Studies in Islamic Mysticism

Masonic, Occult and Esoteric Online Library

Studies in Islamic Mysticism

By Reynold A. Nicholson

vv. 600-699

(600 600) Such is the soul: if she cast off her desires, her faculties are multiplied and endow every atom with the (entire) activity of the soul.

(601 601) Union suffices thee (as an explanation of these miracles); they are not produced by a separation consisting in two extensions, namely, measurable space and finite time.

After enumerating some miracles of pre-Islamic prophets—Noah, Solomon, Abraham, Moses, Jacob and Jesus—the poet explains the unique position of Mohammed as the spiritual father of all prophets and saints and the real author of all miracles past, present and future.

(614) The inward notion that produced (miraculous) effects in outward things is that (oneness) which, by (Divine) permission, my moulded speech communicated to thine ear,

(615 615) And the notions underlying all (the effects) that belonged to them (the former prophets) were brought (together) by him (Mohammed) who caused them to stream over us, thereby putting the seal upon a time when no prophets arise;

(616) And there was none of them (the former prophets) but had called his people to the Truth by grace of Mohammed and because he was Mohammed's follower.

(617 617) And a divine of ours is one of those prophets, while any one of us that calls (the people) to the Truth performs the office of apostle;

(618) And in our Mohammedan era our gnostic is (like) one of the old prophets, one who clave to the commandment and was firm (in obedience to the religious law).

(619 619) After him, the evidentiary miracles of the prophets became acts of Divine grace (χαρ?σματα) towards his saints and vicegerents.

(620) His family and his Companions and the religious leaders of the next generation sufficed mankind instead of the apostles.

(621) Their miracles form part of what he conferred on them exclusively, in bequeathing to them a share of every excellence (of his).

*     *     *     *     *     *

(627) And the saints who believe in him, though they never saw him, are elect in virtue of their affinity: they are near (to him) as brother to brother.

(628 628) And his being near them in spirit resembles his yearning towards them in form. Marvel, then, at a presence in absence!

The mystical union of the saints with the Logos expresses itself in language that might easily be mistaken for blasphemy.

(629 629) They (the prophets) who received the Spirit called (their peoples) to my way in my name and vanquished the miscreants by my argument;

(630 630) And in consequence of the priority of my essence they all revolve in my circle or descend from my watering-place,

(631 631) For albeit I am outwardly a son of Adam, yet in him is a spirit of mine that bears witness I am his father.

*     *     *     *     *     *

(637 637) Do not deem that this matter lies outside of me, for none gained lordship (as a prophet or a saint) except he entered my service,

(638 638) Since, but for me, no existence would have come into being, nor would there have been a contemplation (of God), nor would any secure covenants have been known.

(639) None lives but his life is from mine, and every willing soul is obedient to my will;

(640) And there is no speaker but tells his tale with my words, nor any seer but sees with the sight of mine eye;

(641) And no silent (listener) but hears with my hearing, nor any one that grasps but with my strength and might;

(642) And in the whole creation there is none save me that speaks or sees or hears.

(643 643) And in the world of composition (the sensible world) I manifested in every (phenomenal) form a reality whereby that form was made fair;

(644) And in every reality that was not revealed by my phenomena I was imaged, but not in a corporeal shape;

(645) And in that which the spirit beholds by clairvoyance I was hidden from fatigued thought by my subtlety.

The clairvoyant spirit contemplates itself as the Whole that pervades every aspect of reality and as the Identical in which all contraries are united.

(646 646) In the mercy of "expansion" the whole of me is a wish whereby the hopes of all the world are expanded;

(647) And in the terror (wrath) of "contraction" the whole of me is an awe, and o’er whatsoever I let mine eye range, it reveres me;

(648 648) And in the union of both these attributes the whole of me is a nearness. Come, then, draw near to my beauteous qualities!

(649 649) In the place where "in" ends I ceased not to feel, through myself, the majesty of contemplating myself—an experience arising from the perfection of my nature;

(650) And where is no "in" I ceased not to contemplate in myself the beauty of my Being, not with the sight of mine eye.

Perception of reality is impossible so long as sense-impressions, which affirm that things exist by themselves, are allowed to stand in the way.

(651 651) So if thou art of me, seek union with me and efface the distinction of my separation and be not turned aside by the darkness of Nature,

(652) And receive the signs of my inspired wisdom which will remove from thee the false judgments of opinion formed through sensation.

Ibnu ’l-Fári? naturally condemns metempsychosis, a special form of the already repudiated doctrine of incarnation (?ulúl) 1.

(653) Have nothing to do with one that believes in naskh (the transmigration of souls into human bodies)—for his is a case of maskh (the transmigration of souls into the bodies of animals)—and hold aloof from his doctrine;

(654) And let him alone with his assertion of faskh (the transmigration of souls into plants)—for if raskh (the transmigration of souls into minerals) were true, he deserves to suffer it everlastingly in every cycle.

If we scorn the notion of a spirit doomed to perpetual confinement in matter, how shall we represent the true monistic relation between them? Our minds can never know that relation as it really is: like all mystical truth, it is unseizable by thought. But mystics have their own ways and means of communicating with each other, and the poet has just announced himself as a hierophant (v. 652), bidding his readers attend to "the signs of his inspired wisdom." The best commentary on this phrase is Ibnu ’l-‘Arabí's remark that mystical "states" cannot be explained, but can only be indicated symbolically to those who have begun to experience the like 2.

(655) My coining parables for thee time after time concerning my state is a favour from me to thee.

(656 656) Consider the Maqámát of the Sarújite and draw a lesson from his variety (of disguise)—then wilt thou deem it good to have taken my advice,

(657) And thou wilt perceive that the soul in whatever form and shape she appears, inwardly masks herself in sensation;

(658) And if his (?arírí's) work is fiction, yet the Truth makes of it a parable, for the soul labours not in earnest.

(659 659) Therefore be understanding, and while doing justice to thy soul look upon thy phenomenal actions with thy (faculty of) sense;

(660) And wouldst thou have thy soul unveil herself, contemplate what thou seest without doubt in the burnished mirrors.

(661) Was it another that appeared in them? Or didst thou behold thyself by means of them when the rays were refracted?

(662) And listen how the sound of thy voice, when it dies away, is returned to thee by the walls of lofty buildings.

(663) He that talked with thee there, was he some one else? Or didst thou hear words uttered by thy voiceful echo?

(664) And tell me, when thy senses had been hushed in slumber, who imparted to thee his lore?

(665) Ere to-day thou didst not know what happened yesterday or what shall happen to-morrow,

(666) And now thou art acquainted with the histories of them that are past and with the secrets of them that shall come after—and the knowledge makes thee proud.

(667) Think’st thou it was another, not thyself, that conversed with thee in the drowsiness of sleep touching diverse sorts of noble knowledge?

(668 668) ’Twas none but thy soul, what time she was busied with her own world and disengaged from the theatre of humanity.

(669 669) She Unveiled herself to herself in the invisible world in the form of a sage that led her to the apprehension of wondrous meanings;

(670) For already had the sciences been imprinted on her, and she was anciently taught the names (realities) thereof through the inspiration of fatherhood,

(671) Not by knowledge derived from the "separation" of otherness was she blest; nay, she enjoyed that which she dictated to herself.

(672 672) Had she become naked (detached from the body) before thy dream, thou wouldst have beheld her, as I do, with an eye that sees true (in a waking vision).

(673 673) And her being normally detached (in sleep) in the first place confirms her being detached in the eternal world (of mystical contemplation) in the second place; therefore be steadfast,

(674) And be not one whom his studies made foolish, so that they enfeebled and unsettled his mind;

(675) For there, beyond tradition, lies a knowledge too subtle to be apprehended by the farthest reach of sound understandings.

(676) I received it from myself and derived it from myself: ’twas with mine own bounty my soul was replenishing me.

One of the most amazing things in Von Hammer's version of the Tá’iyya is his translation of vv. 677-8. Their language could scarcely be plainer, they introduce a passage in which the poet dwells on the relative value of sense-perception viewed as an illustration of the nature of reality—and this is how Von Hammer translates them:

Du spiele nicht mit Scherz and fasle nicht im Leben,
Du sei den Possen nicht, dem Ernste sei ergeben!
O hüte dich and wend’ dich ab von allen Bildern,
Von allen Fantasei’n, die nur Geträumtes schildern.
In a different context Ibnu ’l-Fári? might have said this or something like it; but here, as it happens, he says just the opposite.

(677 677) Be not wholly neglectful of the play (illusion), for the jest of the playthings (phenomena) is the earnestness of a soul in earnest,

(678) And beware of turning thy back on every tinselled form or unreal and fantastic case;

(679) For in the sleep of illusion the apparition of the shadow-phantom brings thee to that which is shown through the thin (semi-transparent) curtains.

Here Ibnu ’l-Fári? refers to the shadow-lantern by means of which leathern figures, moved by wands against a muslin curtain, are illuminated and made visible to the spectators on the other side (see Nallino, op. cit., p. 93). The verses immediately following (680-706) have been translated above (p. 189 foll.). They describe how the showman, standing behind the screen, displays his figures in every variety of action and causes the spectators to sympathise with the representation; yet when the screen is taken away, he alone is seen to be the real actor. This analogy guides us to the truth of things. The showman is the soul, the shadowy figures are the phenomena of sensation, the screen is the body: remove it and the soul is one with God.

253:600 (600) Cf. notes on vv. 525-6, 539-40, and 546-8.

253:601 (601) Miracles are the effects of union (jam‘) with the Essence, i.e. the unitive state. Time and Space belong to "separation" (tafriqa), i.e. the phenomenal world.

253:615 (615-6) The spirit of prophecy attained to complete and final manifestation in Mohammed, the Seal of the prophets; and since Universal Spirit, the p. 254 first emanation from Absolute Being, is identified with Mohammed and was revealed by him in its whole essential nature, whereas the prophets before him manifested no more than particular aspects and attributes, his predecessors drew their inspiration from him and are logically his followers.

254:617 (617-8) Although prophecy ended with Mohammed, the Moslem divines and mystics may be described as the prophets and apostles of the Mohammedan era. Orthodox ?úfís take the strictest possible view of their religious duties (cf. Kitáb al-Luma‘, p. 10, l. 11 foll.).

254:619 (619) For the distinction between mu‘jizát (miracles of the prophets) and karámát (miracles of the saints) see Kashf al-Ma?júb, p. 218 foll.

254:628 (628) Yearning (ishtiyáq) implies that the object of desire is present (to the mind), though absent (in the body).

255:629 (629) "My way," i.e. the way of real oneness with God. "In virtue my name," i.e. the prophets manifested in their miracles the potency of the Divine Names, as Jesus, for example, called the dead to life by manifesting the Divine Name al-Mu?yí, the Quickener. "My argument," i.e. evidentiary miracles.

255:630 (630) Cf. note on vv. 615-6.

255:631 (631) Metaphysically, Mohammed is the father of Adam in the sense that the spirit or essence of Adam is Universal Spirit = the Logos = Mohammed.

255:637 (637) "This matter," i.e. prophecy and saintship.

255:638 (638) Cf. the Tradition in which it is related that God said to Mohammed, "But for thee I had not created the heavens." As the created universe is the form of the Logos, so is Divine contemplation an attribute of the same Supreme Spirit (al-Rú?u ’l-a‘?am), whence all human spirits derive their powers. The "covenants" have been explained above.

255:643 (643-5) These verses describe the self-manifestation of the Logos to the senses in the phenomenal world (‘álamu ’l-shaháda), to the intellect in the intelligible world (‘álamu ’l-ghayb), and to the spirit in the world of mystical contemplation, which the intellect is unable to reach (‘álamu ’l-malakút and ‘álamu ’l-jabarút: cf. p. 251).

256:646 (646-7) "Expansion" (bas?) and "contraction" (qab?) are modes of feeling in the gnostic which correspond to "hope" (rajá) and "fear" (khawf) in the lower stages of the mystical life: cf. R. Hartmann, Al-?uschairîs Darstellung des ?ûfîtums, p. 84. Bas? is the effect of Divine mercy, qab? of Divine wrath. Cf. Kor. 2, 246: .

256:648 (648) "A nearness," i.e. a negation of farness (difference) in the ground of Pure Being. Distinction first appears when the Essence manifests itself through its Names and Attributes.

256:649 (649) In the sphere of the Essence there is no "in," i.e. limitation of space and time. "The perfection of my nature" denotes the inherent self-identity (jam‘) in virtue of which the Essence eternally contemplates itself in and by itself as the One in Many and the Many in the One.

256:651 (651) I.e. do not seek me in the phenomenal world, where my attributes appear to be separated from the underlying reality.

257:656 (656-8) The following passage should be compared with vv. 239-85 and vv. 525-48 supra. The metaphor of "disguise" (labs: cf. note on vv. 284-5) shadows forth the oneness of reality and appearance. In ?arírí's Maqámát (see my Literary History of the Arabs, pp. 329-336) the hero, Abú Zayd, a native of Sarúj in Mesopotamia, assumes all sorts of disguises to get money from his dupes. "In whatever form and shape," e.g. in the eye or the ear and in sight or hearing. "For the soul labours not in earnest," i.e. "if any one objects that ?arírí's fiction does not correspond with the nature of Reality, p. 258 I reply that my analogy is perfectly just, inasmuch as the soul creates and maintains the illusion of phenomenal existence." Cf. v. 67.7, where phenomena are described as the playthings of a soul in earnest, and also v. 709.

257:1 p. 257 See v. 277 foll.

257:2 Tarjumán al-ashwáq, p. 68.

258:659 (659) "Doing justice to thy soul," i.e. recognising that all bodily activities are effects (áthár) of the soul.

258:668 (668) The body is the theatre in which humanity (human nature) is exhibited.

258:669 (669-71) In dreams the soul knows itself as it was in the state of preexistence, i.e. as one with the Being which is the subject and object of all p. 259 knowledge, and which, quâ Universal Spirit (the father) eternally begets in itself, quâ Universal Soul (the mother), the ideal, i.e. non-externalised, essences of individual things. Cf. Kor. 2, 29: "And He (Allah) taught Adam the Names, all of them." See also p. 186, note 4, and v. 631 supra.

259:672 (672) "Become naked" (tajarradat): so Plato speaks of ? ψυχ? γυνμν? το? σ?ματος.

259:673 (673) Cf. a passage of the Masnaví quoted and translated in Selected Poems from the Díváni Shamsi Tabríz, p. 298 fol.

260:677 (677-9) "The phenomenal is a bridge to the real" (al-majáz qan?aratu ’l-?aqíqa). Cf. Tarjumán al-ashwáq, p. 100: "In the survival of the substance of phenomenal being the Divine Presence and its lovely Names are manifested, and this is the beauty of phenomenal being; if it perished, thou wouldst not know aught, since all kinds of knowledge are divulged by means of forms and bodies."



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