Category Archives: Sufi
i am no lion
to overpower my enemies
winning over myself
if i can
though I’m of lowly earth
since i nourish a seed
lilies of the field
when I’m pitch-black
i know for sure
i will break through
spreading light on the dark night
i am on fire inside
but look grim outside
since i want to rise
like smoke through my cell
i am a child
whose teacher is love
surely my master
won’t let me grow
to be a fool
– Translation by Nader Khalili
The Qur’an is like a bride.
Although you pull the veil away from her face,
she does not show herself to you.
When you investigate the Qur’an,
but receive no joy or mystical unveiling,
it is because your pulling at the veil
has caused you to be rejected.
The Qur’an has deceived you
and shown itself as ugly.
“I am not a beautiful bride.”
It is able to show itself in any form it desires.
But if you stop pulling at its veil and seek its good pleasure;
if you water its field, serve it from afar
and strive in that which pleases it,
then it will show you its face
without any need for you to draw aside its veil.
– Rumi, translated by William C. Chittick
if you can’t go to sleep
my dear soul
what do you think will happen
if you pass your night
and merge it with dawn
for the sake of heart
what do you think will happen
O Wild Deer, my old friend, where are you today?
So much like each other, we have come all this way.
Lonely and wandering, we two cannot last;
we are both prey stalked by our future and past.
So let us into one another inquire
and discover therein our deepest desire.
Why cannot these depths of our wild desert land
offer safety and joy sometimes in its sand?
Who to our rescue? O lovers, time to speak,
you companions of sorrow and strangers weak.
We need a great miracle – Khezr must arrive;
perhaps our journey’s end his grace will contrive.
The time has come for the faithful to appear;
so stay, friend, hear a tale of our journey here.
My autumn arrives. Time travels through me and change encroaches on this season of my soul. I am the poet of two worlds, it is said, but I am a man of one body. What now that I must release this human form? O Wild Deer – my spirit self – how do we two travel on? What will become of me? Of you?
Our freedom measured by memory and destiny, we seek answer in each other’s mirrored self. But grief, not joy, thrives in these shadowed mirrors of passage. We seek comfort from companions – but none answers. Our only hope is a miracle from Khezr, the life-giver – a miracle to light the separate pathways to our journey’s end.
But my dear friend and reader, this is not where this story begins. So come and listen. Let me tell you of a poet’s quest for wholeness, a tale of this journey of life.
This story began far away and long ago
when master asked youth what soul seeks to know:
Young quester, what’s in that bag on your shoulder?
If wisdom seed, plant; reap as you grow older.
Youth replied: Yes, such a seed to I carry
but only Simorgh can answer my query.
Elder then warned: That goal is a great test;
there is no worldly place Simorgh builds its nest.
I know, said the youth, to fail may be my fate,
but life with no hope is a far greater weight.
I desire a note not in tune with your key;
light and fire from the sun must harmonize me.
So long as I breathe, this way will I think;
so long as cup’s offered, that long will I drink.
In youth, I sought to know myself. The learned elder advised: Listen little one, go slow, and all will be well. Plant your seeds deep, cultivate patience, reap the yield as the wisdom of years.
This way, in time, you will understand all.
But my wild desire replied: Well and good for you, but an ancient impulse drives my heart, and a luminous flame sears my mind. My soul is Simorgh, and it must soar to the heavens of our beginning and end. I shall risk all. I shall surrender to that ancient ebb and flow of fiery rays, for the dark eye of creation is my heartbeat, and the throbbing of cosmic will gives me hope. Only the Sun’s vibrant glow can slake my thirst for essence.
And in this way I split myself in two: I as the laboring man of words, my spirit as the unbridled deer of vision. Together, we became the poet, breathing the life of inspiration, sharing the wine of intoxication.
Thus begun, caravan claims cypress and all;
whatever eye sees must return journey’s call.
Hold firm the wine cup and also the flower,
but see as well wheel of life’s final power.
Beside our source, you sit next to a river;
a single tear falls, you feel the soul shiver.
Remembering friends passed and those still alive,
we ascend to spring clouds and there we all thrive.
But river runs fast, then more rapidly still;
the grasp of our vision must catch today’s thrill.
My old companion another road has trod;
O Moslems, Moslems, call the true name of God.
Death’s sad blade that separates all who do live
leaves us strangers as though no love did we give.
Companion goes from me and my heart does grieve;
brother to brother only sorrow does leave.
Now only a miracle of Khezr can mend
and unite lonely me and my lonely friend.
Life and Death
We all journey on this passing caravan in accord with the wheel of life’s turning. While treasuring beauty and wisdom, we understand the mortality of even the cypress. To sit still and feel life’s flow within the soul is to unleash tears of this sadness, and in reverie we ache for friends already flown to the clouds. In our dream, life and death seem as one.
But time’s river rushes on and I must face its flow anew. My heart’s companion – that one who is me and yet also is not – departs. We turn from brothers to strangers. Burning with grief, I cry out: O my people, all my dear ones, let us embrace the true reality of the Creator. Our final union exists only in return to the source where we – even my deer and I – can be brought together again.
This is the miracle, Khezr, for which I pray.
Perceive the jewel and pass by the glass bead;
let go the pathway that does not to light lead.
My pen goes to writing as Jonah to whale,
as noon-ol-ghalam inspired words beyond veil.
I’ve mixed spirit and mind and seeded my field;
that my vision’s seen is the fruit of my yield.
Pure rapture arises when fusion is goal
of beauty of poem and essence of soul.
From the fragrance of all this sweet-scented rhyme,
let perfume wash over your soul throughout time.
Such musk comes from necks of angels of Cathay,
not from the Wild Deer who from me fades away.
Friends, value each other, we can’t know what’s next;
don’t try to memorize, don’t read from the text.
This counselor’s wisdom now has been told;
comes the stone-thrower of death as I grow old.
That is my story, and now I’ve grown old. I speak as an elder – but be aware; you must awaken fully to appreciate the value of this jewel. Through my pen – inspired like the Prophet’s oration – flows the wisdom of both spirit and body, both Wild Deer and me. My earthly seeds yield vision through union of soul and message, and from this elixir exudes an intoxicating musk for the ages. True, spirit touches us from the sacred realm, but it’s the sweet verse of humanity that blesses this world.
Here, then, I say:
Dear friend and reader, treasure each breath of this life. Embrace and love, for there are no other constants. You need search no further. You need not memorize holy words as I did. You need not recite sacred writings. I have lived at the source, this simplicity is my counsel, it is offered freely, and I’ve no more to say. Now my human death – that old stone-thrower – is creeping closer. But I walk on. I do not despair, for reunion awaits – and therein as well, Wild Deer, my old friend.
– Translated by Haleh Pourafzal/Roger Montgomery
An unabridged recording by the London College of Storytellers in four parts (2-4 under the fold).