The Crown of Alexander

And they ask you questions about Dhu’l-Qarnain. Say: ‘I’ll recite to you a remembrance of him’. Sikandar Rumi often was lonely, but not alone. Friendship was very valuable to him, but, as it is with everyone, he had few friends. Once he received a letter wherein he was told that one of his best friends, his personal physician was poisoning him. He received this letter at the same time that this very friend offered him something to drink. He showed the letter to his friend, while immediately drinking from the cup offered by his friend. Was not this to express a resolution, that if his friends had a mind to send him out of the world, he was willing to…

Diwaan-e-Mo’in: Ghazal 14

‘Eshqat del o jaanam raa taa kard jodaa az man Jaan o del-e-man digar na-shenaakht toraa az man Your love has separated my heart and soul from myself. My heart and soul cannot see the difference between You and myself. Bar sham’e-jamaal-e-to parwaana sefat gashtam Yak sho’la padid aamad be-setaand maraa az man I have become like a butterfly because of the candle of Your beauty. One clear ray of light separated me from myself. Shab taa be-sahar hastam andar hormat-e-mahram Chun ruz shawad poshi rokhsaar cheraa az man From nightfall till morning I have been Your intimate companion, But now that the day has dawned, why is Your face hidden from myself? Har chand ke waa gashtam u dar…

Diwaan-e-Mo’in: Ghazal 17

Man sharaab-e-‘eshq raa paymaana am ay ‘aasheqaan Aan pari raa didam o diwaana am ay ‘aasheqaan O, lovers! I am like a goblet fit for the wine of love. O, lovers! I’ve seen that fairy and now I am intoxicated. Zaan fosun kaan lab ba-gusham khaand dar ruz-e-azal Dar zabaanhaa taa abad aafsaana am ay ‘aasheqaan Because of the fascinating recitation in my ears during pre-eternity, My tale will be told in every language till post-eternity, O, lovers! Goftamash ba-namaai rukh goftaa ke didaar-e-maraa Dida baayad war na man penhaan na am ay ‘aasheqaan I asked Him to reveal His face; He replied: ‘In order to see Me You need vision, otherwise I am hidden and not there, O, lovers!’…

The greengrocer’s son and other Sufi tales

Here are a few stories about shaykh ‘Omar Ibn al-Farid. The greengrocer’s son The Egyptian shaykh ‘Omar Ibn al-Farid made a study of ahadith, the traditions of Islam, as well as of adab (belles lettres). By means of ascetic practices he tried to experience spiritual enlightenment, but he was not successful. One day he passed by a law school where he saw an old man, a greengrocer (‘attaar), doing ablutions in a wrong way. Somewhat proud of his knowledge, his piety and his ascetic temperament shaykh ‘Omar Ibn al-Farid criticized the behaviour of this greengrocer. The greengrocer then looked at him and addressed him to his surprise by name: “O, ‘Omar! You will not be enlightened in Egypt. You will…

Self-mastery

The secret of the cook is not to lose your self when you search for yourself. Shaykh Yahya Suhrawardî wrote a quatrain about the right kind of orientation: Hân tâ sar rishta-yi-khud gum nakunîKud râ barâ-yi nîk wa bad gum nakunîRah-raw tuî wa râ tuî manzil tuHushdâr ki râh-i-khud be khud gum nakuni Take care not to lose sight of the origin of your self,Lest, for the sake of good and bad, you lose your self.The traveller, the road and the destination, you are yourself.Take care not to lose the road to your self!   There is another version of the first line, mentioning rishta-yi-khirad [instead of rishta-yi-khud], and this can be translated as ‘the thread of wisdom’ or ‘the thread of the intellect’. What causes us to lose self-mastery?…

Original Nature (Fitra)

It is said that spirituality is returning to your original nature. This original nature is composed, according to some of the Sufis, of four cardinal virtues: 1. Purity 2. Humility 3. Magnanimity 4. Justice There is an intellectual way and a practical way to acquire these virtues. As for the intellectual regulation, it is required because nature obeys the intellectual faculties. The second way, the practical one has as most important thing the choosing of those attitudes, acts and things which remind the soul of the desired qualities and alert it to them. There are three main veils preventing the manifestation of one’s sound original nature: 1. The veil of nature 2. The veil of convention 3. The veil of…

Repeating the name of God

In the circle of Nizamuddin Awliya, who was, as you may know, a very prominent member of the Chishti order, someone told about a certain sufi who expired while slowly repeating the name of God. Nizamuddin Awliya was visibly moved by this story and then recited the following rubai: Âyam be sar-e-kûye to pûyân pûyân Rukhsâr be âb-e-dîde shûyân shûyân Bîchâre rah-e wasl-e to jûyân jûyân Jân mîdeham o nâm-e to gûyân gûyân. I came to the end of Your street, running, running. Tears came down my cheek, washing, washing. Union with You, I am helplessly seeking, seeking. My soul I surrender while Your name I am reciting, reciting. These lines have been recited by Nizamuddin Awliya (d. 1325 C.E.)….

Mr Boulard

Mr. Boulard collected books and he did so with passion. When he expired on the 6th of May in 1825 he left about six hundred thousand books. Their sale caused a sharp decline in the price of books. For a couple of years second-hand books only got half their normal prices in Paris. Mr. Boulard has been very ill a few years before his death. It was because of his wife forbidding him to buy more books. His condition quickly deteriorated, he had to stay in bed all the time and he was very depressed. One day Mrs. Boulard opened the window in the bedroom of the patient and a little later a voice was heard of a man who…

A complete ghazal by Khwaja Hafez

To put this dervish coat in pledge for wine is better. And to drown this meaningless book into pure wine is better. Because I look back at my wasted life, To fall down drunk in the corner of the tavern is better. Because thinking about what is prudent is far from the dervish way, To have a breast full of fire and an eye full of tears is better. I shall not tell the people about the state of the heart of the ascetic, But if I should tell it, to tell this story with a harp and a violin is better. As long as the motions of the heavenly spheres have neither head nor tail, To desire for the…

The Mirror

The mirror had stood in the Shaykh’s room longer than anyone in the khaneqah could remember. It even pre-dated the memory of the oldest Sufi, and he was rumored to be at least 122 years of age. Over six feet tall the long oval mirror towered over the low couch, dwarfing the contents of the room. Its base was a marvel of intricately carved ebony depicting a lion chasing – and about to catch – a gazelle. The claws, hooves and eyes of the animals were set with Persian turquoise and moonstones, and a finely chased gold inlay picked out an inscription in Arabic that began: “He who chases the gazelle…,” the ending of which could not be seen as…