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The Tarjuman al-Ashwaq, by Ibn al-Arabi, tr. Reynold A. Nicholson, [1911], at


1. My lovesickness is from her of the lovesick eyelids: console me by the mention of her, console me

2. The grey doves fluttered in the meadows and wailed: the grief of these doves is from that which grieved me.

3. May my father be the ransom of a tender playful girl, one of the maidens guarded in howdahs, advancing swayingly among the married women!

4. She rose, plain to see, like a sun, and when she vanished she shone in the horizon of my heart.

5. O ruined abodes at Ráma! How many fair damsels with swelling breasts have they beheld!

6. May my father and I myself be the ransom of a God-nurtured gazelle which pastures between my ribs in safety!

7. The fire thereof in that place is light: thus is the light the quencher of the fires.

8. O my two friends, bend my reins aside that I may see the form of her abode with clear vision.

9. And when ye reach the abode, descend, and there, my two companions, weep for me,

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10. And stop with me a little while at the ruins, that we may endeavour to weep, nay, that I may weep indeed because of that which befell me.

11. Passion shoots me without arrows, passion slays me without a spear.

12. Tell me, will ye weep with me when I weep beside her? Help me, oh help me to weep!

13. And rehearse to me the tale of Hind and Lubná and Sulaymá and Zaynab and ‘Inán!

14. Then tell me further of Ḥájir and Zarúd, give me news of the pastures of the gazelles!

15. And mourn for me with the poetry of Qays and Lubná, and with Mayya and the afflicted Ghaylán!

16. Long have I yearned for a tender maiden, endowed with prose and verse, having a pulpit, eloquent,

17. One of the princesses from the land of Persia, front the most glorious of cities, from Isfahan.

18. She is the daughter of ‘Iráq, the daughter of my Imám, and I am her opposite, a child of Yemen.

19. O my lords, have ye seen or heard that two opposites are ever united?

20. Had you seen us at Ráma proffering each other cups of passion without fingers,

21. Whilst passion caused sweet and joyous words to be uttered between us without a tongue,

22. You would have seen a state in which the understanding disappears—Yemen and ‘Iráq embracing together.

23. Falsely spoke the poet 1 who said before my time (and he has pelted me with the stones of his understanding),

24. 'O thou who givest the Pleiades in marriage to Suhayl, God bless thee! how should they meet?

25. The Pleiades are in the north whenever they rise, and Suhayl whenever he rises is in the south.'

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1. 'Her of the lovesick eyelids': he means the Presence desired by gnostics. Although she is too sublime to be known and loved, she inclines towards them in mercy and kindness and descends into their hearts by a sort of manifestation.

'Console me by the mention of her': there is no cure for his malady but remembrance (###). He says 'Console me' twice, i.e. by my remembrance of God and by God's remembrance of me (cf. Kor. ii, 147).

2. 'The grey doves,' i.e. the spirits of the intermediate world.

'And wailed,' because their souls cannot join the spirits which have been released from imprisonment in this earthly body.

3. 'A tender playful girl,' i.e. a form of Divine wisdom, essential and holy, which fills the heart with joy.

One of the maidens guarded in howdahs': she is a virgin, because none has ever known her before; she was veiled in modesty and jealousy during all her journey from the Divine Presence to the heart of this gnostic.

'The married women,' i.e. the forms of Divine wisdom already realized by gnostics who preceded him.

4. 'And when she vanished,' etc., i.e. when she set in the world of evidence (###) she rose in the world of the Unseen (###).

5. 'O ruined abodes,' i.e. the bodily faculties.

'At Ráma,' from (###) (he sought), implying that their search is vain.

'How many fair damsels,' etc., i.e. subtle and Divine forms by which the bodily faculties were annihilated.

7. The natural fires are extinguished by the heavenly light in his heart.

8. 'The form of her abode,' i.e. the Presence from which she issued forth. He seems to desire the station of Divine contemplation, since wisdom is not desired except for the lake of that to which it leads.

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9. 'Weep for me,' because this Presence annihilates everyone who attains unto her and beholds her.

10. 'That I may weep,' etc., i.e. for the loss of the loved ones and of everything except the ruins of their abode.

11. 'Without arrows,' i.e. from a distance. He refers to the state called ###.

'Without a spear,' i.e. near at hand. He refers to the state called ###.

13. Hind was the mistress of Bishr, and Lubná of Qays b. adh-Dharíḥ; ‘Inán was a slave-girl belonging to an-Náṭifí; Zaynab was one of the mistresses of ‘Umar b. Abí Rabí‘a; Sulaymá was a slave-girl whom the author had seen: he says that she had a lover. He interprets the names of all these women mystically, e.g. Hind is explained as an allusion to the Fall of Adam, and Zaynab as signifying removal from the station of saintship to that of prophecy.

16. He describes this essential knowledge (###) as endowed with prose and verse, i.e. absolute in respect of her essence, but limited in respect of possession (###).

'A pulpit,' i.e. the ladder of the Most Beautiful Names. To climb this ladder is to be invested with the qualities of these Names.

'Eloquent,' referring to the station of Apostleship.

The author adds: 'I allude enigmatically to the various kinds of mystical knowledge which are under the veil of an-Niẓám, the maiden daughter of our Shaykh.'

17. 'One of the princesses,' on account of her asceticism, for ascetics are the kings of the earth.

18. '‘Iráq' indicates origin, i.e. this knowledge comes of a noble race.

'A child of Yemen,' i.e. in respect of faith (###) and wisdom and the breath of the Merciful (###) and tenderness of heart. These qualities are the opposite of what is attributed to ‘Iráq, viz. rudeness and severity and infidelity; whereas the opposite of ‘Iráq itself is not Yemen,

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but the Maghrib, and the opposite of Yemen itself is not ‘Iráq, but Syria. The antithesis here is between the qualities of the Beloved and those of the lover.

19. 'Two opposites,' referring to the story of Junayd, when a man sneezed in his presence and said, 'God be praised!' (Kor. i, 1). Junayd said, completing the verse, 'Who is the Lord of created beings.' The man replied, 'And who is the created being, that he should be mentioned in the same breath with God?' 'O my brother,' said Junayd, 'the phenomenal, when it is joined to the Eternal, vanishes and leaves no trace behind. When He is there, thou art not, and if thou art there, He is not.'

22. 'Yemen and ‘Iráq,' etc., i.e. the identification (###) of the qualities of Wrath and Mercy. He refers to the saying of Abú Sa‘íd al-Kharráz, who on being asked how he knew God, answered, 'By His uniting two opposites, for He is the First and the Last and the Outward and the Inward' (Kor. lvii, 3).

24. 'The Pleiades,' i.e. the seven attributes demonstrated by scholastic philosophers.

'Suhayl,' i.e. the Divine Essence.

25. 'In the north,' i.e. in the world of phenomena. The Divine attributes are manifested in Creation, but the Divine Essence does not enter into Creation.


87:1 ‘Umar b. Abí Rabí‘a, ed. by Schwarz, vol. ii, p. 247, No. 439.

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