Sunday, February 6, 2011

Ibn Arabi, Rumi, Attar & Shakespeare


When my Beloved appears
With what eye do I see Him?
With His eye, not with mine,
For none sees Him except Himself.
(Ibn Arabi)

I lost my world, my fame, my mind
The Sun appeared, and all the shadows ran
I ran after them, but vanished as I ran
Light ran after me and hunted me down

How long then will you seek for beauty here?
Seek the unseen, and beauty will appear.
When the last veil is lifted
Neither men nor all their glory will be seen again
The universe will fade - this mighty show
In all its majesty and pomp will go
And those who loved appearances will prove
Each other's enemies and forfeit love
While those who loved the absent, unseen Friend
Will enter that pure love which knows no end

'A lover', said the hoopoe, now their guide
'Is one in whom all thoughts of self have died;'
Those who renounce the self deserve that name;
Righteous or sinful, they are all the same!
Your heart is thwarted by the self's control;
Destroy its hold on you and reach your goal.
Give up this hindrance, give up mortal sight
For only then can you approach the light.
If you are told: "Renounce our Faith", obey!
The self and Faith must both be tossed away;
Blasphemers call such action blasphemy -
Tell them that love exceeds mere piety.
Love has no time for blasphemy or faith,
Nor lovers for the self, that feeble wraith.

Ibn Arabi, Rumi and Attar, as we know are Sufis who write mostly about their Lord, referring to Him as the Beloved, the Sun, the Light and the Friend. They dwell on the Godly Being from their perspectives as a seeker who should give himself up if he truly wish to witness or arrive at the object of the seeking - God.

Ibn Arabi admits that he is not in a position to see his Beloved with his own eyes. While discounting his own existence, he affirms his belief that only Allah has the capacity to witness Himself. This explains the Prophetic hadith Ariftu Rabbi bi Rabbi meaning 'I know my Lord by my Lord'. Ibn Arabi is saying that he cannot know or see his Lord with his own capacity, neither knowledge nor eyesight. 

Rumi too speak of self-annihilation. He dismisses his world, fame and mind. He likens himself to a shadow which cannot possibly exist when the Sun engulfs his entire being. That is because an object will only have shadow when it is distant from the source of light.

Attar speaks about seeking the unseen and the absent. He questions those who seek and love that which is apparent. He warns them of the pitfall. Behind the veils of the apparent is a more meaningful love and true beauty which is unseen and absent. One who regards himself as a lover must renounce himself and refrain from controlling his affairs in order to reach his goal - the Beloved (God). Attar even disregard the role of faith because love is above and beyond it. The kind of love which he refers to is also above piety and self-love.

Ibn Arabi, Rumi and Attar, either with simile or metaphor, all allude to God. The one common prevailing theme as expected from a Sufi is self-denial and affirmation of God, reflecting the ultimate maxim for all Muslims, be they Sufis or not - the shahadahLa ilaha illAllah.

Shakespeare in Sonnet 130, speaks about the lack of beauty in his mortal beloved. He does not compare his love with a distinct Supreme Being i.e. God. Instead, he loosely compares her with the winning characteristics of the sun, coral, snow, roses and music. There are no higher ideals behind the simile and metaphor of such comparisons. It is also absent of thought provoking philosophy beneath the somewhat negative assessment of the woman. It is a straight forward description of his preference for a better kind of beauty and love. In his comparison, he, the man still exists while lamenting about what is lacking in the other party, his mistress who is supposed to be more beautiful, desirable and love-able.

By contrast, Ibn Arabi, Rumi and Attar all talk about a relationship of a non-existent lover with the one and the only present Beloved -- a 'no-I' but 'only Thou' relationship.
Wallahu a'lam.

William Shakespeare - Sonnet 130
My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun
Coral is far more red than her lips red
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head 
I have seen roses damask'd red and white
but no such roses see I in her cheeks
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a more pleasing sound
I grant I never saw a goddess go
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground
And yet by heaven, I think my love as rare
As she belied with false compare.

Dedicated to my niece - hope I have answered your questions. InshaAllah.


  1. I guess you could call this contemporary poetry, but it is worth a listen, for when he cried, allahamdulliah I cried.

    I pray with all my heart you are well my dear Ezza, for I pray for you whenever I can, and often inshallah. May Allah bless you with endless blessings.

    Subhanallah to your new endeavours, I hope your work will be fruitful. I also pray Allah swt brings barakah to your life, ameen. I have been thinking much about your posts, about Hajj and making the intention for it. As of late I lost track, but I am trying to find my way again,

    Love and thinking of you always,

  2. My dearest sister R whom I love for the sake of Allah,
    Assalamualaikum warahmatullah,
    You know you are just like the meaning of your name - a heavely fragrant! I cannot thank you enough for your continued du'a. Jazakillah for your kind words and support! May Allah reward your generosity tremendously!

    By Allah, I believe in miracles, so I pray we bump into each other at Arafah. InshaAllah : )