As the wind stirs up, so does my pain get stirred up
I want to forget you, believe me
But there is always more wind
I want to forget you
but there is always more wind
Love is the One who masters all things;
I am mastered totally by Love.
By my passion of love for Love
I have ground sweet as sugar.
O furious Wind, I am only a straw before you;
How could I know where I will be blown next?
Whoever claims to have made a pact with Destiny
Reveals himself a liar and a fool;
What is any of us but a straw in a storm?
How could anyone make a pact with a hurricane?
God is working everywhere his massive Resurrection;
How can we pretend to act on our own?
In the hand of Love I am like a cat in a sack;
Sometimes Love hoists me into the air,
Sometimes Love flings me into the air,
Love swings me round and round His head;
I have no peace, in this world or any other.
The lovers of God have fallen in a furious river;
They have surrendered themselves to Love’s commands.
Like mill wheels they turn, day and night, day and night,
Constantly turning and turning, and crying out.
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
The following verse of the Qur’an has inspired Islamic architecture and literature, illustrating the prominent symbols of the mirror and the perspective shift.
Qur’an 27:44 Pickthall translation:
It was said unto her : Enter the hall. And when she saw it she deemed it a pool and bared her legs. (Solomon) said: Lo! it is a hall, made smooth, of glass. She said: My Lord! Lo! I have wronged myself, and I surrender with Solomon unto Allah, the Lord of the Worlds.
And since she, or Bilqîs, said in answer to the question concerning her throne, which was, “Is thy throne like this? (Quran XXVII, 42), “It seems the same” (XXVII, 42), one can detect her knowledge of the renewal of creation at each instant, for she said, “It seems”. And he showed her the pavillion of crystal, so she supposed it was like a spreading water “and she bared her legs” (Quran XXVII, 44) so the water would not touch her clothing. But it was not a spreading water in reality, just as the visible throne brought into existence before Solomon was not the same throne which she left in Sheba in respect of its form, for it had discarded the first form and assumed another, while the substance, upon which the two thrones imposed successively their forms, was one. So he showed her by that that the state of her throne was like that of the pavillion: as for the throne, because it was deprived of existence, and what the Creator created was similar to that which had vanished; and as for the pavillion, because in its extreme delicacy and limpidity it became similar to clear water, while (in reality) it was different. So he showed her with his actions that she was right in her words, “It seems the same.”
-Ibn ‘Arabi Naqsh al-Fusūs trans. by William Chittick
When you looked at my polished heart’s shine
you just saw your own reflected in mine
And baring your legs, you hiked up your soul
to wade in my water, so clear and so cold
But I’m too jealous to let you baptize
your body in anything else but my eyes
So you’ll walk on water, just like the Messiah
and dance across skies, like sunset’s smooth fires
You sounded the depths, and to your surprise
found it but a trick to uncover your thighs
The clothes that you bought, all the things that you thought
in my mirror’s undertow, are all swept aside
And so now you walk with my heart underfoot
we’re all alone, lift your head up love and look
Let me lift off that veil, since it’s just you and I
Among the people are some who take peers apart from God, loving them as if loving God. And those who believe are more intense in love for God. If only those who were unjust could see, they would see the punishment/sweetness: that all power is God’s and God is intense in punishment/sweetness.
They say that a man met a woman recognizer, and her beauty exercised its influence over his heart. He said, “’My all is busy with your all.’ O woman! I have lost myself in love for you.”
She said, “Why don’t you look at my sister, who is more beautiful and lovely than I?”
He said, “Where is your sister so that I may see her?”
She said, “Go, idler! Passion is not your work. If your claim to love me were true, you would not care about anyone else.”…
Shiblī said, “I learned Sufism from a dog that was sleeping at the door of a house. The owner came out and was driving the dog away, but the dog kept on coming back. I said to myself, ‘How base this dog is! He drives him away, and he keeps on coming back.’ The Exalted Lord brought that dog to speech and it said, ‘O Shaykh! Where should I go? He is my owner.’”
I will not leave the Friend at a hundred iniquities and cruelties.
Even if He increases them, I will not be troubled,
It is I who chose Him over everyone else;
if I complain about Him, I will have no excuse.
But the believers love God more ardently, than any other, because they only love God. Their love for Him is not confounded with love of others and is not subject to change. They love things through [their] love of God and for God and in the measure that they find in these [things] a divine aspect…
or [it means that] they love [God] more than they love their deities because they love things in themselves for themselves and so inevitably their love changes [for these things] when they themselves change the accidents of their souls upon fear of perdition and the harm that the soul brings upon them. Believers love God through their spirits and their hearts, nay, through God and for God. Their love [for Him] does not change because it is selfless. They expend their spirits and their souls for the sake of His countenance and His approval, abandoning all of their desires for His desire, loving His acts even when they conflict with their caprices, as one of them said: “I desire to connect with Him while He desires to abandon me, so I abandon what I desire for what He desires.”
Nothing but God is loved, nothing but God is worshipped— Your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him (17:23)— indeed nothing but God is. However, some limit their love of God to a particular form or forms of His, an idol of sorts.
Those who love God in a limited form, in idols or “peers,” love a limited form, and thus their love is limited. Those who love God, Who is beyond all limitation (and is even beyond the limitation of being beyond limitation) love Him in each and every form, without limitation. Thus their love is unlimited, and more intense. He loves them and they love Him (5:54).They love Him with His love. Those who love the “idols” of a particular form or forms only love “as if with the Love of God” (كحبّ الله), but those who believe, who love of God is not limited by these forms, love God with His own unlimited love—God loves Himself through them.
Those who wrong themselves by limiting their love to a particular form or forms, if they could only see, would know the intense sweetness of love unlimited, and the severe punishment of limited love, especially when compared to sweetness of unlimited love. The pain of regret and envy is severe punishment.
Have you seen him who has taken desire for his God? (45:23)
The greatest and most exalted locus of self-disclosure wherein He is worshipped is that of desire. Remember that He has said, Have you seen him who has taken his desire for his God? It is the greatest object of worship since nothing is worshipped except through it, and it is only worshipped by itself. Concerning this I say:
The truth of desire is that desire is the cause of desire
If not for desire in the heart, desire would not be worshipped
و حق الهوى إن الهوى سبب الهوى لو لا الهوى في القلب ما عُبِدَ الهوى
Do you not see how perfect God’s knowledge of things is, how He perfects one who worships is desire and takes it has his divinity?… He sees this worshipper worshipping only his his desire, complying with its command to worship the individual whom he worships. Even his worship of God comes from his desire. If one did not have desire for the Divine—which is a will based on love—one would not worship God, nor would one prefer Him to another. Likewise, anyone who worships some form of the world and makes it a divinity only does so because of desire. The worshipper is forever under the influence of his desire. Now, he sees the objects of worship diversified amongst the worshippers, and each one who worships something, denies one who worships something else. One who has the least bit of awareness will be bewildered at the unanimity of desire, nay by the oneness of desire, for it is the same essence in every worshipper. God led him astray, that is, bewildered him, out of knowledge that every worshipper only worships his own desire, and only seeks to worship his desire whether it coincides with the prescribed command or not.
The perfect Knower is he who sees every object of worship as a locus of self-disclosure of the Real wherein to worship Him.
This is why a human being does not become totally annihilated and enraptured by love except in love for His Lord or for someone who is the locus of disclosure for his Lord [that is, another human being, created in God’s image].
The entities of the cosmos are all lovers because of Him, whatever the beloved may be, since all created things are the pedestals for the Real’s self-disclosure. Their love is fixed, they are loving, and He is the Loving. The whole situation is concealed between the Real and creation through creation and the Real. That is why God brought the name Forgiving along with the name Loving [in the verse He is the Forgiving, the Loving, Lord of the Throne, the Glorious (85:14-15)]. After all, Forgiving means literally ‘curtaining’. Thus it is said that [the famous Arab lover] Qays loved Layla, since Layla derives from the locus of disclosure. In the same way, Bishr loved Hind, Kuthayr loved ‘Azza, Ibn al-Durayj loved Lubna, Tawba loved al-Akhyaliyya, and Jamil loved Buthayna. But all these women were pedestals through which the Real disclosed Himself to them.
The beloved is a pedestal even if the lover is ignorant of the names of what he loves. A man can see a woman and love her, without knowing who she is, what her name is, who her relatives are, and where she lives. Love, by its very essence, requires that he seek out her name and her home so that he may attend to her and know her in the state of her absence through the name and the relationship. Thus he will ask about her if he lacks the witnessing of her.
So also is our love for God. We love Him in His loci of self-disclosure and within the specific name, which is Layla, Lubna, or whatever, but we do not recognize that the object is identical with the Real. So here we love the name but we do not recognize that it is identical with the Real. Thus we love the name and do not recognize the entity.
In the case of the created thing, you know the entity and you love. It may be that the name is not known. However, love refuses anything but making the beloved known. Among us are those who know God in this world, and among us are those who do not know Him until they die while loving some specific thing. Then they will come to understand, when the covering is lifted, that they had loved only God, but they had been veiled by the name of the created thing.
The weeping of the guitar
The goblets of dawn
The weeping of the guitar
to silence it.
to silence it.
It weeps monotonously
as water weeps
as the wind weeps
to silence it.
It weeps for distant
Hot southern sands
yearning for white camellias.
Weeps arrow without target
evening without morning
and the first dead bird
on the branch.
Heart mortally wounded
by five swords.
Six bars cage my lonely heart
And rattle with its sad love moans
Six stars cluster round my eye
and dance, shimmering on silver thrones
Six dark girls, three bronze, three thin
Sing sighing for their distant homes
Six hairs heave with love’s breath
Braid flames into my wooden bones
Six rivers run over my mouth
And ripple with its quiet groans
Six threads from your skirt’s wide hem
Have hooked my ear and won’t let go
Six barbed lines make a net to catch
My spirit in its shadowed grove
Six bolts of lightning flash across
My mouth, smiling as thunder rolls
My body pierced by music from
The six strings of this compound bow
These six veins wrap around my heart
And bleeding song from five swords’ strokes
Form six paths for your love to flow
Through my heartsick and stricken soul
And weave love’s sweet, sad melodies
Between your fingers; strikes and blows
Lean your body forward slightly to support the guitar against your chest, for the poetry of the music should resound in your heart.
“The guitar is fit for tender and sweet dialogue
with the girl we love
if the girl becomes disloyal to us
the cello—to confide our sorrow to a friend
and if the friend is also unfaithful
then the organ, to communicate
our affliction to God” ‘
– Andres Segovia The Guitar and I, Vol. 2 (1972. LP: MCA-2536)
In the violin and cello, we feel the human warmth of their timbres; and the guitar–the guitar condenses and refines the music played on it as the hundred fragrances of the forest are refined and condensed in a tiny flask.
I like very much the true flamenco, which is played with heavy fingers, roughly but from the soul. But flamenco has departed from the good simple tradition. The flamencos should not be professionals.
I belong to the scarce minority of artists who work in good faith, around whom the phenomenal world vanishes, as it happens to the mystics when they give themselves to prayer.
Among God’s creatures two, the dog and the guitar, have taken all the sizes and all the shapes, in order not to be separated from the man.
The advice I am giving always to all my students is above all to study the music profoundly….
Music is like the ocean, and the instruments are little or bigger islands, very beautiful for the flowers and trees.
The guitar is a small orchestra. It is polyphonic. Every string is a different color, a different voice The guitar is a miniature orchestra in itself.
The following was one of Ibn ‘Arabi’s favorite verses of poetry, oft-quoted by Sufi authors ranging from al-Ghazzali to Fakhr ad-din ‘Iraqi to Emir ‘abd al-Qadir to explain the mysterious relationship between God and the heart.