The Iwan of Chosroes

The Iwan of Chosroes in Iraq is the only visible structure remaining of the Sassanid capital of Ctesphion (Madā’in in Arabic), about 35 km south of present-day Baghdad. Its Iwan, or arch, the largest vault of unreinforced brickwork in the world, is considered an architectural marvel. Possibly constructed during the reign of Anushirwan (Chosroes I) c 540 AD, the ruins of this palace have served as inspiration for many poets, particularly due to Islamic legends that this Iwan cracked upon the birth of the Prophet Muhammad, signaling the emergence of Islam as a new empire and civilization that would replace that of the Sassanids.

Below are three of the most famous poems inspired by these ruins. The first, written by the Senegalese Sufi shaykh, Ibrahim Niasse, upon his visit to the site in 1970, references many of the miraculous legends surrounding the Prophet’s birth and life; it is a celebration of the coming of the spiritual reality of the Prophet Muhammad into the world, eclipsing all other temporal power, and representing the miraculous, but inevitable triumph of truth, justice and spiritual authority over seemingly invincible political authority and power. The second, by the Persian poet al-Khaqānī, inspired by his visit to the site on his way back from ḥajj, is one of the most-celebrated Persian qasidas and takes the ruins as a moralizing reminder of the transience of power, wealth and glory, and the inevitable march of time which tramples all underfoot. The third, and oldest of these poems is by the ‘Abbasid court poet al-Buḥturī, and is a complex and vibrant celebration of the glory of the Sassanid kings, an appropriation and alliance of their civilization and time with that of the poet, and a textured reflection on memory, time, decay, and renewal. Whereas al-Buḥturī’s poem is largely celebratory of the memory of bygone glory and nobility, Khāqāni’s verse emphasizes its transience and evanescence, and the moral renewal such contemplation can provoke (as described in Qur’an 3:137, 6:6, 30:9, 40:21, 40:82, 44:25 etc.), and Niasse’s shorter, more straightforward and repetitive poem takes the ruins as a reminder of the glory of the spiritual reality of the Prophet and the once, future, and always victory of the truth over earthly power. All three poems are filled with literary allusions, creative and evocative imagery, literary devices, and profound musicality, as you can hear in the recordings below.

 

 

Ibrahim Niasse (d. 1975)

Translation:

Was it Chosroes’ Iwan that was crushed, heralding
            The emergence of the Prophet and Chosroes’ evanescence?
O Chosroes Anushirvan, when Muhammad came with
            His greatest signs, was it your castle that he saw?[1]
O Chosroes Anushirvan, when Muhammad came
            Did the rivers run dry? Or did they gush forth?
O Chosroes Anushirvan, when Muhammad came
            Did not the Magi come to you extolling him?
O Chosroes Anushirvan, did not Muhammad come
            Reciting, reminding, warning and giving glad tidings?
While the idols had prostrated to God, speaking [of his coming]
            And the soothsayers had told of what was hidden?
Greetings of peace to the light of God that
            Overshadowed, by his lights, the lights of Chosroes and Caesar
Greetings of peace to he who brought, while he was in Mecca
            A light by which Chosroes’ Iwan was cracked
Greetings of peace to being’s secret and its mystery
            For God’s alone is what is more exalted, and precious, and dazzling
Greetings of peace to he who came, while existence, all of it
            Was darkness, and from his lights it was illumined
Greetings of peace to him from a lovelorn servant
            In Baghdad, exhausted from having spent the night in sleepless contemplation
So he who razed this castle while he was a child in Mecca
            did not leave behind any appearance of that infidelity
So he who razed this castle while he was in Mecca
            He will demolish the castles of infidelity whenever he is remembered
Upon him be the blessings of God and then His peace too
            For I see that the lot of Muslims is abundant fortune
Upon him be the blessings of God and then His peace too
            And the share of the enemies of religion is a scourge of destruction

 

[1] An allusion to a miracle of the Prophet at the Battle of the Trench: when attempting to split a rock while digging a trench to protect the Medinan community, the Prophet’s three blows produced three flashes of light by which he reported that he saw three landmarks: the palace of Chosroes, the castles of the Yemen and those of Syria, each representing an opening of a direction for the spread of Islam (East, South, and North/West).

 

Original:

أإيوان كسرى هل دهاك وأنذرا        بروز نيبيّي إنّ كسرى تقهقرا
أكسرى أنوشروان جاء محمّد         بآياته الكبرى وقصرك أبصرا
أكسرى أنوشروان جاء محمّد        وهل قطع الأنهار أم هل تفجّرا
أكسرى أنوشروان جاء محمّد           وهل قد أتاك الموبذان مكبّرا
أكسرى أنوشروان جاء محمّد               يرتِّل ذكراً منذراً ومبشّرا
وقد سجد المعبود لله ناطقاً            وقد أبنأ الكهان ما كان مضمرا
سلام على نور الإله الذي خبت          بأنواره أنوار كسرى وقيصرا
سلام على من جاءوهو بمكّةٍ               بنورٍ به إيوان كسرى تكسّرا
سلام على سرّ الوجود ورمزه             فللّه ما أعلى وأغلى وأبهارا
سلام على من جاء والكون كلّه             ظلام ومن أنواره قد  تنوّرا
سلام عليه من خديمٍ متيّمٍ                      بببداد وهناً لا ينام تفكّرا
فمن هدّ هذا القصر وهو بمكّةٍ          وليداً فلا يبقي لذا الكفر مظهرا
ومن هدّ هذا القصر وهوبمكةٍ           سيهدم قصر الكفر حين تذكّرا
عليه صلاة الله ثمّ سلامه                    وأبصر حظّ المسلمين موفّرا
عليه صلاة الله ثمّ سلامه                  يلقى عدوّ الدّين سوطاً مدمّرا

al-Khَāqānī (d. 1199)

Translation:

(By Julie Meisami, from Qasida Poetry in Islamic Africa and Asia: Eulogy’s Bounty, Stefan Sperl and Christopher Shackle, eds. (Leiden: Brill, 1996), 163-169.

Awake!, O heart that sees portents, reflect on what you see,
Awake! Consider Madaʾin’s great arch as admonition’s mirror.
Leaving the banks of the Tigris, alight at Madaʾin,
on its ground let spill from your eyes, another Tigris
The very Tigris weeps a hundred Tigrises of blood; you’d say
Heat makes its bloody torrent pour fire from its lashes
Consider how the Tigris’ lips have caused its mouth to foam;
You’d say its fevered sighs of pain have caused its lips to blister
Consider how the fire of grief is grilling Tigris’ liver;
Have you ever heard of water that was roasted by a fire?
Again and again weep over the Tigris; give it alms from your eyes,
Even though the Tigris itself bestows its alms on the seashore.
Should the Tigris mingle its lips’ cold sighs with the burning of its heart,
Half of it would freeze over, half become a fiery grate
When the Aivan’s chain of justice broke apart in Madā’in,
The maddened Tigris was enchained, its waves twisted like chains
Now and again, in the tongue of tears, call out to the Aivan
In the hope that with your heart’s ear you will hear an answer from it.
Each palace battlement will give you counsel again and again;
Heed the advice of the battlement’s head from the bottom of your heart.
It says: ‘You are of earth and we are now your earth; so take
Two or three steps upon us; scatter two or three tears as well.
‘Truly the owl’s lamenting wail has caused our heads to ache.
‘Pour rosewater from your eyes to ease our headache and grief.
Indeed why should you marvel so? For in the world’s pleasance
‘The owl follows the nightingale; laments follow sweet songs.’
‘We are the court of justice, yet have suffered this injustice.
‘Say, what reversal will befall the castles of the unjust!’
‘You’d say this Aivan, lofty as the sky, had been overturned by command
Of the turning of the sky itself, or of Him who turns the sky.
You laugh at my eyes, as if to say, ‘What does he weep for here?’
But in this place they weep at those eyes that are not moved to tears
The white-haired crone of Madā’in is no less than Kufa’s old woman
The narrow chamber of the one is not less than the other’s oven
Do you know then what you must do? Make Madā’in equal Kufa
Make your breast a fiery oven; seek the flood from your eyes.
This is that very Aivan where, from the impress of men’s faces,
The dirt of its threshold was transformed to an idol-temple’s wall
This is that very court wherein, of the rulers of the world
Babylon’s king was a Daylami, Turkestan’s king, and Indian
This is that very portico whose grandeur was so awesome
That the lion of its hangings assaulted Lion’s heaven
Imagine it is that very age, and look, with reflection’s eye
On the chain before the court, the splendid assembly in the field
Dismount from your horse, and place your face upon the mat of earth and see
How great Nu’man is checkmated beneath its elephants’ feet
Nay, nay: see, like Nu’man, those elephant-felling kings themselves
Slain by the elephants Night and Day in the winding turns of time
How many an elephant-slaying king has been slain with a king-elephant
By the chess-player of his destiny, mated, deprived of hope.
The earth is drunk, for it has drunken deep–instead of wine—
From the cup of Hurmuz’s skull, the heart’s blood of Anushirvan
So many words of counsel then showed plainly in his crown
That now a hundred fledgling kites are hidden in his brains.
Kisrā and his golden citron, Parviz and his golden quince
Were swiftly carried off the wind, became as one with the earth
Parviz at every feast would scatter herbs of gold; transform
his golden carpet into a garden sprouting golden herbs
Parviz has vanished now; speak less of that vanished one.
where now is his feast, his golden herbs? Go and recite ‘How many…’
You ask, ‘Where have they gone, those crowned heads?’ Behold!
The belly of the earth swells pregnant with them ever more.
The pregnant earth takes long in giving birth. Indeed,
The task of giving birth is difficult, though impregnation’s easy.
It is the blood in Shirin’s heart, that wine the vine gives forth;
It is Parviz’s clay that forms the jar its grower offers
How many tyrants’ bodies have been swallowed by the earth?
No matter, she of greedy eyes is still not sated by them.
She mixes rouge to paint her face from the blood of children’s hearts,
This aged crone with whitened brows, this mother with black dugs
Khāqānī: like a beggar, seek admonition from this court,
That at your door, hereafter, the Khāqān [regal] will seek charity.
If today a traveller seeks provision from the sultan,
Tomorrow at the traveller’s door the sultan will seek provision.
If gifts from every town provision Mecca’s road,
Then you take Madā’in’s provision as a gift for Sharvan’s sake
Everyone takes from Mecca prayer-beads of Hamza’s clay
Then you take from Madā’in prayer-beads from the clay of Salman.
Look on this sea of insight, don’t pass by without a drink;
One cannot leave the shore of such a sea with thirsting lips.
When friends return from journeying, they bring with them a gift.
This bit of poetry is a gift brought for the hearts of friends.
Observe then in this poem what magic he displays,
The dead man with a Christlike heart, the madman with a wise soul.

!هان! ای دل ِ عبرتبین! از دیده عبر کن! هان
ایوان ِ مدائن را آیینهی عبرت دان!
یکره زِ لب ِ دجله منزل به مدائن کن
وَ ز دیده دُوُم دجله بر خاک ِ مدائن ران
خود دجله چنان گرید صد دجلهی خون گویی
کاز گرمی ِ خوناباش آتش چکد از مژگان
بینی که لب ِ دجله چون کف به دهان آرد؟
گوئی زِ تَف ِ آهاش لب آبله زد چندان
از آتش ِ حسرت بین بریان جگر ِ دجله
خود آب شنیدهستی کآتش کُنَد اَش بریان
بر دجله گِری نونو! وَ ز دیده زکاتاش ده
گرچه لب ِ دریا هست از دجله زکاتاِستان
گر دجله درآمیزد باد ِ لب و سوز ِ دل
نیمی شود افسرده، نیمی شود آتشدان
تا سلسلهی ایوان بگسست مدائن را
در سلسله شد دجله، چون سلسله شد پیچان
گهگه به زبان ِ اشک آواز ده ایوان را
تا بو که به گوش ِ دل پاسخ شنوی ز ایوان
دندانهی هر قصری پندی دهد اَت نو نو
پند ِ سر ِ دندانه بشنو زِ بن ِ دندان
گوید که تو از خاکی، ما خاک تو ایم اکنون
گامی دو سه بر ما نه و اشکی دو سه هم بفشان
از نوحهی جغدالحق مائیم به درد ِ سر
از دیده گلابی کن، درد ِ سر ِ ما بنشان
آری! چه عجب داری؟ کاندر چمن ِ گیتی
جغد است پی ِ بلبل؛ نوحهست پی ِ الحان
ما بارگه ِ دادیم این رفت ستم بر ما
بر قصر ِ ستمکاران تا خود چه رسد خذلان
گوئی که نگون کردهست ایوان ِ فلکوش را
حکم ِ فلک ِ گردان؟ یا حکم ِ فلکگردان؟
بر دیدهی من خندی کاینجا زِ چه میگرید!
خندند بر آن دیده کاینجا نشود گریان
نی زال ِ مدائن کم از پیرزن ِ کوفه
نه حجرهی تنگ ِ این کمتر زِ تنور ِ آن
دانی چه؟ مدائن را با کوفه برابر نه!
از سینه تنوری کن وَ ز دیده طلب طوفان
این است همان ایوان کاز نقش ِ رخ ِ مردم
خاک ِ در ِ او بودی دیوار ِ نگارستان
این است همان درگَه کاورا زِ شهان بودی
دیلم مَلِک ِ بابِل، هندو شه ِ ترکستان
این است همان صفّه کاز هیبت ِ او بردی
بر شیر ِ فلک حمله شیر ِ تن ِ شادروان
پندار همان عهد است. از دیدهی فکرت بین!
در سلسلهی درگَه، در کوکبهی میدان
از اسب پیاده شو، بر نَطع ِ زمین رُخ نه
زیر ِ پی ِ پیلاش بین شهمات شده نُعمان
نی! نی! که چو نُعمان بین پیلافکن ِ شاهان را
پیلان ِ شب و روز اَش کُشته به پی ِ دوران
ای بس شه ِ پیلافکن کافکند به شهپیلی
شطرنجی ِ تقدیر اَش در ماتگَه ِ حرمان
مست است زمین. زیرا خوردهست بهجایِ می
در کاس ِ سر ِ هرمز، خون ِ دل ِ نوشروان
بس پند که بود آنگه بر تاج ِ سر اَش پیدا
صد پند ِ نو است اکنون در مغز ِ سر اَش پنهان
کسری و ترنج ِ زر، پرویز و ترهی زرّین
بر باد شده یکسر، با خاک شده یکسان
پرویز به هر خوانی زرّینتره گستردی
کردی زِ بساط ِ زر، زرّینتره را بستان
پرویز کنون گم شد! زآن گمشده کمتر گو
زرّین تره کو برخوان؟ رو «کَم تَرَکوا» برخوان
گفتی که کجا رفتند آن تاجوران اینک؟
ز ایشان شکم ِ خاک است آبستن ِ جاویدان
بس دیر همیزاید آبستن ِ خاک، آری
دشوار بود زادن، نطفه ستدن آسان
خون ِ دل ِ شیرین است آن می که دهد رَزبُن
ز آب و گِل ِ پرویز است آن خُم که نهد دهقان
چندین تن ِ جبّاران کاین خاک فرو خوردهست
این گرسنهچشم آخر هم سیر نشد ز ایشان
از خون ِ دل ِ طفلان سرخاب ِ رخ آمیزد
این زال ِ سپید ابرو، وین مام ِ سیهپستان
خاقانی ازین درگه دریوزهی عبرت کن
تا از در ِ تو زینپس دریوزه کند خاقان
امروز گر از سلطان رندی طلبد توشه
فردا زِ در ِ رندی توشه طلبد سلطان
گر زاد ِ ره ِ مکه تحفهست به هر شهری
تو زاد ِ مدائن بَر تحفه ز پی ِ شروان
هرکس برَد از مکّه سبحه زِ گِل ِ جمره
پس تو ز مدائن بَر سبحه ز گل ِ سلمان
این بحر ِ بصیرت بین! بیشربت از او مگذر
کاز شطّ ِ چنین بحری لبتشنه شدن نتوان
اِخوان که زِ راه آیند، آرند رهآوردی
این قطعه رهآورد است از بهر ِ دل ِ اِخوان
بنگر که در این قطعه چه سحر همی راند
معتوه ِ مسیحا دل، دیوانهیِ عاقل جان

From:

 https://ganjoor.net/khaghani/divankh/gha…

Al-Buḥturī (d. 897)

Translation:

(by Samer Ali from Reinterpreting al-Buḥturī’s “Īwān Kisrā Ode”: Tears of Affection for the Cycles of History, Journal of Arabic Literature , 2006, Vol. 37, No. 1 (2006), pp. 65-67)

I saved myself from what defiles my self
and rose above the largess of every craven coward.
I endured when Time shook me,
seeking misery and reversal for me.
Mere subsistence from the dregs of life have I.
Days have rationed it inadequately.
Stark is the difference between him who drinks at will twice a day
and him who drinks every fourth day.
As if Time’s inclinations are predicated on the vilest of the vile.
My purchase of Iraq was a swindler’s ploy,
after my sale of Syria, a trickster’s sale.
Do not test me endlessly about my knowledge
of these ordeals to deny my misfortunes.
You once knew me as a man of qualities,
disdaining petty matters, undaunted.
But the scorn of my cousin,
after heartfelt kindness and amity, disturbs me.
When I am scorned, I am likely
to be seen rising not where I spent the night.
Sorrows attend my saddle. I direct
my stout she-camel to Mada’in [Ctesiphon].
I console myself for such luck
and find solace in a site for the Sasanians, ruined.
Perpetual misfortune reminds me of them;
misfortune makes one remember and forget.
They live the good life, shaded by guarded peaks,
which tire and baffle the gaze.
Its gates, on Qabq Mountain, are secure, extending to the uplands of Khilat and Muks.
The abodes are unlike the ruins of Su’da,
in a wasteland, bare and plantless.
Heroic feats-were it not for my partiality-the
feats of ‘Ans and ‘Abs would not surpass them.
Time despoiled their era of vitality. It
devolved to worn-out rags.
As if the Arched Hall, for lack of humanity, and sheer abandonment,
is a grave’s edifice.
 If you saw it, you would know that the nights
are holding a funeral in it after a wedding.
It would inform you of a troop’s marvels,
their record does not gray with obscurity.
When you see a panel of the Battle at Antioch,
you tremble among Byzantines and Persians.
The Fates stand still, while Anushirvan
leads the ranks onward under the banner
In a deep green robe over yellow.
It appears dyed in saffron.
 Men in combat are under his command.
Some are quiet and hushed.
Some are intense, rushing forward with spear-points.
Others are cautious of them, using shields.
The eye depicts them very much alive:
they have between them speechless signs.
My wonder about them boils till
my hand explores them with a touch.
Abu al-Ghawth [poet’s son] had poured me a drink without stinting,
for the two armies, a draft
of wine. You would think it a star
lighting the night or sun’s luscious kiss.
You see, when it renews joy and
contentment for the drinker, one sip after the other,
That it was poured into glasses-into every heart.
It is beloved to every soul.
I fancied Kisra Aparviz handing me
a drink and al-Balahbadh [king’s minstrel] my companion.
A dream that closes my eye to doubt?
Or desire that alters my fancy and guesses?
As if the Arched Hall, by its wondrous craftsmanship,
were hollowed in the cliff of a mountain side.
It would be thought, from its sadness-
to the eyes of morning and evening visitors-
Distraught like a man torn from the company of loved ones,
or distressed by the breaking of nuptials.
Nights have reversed its luck. There, Jupiter
whiled the night but as a star of misfortune.
It shows hardiness, but the cruel weight of Time
is fixed upon it.
It’s no stigma that it was ravished of
silken carpets, stripped of damask drapes.
Towering, its ramparts rise high,
It looms over the summits of Ridwd and Quds.
Donning white clouds, you do not
glimpse of them but cotton tunics.
It is not quite known: Is it the work of humans for jinn
to live in or the work of jinn for humans?
Yet, as I gaze upon it, it attests
its builder is among kings not the least a cipher.
As though I see generals and troops,
as far as the eye can see.
As though foreign embassies suffer in the sun.
They are dismayed standing behind crowds, kept waiting.
As though minstrels in the Hall’s center
croon lyrics between plum-like lips.
As though the gathering were the day before yesterday
and the hurry of departure just yesterday.
As though the seeker of their trail could hope
to catch up with them the morning of the fifth day.
It was built up for joy forever, but
their domain is for condolence and consolation now.
It deserves that I lend it my tears,
tears committed to affection, devoted.
I feel this, though the abode is not my abode
-by blood-nor this race my race.
Beyond their graces toward my people,
they seeded, out of their goodness, fine sprouts.
They backed our dominion and buttressed its might
with warriors under armor, zealous.
They helped against Aryat’s regiment
by stabbing chests and spearing.
I find myself thereafter completely enamored
by noble men of every race and origin.

Original:

صنت نفسي عما يدنس نفسي *** وَتَرَفَّعتُ عَن جَدا كُلِّ جِبسِ
وَتَماسَكتُ حينَ زَعزَعَني الدَهـ *** ـرُ التِماسًا مِنهُ لِتَعسي وَنَكسي
بُلَغٌ مِن صُبابَةِ العَيشِ عِندي *** طَفَّفَتها الأَيّامُ تَطفيفَ بَخسِ
وَبَعيدٌ مابَينَ وارِدِ رِفْهٍ *** عَلَلٍ شُربُهُ وَوارِدِ خِمسِ
وَكَأَنَّ الزَمانَ أَصبَحَ مَحمو *** لًا هَواهُ مَعَ الأَخَسِّ الأَخَسِّ
وَاشتِرائي العِراقَ خُطَّةُ غَبنٍ *** بَعدَ بَيعي الشَآمَ بَيعَةَ وَكسِ
لاتَرُزني مُزاوِلًا لِاختِباري *** بَعدَ هَذي البَلوى فَتُنكِرَ مَسّي
وَقَديمًا عَهِدَتني ذا هَناتٍ *** آبِياتٍ عَلى الدَنِيّاتِ شُمسِ
وَلَقَد رابَني نُبُوُّ ابنُ عَمّي *** بَعدَ لينٍ مِن جانِبَيهِ وَأُنسِ
وَإِذا ماجُفيتُ كُنتُ جَديرًا *** أَن أَرى غَيرَ مُصبِحٍ حَيثُ أُمسي
حَضَرَت رَحلِيَ الهُمومُ فَوَجَّهـ *** ـتُ إِلى أَبيَضِ المَدائِنِ عَنسي
أَتَسَلّى عَنِ الحُظوظِ وَآسى *** لِمَحَلٍّ مِن آلِ ساسانَ دَرسِ
أَذكَرتِنيهُمُ الخُطوبُ التَوالي *** وَلَقَد تُذكِرُ الخُطوبُ وَتُنسي
وَهُمُ خافِضونَ في ظِلِّ عالٍ *** مُشرِفٍ يَحسِرُ العُيونَ وَيُخسي
مُغلَقٍ بابُهُ عَلى جَبَلِ القَبـ *** ـقِ إِلى دارَتَي خِلاطَ وَمُكسِ
حِلَلٌ لَم تَكن كَأَطلالِ سُعدى *** في قِفارٍ مِنَ البَسابِسِ مُلسِ
وَمَساعٍ لَولا المُحاباةُ مِنّي *** لَم تُطِقها مَسعاةُ عَنسٍ وَعَبسِ
نَقَلَ الدَهرُ عَهدَهُنَّ عَنِ الـ *** ـجِدَّةِ حَتّى رَجَعنَ أَنضاءَ لُبسِ
فَكَأَنَّ الجِرْمازَ مِن عَدَمِ الأُنـ *** ـسِ وَإِخلالِهِ بَنِيَّةُ رَمسِ
لَو تَراهُ عَلِمتَ أَنَّ اللَيالي *** جَعَلَت فيهِ مَأتَمًا بَعدَ عُرسِ
وَهوَ يُنبيكَ عَن عَجائِبِ قَومٍ *** لايُشابُ البَيانُ فيهِم بِلَبسِ
وَإِذا مارَأَيتَ صورَةَ أَنطا *** كِيَّةَ اِرتَعتَ بَينَ رومٍ وَفُرسِ
وَالمَنايا مَواثِلٌ وَأَنوشِر *** وانَ يُزجى الصُفوفَ تَحتَ الدِرَفسِ
في اخضِرارٍ مِنَ اللِباسِ عَلى أَصـ *** ـفَرَ يَختالُ في صَبيغَةِ وَرسِ
وَعِراكُ الرِجالِ بَينَ يَدَيهِ *** في خُفوتٍ مِنهُم وَإِغماضِ جَرسِ
مِن مُشيحٍ يَهوى بِعامِلِ رُمحٍ *** وَمُليحٍ مِنَ السِنانِ بِتُرسِ
تَصِفُ العَينُ أَنَّهُم جِدُّ أَحيا *** ءَ لَهُم بَينَهُم إِشارَةُ خُرسِ
يَغتَلي فيهِم ارتِابي حَتّى *** تَتَقَرّاهُمُ يَدايَ بِلَمسِ
قَد سَقاني وَلَم يُصَرِّد أَبو الغَو *** ثِ عَلى العَسكَرَينِ شَربَةَ خُلسِ
مِن مُدامٍ تَظُنُّها وَهيَ نَجمٌ *** ضَوَّأَ اللَيلَ أَو مُجاجَةُ شَمسِ
وَتَراها إِذا أَجَدَّت سُرورًا *** وَارتِياحًا لِلشارِبِ المُتَحَسّي
أُفرِغَت في الزُجاجِ مِن كُلِّ قَلبٍ *** فَهيَ مَحبوبَةٌ إِلى كُلِّ نَفسِ
وَتَوَهَّمتُ أَنَّ كِسرى أَبَرويـ *** ـزَ مُعاطِيَّ وَالبَلَهبَذَ أُنسي
حُلُمٌ مُطبِقٌ عَلى الشَكِّ عَيني *** أَم أَمانٍ غَيَّرنَ ظَنّي وَحَدسي
وَكَأَنَّ الإيوانَ مِن عَجَبِ الصَنـ *** ـعَةِ جَوبٌ في جَنبِ أَرعَنَ جِلسِ
يُتَظَنّى مِنَ الكَآبَةِ إِذ يَبـ *** ـدو لِعَينَي مُصَبِّحٍ أَو مُمَسّي
مُزعَجًا بِالفِراقِ عَن أُنسِ إِلفٍ *** عَزَّ أَو مُرهَقًا بِتَطليقِ عِرسِ
عَكَسَت حَظُّهُ اللَيالي وَباتَ الـ *** ـمُشتَري فيهِ وَهوَ كَوكَبُ نَحسِ
فَهوَ يُبدي تَجَلُّدًا وَعَلَيهِ *** كَلكَلٌ مِن كَلاكِلِ الدَهرِ مُرسي
لَم يَعِبهُ أَن بُزَّ مِن بُسُطِ الديـ *** ـباجِ وَاستَلَّ مِن سُتورِ الدِّمَقسِ
مُشمَخِّرٌ تَعلو لَهُ شُرُفاتٌ *** رُفِعَت في رُؤوسِ رَضوى وَقُدسِ
لابِساتٌ مِنَ البَياضِ فَما تُبـ *** ـصِرُ مِنها إِلّا غَلائِلَ بُرسِ
لَيسَ يُدرى أَصُنعُ إِنسٍ لِجِنٍّ *** سَكَنوهُ أَم صُنعُ جِنٍّ لِإِنسِ
غَيرَ أَنّي أراه يَشهَدُ أَن لَم *** يَكُ بانيهِ في المُلوكِ بِنُكسِ
فَكَأَنّي أَرى المَراتِبَ وَالقَو *** مَ إِذا ما بَلَغتُ آخِرَ حِسّي
وَكَأَنَّ الوُفودَ ضاحينَ حَسرى *** مِن وُقوفٍ خَلفَ الزِحامِ وَخنسِ
وَكَأَنَّ القِيانَ وَسطَ المَقاصيـ *** ـرِ يُرَجِّعنَ بَينَ حُوٍ وَلُعسِ
وَكَأَنَّ اللِقاءَ أَوَّلَ مِن أَمـ *** ـسٍ وَوَشكَ الفِراقِ أَوَّلَ أَمسِ
وَكَأَنَّ الَّذي يُريدُ اتِّباعًا *** طامِعٌ في لُحوقِهِم صُبحَ خَمسِ
عُمِّرَت لِلسُرورِ دَهرًا فَصارَت *** لِلتَعَزّي رِباعُهُم وَالتَأَسّي
فَلَها أَن أُعينَها بِدُموعٍ *** موقَفاتٍ عَلى الصَبابَةِ حُبسِ
ذاكَ عِندي وَلَيسَت الدارُ داري *** باِقتِرابٍ مِنها وَلا الجِنسُ جِنسي
غَيرَ نُعمى لِأَهلِها عِندَ أَهلي *** غَرَسوا مِن زَكائِها خَيرَ غَرسِ
أَيَّدوا مُلكَنا وَشَدّوا قُواهُ *** بِكُماةٍ تَحتَ السَنَّورِ حُمسِ
وَأَعانوا عَلى كَتائِبِ أَريا *** طَ بِطَعنٍ عَلى النُحورِ وَدَعسِ
وَأَراني مِن بَعدُ أَكلَفُ بِالأَشـ *** ـرافِ طُرًّا مِن كُلِّ سِنخِ وَأُسِّ

Words of Bewilderment…

 

Say: My Lord increase me in knowledge!

قل ربّي زدني علماً

Quran 20:114

 

My Lord increase me in bewilderment in Thee!

ربّي زدني فيك تحيراً

-Saying of the Prophet Muḥammad

Rumi

Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment

for cleverness is mere opinion and bewilderment is vision.

زیرکی بفروش و حیرانی بخر

زیرکی ظنست و حیرانی نظر

 

Ibn al-‘Arabi

“Now guidance is that man should be guided to bewilderment, and know that the affair is bewilderment and that bewilderment is unrest and motion, and that motion is life, without stillness and so without death, and is existence without non-existence.”

“And thus there is nothing but bewilderment, shattering one’s vision, although the one who knows what we are saying shall not be bewildered.”

“…Drowned in the sea which the knowledge of God is, and which is bewilderment”

Hafez

As the sprout of bewilderment, your love came
As the perfection of bewilderment, your union came
Many a drowned one, in the ecstasy of union
to whom in the ecstasy itself, bewilderment came
Neither union nor united remain
where the specter of bewilderment came
Show me one heart on his path
in whose face no mole of bewilderment came
From every direction that I listened
the sound of the question of bewilderment came
From head to foot, Hafez’s existence
In love, a sprout of bewilderment became

 

Original:
عشق تو نهال حیرت آمد         وصل تو کمال حیرت آمد
بس غرقه حال وصل کآخر        هم بر سر حال حیرت آمد
یک دل بنما که در ره او     بر چهره نه خال حیرت آمد
نه وصل بماند و نه واصل       آن جا که خیال حیرت آمد
از هر طرفی که گوش کردم            آواز سؤال حیرت آمد
شد منهزم از کمال عزت         آن را که جلال حیرت آمد
سر تا قدم وجود حافظ          در عشق نهال حیرت آمد

 

Ibn al-Fāriḍ

Translation:

Give me an excess of love for you, bewildered
And have mercy on a heart scorched by a glance of your love
And if I ask to see you truly
Then allow me, graciously
And let not your answer be, “Thou shalt not see
O heart, you have promised me to be patient in loving them
So be sure to bear it do not dismay
Passion is life, so die in it lovingly.
 Your duty is to die and be absolved
 My heart, say to those ahead of me, and those behind me,
Whoever has seen the sacrifice of my sorrow
“Follow my example and listen to me
And tell the tale of my love amongst mankind”
I was alone with the Beloved and between us there was
A secret more subtle than the dawn breeze when it blows
And he allowed my eyes a glance
So I became famous, having been unknown before
I was awestruck between his beauty and majesty
And tomorrow, the tongue of my state will explain
Turn your gaze to the beauties of his face,
Where all beauty has been gathered
If all beauty were perfected into one form
on seeing him, it would exclaim [in wonder],
“There is no god but God, and God is greater.”

 

 

Original:
زِدْني بفَرْطِ الحُبّ فيك تَحَيّرا          وارْحَمْ حشىً بلَظَى هواكَ تسعّرا
وإذا سألُتكَ أن أراكَ حقيقةً          فاسمَحْ ولا تجعلْ جوابي لن تَرى
يا قلبُ أنتَ وعدَتني في حُبّهمْ          صَبراً فحاذرْ أن تَضِيقَ وتَضجرا
إنَّ الغرامَ هوَ الحياةُ فمُتْ بِهِ             صَبّاً فحقّك أن تَموتَ وتُعذرا
قُل لِلّذِينَ تقدَّموا قَبلي ومَن        بَعدي ومَن أضحى لأشجاني يَرَى
عني خذوا وبي اقْتدوا وليَ اسمعوا             وتحدّثوا بصَبابتي بَينَ الوَرى
ولقد خَلَوْتُ مع الحَبيب وبَيْنَنَا              سِرٌّ أرَقّ منَ النسيمِ إذا سرى
وأباحَ طَرْفِي نَظْرْةً أمّلْتُها               فَغَدَوْتُ معروفاً وكُنْتُ مُنَكَّرا
فَدُهِشْتُ بينَ جمالِهِ وجَلالِهِ             وغدا لسانُ الحال عنّي مُخْبِرا
فأَدِرْ لِحَاظَكَ في محاسنِ وجْهه            تَلْقَى جميعَ الحُسْنِ فيه مُصَوَّرا
لو أنّ كُلّ الحُسْنِ يكمُلُ صُورةً                    ورآهُ كان مُهَلِّلاً ومُكَبِّر

 

 

Madīḥ for the Mawlid

For the Mawlid 1441/2019

Chorus:

صلاة ربّي مع السلام
على الحبيب سيّد الكيان
Ṣalaatu rabbi ma‘ as-salaami
‘alā’l-ḥabeebi seyyidil-Kiyaani

 

حمداً لربّي لمن يربّ
كلّ الانام و قد كافان
ḥamdan li rabbi li man yurabbi
kullal-anaami wa qad kafaani
Praise be to my Lord for the one who cares for
All creatures, and has sufficed me

بدر البدور بحر البحور
سرّ السرور سرّ ربّاني
Badril-Budoori Baḥril-Buḥoori
Sirris-suroori, sirrin-Rabbaani
Moon of moons, sea of seas
The secret of joy, a divine secret

نور الانوار ضوء الابصار
اوج الافكار فخر الانسان
Nuril-anwaari, ḍaw’il-abṣaari
Awjil-afkaari, fakhril-insaani
Light of lights, light of sights
The summit of thoughts, the pride of mankind

شمس الشموس رأس الرؤوس
تاج العروس سبع المثان
Shamsish-shumoosi Ra’sir-ru’oosi
Tajil-‘aroosi, Sab‘il-mathaani
Sun of suns, chief of chiefs
Bridegroom’s crown, the seven oft-repeated

نفس النفوس رمزالرموز
في خلق الله ما له ثاني
Nafsin-nufoosi, Ramzir-rumoozi
Fi khalqiLlahi Ma lahu thaani
The Soul of souls, mystery of mysteries
In God’s creation, he has no peer

غوث العباد صوت إنشادي
يوم الميلاد معنى المعاني
Ghawthil-‘ibadi ṣawti inshaadi
Yawmal-meeilaadi, Ma‘na’l-ma‘aani
Saviour of servants, the voice of my song,
On the birthday, the meaning of meanings

عين الجمال زين الجلال
قطب الكمال روح الرحمان
‘aynil-Jamaali, zaynil-jalaali
qutbil-kamaali, Ruuhil-Raḥmaani
The essence of beauty, the beauty of Majesty
The pole of perfection, the spirit of the Merciful

خير الرجال جمع الخصال
ماحي الضلال طول الزماني
khayrir-rijaali, jam‘il-khiṣaali
Maaḥiḍ-ḍalaali, ṭoolal-zamaani
The best of men, totality of all virtues
The eraser of error, throughout all time

رمز الوجود نور الشهود
معدن الجود رَوح الريحان
Ramzil wujoodi, nuurish-shuhoodi
Ma‘dinil-joodi, rawhir-rayhaani
the mystery of existence, the light of witness
treasury of good, the rest of repose

شرح الصدور، قرب الحضور
فتح الشكور بحر الاوان
Sharḥiṣ-suduuri, qurbil-ḥudoori
Fatḥish-shakoori, Bahril-awaani
The expansion of chests, the closeness of presence
The opening of the grateful, the sea of time

لبّ الباب اصل الأسباب
صب الاصحاب نور الاكوان
lubbil-lubaabi, aslil-asbaabi
ṣabbil-aṣhaabi, nooril-akwaani
the kernel of the kernel, the origin of causes
the love of friends, the light of existence

فتح الأبواب، سكر الشراب
ذكر الاقطاب، ختم القرآن
fathil-Abwaabi, sukrish-sharaabi
dhikril-aqtaabi, khatmil-Quraani
the opening of doors, the intoxication of the drink
the invocation the of poles, the seal of the Qur’an

صفو القلوب كفّر ذنوبي
واكشف كروبي، خير الكنان
Safwil-quloobi, kaffir dhunuubi
Wakshif kuruubi, khayral-kinaani
The purity of hearts, cover my sins,
Lift my sorrows, O best of refuges

انت حبيب انت قريب
انت مجيب في كلّ الان
Anta habeebun, anta qareebun
Anta mujeebun, fi kullil ani
You are beloved, you are near
You respond at every moment

انت محمود حامد احمد
و مدحي فيك مسك الزمان
Anta Mahmoodun, Ḥaamidun, Aḥmad
Wa madhee feeka miskul-zamaani
You are praised, praiser, and the most praised
And my praise of you is the perfume of time

شوق أشواقي ذوق أذواقي
فمدحي باقي و فيك فاني
shawqi-ashwaaqi, dhawqi-adhwaaqi
famadhee baaqi, wa fiika faani
the longing of my longings, the taste of my tastings
my praise endures, while I am annihilated in you

وفي الطريق انت رفيق
انا فقير و بك غاني
Wa fī’l-Ṭareeqi, Anta rafeequn
Ana faqeerun, wa bika ghaani
Upon the path, you are a companion
I am poor, yet by you, rich

وسكري راق وانت الساقي
يقوت الحق عين الإنسان
Wa sukri raaqin, Wa anta’s-saaqi
Yāqootul-Ḥaqqi, ‘aynul-Insaani
My drunkenness is refined, and you are the Saqi
The Ruby of the Real, the Eye of the Pupil/Essence of Mankind

فوق الافاق عمق العماق
برق المحاق عين الجنان
Fawqal-afaaqi, ‘amqul-‘amaaqi
Barqul-Maḥāqi, ‘aynul-Jinaani
Above the horizons, the deep of the depths
The lightning of the moonless nights, the fountain of the Gardens

و نعم المولى و انت أولى
علوالأعلى، روح المعاني
Wa ni’ma’l-Mawlā, Wa anta Awlā
‘uluuwul-‘Alaa, Ruuḥul-Ma‘aanī
What a great master, yet you are nearer
The exaltation of the exalted, the spirit of meaning

أطلب بك، عين السلام
من السلام حسن الختام
Aṭlubu bika, ‘aynas-salaami,
Min as-Salaami, husnal-khitaami
I seek from you, O essence of peace
From the Peace, a good end.

al-Tilimsānī: Loving you is a gilded religion

Some beautiful poems of Ibn ‘Arabi’s Maghrebi student, ‘Afīf al-Dīn al-Tilimsānī:

 

Translation:

I have, in loving you, a golden religion
and a quest like it as a goal
I became a slave well-pleased with what
pleases you, having neither hope nor fear
When the cup of your saki appears
I am the first to drink it
And when your name is sung in poetry
I am the first to thrill in ecstasy
O moon, in my heart’s blood
the breaking of the dawn and falling of the dusk never cease
O Gazelle, in my heart, you have a meadow
and from my tears, a spring
There is no life but your love
from which every joy’s derived

 

Orginal:

لِي فِي هَوَاكُمْ مَذْهَبٌ مُذْهَبُ                   ومَطْلَبٌ مَامِثْلُهُ مَطْلَبُ
أًَصْبَحْتُ عَبْداً رَاضِياً بالَّذِي            تَرْضُونَ لاَ أَرْجُو وَلاَ أَرْهَبُ
إِذَا تَجَلَّى كَاسُ سَاقِيكُمُ                  كُنْتُ لَهُ أَوَّلَ مَنْ يَشْرَبُ
وَإِنْ تَغَنَّى بِاسْمِكُمْ مُنْشِدٌ                    فَإِنَّني أَوَّلُ مَنْ يَطْرَبُ
يَا قَمَراً في مُهْجَتِي لَمْ يَزَلْ               مَطْلَعُهُ المَّشْرقُ وَالمَغْرِبُ
وَيَا غَزَالاً في فُؤادِي لَهُ           مَرْعىً وَمِنْ دَمْعِي لَهُ مَشْرَبُ
مَا العَيْشُ إلاَّ في هَوَاكَ الَّذِي                      كُلُّ نَعِيمٍ فَلَهُ يُنْسَبُ

 

Translation:

O you living in my heart
when will I win intimacy?
You robbed me
but I am happy with my theft
O nomads of the blazing valley
You are the best of nomads
Your guest seeks refuge
and the contract of his clientage is a captive heart
I have not forgotten your love
May I never forget my passion, my love!
If you are pleased by my removal
then that is my heart’s desire
My spirit is yours if you accept it
and the spirit is the lover’s utmost
You are the treasure of my heart
on the Day of Return and my sufficiency
I love you and by my right
I was perplexed by my share of amazement
I leaned drunkenly, and why not?
For my drink was from you
And my beloved poured drinks for me
and singled me out without my friends
My eyes were not blind, beholding
openly, the brilliance of my Lord’s face
I long for the sweet myrtle and tamarisk
and the remembrance of the laurel and the dune

 

 

Original:

يَا ساكِنينَ بِقَلْبِي            مَتَى أَفُوزُ بِقُرْبِ
سَلَبَتُمُونِي وَلَكِنْ             أَنَا السَّعِيدُ بِسَلْبِي
يَا عُرْبَ وَاديَ المُصَلاَّ             لأَنْتُمُ خَيْرُ عُرْبِ
نَزِيلُكُم مُسْتَهَامُ            مُوَلَّهُ القَلْبِ مَسْبي
وَلَسْتُ أَسْلُو هَوَاكُمْ         حَاشَا غَرَامِي وَحُبِّي
إذا رَضِيتُمْ تَلاَفِي           فَذَاكَ مَطْلُوبُ قَلْبِي
رُوحِي لَكُمْ إِنْ قَبِلْتُمْ         وَالرُّوحُ جَهْدُ المُحِبِّ
أَنْتُمْ ذَخِيرَةُ قَلْبِي           يَوْمَ المَعَادِ وَحَسْبِي
عَشِقْتُكُمْ وَبِحَقِّي     إِنْ تِهْتُ مِنْ فَرْطِ عُجْبي
وَمِلْتُ سُكْراً وَلِمْ لاَ            وَمِنْكُمُ كَانَ شُرْبي
وَقَدْ سَقَانِي حَبِيبي       وَخَصَّنِي دُونَ صَحْبِي
وَلَسْتُ بَعْدَ عَيَانِي         جَهْراً سَنَا وَجْهِ رَبِّي
أَصْبُو لِرَنْدٍ وَبَانٍ            وَذِكْرِ غَارٍ وَكُثْبِ

Translation:

I witnessed your self in us, while it is singular,
as multiple possessing attributes and names
In you we witnessed, after our manyness
an essence in which the seen and seer are united

 

Original:

شهدت نفسك فينا وهي واحده       كثيرةً ذات اوصاف واسماءي

ونحن فيك شهدنا بعد كثرتنا       عيناً بها اتّحد المرئي والرائي

 

When I die—Rumi and al-Ghazali

Two of the most beautiful death-bed poems from two great Sufis. I pray to live in such a way that someone will recite these at my burial.

Rumi

Translation:

When my bier moveth on the day of death
Think not my heart is in this world.
Do not weep for me and cry “woe, woe!”
Thou wilt fall in the devil’s snare: that is woe
When thou seest my hearse, cry not, “gone, gone!”
Union and meeting are mine in that hour
If thou commit me to the grave, say not “Farewell, farewell”
For the grave is a curtain hiding the communion of paradise
After beholding descent, consider resurrection
Why should setting be injurious to the sun and moon?
To thee it seems a setting, but ’tis a rising’
Tho’ the vault seems a prison, ’tis the release of a soul
What seed went down into the earth but it grew?
Why this doubt of thine as regards the seed of man?
What bucket was lowered but it came out brimful?
Why should the Joseph of the Spirit complain of the well?
Shut thy mouth on this side, and open it beyond
For in placeless air will by thy triumphal song.

(From R.A. Nicholson, Selected Poems form the Divani Shamsi Tabriz, p. 94-96)

Original:

به روز مرگ چو تابوت من روان باشد
گمان مبر که مرا درد این جهان باشد
برای من مگری و مگو دریغ دریغ
به دوغ دیو درافتی دریغ آن باشد
جنازه‌ام چو ببینی مگو فراق فراق
مرا وصال و ملاقات آن زمان باشد
مرا به گور سپاری مگو وداع وداع
که گور پرده جمعیت جنان باشد
فروشدن چو بدیدی برآمدن بنگر
غروب شمس و قمر را چرا زبان باشد
تو را غروب نماید ولی شروق بود
لحد چو حبس نماید خلاص جان باشد
کدام دانه فرورفت در زمین که نرست
چرا به دانه انسانت این گمان باشد
کدام دلو فرورفت و پر برون نامد
ز چاه یوسف جان را چرا فغان باشد
دهان چو بستی از این سوی آن طرف بگشا
که های هوی تو در جو لامکان باشد

 

al-Ghazali

Translation:

Say unto brethren when they see me dead,
And weep for me, lamenting me in sadness:
“Think ye I am this corpse ye are to bury?
I swear by God, this dead one is not I.
 I in the Spirit am, and this my body
My dwelling was, my garment for a time.
I am a treasure: hidden I was beneath
This talisman of dust, wherein I suffered.
I am a pearl; a shell imprisoned me,
 But leaving it, all trials I have left.
I am a bird, and this was once my cage;
But I have flown, leaving it as a token.
I praise God who hath set me free,
and made For me a dwelling in the heavenly heights.
 Ere now I was a dead man in your midst,
But I have come to life, and doffed my shroud.”

(Translation by Martin Lings)

Original:

 قل لإخوان رأوني ميتا                فبكوني ورثوني حزنا
أتظنون بأني ميتكم                   ليس هذا الميت والله أنا
أنا في الصور وهذا جسدي        كان لباسي وقميصي زمنا
أنا در قد حواني صدف               طرت عنه وبقى مرتهنا
أنا عصفور وهذا قفصي           كان سجني فتركت السجنا
أشكر الله الذي خلصني              وبنا لي في المعالي وطنا
كنت قبل اليوم ميتا بينكم                 فحييت وخلعت الكفنا

 

Loving TaHa is Delightful

One of my favorite poems in praise of the Prophet, from Mauritania:

Translation (a bit of liberty taken to approximate the metre of the original poem):

Loving TaHa is delightful…How lovely is that Great Noble!
He’s the treasure of creation, and to all goodness, a doorway
And he’s peace and our protection, and he’s food and our refreshment
He’s a pearl and he’s a treasure, he’s the kernel and quintessence
The land without love of TaHa…is a wasteland so forsaken
And hearts without love of TaHa…are ruins, wrecked and desolated
And in each and every heart is….a portion from TaHa’s passion
He’s the soul’s enchantment, truly…and he is the answered prayer
No beloved can distract you….from him, nor hearts, nor violins
Without that, I don’t care at all…for any blessing or torment

Original:

ُحبُ طه يُستطاب .. حبّذا ذاك الجناب ..
ُفهو ذخرٌ للبرايا .. و هو للخيرات باب ..
ُو هو أمنٌ و أمانٌ .. و طعامٌ و شراب ..
ُو هو درٌ و هو كنزٌ .. و هو لبٌّ و لُباب ..
ُإنَّ أرضاً ليس فيها .. حبُ طهَ ليَباب ..
ُو قلوباً ليس فيها .. حبُ طه لخراب ..
ُفليكنْ في كل قلْبٍ .. من هوىَ طهَ نصاب ..
ُفهو رُقيا النفسِ حقاً .. و الدعاء المستجاب ..
ُلا تُملْكُم عنه ميٌّ .. أو لُبابٌ أو رَباب ..
ُلا تبالُوا بنعيمٍ .. دون ذاكَ أو عقاب ..

She walks in beauty like the night…

One of my favorite English poems of all time is reminiscent of Sufi poetry about Layla, whose name means “night,” and who symbolizes the beloved Divine Essence/Essence of the Self.

Lord Byron

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express,
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.
And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!

 

 

Rumi
Translation:
 You look through my two eyes, you are closer to me than myself
Your light shines brighter than the moon
Come into the garden so that the glory of the rose garden is humbled
that it may be more beautiful and blooming than a hundred gardens and rosebeds
so that the cedar will hide its height in shame
that the tongue of the lily will declare you more lily than itself
When you are kind, you are the candle of the soul, soft and pliable as wax
When you are aloof, you are more iron than iron
Do no be wild because you will meet her face to face
her charm will make you as cool and pliant as the earth
Throw away your armor and bare your chest at the moment of battle
there is no better protection nor armor than her.
That’s why in every Sufi retreat, all the openings are are sealed shut
so that from your light the house becomes more illumined

 

 

Orignal:
در دو چشم من نشین ای آن که از من منتری
تا قمر را وانمایم کز قمر روشنتری
اندرآ در باغ تا ناموس گلشن بشکند
ز آنک از صد باغ و گلشن خوشتر و گلشنتری
تا که سرو از شرم قدت قد خود پنهان کند
تا زبان اندرکشد سوسن که تو سوسنتری
وقت لطف ای شمع جان مانند مومی نرم و رام
وقت ناز از آهن پولاد تو آهنتری
چون فلک سرکش مباش ای نازنین کز ناز او
نرم گردی چون زمین گر از فلک توسنتری
زان برون انداخت جوشن حمزه وقت کارزار
کز هزاران حصن و جوشن روح را جوشنتری
زان سبب هر خلوتی سوراخ روزن را ببست
کز برای روشنی تو خانه را روشنتری

 

Ibn al-Farid

 

Translation:
Every part of me kissed her veil
With every mouth whose touch held every kiss
If she dissolved my body, she would see in every atom
each and every heart filled with each and every love

 

Original:

ويلثم مني كلّ جزء لثامها
بكلّ فم فى لثمه كلّ قبلة
فلو بسطت جسمي رأت كلّ جوهر
به كلّ قلب فيه كلّ محبة

 

Translation:

If I sought consolation, who would be there to be my guide
when in love, every leader follows my lead?
In my every limb is every yearning for her
and every longing tugs at my reins
As she bends, I imagine every hip she moves
to be a branch in a sand dune topped by the full moon
Mine is every limb filled with every inner core
wherein, when she glances, is embedded every arrow
And if she dissolved my body she would find every atom
every heart inhabited by every human love
In union with her, a year to me is but an instant,
an hour’s separation like a year.
When we met at nightfall, as the twin straight paths
between her dwelling and my tents brought us together,
We moved away a little from the tribe,
avoiding spies and slanderers with their deceitful talk
I spread my cheek upon the ground for her to walk upon
and she said, “Good news, now you may kiss my veil.”
But this my soul did not permit me, jealously
shielding her from me, for higher is my purpose
We passed the night in hope as my wish decreed
and I saw the world my kingdom and time itself my slave.

 

Translation modified from Stefan Sperl’s in Stefan Sperl, C. Shackle, Qasida Poetry in Islamic Asia and Africa

 

Original:

بمنْ أهتَدي في الحبِّ لو رُمْتُ سَلوَةً
وبي يقتَدي ، في الحبِّ ، كلُّ إمامِ

وفي كلِّ عُضوٍ فيَّ كلُّ صبابَةٍ
إليها ، وشَوْقٍ جَاذِبٍ بِزِمَامي

تَثَنَّتْ ، فَخِلْنا كلَّ عِطْفٍ تهُزُّهُ
قَضيبَ نقاً ، يَعْلُوهُ بَدْرُ تَمامِ

ولي كلُّ عُضوٍ ، فيهِ كلُّ حشىً بها
إذا ما رَنَتْ ، وَقْعٌ لكلِّ سِهامِ

ولوْ بسطتْ جسْمي رأتْ كلَّ جوهرٍ
بهِ كلُّ قلبٍ ، فيهِ كلُّ غَرامِ

وفي وَصْلِها ، عامٌ لدَيَّ كَلَحْظَةٍ
وساعَةُ هِجْرَانٍ عَلَيَّ كَعَامِ

ولمَّا تَلاقَينا عِشاءً ، وضَمَّنا
سواءُ سبيلَيْ دَارِها وخِيامي

ومِلْنا كذا شيئاً عنِ الحيِّ ، حيثُ لا
رَقيبٌ ، ولا وَاشٍ بِزَوْرِ كَلامِ

فرَشْتُ لها خَدِّي ، وِطاءً ، على الثَّرَى
فقالتْ : لكَ البُشرَى بِلَثمِ لِثامي

فما سَمَحَتْ نَفسي بذلِكَ ، غَيْرَةً
على صَوْنِها مِنِّي لِعزِّ مرامي

وبِتْنا ، كما شاءَ اقتراحي ، على المُنى
أرَى المُلكَ مُلكي والزَّمانَ غُلامي

 

Shushtari

Translation:

You seek Layla, but she reveals herself within you
You think she’s other, but she’s not other than you
And that’s a madness that is apparent to the cult of lovers
So be careful, for otherness is the essence of being cut off
Don’t you see how her beauty envelops you?
She disappears only when you reject part of yourself
“Come close to me,” you say to she who is your All
And when she loves you, she leads you to yourself
Meeting her is bliss beyond description
and none reach her, save those who see meaning without forms
I was so in love with her that I would have vanished in her love
had she not sworn that I only obey her
I concealed her from people with fantasy
After having revealed her, truly, inside my cloak.
I hid her from myself, with the robe of my worlds,
And from my envy, out of the severity of my jealousy
O Dazzling beauty! Should the light of your face
Touch the eyes of a blind man, he would see every atom
She is adorned with each and every charm and grace of beauty
And wherever she appears, she is desired by those who love.

 

Original:

أَتَطلُبُ لَيلى وَهيَ فيكَ تَجَلَّت                  وَتَحسَبُها غَيراً وَغَيرُكَ لَيسَتِ

فَذابلُهُ في مِلَّةِ الحُبِّ ظاهِرٌ                   فَكُن فَطِناً فَالغيرُ عَينُ القَطيعَةِ

أَلَم تَرَها أَلقَت عَلَيكَ جَمالَها               وَلَو لَم تَقُم بِالذاتِ مِنكَ اِضمَحَلَّتِ

تَقولُ لَها اُدنُ وَهيَ كُلَّك ثُمَّ إِن                    حَبَتكَ بِوَصلٍ أَوهَمَتكَ تَدَلَّتِ

عَزيزٌ لِقاها لا يَنالُ وِصالَها                 سِوى مَن يَرى مَعنىً بِغَيرِ هَوِيَّةِ

كَلِفت بِها حَتّى فَنِيتُ بِحُبِّها                       فَلَو أَقسَمَت أَنّيَ إِيّاها لَبَرَّتِ

وَغالَطتُ فيها الناسَ بِالوَهمِ بَعدَما                      تَبَيَّنتها حَقّاً بِداخِلِ بُردَتي

وَغَطَّيتُها عَنّي بِثَوبِ عَوالِمي                 وَعَن حاسِدي فيها لِشِدَّةِ غيرَتي

بَديعَة حُسنٍ أَو بَدا نورُ وَجهِها                 إِلى أَكمَهٍ أَضحى يَرى كُلَّ ذَرَّةِ

تحلّت بأنواع الجمال بأسرها                  فهام بها أهل الهوى حيثُ حلّت

You are Light

One of my favorite poems in praise of the Prophetic Light:

 

 

 

 

Translation:
Prayers of God upon You, Light
Light of all the dwelling places
O you, best of all in spaces
Messenger of God, You are
You are light in form and shape
As “light upon light” you came
The Qur’an came down by the same
As a lamp, oil, and light
shining, you came well-arranged
The world does not exist until
it appears through you beautiful
In traditions you have said
that this world takes after you
You from the Holy Presence came
while you’ve never left the same
You were before the cosmos was
past-time is as before-time was
Absolute you were in full,
then took on limits beautiful
Nothing exists in any way
Save the Light, indeed I say
From the unseen, suddenly
It came down from heights, so lofty
God’s Messenger, you have attained
More than virtues can contain
God’s Messenger you have remained
And pliant to you I remain
So al-‘Alawi attends
by your grace, the desired end.

 

 

 

Original:

صلى الله عليكَ يا نـور      يـا نــور كــل المـنـازِل

يا خيرَ من في المنازل

يــا رســولَ الـلَــهِ أنـتــا       أنــتَ الـنـور المتـشـكّـل
نـورٌ عـلـى نــورٍ جئـتـا       بــــه الــقــرآنُ تــنـــزّل
مشـكّـاةً نـــوراً وزيـتــاً       ضـيـاءً جـئــتَ مـعـتـدِل
لا يكـونُ الـكـونُ حـتّـى       يـظـهـر بــــكَ مـتـجَـمَّـل
أنــت فــي الآثــار قُلـتـا        ذا الـكـونُ مـنـكَ تـمـثّـل
من حضرةِ القدس جئتا        وأنــتَ فيـهـا لــم تـــزَل
كنـتَ قبـل الكـونِ كُنـتـا       والأبـــــد مـــثـــلُ الأزَل
مطلـقـاً كـنــتَ فـصِـرتا         بـالــقــيــودِ مـتــجــمّــل
ليسَ في الوجـودِ البتـه         إلّا الـنـورُ قـلــتُ أجـــل
بــدا مــن الغـيـبِ بغـتَـه         مـن أعلـى العـلا تـنـزّل
يــا رســولَ الـلَـهِ حُـزتـا         فضل الفضلِ والفضائل
يــا رســولَ الـلَـهِ دمـتــا         ودُمـــتُ لــــك مُـمـتـثِـل
فالعـلاوي يرجـو حـتّـى        يبـلُـغ بـرضــاك الأمـــل

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Original:

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

 

Original:

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)

 

Original:

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

 

from: https://floodplains.tumblr.com/tagged/madh

 

 

Original:

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

Translation:

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

 

Original:

 

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