Points of Ink, Gasps of Breath

“All that is in the Revealed books is in the Qur’an, and all that is in the Qur’an is in the Fatihāh, and all that is in the Fatihāh is in ‘Bismi ‘Llāhi ‘r-Rahmāni ‘r-Rahīm.’

“All that is in  ‘Bismi ‘Llāhi ‘r-Rahmāni ‘r-Rahīm’ is in the letter , which itself is contained in the point that is beneath it.”

-Prophetic traditions
qtd. in Lings, M. A Sufi Saint of the Twentieth Century.  Islamic Texts Society, 1993 p. 148


Because the people of this world are in the station where forms are gathered and meanings are separated, they witness various letters as unified and letters which are of one species as numerous individual parts.  Thus when they look at the the letters:

يحبّهم و يحبّونه

(He loves them and they love him, Qur’an 5:54)

they see a unified species which is divided in its parts.  However, those who have divested themselves of this world—for whom the veil has been lifted and the clouds of doubt and blindness have dispersed from the face of their insight—[they] see these letters through inner sight in this way:

ي ح ب ه م

Then, when they ascend from this station to a higher station, they see them as tiny dots.

-Mulla Sadra Shirazi, quoting ‘Ayn al-Qudat Hamadani

qtd. in Rustom, M. The Triumph of Mercy. SUNY, 2012. p. 124





“The point and the ink are interchangeable as symbols in that writing is made up of a series of points of ink…”


The Letters are the signs of the ink: there is not one,
Save what the ink hath anointed; their own colour is pure illusion.
The ink’s colour it is that hath come into manifest being.
Yet it cannot be said that the ink hath departed from what it was.
The inwardness of the letters lay in the ink’s mytery,
And their outward show is through its self-determination.
They are its determinations, its activities,
And naught is there but it.  Understand thou the parable!
They are not it; say not that they are it!
To say so were wrong, and to say “it is they” were raving madness.
For it was before the letters, when not letter was;
And it remaineth, when no letter at all shall be.
Look well at each letter: thou seest it hath already perished
But for the face of the ink, that is, for the Face of His Essence,
Unto Whom All Glory and Majesty and Exaltation!
Even thus the letters, for all their outward show, are hidden,
Being overwhelmed by the ink, since their show is none other than its.
The letter addeth naught to the ink, and taketh naught from it,
But revealeth its integrality in various modes,
Without changing the ink.  Do ink and letter together make two?
Realize then the truth of my words: no being is there
Save that of ink, for him whose understanding is sound;
And wheresoe’er be the letter, there with it is always its ink.
Open thine intellect unto these parables and heed them


– ‘Abd al-Ghani an-Nabulusi qtd. in A Sufi Saint of the Twentieth Century p. 150-1


In one of his best known explications of the nature of things, Ibn al-‘Arabî looks at God’s creativity as an analogue of human speech. Just as we create words and sentences in the substratum of breath, so God creates the universe by articulating words in the Breath of the All-Merciful (nafas al-rahmân), which is the deployment of existence (inbisât al-wujûd); indeed, existence itself is synonymous with mercy (rahma).


From : Chittick, William, “Ibn Arabi”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2008 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.),



Let not the lies of teeth and tongue
Or dancing lips distract you from
The union of all speech in breath
A music from behind our death
All that’s spoken or that’s heard
Is but that wind inside the words
That howling, longing sigh that stirs
Our soul’s flames to ascend like birds
So this is all we have to say:
A fiery sigh when we’re apart
A gasping cry when the bright ray
Of your dark eyes pierces my heart



The echo of that sigh born from
the pregnant silence of your mouth
Flows through the world like wind and fire
Breathing all sounds in and back out
Souls like whisps of bright desire
Curl round your lips like your dark hair
Swimming in your voice’s choir
We’re all just breath, words of your prayer