Ubiquitous Voice

An artistic reply to "the Love of God and His Prophet"

Week 10: Ascent to Salat

Filed under: Uncategorized April 24, 2016 @ 7:43 pm

Ascent to Salat


At every rung, my hands are torn and burned

My heart is wrung, my earth-bound spirit burned


And less and less, my armor weighs me down

Its metal melts away, as flesh is burned


No wings to take me higher, nervous flame

The ladder to the pyre leaves me burned


Impure and perfect all go up in smoke,

The twig an incense equally are burned


All sin and shame are lost in flash of light

With pious pilgrim’s searing glance, they burned


I’m climbing higher, holding on for death,

My other loves, my flesh and blood are burned


In fierce desire, the brazier I ascend,

A goldfinch turned to phoenix, feathers burned


I finally reach the flare, a ghost of ash

My brow descends in prayer, I become “burned”


(ghazal) This poem is rooted in the traditional ghazal style, and is inspired by the imagery of fire and incineration found in Attar’s Conference of the Birds. The narrative of the poem describes someone climbing a ladder to reach a torrid pyre, and while climbing the heat strips him of his armor, his passions, his sins, his flesh, and his spirit as these are burned away before he finally reaches the brazier and vanishes as he touches his forehead down in salat, as if the fire were his prayer mat.

The second couplet describes the narrator’s metal armor melting away. Through Attar, this armor is a representation of the self, and symbolizes a self-imposed barrier between individuals and God: “The Self is like a mail coat–melt this steel,” (line 647).

The fourth couplet symbolized the egalitarian nature of spiritual transformation, since every individual with their own flaws and merits are burned equally. Attar achieves this symbolism by comparing a lowly twig with elegant incense: “That twigs and incense offered to a flame/ Both turn to powdered ash and look the same,” (line 3953).

In the penultimate stanza, the narrator compares himself to a goldfinch, a symbol of intense desire: “And little goldfinch, welcome! My your fire/ Be an external sign of fierce desire,” (lines 682-683); this common bird is transformed in to a phoenix, the firebird and symbol of rebirth, just as the narrator is reborn in flame.

Finally, in the last couplet, the narrator reaches the flame and performs salat to complete the transformation and loss of Self. This is in reference to Attar’s anecdote (lines 3217-3226) in which the Prophet tells someone to use the hot desert sands as a prayer mat, so that the external wound will represent an internal wound that symbolizes spiritual perseverance.


1 Comment »

  1. آیفون تصویری:

    Thanks for your site

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>