Studies in Islamic Mysticism

Masonic, Occult and Esoteric Online Library

Studies in Islamic Mysticism

By Reynold A. Nicholson

vv. 500-599

(500 500) Therefore ’tis upon me the heavens turn, and marvel thou at their Qu?b (Pole) which encompasses them, howbeit the Pole is a central point.

(501 501) And there was no Qu?b before me, whom I should succeed after having passed three grades (of sanctity), although the Awtád rise to the rank of Qu?b from the rank of Badal.

(502 502) Do not overstep my straight line, and seize the best opportunity, for in the angles there are hidden things.

The poet now describes some of his strange experiences in love. The first of these is a state which the commentator calls "the greatest absence from self" (al-ghaybiyyatu ’l-kubrá).

(506) Through Her I became oblivious of myself, so that I thought myself another and did not seek the path that leads to thinking myself existent.

(507) And my being oblivious (of myself) in Her, caused me to lose my reason, so that I did not return to myself or follow any desire of mine in consequence of my thinking (that I existed).

(508) And I became distraught for Her, engrossed with Her; and whomsoever She renders distraught through being taken up with Her, him She makes forgetful of himself.

(509) And I was so preoccupied with Her as to forget the preoccupation that made me forget myself: had I died for Her, I should not have been aware of my departure (from the world).

*     *     *     *     *     *

(512) And I was seeking Her from myself, though She was ever beside me. I marvelled how She was hidden from me by myself.

(513) And I ceased not from going with Her to and fro in myself (in search of Her), because my senses were intoxicated by the wine of Her beauties,

(514 514) Travelling from the knowledge of certainty to the intuition thereof; then journeying to the fact thereof, where the Truth is.

(521) (So was I seeking Her within me) until there rose from me to mine eye a gleam, and the splendour of my daybreak shone forth and my darkness vanished.

(522 522) Here I reached a point from which the intellect recoils before gaining it, where from myself I was being joined and united to myself.

(523 523) And when I attained unto myself, I beamed with joy because of a certainty that saved me from saddling for my journey;

(524 524) And since I was seeking myself from myself, I directed myself to myself, and my soul showed the way to me by means of me.

(525 525) And when I removed the curtains of the shroud of sense which the mysteries of mine own ordainment had let down,

(526) I lifted my soul's curtain by unveiling her, and ’twas she that granted my request (that the veil should be removed).

(527 527) And I was that which cleansed the mirror of my essence from the rust of my attributes, and the rays that surrounded it were from myself;

(528) And I caused myself to behold myself, inasmuch as in my beholding there existed none other than myself who might decree the intrusion (of duality).

(529 529) And when I uttered my name, that which uttered it caused me to hear it, though (in truth) ’twas my soul that listened and pronounced my name while sensation was banished.

(530 530) And I embraced myself, but not through contact of my limbs with my ribs: nay, I embraced my very essence.

(531 531) And I let myself smell my own perfume, while the perfume of my breath made fragrant the scents of bruised spices.

(532 532) And the whole of me was transcending the dualism of sensation, howbeit my transcendence was in myself, since I had unified my essence.

Human thought distinguishes the essence of God from His attributes, names, and actions, but in the mystic's vision of Oneness all is essentialised and every partial relation identified with the Whole.

(533) To praise my attributes because of me (my essence) enables my praiser to glorify me (for what I am essentially), but to praise me (my essence) because of my attributes is to blame me (my essence).

(534 534) Therefore he that beholds my attributes in my companion (my body) and beholds me (my essence) by means of them will never alight at my abode—for I veil myself (with my attributes).

(535) And to call to mind my Names through me (my essence) is a waking vision (a revelation of the Truth), but to call me (my essence) to mind through them is the (false) dream of one that slumbers in the night.

(536 536) Likewise, he that knows me (my essence) through my actions knows me not, whereas he that knows them through me is a knower of the Truth.

(537 537) Receive, then, the knowledge of the principal attributes, which are attached to outward abodes (visible organs), from a soul well acquainted therewith,

(538 538) And (receive) the understanding of the Names of the Essence, which are made manifest through them (the attributes) but (themselves) reside in the inward (invisible) worlds, from a spirit that gives an indication thereof (by means of symbols).

(539 539) The manifestation metaphorically of my attributes (e.g. sight and hearing) from the names of my bodily organs (e.g. the visual and auditory faculties)—names by which my soul was named because of my judgment (that in reality they belong to the soul, not to the body)

(540) Consists of a knowledge (latent in the soul)—marks traced on the veils of forms (bodily organs) and throwing light on what is beyond sense-perception in the soul.

(541 541) And the manifestation actually of the names of my essence from the attributes of my inward being, for the sake of mysteries whereby the spirit was gladdened,

(542) Consists of hints concerning treasures (of knowledge)—hints revealing the significations of a mystical doctrine and encompassed by the arcana of that which is hidden in the depths of the heart.

(543 543) And their effects in all that exists, together with the knowledge of them—and created things are not independent of the effects produced by them (the Names and Attributes)

(544) Are (shown by) the existence of praise that is gained (by God) for strength of dominion, and by the beholding of thanks that are gathered in return for universal favours.

(545 545) They (the effects of the Names and Attributes) are theatres of manifestation for me: I appeared in them, although I was not hidden from myself before my epiphany (in them).

(546 546) For speech—and the whole of me is a tongue that tells of me—and sight—and the whole of me is an eye in me for regarding me

(547) And hearing—and the whole of me is ears (asmu‘) listening to the proclamation of (my) bounty—(and power)—and the whole of me is a hand strong to repel destruction,

(548) (All these faculties) are a means of manifestation for Attributes which established (the presence in the soul of) what transcends the (outward) vesture (the body) and for Essential Names which spread abroad that which sensation related (to the soul).

In language so figurative as to be almost untranslatable the poet describes (vv. 549-574) the Divine Names according to (1) their characteristic qualities; (2) the benefits which accrue from them to body and soul; and (3) their respective spheres of influence, viz., the visible world (‘álamu ’l-shaháda), the invisible world (‘álamu ’l-ghayb), the world of dominion (‘álamu ’l-malakút), and the world of almightiness (‘álamu ’l-jabarút) 1. Here again he rises to the plane of undifferentiated unity (jam‘), where plurality (tafriqa) has disappeared. This phase, however, is momentary. As we have seen, in the highest mystical experience plurality returns under the form of unity: the One does not exclude the Many, but comprehends them in its own nature, so that every part is the essence of the whole.

(575 575) The whole of me performs that (devotion) which is required by the Path, while keeping the way of that (unity) which was required by my Truth.

(576 576) And when, no longer separating, I joined the rift, and the fissures caused by the difference of the attributes were closed,

(577 577) And nothing that leads to estrangement was left between me and a firm trust in the intimacy of my love,

(578) I knew for sure that we (lover and Beloved) are really One, and the sobriety of union restored the notion of separation,

(579) And my whole was a tongue to speak, an eye to see, an ear to hear, and a hand to seize.

All particular attributes being thus dissolved in the universality of the Essence, the "unified" mystic can say that his eye speaks, his tongue sees, his hand listens, etc., and that his sense of smell speaks, sees, hears, and takes, or conversely, that his tongue, eye, ear, and hand are endowed with the sense of smell; and can declare that all his faculties are exercised simultaneously by every atom of his body (vv. 580-88).

(589) Therefore I read all the knowledge of the wise in a single word, and show unto myself all created beings in a single look;

(590) And I hear the voices of them that pray and all their languages in a time less than the duration of a gleam;

(591) And ere mine eye winks, I bring before me what was hard to convey on account of its distance;

(592) And with one inhalation I smell the perfumes of all gardens and the fragrance of what (herbs) soever touch the skirts of the winds;

(593) And I survey all regions (of the earth) in a flash of thought and traverse the seven tiers of Heaven in one step.

The next passage indicates the origin and nature of these extraordinary powers which the poet claims not only for himself but for all prophets from Adam to Mohammed and for the Moslem saints in general. It is perhaps unnecessary to add that where he uses the words "I" and "my" he assumes the character of the universal Spirit.

(594) The bodies of those in whom remains no remnant (of self) because of my union (with them) are like the spirits: they are encompassed (with my union) and made light (subtle);

(595 595) And whosoever is sovereign or munificent or mighty in onset only finds his way (to these qualities) through my aiding him with a particle (of my union).

(596 596) He walked not on the water nor flew in the air nor plunged in the flames but in virtue of my volition,

(597) And I am the source whence he whom I aided with a particle (of my union) became changed in a moment from all his (normal) being,

(598) And whence he that with his whole being followed my union recited the Koran, from beginning to end, a thousand times in an hour or less.

(599) And had a breath of my grace been bestowed on a dead man, his soul would have been given back to him and caused to return.

246:500 (500) Real Being is the axis on which the phenomenal universe revolves as well as the circumference within which all particulars are contained.

246:501 (501) The explanation of this verse will be found on p. 194 supra.

246:502 (502) "My straight line," i.e. the mystical path by which I arrived at this supreme perfection. The poet adds that the doctrine taught in the Tá’iyya should be prized by ?úfís: in its obscure expressions they will discover the mysteries of the Truth.

247:514 (514) Certainty (al-yaqín) denotes real faith in the Unseen. The three stages or categories mentioned in this verse are variously defined by ?úfí writers. According to Káshání, a man who has the knowledge of certainty (‘ilmu ’l-yaqín) knows that the object of his search is within him; in the second stage (‘aynu ’l-yaqín) he sees this intuitively with the eye of mystical contemplation; in the last stage (?aqqu ’l-yaqín) the illusion of subject and object disappears and he reaches absolute unity (itti?ád).

247:522 (522) Thought, which involves duality, cannot apprehend "the fact of certainty" (?aqqu ’l-yaqín), i.e. the pure Oneness allegorically depicted in the following passage.

247:523 (523) When the mystic realises the fact of itti?ád, he has arrived at his journey's end.

247:524 (524) I.e. I was the seeker, the guide, and the object sought.

247:525 (525-6) The soul is "veiled" (ignorant of the truth) so long as she does not perceive that the bodily senses (sight, hearing, taste, etc.) are really attributes of the universal Soul with which she is essentially one.

247:527 (527) The attributes, which limit the essence and prevent it from being seen as it is absolutely, are compared to rust that darkens the surface of a steel mirror.

248:529 (529) See vv. 539-540 and vv. 546-8 below.

248:530 (530) This verse refers to v. 519:

And I press my hand on my vitals that peradventure I may embrace Her when I lay it there in clasping.
The whole passage (vv. 521-531) is parallel to the verses immediately preceding it (510-520): the former describes mystical "intoxication" (sukr), the latter mystical "sobriety" (sa?w).

248:531 (531) I.e. I did not cry, like Mohammed, "O God, let me smell the perfume of Paradise!" for I myself was the perfumer, the perfume and everything that is perfumed.

248:532 (532) Cf. v. 529. The deified mystic is transcendent "in himself" because he is One and All.

248:534 (534) "Will never alight at my abode," i.e. will never attain to knowledge of my essence.

249:536 (536) Knowledge derived by means of induction is inferior to knowledge revealed in contemplation. Perfect knowledge of God is truly a re-cognition of that which the soul contemplated before the existence of the body.

249:537 (537) "The principal attributes," such as sight, hearing, speech, and power, whose respective organs are the eye, the ear, the tongue, and the hand.

249:538 (538) The attributes, although their real nature is hidden in the Essence, manifest themselves in the bodily organs. The Names, having no such organs attached to them, cannot be manifested except through the attributes: thus, before we apply the name al-Ra?mán (the Merciful) to the Divine Essence, we must be assured that the quality of ra?ma (mercy) is latent in the Essence.

249:539 (539-540) There is only a metaphorical (unreal) connexion between the attributes of the Essence and the physical faculties and organs with which they are associated. In reality these attributes belong entirely to the Essence, inasmuch as the faculties and organs through which they are manifested are themselves no more than objectified aspects of the Essence. When a man says "I saw" and "I heard," naming himself by the names of the attributes of sight and hearing, he does so because he judges that what really sees and hears is not his eye and his ear, but the spiritual essence underlying them.

250:541 (541-42) The inmost meaning of the Divine Names, which depend on the Divine Attributes (see v. 538), cannot be apprehended except mystically or conveyed otherwise than symbolically. Knowledge of the Names and Attributes gladdens the spirit by revealing the mysteries of Oneness (itti?ád) and by exalting Man, as the microcosm, above all created beings.

250:543 (543-4) The whole world of phenomena exhibits the effects (áthár) of the Divine Names and Attributes, i.e. it is constituted, sustained, and replenished by a continuous series of illuminations (tajalliyát) proceeding from these Names and Attributes. All created beings praise God and render thanks to Him who endows them with existence, since they know—and this is the import of the words "together with the knowledge of them," i.e. the knowledge of the áthár—that His Names and Attributes are manifested in themselves.

250:545 (545) Before God actually revealed Himself in Man and Nature, He was potentially revealed to Himself in His eternal knowledge.

250:546 (546-8) All faculties which are separate and distinct in the body are united and indistinguishable in the soul. "The soul, having no parts, speaks with hearing and sight, and sees with hearing and speech, and hears with sight and speech, because all its attributes are involved in one another." The commentator assigns to ma‘ání in v. 548 an unusual meaning, viz. "places p. 251 of submission or will (to manifestation)"; but ma‘ání ?ifátin may signify "realities (consisting) of attributes." "That which sensation related to the soul" is the multiformity of phenomenal existence, which corresponds to the variety of the Essential Names. From perception of sensible things the soul rises to knowledge of their spiritual realities.

251:575 (575) "Having realised the Truth (?aqíqa), namely, that subject and object are One, I continue to walk in the Path (?aríqa)," i.e. to observe the ascetic and ethical discipline which the Súfí novice learns from his spiritual director.

251:576 (576) The phenomenon of "separation" arises from the diversity of the Divine Names and Attributes, not from any duality in the Essence itself.

251:577 (577-8) Lover and Beloved are two attributes of one essence (Love), p. 252 and their union quâ attributes is impossible, since the former is characterised by need, abasement and weakness, while power and pride are inherent in the latter. So long as they co-exist, they stand opposed to one another and in peril of "estrangement"; only by absorption in their essence, i.e. by ceasing to be attributes, do they become united. The mystic's real Beloved is the oneness of Love, which begins in a rapture obliterating all distinctions (jam‘) but ends by "restoring the notion of separation" (tafriqa), i.e. perceiving clairvoyantly that Lover, Beloved and Love are one.

251:1 p. 251 The ‘álamu ’l-malakút and the ‘álamu ’l-jabarút denote the Attributes and the Essence.

253:595 (595) Spiritual dominion, grace, and energy emanate from the Divine Essence with which the prophets and saints have been made one.

253:596 (596) "My volition" (himma), i.e. the concentration of my thought upon the particular Divine Names which are the causes of the (miraculous) effects that I desire to produce.



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