Near and Far, Fanā’ and Baqā’

A collection of verses from West African poets on the theme…

The first is said to have been improvised extemporaneously by Abū Isḥāq Ibrāhīm ibn Ya’qūb al-Kānemī (from Kanem in contemporary Northeastern Nigeria) upon his visit to the Almohad Sultan Abū Yūsuf Ya’qūb al-Manṣūr (d. 1199) in Marrakech. The Nigerian poet composed and recited these verse on the spot upon entering the Sultan’s presence:

He removed his veil, but out of awe, my eyes still saw him through a veil
His favour drew me near, but out of awe, found myself distant in this nearness.



ازال حجابه عنّي وعيني    تراه من المهابت في حجابي

وقرّبني تفضّله ولاكن  بعدت مهابتاً عند إقترابي


See this post for more on this theme and its symbolism…


The second is from a contemporary Tijānī scholar from Mauritania:


I was annihilated in love for him and I subsisted until
I was annihilated from that annihilation and from subsistence as well.


-Muhammad Ould Shaykh ‘Abd Allah



فنيت بحبه و بقيت حتى    فنيت عن  الفناء وعن البقاء

-لمحمد ولد شيخ عبدالله

As is this last set of verses:

I love the the sun when it appears, since it reminds me of the appearance of matchless love
And no star is seen when she comes forth, either from above or from below
And so, O Maya, you have appeared in the eye of my heart, and everything other than you has disappeared
So I see you in whatever is not you, and I don’t see other than you whenever I see you


Shaykh Manna Abba “Shaykhānī” wuld Muḥammad al-Ṭulbā, (modified from the translation by Muṣṭafā Okon-Briggs)



أحبّ الشّمس تطهر اذ تحاكي       ظهور الحبّ من غير اشتراك
فلا نجم يلوح متى تبدّت          ولو من غفرة أو من سماك
كذا يامىّ أنت لعين قلبي       ظهرت فعاب عنها من سواك
أراك إذا رأيت سواك فيه          ولستأرى سواك متى أراك






Your beauty’s burned my vision black
      I’ve stared into the sun too long
and when my sight comes blinking back
      all things your face appears upon


Ibn al-Fāriḍ—My heart told me


1) My heart told me that you are my destroyer my soul is your hostage/ransom whether you know it or not
2) I have not honored the right of your love if I do not die in it out of sorrow, and someone like me is one who honors (his promises)
3) What do I have but my soul? One who gives himself (his soul) for him who he loves in love is not extravagant
4) If you are pleased by it, then you draw near to me o futility of effort, if you didn’t draw near
5) O you my preventer of sweet dreams, giver of the clothes of sickness and with them my debilitating love
6) Have mercy on my last breath and what you have left for me of my perishing body and afflicted heart
7) Love remains and union eludes me (or is my delay) and patience fades and the reunion eludes me (or is my delay)
8) I am not free of other people being jealous of you so don’t waste my sleeplessness because of the fabrications of slanderous imagination
9) Ask the stars of the night, has slumber visited my eyelids? how can you visit someone you don’t know?
10) It is no wonder my eye is stingy with closing its lids while it is generous in the flowing of torrential tears
11) I saw the terror of the day of judgement in what occurred of the pain of separation and the scene of parting
12) If there is no reunion with you then promise it to me, and then you can postpone it
13) Postponement from you, in my eyes, if fulfilling is scarce is as sweet as union with a lover
14) I inclined towards the breaths of the wind biding my time
And to the face of the one that transmits his fragrance*
15) Perhaps the fire of my wings will go out from its blowing
And I wish that it would not go out
16) O friends of mine, you are my hope, and whosoever
Calls you “friends of mine” will be sufficed
17) They returned from what you (pl.)* were upon of fulfillment
Out of generosity, for indeed I am that faithful friend
18) By your lives, by your lives, I swear and in my life, I have not sworn by other than your lives
19) If my soul were in my possession, if I granted it to the one who brings good tidings of your arrival, I would not be just
20) Don’t consider me in my desire to behave unnaturally my love for you is by nature not by strained effort
21) I have concealed my love for you, it concealed me in grief until it was almost as if I was concealed from myself by my life
22) So I hid it from myself for if I were to disclose it I would have found it more elusive than hidden kindness
23) I say to one who meddles with love you expose yourself to affliction, so be a target
24) You are the victim of whomsoever you love so choose for yourself in love whom you select
25) Say to the critics, you have prolonged my blame out of desiring that blame from love would stop me
26) Stop being harsh with me and taste the flavor of Love and when you have loved, then after that be harsh (with me)
27) The secret has come out with the love of the one, who if in darkness (her) veil was rent, I would say, o moon, hide
28) And if one other than me is content with the specters of his imagination I am the one who is not content (even) with reunion with the beloved
29) My love is endowed to him and I am not cured of my affliction by less than my annihilation
30) By his love, and he is my right hand (i.e. my oath), and he suffices as an oath and I extol him almost as much as the Qur’an*
31) If he said flirtatiously: stand on hot embers I would stand obediently and I would not hesitate
32) If he is one who it pleases to step on my cheek I would put it on the ground and not be proud
33) Don’t deny my passion for what pleases him even if he does not take pity on me with union
34) Love prevailed, so I obeyed the command of my passion and in so doing, regarding him, I disobeyed the prohibition of my blamer
35) From me to him is the humbleness of submission and from him to me is the glory of the preventer and the power of the humbler
36) He made religion familiar and I have a heart that has never ceased being not attached to anything but his kindness (not ceased to encounter anything but his kindness)
37) O how lovely is everything which he is contented with and his saliva, o how sweet it is in my mouth
38) If they let Jacob hear a mention of the fineness of his face he would forget the beauty of Joseph
39) Or if Job saw him in a short visit, in a light sleep long ago he would have been cured of his affliction
40) Every full moon and every lithe physique will fall in love with him when he appears as approaching
41) If I say: Every passion (in the world) I have for you He says: I have the glory and every beauty is in me
42) His virtues are perfected and if he had given radiance to the moon when full it would not wane (be eclipsed)
43) With the arts of the describers of his beauty, time expires and nevertheless there is in him that which has not been described
44) I have spent all of myself for the sake of his love at the hand of his beauty so I praise the goodness of my expense
45) The eye desires the form of the beauty which is used by my spirit to love the hidden meaning (spiritually)
46) Make me happy dear brother and enrich me with reports of him sprinkle upon my hearing his attractions and please it
47) So that I see with the eye of hearing the testimony/sight of his beauty spiritually bestow this upon me and honour me
48) O sister of Sa‘ad* from my beloved you came to me with a message and you brought it with loving-kindness
49) I heard what did not hear and I saw what you did not see and I knew what you did not know
50) If he should visit you, o innards, be rent to shreds and if he should leave, o eye, weep
51) There is no harm in distance, for the one whom I love If he is absent form the pupil of my eye, nevertheless he is in me


*The breaths of the wind is a stock imagine of the distant lover catching the scent of the Beloved’s perfume. The mystical interpretation is that these breaths (and the face of the second hemistich) are God’s manifestations in the sensible world that comfort the aspirant. Line 15 points out that these comforts can also threaten to blow out the fire of love (if the aspirant becomes too attached to sensible pleasures in their own right), which the aspirant does not want. The switch to addressing the beloved with the plural (“kuntum”) indicates that the speaker is addressing the manyness along with the oneness of God, the Beloved and her breaths, God along with his manifestations.


*This could either mean that the poet extols the beloved almost as much as he extols the Qur’an , or that the poet extols the beloved almost as much as he is extolled in the Qur’an (the beloved being the Prophet).


*This is a reference to Halima, the wet-nurse of the Prophet




قلْبي يُحدّثُني بأنّكَ مُتلِفي، روحي فداكَ عرفتَ أمْ لمْ تعرفِ
لم أقضِ حقَّ هَوَاكَ إن كُنتُ الذي لم أقضِ فيهِ أسى ً، ومِثلي مَن يَفي
ما لي سِوى روحي، وباذِلُ نفسِهِ، في حبِّ منْ يهواهُ ليسَ بمسرفِ
فَلَئنْ رَضيتَ بها، فقد أسْعَفْتَني؛ يا خيبة َ المسعى إذا لمْ تسعفِ
يا مانِعي طيبَ المَنامِ، ومانحي ثوبَ السِّقامِ بهِ ووجدي المتلفِ
عَطفاً على رمَقي، وما أبْقَيْتَ لي منْ جِسميَ المُضْنى ، وقلبي المُدنَفِ
فالوَجْدُ باقٍ، والوِصالُ مُماطِلي، والصّبرُ فانٍ، واللّقاءُ مُسَوّفي
لم أخلُ من حَسدٍ عليكَ، فلاتُضعْ سَهَري بتَشنيعِ الخَيالِ المُرْجِفِ
واسألْ نُجومَ اللّيلِ:هل زارَ الكَرَى جَفني، وكيفَ يزورُ مَن لم يَعرِفِ؟
لا غَروَ إنْ شَحّتْ بِغُمضِ جُفونها عيني وسحَّتْ بالدُّموعِ الدُّرَّفِ
وبماجرى في موقفِ التَّوديعِ منْ ألمِ النّوى ، شاهَدتُ هَولَ المَوقِفِ
إن لم يكُنْ وَصْلٌ لَدَيكَ، فَعِدْ بهِ أملي وماطلْ إنْ وعدتَ ولاتفي
فالمطلُ منكَ لديَّ إنْ عزَّ الوفا يحلو كوصلٍ منْ حبيبٍ مسعفِ
أهفو لأنفاسِ النَّسيمِ تعلَّة ً ولوجهِ منْ نقلتْ شذاهُ تشوُّفي
فلَعَلَ نارَ جَوانحي بهُبوبِها أنْ تَنطَفي، وأوَدّ أن لا تنطَفي
يا أهلَ ودِّي أنتمُ أملي ومنْ ناداكُمُ يا أهْلَ وُدّي قد كُفي
عُودوا لَما كُنتمْ عليهِ منَ الوَفا، كرماً فإنِّي ذلكَ الخلُّ الوفي
وحياتكمْ وحياتكمْ قسماً وفي عُمري، بغيرِ حياتِكُمْ، لم أحْلِفِ
لوْ أنَّ روحي في يدي ووهبتها لمُبَشّري بِقَدومِكُمْ، لم أنصفِ
لا تحسبوني في الهوى متصنِّعاً كلفي بكمْ خلقٌ بغيرِ تكلُّفِ
أخفيتُ حبَّكمُ فأخفاني أسى ً حتى ، لعَمري، كِدتُ عني أختَفي
وكَتَمْتُهُ عَنّي، فلو أبدَيْتُهُ لَوَجَدْتُهُ أخفى منَ اللُّطْفِ الخَفي
ولقد أقولُ لِمن تَحَرّشَ بالهَوَى : عرَّضتَ نفسكَ للبلا فاستهدفِ
أنتَ القتيلُ بأيِّ منْ أحببتهُ فاخترْ لنفسكَ في الهوى منْ تصطفي
قلْ للعذولِ أطلتَ لومي طامعاً أنَّ الملامَ عنِ الهوى مستوقفي
دعْ عنكَ تعنيفي وذقْ طعمَ الهوى فإذا عشقتَ فبعدَ ذلكَ عنِّفِ
بَرَحَ الخَفاءَبحُبّ مَن لو، في الدّجى سفرَ الِّلثامَ لقلتُ يا بدرُ اختفِ
وإن اكتفى غَيْري بِطيفِ خَيالِهِ، فأنا الَّذي بوصالهِ لا أكتفي
وَقْفاً عَلَيْهِ مَحَبّتي، ولِمِحنَتي، بأقَلّ مِنْ تَلَفي بِهِ، لا أشْتَفي
وهَواهُ، وهوَ أليّتي، وكَفَى بِهِ قَسَماً، أكادُ أُجِلّهُ كالمُصْحَفِ
لوْ قالَ تِيهاً:قِفْ على جَمْرِ الغَضا لوقفتُ ممتثلاً ولمْ أتوقفِ
أوْ كانَ مَنْ يَرْضَى ، بخدّي، موطِئاً لوضعتهُ أرضاً ولمْ أستنكفِ
لا تنكروا شغفي بما يرضى وإنْ هوَ بالوصالِ عليَّ لمْ يتعطَّفِ
غَلَبَ الهوى ، فأطَعتُ أمرَ صَبابَتي منْ حيثُ فيهِ عصيتُ نهيَ معنِّفي
مني لَهُ ذُلّ الخَضوع، ومنهُ لي عزُّ المنوعِ وقوَّة ُ المستضعفِ
ألِفَ الصّدودَ، ولي فؤادٌ لم يَزلْ، مُذْ كُنْتُ، غيرَ وِدادِهِ لم يألَفِ
ياما أميلحَ كلَّ ما يرضى بهِ ورضابهُ ياما أحيلاهُ بفي
لوْ أسمعوا يعقوبَ ذكرَ ملاحة ٍ في وجههِ نسيَ الجمالَ اليوسفي
أوْ لوْ رآهُ عائداً أيُّوبُ في سِنَة ِ الكَرَى ، قِدماً، من البَلوَى شُفي
كلُّ البدورِ إذا تجلَّى مقبلاً ، تَصبُو إلَيهِ، وكُلُّ قَدٍّ أهيَفِ
إنْ قُلْتُ:عِندي فيكَ كل صَبابة ٍ؛ قالَ:المَلاحة ُ لي، وكُلُّ الحُسْنِ في
كَمَلتْ مَحاسِنُهُ، فلو أهدى السّنا للبدرِ عندَ تمامهِ لمْ يخسفِ
وعلى تَفَنُّنِ واصِفيهِ بِحُسْنِهِ، يَفْنى الزّمانُ، وفيهِ ما لم يُوصَفِ
ولقدْ صرفتُ لحبِّهِ كلِّي على يدِ حسنهِ فحمدتُ حسنَ تصرُّفي
فالعينُ تهوى صورة َ الحسنِ الَّتي روحي بها تصبو إلى معنى ً خفي
أسْعِدْ أُخَيَّ، وغنِّ لي بِحَديثِهِ، وانثُرْ على سَمْعي حِلاهُ، وشَنِّفِ
لأرى بعينِ السّمعِ شاهِدَ حسْنِهِ معنى ً فأتحفني بذاكَ وشرِّفِ
يا أختَ سعدٍ منْ حبيبي جئتني بِرسالَة ٍ أدّيْتِها بتَلَطّفِ
فسمعتُ مالمْ تسمعي ونظرتُ ما لمْ تنظري وعرفتُ مالمْ تعرفي
إنْ زارَ، يوماً ياحَشايَ تَقَطَّعي، كَلَفاً بهِ، أو سارَ، يا عينُ اذرِفي
ما للنّوى ذّنْبٌ، ومَنْ أهوى مَعي، إنْ غابَ عنْ إنسانِ عيني فهوَ في



Shushtari—Red, Red Wine


I drink wine from the cup
and from myself I approach myself
In myself it is myself I love
For it is my spirit, my reality
the fine wine that fills me and quenches my thirst
I care not what others may say
I seek in myself what I already have
Drink up in good health
the vintage ancient and pure
My allusions are from me and for me, so learn
Don’t resist me, understand
I am everything, the center of totality—accept this.
Forget about him and her, let go of Zayd and Mayya
Take pleasure in loving truly
What’s passing will pass away—but my life remains
My life is not separate from my qualities
for my essence is my all and my all is my essence
My essence shines like the sun
and from myself, I approach myself
in myself, it is myself I love


I was poured a cup of timeless love
not of this world, nor of heaven
In it I became unique in my time
bearing my banner amongst men
Mine is an amazing path of love unsurpassed
How lucky I am!
Hey you who love him, [know that] the beautiful one has many followers
If you are unkind to them, what misfortune!
Far be it from you, dear ones of Najd
to cut the ties of hope between you and me



سقيت كأس الهوى قديما      من غير أرضى ولا سمائى
أصبحت به فريدعصرى          بين الورى حاملا لوائى
لي مذهب مذهب عجيب          في الحبّ قد فاق ياهنائى
يامن همو للجميل أهيل نجد          أن تقطعوا منكمو رجائى



My drink and my ride are sweet
and my beloved takes care of me
O my friends, forgive me
my prostration and approach
A fine and fragrant wine
all light shines forth from it
The pourer pours it
May it be my reckoning
I am drunk on love
and I have no comfort without it
Whenever I call out: “O God!”
My response is: “at your service…”



طَابَ نُقْلِي وَشرَابي             وحَبيبي اعتنابي
فاعْذَرُوني يا صِحابِي       في سُجُودِي واقْترابِي
خمرةٌ رَاقَ شَذاهَا           كلُّ نُورٍ مِن سَناهَا
قَامَ سَاقِيها سَقَاهَا            أجْعَلَوهَا احتِسَابِي
أنَا سَكْرانُ مِن هَواهُ           لَيْسَ لي راحٌ سواهُ
كلَّمَا نَادَيْتُ يا هُو             كان لَبَّيْكَ جَوابي



My love served me cups
of a wine unpressed
the drink of the pure
in which all things appear
I took a sip
and fell for you, o majestic!
My bride was unveiled to me
and I saw nothing but perfection
My intoxication got me drunk
as it did other men
this wine revives souls
whoever drinks it gets drunk
unveiled to me like a bride
and I saw the sun and moon
Pay attention brother, hold your tongue
and hold on to this wondrous secret
so that the veils will be lifted from you
until you see the beloved
from yourself and in yourself, she is everyhting
if you understand or have insight
Go back to your essence and dive in
but don’t stop on the slopes
the commoners will languish in heedlessness
while you see your love openly
O you ignorant in these affairs
submit to what you see:
the wine goes ’round amongst us
and every one of us is drunk
see the men with us here
present with their hearts so full
See them all dancing
the secret is manifest in them
It was for this, they gave their souls
and their night has turned to day.



Your love served me many cups
Its glow illumined my senses
My night turned to day
The sun is mine and the stars
My throne contains the depths
My heart is the starless sphere


Your love served me many cups
When I turned from myself
I saw myself unveiling what was hidden
its meaning beyond the kingdoms of men


Your love served me many cups
If you like, I’ll tell you true
I’m a real faqir and wanton
Shushtari is unrepentant
I drink with my friend from the cup


Your love served me many cups
Look for me in the monastery
You’ll see me slumped among the casks
I love wantonly the one
who revives the souls of those who join him
Your love served me many cups



UB 40


Shustari-If Loving You Is Wrong…


My neglect of you is reprehensible, while your love is a duty
my longing is everlasting, while union is elusive
On the tablet of my heart, your love has been marked
my tears are the ink, and beauty is the writer
The reader of my thoughts constantly recites
lessons on the signs of the beautiful one
My gaze wanders in the heaven of your beauty
its penetrating star pierces my mind
Talk about others, listening to that is forbidden
for all of me is stolen and your beauty is the thief
They said to me: repent of loving your beloved
so I replied: I repent of my neglect
The torments of love are sweet for every lover
even if, for another, they are hard and never-ending


Translation modified from: L.M. Alvarez. Abu’l-Hasan Shushtari: Songs of Love and Devotion. p. 55



سُلُوِّيَ مكروهٌ وحُبكَ واجبٌ               وشوقِي مقيمٌ والتَّواصلُ غائبُ

وفي لوح قلبي من وِدَادكِ أسطرٌ            وَدمعي مِدادٌ مثل ما الحسن كاتبُ

وقارىء فكري لْلمحَاسِن تالياً               على دَرْس آيات الجمالِ يواظبُ

أُنَزِّهُ طَرفي في سماء جَمالكمْ                    لِثاقب ذِهني نَجمُها هو ثاقبُ

حَديثُ سواكَ السمع عنهُ محَّرمٌ                    فَكُلِّيَ مسلوبٌ وحسنكَ سالبُ

يقولونَ لي تبْ عن هوى من تُحبُّهُ                 فقلتُ عن السلوان إِنِّيَ تائبُ

عَذابُ الهوى عذبٌ على كل عَاشِق       وإِن كان عندَ الغير صعبٌ وواصبُ



Bill Withers


Luther Ingram

Natural Mystic


Natural, Natural, ay, by God, Natural
Natural, Natural, ay By God, Natural


A poor man like me, with a begging bag around my neck
My heart is free of any care
And I like people who are light-hearted
Such is the natural, he is liked by every natural
Natural, Natural, ay, by God, Natural


First thing in the morning, when I go out to work
I open my mouth and stretch out my hand
And for me, if I saw my granddad, who is not natural
For me, leaving him be, is only natural
Natural, Natural, ay, by God, Natural


I cover my body with needle and thread
of rough wool, which, for me, is a lot
“Who is that guy?” the people ask, bewildered
Still I’m just natural, loved by every Natural
Natural, Natural, ay, by God, Natural


My head is shaved and I walk around dazed
I beg in the market or at the mansions
Barefoot, walking the earth, saying: “Give for God’s sake,
some natural bread, to a natural man.”
Natural, Natural, ay, by God, Natural


I might sit down and not want to talk
I might lie on the earth as my bed
I graze on the earth’s grass, living well
The Natural one is loved by every Natural
Natural, Natural, ay, by God, Natural


I have a begging bag and a sea-shell
And a pot hung on the end of a stick
And my head is polished like a guitar
I walk naturally, naturally used to poverty
Natural, Natural, ay, by God, Natural


And when I stop at a town or market, I see the people come up to me
like brothers, their speech is well-intended
You see the Natural welcoming the Natural
Natural, Natural, ay, by God, Natural


I don’t fake anything, and I have no rule
I don’t crave food or clothes
and this position, is what every hypocrite needs
A natural poor man, loved by every natural
Natural, Natural, ay, by God, Natural


I know no jugde nor ruler
that’s more noble and natural for me
that’s how the high levels are described
A natural heart, in this state it is natural
Natural, Natural, ay, by God, Natural


Apart from these deeds, things are incomplete
Whoever humbles himself before a vizier or Sultan
Is arrogant and confused
His garment is natural, and by God, he is natural
Natural, Natural, ay, by God, Natural


Tearing the two sleeves, by this I mean, resurrection
Casting the two worlds from my heart
And I take off my two shoes to arrive at the Presence
Abandoning the unnatural is, for me, natural
Natural, Natural, ay, by God, Natural


I have a sitting mat that is pure like my heart
and a presence of intimacy with which I polish my cup
and a bunch of bags, a faqīr murabbī*
Natural, Natural, ay, by God, Natural
Natural, Natural, ay, by God, Natural


*A poor man (Sufi) who trains others.




Bob Marley


There’s a natural mystic
Blowing through the air
If you listen carefully now you will hear
This could be the first trumpet
Might as well be the last
Many more will have to suffer
Many more will have to die
Don’t ask me why


Things are not the way they used to be
I won’t tell no lie
One and all got to face reality now


Though I try to find the answer
To all the questions they ask
Though I know it’s impossible
To go living through the past
Don’t tell no lie


There’s a natural mystic
Blowing through the air
Can’t keep them down
If you listen carefully now you will hear
Such a natural mystic
Blowing through the air


This could be the first trumpet
Might as well be the last
Many more will have to suffer
Many more will have to die
Don’t ask me why

There’s a natural mystic
Blowing through the air
I won’t tell no lie
If you listen carefully now, you will hear
There’s a natural mystic
Blowing through the air



Old Twinkling Lee
Can’t see the right roads when the streets are paved
The old slave mill, might grind slow
But it grinds fine… yeah

[Verse 1]
African Herbsman, why linger on?
Just concentrate cuz heaven lives on
Retired slaveman, will look with a scorn
With a transplanted heart

[Bridge – Bob Marley and the Wailers]

[The Wailers]
Yes how quick we have to part
Yes how quick we have to part

The remembrance… of today… is the sad feeling of tomorrow…

[The Wailers]
Yes how quick we have to part

Oh, oh yeah

[Verse 2]
African Herbsman, seize your time
I’m taking illusion on the edge of my mind
I’m taking losers down through my life
Down through my life, yeah

[Bridge – Bob Marley and the Wailers]

[The Wailers]
Yes how quick we have to part
Yes how quick we have to part

Did they part? Yes they part!
In remembrance of today…

[The Wailers]
Yes how quick we have to part

[Repeat Verse 1]

[Bridge – Bob Marley and the Wailers]

[The Wailers]
Yes how quick we have to part
Yes how quick we have to part

In remembrance, of today, brings sad feelings of tomorrow

[The Wailers]
Yes how quick we have to part

Believe me oh, oh lord I praise

African Herbsman
African Herbsman
African, African Herbsman

Chuang Tzu


The flowing of the stream does nothing, but follows its nature
The perfect man does the same with regard to virtue
He does nothing to cultivate it, but all is affected by its presence
He is like the height of Heaven: natural
or the solidity of the Earth
or the brightness of sun and moon—all-natural
There is no need to cultivate this.


What is meant by ‘the True Man?’ The True men of old did not reject (the views of) the few; they did not seek to accomplish (their ends) like heroes (before others); they did not lay plans to attain those ends. Being such, though they might make mistakes, they had no occasion for repentance; though they might succeed, they had no self-complacency. Being such, they could ascend the loftiest heights without fear; they could pass through water without being made wet by it; they could go into fire without being burnt; so it was that by their knowledge they ascended to and reached the Tâo.

The True men of old did not dream when they slept, had no anxiety when they awoke, and did not care that their food should be pleasant. Their breathing came deep and silently. The breathing of the true man comes (even) from his heels, while men generally breathe (only) from their throats. When men are defeated in argument, their words come from their gullets as if they were vomiting. Where lusts and desires are deep, the springs of the Heavenly are shallow.

The True men of old knew nothing of the love of life or of the hatred of death. Entrance into life occasioned them no joy; the exit from it awakened no resistance. Composedly they went and came. They did not forget what their beginning bad been, and they did not inquire into what their end would be. They accepted (their life) and rejoiced in it; they forgot (all fear of death), and returned (to their state before life). Thus there was in them what is called the want of any mind to resist the Tâo, and of all attempts by means of the Human to assist the Heavenly. Such were they who are called the True men.

Being such, their minds were free from all thought; their demeanour was still and unmoved; their foreheads beamed simplicity. Whatever coldness came from them was like that of autumn; whatever warmth came from them was like that of spring. Their joy and anger assimilated to what we see in the four seasons. They did in regard to all things what was suitable, and no one could know how far their action would go.

One Love



Ibn al-Fāriḍ


As for my way in love, I have no way
If I neglect my love for a day, then I have left my sect
And if the thought of other than you occurs to me
Inadvertantly, I would consider it as my apostasy
You govern my life as you will,
so do what you will with me, for I have ever only desired you….



عن مذهبي في الحب مالي مذهب                وان ملت يوما عنه فارقت ملتي
وان خطرت لي في سواك ارادة             علي خاطري سهوا , قضيت بردتي
لك الحكم في أمري فما شئت            فأصنعي فلم تك الا فيك لا عنك رغبتي

Unknown Authors

Various positions have those who love from (mere) passion
But I have a unique place, in which I dwell alone.



مذاهب شتى للمحبّين في الهوى            و لي مدهب فرد أعيش به وحدي


Our expressions our many,
and your beauty is one
And it is to your beauty
that all of them allude



عباراتنا  شتّى و حسنك واحد      و كلّ إلى ذاك الجمال يشير


The sect of Love is different from all other religions
 For lovers, their sect and religion is simply God



ملت عشق از همه دین‌ها جداست
 عاشقان را ملت و مذهب خداست


Wisdom is bewildered by the religion of love
Although it knows all other religions



خرد نداند و حیران شود ز مذهب عشق
اگر چه واقف باشد ز جمله مذهب‌ها


Bob Marley


One Love! One Heart!
Let’s get together and feel all right.
Hear the children cryin’ (One Love!);
Hear the children cryin’ (One Heart!),
Sayin’: give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel all right;
Sayin’: let’s get together and feel all right. Wo wo-wo wo-wo!Let them all pass all their dirty remarks (One Love!);
There is one question I’d really love to ask (One Heart!):
Is there a place for the hopeless sinner,
Who has hurt all mankind just to save his own beliefs?

One Love! What about the one heart? One Heart!
What about – ? Let’s get together and feel all right
As it was in the beginning (One Love!);
So shall it be in the end (One Heart!),
All right!
Give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel all right;
Let’s get together and feel all right.
One more thing!

Let’s get together to fight this Holy Armagiddyon (One Love!),
So when the Man comes there will be no, no doom (One Song!).
Have pity on those whose chances grows t’inner;
There ain’t no hiding place from the Father of Creation.

Sayin’: One Love! What about the One Heart? (One Heart!)
What about the – ? Let’s get together and feel all right.
I’m pleadin’ to mankind! (One Love!);
Oh, Lord! (One Heart) Wo-ooh!

Give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel all right;
Let’s get together and feel all right.
Give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel all right;
Let’s get together and feel all right.

I looked and all I saw was you…



If the meaning of your speech is not for me, then I don’t know
For my heart will not be cured and my liver’s fire will not be quenched
I looked and I didn’t see any one I loved but you
If not for you, love would not be sweet for those who love
So when thought unveils you in the retreat of satisfaction
and it disappears, the people say my passions have led me astray
By your life, the lover has not gone astray nor has he erred*
But when they generalized, they made the fatwa miss its mark
If they had seen the meaning of your beauty
just as I saw, with the eye of the heart, they wouldn’t deny the claim
I dropped all shame in your love and
whoever is shameless in love enjoys the pillow talk
I tore the robes of dignity to shreds, exposing myself to you
and so distress becomes sweet in your love
There is no complaint in love even if one’s insides are torn up
and shame on the lovers who complain of your love



*Paraphrase of Qur’an 53:2




إِذا لم يكنْ مَعْنى حديثك لي يُدْرَى             فلا مُهْجْتيِ تُشْفىَ ولا كَبدي تُروَى
نَظرتُ فلم أنْظر سِواكَ أحبُّهُ                  ولَولاكَ ما طَاَب الهَوى لِلَّذي يَهوى
ولَّما اجْتلاَك الفكرُ في خَلوة الرّضا           وغيّبت قال الناس ضَلت بي الاهْوا
لَعمرُك ما ضَلَّ المحبُّ وَما غَوى                ولكَّنهمْ لمَّا عمُوا أخطئوا الفتوى
ولو شَهدوا معنى جمَالِكَ مثْلما              شهدْتُ بعينِ القلبِ ما أنكروا الدَّعوى
خلعت عِذاري في هَواك وَمنْ يكنْ             خليعَ عِذارِ في الهوى سَرَّهُ النجوى
وَمزقتُ أثواب الوقارِ تَهتكا                         عليكَ وطابت في محَبتكَ الْبلوَى
فما في الهْوى شكوىَ ولو مُزِّق الحَشَا         وَعارٌ على العُشاق في حُبِّكَ الشَّكوى






The pupil of my eye sees naught but your face
My bewildered heart recalls none but you

مردم دیده ما جز به رخت ناظر نیست
دل سرگشته ما غیر تو را ذاکر نیست


In the gangster’s world there is no thought or opinion of self
In this religion, seeing or thinking of yourself is infidelity


فکر خود و رای خود در عالم رندی نیست
کفر است در این مذهب خودبینی و خودرایی



Ibn ‘Arabi-My Beloved

Although not a poem in Arabic, this moving account of Divine “pillow talk” or munājāt (intimate discourses) by Ibn ‘Arabi was beautifully translated by Henri Corbin in poetic form.




Listen, O dearly beloved!
I am the reality of the world, the centre of the circumference,
I am the parts and the whole.
I am the will established between Heaven and Earth,
I have created perception in you only in order to be the object of My Perception.
If then you perceive Me, you perceive yourself.
But you cannot perceive Me through yourself.
It is through My Eyes that you see Me and see yourself,
Through your eyes you cannot see Me.

Dearly beloved!
I have called you so often and you have not heard Me.
I have shown Myself to you so often and you have not seen Me.
I have made Myself fragrance so often, and you have not smelled Me,
Savorous food, and you have not tasted Me.
Why can you not reach Me through the object you touch
Or breathe Me through sweet perfumes?
Why do you not see Me? Why do you not hear Me?
Why? Why? Why?

For you My delights surpass all other delights,
And the pleasure I procure you surpasses all other pleasures.
For you I am preferable to all other good things,
I am Beauty, I am Grace.

Love Me, love Me alone.
Love yourself in Me, in Me alone.
Attach yourself to Me,
No one is more inward than I.
Others love you for their own sakes,
I love you for yourself.
And you, you flee from Me.

Dearly beloved!
You cannot treat Me fairly,
For if you approach Me,
It is because I have approached you.
I am nearer to you than yourself,
Than your soul, than your breath.
Who among creatures
Would treat you as I do?

I am jealous of you, over you,
I want you to belong to no other,
Not even to yourself.
Be Mine, be for Me as you are in Me,
Though you are not even aware of it.

Dearly beloved!
Let us go toward Union.
And if we find the road
That leads to separation,
We will destroy separation.

Let us go hand in hand.
Let us enter the presence of Truth.
Let It be our judge
And imprint Its seal upon our union
For ever.


From: Henri Corbin. Creative Sufism ‘Alone with the Alone: Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn Arabi, p. 174-75



!اسمع يا حبيبي
انا العين المقصودة في الكون
انا نقطة الدائرة ومحيطها
انا مركبها وبسيطها
انا الامر المنزل بين السماء والارض و السماء
ما خلفت لك الادراكات الا لتدركني بها
فاذا ادركتني ادركت نفسك
لا تطمع ان تدركني بادراكك نفسك
بعيني تراني ونفسك
لابعين نفسك تراني
كم اناديك فلا تسمع؟
كم اتراءى لك فلا تبصر ؟
كم اندرج لك فى الروائح فلا تشم ؟
وفي الطعوم فلا تطعم لى ذوقا؟
ما لك لاتلمسني فى الملموسات ؟
ما لك لاتدركني فى المشمومات ؟
ما لك لاتبصرنى؟
ما لك لاتسمعني؟
ما لك مالك مالك ؟
انا الذ لك من كل ملذوذ
أنا اشهي لك من كل مشتهى
انا احسن لك من كل حسن
انا الجميل
انا المليح
! حبيبي
حبني لا تحب غيري
اعشقني هم في
لا تهم في سواي
ضمّني قبّلني
ما تجد وصولا مثلي
كل يريدك له
وانا اريدك لك
وانت تفر مني
يا حبيبي
ما تنصفني
ان تقربت اليّ
تقربت اليك اضعاف ما تقربت به اليّ
انا اقرب اليك من نفسك و نسفك
من يفعل معك ذلك غيري من المخلوقين
اغار عليك منك
لا احب ان اراك عند الغير
كن عندى بي
اكن عندك
كما انت عندي
وانت لاتشعر
الوصال الوصال
يدي و يدك
ندخل على الحق تعالى
…ليحكم بيننا حكم الابد


‘Iraqi and Shushtari—The Wealth of Poverty





I have seen that the lane of piety stretches out,
far, far into the distance;
My dearest friends, can you not show me then
the way of the madman?
Bring me a glass of Magian wine
that I may drink deep
for I have given up all thought
of ascetic piety;
or if the pure wine has all been downed
bring me the cloudy dregs
for thick residue lights up the heart
and illuminates the eyes.
Tuppence for the Sufi meeting house!
I flee the company of the righteous;
fill up a row of glasses with wine
and bring me the first.
I have no rules or regulations,
nor heart nor religion –
only I remain, and you, sitting in the corner
and the wealth of Poverty.
All fear of God, all self-denial I deny;
bring wine, nothing but wine
for in all sincerity I repent
my worship which is but hypocrisy.
Yes, bring me wine, for I have renounced all renunciation
and all my vaunted self-righteousness
seems to me but swagger and self-display.
Now for a time let my proof be wine
against the sorrow of Time
for only in drunkenness can one be free
of the hour’s grief.
Once I am thoroughly drunk, what difference
if I end up in a church or in Mecca?
Once I’ve abandoned myself, what matter
if I win Union – or separation?
I’ve been to the gambling house and seen
that the losers there are pure;
I’ve been to the monastery and have found
no one but hypocrites.
Now I’ve broken my repentance, at least
do not break our covenant:
at least welcome this broken heart and say
“How are you? Where have you been?”
I’ve been to Mecca, to circle the Kaaba
but they refused me entrance
saying “Off with you!  What merit have you earned
outside, that we should admit you within?”
Then, last night, I knocked
at the tavern door;
from within came a voice: “‘Iraqi! Come in!
for you are one of the chosen!”


from the introduction to Divine Flashes
translation by William Chittick and Peter Wilson




پسرا، ره قلندر سزد ار به من نمایی
که دراز و دور دیدم ره زهد و پارسایی
پسرا، می مغانه دهی ار حریف مایی
که نماند بیش ما را سر زهد و پارسایی
قدحی می مغانه به من آر، تا بنوشم
که دگر نماند ما را سر توبهٔ ریایی
می صاف اگر نباشد، به من آر درد تیره
که ز درد تیره یابد دل و دیده روشنایی
کم خانقه گرفتم، سر مصلحی ندارم
قدح شراب پر کن، به من آر، چند پایی؟
نه ره و نه رسم دارم، نه دل و نه دین، نه دنیی
منم و حریف و کنجی و نوای بی‌نوایی
نیم اهل زهد و توبه به من آر ساغر می
که به صدق توبه کردم ز عبادت ریایی
تو مرا شراب در ده، که ز زهد تو به کردم
ز صلاح چون ندیدم جز لاف و خودنمایی
ز غم زمانه ما را برهان ز می زمانی
که نیافت جز به می کس ز غم زمان رهایی
چو ز باده مست گشتم، چه کلیسیا، چه کعبه؟
چو به ترک خود بگفتم، چه وصال و چه جدایی؟
به قمارخانه رفتم همه پاکباز دیدم
چو به صومعه رسیدم همه یافتم دغایی
چو شکست توبهٔ من، مشکن تو عهد، باری
به من شکسته دل گو که: چگونه‌ای؟ کجایی؟
به طواف کعبه رفتم به حرم رهم ندادند
که برون در چه کردی، که درون خانه آیی؟
در دیر می‌زدم من، ز درون صدا بر آمدکه: درآی،
ای عراقی، که تو خود حریف مایی






We come to you in poverty, not riches, for you are the generous one.

You accustomed us to every grace, may your grace endure.

These poor disheveled souls of yours are drenched
in your love, because it is the utmost of desires.

There is no one in richness like you
and in poverty there are none like us.

We see you manifest in everything; nothing is ours.

I hid your name out of jealousy. Look at me, lost on a mountain trail and a slope.

Since you are always with me,
I have no need to carry provisions: I am rich.

For you, you are the truth, there is no other
and I – would that I knew – who am I?

From Alvarez, L.M. Abū al-Ḥasan al-Shushtarī: Songs of Love and Devotion, (New York, Paulist Press, 2009), p. 69



أتيناك بالفقر لا بالغنى    وأنت الذي لم تزل محسنّا
وعوّدتنا كلّ فضل عسى      يدوم الذي منك عوّدتنا
مسا كينك الشعث قد موهوا      بحبك إذ هو أقصى المنى
فما في الغنى واحد مثلكم      و في الفقر لا عصبة مثلنا
رأيناك في كلّ أمر بدا      وليس من الأمر شيء لنا
سترت اسمكم غيرة ها أنا      أموه بالشعب والمنحنى
إذا كنت في كلّ حال معي      فعن حمل زادي أنا في غنى
فأنتم هم الحق لا غيركم      فياليت شعري أنا من أنا

O you present in my heart…




O you present in my heart, thinking of you makes me sweet
If no one ever visits my eye, then my heart will take its place for me
I am not gone, but my body is vanishing from wasting away
So no blamer found me, and no chaperone/rival saw me
Had the era known about me, people would have come to me
Nothing remains but passion, ask it about me, and it will answer for me





يَا حاضِراً في فُؤادي ** بِالفكرِ فِيكمْ أطيبُ
إِنْ لمْ يزُرْ شخصُ عيني ** فالقلبُ عِندي ينُوبُ
مَا غِبتُ لَكِنَّ جِسْمي ** من النُّحول يذوبُ
فَلمْ يَجدْني عذولٌ ** وَلاَ رآنِي رَقِيبُ
وَلوْ دَرَى الدَّهْرُ ** عَنِّي جَاءت إِلىَّ شعُوبُ
لَمْ يَبْقَ غَيْرُ غَرامٍ ** فَسَلهُ عَنِّي يِجُيبُ




Hey you hiding in my heart

I am happy when you’re near

You, my life, my joy and art

Who’s the image, who’s the mirror?