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

 

 

Night

“The Night” by Henry Vaughan

 There is in God, some say,
A deep but dazzling darkness, as men here
Say it is late and dusky, because they
             See not all clear.
    O for that night! where I in Him
    Might live invisible and dim!

 

Rumi

Translation:

Truth is the Night of Power,
hidden amid the other nights
so the soul may try each one.
Not all nights are the Night of Power,
yet all nights aren’t empty of it either.

 

Original:

Haqq Shab-e Qadrast dar shab-hâ nehân
tâ konad jân har shabi-râ emtehân
Nah hameh shab-hâ bovad Qadr ay javân
nah hameh shab-hâ bovad khâli az ân

حق شب قدراست در شبها نهان
تا كند جان هر شب را امتهان
نه همه شبها بود قدر اط جوان
نه همه شبها بود خال از ان

 

— Mathnawi II: 2935-2936
Version by Camille and Kabir Helminski
“Rumi: Daylight”
Threshold Books, 1994

Shabistari

The Rose Garden of Mystery (verses 122-130)

Reason’s light applied to the Essence of Lights
is like the eye of the head looking at the brilliance of the Sun
when the object seen is very close to the eye
The eye is darkened so that it cannot see it
This blackness, if you know it, is the very light of Being
in the land of darkness is the fountain of life
Since the darkness destroys the light of vision
Give up loooking, for this is no place for looking
What connection has dust with the pure world?
Its perception is the inability to perceive perception
What shall I say? since this saying is fine,
“A bright night in the midst of a dark day”
In this place of witnessing, which is the light of manifestation
 I have much to say, but silence is best.

 

Original:

بود نور خرد در ذات انور              به سان چشم سر در چشمه خور
چو مبصر با بصر نزدیک گردد              بصر ز ادراک آن تاریک گردد
سیاهی گر بدانی نور ذات است              به تاریکی درون آب حیات است
سیه جز قابض نور بصر نیست               نظر بگذار کین جای نظر نیست
چه نسبت خاک را با عالم پاک        که ادراک است عجز از درک ادراک
سیه رویی ز ممکن در دو عالم                       جدا هرگز نشد والله اعلم
سواد الوجه فی الدارین درویش                 سواد اعظم آمد بی کم و بیش
چه می‌گویم که هست این نکته باریک              شب روشن میان روز تاریک
در این مشهد که انوار تجلی است           سخن دارم ولی نا گفتن اولی است

 

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan: Glances of Love

Two of my favorite Nusrat classics, Tumhein Dillagi Bhool and Mast Naszron Say illuminate each other nicely:

Tumhein dillagi bhool

Translation (modified from Sur Street) and transliteration:

Chorus:

Tumhein dillagi bhool jani pare gi
Tumhein dillagi bhool jani pare gi
Muhabbat ki raahon mein aa kar to dekho

You will have to forget about playing games
You will have to forget about playing games
Come into the ways of love and see

 

Tarapne pe mere na phir tum hanso ge
Tarapne pe mere na phir tum hanso ge
Kabhi dil kissi se laga kar to dekho

Then you will not laugh at my torment
Then you will not laugh at my torment
Give your heart to someone once and see

 

Honton ke paas aye hansi, kya majaal hai
Dil ka muamla hai koi dillagi nahin

A smile dare not creep over the lips…
This is a matter of the heart, not a mere game

 

Zakhm pe zakhm kha ke ji
Apne lahoo ke ghont pi
Aah na kar labon ko si
Ishq hai dillagi nahin

Take wound upon wound, yet live
Drink sips of your own blood
Drink sips of your own blood
Let out not a single sigh, seal your lips
This is love, not a game

 

Dil laga kar pata chaley ga tumhein
Aashiqui dillagi nahin hoti

When you have given your heart you will realize
Love is not a game

 

Kuch khel nahin hai ishq ki laag
Paani na samajh ye aag hai aag

Love is not child’s play
Don’t think of it as water, this is fire!

 

Khoon rulaye gi ye lagi dil ki
Khel samjho na dillagi dil ki

It makes you shed bloody tears
Don’t think of it as child’s play

 

Yeh ishq nahin aasaan
Bas itna samajh leejay
Ik aag ka darya hai
Aur doob ke jaana hai

This love is not easy
think of it this way:
It is a river of fire
and to cross you must drown!

 

Wafaaon ki hum se tawaqo nahin hai
Wafaaon ki hum se tawaqo nahin hai
Magar ek baar aazma kar to dekho
Zamanay ko apna bana kar to dekha
Humein bhi tum apna bana kar to dekho

You may not expect me to be faithful
You may not expect me to be faithful
But you have to try me at least once
You gave yourself to the whole world
Now try making me your own!

 

Khuda ke liya chor do ab yeh parda…

Rukh se naqab utha, ke bari der ho gayi
Mahol ko tilaawat-e-quraan kiye hoye
Khuda ke liye chor do ab yeh parda…

For God’s sake, reveal yourself now…
Lift the veil now, it has been long since
the world burst into songs of praise…
For God’s sake, reveal yourself now…

 

Hum na samjhe teri nazron ka taqaza kya hai
Kabhi parda kabhi jalwa yeh tamasha kya hai
Khuda ke liye chor do ab yeh parda…

I couldn’t understand the meaning of your glace
Withdrawn this moment, and open the next, what is this play?
For God’s sake, reveal yourself now…

 

Jan-e-jan hum se uljhan nahin dekhi jaati
Khuda ke liye chor do ab yeh parda…

My darling, I cannot bear to see this struggle now
For God’s sake, reveal yourself now…

 

Khuda ke liya chor do ab yeh parda
Keh hain aaj hum tum nahin ghair koi
Shab-e-wasl bhi hai hijaab iss kadar kyon
Zara rukh se aanchal utha kar to dekho

For God’s sake, reveal yourself now…
For you and I are strangers no more
Why the veil on the night of the union?
Uncover your face and look up now…

 

Jafaaein buhat kien buhat zulm dhaye
Kabhi ik nigah-e-karam iss taraf bhi
Humesha huay dekh kar mujh ko barham
Kissi din zara muskura kar to dekho

So much oppression, so much cruelty
Perhaps a kind glance this way now?
Forever my sight offended you
Perhaps direct a smile my way now?

 

Jo ulfat mein har ek sitam hai gawara
Yeh sab kuch hai paas-e-wafa tum se warna
Satate ho din raat jiss tarha mujh ko
Kissi ghair ko youn sata kar to dekho

In love, I have borne every wound inflicted
All of this out of loyalty to you
The way that you tease me day and night…
Go tease another and see what happens!

 

Agarche kissi baat par woh khafa hain
To acha yehi hai tum apni si kar lo
Woh maanein na mannein yeh marzi hai unki
Magar un ko pur-nam mana kar to dekho

Though she seems upset about something
Perhaps it is better to just move on
To accept me or not, that is her will
But try to convince her with all your passion!

 

Tumhein dillagi bhool jani pare gi
Muhabbat ki raahon mein aa kar to dekho

You will have to forget about playing games
Come into the ways of love and see

 

 

Mast Nazron Se Allah Bacchaye

Translation (from Music from Pakistan and this site)

Entire life spent in splendor, it need not be
Every night of sorrow has a dawn, it need not be
Slumber can arise in a bed of pain, in  the arms of my love, it need not be
Fire is considered by the moths as child’s play, every moth is afraid of its fate, it need not be
A shaykh who prays to god in the mosque, his prostration is effective, it need not be

O God save us from the intoxicated glances! O God save us from the moon-faced ones!
Let any affliction come upon us [but] God save us from the pretty ones.

Don’t let their innocence fool you; don’t let them make you a fool
they rob with just a smile, O God save us from their spells!

Innocent appearance and innocuous talk, but there is a difference between what they say and what they mean
though their face is like that of moon, O God save us from the schemes of their hearts!

In the hearts there is a desire for beautiful companions in heaven, but they show their love of prayers [to the world].
Now, from the likes of the abstinent, O God save us from these “Godly” ones!

In their nature is infidelity, it is known by all and sundry
they beguile even the smart ones, O God save us from the innocuous ones!

Poetry by Nasir Iqbal Maikash

Original (in transliteration):

umr jalwon mein basar ho yeh zarori to nahi
her shab e gham ki sahr ho yeh zarori to nahi
neend to dard ke bistar pe bhi aa sakti hai
unki aaghosh mein sir ho yeh zarori to nahi

aag ko khail patangon ne samajh rakh hai
sub ko anjaam ka dar ho yeh zarori to nahi
shaikh karta hai jo masjid mein khuda ko sajde
iske sajdoon mein asar ho yeh zarori to nahi

Mast nazron se Allah bachaye
Mahjamalon se Allah bachaye
Mast nazron se Allah bachaye
Mahjamalon se Allah bachaye

Har bala sar pe aa jaye lekin
Husn walon se Allah bachaye

Inki maasoomiyat par na jaana
Inke dhoke mein har giz na aana
Loot lete hain yeh muskura kar
In ki chalon se Allah bachaye

Inki maasoomiyat par na jaana
Inke dhoke mein har giz na aana
Loot lete hain yeh muskura kar
Inki chalon se Allah bachaye

Loot lete hain yeh muskura kar
Inki chalon se Allah bachaye
Loot lete hain ye, loot lete hain
Ye loot lete hain, ye loot lete hain
Ye loot lete hain, ye loot lete hain

Jalakrukhi dikha kar, muskura kar loot lete hain
Nigao se nigao ko mila kar loot lete hain
Ye atchi pardadaadi hain, ye atchi dilnawazi hain
Hasa kar loot lete hain, rula kar loot lete hain

Ye loot lete hain, ye loot lete hain
Ye loot lete hain, ye loot lete hain

Husn waale wafa nahi karte
Ishq waale dagha nahi karte
Zulm karna to inki aadat hain
Ye kisi ka bhala nahi karte

Ye loot lete hain, ye loot lete hain
Ye loot lete hain, ye loot lete hain
Amir is raaste se jo guzrte hain woh kehte hain
Muhalla hain haseeno ka, ke ki basti hain

Ye loot lete hain, ye loot lete hain
Loot lete hain yeh muskura kar
Inki chalon se Allah bachaye

Inki fitrat mein hain be-wafaai
Jaanti hain ye saari khudaaee
Atche-atcho ko dete hain dhoka
Bhole-bhalo se Allah bachaye

Atche-atcho ko dete hain dhoka
Bhole-bhalo se Allah bachaye
Mast nazron se Allah bachaye
Mahjamalon se Allah bachaye

 

Original (inspired by the above poems)

Forget about your poetry,
forget music, and dance
This love is not a game, my friend
it’s real life, not romance
It’s serious as death again
and twice as hard to stand
Your life is but the bargained price
for stealing just a glance
Your life is but the bargained price
for stealing just a glance

Since my eyes fell on your beauty
Swarms of evil eyes pursued me
I swatted them away like flies
But your one glance shot right through me
They seek my blood, I seek your heart
Because you stole mine so cruelly

Planted ‘neath your balcony
wat’ring flowers with my eyes
chasing storm clouds with my sighs
too weak to live, too strong to die

Waiting for your glance to fall
On me like a guillotine
Setting body and head free
from this wishful, hopeless dream

This love is not a river,
it’s an ocean of fire
a broad desert of ceaseless sighs,
wide skies of vast desire

And there’s no way get across,
it’s too hard to swim down
So keep away from the edge or
plunge in and burn and drown!

The candle flame has hitched a ride
on this moth bound for the sun
Climbing moonbeams to your face
your eyes become my drop’s ocean

Don’t blame me for this smoke
it was you who lit the fire
don’t complain of the heat
it’s my body on the pyre

It’s your fault that I hope, my dear
and you caused all this pain
sweet as it is, please stop playing—
I can’t take this and the blame

I dreamed that I kissed you
and I prayed I’d never wake
I heard that I missed you
and my life I tried to take

but found that you’d beat me to it
My life was yours before I knew it

Don’t leave me stumbling in the dark
With flashes of your lightning smile
Please light my path and guide my ark
have mercy on a heart beguiled!

Let me be your veil, my love
kissing your lips with every breath
Let me be your hair, above
your bright eyes, glinting dark as death

Your eyes are blinding eclipses
within these magic ellipses
See all that was, will be, and is
but only if you hush—listen!

It seems like I’m your shadow
I can’t even get away
so cast me anywhere you will
all I can do is sway

Where you fly is where I run
and where you stop is where I’m through
Waiting for high noon to come
and return me back to you

Beneath your feet is where I’m from
between your finger and your thumb
My heart is spinning, sick, struck dumb
by this love, what I—you’ve become

Forget about your poetry,
forget music, and dance
This love is not a game, my friend
it’s real life, not romance
It’s serious as death again
and twice as hard to stand
Your life is but the bargained price
for stealing just a glance
Your life is but the bargained price
for stealing just a glance

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

This Love is not a River…

Two of my favorite Fado songs, by two of my favorite singers, Cristina Branco and Carminho:

Translation:
This love is not a river
It has the vastness of the sea
The green dance of the waves
Sobbing in my eyes.
I tried to forget the words
Unspoken between us
But hanging over the silence
On the shores of our voice
I tried to forget your eyes
That do not know how to read mine
But in them is born the daybreak
That dawns on the earth and the heavens
I tried to forget your name
Pluck it from my thoughts
But it returns at every instant
Entwined in the wind.
I tried to see my image
But it was yours that I saw
In my mirror, for I bear
Your flat eyes.
This love is not a river
It has abysses like the sea
And the black mantle of the waves
Shrouds me in blackness
This love is not a river
It has the vastness of the sea
 
Original:
Este amor não é um rio
Tem a vastidão do mar
A dança verde das ondas
Soluça no meu olhar
Tentei esquecer as palavras
Nunca ditas entre nós
Mas pairam sobre o silencio
Nas margens da nossa voz
Tentei esquecer os teus olhos
Que não sabem ler nos meus
Mas neles nasce a alvorada
Que amanhece a terra e os céus
Tentei esquecer o teu nome
Arrancá-lo ao pensamento
Mas regressa a todo o instante
Entrelaçado no vento
Tentei ver a minha imagem
Mas foi a tua que vi
No meu espelho, porque trago
Os olhos rasos de ti
Este amor não é um rio
Tem abismos como o mar
E o manto negro das ondas
Cobre-me de negro o olhar
Este amor não é um rio
Tem a vastidão do mar
https://lyricstranslate.com/en/fado-perdi%C3%A7%C3%A3o-perdition-fado.html

Translation:
I wrote your name on the wind
convinced that I was writing it
on the page of forgetfulness
that in the wind
it would get lost
On the page of forgetfulness
that in the wind it would get lost
And on seeing it go
covered in dust
I considered my heart free
of the bonds of your love
I considered my heart free
of the bonds of your love
Poor me!
I never even thought
that just like me
the wind would fall in love
with that name that is yours
The wind would fall in love
with that name that is yours
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
Rumi
Translation:
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.
Original:
If I could see you I would die
and if I died, then I’d see you
I can’t stop, even though I’ve tried
from staring, drowning, in your eyes
Without you all I see are lies
and so my beautiful, that’s why
approaching you, I’m terrified
and yet, still more scared am I
of losing sight of you, my life
In death, I see you with your eyes
awake, you peer out within mine
your love swallowed the whole world up
and burned down my soul and my mind
even my love burned up in yours
it ate up all space and all time
so there’s no inside nor outside
there’s just your side, nothing to find
nothing to say, free, pay no mind
hearing no ears, seeing no eyes
all knots and thoughts simply unwind
as your sword falls, gentler than kind
there’s no one left to realize
Just your dark beauty, shining bright
in each and every lover’s sight
in every tale, in every plight
in all that’s wrong and all that’s right
beneath the depths, above the heights
through all the days, over the nights
you hold my soul closer than tight
and unseen, you perceive the sights
Love’s river floods mine out of sight
Love’s flames burn bodies into light
Love’s kiss turns death back into life
Love conquers all by its sweet might
And so whence my despair or fright?
when all my pains and all delights
are but you, your love and love bites
that bear aloft my soul’s fair kite
and put to shame all that I write

Hafez—If you pass by my grave…

Two of my favorite poems of Hafez; legend is that scholars decided to settle a debate over whether or not Hafez should receive a proper Muslim burial by performing divination with his poetry, the last couplet of the second poem emerged and Hafez was given a proper burial and his shrine has remained a site of pilgrimage ever since.

 

 

Translation:

It’s the fatwa of the Magian Pir and an ancient saying:
Wine is forbidden where the beloved is not the sommelier
I want to tear this cloak of hypocrisy
for unsuitable company is a painful torment for the spirit
Hoping for a sip of wine from the beloved’s lip
For years I have remained firm at the tavern door
Perhaps he has forgotten my old service
Morning breeze, remind him of our ancient pact
If you pass over my grave after a hundred years
My rotten bones will rise from the dust, dancing
The heart-ravisher took my heart with a hundred promises first
Apparently, his kind nature will not forget its pact
Tell the rosebud not to be sad about its knotted state
For it will find help from the breaths of the dawn wind and breeze
O heart, think about finding your remedy at another door
For the lover’s pain cannot be cured by the doctor’s medicines
Get the jewel of ma’rifat that you can take with you
The wealth of gold and silver belongs to others
This snare is hard, without the grace of God
Adam cannot prevail over the accursed Satan
Hafez, if you have no gold or silver, so what? Give thanks!
What better wealth than subtlety of speech and soundness of nature?

 

(translation modified from Reza Saberi’s Divan of Hafez, 426-7)

Original:

فتوی پیر مغان دارم و قولیست قدیم
که حرام است می آن جا که نه یار است ندیم
چاک خواهم زدن این دلق ریایی چه کنم
روح را صحبت ناجنس عذابیست الیم
تا مگر جرعه فشاند لب جانان بر من
سال‌ها شد که منم بر در میخانه مقیم
مگرش خدمت دیرین من از یاد برفت
ای نسیم سحری یاد دهش عهد قدیم
بعد صد سال اگر بر سر خاکم گذری
سر برآرد ز گلم رقص کنان عظم رمیم
دلبر از ما به صد امید ستد اول دل
ظاهرا عهد فرامش نکند خلق کریم
غنچه گو تنگ دل از کار فروبسته مباش
کز دم صبح مدد یابی و انفاس نسیم
فکر بهبود خود ای دل ز دری دیگر کن
درد عاشق نشود به به مداوای حکیم
گوهر معرفت آموز که با خود ببری
که نصیب دگران است نصاب زر و سیم
دام سخت است مگر یار شود لطف خدا
ور نه آدم نبرد صرفه ز شیطان رجیم
حافظ ار سیم و زرت نیست چه شد شاکر باش
چه به از دولت لطف سخن و طبع سلیم

 

 

Translation:

Now that the breeze of paradise blows from the garden
it’s just me and the joyful wine and a houri-natured beloved
Why should the beggar not brag of the sultanate today when
his pavilion is the shade of the cloud and his banquet is the field’s horizon?
The meadow tells the tale of the month of spring
He is not wise, who trades cash for credit of paradise
Do not seek loyalty from the enemy, there will be no light
If the monastery’s candle is lit by the synagogue’s lamp
Mend your soul with wine, for this ruinous world intends
to make bricks from our dust
Do not blame me, a drunk, for the blackness of my record
Who knows what fate has written on his head?
Do not keep your feet away from Hafez’s funeral
for, though immersed in sin, he’s on his way to paradise

 

translation modified from Reza Saberi’s Divan of Hafez)

 

 Original:
کنون که می‌دمد از بوستان نسیم بهشت
من و شراب فرح بخش و یار حورسرشت
گدا چرا نزند لاف سلطنت امروز
که خیمه سایه ابر است و بزمگه لب کشت
چمن حکایت اردیبهشت می‌گوید
نه عاقل است که نسیه خرید و نقد بهشت
به می عمارت دل کن که این جهان خراب
بر آن سر است که از خاک ما بسازد خشت
وفا مجوی ز دشمن که پرتوی ندهد
چو شمع صومعه افروزی از چراغ کنشت
مکن به نامه سیاهی ملامت من مست
که آگه است که تقدیر بر سرش چه نوشت
قدم دریغ مدار از جنازه حافظ
که گر چه غرق گناه است می‌رود به بهشت

Khaqani on Love

Khaqani

Translation:

The bird that sings the song of pain is love
The courier who knows the tongue of the Unseen is love
The existence that calls you to nonexistence is love
And that which redeems you from you is love

 

Original:

مرغی که نوای درد راند عشق است
پيکی که زبان غيب داند عشق است
هستی که به نيستيت خواند عشق است
وآنچ از تو ترا باز رهاند عشق است

Translation by Reza Saberi

 

Rumi

What then is love? The Ocean of Nonexistence.

It is there that the foot of the intellect is broken

Rumi, Mathnawi, ed. Nicholson, III: 4724.

 

Ibn ‘Arabi

Many mistakes may occur in love. The first of them is that people imagine that the object of love is an existent thing… In fact, love’s object remains forever nonexistent, but most lovers are not aware of this, unless they should be knowers of the realities. (II 337.17)

 

Camaron de la Isla

Translation:

I am like the sad bird
that flits from branch to branch
singing his suffering
because he doesn’t know how to cry

Original:

Soy cómo el pájaro triste,
ay que de rama en rama va,
cantando su sufrimiento, cantando su sufrimiento,
porque no sabe llorar.

 

Majnun (Niẓāmī) and John Donne

Niẓami

Translation:

And who am I — so far from you, yet near?
A singing beggar! Layla, do you hear?
Freed from life’s drudgery, my loneliness ,
Sorrow and grief for me spell happiness.
And thirsty in the painstream of delight,
I drown. Child of the sun, I starve at night.
Though parted our two loving souls combine,
For mine is all your own and yours is mine.
Two riddles to the world we represent,
One answer each the other’s deep lament.
But if our parting severs us in two,
One radiant light envelops me and you,
As from another world — though blocked and barred
What there is one, down here is forced apart.
Yet if despairing bodies separate,
Souls freely wander and communicate.
I’ll live forever — Mortal Fear, Decay,
And Death himself have ceased to hold their sway.
Sharing your life in all eternity
I’ll live if only you remain with me.

(Niẓami’s Layla and Majnun, trans. R. Gelpke)

 

John Donne

As virtuous men pass mildly away,
   And whisper to their souls to go,
Whilst some of their sad friends do say
   The breath goes now, and some say, No:
So let us melt, and make no noise,
   No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move;
‘Twere profanation of our joys
   To tell the laity our love.
Moving of th’ earth brings harms and fears,
   Men reckon what it did, and meant;
But trepidation of the spheres,
   Though greater far, is innocent.
Dull sublunary lovers’ love
   (Whose soul is sense) cannot admit
Absence, because it doth remove
   Those things which elemented it.
But we by a love so much refined,
   That our selves know not what it is,
Inter-assured of the mind,
   Care less, eyes, lips, and hands to miss.
Our two souls therefore, which are one,
   Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
   Like gold to airy thinness beat.
If they be two, they are two so
   As stiff twin compasses are two;
Thy soul, the fixed foot, makes no show
   To move, but doth, if the other do.
And though it in the center sit,
   Yet when the other far doth roam,
It leans and hearkens after it,
   And grows erect, as that comes home.
Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
   Like th’ other foot, obliquely run;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
   And makes me end where I begun.
Niẓāmī
Fly in love as an arrow towards its target.
Love loosens the knots of being
Love is liberation form the vortex of egotism.
In love, every cup of sorrow which bites into the soul gives it new life
Many a draft bitter as poison has become in love delicious
with love for a saqi, what is there to fear from a bitter draft
However agonizing the experience, if it is for love, it is well.

(Niẓami’s Layla and Majnun, trans. R. Gelpke)

 

Shushtari—Red, Red Wine

Shushtari

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

Original:

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

 

Original:

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…”

 

Original:

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.

 

Original:

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

 

Original:

UB 40