Studies in Islamic Mysticism

Masonic, Occult and Esoteric Online Library

Studies in Islamic Mysticism

By Reynold A. Nicholson

vv. 100-199

(100 100) Cease, then, pretending to love, and call thy heart to something else, and drive thy error from thee by that (state) which (is the best).

(101 101) And shun the quarter of union: ’tis far off, and was never reached (in life), and lo, thou art living. If thou art sincere, die!

(102) Such is Love: if thou diest not, thou wilt not win thy will of the Beloved in aught. Then choose death or leave my love alone!"

(103) I said to her, "My spirit is thine: ’tis for thee to take it. How should it be in my power?

(104) I am not one that loathes to die in love—I am always true (to death): my nature refuses aught else.

(105) What should I hope to be said of me except `Such a one died of love'? Who will ensure me of that (death)?—for it is that I seek.

(106) Ay, it pleaseth me well that my life be ended by longing ere thou art gained, if my claim to love thee shall be found real;

(107 107) And if I shall not make good such a claim in regard to thee, because it is too high, I am content with my pride in being reputed thy lover;

(108) And if I die of anguish without the reputation, thou wilt have done no wrong to a soul that delights in martyrdom;

(109) And if thou wilt spill my blood in vain and I shall not be reckoned a martyr, ’tis grace enough for me that thou shouldst know the cause of my death.

(110) Methinks, my spirit is not worth so much that it should be offered in exchange for union (wi?ál) with thee, for it is too threadbare to be prized."

The poet then refers to the warning that he must show his sincerity by dying to self. Does the Beloved threaten him with death?

(115) "To me thy menace is a promise, and its fulfilment is the wish of an affianced lover who stands firm against the blows of all calamity except absence (from thee).

(116) I have come to hope that which others fear: succour therewith a dead man's spirit that is prepared for (everlasting) life!"

By passing-away (faná) the mystic wins immortal life in God (baqá).

(120) If she lets my blood be shed in love of her, yet hath she established my rank on the heights of glory and eminence.

(121) By my life, though I lose my life in exchange for her love, I am the gainer; and if she wastes away my heart, she will make it whole once more.

But this is an inward glory, which causes him to be scorned by his fellow-men.

(126) ’Tis as though I had never been honoured amongst them but they had always despised me both in easy fortune and in hard.

(127) Had they asked me " Whom dost thou love?" and had I declared her name, they would have said, "He speaks a parable," or "A touch of madness hath smitten him."

(128) Yet, had abasement for her sake been impossible, my passion had not been sweet to me; and but for love, my glory had not been in abasement.

(129) Because of her, I am endowed with the understanding of one crazed, the health of one shattered by disease, and the glory of ignominy.

The following lines, curiously subtle in their psychology and phrasing, represent the "self" (nafs) as desiring Divine Love, but keeping its desire beyond the reach of mental perception.

(130 130) My soul secretly imparted its desire for her love to my heart alone, where the intellect was unable to spy upon it;

(131) For I feared that the tale, if it were told, would transport the rest of me, so that the language of my tears would declare my secret.

(132 132) In order to keep safe that secret, part of me (my soul) was misleading part of me (my intellect), but my falsehood in hiding it was really my speaking the truth.

(133) And when my first (intuitive) thought refused to divulge it to my ribs (my mental faculties), I guarded it also from my reflection,

(134 134) And I did my utmost to conceal it, so that I forgot it and was caused to forget my concealment of that which my soul confided to my heart.

(135) And if in planting those desires I shall pluck the fruit of suffering, God bless a soul that suffered for its desires,

(136) Since of all love's wishes the sweetest to the soul is that whereby she who caused it to remember and forget them willed it to suffer.

(137) She set, to guard her, one taken from myself who should watch against me the amorous approach of my spiritual thoughts;

(138 138) And if they, unperceived by the mind, steal into my heart without hindrance, I cast down mine eyes in reverent awe.

(139) Mine eye is turned back if I seek but one glance, and if my hand be stretched forth to take freely (its will of her), it is restrained.

(140) Thus in every limb of me is an advance prompted by hope, and in consequence of the awe born of veneration a retreat prompted by fear.

The poet now attempts to describe the mystical union of the lover with the Beloved.

(144 144) ’Tis my being crazed with love of her that makes me jealous of her; but when I recognise my worth (to be naught), I disown my jealousy,

(145) And my spirit is rapt in ecstatic joy (towards her), though I do not acquit my soul of conceiving a desire.

(146 146) Mine ear sees her, far though she be from the eye, in the form of blame which visits me in my hours of waking,

(147) And when she is mentioned, mine eye deems mine ear lucky, and the part of me that remains (in consciousness) envies the part that she has caused to pass away.

(148 148) In reality I led my Imám (leader in prayer), and all mankind were behind me. Wheresoever I faced, there was my (true) direction.

(149) Whilst I prayed, mine eye was seeing her in front of me, but my heart was beholding me in front of all my Imáms.

(150 150) And no wonder that in conducting the prayer the Imám faced towards me, since in my heart dwelt she who is the qibla of my qibla,

(151 151) And that towards me had faced all the six directions with their whole contents of piety and greater and lesser pilgrimage.

(152 152) To her I address my prayers at the Maqám, and behold in them that she prayed to me.

(153 153) Both of us are a single worshipper who, in respect of the united state, bows himself to his essence in every act of bowing.

(154) None prayed to me but myself nor did I pray to any one but myself in the performance of every genuflexion.

(155) How long shall I keep to the veil? Lo, I have rent it! ’Twas in my bond of allegiance that I should loose the loops of the curtains.

(156 156) I was given my fealty to her before she had appeared to me at the taking of the covenant, on a day when no day was, in my primal state.

(157) I gained my fealty to her neither by hearing nor by sight nor by acquisition nor by the attraction of my nature,

(158 158) But I was enamoured of her in the world of command, where is no manifestation, and my intoxication was prior to my appearance (in the created world).

(159 159) The attributes dividing us which were not subsistent there (in the world of command) Love caused to pass away here (in the created world), and they vanished;

(160 160) And I found that which I cast off going out of me unto me and again coming from me with an increase,

(161 161) And in my contemplation (of the Divine essence) I beheld myself endowed with the attributes by which I was veiled from myself during my occultation,

(162 162) And I saw that I was indubitably she whom I loved, and that for this reason my self had referred me to myself.

(163 163) My self had been distraught with love for itself unawares, though in my contemplation it was not ignorant of the truth of the matter.

Continuing Ibnu ’l-Fári? shows that the railer and the slanderer (who symbolise respectively the sensual and intellectual attributes of the self) are in reality one with the Lover-Beloved. He next explains more fully what he meant when he spoke of the passing-away (faná) of these attributes (v. 159), and describes the successive stages by which his self (nafs) was gradually stripped bare of all the affections that stood between him and a purely disinterested love.

(168) I sought to approach her by sacrificing my self, reckoning upon her as my recompense and not hoping for any (other) reward from her; and she drew me nigh.

(169) I offered readily what was mine (of promised bliss) in the world to come and what she might peradventure give to me (of her grace),

(170 170) And with entire disinterestedness I put behind me any regard for that (self-sacrifice), for I was not willing that my self should be my beast of burden.

(171 171) I sought her with poverty, but since the attribute of poverty enriched me I threw away both my poverty and my wealth.

(172 172) My throwing away my poverty and riches assured to me the merit of my quest: therefore I discarded my merit,

(173) And in my discarding it my own welfare appeared: my reward was she who rewarded me, nothing else.

(174) And through her, not through myself, I began to guide unto her those who by themselves had lost the right ways; and ’twas she that (really) guided them.

The following verses (175-196) show the poet as a director of souls, preaching unselfishness, poverty, humility, and repentance; exhorting his disciple to lose no time and to beware of saying "To-morrow I will work"; bidding him shun vainglory and ambition; pointing out that the true gnostic is silent inasmuch as the mysteries revealed to him are incommunicable. All self-activity, all self-consciousness, must be renounced.

(194 194) Be sight (not a seer) and look; be hearing (not a hearer) and retain (what is heard); be a tongue (not a speaker) and speak, for the way of union (with the Beloved) is the best.

The detachment or isolation (tafríd) of the soul from all desires and affections costs bitter pain.

(197 197) Formerly my soul was reproachful: when I obeyed her, she disobeyed me, or if I disobeyed her, she was obedient to me.

(198) Therefore I brought her to that of which (even) a part was harder than death and I fatigued her that she might give me rest,

(199) So that she came to endure whatever burden I laid upon her, and if I lightened it she grieved.

210:100 (100) "That (state) which (is the best)," i.e. the complete passing-away (faná) of the self (nafs). So N., but K. renders "that (quality) which (is the best)," namely, veracity. In this case the meaning will be: "Do not pretend to love, but give thy passion its true name, and let veracity purge thee of thy false pretensions."

210:101 (101) "Shun the quarter of union": cf. note on v. 98. For the meaning of "union" (walí) see note on verse 441.

210:107 (107) Cf. p. 171, l. 25 foll.

212:130 (130) The nafs cannot love God purely and disinterestedly: therefore the poet does not say that it loves, but only that it desires to love. It communicates this desire to the sirr—the organ of mystical contemplation, Eckhart's "ground of the soul"—but withholds it from the intellect (‘aql).

212:132 (132) "My falsehood, etc."—i.e. concealment is one of the signs of true love.

212:134 (134) The words "I was caused to forget" indicate the higher stage of unconsciousness that is produced in the mystic by an act of the Divine will, when his own will has entirely ceased.

212:138 (138) Wahm, here rendered by "mind," is properly the faculty of judgment, which by its activity prevents the thought of God (khá?iru ’l-?aqq), residing in the ground of the soul (sirr), from penetrating into the heart (qalb). For this reason it is depicted in the preceding verse as a "watcher" (muráqib).

213:144 (144-5) Jealousy involves duality, and not until it is denied can the spirit (rú?) attain to oneness with God. Complete spiritual oneness is incompatible with the desire of the soul (nafs) for vision.

213:146 (146) Cf. p. 180.

213:148 (148) The following lines describe a unitive state in which the mystic, by losing his apparent individuality, realises his essential oneness with the One whom he loves and worships.

213:150 (150) "My qibla" is the point to which Moslems face when they pray, i.e. the Ka‘ba, which (like every other created thing) turns in worship towards the Being who endues it with existence.

213:151 (151) "The six directions " are above, below, before, behind, right and left.

214:152 (152) The Maqám Ibráhím, i.e. the standing-place of Abraham, is a rock situated to the east of the Ka‘ba.

214:153 (153) In mystical union the unity of Being is revealed: worshipper and Worshipped are distinguished only as aspects of one reality.

214:156 (156) Those who interpret this verse according to the doctrine of Ibnu ’l-‘Arabí take the meaning to be "I was pledged to love God before the creation of Time when all things, though not yet objectified in material forms, existed as objects of knowledge in the Divine essence." God did not become manifest to His creatures until at the word "Be!" they issued forth from the Divine essence (which from this point of view is named "the world of command") into the world of creation. It is by no means certain, however, that Ibnu ’l-Fári? regarded the human spirit as eternally pre-existent. Cf. Nallino, op. cit. p. 535 foll. "The covenant" refers to the pledge taken by every soul, before its earthly existence, to love God for evermore. See note on verse 69.

214:158 (158) "The world of command" is the invisible or intelligible world.

214:159 (159) Divine Love enables the mystic to rid himself of the attributes of self which hinder him from attaining to union with God.

214:160 (160) The complement and consummation of death to self (faná) is everlasting life in God (baqá). In this life the lost attributes are restored, but "with an increase," i.e. they have been "deified" and display themselves in the eternal process of Divine manifestation, "going out of me," i.e. from the undifferentiated Unity, "unto me," i.e. to Unity in plurality, and again returning p. 215 "from me," i.e. from the One in the Many to the One who remains when the Many have passed away.

215:161 (161) "In my contemplation," i.e. in the state of baqá after faná. "During my occultation," i.e. in the state preceding faná, when the mystic is veiled by his phenomenal attributes from his real self.

215:162 (162) Cf. the Tradition, "He who knows himself knows his Lord."

215:163 (163) So long as the "self" is attached to its desires, it is blind to its real nature, which is only revealed to it when God is the sole object of contemplation.

215:170 (170) I.e. "I was unwilling to attain 'my goal by means of anything directly or indirectly connected with self." The commentator quotes the Tradition, "Honour the animals which ye offer in sacrifice, for they will carry you across the Bridge of ?irá? (into Paradise)."

215:171 (171) He who is truly poor (in the mystical sense) does not regard himself as possessing anything whatever—not even poverty.

216:172 (172-3) It is not enough to regard one's self as possessing nothing: the thought that such a state of mind is meritorious must be eliminated.

216:194 (194) In the unitive state (jam‘) it is God that sees, hears, and speaks through the mystic, who has become His organ of sight, hearing, and speech.

216:197 (197) The epithet "reproachful" (lawwáma) is applied to the soul whilst it is still engaged in the struggle with the passions; after these have been vanquished, it is called "calm" (mu?ma’inna). During the former condition the soul is disobedient (sinful) if its desires are complied with, and obedient (virtuous) if they are thwarted.



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