The Sun

Mawlana Rumi points to his ‘sun’ when saying:

Shams al-haqq Tabrizi ay mashreq-e-to jaanhaa
Az taabesh-to baayad in shams haraarat raa

O, sun of the truth from Tabriz: souls come from your orient.
Our sun gets its warmth from your illumination!

Queen Alexandra has chosen the following motto for the sundial at Sandringham

Let others tell of storms and showers,
I’ll only count your sunny hours

Some people may object to this motto, because they say that it is also important to pay attention to darkness and the shadow side of your personality. There are others who however claim that light drives away darkness. There is a sundial, which has as its motto:

Begone, time flies, walk in Light.

A balanced view, i.e. paying attention to shadow as well as to light, is probably to be preferred. The following first two mottoes of a sundial show a one-sided view, while the third balances the two aspects:

– Come light visit me.

– Our days decline like a shadow.

– The sun on me
Doth shadow throw
What shall this day
Thy morrow show.

The sun (Shams or Khorshid) often appears in Mawlana Rumi’s poetry. He describes meeting his murshid Shamsuddin thus:

As the sun moving clouds behind him run,
All hearts attend you, O Tabrizi’s sun.

Hazrat Shamsuddin of Tabriz is the locus of manifestation of the Divine Beloved. The Beloved thus says:

Shams-al-Haqq jahaanam ma’shuq-e-‘asheqaanam
Har dam buwad be-pisham jaan o ruwaan rawaana

I am the sun of the Truth of the world and the Beloved of lovers,
Soul and spirit are continually in motion before Me.

The created sun is a symbol of the Divine majesty and glory. Mawlana Rumi combines in his poetry this age-old symbol with his very real love for his murshid. Annemarie Schimmel states: “Whenever we find in his poetry allusions to the sun we may be sure that he, consciously or unconsciously, thought of Shamsuddin whose light changed his life so completely”.

The meeting with his murshid was the one decisive moment in Mawlana Rumi’s life. Hazrat Shamsuddin is “the Sun of ma’aaref (gnostic knowledge) in the foreplace of inner meaning, and he is, like real sunlight, separate from everything and yet miraculously connected with everything.”

Whatever the sun means – the Divine Light, the Prophet who guides his people, the Perfect Man, the Spiritual Beloved – it is, no doubt his central symbol.

Let’s return to a sundial – a sundial of course also points to the sun – although John Greenleaf Whittier appears to point to the light of God’s love, the light coming from ‘above’ in the motto he has written for a sundial:

With warning hand I mark time’s rapid flight
From life’s glad morning to its solemn night.
Yet through the dear God’s love I also show,
There’s a light above me by the shadow below.

Another sundial motto clearly points to the sun of the sun of the sun:

I seek my light from God.

Because we know there is a Sun behind the sun, we’ll be able to understand what a Sufi has made clear:

The sun of the day sets by night,
But the sun of the heart is never absent.

The same teaching also returns in this quatrain of shaykh Fariduddin ‘Attar:

Sar gashta tost no falak midaani
Gerd dar-e-to gashta be-sar gardaani
To khurshidi wali miyaan jaani
Khurshid ke didast be-din penhaani

You know that the nine heavens are wandering for You.
Bewildered, they are turning around the door of You.
You are the sun, but can be found in the centre of the soul.
Who has seen such a sun hidden inside of you?

This is the motto on the sundial belonging to the late G.F. Watts, R.A., at his residence, Limnerslease, Compton:

The utmost for the Highest.

The following sundial motto appears to echo a teaching of shaykh Abu Sa’id Abi’l-Khair:

Injure no man.

This sundial motto is one the Chishtis will love:

I serve.

This is another sundial motto:

I move forward.

You may have seen the movie ‘The Alchemist of Happiness’ wherein imam al-Ghazzali by means of a sundial gives us a practical demonstration of movement and constant change.

This can be read as well in following sundial motto:

The hours fly fast on wings of light.

And this one:

I give men warning how the hours fly,
For men are shadows and a shadow I.


Time’s a torrent’s rapid stream.
Time’s a shadow – time’s a dream.
Time’s the closing watch of night.
Dying at the rising light.
Time’s a bubble on time’s sea:
Use time well while time’s with thee.

Here is a final sundial motto: