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The Tarjuman al-Ashwaq, by Ibn al-Arabi, tr. Reynold A. Nicholson, [1911], at

p. 49


1. On the day of parting they did not saddle the full-grown reddish-white camels until they had mounted the peacocks upon them,

2. Peacocks with murderous glances and sovereign power: thou wouldst fancy that each of them was a Bilqís on her throne of pearls.

3. When she walks on the glass pavement 1 thou seest a sun on a celestial sphere in the bosom of Idrís.

4. When she kills with her glances, her speech restores to life, as tho’ she, in giving life thereby, were Jesus.

5. The smooth surface of her legs is (like) the Tora in brightness, and I follow it and tread in its footsteps as tho’ I were Moses.

6. She is a bishopess, one of the daughters of Rome, unadorned: thou seest in her a radiant Goodness. 2

7. Wild is she, none can make her his friend; she has gotten in her solitary chamber a mausoleum for remembrance.

8. She has baffled everyone who is learned in our religion, every student of the Psalms of David, every Jewish doctor, and every Christian priest.

9. If with a gesture she demands the Gospel, thou wouldst deem us to be priests and patriarchs and deacons.

10. The day when they departed on the road, I prepared for war the armies of my patience, host after host.

11. When my soul reached the throat (i.e. when I was at the point of death), I besought that Beauty and that Grace to grant me relief,

12. And she yielded—may God preserve us from her evil, and may the victorious king repel Iblís!

13. I exclaimed, when her she-camel set out to depart, 'O driver of the reddish-white camels, do not drive them away with her!'

p. 50


1. 'The full-grown camels,' i.e. the actions inward and outward, for they exalt the good word to Him who is throned on high, as He hath said: 'And the good deed exalts it' (Kor. xxxv, 11). 'The peacocks' mounted on them are his loved ones: he likens them to peacocks because of their beauty. The peacocks are the spirits of those actions, for no action is acceptable or good or fair until it hath a spirit consisting in the intention or desire of its doer. He compares them to birds inasmuch as they are spiritual and also for the variety of their beauty.

2. 'With murderous glances and sovereign power': he refers to the Divine wisdom (###) which accrues to a man in his hours of solitude, and which assaults him with such violence that he is unable to behold his personality (###), and which exercises dominion over him.

'A Bilqís on her throne of pearls': he refers to that which was manifested to Gabriel and to the Prophet during his night journey upon the bed (###) of pearl and jacinth in the terrestrial heaven, when Gabriel alone swooned by reason of his knowledge of Him who manifested Himself on that occasion. The author calls the Divine wisdom 'Bilqís' on account of its being the child of theory, which is subtle, and practice, which is gross, just as Bilqís was both spirit and woman, since her father was of the Jinn and her mother was of mankind.

3. The mention of Idrís alludes to her lofty and exalted rank. 'In the bosom of Idrís,' i.e. under his control, in respect of his turning her wheresoever he will, as the Prophet said: 'Do not bestow wisdom on those who are unworthy of it, lest ye do it a wrong.' The opposite case is that of one who speaks because he is dominated by his feeling (###), and who is therefore under the control of an influence (###). In this verse the author calls attention to his puissance in virtue of a prophetic heritage (###)

p. 51

for the prophets are masters of their spiritual feelings (###), whereas most of the saints are mastered by them. The sun is joined to Idrís because the sun is his sphere, and the Divine wisdom is described as 'walking' (instead of 'running', etc.) because of her pride and haughtiness, and because she moves in the feelings of this heart and changes from one feeling to another with a sort of absolute power (###).

4. 'She kills with her glances': referring to the station of passing away in contemplation (###). 'Her speech restores to life': referring to the completion of the moulding of man when the spirit was breathed into him. She is compared to Jesus in reference to Kor. xxxviii, 72, 'And I breathed into him of My spirit,' or Kor. xvi, 42, 'That We say to it "Be", and it is.'

5. 'Her legs': referring to Bilqís and the glass pavement (Kor. xxvii, 44).

'Is like the Tora in brightness,' because the Tora (###) is derived from the phrase, ###, 'the stick produced fire.' The four faces (###) of the Tora, namely, the four Books (the Koran, the Psalms, the Pentateuch, and the Gospel), correspond to the fourfold light mentioned in Kor. xxiv, 35 (###).

6. 'One of the daughters of Rome': this wisdom, being of the race of Jesus (###), is described as belonging to the Roman Empire. 'Unadorned,' i.e. she is of the essence of unification (###) and without any vestige of adornment from the Divine Names, yet there shines from her the 'radiance' of Absolute Goodness, viz. the burning splendours (###) which, if God were to remove the veils of light and darkness, would consume the glories of His face (###).

7. 'Wild is she, none can make her his friend,' because contemplation of the Essence is a passing away (###), in

p. 52

which, as as-Sayyárí 1 said, there is no pleasure. She is 'wild', inasmuch as noble souls desire to seize her, but she does not show friendship to them, because no relation exists between them and her.

'In her solitary chamber,' i.e. in the heart. Her solitude is her looking on herself, for God says, 'Neither My earth nor My heaven contains Me, but I am contained by the heart of My servant who is a believer'; and since the heart which contains this essential wisdom of the race of Jesus is bare and empty of all attributes (###), it is like a desert and she is like a wild animal. Then he mentions the marble tomb of the Roman emperors, that such a mausoleum may remind her of death, which is the severance of union, and make her shun familiarity with the created world on account of this severance.

8. The four Books (the Koran, the Psalms, the Tora, and the Gospel) are here indicated by the mention of those who study and expound them. All the sciences comprised in the four Books point only to the Divine Names and are incapable of solving a question that concerns the Divine Essence.

9. If this spiritual being, forasmuch as she is of the race of Jesus, appeals to the Gospel by way of justifying it in anything which men's thoughts have falsely imputed to it, we humble ourselves before her and serve her no less devotedly than do the heads of the Church, because of her majesty and sovereign might.

10. 'Upon the road,' i.e. the spiritual ascension (###).

11. 'To grant me relief': he means what the Prophet meant by his saying, 'Lo, the breath of the Merciful comes to me from the quarter of al-Yaman.' The writer begs that the world of breaths (###) may continually be wafted from her to him along with the spiritual feelings (###).

p. 53

[paragraph continues] The Arabs refer to this in their poetry, for they speak of giving greetings and news to be delivered by the winds when they blow.

12. 'May God preserve us from her evil!' He refers to the Tradition 'I take refuge with Thee from Thyself'.

'The victorious king,' i.e. thoughts of knowledge and Divine guidance.

'Iblís,' i.e. the thought of becoming one with God (###), for this is a hard station, and few who attain to it escape from the doctrines of and incarnation (###). It is the station indicated in the Tradition 'I am his ear and his eye', etc.

13. He says, 'When this spiritual essence desired to quit this noble heart on account of its (the heart's) return from the station denoted by the words, "I have an hour which I share with none save my Lord," to the task imposed upon it of presiding over the phenomenal worlds, for which purpose its gaze is directed towards the Divine Names, the lofty aspiration (###) on which this spiritual essence was borne to the heart, took its departure.' He calls this aspiration 'her she-camel', and the drivers of such aspirations are the angels who approach nearest to God (###).


49:1 Kor. xxvii, 44.

49:2 The author explains that ### is equivalent to ###.

52:1 Abu ’l-‘Abbás as-Sayyárí of Merv (died 342 A.H.). His doctrine of union and separation (###) is explained by al-Hujwírí in the Kashf al-Maḥjúb.

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