Studies in Islamic Mysticism

Masonic, Occult and Esoteric Online Library

Studies in Islamic Mysticism

By Reynold A. Nicholson

vv. 300-399

(300) And haughtily sweep the clouds with thy skirts—the skirts of an impassioned lover which in his union (with the Beloved) trail over the top of the Milky Way!

(301) And traverse the various degrees of oneness and do not join a party that lost their lifetime in (attachment to) something besides.

(302 302) For its single champion is a host, while all others are but a handful who were vanquished by the most convincing of testimonies.

(303 303) Therefore make that which it (the term "oneness") signifies thy means of access (to God) and live in it, or else die its captive, and follow a community which attained the primacy therein.

(304) Thou art worthier of this glory than one who strives and exerts himself in hope (of reward) and in fear (of punishment).

(305) ’Tis not marvellous that thou shouldst shake thy sides (boastfully) before him in the sweetest delight and the completest joy,

(306) Since the attributes related to it (to Oneness)—how many a man have they chosen out in obscurity! and its names—how many a one have they raised to renown!

(307) Yet thou, in the degree (of union) to which thou hast attained, art remote from me: the Pleiades have no connexion with the earth.

(308) Thou hast been brought to thy Sinai and hast reached a plane higher than thy soul had ever imagined;

(309) But this is thy limit: stop here, for wert thou to advance a step beyond it, thou wouldst be consumed by a brand of fire.

Leaving his disciple in "the intoxication of union" (sukru ’l-jam‘), with an emphatic warning not to exceed the measure of his spiritual capacity, Ibnu ’l-Fári? depicts from his own experience the unitive life in its perfect and final development, which is known technically as "the sobriety of union" (sa?wu ’l-jam‘). Cf. the notes on vv. 233-5, 260-4, and 326-7.

(310) My degree is of such a height that a man who has not reached it may still be deemed happy; but the state for which I am deemed happy transcends thy degree.

(311) All men are the sons of Adam, (and I am as they) save that I alone amongst my brethren have attained to the sobriety of union.

(312 312) My hearing is like that of Kalím (Moses) and my heart is informed (about God) by the most excellent (a?mad) vision of an eye like that of him who is most excellent (A?mad = Mohammed).

(313 313) And my spirit is a spirit to all the spirits (of created beings); and whatsoever thou seest of beauty in the universe flows from the bounty of my nature.

(314 314) Leave, then, to me (and do not ascribe to any one else) the knowledge with which I alone was endowed before my appearance (in the phenomenal world), while (after my appearance) amongst created beings my friends knew me not (as I really am).

(315 315) Do not give me the name of "lover" (muríd) amongst them (my friends), for even he who is rapt by Her and is called Her "beloved" (murád) hath need of my protection;

(316 316) And let names of honour fall from me and pronounce them not, babbling foolishly, for they are but signs fashioned by one whom I made;

(317 317) And take back my title of "gnostic," for according to the Koran, if thou approvest people's calling each other names, thou wilt be loathed.

(318 318) The least of my followers—the virgin brides of gnosis were led home to the eye of his heart.

(319) He plucked the fruit of gnosis from a branch of perception that grew by his following me and springs from the root of my nature;

(320) So that, if he is questioned about any (spiritual) matter, he brings forth wondrous sayings which are too sublime for comprehension, nay, too subtle for the mind to conceive.

(321 321) And amongst them (my friends) do not call me by the epithet of "favourite" (muqarrab), which in virtue of my union (with God) I deem to be a sinful severance;

(322) For my meeting is my parting, and my nearness is my being far, and my fondness is my aversion, and my end is my beginning,

(323 323) Since for Her sake by whom I have disguised myself—and ’tis but myself I mean—I have cast off my name and my style and my name of honour,

(324 324) And have journeyed beyond where those of old stood still, and where minds perished misled by (the search after intellectual) gains.

(325) I have no attributes, for an attribute is a mark (of substance). Similarly, a name is a sign (of an object). Therefore, if thou wouldst allude to me, use metaphors or epithets.

(326 326) From " I am She " I mounted to where is no " to," and I perfumed (phenomenal) existence by my returning;

(327) And (I returned) from "I am I" for the sake of an esoteric wisdom and external laws which were instituted that I might call (the people to God).

(328 328) The goal of my disciple who was rapt to Her (in ecstasy) and the utmost limit reached by his masters is the point to which I advanced before my turning back;

(329) And the highest peak gained by those who thought themselves foremost is the lowest level that bears the mark of my tread;

(330) And the last pinnacle of that which is beyond indication, and where is no progress upwards (but only backwards)—that is where my first footstep fell!

(331 331) There is nothing existent but hath knowledge of my grace, nor aught in being but utters my praise.

(332 332) No wonder that I lord it over all who lived before me, since I have grasped the firmest stay (which is a verse) in (the chapter of the Koran entitled) ?á-há.

(333) My greeting to Her is metaphorical: in reality my salutation is from me to myself.

Here Ibnu ’l-Fári? inserts in praise of his Beloved an ode of fifty-two verses (336-387) in the same metre and rhyme as the rest of the Tá’iyya. Beautiful as this lyric interlude is and welcome for the relief which its warm colouring affords to imaginations fatigued by "the white radiance of eternity," it interrupts the course of the poem and may be omitted here.

After a short passage (vv. 388-393) concerning the "railer" and the "slanderer," whom the mystic when he regards them under the aspect of union (jam‘) perceives to be really inspired by love, not by enmity, Ibnu ’l-Fári? resumes his description of the unitive state at its supreme level, marked by the return from ecstasy to a new and enlarged consciousness of the One Reality which manifests itself in every form of thought and sense.

(394) And therein (in itti?ád) are matters of which the veil was entirely raised for me by my recovery from intoxication, while they were screened from every one besides.

(395) A mystic can dispense with plain words and will understand me when I speak allusively on account of those who would trip me up.

(396 396) None may divulge them without making his lifeblood the forfeit, and in symbols there is a meaning that words cannot define.

(397 397) Now my exposition begins with the twain who sought to bring about my severance, albeit my union defies separation.

(398 398) Those twain are one with us (the Beloved and me) in inward union, though in outward separation we and they are counted as four.

(399) For truly I and She are one essence, while he who told tales of her and he who turned me away from her are attributes which appeared.

228:302 (302) An allusion to Kor. 2, 250: "How many a little band hath overcome a great army by the permission of Allah!"

228:303 (303) "Or else die its captive," i.e. "even though you fail to attain to oneness, at least pursue it until you die." Mu‘annáhu ("its captive") may also mean "pining for it" and is so explained by K.

229:312 (312) I.e. "I hear God with my ear, as Moses did when God said to him 'Thou shalt not see Me' (Kor. 7, 139), and see Him with my eye, as Mohammed saw Him." Moses is called Kalím or Kalímu’llah because God spoke to him (kallamahu). As regards Mohammed, cf. Kashf al-Ma?júb, transl., p. 186.

229:313 (313 foll.) Here Ibnu ’l-Fári? speaks, as it were, out of the depths of his consciousness of God. According to the commentator, he hints that he is the Qu?b. See p. 194 supra.

229:314 (314) God created the world in order that He might be known: before the creation He alone knew Himself, and after it His friends (the prophets and saints) did not know Him with His own eternal knowledge of Himself.

229:315 (315) See note on vv. 204-5 for the distinction between muríd and murád. Even the latter, as an object of Divine protection, is other than God and therefore not to be identified with the mystic who is wholly one with Him.

229:316 (316) A "name of honour" (kunya) is one of the class of names which begin with the word Abú (father) and are used as a mark of respect to the person addressed. "One whom I made," i.e. Man, whose language is meaningless as applied to God.

229:317 (317) Cf. Kor. 49, 11. The poet includes the name "gnostic" among alqáb (which is here equivalent to "nicknames" or "ill names") because the Absolute suffers a limitation when it is described by any title, however exalted.

230:318 (318-20) The argument is: "Gnostic," a name appropriate to the meanest of my. disciples, is a term of abuse in relation to me, who am the source of all gnosis.

230:321 (321) Muqarrab, literally "one who is brought near (to God)." ?úfís often use this term, which is borrowed from the Koran, to describe the highest class of the saints. See Kitáb al-Luma‘, ch. 43. The muqarrab prefers union to separation, whereas in perfect union there are no contraries. Cf. note on vv. 294-5.

230:323 (323) I.e. the name "She," or "Beloved," disguises me, for it really signifies the One Essence, which is my true and eternal self.

230:324 (324) The intellect moving in the world of relations and distinctions cannot reach the Absolute.

230:326 (326-7) Three stages of Oneness (itti?ád) are distinguished here:

1. "I am She," i.e. union (jam‘) without real separation (tafriqa), although the appearance of separation is maintained. This was the stage in which al-?alláj said Ana ’l-?aqq, "I am God."

2. "I am I," i.e. pure union without any trace of separation (individuality). p. 231 This stage is technically known as "the intoxication of union" (sukru ’l-jam‘).

3. The "sobriety of union" (sa?wu ’l-jam‘), i.e. the stage in which the mystic returns from the pure oneness of the second stage to plurality in oneness and to separation in union and to the Law in the Truth, so that while continuing to be united with God he serves Him as a slave serves his lord and manifests the Divine Life in its perfection to mankind.

"Where is no 'to,'" i.e. the stage of "I am I," beyond which no advance is possible except by means of retrogression. In this stage the mystic is entirely absorbed in the undifferentiated oneness of God. Only after he has "returned," i.e. entered upon the third stage (plurality in oneness) can he communicate to his fellows some perfume (hint) of the experience through which he has passed. "An esoteric wisdom," i.e. the Divine providence manifested by means of the religious law. By returning to consciousness the "united" mystic is enabled to fulfil the law and to act as a spiritual director.

231:328 (328) "His masters," literally "his objects of desire" (murddíhi), i.e. those eminent theosophists whom the disciple seeks to imitate, but who have not reached the highest degree of perfection.

231:331 (331) All created things glorify God with diverse tongues which are heard and understood by spiritual men. Cf. The Mystics of Islam, p. 64.

231:332 (332) I.e. "I have attained to perfection in itti?ád through my faith in the verse (Kor. 20, 7): 'God, there is no god but He.'" This proves, according to the ?úfís, that nothing but God has a real existence.

232:396 (396) The mysteries of Oneness cannot be revealed otherwise than symbolically: an open statement would not only cost the writer his life but would also fail to convey the meaning, which is too subtle to be expressed by direct explanation and definition.

232:397 (397) "The twain," i.e. the railer and the slanderer; cf. verse 51. "My union defies separation," because the mystic who has attained to permanent union (sa?wu ’l-jam‘) knows that all things in spite of their apparent plurality are really one.

232:398 (398-9) Under the aspect of union the Divine attributes are identical with the Essence: only in the realm of phenomena do they appear as particular modes of the Essence and distinct from it in respect of their particularisation.



Masonic Publishing Company

Purchase This Title

Browse Titles
"If I have seen further than
others, it is by standing
upon the shoulders of giants."


Comasonic Logo

Co-Masonry, Co-Freemasonry, Women's Freemasonry, Men and Women, Mixed Masonry

Copyright © 1975-2024 Universal Co-Masonry, The American Federation of Human Rights, Inc. All Rights Reserved.