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


1. O doves that haunt the arák and bán trees, have pity! Do not double my woes by your lamentation!

2. Have pity! Do not reveal, by wailing and weeping, my hidden desires and my secret sorrows!

3. I respond to her, at eve and morn, with the plaintive cry of a longing man and the moan of an impassioned lover.

4. The spirits faced one another in the thicket of ghaḍá trees and bent their branches towards me, and it (the bending) annihilated me;

5. And they brought me divers sorts of tormenting desire and passion and untried affliction.

6. Who will give me sure promise of Jam‘ and al-Muḥaṣṣab of Miná? Who of Dhát al-Athl? Who of Na‘mán?

7. They encompass my heart moment after moment, for the sake of love and anguish, and kiss my pillars,

8. Even as the best of mankind encompassed the Ka‘ba, which the evidence of Reason proclaims to be imperfect,

9. And kissed stones therein, although he was a Náṭiq (prophet). 1 And what is the rank of the Temple in comparison with the dignity of Man?

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10. How often did they vow and swear that they would not change, but one dyed with henna does not keep oaths.

11. And one of the most wonderful things is a veiled gazelle, who points with red finger-tip and winks with eyelids,

12. A gazelle whose pasture is between the breast-bones and the bowels. O marvel! a garden amidst fires!

13. My heart has become capable of every form: it is a pasture for gazelles and a convent for Christian monks,

14. And a temple for idols and the pilgrim's Ka‘ba and the tables of the Tora and the book of the Koran.

15. I follow the religion of Love: whatever way Love's camels take, that is my religion and my faith.

16. We have a pattern in Bishr, the lover of Hind and her sister, and in Qays and Lubná, and in Mayya and Ghaylán.


1. 'O doves,' i.e. the influences of holiness and purity.

3. 'I respond to her,' i.e. I repeat to her what she says to me, as God said to the soul when He created her, 'Who am I?' and she answered, 'Who am I?' referring to her qualities, whereupon He caused her to dwell four thousand years in the sea of despair and indigence and abasement until she said to Him, 'Thou art my Lord.'

4. 'Faced one another,' because love entails the union of two opposites.

'In the thicket of ghaḍá trees,' i.e. the fires of love.

'Branches,' i.e. flames.

'Annihilated me,' in order that He alone might exist, not I, through jealousy that the lover should have any existence in himself apart from his beloved.

6. 'Jam‘,' i.e. union with the loved ones in the station of proximity, which is al-Muzdalifa.

'Al-Muḥaṣṣab,' the place where the thoughts which prevent lovers from attaining their object of desire are cast out.

'Dhát al-Athl,' referring to the principle (###), for it is

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the principle in love that thou shouldst be the very essence of thy Beloved and shouldst disappear in Him from thyself.

'Na‘mán,' the place of Divine and holy bliss

7. 'For the sake of love and anguish,' i.e. in order to inspire me with passion.

'And kiss my pillars' (properly, kiss over the lithám or veil covering the mouth), i.e. he is veiled and unable to behold them except through a medium (###). The 'pillars' are the four elements on which the human constitution is based. 1

10. 'One dyed with henna': he refers to sensual influences (###), such as descended on the soul when God addressed it and said, 'Am not I your Lord?' (Kor. vii, 171), and received from it a promise and covenant. Then it did not faithfully keep the station of unification (###), but followed other gods. No one was exempt from this polytheism, for every one said, 'I did' and 'I said', at the time when he forgot to contemplate the Divine Agent and Speaker within him.

11. 'A veiled gazelle,' i.e. a Divine subtlety (###) veiled by a sensual state (###), in reference to the unknown spiritual feelings (###) of gnostics, who cannot explain their feelings to other men; they can only indicate them symbolically to those who have begun to experience the like.

'With red finger-tip': he means the same thing as he meant by 'one dyed with henna' in the last verse.

'And winks with eyelids,' i.e. the speculative proofs concerning the principles of gnostics are valid only for those who have already been imbued with the rudiments of this experience. Gnostics, though they resemble the vulgar outwardly, are Divines (###) inwardly.

12. 'Whose pasture,' etc., as ‘Alí said, striking his breast, 'Here are sciences in plenty, could I but find people to carry them (in their minds).'

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'A garden amidst fires,' i.e. manifold sciences which, strange to say, are not consumed by the flames of love in his breast. The reason is, that these sciences are produced by the fires of seeking and longing, and therefore, like the salamander, are not destroyed by them.

13. 'My heart has become capable of every form,' as another has said, 'The heart (###) is so called from its changing (###),' for it varies according to the various influences by which it is affected in consequence of the variety of its states of feeling (###); and the variety of its feelings is due to the variety of the Divine manifestations that appear to its inmost ground (###). The religious law gives to this phenomenon the name of 'transformation' (###).

'A pasture for gazelles,' i.e. for the objects of his love.

'A convent for Christian monks': inasmuch as he makes the loved ones to be monks, he calls the heart a convent.

14. 'A temple for idols,' i.e. for the Divine Realities which men seek and for whose sake they worship God.

'The pilgrim's Ka‘ba,' because his heart is encompassed by exalted spirits.

'The tables of the Tora,' i.e. his heart is a table on which are inscribed the Mosaic sciences that have accrued to him.

'The book of the Koran,' because his heart has received an inheritance of the perfect Muḥammadan knowledge.

15. 'I follow the religion of Love,' in reference to the verse 'Follow me, then God will love you' (Kor. iii, 29).

'Whatever way Love's camels take,' etc., i.e. 'I accept willingly and gladly whatever burden He lays upon me. No religion is more sublime than a religion based on love and longing for Him whom I worship and in whom I have faith'. This is a peculiar prerogative of Moslems, for the station of perfect love is appropriated to Muḥammad beyond any other prophet, since God took him as His beloved (###).

16. He says, 'Love, quâ love, is one and the same reality to those Arab lovers and to me, but the objects of our love

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are different, for they loved a phenomenon, whereas I love the Essential.' 'We have a pattern in them,' because God only afflicted them with love for human beings like themselves in order that He might show, by means of them, the falseness of those who pretend to love Him and yet feel no such transport and rapture in loving Him as deprived those enamoured men of their reason and made them unconscious of themselves.


66:1 In the Ismá‘ílí system Muḥammad, regarded as an incarnation of Universal Reason, is the Náṭiq of the sixth prophetic cycle. See Professor Browne's Literary History of Persia, i, 408 seq.

68:1 The author leaves the next two verses unexplained. 'The best of mankind' is Muḥammad.

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