Recently we have discovered a marvellous illustration to the topics touched upon in the epoch-making program The Meaning of Life: Immortality, where Bodhisattva Rigden Djappo participated. It’s the ancient literature masterpiece dating back almost 1,000 years – the brilliant Poem of the Sufi Way (Naẓm al-Sulūk) by ancient Arab Sufi mystic and scholar Umar ibn `Alī ibn al-Fārid who lived in 1181-1235. This work, also having such titles as the Great Qasida (Ode), Great Mystery, Poem of the Way, Poem of Progress, or the Way of the Pious, is a unique phenomenon in the world poetry, psychology and spiritual literature. The author poetically communicates experience of a man who is becoming saint, describing in human language what is almost impossible to describe, i.e. the process taking place in the other world, the spiritual world, at the junction of the 6th and 7th dimensions. It’s exactly the process of the Personality fusion with the Soul and the birth of a new spiritual being – an Angel!
There are many translated versions of the poem in different languages, including several in English, though translation of this work is known for its difficulty.
Herein, we present a translation of the original Arabic text into English verse, made by the respected British orientalist Arthur John Arberry. Below there are several bright extracts, and thereafter we will give a link to the webpage where the entire poem and translator’s comments may be downloaded.
The Poem of the Way
The pupil of mine eye stretched forth its hand
To grasp my bowl (her matchless countenance
Transcending mortal beauty) and therefrom
Poured me the fever and the flame of love,
While with my glance I gave my friends to think
Draining their juice it was that filled my soul
(And I intoxicated) with deep joy;
Yet having eyes to drink, I could dispense
With that my goblet, since her qualities
And not my wine inebriated me.
So in the tavern of my drunkenness
The hour was ripe that I should render thanks
To those the lads by whose conspiracy
My passion could be perfectly concealed
For all my notoriety. But when
My sober mood was ended, boldly I
Requested union with her, being now
No more inhibited by clutching fear
But wholly unrestrained in love’s expanse;
And privily, as when a bride unveils
Before her bridegroom, I disclosed to her
All my heart’s story, having none to share
And spy upon my joy, no lingering trace
Even of self-regard. So, while my state
Attested my torn passion, as between
Annihilation in discovery
Of her my love, and re-establishment
Shocked by the loss of her, I pleaded thus:
‘Give me, ere love annul in me at last
Poor relic of myself, wherewith to look
Upon thee – give me but one fleeting glance
As turning casually upon thy way!
Or if thou willest not that I should gaze
At thee, grant to mine ear the blessed grace
Of that Thou shalt not wherein ere my time
Another once rejoice; for I have need
Imperious, in my spirit’s drunkenness,
Of that twice sobering, by which my heart
Except for passion were not fragmented –
And if the mountains, and great Sinai
Itself among them, had been made to bear
The burden of my anguish, even ere
The revelation of God’s splendour flashed
They had been shattered – passion tear-betrayed,
Ardour augmenting those the inward flames
Whose sick-bed fevers made an end of me…
* * *
So I have come to hope what other men
Shrink from in fear: succour therewith the soul
Of a dead man prepared for endless life!
Now let me be her ransom, by whose grace
I did aspire to love, treading the path
Of them who went before me, and refused
All laws of life but mine. In every tribe
How many fell her victims, slain by grief,
Who never won upon a single day
Even one glance at her! How many men
Like me she slew of passion, and had she
Gazed in compassion on them, every one
Had stood revived! Now if she make my blood
Lawful to shed, and that I loved her well,
Upon the heights of exaltation, yea
The pinnacles of honour she hath set
My rank secure forever. By my life,
If I do lose my life in loving her
I win the bargain; if she waste my heart
Yet shall she after heal it whole again.
I was humiliated in the tribe
Through her, until I found myself, in their
Esteem, too mean-aspiring to attain
The least worth striving; my subservience
To them debased me to obscurity
Matching my feebleness, so that they deemed
Me too contemptible to serve their will.
So I have fallen, after all my pride,
Down from the heights of glory to the deeps
Of degradation; lost my self-respect,
Men no more press my gate, nor put their hopes
In my authority; no neighbour comes
To me for shelter from the world’s despite.
It is as if I had been never held
In honour by my fellows, but was still
Despised, alike in hardship and in case.
Had any asked, “Whom lovest thou?” and I
Boldly declared her name, they would have said,
‘He means another, surely’, or ‘Poor man,
A demon madness hath assailed his brain!’
* * *
Behold, the faithful archangel, when first
Our Prophet’s inspirations came on him,
Came to our Prophet in the fleshly form
Of Dihya: tell me then, was Gabriel
This Dihya, when he manifested thus
To our true Guide to guidance? That he knew
Beyond contention the identity
Of his he saw, proveth superior
His consciousness to theirs who stood him by.
He saw an angel that revealed to him;
The others saw a man, full reverend
As one who kept the Prophet’s company.
In the more perfect of these visions twain
I have an indication, which acquits
Of all pretences incarnationist
My simple creed. ‘This not to be denied
The Scripture speaks of covering, and I
Go not beyond the twain authority
Of Holy Book and Apostolic Word.
This much of knowledge I have given thee:
If thou desirest its unveiling, come
See thou my path, and make beginning now
Of following my Law; for Sadda’s fount
Springs from a water whose abounding well
Is found in me; tell not to me the tale
Of some mirage a-shimmer in some waste!
Behold the ocean, wherein I have plunged
While those aforetime halted on its shore
Guarding the locus of my sanctity:
Draw ye not nigh the orphan’s property –
That is a reference to a hand held back
When it was stretched to take it; and none else
Beside me ere attained to aught of it
Except a youth, who never ceased to tread
Upon my steps in hardship or in ease.
Then stray not from the traces of my path,
And fear the cloud that shadows o’er the heart
Who chooses other than myself; strive on
Upon my very road; her friendship’s vale,
O friend of heart serene, runs in the march
Of my command, and enters ‘neath my sway…
* * *
In me the holy vale was sanctified,
Where I bestowed my putting off of shoes
On my companions, an unstinted gift.
And I beheld my beams, and was their guide –
O wondrous soul, that shines upon that light!
I founded firm my Sinais, and there
Prayed to myself, and all my wants fulfilled;
My essence was my interlocutor.
My moon set not; my sun ne’er sank from sight;
By me are guided all the shining stars
Upon their courses; all the planets swim
About my heavens as my will controls
All things I own; my angels prostrate fall
Before my sovereignty. And in the world
Of recollection still the soul doth own
Its ancient knowledge my disciples pray
That I bestow on them. Haste then to my
Eternal union, wherein I have found
The greybeards of the tribe as little babes!
For these my fellows living in my age
Drink but the dregs that I have left; and those
Ahead of me, the merits men in them
Applaud are but my superfluity.
Full text of the poem + translator's notes in PDF: here
Prepared by Julia Matveyeva (Russia)