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


1. In the tamarisk groves of an-Naqá is a flock of qaṭá birds over whom Beauty has pitched a tent,

2. And in the midst of the deserts of Iḍam are camels which graze beside them and gazelles.

3. O my two friends, stop and beg speech of the relics of an abode which has become ruined after them,

4. And mourn for the heart of a youth who left it on the day when they departed, and weep and wail.

5. Perchance it may tell whither they were bound, to the sands of the guarded pasture or to Qubá.

6. They saddled the camels and I knew not whether ’twas from my heedlessness or because mine eye was dull.

7. ’Twas neither that nor this, but ’twas only a frenzy of love which overwhelmed me.

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8. O thoughts that fled and dispersed in pursuit of them like the bands of Sabá!

9. I hailed every wind that blows, crying, 'O North wind O South wind! O East wind!

10. Have ye any knowledge of what I feel? Anguish bath befallen me on account of their departure.'

11. The East wind gave me its news delivered by the gilt plants which received it from the hill-flowers,

12. Saying, 'Whosoever is sick of the malady of passion, let him be diverted by the tales of love.'

13. Then it said, 'O North wind, tell him the like of what I have told him, or something more wonderful.

14. Then do thou, O South wind, relate the like of what I have related to him or something more sweet.'

15. The North wind said, 'I have a joy which the North wind shares with the South wind:

16. Every evil is good in the passion which they inspire, and my torment is sweetened by their approval.'

17. To what end, therefore, and on what ground and for what cause dost thou complain of the sorrow and sickness?

18. And when they promise you aught, you see that its lightning gives a false promise of rain.

19. The Invisible fashioned on the sleeve of the cloud a golden embroidery of the lightning's splendour,

20. And its tears poured from it upon the middle of its cheek-balls and kindled a fierce flame.

21. She is a rose that springs up from tears, a narcissus that sheds a marvellous shower.

22. And when thou wouldst fain gather her, she lets down, to conceal herself, a scorpion-like tress on each side of her temples.

23. The sun rises when she smiles. O Lord, how bright are these bubbles on her teeth!

24. Night appears when she lets fall her black, luxuriant, and tangled hair.

25. The bees compete with one another whenever she spits. O Lord, how sweet is that coolness!

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26. And whenever she bends she shows to us a (fruitful) branch, or when she gazes her looks are drawn swords.

27. How long wilt thou talk amorously at the sand-hill of Ḥájir, O son of al-‘Arabí, to the coy beauties?

28. Am not I an Arab? and therefore I love the fair women and am fond of the coy beauties.

29. I care not whether my passion rises with me or sets, if only she be there.

30. Whenever I say 'Will ye not?' they say, 'Wilt not thou?' and whenever I say, 'May not I?' they say, 'He refuses.'

31. And whenever they go to the upland or to the lowland, I cross the desert in haste to search for them.

32. My heart is the Sámirí of the time: as often as it sees the footprints it seeks the golden one that was turned to gold.

33. And whenever they rise or set, it goes like Dhu ’l-Qarnayn in quest of the means (of reaching them).

34. How oft did we cry out in hope of union! How oft did we cry out in fear of parting!

35. O sons of az-Zawrá, this is a moon that appeared among you and set in me.

36. By God, it is the source of my grief. How often do I exclaim behind it, 'Alas!'

37. Woe is me, woe is me for a youth who, whenever a dove warbles, is made to vanish!


1. 'In the tamarisk groves,' etc., i.e. in the grove of the white hill are sciences which are the offspring of veracity, in reference to the proverb, 'More veracious than the qaṭá:

2. 'The deserts of Iḍam,' i.e. the stations of abstraction and isolation (###).

'Camels,' i.e. sciences with which our souls are familiar.

'Gazelles,' i.e. abstruse sciences.

3. 'O my two friends,' i.e. his understanding and his faith.

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5. 'The sands of the guarded pasture,' referring to the endurance of anguish (###) caused by separation in a station remote from phenomenal being and inaccessible.

'Qubá,' i.e. the station of repose, for the Prophet used to alight there every Sabbath.

6. 'The camels,' i.e. the aspirations on which our hearts ride.

7. '’Twas only a frenzy of love,' etc., i.e. my preoccupation with love for Him veiled me from Himself.

13-14. The East wind bestows on him the knowledge of 'God created Adam after His own image', the South wind bestows on him the knowledge of the companions of the right hand (###, Kor. lvi, 89), and the North wind bestows on him the knowledge of the favourites of God (###, Kor. lvi, 87), which is the station between prophecy and saintship and is attained only by the nonpareils (###), of whom al-Khaḍir is one, as the Koran bears witness. Abú Ḥamid (al-Ghazálí) denies the existence of this station, because he never reached or knew it, and he imagines that those Saints who advance beyond the rank of the ṣiddíqs have fallen into prophecy and have acted irreverently, but such is not the case. The station to which I refer lies between the position of the ṣiddíq and that of the Prophet. It is indicated by the mystery which made an impression on the heart of the greatest ṣiddíq, Abú Bakr (###).

16. When the lover passes away from his own desire, every evil becomes good to him, because it is the will and desire of his Beloved.

18. 'Its lightning gives a false promise of rain': a manifestation of the Essence produces nothing in the heart, inasmuch as it cannot be apprehended or confined by any phenomenal object. In this respect it differs from the manifestation in forms in the world of similitudes, for the seer apprehends the form of that which is manifested to him and interprets it.

19. 'On the sleeve of the cloud,' referring to Kor. ii, 206.

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[paragraph continues] The cloud is the heart which clothes, i.e. contains, God. The sleeve represents the hand which takes the pledge of fealty to Him. The author describes a manifestation of the Essence behind the veil of phenomena, a manifestation due to the fact profoundly realized by a servant of God, that God created Adam in His image.

20. 'And its tears,' etc., i.e. diverse sorts of evidentiary knowledge poured into the gardens of the Divine hearts and produced an overwhelming sense of awe and majesty.

21. 'A narcissus,' i.e. a vision that imparts incomprehensible knowledge.

23. 'The sun rises,' i.e. sciences appear which are connected with the Quṭb and upon which the universe depends.

24. She reveals to the hearts of gnostics mysterious love.

25. When this gnostic feels in himself a Divine realization so that he attains to the station indicated in the Tradition, 'I am his ear and his eye,' his speech becomes pure Truth and absolute Revelation, and the hearts of his disciples receive from him knowledge in the same way as the bees receive honey from God (Kor. xvi, 70).

26. As the winds sway the bough, so the gnostic's aspiration causes God to incline mercifully towards him.

27. 'At the sand-hill of Ḥájir,' i.e. the white hill, well-known to the Ṣúfís, on which it is impossible for anyone to set foot. He says, 'Why dost thou not occupy thyself with making ready for the gifts bestowed by this high station, in order that no thought of "the coy beauties", i.e. contemplation and bewilderment, may occur to thee?'

28. He answers: 'The beauties which I seek are the offspring of the original fiat whence we came forth. I am an Arab (###) and therefore I love the coy beauties (###) , i.e. do not blame me for acting as I am prompted by what in me is original and real.'

29. 'I care not,' etc., i.e. I am not limited by stations and degrees, but only by her, so that wherever she is I am.

30. When I say to the mediums and veils, 'Will you not consider my case with her, that perchance I may win of

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her such delight as other ecstatics have enjoyed?' they answer: 'Wilt not thou consider our faces how they are turned towards thee and veiled from her?' i.e. secondary causes are merely an affliction and probation through which you must pass, but if you remain with them you will receive nothing except what their being can give, and you will be veiled from the object of your desire.

'May not I?' i.e. may not I attain to my Beloved?

'He refuses,' i.e. he excludes those who seek him by means of secondary causes. God is known only by means of God. The scholastic theologian says: 'I know God by that which He created,' and takes as his guide something that has no real relation to the object sought. He who knows God by means of phenomena, knows as much as those phenomena give to him and no more.

31. 'They go to the upland,' i.e. the Divine realities reveal themselves in imaginary bodies as Gabriel appeared in the form of Diḥya.

'To the lowland,' i.e. they reveal themselves, like the spirits of the prophets, in earthly bodies of the intermediate world.

32. 'As often as it sees the footprints,' etc.: cf. Kor. xx, 96. He says: 'There is in me an aspiration with which I revive those whom I regard with favour, and those whose growth is symmetrical, and those whose form is erect (I mean in the earthly pilgrimage), and those whose hearts are prepared to receive the overflowing grace of the spirit; and I breathe into them something of that which I have gained from that footprint, and they are revived thereby and are under my care.' He refers to the class of saints who have renounced the powers of 'control' (###) which God bestowed upon them, for one who abides with the Primal Realities is more perfect in knowledge than one who is veiled by such Divine gifts. Abú Yazíd (al-Bisṭámí) said: 'It is not I whom they are touching, but it is a robe in which God clothed me: how, then, should I hinder them from that which belongs to another?' Whoever sees the

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robe of honour which God conferred on the Black Stone, and knows the stone, will know what I mean. This was the station of Abú Yazíd and of my Shaykh, Abú Madyan.

34. How often did we beg for power over the spiritual states, so that we might rule them without fear of losing them!

35. 'O sons of az-Zawrá': az-Zawrá is a name of Baghdád, which is the residence of the Quṭb in the visible world. The author refers to those who are in the presence of the Quṭb and under his ægis (###).

'A moon,' etc., i.e. an essential manifestation which appeared among you through the existence of the Quṭb, and vanished in me, i.e. it is my inward being and mystery (###). He makes himself to be one of the nonpareils (###).

36. 'Behind it,' although it is within himself, indicating that it is not circumscribed (###), but that it is with him in the category of additionals, as the Prophet said, 'O Lord, let me increase in knowledge.'

37. 'A dove,' i.e. the spirits of the intermediate world, the bearers of the inspiration that comes at the tinkling sound (###) which is like the noise of a chain when it strikes a rock. They cause this heart to vanish, even as they themselves vanish on hearing that sound. Hence the Prophet said that this manner of inspiration was the most grievous to him, and he used to pass away from his senses, and wrap himself until it departed, after he had understood its meaning. A portion of this belongs to his (spiritual) heirs.

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