(Remember) when Moses said unto his household: Lo! I spy afar off a fire; I will bring you tidings thence, or bring to you a borrowed flame that ye may warm yourselves. But when he reached it, he was called: Blessed is Whosoever is in the fire and Whosoever is round about it! And Glorified be God, the Lord of the Worlds! O Moses! Lo! it is I, God, the Mighty, the Wise.
Hast thou not seen that God knoweth all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth? There is no secret conference of three but He is their fourth, nor of five but He is their sixth…
Qur’an 23:115, 44:38, 6:32, 29:64, 57:20
What, did you think that We created you only for sport, and that you would not be returned to Us?’
And We created not the heavens and the earth, and all that is between them, in play.
The present life is naught but play and a diversion; surely the Last Abode is better for those that are godfearing. What, do you not understand?
This present life is naught but a diversion and a sport; surely the Last Abode is Life, did they but know.
Know that the life of the world is only play, and idle talk, and pageantry, and boasting among you, and rivalry in wealth and children; as the likeness of vegetation after rain, whereof the growth is pleasing to the planters, but afterward it dries up and you see it turning yellow, then it becomes chaff. And in the Hereafter there is grievous punishment, and (also) forgiveness from God and His good pleasure, whereas the life of the world is but the fleeting pleasure of illusion.
There’s a close relationship between Hafez’s poetry and the Qur’an, and it’s seldom as explicit as in the poem below:
This is the night of union and the tale of separation is at an end
Therein is peace until the break of dawn.
O heart, be steadfast in love
For on this path, no work is without reward.
I will not repent of my dissolute ways.
even if you punish me with banishment and separation.
My heart left, but I did not see the face of the sweetheart
weeping from this disdain and oh, from this grief.
Oh heart-illuminating morning, arise for God’s sake.
For the night of separation looks dark to me.
Hafez, if you want fidelity, endure cruelty
for there is gain and loss in trade.
شب وصل است و طی شد نامه هجر
سلام فیه حتی مطلع الفجر
دلا در عاشقی ثابت قدم باش
که در این ره نباشد کار بی اجر
من از رندی نخواهم کرد توبه
و لو آذیتنی بالهجر و الحجر
برآی ای صبح روشن دل خدا را
که بس تاریک میبینم شب هجر
دلم رفت و ندیدم روی دلدار
فغان از این تطاول آه از این زجر
وفا خواهی جفاکش باش حافظ
فان الربح و الخسران فی التجر
Truly we sent it down in the Night of Power
And what shall apprise thee of the Night of Power?
The Night of Power is better than a thousand months.
The Angels and the Spirit descend therein, by the leave of their Lord, with every command
The following verse of the Qur’an has inspired Islamic architecture and literature, illustrating the prominent symbols of the mirror and the perspective shift.
Qur’an 27:44 Pickthall translation:
It was said unto her : Enter the hall. And when she saw it she deemed it a pool and bared her legs. (Solomon) said: Lo! it is a hall, made smooth, of glass. She said: My Lord! Lo! I have wronged myself, and I surrender with Solomon unto Allah, the Lord of the Worlds.
And since she, or Bilqîs, said in answer to the question concerning her throne, which was, “Is thy throne like this? (Quran XXVII, 42), “It seems the same” (XXVII, 42), one can detect her knowledge of the renewal of creation at each instant, for she said, “It seems”. And he showed her the pavillion of crystal, so she supposed it was like a spreading water “and she bared her legs” (Quran XXVII, 44) so the water would not touch her clothing. But it was not a spreading water in reality, just as the visible throne brought into existence before Solomon was not the same throne which she left in Sheba in respect of its form, for it had discarded the first form and assumed another, while the substance, upon which the two thrones imposed successively their forms, was one. So he showed her by that that the state of her throne was like that of the pavillion: as for the throne, because it was deprived of existence, and what the Creator created was similar to that which had vanished; and as for the pavillion, because in its extreme delicacy and limpidity it became similar to clear water, while (in reality) it was different. So he showed her with his actions that she was right in her words, “It seems the same.”
-Ibn ‘Arabi Naqsh al-Fusūs trans. by William Chittick
When you looked at my polished heart’s shine
you just saw your own reflected in mine
And baring your legs, you hiked up your soul
to wade in my water, so clear and so cold
But I’m too jealous to let you baptize
your body in anything else but my eyes
So you’ll walk on water, just like the Messiah
and dance across skies, like sunset’s smooth fires
You sounded the depths, and to your surprise
found it but a trick to uncover your thighs
The clothes that you bought, all the things that you thought
in my mirror’s undertow, are all swept aside
And so now you walk with my heart underfoot
we’re all alone, lift your head up love and look
Let me lift off that veil, since it’s just you and I
Among the people are some who take peers apart from God, loving them as if loving God. And those who believe are more intense in love for God. If only those who were unjust could see, they would see the punishment/sweetness: that all power is God’s and God is intense in punishment/sweetness.
They say that a man met a woman recognizer, and her beauty exercised its influence over his heart. He said, “’My all is busy with your all.’ O woman! I have lost myself in love for you.”
She said, “Why don’t you look at my sister, who is more beautiful and lovely than I?”
He said, “Where is your sister so that I may see her?”
She said, “Go, idler! Passion is not your work. If your claim to love me were true, you would not care about anyone else.”…
Shiblī said, “I learned Sufism from a dog that was sleeping at the door of a house. The owner came out and was driving the dog away, but the dog kept on coming back. I said to myself, ‘How base this dog is! He drives him away, and he keeps on coming back.’ The Exalted Lord brought that dog to speech and it said, ‘O Shaykh! Where should I go? He is my owner.’”
I will not leave the Friend at a hundred iniquities and cruelties.
Even if He increases them, I will not be troubled,
It is I who chose Him over everyone else;
if I complain about Him, I will have no excuse.
But the believers love God more ardently, than any other, because they only love God. Their love for Him is not confounded with love of others and is not subject to change. They love things through [their] love of God and for God and in the measure that they find in these [things] a divine aspect…
or [it means that] they love [God] more than they love their deities because they love things in themselves for themselves and so inevitably their love changes [for these things] when they themselves change the accidents of their souls upon fear of perdition and the harm that the soul brings upon them. Believers love God through their spirits and their hearts, nay, through God and for God. Their love [for Him] does not change because it is selfless. They expend their spirits and their souls for the sake of His countenance and His approval, abandoning all of their desires for His desire, loving His acts even when they conflict with their caprices, as one of them said: “I desire to connect with Him while He desires to abandon me, so I abandon what I desire for what He desires.”
Nothing but God is loved, nothing but God is worshipped— Your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him (17:23)— indeed nothing but God is. However, some limit their love of God to a particular form or forms of His, an idol of sorts.
Those who love God in a limited form, in idols or “peers,” love a limited form, and thus their love is limited. Those who love God, Who is beyond all limitation (and is even beyond the limitation of being beyond limitation) love Him in each and every form, without limitation. Thus their love is unlimited, and more intense. He loves them and they love Him (5:54).They love Him with His love. Those who love the “idols” of a particular form or forms only love “as if with the Love of God” (كحبّ الله), but those who believe, who love of God is not limited by these forms, love God with His own unlimited love—God loves Himself through them.
Those who wrong themselves by limiting their love to a particular form or forms, if they could only see, would know the intense sweetness of love unlimited, and the severe punishment of limited love, especially when compared to sweetness of unlimited love. The pain of regret and envy is severe punishment.
Have you seen him who has taken desire for his God? (45:23)
The greatest and most exalted locus of self-disclosure wherein He is worshipped is that of desire. Remember that He has said, Have you seen him who has taken his desire for his God? It is the greatest object of worship since nothing is worshipped except through it, and it is only worshipped by itself. Concerning this I say:
The truth of desire is that desire is the cause of desire
If not for desire in the heart, desire would not be worshipped
و حق الهوى إن الهوى سبب الهوى لو لا الهوى في القلب ما عُبِدَ الهوى
Do you not see how perfect God’s knowledge of things is, how He perfects one who worships is desire and takes it has his divinity?… He sees this worshipper worshipping only his his desire, complying with its command to worship the individual whom he worships. Even his worship of God comes from his desire. If one did not have desire for the Divine—which is a will based on love—one would not worship God, nor would one prefer Him to another. Likewise, anyone who worships some form of the world and makes it a divinity only does so because of desire. The worshipper is forever under the influence of his desire. Now, he sees the objects of worship diversified amongst the worshippers, and each one who worships something, denies one who worships something else. One who has the least bit of awareness will be bewildered at the unanimity of desire, nay by the oneness of desire, for it is the same essence in every worshipper. God led him astray, that is, bewildered him, out of knowledge that every worshipper only worships his own desire, and only seeks to worship his desire whether it coincides with the prescribed command or not.
The perfect Knower is he who sees every object of worship as a locus of self-disclosure of the Real wherein to worship Him.
This is why a human being does not become totally annihilated and enraptured by love except in love for His Lord or for someone who is the locus of disclosure for his Lord [that is, another human being, created in God’s image].
The entities of the cosmos are all lovers because of Him, whatever the beloved may be, since all created things are the pedestals for the Real’s self-disclosure. Their love is fixed, they are loving, and He is the Loving. The whole situation is concealed between the Real and creation through creation and the Real. That is why God brought the name Forgiving along with the name Loving [in the verse He is the Forgiving, the Loving, Lord of the Throne, the Glorious (85:14-15)]. After all, Forgiving means literally ‘curtaining’. Thus it is said that [the famous Arab lover] Qays loved Layla, since Layla derives from the locus of disclosure. In the same way, Bishr loved Hind, Kuthayr loved ‘Azza, Ibn al-Durayj loved Lubna, Tawba loved al-Akhyaliyya, and Jamil loved Buthayna. But all these women were pedestals through which the Real disclosed Himself to them.
The beloved is a pedestal even if the lover is ignorant of the names of what he loves. A man can see a woman and love her, without knowing who she is, what her name is, who her relatives are, and where she lives. Love, by its very essence, requires that he seek out her name and her home so that he may attend to her and know her in the state of her absence through the name and the relationship. Thus he will ask about her if he lacks the witnessing of her.
So also is our love for God. We love Him in His loci of self-disclosure and within the specific name, which is Layla, Lubna, or whatever, but we do not recognize that the object is identical with the Real. So here we love the name but we do not recognize that it is identical with the Real. Thus we love the name and do not recognize the entity.
In the case of the created thing, you know the entity and you love. It may be that the name is not known. However, love refuses anything but making the beloved known. Among us are those who know God in this world, and among us are those who do not know Him until they die while loving some specific thing. Then they will come to understand, when the covering is lifted, that they had loved only God, but they had been veiled by the name of the created thing.
The final two verses of the second, and longest, Surah of the Quran are among its most beautiful and touching, as you can see and hear below
The Messenger believeth in that which hath been revealed unto him from his Lord and (so do) believers. Each one believeth in God and His angels and His books and His messengers – We make no distinction between any one of His messengers – and they say: We hear, and we obey. (Grant us) Thy forgiveness, our Lord. Unto Thee is the homecoming.
God does not burden a soul beyond its capacity. For it (is only) that which it hath earned, and against it (only) that which it hath deserved. Our Lord! Condemn us not if we forget, or miss the mark! Our Lord! Lay not on us such a burden as thou didst lay on those before us! Our Lord! Impose not on us that which we have not the strength to bear! Pardon us, absolve us, and have mercy on us, You are our Protector, and give us victory over the disbelieving folk.
Trans. modified from Pickthall’s
It is said that the “disbelieving folk” refers to the elements of ourselves that refuse to recognize who we are, to come to grips with reality. “Victory over“themrefers to victory over illusion and confusion, and the reunification of the soul. The beginning of the verse assures this victory since, “God does not burden a soul beyond its capacity.”
آمن الرسول بما أنزل إليه من ربه والمؤمنون كل آمن بالله وملائكته وكتبه ورسله لا نفرق بين أحد من رسله وقالوا سمعنا وأطعنا غفرانك ربنا وإليك المصير ( 285 ) لا يكلف الله نفسا إلا وسعها لها ما كسبت وعليها ما اكتسبت ربنا لا تؤاخذنا إن نسينا أو أخطأنا ربنا ولا تحمل علينا إصرا كما حملته على الذين من قبلنا ربنا ولا تحملنا ما لا طاقة لنا به واعف عنا واغفر لنا وارحمنا أنت مولانا فانصرنا على القوم الكافرين ( 286