically different from our modern view) that have been mentioned in the course previously and are most fully discussed in the readings by William Chittick. As Chittick often mentions, the concept of tawhid, the absolute unity of God, is the fundamental starting point for everything Islamic (“There is no god but God”). This is the only certainty and everything else is subject to doubt. The cosmology taken for granted by all of these authors is highly influenced by the neo-Platonic concept of the universe being a series of emanations from God, the absolute First Cause. The reality of both the Seen and the Unseen worlds (the two worlds) is readily acknowledged in this world view, and the Unseen world is even seen as more real, since its being is closer to that of God’s. But the fact remains that all existence is radically dependent of God as its source. The overriding concern of many of these authors—the philosophers and the Sufis, in particular—was with spiritual transformation and perfection as a means to return the soul to this source.

With these ideas in mind, it will be easier to approach this literature sympathetically and hopefully to derive more benefit from reading it. Many of the works excerpted here are truly gems not just of Islamic culture, but of the whole of human civilization. Hopefully, the distance of time and culture will not have dulled them in your eyes.

Sa’di (1184-1283)

One of Persia’s most renowned medieval poets, Sa’di was born in Shiraz in modern day Iran. During the first part of his life, he wandered through the major centers of the Muslim world (Iraq, Syria, Anatolia, Egypt), which were in a period of upheaval due to the Mongol invasions. The wisdom he collected by associating with the likes of traders, farmers, wanderers and dervishes was poured into his two best known works, Bustan (The Orchard) and Gulistan (The Rose Garden). In old age, he returned to Shiraz where he stayed until his death.

Exordium and Doxology

به نام خداوند جان آفرین                  حکیم سخن در زبان آفرین
خداوند بخشنده‌ی دستگیر کریم          خطا بخش پوزش پذیر
عزیزی که هر کز درش سر بتافت         به هر در که شد هیچ عزت نیافت
سر پادشاهان گردن فراز                    به درگاه او بر زمین نیاز
نه گردن کشان را بگیرد بفور                نه عذرآوران را براند بجور
وگر خشم گیرد به کردار زشت             چو بازآمدی ماجرا در نوشت
دو کونش یکی قطره در بحر علم           گنه بیند و پرده پوشد بحلم
اگر با پدر جنگ جوید کسی پدر           بی گمان خشم گیرد بسی
وگر خویش راضی نباشد ز خویش       چو بیگانگانش براند ز پیش
وگر بنده چابک نیاید به کار                 عزیزش ندارد خداوندگار
وگر بر رفیقان نباشی شفیق               بفرسنگ بگریزد از تو رفیق
وگر ترک خدمت کند لشکری               شود شاه لشکرکش از وی بری
ولیکن خداوند بالا و پست                    به عصیان در زرق بر کس نبست
ادیم زمین، سفره‌ی عام اوست             چه دشمن بر این خوان یغما، چه دوست
وگر بر جفا پیشه بشتافتی                  که از دست قهرش امان یافتی؟
بری، ذاتش از تهمت ضد و جنس         غنی، ملکش از طاعت جن و انس
پرستار امرش همه چیز و کس              بنی آدم و مرغ و مور و مگس
چنان پهن‌خوان کرم گسترد                  که سیمرغ در قاف قسمت خورد
مر او را رسد کبریا و منی                   که ملکش قدیم است و ذاتش غنی
یکی را به سر برنهد تاج بخت              یکی را به خاک اندر آرد ز تخت
کلاه سعادت یکی بر سرش                 گلیم شقاوت یکی در برش
گلستان کند آتشی بر خلیل                 گروهی بر آتش برد ز آب نیل
گر آن است، منشور احسان اوست       وراین است، توقیع فرمان اوست
پس پرده بیند عملهای بد                      همو پرده پوشد به آلای خود
بتهدید اگر برکشد تیغ حکم                  بمانند کروبیان صم و بکم
وگر در دهد یک صلای کرم                   عزازیل گوید نصیبی برم
به درگاه لطف و بزرگیش بر                  بزرگان نهاده بزرگی ز سر
فروماندگان را به رحمت قریب                تضرع کنان را به دعوت مجیب
بر احوال نابوده، علمش بصیر               بر اسرار ناگفته، لطفش خبیر
به قدرت، نگهدار بالا و شیب                 خداوند دیوان روز حسیب
نه مستغنی از طاعتش پشت کس          نه بر حرف او جای انگشت کس
قدیمی نکوکار نیکی پسند                   به کلک قضا در رحم نقش بند
ز مشرق به مغرب مه و آفتاب                 روان کرد و گسترد گیتی بر آب
زمین از تب لرزه آمد ستوه                    فرو کوفت بر دامنش میخ کوه
دهد نطفه را صورتی چون پری             که کرده‌ست بر آب صورتگری؟
نهد لعل و فیروزه در صلب سنگ            گل لعل در شاخ پیروزه رنگ
ز ابر افگند قطره‌ای سوی یم                 ز صلب اوفتد نطفه‌ای در شکم
از آن قطره لولوی لالا کند                     وز این، صورتی سرو بالا کند
بر او علم یک ذره پوشیده نیست            که پیدا و پنهان به نزدش یکیست
مهیا کن روزی مار و مور                     وگر چند بی‌دست و پایند و زور
به امرش وجود از عدم نقش بست          که داند جز او کردن از نیست، هست؟
دگر ره به کتم عدم در برد                     وزان جا به صحرای محشر برد
جهان متفق بر الهیتش                        فرومانده از کنه ماهیتش
بشر ماورای جلالش نیافت                   بصر منتهای جمالش نیافت
نه بر اوج ذاتش پرد مرغ وهم                نه در ذیل وصفش رسد دست فهم
در این ورطه کشتی فروشد هزار           که پیدا نشد تخته‌ای بر کنار
چه شبها نشستم در این سیر، گم         که دهشت گرفت آستینم که قم
محیط است علم ملک بر بسیط              قیاس تو بر وی نگردد محیط
نه ادراک در کنه ذاتش رسد                  نه فکرت به غور صفاتش رسد
توان در بلاغت به سحبان رسید             نه در کنه بی چون سبحان رسید
که خاصان در این ره فرس رانده‌اند       به لااحصی از تگ فرومانده‌اند
نه هر جای مرکب توان تاختن                که جاها سپر باید انداختن
وگر سالکی محرم راز گشت                  ببندند بر وی در بازگشت
کسی را در این بزم ساغر دهند             که داروی بیهوشیش در دهند
یکی باز را دیده بردوخته‌ست                 یکی دیده‌ها باز و پر سوخته‌ست
کسی ره سوی گنج قارون نبرد              وگر برد، ره باز بیرون نبرد
بمردم در این موج دریای خون              کز او کس نبرده‌ست کشتی برون
اگر طالبی کاین زمین طی کنی             نخست اسب باز آمدن پی کنی
تأمل در آیینه‌ی دل کنی                        صفائی بتدریج حاصل کنی
مگر بویی از عشق مستت کند               طلبکار عهد الستت کند
به پای طلب ره بدان جا بری                  وزان جا به بال محبت پری
بدرد یقین پرده‌های خیال                       نماند سراپرده الا جلال
دگر مرکب عقل را پویه نیست                عنانش بگیرد تحیر که بیست
در این بحر جز مرد داعی نرفت             گم آن شد که دنبال راعی نرفت
کسانی کز این راه برگشته‌اند               برفتند بسیار و سرگشته‌اند
خلاف پیمبر کسی ره گزید                    که هرگز به منزل نخواهد رسید
محال است سعدی که راه صفا              توان رفت جز بر پی مصطفی

 

 

In the name of the Lord, soul-creating!

Wise One, speech-creating in the tongue!

Lord forgiving, apt, to help,

Generous, fault-forgiving, excuse-accepting!

Glorious One! Whoever turns from His door his head.

To whatever door he goes, he finds no glory.

The heads of neck-lifting princes,

In His court, are on the floor of supplication.

Neither the rebellious does He summarily seize,

Nor the apologetic drives He harshly hence.

Does He wax wrath at ugly deeds?

If you relent; He crosses out what’s gone.

The two existences a single drop in His Knowledge’s sea:

A sin He sees and clemently draws the veil.

The hide of earth, His open banquet-cloth:

At such a free-for-all, enemies and friends are one.

Free, His essence~ from all hint of opposite or genus,

His dominion independent of jinn’s obedience, or of men’s!

Dexterously the Subtle One spreads His liberality,

For He is the Holder of Creation, Knower of secrets

His are rightly pride and egoism,

For His dominion’s ancient, His essence self-sufficient.

A rose-garden He makes of the fire for His Friend,

But some He carries to the Fire from Nile waters:

In the one case, it is the mandate of His beneficence,

In the other, the endorsement of His decree.

If, menacingly, he draws the sword of doom,

The very Cherubs fall unhearing, speechless;

But when He proclaims a liberal banquet,

Old Nick himself says ‘I’ll take home a portion!’

On the threshold of His grace and greatness,

Great ones doff greatness from their heads;

Yet near is He in mercy to the helpless,

Responsive to the humble’s prayer.

His knowledge is percipient of un-been circumstances,

His subtlety apprised of unspoken secrets;

In power Preserver of height and depth,

Lord of the Register on the Day of Reckoning;

No man’s back can disregard obedience to Him.,

No man’s finger may fittingly reprove His word.

Ancient, Good-doer and Approver of goodness,

Limner, with the Pen of Destiny within the womb.

He gives the sperm-drop fairy-form:

Who else has practiced fashioning on liquid?

Ruby and turquoise He places in the loins of rock,

And ruby-flowers on turquoise-coloured branches;

From clouds He casts a drop towards the deep,

From loins He brings the sperm-drop into belly:

A gleaming pearl of the one drop He makes,

Of the other a cypress-statured form.

Knowledge of a single atom is not concealed from Him,

For to Him manifest and concealed are one:

Purveyor of daily fare to serpent and ant alike,

Though they lack hands and feet and strength.

At his command, from non-existence, existence took design:

Who can make being from non-being, save Him?

Yet, once again He’ll bring it down into the reticence of non-existence,

And thence onto the plain of Judgment.

The world, in accord on His divinity,

Is at a loss to sound His quiddity;

Man has not found what lies beyond His grandeur,

Sight has not found His beauty’s term;

No bird of imagination flies to His essence’ pinnacle,

No hand of understanding reaches His description’s hem;

In this whirlpool went down ships by the thousand,

Of which not a plank turned up on the shore.

What nights have I sat lost upon this course,

When consternation seized my sleeve: ‘Away!

Earth’s spread’s encompassed in the knowledge of the King,

While your analogy will not encompass Him!

Perception never plumbed his essence,

Reflection never reached His attributes’ abyss;

One may in rhetoric attain the standing of Sahban,

But never plumb Subhan the Matchless;

Favoured ones have urged their mounts along this course,

But lost the race, their cry: ‘I cannot number …’;

Not everywhere a steed can gallop:

In places one must cast away one’s shield.

But privy to the secret let a wayfarer once become,

The gateway of return is shut up on him:

In this feast when a man is reached the goblet,

He’s given the draught of senselessness.

In one hawk the eyes are sewn up fast,

Another’s eyes are open, but his feathers burnt away.

No one ever made his way to Korah’s treasure;

But if he did, he never again found his way forth:

I’m dying in these waves of lifeblood’s ocean,

Whence no one ever brought a ship;

Do you desire to cross this land?

Hamstring first the horses for the way back!

Contemplate the mirror of the heart,

And gradually you’ll win serenity.

Perchance a scent of Love goes to your head,

Filling you with desirefor “Am I not”’s compact?

On questing foot you’ll make your way thither,

And thence you’ll fly on Affection’s wing.

Certainty rends the veils of fancy:

No curtain’s left, but only Grandeur’s self;

Intelligence’s mount can trot no further,

Perplexity takes its bridle, saying ‘Whoa!’

Into this ocean has gone only the Proselytizing Man,

The one who would not follow the Shepherd lost his way;

Those who from this road turned aside

Went far but were confounded;

That man chose a contrary road to the Messenger’s

Who will never reach the stage-post.

Think not, Sa’di, that the road of serenity

Can be travelled save in the Chosen One’s footsteps.

 

Tr. by: «G.M. Wickens»

Khwajah Abudullah Ansari (1006-1088)

A famous 11th century Sufi shaikh who lived in Herat, a well known city in the Khorasan region and now a part of modern day Afghanistan. His writings range over the domain of mysticism and philosophy, the most famous of which is the Munajat Namah (Dialogues with God). Another prominent work is the Kashful Asrar, a work of Sufi tafsir or exegesis on the Qur’an, which was compiled by his disciples after his death.

Invocation

1

O’ God!

You made Creation gratis,

You provided subsistence gratis,

Have mercy on us gratis,

You are God, not a merchant.

2

Sorrows are joyful with the memory of you,

Happiness is delusion withoutthe sight of you.

3

O’ God!

You are all, We are nothing;

This is all that needs to be said, Be not strict with us.

4

O’ God!

What grace is this that you have bestowed on your friends?

Whoever recognized them, finds you;

and whoever finds you, recognizes them

5

O’ God!

When I look upon you,

I see myself a king among kings,

A crown on my head;

When I look upon myself,

I see myself among the humble,

Dust on my head.

6

If I devote but a moment to you,

How then could I fancy houris and mansions in Paradise?

7 

O’ God!

I am annoyed by these acts of obedience

That cause me to be proud;

Happy that disobedience that brings me to my knees.

8

O’ God!

If we speak, we speak of thee

If we seek, we seek your pleasure

Tr. by:«G.M. Wickens»

 

 A Tale from Sa’di 

1

Aggrieved because I had no shoes

I shuffled down the street,

Till someone cried: “There stumping goes

A man who has no feet.’

Then was I instantly aware

That I from pain was free,

And thanked God, the Compassionate,

For all He’d given me.

 

Tr. by «Edward Bowen»

2

I never complained of the vicissitudes of fortune, nor murmured at the ordinan-

ces of heaven, excepting once, when my feet were bare and I had not the

means of procuring myself shoes. I entered the great mosque of Kufah with a

heavy heart, when I beheld a man who had no feet. I offered up praise and

thanksgiving to God for His beauty, and bore with patience the want of shoes.

 

Tr. by «Reuben Levy»

Nizam al-Mulk (1018-1092)

A highly influential vizier to the Seljuk sultans Alp Arslan and Malik Shah I, Nizam al-Mulk is remembered for more than just his political cunning. He was the founder of several centers for higher learning which bore his name, the so-called nizamiyyah, which were in many ways precursors to European universities. His Siyasatnama (Book of Government) contains his influential political thought, which he had developed over 30 years of service to the court. He was assassinated on his way to Isfahan, possibly by a member of the notorious Hashshashin.

 

The Story of Moses and the Lost Sheep

 

They say that when Moses (upon him be peace) was still the shepherd of the

Prophet Shu’aib (upon him be peace) and had not yet received divine inspira­-

tion, he was one day feeding his sheep. By chance one ewe became separated

from the others. Moses wanted to bring her back to the flock, but the ewe ran

off into the desert; not being able to see the sheep, she ran about in terror and

Moses chased her for a distance of two or three farsangs, until she had no

strength left and fell down exhausted and could not get up. Moses came up to

her and was moved with compassion. He said, ‘0 hapless one, whither are you

fleeing? Whom do you fear? ‘Seeing that she could not walk anymore, he pick­-

ed her up and put her on his shoulders and brought her back to the flock.

When the ewe saw the flock her heart was glad and began to throb; Moses put

her down and she joined the flock. God (be He exalted) called to the angels,

saying, ‘Saw ye with what tenderness My servant treated that dumb ewe? Be­-

cause he took trouble and harmed not the ewe, but rather had mercy on her, [I

declare] by My glory that I will raise him up and make him My interlocutor; I

will grant him prophethood and send him a book, and as long as the world ex­-

ists, his name will be spoken, God bestowed all these tokens upon him.

 

Tr. by «Hubert Darke»

Sa’di

Oneness of Mankind

All men are members of the same body,

Created from one essence

If fate brings suffering to one member,

The others cannot stay at rest

You who remain indifferent to the burden of pain of others,

Do not deserve to be called human

 

Tr. by: «Edward Rehetesk»

Rumi (1207-1273)

The most well-known Persian language poet in the West, Rumi is similarly revered in the Persian speaking world as one of the greatest, if not the greatest Sufi poet ever. His poetic works are contained in the Divan Shams-e Tabrizi, named after his spiritual teacher Shams who inspired his writing, and the Masnavi, a six-volume work of rhyming couplets that has been likened to the Qur’an in Persian. Rumi is also known as the founder of the Mevlevi Sufi order, whose practice of spinning as a form of dhikr has earned them the moniker of “whirling dervishes” in the West.

The Alchemy of Love

Through love bitter things seem sweet,

Through love bits of copper are made gold.

Through love dregs taste like pure wine,

Through love pains are as healing balms.

Through love thorns become roses

And through love vinegar becomes sweet wine.

Through love burning fire is pleasing light,

Through love the Devil becomes a Houri.

Through love grief is as joy

Through love Ghouls turn into angels.

This love is but the offspring of knowledge.

No vain claimant would take seat on such a Throne.

 

Tr. by: «R. Nicholson»

 

Al-Ghazali (1058-1111)

Al-Ghazali, is without a doubt the most influential theologian produced by the Muslim world. His works not only changed the course of Islamic intellectual history, but had a profound effect on Christian theological discourse as well—St. Thomas Aquinas acknowledged his great indebtedness to al-Ghazali. Perhaps Ghazali’s most important contribution to the field of Islamic philosophy is his rejection of reason and philosophical discourse as a means of attaining certainty in the face of radical philosophical skepticism. Instead, in his intellectual autobiography The Deliverance from Error, he argues that only mystical insight is capable of providing true knowledge, particularly in a religious context. His other monumental works are The Incoherence of the Philosophers, a refutation of many Aristotelian and Platonic ideas, and The Revival of Religious Sciences, which is his summation of the major areas of Islamic science.

 

From Doubt To Certainty

The different religious observances and religious communities of the human

race and likewise the different theological systems of the religious leaders, with

all the multiplicity of sects and variety of practices, constitute ocean depths in

which the majority ‘drown and-only a minority reach safety. From my early

youth, since I attained the age of puberty before I was twenty, until the present

time when I am over fifty, I have ever bravely embarked on this open sea,

throwing aside all craven caution; I have poked into every dark recess; I have

made an assault on every problem; I have plunged into every abyss; I have

scrutinized the creed of every sect; I have tried to lay bare the inmost doctrines

of every community. All this have I done that I might distinguish between true

and false, between sound tradition and heretical innovation.

To thirst after a comprehension of things as they really are was my habit

and custom from a very early age. It was instinctive with me, a part of my God-

­given nature, a matter of temperament and not of my choice or contriving. Con-

sequently as I drew near the age of adolescence the bonds of mere authority

(taqlid) ceased to hold me, and inherited beliefs lost their grip upon me, for I

saw that Christian youths always grew up to be Christians, Jewish youths to be

Jews, and Muslim youths to be Muslims.

I therefore said within myself: “To begin with, what I am looking for is

knowledge of what “things really are, so I must undoubtedly try to find

what knowledge really is.” It was plain to me that sure and certain knowledge

in which the object is disclosed in such a fashion that no doubt remains along

with it, that no possibility of error or illusion accompanies it, and that the mind

cannot even entertain such a supposition. Certain knowledge must also be infal-

­lible; and this infallibility or security from error is such that no attempt to show

the falsity of the knowledge can occasion doubt or denial. even though the at-

­tempt is made by someone who turns stones into gold or a rod into a serpent.

Thus I know that ten is more three. Let us suppose that someone says to me:

“No, there is more than ten, and in proof of that I shall change this rod into a

serpent and that I witness him doing so. No doubts about what I know are

raised in me because of this. The only result is that I wonder precisely how he

is able to produce this change. Of doubt about my knowledge there is no trace.

After these reflections I knew that whatever I do not know in this fashion

and with this mode of certainty is not reliable and infallible knowledge; and

knowledge that is not infallible is not certain knowledge.

Thereupon I investigated the various kinds of knowledge I had, and found

myself destitute of all knowledge with this characteristic of infallibility except

in the case of sense-perception and necessary truths. So I said: “Now that

despair has come over me, there is no point in studying any problems except

on the basis of what is self-evident, namely, necessary truths and the affirma-

­tions of the senses. I must first bring these to be judged in order that I may be

certain on this matter. Is my reliance on sense-perception and my trust in the

soundness of necessary truths of the same kind as my previous trust in the

beliefs I had merely taken over from others, and as the trust most men have in

the results of thinking? Or is it a justified trust that is in no danger of being

betrayed or destroyed?”

 

Tr. by: «Montgomery Watt»

A Tale from Sa’di

In the circle of jewelers of Basra I met an Arab who was telling this story:

“Once I lost my way in the desert with no provisions. I was about to die when I

suddenly found a bag full of pearls. Never will I forget that moment of joy and

happiness when I thought they were fried wheat grains, and then the bitterness

and despair when I discovered they were only pearls.

 

Tr. by «Reuben Levy»

Sa’di

On the Censure of Backbiting

In childhood I conceived desire of fasting,

Not knowing which was left yet which was right!

A devotee, a local pious man,

Taught me to wash my hands and face:

‘Say first “In God’s Name!” as practice prescribes;

Second, fix your mind; and third, wash the palms;

Then wash yourmouth and nose three times,

Scraping your nostrils with your little finger;

With forefinger, then, massage the front teeth

(For a toothpick’s forbidden, afternoon, when in fast);

Next dash three handfuls of water on the face,

‘From where the hair grows on the head down to the chin;

Item, wash both arms up to the elbow-joint,

Saying whatever you know in praise of God, and recollection of Him;

Item, massage your head, then rinseyour feet-

And there it is, all finished in the Name of God!

None knows the ritual better than I do:

See you not the village-elders turned decrepit?’

The ancient village-headman heard these words

And lost his temper: ‘O foul person, execrated one!

Did you not call it error to use toothpicks while in fast?

But is it right to eat the sons of men when they are dead?

Wash first your mouth from what should not be said:

Then it will be washed free of edibles!’

When a person’s name comes up in company,

Call him by the fairest name and designation;

If constantly you say that other men are asses,

Do not suppose they’ll speak of you as human!

So speak of my conduct in the district round about

That you may say it to my face;

If by a beholder’s eye you’re put to shame,

Is not, O sightless one, the Knower of the Unseen ever present?

Are you not, then, of your own self ashamed

That you have disregarded Him but are ashamed by me?

Three persons, so I’ve heard, may rightly be disparaged,

While if you pass beyond them to a fourth, that’s wrong:

One is an emperor approving what is blameworthy,

On whose account you see harm lying on men’s hearts;

It is permissible to pass reports of him,

That mankind may be against him on their guard.

Second, no covering spin around the shameless man

Who even rends the veil round his own self;

Preserve him not, good brother, from a pool

For he to the neck will fall in a pit!

Third, is the man of crooked scale, his nature devious:

Tell all you know of his evil deeds.

 

Tr. by «G.M. Wickens»

 

Sa’di

 

The Epilogue of Gulestan

Most of the utterances of Sa’di being exhilarant and mixed with pleasantry,

shortsighted persons have on this account lengthened the tongue of blame, alleging that it is not the part of intelligent men to spend in vain the kernel of

their brain, and to eat without profit the smoke of the lamp; it is, however,

not concealed from enlightened men, who are able to discern the tendency

of words, that pearls of curative admonition are strung upon the thread of explanation, and that the bitter medicine of advice is commingled with the

honey of wit, in order that the reader’s mind should not be fatigued, and

thereby excluded from the benefit of acceptance; and praise be to the Lord

of both worlds.

We gave advice in its proper place

Spending a lifetime in the task.

If it should not touch anyone’s ear of desire

The messenger told his tale; it is enough.

 

Tr. by «Edward Rehatsek»

 

Jami (1414-1492)

One of the later medieval Persian poets and one of the last masters of Sufi poetry. He composed a substantial amount of poetry over the course of his life, but his masterwork is the Haft Awrang (Seven Thrones), a reference to the seven stars that make up the Big Dipper. It is made up of seven books in masnavi (rhyming couplet) form, and covers the essentials of Sufi ethics and philosophy.

 

BEAUTY

In that solitude, in which being was without a mark,

The universe still lay hidden in the treasure – house of non-existence;

Whilst its substance had not yet taken the form of duality,

And was far from speech and talk, from “We” and “Ye”.

BEAUTY was free from the shackles of form,

And by its own light alone was it visible to itself;

It was a lovely bride behind the veil of her nuptial-chamber,

Her vesture unsullied by suspicion of a speck.

There was no mirror to reflect back its countenance,

Nor had ever comb passed a hand through its ringlets;

No breeze had ever ruffled a lock of its tresses;

Its eye had never been touched by a grain of surmadust;

No nightingale had yet nestled under the shade of his rose;

No rose had put yet on her adornment of verdure;

Its cheekwas not yet embellished by mole or down,

And no eye had yet beheld it even in imagination;

Its voice of endearment was with itself alone,

And with itself was played its game of affection.

But wherever the power of Beauty exists,

Beauty is angered to be hidden by a veil.

A lovely face will not endure concealment:

Bar but the door, it will escape by the window!

Behold the tulip on the mountain-top,

How smilingly it comes forth in the vernal season;

It shoots out of the earth thro’ every cleft of the rock,

And forces itself into notice by its own loveliness.

When a feeling of Beauty once falls upon the sight,

And strangely threads itself on the tie of sensation,

It can never again pass away from the fancy;

It insists henceforth on being heard or spoken of.

Wherever is the Beautiful, this is its law,

Imposed by the action of the Eternal Beauty;

Coming from the realms of the Holy, here it pitched its station,

And revealed itself in every quarter and to every spirit.

In every mirror is reflected its face,

In every place is heard its conversation and language; all

And the holy who are seeking the Holy

Exclaim in ecstasy, “O Thou Holy One!”

And from all the divers in this celestial ocean

Rises the shout, “Glory to the Lord of Angels!”

From its brightness a beam fell upon the Rose,

And from the Rose came its melody into the soul of the Nightingale;

From its fire the Taper kindled up its cheek,

And forthwith a hundred Moths were burnt in every chamber:

From its light a spark set on fire the sun,

And straightway the Nile-lily raised its head from the water,

By its countenance Laila arrayed her own,

And Majnun’s passion was inflamed by every hair;

The mouth of Shirin opened its sugared lip,

And stole the heart of Parviz and the soul of Ferhad;

The Moon of Canaan raised its head from its breast,

And bore away reason from the brain of Zulaikha.

Yes! -Beauty unveils its countenance in the private chamber.

Even when hid behind the veil from earthly lovers;

of every veil which thou seest it is the veil-holder,

Tis its decree which carries every heart into bondage;

In its love only has the heart its life;

In its love only has the soul its felicity.

The heart of everyone who is enamoured with the lovely

Is inspired by its love, whether he knows it or not.

Beware that thou fall into no error as to Beauty;

Love we must when it shows forth its charms;

For as each thing is fair, so is it worthy of love;

It is the stem whence comes the object:

Thou art the mirror, it brings thee the image;

Thou art hid by a veil, it shows itself openly;

When thou lookest on Beauty, it is the mirror also,

For it is not only the treasure, but the treasure-house too

We have in this matter no right to intermeddle – thou and I;

Our opinions about it are but vain fancies!

Be silent! _ for this is a tale which has no ending,

Its language is one which has no interpreter.

Better for us that our business be love,

For without its converse we are nothing – nothing!

 

Tr. by «Ralf. T.H. Griffith»

 

Keykawus ibn Iskandar (1021-1098)

Keykawus ibn Iskandar is remembered first and foremost for his famous Qabusnameh, a masterpiece of the genre known as “mirrors for princes.” These books were meant to give advice to royalty as to how they should live and rule. The following selection is taken from the only English translation of this work.

 

On The Decline of The Sassanid Empire

Buzurjmihr was asked, “why was it that the empire of the house of Sasan fell to

ruin while you were their councellor, for today you have no equal in the world

for prudence and policy and wisdom and learning?” He said, “there were two

reasons, firstly the Sassanians entrusted weighty affairs to petty and ignorant of­ficers,

and secondly they hated learning and learned people. Men of stature

and wisdom should be sought out and put into office.”

 

Tr. by: «Reuben Levy»

 

Saeb Tabrizi (1601-1677)

Called “the King of Poets” in his day, Saeb Tabrizi is a master of the Persian lyric form of poetry known as the ghazal. His style, developed in roughly 300,000 couplets, was influenced by time he spent in India. The content of his poetry is often panegyric or epic, as in the case of The Campaign against Qandahar.

Dispersed Couplets

1

To the seeker after pearls silence is a speaking argument

For no breath comes forth from the diver in the sea

 

2

The wave is ignorant of the true nature of the sea;

How can the temporal comprehend the Eternal?

 

3

What profit accrues from a perfect guide

To those whom fate hath left empty-handed

For even Khidr brings back Alexander a thirst from the Water of Life.

 

4

The touchstone of false friends is the day of need

By way of proof, ask a loan from your friend.

5

The rosary in hand, repentance on lips, and the heart full of sinful longings

­Sin itself laughs at our repentance

 

Tr. by: «E.G. Brown»

 

Sa’di

A quadruped loaded with books

 

Two men took useless trouble and strove without any profit, when one of them

accumulated property without enjoying it, and the other learnt without practic­ing

what he had learnt.

 

However much science thou mayest acquire

Thou art ignorant when there is no practice in thee.

Neither deeply learned nor a scholar will be

A quadruped loaded with some books.

What information or knowledge does the silly beast possess

Whether it is carrying a load of wood or of books?

 

Tr. by: «Edward Rehatesk»

Sa’di

Compassion on the Orphans

I know about the suffering of children

Because I lost my father in childhood.

I wore a crown of happiness

When my head was resting on his breast.

Shelter the orphan in your shade,

Wipe the dust off his face

And pick the thorn from his foot.

When you see an orphan sad and dejected,

Do not kiss your own child.

Wipe his tear with mercy

And clean his face with affection.

 

Tr. by: «G.M.Wickens»

Ferdowsi (940-1020)

A universally revered figure of Persian literature, Ferdowsi is the author of the Persian national epic, the Shahnameh (The Book of Kings, or The Great Book). It was originally commissioned by Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni to commemorate his exploits. Instead, Ferdowsi recounted tales of the great kings who built the Persian Empire, taking thirty years to complete his masterpiece. The Sultan received the Shahnameh coolly upon its presentation, outraged that he was not its focus. Ferdowsi was offered a pittance for his work, which he refused. Mahmud later realized his error and sent the originally agreed upon commission price of 60,000 dinars to Ferdowsi’s home town, only to find that he had just died.

 

A Lofty Laudation in Praise of the Lord

Great Lord of Life and Wisdom! In Thy Name

Which to transcend no flight of thought may claim,

The Lord of honour, and of place and pride,

Who gives our daily bread and is our guide,­

The Lord of Universe and rolling sphere,

Bright in Whom Nahid, Sun and Moon appear,

Our highest ideals doth He all excel

Painter supreme of every gem as well!-

You the Creator who now fain wouldsee,

Trouble your eyes not, for it cannot be.

No anxious care to Him its way may find

All dignity and fame Him lag behind.

Words that this excellence would pass beyond,

These nor in soul nor wisdom may be found,

The soul and wisdom only would he weigh,

Nor cares he worldly riches to assay

None knows to praise Him as He truly is,

Thy service with girt loins is duly His.

 

Tr. by: «W. Clarke»

 

 

Mir Fendereski (1562-1640)

This Persian-language philosopher was heavily influenced by ideas in the Indian philosophical tradition and is known to have taken a fairly ecumenical approach to God. Ibn Sina and the Greek philosophers also informed his philosophical outlook. His most well-known work, al-Resala al-sena’iya, uses a similar method to Plato’s Republic, examining the ideal society by analogy to the human body.

 

Beneath and Above

“The heaven with these fair and pleasant stars should be beautiful;

It hath an aspect beneath, whatever there may be above.

If this lower aspect should ascend by the ladder of knowledge,

It would indeed be at one with its original.

No exoteric understanding can comprehend this speech,

Though it be Abu Nasr (al-Farabi) or Abu ‘Al [ibn] Sina (Avicenna).”

Opening lines from a well-known Ode by Mir Findereski

 

Tr. by: «E.G. Browne»

 

Sa’di

A Tale From Gulestan

Two durwaishes of Khorasan who had entered into strict intimacy, travelled

together: One who was infirm would fast for two days, and the other who was

robust used to eat three times a day. It happened that they were seized at the

gate of a city on suspicion of being spies, were both confined in the same room

and the door closed up with mud. After a fortnight it was discovered that they

were innocent. On opening the door, they found the strong man dead, and the

infirm one alive. They were astonished at the circumstance, but a philosopher

said, that the contrary would have been more wonderful, for the one who was a

great eater, was not able to support abstinence; and the other who was meek,

having his body in subjection, and being used to fasting, had happily escaped.

A person who had accustomed himself to eat sparingly,

When difficulty occurs, bears it easily

But if in time of prosperity he has been used to pamper himself,

When he meets with distress he sinks under it.

 

Tr. by: «Major R.P. Anderson»

 

Rumi

 

Here Am I

One night a certain man cried “Allah!”

Till his lips grew sweet with praising Him.

The Devil said, “O man of many words”

Where is the response ‘Here am I’(labbayka) to all this ‘Allah’?

Not a single response is coming from the Throne:

“How long will you say ‘Allah’ with grim face?”

He was broken-hearted and lay down to sleep:

In a dream he saw Khadir amidst the verdure,

Who said, “Hark, you have held back from praising God:

Why do you repent of calling unto Him?”

He answered “No ‘Here am I’ is coming to me in response:

I fear that I am turned away from the Door.”

Said Khadir, “Nay; God saith: that ‘Allah’ of thine is My ‘Here am I’”

And that supplication and grief, and ardour of thine is My message to thee.

Thy fear and love are the noose to catch My Favour:

Beneath every ‘O Lord’ ofthine is many a ‘Here am I’ from me

 

Tr. by: «R. Nicholson»

 

From Discourses of Rumi

The Prophet, on whom be peace, said: The worst of scholars is he who visits

princes, and the best of princes ·is he who visits scholars. Happy is the prince

who stands at the poor man’s door, and wretched is the poor man who stands

at the door of the prince.

People who have taken the outward sense of these words to signify that it is

not right for a scholar to visit a prince, lest he should become amongst the worst of

scholars. That is not their true meaning, as they have supposed. Their meaning

is rather this: that the worst of scholars is he who accepts help from princes,

and whose welfare and salvation is dependent upon and stems from the fear of

princes. Such a man first applies himself to the pursuit of learning with the

in­tention that princes should bestow on him presents, hold him in esteem, and

promote him to office. It was therefore on their account that he consented to

better himself and converted from ignorance to knowledge. When he became a

scholar, he was disciplined by the fear of them and was subject to their control.

Willy-nilly, then, he comforts himself in conformity with the way which they

have mapped out for him. Consequently, whether it is the prince who formally

visits him or he goes to visit the prince, he is in every case the visitor and it is

the prince who is visited

When, however, the case is otherwise, when the scholar has not become

qualified with learning on account of princes but rather his learning from first

to last has been for the sake of God; when his way and wont have been upon

the path of rectitude because it is in his nature so to comport himself and he

cannot do otherwise—just as a fish can only live and thrive in water—such a

scholar is subject to the control and direction of reason. All men, living in his

time are held in check by the awe of him and derive succor from the reflec­tion

of his radiance, whether they are aware of the fact or no. If such a scholar

goes formally to visit the prince, it is himself who is visited and the prince is the

visitor, because in every case the prince takes from him and receives help from

him. That scholar is independent of the prince. He is like the light-giving sun,

whose whole function is giving and dispensing universally, converting stones

into rubies and cornelians, changing mountains of earth into mines of copper

and gold and silver and iron, making the earth fresh and verdant, bestowing

upon the trees fruits of diverse kinds. His trade is giving: he dispenses and does

not receive. The Arabs have expressed this in a proverb: ‘We have learned in

order to give, we have not learned in order to take.’ Hence it is they who are in

all circumstances the visited, and the princes who are the visitors.

 

Tr. by: «AJ. Arberry»

 

Gems of Wisdom

 

From the Traditions of the Holy Apostle

After the Holy Koran which is regarded as “Wahy” or

divine revelation, there is no source of authority in Islam

greater than the sayings, and deeds of the Holy apostle desig­nated

by the term “sunna” or the traditions. The importance

of sunna is well expressed in the following passage by

Ghazali the great theologian of 11th century;

 

Know that the key of happiness

is following the Sunna and imitating

God’s Apostle in all his goings

out and comings in,

in his movements and times of

quiescence even in the manner of

his eating, his department, his

sleep and his speech, not only

in matters of religious

observances alone but in all matters

of use and mont.

 

The following traditions have been gathered from different

sources. Besides the Persian and English translations,

poems have also been provided commenting on the tradi­tions.

Tr. by: «H.M. Ghomshei»

 

1

Knowledge is the stray camel of the

Believers: where so ever they find it, they

take it.

 

2

“You are pure; we have not known you as befits you.”

How can any eye come to see you as you

are; one perceives you only to the extent

of his insight.

 

3

“A good Moslem is one who minds his own business and does not interfere in

what does not concern him.”

 

4

“HAPPY is the person who finds fault with himself instead of finding fault with others.”

O you who never understood good and evil,

examine yourself first, then turn to others.

If you have examined yourself,

You will be freed from examining others.

 

5

“WHOEVER devotes himself solely to God for 40 days, fountains of wisdom

shall pour forth from his heart upon his tongue.”

 

6

“I was delegated as a prophet in order to perfect moral virtues.”

 

7

“MODERATION is the best course of action.”

 

8

“O son of Adam, I created you for Myself, and all things for you.”

Man is the substance, the world but an accident.

All is shadow-like and secondary, only you are the purpose.

Clouds and wind, moon and sun, the heavens all are working

All that you may acquire your daily bread, and not eat it while neglecting the truth.

For your sake alone, all are circling obediently

Thus would it be unjust for you, not to be obedient to God

 

9

“WHOEVER knocks on a door and persists will be allowed in.”

Rumi considered this tradition an authentic one as indicated by the following

poem:

Knock on a door, the Apostle said,

And in the end it shall be opened to you.

Wait on the street of a friend,

And eventually you will see His face

Dig all day in the earth

And finally you will reach pure water.

 

10

“The best people are those who possess a good temperament.”

In the world of pursuit I have found no virtue

Better than good temper

 

11

Pursuit of knowledge is an obligation on every Muslim, man or woman.

12

Seek out knowledge even if you have to take a long journey to China.

Tr. by: «Dr. J. Nourbakhsh»

Edited by: H.M.Ghomshei

 

 

Sa’di

 

A Tale from Gulestan

In the great mosque at Balbak, I was reciting some words by way of admoni­tion

to a company whose hearts were withered and dead, incapable of applying

the ways of the visible to the purposes of the invisible world. I perceived that

what I was saying had no effect on them, and that the fire of my piety had not

kindled their green mood.

I became weary of instructing brutes, and of holding a mirror in the way of the

blind; but the door of signification continued open, and the concatenation of

discourse was extended in explanation of this verse of the Koran, “We

are nearer to him than his jugular vein.” My discourse had got to such a length

that I said:

A friend is nearer to me than myself,

But what is more wonderful, I am far from him,

“What shall I do, to whom shall I address myself,

Since he is in my arms, whilst I am separated from him?”

I am intoxicated with the mine of his discourse, and the dregs of the cup are in

my hand. At this time a traveller passing by the company was so much

animated by my last words, that he exclaimed with an emphasis that produced

the acclamations of the whole, and the senseless company joined in enthusiastic

rapture. I said: “O God those who are afar off know thee, whilst those who are

near and ignorant, are at a distance,

When the hearer does not understand the discourse,

Expect nor any effect of genius from the orator:

First extend the plain of desire,

In order that the orator may strike the ball of eloquence.”

 

Tr. by: «R.M. Rehder»

 

Rumi

 

Spiritual Journey

 

1

I died from mineral, and plant became;

Died from the plant and took the sentient frame;

Died from the beast, and donned a human dress;

When by my dying did I ever grow less?

Another time from manhood must die

To soar with angel-pinions through the sky.

‘Midst Angels also I, must lose my place.

Since “Everything shall perish save His Face.”

Let me be Naught! The harp strings tell me plain

That unto Him do we return again.

 

Tr. by: «E. Brown»

 

2

I died as mineral and became a plant,

I died as plant and rose to animal,

I died as animal and I was man.

Why should I fear? When was I less by dying?

Yet once more I shall die as man, to soar

With angels blest; but even from angelhood

I must pass on: all except God doth perish.

When I have sacrificed my angel soul,

I shall become what no mind e’er conceived.

Oh, let me not exist! for Non-existence

Proclaim in organ tones, “To Him we shall return.”

Tr. by: «R.A. Nicholson»

 

Sa’di

 

A Tale of Gulestan

I saw a merchant who possessed one hundred and fifty camels laden with

merchandise, and forty slaves. One night, in the island of Kish, he entertained me

in his own apartment, and during the whole night did not cease talking in ram­bling

fashion, saying: “I have such and .such a partner in Turkistan, and such

goods in Hindustan; these are the title-deeds of such and such a piece of

ground, and, for this matter such a one is security.” Sometimes he would say: “I

have an inclination to go to Alexandria, the air of which is very pleasant.” Then

again: “No, I will not go, because the Mediterranean sea is boisterous. O Sadi, I

have another journey in contemplation, and after I have performed that I will

pass the remainder of my life in retirement, and leave off trading.” I asked what

journey it was. He replied: “I want to carry Persian brimstone to China, where I

have heard it bears a very high price; from thence I will transport China ware

to Greece, and take the brocades of Greece ~Q India, and India steel to Aleppo.

The glassware of Aleppo I will convey to Yemen and from thence go with

striped cloths to Persia; after which I will leave off trade and sit down in my

shop.” He spoke so much of this foolishness that at length, being quite

ex­hausted, he said: “O Sadi, relate also something of what you have seen and

heard.” I replied:

“Have you not heard that once upon a time a merchant,

As he was travelling in the desert, fell from his camel?

He said that the covetous eye of the worldly man

Is either satisfied through contentment or will be filled with the earth of the

grave.”

 

Tr. by: «R.M. Redher»

 

Sa’di

 

A Tale from Gulestan

I heard of a collector of revenues, who desolated the houses of the subjects, in

order to fill the king’s coffers; regardless of the maxim of the sages which says,

“Whosoever offendeth the most high to gain the heart of a fellow creature, God

will make that very creature the instrument of his destruction.”

The burning flame from wild rue raises not such a smoke

as is occasioned by the sighs of the afflicted heart.

They say, that the lion is the king of beasts, and the ass the meanest of animals,

but the sages agree, that the ass who carries burdens, is preferable to the lion,

that destroyeth mankind.

 

Tr. by: «Major R.P. Anderson»

A Tale from Sa’di

 

In Egypt dwelt two sons of a nobleman, one of whom acquired learning and

the other gained wealth; the former became the most learned man of his time

and the other Prince of Egypt. Afterwards the rich man looked with contempt

on his learned brother, and said, “I have arrived at monarchy, and you have

con­tinued in the same state of poverty.” He replied, “O, brother, it behoveth me to

be the more thankful to the divine Creator since I have found the inheritance

of the prophets, that is wisdom; and you have got the portion of Pharaoh, and

Haman, or the Kingdom of Egypt.

I am the ant, which men tread under their feet

And not the wasp, of whose sting they complain.

How shall I express my grateful sense of such blessing,

That I am not possessed of the means of oppressing mankind?”

 

Tr. by: «Major R.P. Anderson»

 

Rumi

 

The Soul of Prayer

 

1

JAI.AL UL-DIN was asked, “Is there any way to God nearer than the ritual

prayer?’ ‘No’, he replied; “but prayer does not consist in forms alone. Formal

prayer has a beginning and an end, like all forms and bodies and everything

that partakes of speech and sound; but the soul is unconditioned and infinite: it

has neither beginning nor end. The prophets alone have shown the true nature

of prayer … Prayer is the drowning and unconsciousness of the soul, so that all

these forms remain without. At that time there is no room even for Gabriel,

who is pure spirit. One may say that the man who prays in this fashion is

ex­empt from all religious obligations, since he is deprived of his reason.

Absorp­tion in the Divine Unity is the soul of prayer.”

 

Tr. by: «R. Nicholson»

 

2

Someone asked: Is there any way nearer to God than prayer?

He replied: Also prayer, but prayer which is not merely this outward form.

This is the ‘body’ of prayer, since formal prayer has a beginning and an end; and

everything which has a beginning and an end is a ‘body.’ The words Allallu

Akbar are the beginning of formal prayer, and its end is the salutation ‘Peace.’

Similarly the profession of faith is not merely the formula uttered on the

tongue, for that formula too has a beginning and an end. Every thing which is

expressed in words and sounds and has a beginning and an end is ‘form’ and

‘body’; its ‘soul’ is unconditioned and infinite, and has neither beginning nor

Moreover this formal prayer was invented by the prophets. Now our

prophet, who invented the Muslim prayer, spoke as follows: ‘I have a time with

God when I am not contained by any prophet sent by God, neither by any

angel set near to God.’ Hence we realize that the ‘soul’ of prayer is not this

‘form’ alone. Rather it is a complete absorption, a state of unconsciousness

excluding and not finding room for all these outward forms. Gabriel himself, who

is pure reality, is not contained therein.

Tr. by: «S.J. Arberry»

Sa’di

 

A Tale from Gulestan

They asked a certain wise man what was his opinion of consecrated bread? He

Replied, “If they receive it in order to compose their minds, and to promote

their devotions, it is lawful but, if they want nothing but bread, it is illegal

 

Men of piety receive bread to enjoy religious retirement

But enter not into the cell of devotion for the sake of obtaining bread.

Tr. by: «E. Rehatsek»

Sa’di

 

Severity and Mildness

 

Wrath beyond measure produces estrangement and untimely kindness destroys

authority. Be neither so harsh as to disgust the people with thee nor so mild as

to embolden them.

Severity and mildness together are best

Like a bleeder who is a surgeon and also applies a salve.

 

Sa’di

 

A Tale from Gulestan

1

On one occasion we had marched, I recollect with the caravan, and halted

towards morning on the skirts of the wilderness. One mystically distracted, who

accompanied us on that journey, set up a loud lamentation at dawn, went

wandering into the desert, and did not take a moment’s rest. Next day I said to

him, ”What condition was that?” He replied, “I remarked the nightingales that

they had come to carol in the groves, the pheasants to ‘prattle on the moun­tains,

the frogs to croak in the pools, and the wild beasts to roar in the forests

and thought with myself, saying, it cannot be generous that all are awake in

God’s praise and I am wrapped up in the sleep of forgetfulness!

Last night a bird was caroling towards the morning;

It stole my patience and reason, my fortitude and understanding.

My Lamentation had perhaps reached

The ear of one of my clearly beloved friends.

He said, ‘I did not believed that the singing of a bird

Could so distract thee!’

I answered, this is not the duty of the human species,

That the birds are singing God’s praise and that I am silent.

 

Tr. by: «R.M. Rehder»

 

2

I remember having once walked all night with a caravan and then slept on the

edge of the desert. A distracted man who had accompanied ns on that journey

raised a shont, ran towards the desert ·and took not a moment’s rest. When it

was daylight, I asked him what state of his that was. He replied: ‘I saw bulbuls

commencing to lament on the trees, the partridges on the mountains, the frogs

in the water and the beasts in the desert so I bethought myself that it would not

be becoming for me to sleep in carelessness while they all were praising God.’

Yesterday at dawn a bird lamented,

Depriving me of sense, patience, strength and consciousness.

One of my intimate friends

Who had perhaps heard my distressed voice

Said: ‘I could not believe that thou

Wouldst be so dazed by a bird’s cry.’

I replied: ‘It is not becoming to humanity

That I should be silent when birds chant praises.’

 

Tr. by: «Edward Rehatsek»

 Nezami (1141-1209)

Yet another one of the great Persian poets, Nezami is most famous for his narrative poetry. Five of his greatest stories are preserved in the Panj Ganj (Five Jewels). These tales, all epic in scope, range in subject matter from the lives of kings (Eskandar-nameh or the Book of Alexander) to unrequited lovers (Layli-o Majnun or Layla and Majnun). Nezami’s renderings of these timeless stories have spawned countless imitators but no one has equaled the brilliance of language or the reach of his influence.

Pray

O Fashioner of all that doth exist,

Our strength in weakness doth in Thee consist.

The whole creation is beneath Thy sway.

We live, for Thou art Life itself away.

No outward form to Thee assigned can be.

Unlike art Thou to us, and we to Thee.

Unspoken be words not of Thee designed;

Forgotten be what brings not Thee to mind.

All we are mortal; Thou immortal art.

To us beneficient—in holiness apart.

Tr. by: «Rev. R.N. Sharp»

 

Nezami

 

Khayyam’s Prediction

 

In the year A.H. 506 [A.D. 1112-13], Khwaja Imam ‘Umar-i-Khayyami and

Khwaja Imam Muzaffar-i-Isfizari had alighted in the city of Balkh, in the Street

of the Slave-sellers, in the house of Amir Abu Said Jarrah, and I had joined that

assembly. In the midst of our convivial gathering I heard that Argument of

Truth ‘Umar say, ‘my grave will be in a spot where the trees will shed their

blos­soms on me twice a year.’ This thing seemed to me impossible, though I knew

that such a one would not speak idle words.

When I arrived at Nishapur in the year A.H. 530 [A.D. 1135-6], it being

then four years since that great man had veiled his countenance in the dust,

and this nether world had been bereaved of him, I went to visit his grave on

the eve of a Friday (seeing that he had the claim of a master on me), taking

with me one to point out to me his tomb. So he brought me out to the Hira

Cemetery; I turned to the left, and found his tomb situated at the foot of a

garden wall over which pear-trees and peach-trees thrust their heads, and on his

grave had fallen so many flower-leaves that his dust was hidden beneath the

flowers. Then I remembered that saying which I had heard from him in the city

of Balkh, and I fen to weeping, because on the face of the earth and in all the

regions of the habitable globe, I nowhere saw one like unto him. May God

(blessed and exalted is He!) have mercy upon him, by His Grace and His

favour! Yet although I witnessed this prognostication on the part of that Proof

of the Truth. Umar, I did not observe that he had any great belief in astrologi­cal

predictions; nor have I seen or heard of any of the great [scientists] who

had such belief.

Tr. by: «E.G. Brown»

A Quatrain from Omar Khayyam (1048-1131)

Though he is probably more well-known in the West for his poetry, Omar Khayyam was gifted in many different disciplines. He made important contributions to the development of algebra in mathematics, and he taught the Neoplatonic philosophy of Ibn Sina his hometown of Nishapur. His poetry was introduced to the West by a famous (though rather loose) translation of his ruba’i (quatrains) by Edward Fitzgerald.

1

And this I know: whether the one true light.

Kindle to love or wrath-consume me quite.

One flash of it within the Tavern Caught

Better than in temple lost outright

 

Tr. by: «E. Fitzgerald»

 

2

In tavern better for commune with Thee,

Than pray in mosques and fail Thy face to see!

O’ first and last of all Thy creatures Thou,

‘Tis Thine to burn and Thine to cherish me!

 

Tr. by: «Winfield»

 

3

In some low inn I’d rather seek Thy face

Than pray without Thee toward the niche’s place

O First and last of all, as Thou dost will,

Burn me in Hell – or save me by Thy grace.

 

Tr. by: «Rodswell»

 

Better at tavern, and with wine

To lay Thee all my Secrets bare

Than to intone the parrot prayer

And Thou not with me in the Shrine

Thy name is Last and First to tell

Whatever is, save Thee, is nil

Then cherish me, if so Thy will

Be done – or burn my soul in hell.

 

Tr. by: «Arberry»

 

5

I would rather in the tavern with Thee

Pour out all the Thoughts of my heart

Than without Thee go and make my prayer

Unto Heaven, This truly, O’ creator of all

Things present and to come, is religion;

Whether Thou castest me in to Flames, or

makest me glad with light of Thy countenance.

Tr. by: «Justin Mac Carthy»

 

A Quatrain from Omar Khayyam

 

1

Awake! for Morning in the Bowl of Night

Has flung the Stone that puts the stars to flight:

And lo! the Hunter of the East has caught

The Sultan’s Turret in a Noose of Light

 

«Fitzgerald Translation» (First Edition)

 

2

While Dawn, Day’s herald straddling the whole sky,

Offers the drowsy world a toast ‘To wine’,

The Sun spills early gold on city roofs –

Day’s regal Host, replenishing his jug.

 

Tr. by: «Graves/Shah»

A Quatrain from Omar Khayyam

 

The arch is broken and the splendor fled

Where every aspect once was brave and fair,

This Palace none inhabits save the dead

Whose ivory bones the desert breezes stir.

The Hall of Audience desecrated lies ­

Though Princes came to make obeisance here ­

And from a ruined tower an owlet cries:

The glory is departed-where? where? where?

 

«A free translation»

Tr. by: «RM. Rehde»

Nezami

 

Rebound of Goodness

Who from the world would seek for constancy?

Constant with whom was it? With us will be?

The rule of Solomon has run its span;

The world is here; but where is Solomon?

How much could Sam and Soloman retain

Of countless gold and glitter of their reign?

Earth’s sojourners are now in dust,

How knows the earth, beneath it’s dust, what lies?

On everyside was once a hero’s head;

At every step a princely foot did tread.

To be approved by men in life aspire!

That God’s approval too thou may’st acquire.

Whose goodness and whose noble deeds abound,

His goodness will again to him rebound.

 

Tr. by: «Rev. R.N. Sharp»

 

Sa’di

 

Close Communion

Come, let us lift up our hands from our hearts,

For tomorrow they cannot be raised from the clay!

In autumn’s season do you not see the tree

Left leafless by the harshness of the cold?

Raise up the vacant hands of need ­

To turn not back once more, of mercy vacant-handed?

(Suppose not, from the Door that never closes,

That any, raising hands, will turn in hopelessness!)

Destiny gives it a glorious vestment,

And God’s decree puts fruit within its sleeve.

And bring obedience, but the wretched being their need:

Come to the Court of him Who cares for wretches:

Like naked branches, let us raise our hands,

For leafless we can sit no more.

 

Tr. by: «G.M. Wickens»

 

Hatef Esfahani (d. 1783)

His birth date is unknown, but (as his name indicates) Hatef Esfahani lived and died in the central Iranian province of Isfahan. He composed poetry in a wide variety of styles—odes (ghazals), elegies, quatrains—which deals with mystical subject matter.

 

‘There is no God Save Him alone!’

From door and wall, unveiled, the Friend shines

Radiant, O ye who have eyes to see!

Thou seekest a candle whilst the sun is on high:

The day is very bright whilst thou art in darkest night.

If thou wilt but escape from thy darkness thou

Shalt behold all the universe the dawning-place of lights.

Like a blind man thou seekest guide and staff for this clear and level road.

Open thine eyes on the Rose garden, and behold

The gleaming of the pure water alike in the rose and the thorn.

From the colourless water [are derived] a hundred thousand colours: behold

The tulip and the rose in this garden-ground.

Set thy foot in the path of search, and with Love

Furnish thyself with provision for this journey.

By Love many things will be made easy which in

The sight of Reason are very difficult.

Speak of the Friend in the mornings and the evenings:

Seek for the Friend in the gloaming and at-dawn.

Though they tell thee a hundred times ‘Thou shalt not

See me still keep thine eyes fixed on the vision,

Until thou shalt reach a place to which the foot of

Fancy and the eye of Thought cannot attain.

Thou shalt find the Friend in an assembly whereunto

Not even Gabriel the trusted hath access.

This is the Road, this thy Provision, this the Halting ­

Place: if thou art a roadsman, come and bring!

And if thou art not equal to the Road, then, like the

Others, talk of the Friend and scratch the back of the head!

O Hatef, the meaning of the Gnostics, whom they

Sometimes call drunk and sometimes sober,

[When they speak] of the Wine, the Cup, the Minstrel,

The Cupbearer, the Magian, the Temple, the Beauty and the Girdle,

Are those hidden secrets which they sometimes declare in cryptic utterance.

If thou shouldst find thy way to their secret thou

Wilt discover that even this is the secret of those mysteries,

‘He is One and there is naught but He:

There is no God save Him alone!’

 

Tr. by: «E.G. Browne»

Rumi

 

Saints’ Method of Training

 

In God’s world there is nothing more difficult than enduring the ridiculous.

Suppose for instance that you have read a .certain book, corrected, emended,

and fully voca1ised it. Then someone sitting beside you reads that book all

wrongly. Can you endure that? No, it is impossible. If however you have not

read the book, it makes no difference to you whether the other man reads it

wrongly or reads it right, you cannot distinguish wrong from right. So enduring

the ridiculous is a great discipline.

The saints do not shirk discipline. The first discipline in their quest has

been to slay the self and to eschew all desires and lusts. That is the ‘greater

struggle.’ When they achieved and arrived and abode in the station of security,

wrong and right became revealed to them. They know and see right from

wrong. Still they are engaged in a great discipline; for these mortals do all

things wrongly, and they see this and endure it. For if they do not so, and speak

out and declare those mortals to be wrong, not one person will stay before

them or give them the Muslim salute. But God· most High has bestowed on

them a great and mighty power and capacity to endure: out of a hundred

wrongnesses they mention one, so that it will not come difficult to the man. His

other wrongnesses they conceal; indeed they praise him, saying, ‘That wrong of

yours is right,’ so that by degrees they may expel from him these wrongnesses,

one by one.

So, a teacher is teaching a child how to write. When he comes to writing a

whole line, the child writes a line and shows it to the teacher. In the teacher’s

eyes that is all wrong and bad. The teacher speaks to the child kindly and

cajol­ingly: ‘That is all very good, and yon have written well. Bravo, bravo! Only

this letter you have written badly; this is how it ought to be. That letter too you

have written badly.’ The teacher calls bad a few letters out of that line, and

shows the child how they ought to be written; the rest he praises, so that the ,

child may not lose heart. The child’s weakness gathers strength from that

approval, and so gradually he is taught and assisted on his way.

 

Tr.: «AJ. Arberry»

Rumi

 

Jealousy

 

O Thou that givest aliment and power and stability,

Set free the people from their instability.

Give them self-control, “weigh down their scales,”

Release them from the arts of deceivers.

See the Kings who lead forth their armies

To slay their own people from envy!

Read “Wais and Ramin” and “Khosrau and Shirin,”

To see what these fools have done to one another.

 

Tr. by: «R. Nicholson»

 

Ali ibn Abi Talib (598-661)

As the first male convert to Islam, the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law, and the 4th rightly-guided Caliph, Ali’s place in Islamic history is sealed for a wide variety of reasons. Several texts survive, however, that are attributed to him. The most important of these is the Nahj al-Balagha (The Peak of Eloquence), a collection of letters and sermons. His book of Du’a, or supplications, is available in English translation thanks to none other than William Chittick.

 

Journey

“Go abroad from the home-lands in search of eminence, and travel,

for in travel are five advantages:

The dissipation of anxiety, the acquisition of a livelihood, knowledge, culture,

and the society of some noble one (magid).

And if it be said, ‘In travels are humiliation and trouble, the traversing of

deserts and the encountering of hardships,’

Yet the death of a brave man is better for him than his continuance

In the mansion, of abasement, between humiliation and an envious rival.”

 

A Literary History of Persian

Tr. by: «E.G. Browne»

 

Kalim Kashani (1581-1651)

Born in Persia, he eventually settled in Kashmir and was the poet laureate in the court of the Mughal ruler Shah Jahan. His lengthiest work is a masnavi style poem detailing the life of the Shah, but his fame comes primarily from the reputation of his ghazals, whose style reflects the influence of his Indian surroundings.

 

The Ill Repute of Life

‘Old age hath come, and the exuberance of the youthful temperament hath departed;

The weakness of the body can no longer support the heavy [wine] cup.

The way of the world is not worth seeing a second time:

Whoever passes from this dust-heap looks not back.

Through the triumph of thy beauty over the army of Spring

The blood of the roses hath risen a fathom above the top of the Judas-tree.

Acquire such a disposition that thou canst get on with the whole world,

Or such magnanimity that thou canst dispense with the world.

According to our creed the detachment of the ‘Anqa’ is not complete,

For, though it retains no sign, it continues to think of name.

If one cannot travel the road without sight, then how

Canst thou forsake the world when thou hast closed thine eyes to it?

The ill repute of Life endureth no more than two days:

O Kalim, I will tell thee how these too passed:

One day was spent in attaching the heart to this and that,

And another day in detaching it from this and that.”

 

Tr. by: «E.G. Browne»

 

Rumi

 

Asleep to the World

Every night thou dost free our spirits from the body’s snare and erase all

im­pressions on the tablets (of memory).

Our spirits are set free every night from this cage, they are done with audience

and talk and tale.

At night prisoners forget their prison, at night governors forget their power.

There is no sorrow, no thought of gain or loss, no idea of this person or that

person.

Such is the state of the mystic, even when he is not asleep: God saith, “Thou

wouldst deem them awake whilst they slept.”

He is asleep, day and night, to the affairs of this world, like a pen in the hand

of the Lord

God hath shown forth some part of his state, in as much as the vulgar too are

carried away by sleep:

Their spirits gone into the Wilderness that is beyond words, their souls and

bodies at rest.

Till with a whistle Thou callest them back to the snare, bringest them all again to

justice and judgment.

At daybreak, like Israfil (Seraphiel), He bids them return from Yonder to the

world of form:

The disembodied spirits He confines anew and causes each body to be laden

(with its good and evil works).

 

Tr. by: «R. Nicholson»

Hafiz (1325-1390)

Hafiz is the most popular poet in Iran, and with good reason. His expertly rendered ghazals defy easy classification into odes about earthly love and descriptions of mystic union—the poems, which are saturated with meaning, can often be read in both ways. Though little is known for certain about his life, Hafiz’s work has secured its place in Iranian culture and his Divan (Collected Works) is just as likely to be found in the average Iranian’s house as the Qur’an.

 

The House of Hope

1

Come hither! hope’s unsteady palace is trembling in its place

Bring wine! for life’s unstable fabric has on the air its base.

Where the cerulean wheel is o’er us, that mortars slave I’d be

Who, from all things that show the colour of earth’s control, is free.

Would’st thou be told how, in the tavern yest’r-eve, when drenched in wine,

I heard glad tidings from an envoy sped from the world divine?

“Falcon,” he spake, “of soaring vision, the Sidrah-tree thy seat,

“This comer, by misfortune haunted, is for thy nest unmeet.

“For thee from the empyreal cupols they whistle through the air;

“I know not what to thee has happened within this netted snare.”

I give thee my advice; remember, nor in thy deeds forget;

For what the Pathway’s master taught me, lives in my memory yet;

“Mistrust the world, her ways are fickle, her promises belied;

“Of thousand lovers has this beldam been till to-day the bride.”

Lament not if the world maltreats thee, nor inattentive hear

What once a pilgrim, versed in love-love, poured forth into my ear;

“With a smooth brow by care unknotted, submit to what must be:

“The portal of Free-will is open nor to thyself nor me.”

The rose is an inconstant flower, her smiles are brief and vain:

O amorous bulbul! vent thy sorrow, for thou mayst well complain.

Why, poet, dost thou envy HAFIZ

If indolent thy pen?

Eloquence and the art of pleasing

God only gives to men.

 

2

 

The house of hope is built on sand,

And life’s foundations rest on air;

Then come, give wine into my hand,

That we may make an end of care.

 

Let me be slave to that man’s will

Who ‘neath high heaven’s turquoise bowl

Hath won and winneth freedom still

From all entanglement of soul;

 

Save that the mind entangled be

With her whose radiant loveliness

Provoking love and loyalty

Relieves the mind of all distress.

 

Last night as toping I had been

In tavern, shall I tell to thee

What message from the world unseen

A heavenly angel brought to me?

 

“Falcon of sovereign renown,

High-nesting bird of lofty gaze,

This comer of affliction town

Befits thee ill, to pass thy days.

“Hearest thou not the whistle’s call

From heaven’s rampart shrills for thee?

What chanced I cannot guess at all

This snare should now thy prison be.”

 

Heed now the counsel that I give,

And be it to thy acts applied;

For these are words I did receive

From him that was my ancient guide.

 

“Be pleased with what the fates bestow,

Nor let thy brow be furrowed thus;

The gate to freedom here below

Stands not ajar to such as us.”

 

Look not to find fidelity

Within a world so weakly stayed;

This ancient crone, ere flouting thee,

A thousand bridegrooms had betrayed.

 

Take not for sign of true intent

Nor think the rose’s smile sincere;

Sweet, loving nightingale, lament:

There is much cause for weeping here.

 

What envying of Hafiz ease,

Poor poetaster, dost thou moan?

To make sweet music, and to please,

That is a gift of God alone.

 

3

 

COME, for Hope’s strong castle is built on weak foundations; bring wine,

for the fabric of life is unstable as is the wind.

I am the slave of His wishes, who under the azure vault is free from the

shadow of dependence.

Shall I say, when yesternight I was utterly intoxicated in the wine-house, what

glad message was brought to me by an angel from the unknown world?

“O lofty-sighted royal falcon, whose seat is on the tree of Paradise, not in this

nook of misery should be thy nest.

“For thee are sounding the melodious voices from the Ninth Heaven! How

thou art fallen into this place of snares I cannot conceive!”

I will give thee a piece of counsel: keep it in mind and reduce it to practice;

for it is a precept which I have preserved in my memory from my aged guide:

“Seek not for the fulfillment of its promise from this perfidious world, for this

old hag has been the bride of a thousand wooers.”

Let not the cares of the world consume thee, and let not my advice depart from

thee, for I received it in affection from one who had been a pilgrim in many lands;

“Be content with what bath been given, and smooth thy ruffled brow; for the

door of choice will not be opened either to thee or me.”

In the smile of the rose is no sign of promise, or of performance: lament,

thou loving nightingale, for there is room for lamentation.

Why, feeble poetisers, be envious of HAFIZ, because God hath given him

the power to pour out sweet words, and to win all hearts?

 

Tr. by: «Rosen»

Sanai Ghaznavi (1080-1131)

He is said to have left the life of court poet under the Ghaznavid ruler Bahram-shah to become a mystic. Along with ‘Attar and Rumi, Sanai is generally recognized as one of the finest exponents of Sufism is poetry. His Hadiqa Tu’l Haqiqat (The Walled Garden of Truth) expounds the core of his Sufi thought and the works in his Divan are acknowledged as the first to use forms like the ghazal and the masnavi to express Sufi theory.

 

 

On The Cause Of Our Maintenance

 

Seest thou not that before the beginning of thy existence

God the All-wise, the Ineffable, when He had created thee in the womb

Gave thee of blood thy sustenance for nine months?

Thy mother nourished thee in her womb,

Then after nine months brought thee forth;

That door of support He quickly closed on thee

And bestowed on thee two better doors,

For He then acquainted thee with the breast,

Two fountains running for thee day and night;

He said, Drink of these both;

Eat and welcome, for it is not forbidden thee.

When after two years she weaned thee,

All became changed for thee; He gave thee thy sustenance by means of thy two hands and feet

– ‘Take it by means of these, and by those go where thou wilt!’

If He closed the two doors against thee, it is but right,

For instead of two, four doors have appeared,

– ‘Take by means of these, by those go on victory;

Go seek thy daily bread throughout the world!’

When suddenly there comes on thee thy appointed time,

And the things of the world all pass away,

And the two hands and feet fail in their office,

To thee in thy helpless state He gives an exchange for these four.

Hands and feet are shut up in the tomb,

And eight heavens become thy fortune;

Eight doors are opened to thee,

The virgins and youths of Paradise come before thee,

That going joyfully to any door thou wilt

Thou mayest lose remembrance of this world.

 

Tr. by: «Major J. Stephenson»

 

Rumi

 

The Loom of Phantasy

O THOU by Whom the unspoken prayer is answered, Who bestowest at every

moment a hundred bounties on the heart.

Thou hast limned some letters of writing: rocks here become soft as wax for

love of them.

Thou hast scribed the nun of the eyebrow, the sad of the eye and the jim of the

ear as a distraction to our minds and understandings.

By those letters of Thine the intellect is made to weave subtle coils of

perplexity: write on, O accomplished Fair-writer!

Incessantly Thou shapest beauteous forms of phantasy upon the page of Non­

existence.

On the tablet of phantasy Thou inscribest wondrous letters – eye and profile

and cheek and mole.

I am drunken with desire for Non-existence, not for the existence, because the

Beloved of the world of not-existence is more faithful.

Behold how the madmen dote on the blackness of those lines traced without

fingers!

 

Tr. by: «R. Nicholson»

 Nasir al-Din Tusi (1201-1274)

One of the most eminent polymaths that the Islamic world produced during the Middle Ages, Tusi made important contributions to a wide variety of fields. His astronomical observations led to the most accurate descriptions of planetary motion until Copernicus’ model came about 300 years later. He also stated early versions of evolutionary theory and the law of conservation of mass, as well as making advances in the mathematical discipline of trigonometry.

 

EXORDIUM

 

In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate: Praise without limit and

lauds unnumbered befit the Majesty of kingdom-possessing might, who, as in

the beginning of the primal genesis (‘And it is He who originates creation’),

brings forth the realities of the species from the preludes of generation; and

who conveyed the primary-matter of Man (having the braud of the world of

creation) forty times, in ascending degrees towards perfection, from form to

form and state to state (‘Fort)!” mornings, with my hands I kneaded Adam’s

clay); till when it reached utmost order, and there appeared in it the mark of

attainment to fitting receptivity, He clothed it, all at once (‘Our commandment

is but one (word)’), by “Be”! and it is’ and ‘As at winkling of the eye, or closer’,

in the garment of human form, which bore the pattern of the world of com­mand

(‘And He sends down the spirit of His bidding). Thus its primal exist­ence

received the sign of completion and the cycle of formation reached secon­dary

being, and it made ready to bear the divine deposit: ‘Then We produce

him as another creature’, corresponding to the beginning of genesis in the

repetition of production (‘Then He brings it back again’). Man’s spirituality

(which is the principle of existence of his form’s specificity, and which was

brought into being there, Le. At the beginning of existence, in a twinkling) He

causes to pass through” the academy of <Taught man what he knew not’ and the

workshop of ‘Do ye righteously, stripping the essence and refining the

at­tributes, progressing up the ascending degrees of perfection and adorning with

righteous deeds, year by year and state by state, step by step and stage by

stage; until at length He brings it to the appointed place of (Return to thy

Lord’ and all at once asks back its borrowed form, which was the primal dress

of human primary-matter, and which is primal being had been distinguished by

so much kneading and nurture: ‘When their term comes they shall not delay it

by a moment nor put it forward’. And so the call ‘Whose is the kingdom

today?’, with the answer ‘God’s the One, the Omnipotent’, comes down from

kingdom-possessing Majesty into the void of the worlds of dominion and

power; and the time comes for ‘All things perish save His face’; and the

promise ‘As He originated you, so ye will return’ is fulfilled; and the mystery of

‘I was a hidden treasure’ attains completion. ‘That is the ordinance of the Al­mighty,

the All-knowing’.

 

Tr. by: «G.M. Wickens»

 

Ibn ‘Arabi (1165-1240)

Sometimes called “the Greatest Sheikh,” Ibn Arabi is one of the most influential Sufi mystics. He expounded upon the theoretical aspects of Sufism in a large number of prose works, chief among them the Fusus al-Hikam (The Ringstones of Wisdom) and al-Futuhat al-Makkiyya (The Meccan Illuminations). This latter work is his longest and it details, among other things, many of his visionary experiences by which he lay claim to the title “Seal of Muhammadan Sainthood.”

 

 

The Religion of Love

1

My heart takes different shapes:

A cloister of Christian monks,

A temple of idols, a meadow for gazelles,

The Kaaba of pilgrims, the tables of Torah,

The Koran …..

Love is my credo wherever turn His camels,

Love is my credo, and my faith.

 

Tr. by: «Najibollah»

 

2

My heart is receptacle of all forms:

My heart is a pasture for the Gazelles,

A convent for the Christian monk;

A temple for idols

And a Kaaba for the Moslem pilgrim.

My heart is the Tablets of Torah,

and the Book of Koran.

My religion is love, wherever its camel may take me.

And this is my creed, and this is my faith.

 

Tr. by: «H.M. Ghomshei»

 

3

 

My heart has become capable of all forms

It is a meadow for gazelles and a monastery for Christian monks.

A temple for idols and the pilgrim’s Ka’aba

The tables of the Law and the book of the Koran

I profess the religion of Love, and whatever direction

Its steed may take, Love is my religion and my faith

 

Tr. by: «Nicholson»

 

Rumi

Infidelity is Ignorance and the Ordainment of Infidelity is Wisdom

YESTERDAY a man who was fond of dialectic put a question to me.

He said, “The Prophet says that to be pleased with infidelity is an act of infidel­ity

and his words are conclusive, like a seal.

But he has also declared that the Moslem must be pleased with every Divine

Ordainment.

Now, is not infidelity and hypocrisy God’s Ordainment? If I am pleased with

infidelity I shall be disobeying God,

And if I am not pleased, that too will be wicked: how can I escape from this dilemma?”

I replied, “Infidelity is the thing ordained: not the Ordainment but the effect of

the Ordainment.

I acquiesce in infidelity in that respect that it is God’s Ordainment, not in this respect

that it is our rebelliousness and wickedness.

In, respect of the Ordainment, infidelity is not infidelity. Do not call God

“in­fidel” recant!

Infidelity is ignorance, and the Ordainment of infidelity is wisdom: how, pray,

should ‘Hilm” (ruth) and Khlim (wrath) be identical?

The ugliness of the script is not the ugliness of the scribe; nay, ’tis an exhibition

of the ugly by him.

 

Tr. by: «R. Nicholson»

Two Quatrains Attributed to Ibn Sina (Avicenna) (980-1037)

Without a doubt, Ibn Sina is one of the most impressive polymaths in all of history. He made important and original contributions to every single major area of what we today call the natural sciences, developed a detailed neoplatonic system of philosophical thought and even had time to write a few verses of poetry on top of it all. His monumental Canon of Medicine was the essential and authoritative text on medicine all the way up to the 18th century CE.

 

1

In the vast desert of life

My Mind sought so much

Slitting the hair and not finding a thread.

In my mind rose thousands of suns

And could not solve the mystery of an atom.

 

2

It is not easy to accuse me of heresy.

My faith is firness than any other faith.

If in all the world of yours

There is only one like me,

And that one a heretic,

Then there is not a single Muslim in this world.

 

Tr. by: «E.G. Browne»

 

Rumi

 

THE DOCTRINE OF RESERVE

 

WHEN news arrived of the face of Shamsu’ddin, the sun in the Fourth Heaven

hid itself for shame.

Since his name has come to my life, it behoves me to give Some hint of his

bounty

My soul plucks my skirt: she has caught the perfume of Joseph’s vest.

She said: “For the sake of our years of companionship, recount one of those

sweet ecstasies

That earth and heaven may laugh with joy, that intellect and spirit and eye

may increase a hundredfold.”

I said: “Do not lay tasks on me, for I have passed away from myself (fana); my

apprehensions are blunted, I know not how to praise.

‘Tis unseemly, if one who has not yet returned to consciousness constrain

him­self to play the braggart.

How should I—not a vein of mine is sensible—describe that Friend Who hath

no peer?

The description of this desolate bleeding heart let me leave over till another

time.”

She answered: “Feed me, for I am hungry, and make haste, for the ‘moment’

(Ibnu’l-waqt), O Comrade: ’tis not the rule of the Way to say ‘Tomorrow.’

Art not thou a Sufi, then? That which is in hand is reduced to naught by

postponing the payment.”

I said to her: “Better that the secret of the Friend should be disguised: do thou

hearken to it as implied in the contents of the tale.

Better that the lovers’ secret should be told (allegorically) in the talk of others.”

She said: “Tell it forth openly and nakedly and without unfaithfulness: do not

put me off, O trifler!

Lift the veil and speak nakedly. I do not wear a shirt when I sleep wilt the

Adored One.”

I said: “If He should become naked in thy vision, neither wilt thou endure nor

thy bosom nor thy waist.

Ask thy wish, but ask with measure: a blade of straw cannot support a mountain

If the Sun, by whom this world is illumined, approach a little nearer, all will be

burned up.

Do not seek trouble and turmoil and bloodshed: say no more concerning the

Sun of Tabriz!”

 

Tr. by: «R. Nicholson»

 

 

Sheikh Mahmoud Shabestari (1288-1340)

Fluent in the Sufi discourse of Ibn Arabi, Shabestari wrote great works of Sufi poetry, as well as one major prose work. His most famous poem is a masnavi called the Gulshan-i Raz (Garden of Mystery), which was written specifically to elaborate the details of Sufi metaphysics.

 

 

The Book of Creation

 

1

 

To him, whose soul attains the beatific vision,

The universe is the book of “The Truth Most High.”

Accidents are its vowels, and substance its consonants,

And grades of creatures its verses and pauses.

Therein every world is a special chapter,

One the chapter Fatihah, another Ikhlas.

Of this book the first verse is ‘Universal Reason’,

For that is like the B of Bismillah;

Second comes “Universal Soul,” ‘the verse of light,’

For that is as a lamp of exceeding light;

The third verse thereof is “Highest heaven.”

Read the fourth verse, it is “The Throne;

After that are the seven heavenly spheres,

The “chapter of the seven limbs” answers to these.

After these come the three kingdoms of nature,

Whose verses you cannot count.

The last that came down was the soul of man,

And thus the Koran ends with the chapter “Man”.

 

Tr. by: «Reuben Levy»

 

2

 

For the one whose life is in the Tajalli of Allah, the whole cosmos is a book of

the Real, the sublime

 

The nafs represents, the vowels and the essence of man represents the letters—

the ranks of creation are as the ayats and silences.

 

Every world is a special chapter in this book; one is the surah of the Falilzah

and another is Ikhlas.

 

Its first sign (ayat) is pure intellect which penetrates all creation and that is as

the bah of bismillah.

 

Secondly comes the self of creation in the ayat of sural an-Nur, the Light, as it

is like a lamp of exceeding brightness.

 

The third ayat in the book is the Throne of the Merciful—read well the fourth

ayal, it is the Throne.

 

After this are the seven heavenly bodies, contained in the seven ayats of the

surtl al-Fatihah.

 

Look then at the nature of the four elements, for each has its own ayat.

 

After this there are the three kingdoms of nature whose ayals are too numerous

to count.

 

The last to appear was the self of man and so the Qur’an is sealed with the

suraf an-Nas.

 

Sa’di

 

A Tale from Gulestan

 

A lawyer said to his father, “Those fine speeches of the declaimers make no ~­

impression on me, because I do not see their actions correspond with then

precepts.

The teach people to forsake the world, whilst themselves accumulate property.

A wise man who preaches without practicing will not impress others.

That person is wise who abstaineth from sin, not he who teacheth good to

others whilst himself committeth evil.

 

Tr. by: «Edward Rehatsek»

Ibn Sina

 

Two Discourses on the Attributes of God

 

1

 

Finding the Wisdom (hakimi) of the Necessary

Existent

 

Wisdom (hikma), in our opinion applies to two things: to complete knowledge

(danish-i-tamam) and perfect action. Complete knowledge in thought is

dis­played by recognizing (shinasad) a thing by its essence (mahiyya) and by its

definition. In a judgment, complete knowledge of a thing would be evident in

assessing all of its causes correctly. Perfection, on the other hand, applies to an

act which is determined (muhkam). Perfection is that property which is present

in the subject of perfection and in whatever is·necessary to its existence.

Whatever is necessary to continue the existence of the subject of perfection will

exist as far as it is possible for it to subsist in it. Furthermore, that will also

exist which is ornament (arayish) and of benefit (sud) to it, although it may not

be necessary. And the Necessary Existent knows all things and the causes of all

things are due to it. In this sense wisdom consists of having complete

knowledge (‘ilm). The Necessary Existent is that being to Whom the being of

all things is due, which has endowed all things with the necessity of being. It has

also bestowed necessity upon things external to Its own necessity in a similar

manner. If time permits, we shall write a book on this topic. This idea also

appears in the Quran in several passages. In one passage it is written, ‘It is our

creator, who has given genesis to all things and has set for them their proper

path,’ and in another passage, ‘He who has created me, has guided me thereafter

on the proper path’. The wise have called the creation (afarinish) of neces­sity

the primary perfection, whereas the creation of multiplicities has been

called the second perfection. Henceforth, the Necessary Existent has absolute

wisdom (hakim-i mutlaq).

 

Tr. by: «Morrevej»

 

2

 

Establishing the Generosity (jiid) of the Necessary

Existent

 

Benevolence (nikii’i) and usefulness (faida) come from one thing to another by

means of transaction (mu’amalat) or by generosity. A transaction takes place in

an exchange where something is given and something is received. What is

received is not always concrete since it can be a good name (niku), joy (shadi),

or a prayer (du’a), or gratitude. In short, there is an exchange for that for

which there is a desire. And whatever is exchangeable (‘iwadi) is exchanged.

Though the object of a transaction is called and recognized by the vulgar as

merchandise which is exchanged with another merchandise, a good name or

gratitude are not considered exchangeable in a transaction. A wise man knows,

however, that whatever is desired has utility. Generosity is that which is not the

result of an exchange, of recompense, or of a transaction. From the will which

directs generosity a good thing results, while no ulterior intention (gharadi) is

associated with it. Since the Necessary Existent acts in this manner, Its act is

characterized by absolute generosity (Jud-i mahd).

 

Tr. by: «Morrevej»

 

Mahmoud Shabestari

 

ON VIRTUES AND GOOD DISPOSITONS

 

The principles of a good character are equity,

And thereafter wisdom, temperance, courage.

He who is endured with all these four

Is a sage perfect in thought and deed.

His soul and heart are well informed with wisdom,

He is neither over cunning nor a fool.

By temperance his appetites are subdued,

Intemperance and insensibility alike are banished.

The courageous man is pure from abjectness and from boasting,

His nature is exempt from cowardice and rashness.

Equity is as the garment of his nature,

He is void of injustice, thus his character is good.

All the virtues lie in the mean,

Which is alike removed from excess and defect.

The mean is as the ‘narrow way,’

On either side yawns hell’s bottomless pit.

In fineness and sharpness as a sword,

One may not turn round nor stand on it long.

Since equity has only one opposite vice,

The total number of opposite vices is seven.

Beneath each number is hidden a mystery,

For this cause has hell seven gates.

Like as hell is prepared for iniquity,

Heaven is the place always appointed for equity,

Darkness and cursing the requital of iniquity.

Goodness is made manifest in equity,

Equip in a body is its summit of perfection.

Since a compound is as one entity,

It is remote from its parts in its nature and differentia.

It becomes like to a simple essence,

And between it and simple essence there is a bond;

Not that bond which subsists between the compound and its parts,

(For spirit is free from the attributes of corporeity),

But when water and clay are purified altogether,

Spirit is added to them by “The Truth.”

When the parts, to wit, the elements attain equilibrium,

The beams of the spirit world fall upon them.

The Spirit’s rays shining on the body at the time of equilibrium,

Are like the rays of the sun shining upon the earth.

 

Tr. by: «Reuben Levy»

Mahmoud Shabestari

 

On the Nature of Thinking

 

1

 

Thinking is passing from the false to the truth,

And seeing the Absolute Whole in the part.

Philosophers who have written books on it,

Say as follows when they are defining it.

That when a conception is formed in the mind,

It is first of all named reminiscence.

And when you pass on from this in thinking,

It is called by the learned interpretation.

When conceptions are properly arranged in the mind,

The result with logicians is known as thinking.

From proper arrangement of known conceptions,

The unknown proposition becomes known.

The major promise is a father, the minor a mother,

And the conclusion a son, O brother!

But to learn of what kind this arrangement is,

Reference must be made to books of logic.

Moreover, unless divine guidance aids it,

Verily logic is mere bondage of forms.

That road is long and hard, leave it,

Like Moses for a season cast away that staff.

Come for a season into the “Valley of Peace.”

Hear with faith the call, “Verily I am God.”

He that knows the “Truth”, and to whom unity is revealed,

Sees at the first glance the light of very Being.

Nay more, as he sees by illumination that pure light,

He sees God first in everything that he sees;

Abstraction is a condition of good thinking,

To him, whom God guides not into the road,

It will not be disclosed by use of logic.

For as much as the philosopher is bewildered,

He sees in things nothing but the contingent,

From the contingent he seeks to prove the necessary.

Therefore is he bewildered at the essence of the necessary.

Sometimes he travels backward in a circle,

Sometimes he is imprisoned in the Chain of Proofs,

While his reason goes deep into phenomenal existence.

His feet are caught in the Chain of Proofs,

All things are manifested through their likes

But “The Truth” has neither rival nor peer,

I know not how you can know Him.

Necessary matter has no sample in contingent

How can man know it, tell me how?

Fool that he is! For he seeks the blazing sun

By the dim light of a torch in the desert.

 

Tr. by: «Reuben Levy»

 

2

 

You ask me to explain to you what thinking is, as you are still confused as to its

meaning

Thinking is travelling inwardly from illusory non-existence to the Real—that is

leaving the separation of multiplicity for the gathered whole.

 

The thinkers who have written about this subject say the following when they

are explaining it:

 

When an image appears in the heart the first name we may give it is a recalling.

 

When one moves on from this by the action of thinking this is usually called

in­terpretation or a process of learning.

 

The perception and ordering of these images is called thinking by the people of

 

A matter which is at first not understood becomes clear from the arrangement

of various images which are understood.

 

The first proposition is as a father, the following a mother, and the conclusion

issuing from them the son, oh brother.

 

The nature of the process in question necessitates the application of the laws of

logic, however.

 

And if there is no help or inspiration from Allah this process becomes a mere

imitation of a set pattern.

 

This path is distant from our way so leave it and do without, just as Musa for a

time threw away his staff.

 

Come into the valley of Ayman, the valley of purification and vision, that the

bush may in tajalli say to you, ‘Indeed, I am Allah.’

 

The man of haqiqat who lives witnessing the Oneness of the Real sees everything

first by the lightof existence itself.

 

By his intimate knowledge of Allah his heart sees only pure light and he sees

only Allah in everything.

 

Positive thought and correct seeing are dependent on the stripping away of the

self and then help arrives with the gleams of dazzling light.

 

Whoever is not shown the way by Allah can never find it by use of logic.

 

The philosopher-thinker is basically bewildered as he sees nothing in creation

but the illusory world of phenomena.

 

He tries to prove the ever-Real by the transient phenomena, and because of

this becomes bewildered in the essence of the ever-Real which contains noth­ing

of the transient.

 

Sometimes he progresses in understanding but then becomes paralyzed in cir­cular

thought patterns. Sometimes he becomes entangled in his chains of thought.

 

Since his intellect is submerged in illusory existence his very feet are enmeshed

deep in the chains of cause and effect.

All things become clearly visible by their opposite but the Real has no likeness

nor opposite.

 

Since there is no opposite or likeness to the essence of the Real I do not know

how one can know Him.

 

There is no likeness for the ever-Real to be found in the passing world of

Forms—how is He to be known now?

 

How stupid is he who would look for the blazing sun in the desert by the light

of a candle.

 

If the sun were always in one position, its rays would shine from only one direc­tion.

 

No one would realize the beams were from the sun—there would be no difference

between the disc of the sun and its light.

 

Know that the whole cosmos is visible by the rays of light from the Real—and

the Real within it is hidden from sight.

 

As the light of the Real is constant there is no change in the appearance of

things.

 

You imagine that the world itself is permanent, existing by its own nature.

 

Anyone who has excessive powers of reasoning will always encounter much

con­fusion.

 

It is because of this over-reading, inquisitive reasoning that one man becomes a

philosopher and another believes in incarnation.

 

Intellect can never bear to look at His face. Leave! and look for another inner

vision that will contain Him.

 

As both eyes of the philosopher see double he is incapable of seeing the unity

of the Real.

 

From this blindness comes belief that Allah is visible in bodily form in His

crea­tion and from partial blindness belief in His total separation from it.

 

The false belier in the movement of the spirit from one body to another at the

time of death arises from the same short-sighted vision.

Such vision is like that of the blind man cut off from seeing perfection or of the

man whose path follows those who see man as essentially imperfect.

 

Men of book-learning who have never tasted tawhid are living in darkness, as if

in a fog, blindly imitating the laws of outward behavior.

 

Men of the outward have poor eyesight, seeing nothing but the immediately

ob­vious in the outwardly manifest.

 

Whatever they say about tawhid is nothing but reflections of their own in­dividual

way of looking.

His essence is free of and unaffected by such questions as ‘how many?’ ‘how?’

or ‘why?’—may His glory be raised above whatever men say of Him.

Nasir al-Din Tusi

 

IN ENUMERATION OF THE CLASSES OF VIRTUES

 

In Psychology it has been established that the human soul has three divergent

faculties, with respect to which faculties it becomes the source of different

ac­tions and operations, in association with the will; and when one of these

facul­ties prevails over the others, the latter are overcome or lost. First is the Rational­

Faculty, also called the Angelic Soul which is the principle of reflection and

distinction, and of the yearning to see into the realities of things. Second is the

Irascible Faculty, also called the Savage Soul, which is the principle of

irascibility and courage, of advancing to meet perils, and of yearning to rule, to

rise, and to gain increased status. Third comes the Appetitive Faculty, also

styled the Bestial Soul, which is the principle of the appetites, of the search for

nourishment, and of yearning for pleasure by way of foods and drinks and

women. A reference to this classification has already “been made in the First

Division.

Now, the number of the soul’s virtues will tend to be in accordance with the

numbers of these faculties. Thus, whenever the motion of the Rational Soul is

in equilibrium in itself, and its yearning is for the acquisition of certain kinds of

knowledge (not that which is thought to be certain, while being in reality pure

ignorance), from that motion the virtue of knowledge comes into being, the

vir­tue of wisdom “being a necessary consequence. Again, whenever the motion of

the Savage Soul is in equilibrium (it being submissive to the Intelligent Soul,

content with what the latter apportions to it, with no untimely excitation or

infr­ingement of limits in its states) then from that motion the virtue of mildness

comes into being for this soul, with the virtue of courage as a necessary

conse­quence. Yet again, whenever the motion of the Bestial Soul is in equilibrium

(so that it is obedient to the Intelligent Soul, limiting itself to what the latter

as­signs to it, and offering it no opposition in the pursuit of its own passion) from

that motion the virtue of continence comes into being, with the virtue of liberality

as a necessary consequence.

When these three classes of virtue accrue, all three being blended harmoniously,

there comes into being from their compounding a homogeneous state, which

represents the perfection and completion of those virtues; and that is called

the virtue of justice. Hence the consensus and agreement of all philosophers,

both modern and ancient, on the fact that the classes of virtues are four:

Wisdom, Courage, Continence and Justice; and no person is deserving

of praise or apt to glory or take pride, save in respect of one of these four,

or in all four together. Those who boast of nobility of lineage or family greatness,

moreover, are ultimately referring to the fact that some of their forefathers and

ancestors were noted for these virtues; and if a man glory in superiority and

mastery, or in great wealth, men of intelligence show disapproval of him.

 

Tr. by: «G.M. Wickens»

 

Nezami

 

The Advice of Nezami to His Son

 

Although poetry be of high dignity,

Seek thou the knowledge of what is useful.

The Prophet hath said: “The science of science

Is the science of matter and the science of faith.”

In the navel of each is a fragrant odour,

In that of the law, and in that of medicine.

But let the law instruct thee in the service of God,

Let it not be to thee a teacher of sophistries.

If thou become an adept in both,

Thou wilt have reached the summit of excellence,

And wilt be held in high estimation in the sight of all men.

 

Tr. by: «Rev. R.N. Sharp»

Hafiz

 

Suffer not Grief

 

1

 

Back to Kin’an, lost Yusuf cometh:—–                                                   suffer not grief:

One day, the sorrowful cell becometh the rose-garden:——         suffer not grief.

 

O grief-stricken heart! better, becometh thy state; display not the ill-heart:

Back to reason, cometh this distraught head:—–                              suffer not grief.

 

If on the sward’s throne, again be the spring of life,

O bird, night-singing! over thy head, thou mayst draw the canopy of

the rose:—–                                                                                                      suffer not grief.

 

Ho! since thou art not acquainted with the hidden mystery, be not hopeless:

Within the screen, are hidden pastimes:—–                                        suffer not grief.

 

In the world, whoever (the holy traveller) became head-revolving (distraught

and perturbed); and gained not a grief-consoler (a murshid),

At last, to a grief-consoler, he attaineth. Ho!—-                                 suffer not grief.

 

If, for a space of two days, to our desire, the sphere’s revolutions turned not,

Ever, in one way, the state of revolution is not:—–                           suffer not grief.

 

If, from desire (of pilgrimage) to the Ka’ba thou wilt plant thy foot in the desert,

(Then) if the (mighty) Arabian thorn make reproofs,—–               suffer not grief.

 

O heart! if the foundation of thy existence, the torrent of passing away

(mor­tality) pluck up,

Since Nuh is thy boat-master, of the deluge,—–                                 suffer not grief.

Although the stage (of this world) is very fearsome; and the purpose hidden,

There is not a road, whereof is no end:—–                                          suffer not grief.

In separation from the Beloved, and vexing (on the part) of the watcher, our

state (of perturbation and confusion):

All, God, our state causing, knoweth:—–                                             suffer not grief.

In the corner of poverty, and in the solitude of dark nights, Hafiz,

So long as thine are the practice of praying and the reading of the Koran

(wherein is the salvation of the next world)—–                                suffer not grief.

Tr. by: «H. Wilberforce Clarke»

 

2

GRIEVE not: the lost Joseph will yet come back to Canaan: the cell of misery

will become one day a garden of roses.

Grieve not, sorrow-stricken heart: thy condition will change to good;

ponder not the evil: this distracted head will recover its reason.

Grieve not: if the spring-tide of life should again be enthroned in the garden,

thou wilt soon, O chantress of the night, see spread over thy head a bower of roses.

Grieve not: be not hopeless because thou understandest not the strange

mystery; behind the veil is hidden many an illusion.

Grieve not: for two or three days the circling sphere may not revolve

accord­ing to our wishes; the round of time moveth not perpetually in one orbit.

Grieve not when, through love of the Kaaba, thou plantest thy foot in the

desert, and when thou art lacerated by the pricks of the wild thorn.

Grieve not, my soul, if the torrent of mortality upheave the very foundations

of existence, since in the midst of the deluge thou hast Noah for thy pilot.

Grieve not: though the journey of life be rugged, and the end of it is not to

be seen, there is no road which does not lead to the goal.

Grieve not: in the separation of our beloved ones, and in the pressure of

rivals all is known to God who ordereth our condition.

Grieve not, O HAFIZ in the corner of poverty, and in the solitude of dark

nights, whilst to solace thy pain there remaineth to thee prayer and the reading

of the Koran.

 

Tr. by: «Rosen»

Rumi

 

The Divine Trust

Some one said: Here is something I have forgotten.

The Master said: There is one thing in this world which must never be

forgotten. If you were to forget everything else, but did not forget that, then there

would be no cause to worry; whereas if you performed and remembered and

did not forget every single thing, but forgot that one thing, then you would have

done nothing whatsoever. It is just as if a king had sent you to the country to

carry out a specified-task. You go and perform a hundred other tasks; but if

you have not performed that particular task on account of which you had gone

to the country, it is as though you have performed nothing at all. So man has

come into this world for a particular task, and that is his purpose; if he does

not perform it, then he will have done nothing.

 

He offered the trust to the heavens and the earth

and the mountains, but they refused to carry it

and were afraid of it; and man carried it. Surely

he is sinful, very foolish.

 

‘We offered that trust to the heavens, but they were unable to accept it.’

Consider how many tasks are performed by the heavens, whereas the human

reason is bewildered. The heavens convert common stones into rubies and

car­nelians; they make mountains into mines of gold and silver; they cause the

herbs of the earth to germinate and spring into life, making a veritable Garden of

Eden. The earth too receives the seeds and bears fruit; it covers up blemishes; it

accepts and reveals a hundred thousand marvels such as can never be told in

full. The mountains too give forth all those multifarious mines. All these things

they do, yet that one thing is not performed by them; that task is performed by

man.

 

And We honoured the Children of Adam.

 

God did not say, ‘And We honoured heaven and earth.’ So that task which is

not performed by the heavens and the earth and the mountains is performed by

man. When he performs that task, ‘sinfulness’ and ‘folly’ are banished from him.

If you say, ‘Even if I do not perform that task, yet so many tasks are

per­formed by me,’ you were not created for those other tasks. It is as though you

were to procure a sword of priceless Indian steel such as is to be found only in

the treasuries of kings and were to convert it into a butcher’s knife for cutting

up putrid meat, saying, ‘I am not letting this sword stand idle, I am putting it to

so many useful purposes.’ Or it is as though you were to take a golden bowl

and cook turnips in it, whereas for a single grain of that gold you could procure

a hundred pots. Or it is as though you were to take a dagger of the finest

temper and make of it a nail for a broken gourd, saying, ‘I am making good use

of it. I am hanging the gourd on it. I am not letting this dagger stand idle.’ How

lamentable and ridiculous that would be! When the gourd can be perfectly well

served by means of a wooden or an iron nail whose value is a mere farthing,

how does it make sense to employ for the task a dagger valued at a hundred

pounds?

God most High has set a great price on you, for He says:

God has bought from the believers their selves

and their possessions against the gift of Paradise.

 

Tr. By: «AJ. Arberry»

Sa’di

 

 

Ending

 

1

May order undisturbed remain for years,

And ev’ry part of us fall into place.

May be these lines remain of us, for else,

No permanence in human life I trace,

Unless for us poor souls a prayer be said

By some pure mystic as an act of grace.

 

Tr. by: «Rev. RN. Sharp»

 

2

 

These rhymes shall remain for years

While our dust is dispersed in the air.

These words are but to remind of us

For else, no permanence is traced in life.

Hoping a pure mystic, a man of heart

My pray for us, poor souls, as an act of grace.

 

Tr. by: «H. Ghomshei»

 

‘Ali ibn al-Husayn (658-713)

 

The great grandson of the Prophet and the fourth Shi’ite Imam, he is also known as Zayn al-Abidin or “the adornment of worshippers.” After the massacre of his father, Husayn, at the hands of the Ummayad Caliph Yazid, ‘Ali ibn al-Husayn lived a life of worship and piety in Medina, refraining from political entanglements. The following is taken from his book of supplications, Al-Sahifat al-Sajjadiyya (the Book of al-Sajjad), which is the oldest prayer manual in Islamic sources.

 

47

 

His Supplication on the Day of ‘Arafa

 

Praise Belongs to God, Lord of the worlds!

O God,

to Thee belongs praise!

Originator of the heavens and the earth!

Possessor of majesty and munificence!

Lord of lords!

Object of worship of every worshiper!

Creator of every creature!

Inheritor of all things!

There is nothing like Him,

knowledge of nothing escapes Him,

He encompasses everything,

and He is watchful over everything.

Thou art God,

there is no god but Thou,

the Unique, the Alone,

the Single, the Isolated.

Thou art God,

there is no god but Thou,

the Generous, the Generously Bestowing,

the All-mighty, the Mightily Exalted,

the Magnificent, the Magnificently Magnified.

Thou art God,

there is no god but Thou,

the All-high, the Sublimely High,

the Strong in prowess.

Thou art God,

there is no God but Thou,

the All-merciful, the All-compassionate,

the All-knowing, the All-wise.

Thou art God,

there is no god but Thou,

the All-hearing, the All-seeing

the Eternal, the All-aware.

Thou art God,

there is no god but Thou,

the Generous, the Most Generous,

the Everlasting, the Most Everlasting.

Thou art God,

there is no god but Thou,

the First before every one,

the Last after every number.

Thou art God,

there is no God but Thou,

Possessor of radiance and glory,

magnificence and praise.

Thou art God,

there is no god but Thou.

Thou hast brought forth the things without root,

formed what Thou hast formed without exemplar,

and originated the originated things without imitation.

 

Tr. By: «W. Chittick»

 

 

Rumi

 

Exordium: the song of the reed

 

Now listen to this reed-flute’s deep lament

About the heartache being apart has meant

‘Since from the reed-bed they uprooted me

My song’s expressed each human’s agony,

A breast which separation’s split in two

Is what I seek, to share this pain with you:

When kept from their true origin, all yearn

For union on the day they can return.

Amongst the crowd, alone I mourn my fate,

With good and bad I’ve learnt to integrate,

That we were friends each one was satisfied

But none sought out my secrets from inside;

My deepest secret’s in this song I wail

But eyes and ears can’t penetrate the veil:

Body and soul are joined to form one whole

But no one is allowed to see the soul.’

It’s fire not just hot air the reed-flute’s cry,

If you don’t have this fire then you should die!

Love’s fire is what makes every reed-flute pine,

Love’s fervour thus lends potency to wine;

The reed consoles those forced to be apart,

Its notes will lift the veil upon your heart,

Where’s antidote or poison like its song,

Or confidant, or one who’s pined its song,

This reed relates a tortuous path ahead,

Recalls the love with which Majnun’s heart bled:

The few who hear the truths the reed has sung

Have lost their wits so they can speak this tongue.

The day is wasted if it’s spent in grief,

Consumed by burning aches without relief—

Good times have long passed, but we couldn’t care

When you’re with us, our friend beyond compare!

While ordinary men on drops can thrive

A fish needs oceans daily to survive:

The way the ripe must feel the raw can’t tell,

My speech must be concise, and so farewell!

 

Tr. By: «J. Mojaddedi»

 

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