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Studies in Islamic Mysticism, by Reynold A. Nicholson, [1921], at


The poem, addressed to a real or imaginary disciple, sets forth in due order the phases of mystical experience through which the writer passed before attaining to oneness with God, and describes the nature of that abiding oneness so far as it can be indicated by words.

In the opening verses (1-7) Ibnu ’l-Fáriḍ recalls a time when his love of God was still imperfect and unfixed, so that the "intoxication" of ecstasy would be followed by the " sobriety " of a relapse into selfhood.

He tells (8-83) how he sought the favour of the Beloved and related to her his sufferings, not by way of complaint—

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for suffering is the law of love—but in the hope of relieving them; how he said that he was enraptured by her beauty, that he would never change, that he cared for nothing but her and for her sake had abandoned all.

The Beloved answers (84-102), accusing him of insincerity and presumption. He is not really in love with her, but only with himself. If he would love her in truth, he must die to self.

In reply he protests that this death is his dearest wish and prays the Beloved to grant it, whatever pain it may cost (103-116). Then, addressing the disciple, he describes his dying to self and its effects: how it has brought him great glory, though he is despised by his neighbours and regarded as a madman; and how it has caused his love to be hidden even from himself, his faculties to be jealous of one another, and his identity to be lost, so that in worshipping he feels that he is the object of worship (117-154). He proceeds to explain the mystery of his love, saying that he loved before the creation but was separated from his Beloved in this world, and that by casting-off his self-existence he has found her to be his own real self. There was no thought of merit in his sacrifice, so she accepted it (155-174). He exhorts the disciple to follow the via purgativa, by which mystics are prepared for the highest things, and describes how he himself disciplined his soul (175-203).

The poet now begins to explain the origin and nature of his ittiḥád or oneness with the Beloved. As it is hard for the mind to conceive that two may be one, he points to the analogous case of a woman possessed by a spirit. He urges the disciple to get rid of the illusion of dualism, and the mystery will then become clear to him. He says that this was the way by which he himself attained to his present state (204-238).

He bids the disciple mark that all beauty is absolute. Every fair earthly form is in reality a manifestation of the Beloved (239-264).

He then explains why, notwithstanding his exalted degree, he strictly fulfils the duties of the religious law and occupies himself with voluntary works of devotion. Antinomianism

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would be consistent with belief in incarnation (ḥulúl); but he does not hold that doctrine. His own doctrine is supported by the Koran and the Apostolic Traditions (265-285).

He calls on the disciple to follow him in the path of love, but warns him that he must not aspire to the supreme grade of ittiḥád, which is now described as being beyond love (286-333)

After a hymn of praise to the Beloved (336-387), he resumes the description of his oneness. His spirit and soul, which formerly drew him up and down between them, are in reality one with the Beloved, i.e., they are identified with Universal Spirit and Universal Soul, whence all forms of spiritual and sensible life are fed. The image of the Beloved that he receives through sensation agrees with the image of her in his spiritual consciousness; and this is a proof that he is one with her. He says that she is presented to him by all that he sees, hears, tastes and touches. He describes particularly his listening to music: at that time he beholds her with his whole being and is riven asunder by the struggle of his spirit to escape from the body; then dancing soothes him, and, as it were, rocks him to sleep (388-440).

Continuing, he declares that the state which he has now reached is higher than "union" (wiṣál). He gained it through casting aside every vestige of self-regard. It was he who imposed the laws of religion on himself and was sent as an apostle to himself before any prophet appeared in the world. His overruling influence is exerted throughout heaven and earth. He is beyond all relations: place, time, and number are gone; he has no rival or opposite; he is the object of his own worship. No change of state can now befall him: the alternation of "intoxication" and "sobriety" has been superseded by a permanent consciousness in which past and future are the same. He is the Pole (Quṭb) on which the universe revolves (441-501).

He mentions, as a strange effect of his love, that he sought his Beloved in himself until he found that he was seeking himself, so that in being united with himself he embraced his own essence (502-532). Speaking in the person of God, he

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says that his attributes, names, and actions cannot be known except through himself, and that he cannot be known through them. As the names of his external attributes, e.g., sight and hearing, which are really faculties of the soul, are derived from his organs of sensation, so the names of his inward attributes are ultimately derived from his (the Divine) essence. By means of the names God manifests Himself in creation. Their qualities and the benefits which they confer on the body and the soul are described at some length (533-574)

He is so entirely one, he says, that all his faculties are interfused and each part has become absorbed in the whole. Hence he acts universally and infinitely. This is the explanation of the miracles wrought by the prophets. Mohammed, the last of the prophets, not only summed up in himself all the marvellous powers of his predecessors but is the source from which these powers were bestowed on the prophets before him and the Moslem saints after him. Ibnu ’l-Fáriḍ, making himself one with the spirit of Mohammed, claims to be the father of Adam, the final cause of creation, and the origin of life: all creatures obey his will, speak his word, see with his sight; he is hidden in everything sensible, intellectual, and spiritual (575-650).

He forbids the disciple to believe in metempsychosis, pointing out that what appears in different forms is really the same, e.g., Abú Zayd (the hero of Ḥarírí's fiction) in all his disguises, the image in a mirror, the echo, the phantom seen in dream, and the figures shown by a shadow-lantern. He describes the various scenes of the shadow-play—all of them the work of a single person behind a screen—and likens the soul to the showman, the body to the screen, and the figures to the objects perceived in sensation. When the bodily screen is removed, the soul becomes unified (651-730).

He says that faith and infidelity are not essentially different. The One God is adored in every form of worship—by Moslems, Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, even by idolaters; those who go astray from Him are none the less seeking Him: it is He that guides and misguides them, according as they are

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destined for salvation or perdition. All is determined by the Divine will and is the effect of the Divine nature. This the soul knows from itself (731-749)

He declares that he is not to be blamed for having revealed the mysteries imparted to him, and concludes with the assertion that none living or dead has attained to such a height as he (750-761).


195:1 K. on v. 501. Cf. Kashf al-Maḥjúb, transl., p. 214. Concerning the Quṭb and the subordinate members of the Ṣúfí hierarchy see Blochet, Études sur l’ésotérisme musulman in the Journal asiatique, vol. 20 (1902), p. 49 foll.; Haneberg, Ali Abulhasan Schadeli in ZDMG., vol. 7, p. 21 foll.; Flügel, Scha‘rânî und sein Werk über die muhammadanische Glaubenslehre, ibid. vol. 20, p. 37 foll.

195:2 Cf. pp. 87 and 103 foll.

195:3 574 verses out of a total of 761. The following verses have not been translated: 111-114, 117-119, 122-125, 141-143, 164-167, 175-193, 195-196, 265-276, 334-393, 503-505, 515-520, 549-574, 580-588, 602-613, 622-626, 632-636, 750-758.

Next: vv. 1-100