Studies in Islamic Mysticism

Masonic, Occult and Esoteric Online Library

Studies in Islamic Mysticism

By Reynold A. Nicholson

vv. 707-761

(707 707) Even thus (like the showman) I was letting down between me and myself the curtain that obscures the soul in the light of darkness,

(708) That in producing my actions at intervals I might appear to my sensation gradually, thereby accustoming it (and preparing it for complete illumination).

(709) I joined the play (illusion) thereof to my work (reality), in order to bring near to thy understanding the ends of my far-off purposes.

(710) Although his (the showman's) case is not (essentially) like mine, there is a resemblance between us in regard to the two forms of manifestation:

(711) His figures (puppets) were the forms in which, with the aid of a screen, he displayed his action: they became naught and withdrew when he revealed himself;

(712 712) And my soul resembles him in action, for my sensation is like the figures (puppets), and the (bodily) vesture is my screen.

(713 713) When I removed the screen from me, as he removed it (from him), so that my soul appeared to me without any veiling

(714) And already the sun of contemplation had risen, and all existence was illumined, and through myself the knots of the tethering-rope (of sense-perception) were untied

(715) I slew the youth, my soul, while on the one hand I was setting up the wall (of consciousness) to safeguard my laws and on the other staving in my (bodily) boat,

(716 716) And turned to shed my replenishing grace over every created being according to my actions at every time;

(717 717) And were I not veiled by my attributes, the objects in which I manifest myself would be consumed by the splendour of my glory.

Once the illusion of selfhood is destroyed, nothing remains but "the Master of the Show," the one real person in the drama

Which, for the Pastime of Eternity,
He doth Himself contrive, enact, behold.
(718) The tongues of all beings, wilt thou but hearken, bear eloquent witness to my unity.

(719 719) And touching my oneness (itti?ád) there hath come down a sure Tradition, whose transmission by (oral) relation (from the Prophet) is not infirm,

(720) Declaring that God loves (His creatures) after they draw nigh unto Him by voluntary works of devotion or by the observance of that which is obligatory;

(721) And the point that the doctrine bids us mark is made as clear as the light of noon by the words " I am to him an ear."

(722 722) I used the (religious and devotional) means to reach unification until I found it (unification), and the agency of the means was one of my guides (thereto);

(723 723) And I unified in respect of the means until I lost them, and the link of (this) unification was the way of approach (to unity) that availed me best;

(724 724) And I stripped my soul of them both, and she became single (detached from the world of relations)—yet had she never at any time been other than single (in her real nature);

(725) And I dived into the seas of union, nay, I plunged into them in my aloneness and brought out many a peerless pearl,

(726 726) That I might hear mine acts with a seeing ear and behold my words with a hearing eye.

(727) So if the nightingale lament in the grove, whilst the birds in every tree warble a response to her,

(728) And if the flute-player make music in accord with the strings touched by the hand of a singing-girl

(729 729) Who chants tender poetry, so that the souls (of the hearers) mount to their Paradisal lote-tree at each trill—

(730) I take delight in the effects of mine own art, and I ever declare my union and society to be free from partnership with others.

It follows from the doctrine of itti?ád that all forms of worship are essentially divine. Even dualism and polytheism represent certain aspects in which God expresses Himself. This passage (vv. 73 I-49) should be compared with the views set forth by Ibnu ’l-‘Arabí and Jílí (see pp. 130 foll. and 157 foll.).

(731 731) Through me the assembly of them that praise my name is (attentive like) the ear of one reading (a book), and for my sake the wine-seller's shop is (open like) the eye of a scout;

(732 732) And virtually no hand but mine tied the infidels’ girdle; and if it be loosed in acknowledgement of me, ’twas my hand that loosed it.

(733) And if the niche of a mosque is illuminated by the Koran, yet is no altar of a church made vain by the Gospel;

(734) Nor vain are the books of the Torah revealed to Moses for his people, whereby the Rabbis converse with God every night.

(735) And if a devotee fall down before the stones in an idol-temple, there is no reason for religious zeal to take offence;

(736) For many a one who is clear of the shame of associating others with God by means of idolatry is in spirit a worshipper of money.

(737 737) The warning from me hath reached those whom it sought, and I am the cause of the excuses put forward in every faith.

(738 738) Not in any religion have men's eyes been awry, not in any sect have their thoughts been perverse.

(739) They that heedlessly fell in love with the sun lost not the way, forasmuch as its brightness is from the light of my unveiled splendour;

(740 740) And if the Magians adored the Fire—which, as history tells, was not quenched for a thousand years

(741) They intended none but me, although they took another direction and did not declare the purpose they had formed.

(742) They had once seen the radiance of my light and deemed it a fire, so that they were led away from the true light by the rays.

(743 743) And but for the screen of existence, I should have said it out: only my observance of the laws imposed on phenomena doth keep me silent.

(744 744) So this is no aimless sport, nor were the creatures created to stray at random, albeit their actions are not right.

(745 745) Their affairs take a course according to the brand of the Names; and the wisdom which endowed the Essence with (diverse) attributes caused them to take that course in consequence of the Divine decree,

(746 746) Disposing them in two handfuls—"and I care not…and I care not"—one destined for happiness and one for misery.

(747 747) Oh, let the soul know that the case stands thus, or else let her not (seek to) know (at all), for according to this the Koran is recited every morning.

(748 748) And her knowledge arises from herself: ’twas she that dictated to my senses what I hoped (of mystic knowledge).

(749 749) Had I singled, I should have swerved (from the truth) and been stripped of the signs of my union (jam‘) through associating my handiwork (as an equal partner) with myself.

Protesting that he is not to be blamed for having divulged the sublime mysteries with which the grace of God illuminated him, the poet bids his disciple farewell. Let him follow in his master's footsteps and be one with the Essence, even as he is one.

(759 759) In the world of reminiscence the soul hath her ancient knowledge—my disciples beg it of me as a boon.

(760) Do thou, therefore, make haste to enjoy my eternal union, in virtue of which I found the full-grown men of the tribe (of ?úfís no wiser than) little babes.

(761) For my contemporaries drink only the dregs of what I left; and as for those before me, their (vaunted) merits are my superfluity.

260:707 (707) The body is dark, inasmuch as it belongs to the world of appearance, but also light, in so far as knowledge of reality first comes to the soul through sense-perception. Regarded as faculties of the soul, the senses are capable of receiving gradual illumination.

261:712 (712) The soul acts on the senses through a corporeal medium in the same way as the showman uses a screen in order to act on his puppets.

261:713 (713-5) These lines describe the states of faná and baqá—the lifting of the bodily veil and the consequent union with reality—which are here indicated by means of metaphors strange to us but easy for any Moslem to understand, since they refer to a famous passage in the Koran (18, 64-81). "I slew the youth, my soul," i.e. I died to self (faná). "While…I was setting up the wall…to safeguard my laws," i.e. my living (baqá) in and through God was accompanied by the maintenance of the religious law. The perfect mystic, after having "staved in his boat," i.e. having destroyed his individual existence, nevertheless in his unitive state "makes the Law his upper garment and the Path his inner garment": cf. The Mystics of Islam, p. 163.

261:716 (716) The unified soul is one with the eternal source of energy whence the existence of phenomena is diffused and perpetually renewed. Imdád in this verse has its usual meaning: see vv. 403-4.

261:717 (717) A paraphrase of the celebrated Tradition concerning the 70,000 veils of light and darkness which hide the face of Allah.

262:719 (719) The poet refers to another and equally apocryphal ?adíth (see p. 5 supra), the gist of which lies in the statement that those whom God loves are one with Him, so that He is their organ of sight, hearing, and speech.

262:722 (722) Although the mystic at the beginning of his unification values devotional exercises as a means of attaining to union with God, he ultimately comes to know that the attainment of union does not depend on secondary causes, which are non-existent in reality, or on any act that he may ascribe to himself. Cf. Kashf al-Ma?júb, p. 202 foll.; The Mystics of Islam, p.74 foll.

262:723 (723) "I unified in respect of the means," i.e. I perceived that God is the real agent in every act.

262:724 (724) "I stripped my soul of them both," i.e. both of my regard for the means themselves (v. 722) and of my regard for my unification of them (v. 723). Even in the latter there is still a remnant of dualism, inasmuch as the unification is attributed to the individual self.

263:726 (726) In union (jam‘) each attribute is identical with every other attribute and with the Essence.

263:729 (729) The words "mount to their Paradisal lote-tree" depict the highest rapture of which the soul is capable, as the sidratu ’l-muntaná (Koran, 53, 54) marks the boundary of the seventh heaven, and neither prophet nor angel may pass beyond it.

263:731 (731) "The assembly of them that praise my name" alludes to ?úfís who meet together for the purpose of dhikr (see The Mystics of Islam, p. 45 foll.). Every student of Persian mystical poetry knows what is meant by "the wine-seller's shop": others may consult the Gulshani Ráz of Ma?múd Shabistarí, ed. by E. H. Whinfield, p. 78 foll. of the English translation.

263:732 (732) Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians under Mohammedan rule wore a girdle round the waist to distinguish them from the Faithful; hence their "loosing" it would be a sign of their conversion to Islam.

264:737 (737) Those who disobeyed the Divine message delivered by the prophets are to be excused on the ground that God did not create in them the spiritual capacity which would have enabled them to understand and obey.

264:738 (738) God in one aspect or another is the real object of every religious belief.

264:740 (740) The extinction of the sacred Fire of the Persians, after it had burned unceasingly for a thousand years, is recorded amongst the portents that occurred on the night of the Prophet's birth (a.d. 572-3).

264:743 (743) "Were it not that I appear under the form of externality, as a creature dependent on the Divine will and subject to the Divine law, I should have said plainly that nothing exists in reality except One Being, who manifests Himself in every thought and action."

264:744 (744) The language of this verse is borrowed from Kor. 23, 117: "Did ye think that We created you in idle sport?" and 75, 36: "Doth man think he shall be left uncontrolled?" The existence of evil, i.e. relative imperfection, follows by necessity from the self-manifestation of the Absolute. See pp. 85, 93, 131.

265:745 (745) Good and evil, salvation and perdition, are effects determined by the Divine Names, e.g. al-Hádí (He that guides aright), al-Mu?ill (He that leads astray), and by the Divine Attributes, e.g. i‘záz (exaltare humiles) and idhlál (deponere potentes).

265:746 (746) Ibnu ’l-Fári? refers to the Tradition that when God created Adam, He drew forth his posterity from his loins in two handfuls, one white as silver and one black as coal, and said, "These are in Paradise and I care not; and these are in Hell-fire and I care not."

265:747 (747) "For according to this," e.g. in Kor. 16, 95: "Allah misguides whomso He pleaseth and leads aright whomso He pleaseth."

265:748 (748) Cf. v. 671 and vv. 675-6.

265:749 (749) "Had I singled," i.e. if I had limited the action of the soul by singling out and assigning to her the attributes of beauty (which are the source of good), while I deprived her of the attributes of majesty and awe (which are the source of evil), then I should have set up beside her a rival Being in whom these latter attributes and the effects proceeding from them must, ex hypothesi, subsist.

265:759 (759) This is the Platonic doctrine of ?ν?μνησις. In dreams and in moments of ecstasy the soul recovers the knowledge of true being which is hidden from her during her bodily existence. Cf. vv. 428-9 and 664 foll.



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.