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


1. They (the women) mounted the howdahs on the swift camels and placed in them the (damsels like) marble statues and full moons,

2. And promised my heart that they should return; but do the fair promise anything except deceit?

3. And she saluted with her henna-tipped fingers for the leave-taking, and let fall tears that excited the flames (of desire).

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4. When she turned her back with the purpose of making for al-Khawarnaq and as-Sadír,

5. I cried out after them, 'Perdition!' She answered and said, 'Dost thou invoke perdition?

6. Then invoke it not only once, but cry "Perdition!" many times.'

7. O dove of the arák trees, have a little pity on me! for parting only increased thy moans,

8. And thy lamentation, O dove, inflames the longing lover, excites the jealous,

9. Melts the heart, drives off sleep, and doubles our desires and sighing.

10. Death hovers because of the dove's lamentation, and we beg him to spare us a little while,

11. That perchance a breath from the zephyr of Ḥájir may sweep towards us rain-clouds,

12. By means of which thou wilt satisfy thirsty souls; but thy clouds only flee farther than before.

13. O watcher of the star, be my boon-companion, and O wakeful spy on the lightning, be my nocturnal comrade!

14. O sleeper in the night, thou didst welcome sleep and inhabit the tombs ere thy death.

15. But hadst thou been in love with the fond maiden, thou wouldst have gained, through her, happiness and joy,

16. Giving to the fair (women) the wines of intimacy, conversing secretly with the suns, and flattering the full moons.


1. 'The camels' are the human faculties, 'the howdahs' are the actions which they are charged to perform, 'the damsels' in the howdahs are the mystical sciences and the perfect sorts of knowledge.

3. He says, 'This Divine subtlety, being acquired and not given directly, is subject to a change produced by contact with phenomena'; this change he indicates by speaking of 'her henna-tipped fingers', as though it were the modification

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of unity by a kind of association (###). Nevertheless, her staying in the heart is more desirable than her going, for she protects the gnostic as long as she is there.

'And let fall tears,' etc.: she let loose in the heart sciences of contemplation which produced an intense yearning.

4. 'Al-Khawarnaq and as-Sadír,' i.e. the Divine presence.

5. 'Perdition!' i.e. death to the phenomenal world now that these sublime mysteries have vanished from it.

'Dost thou invoke perdition?' i.e. why dost thou not see the face of God in everything, in light and darkness, in simple and composite, in subtle and gross, in order that thou mayst not feel the grief of parting.

6. 'Cry "Perdition!" many times' (cf. Kor. xxv, 15), i.e. not only in this station but in every station in which thou art placed, for thou must bid farewell to every one of them, and thou canst not fail to be grieved, since, whenever the form of the Truth disappears from thee, thou imaginest that He has left thee; but He has not left thee, and it is only thy remaining with thyself (###) that veils from thee the vision of that which pervades the whole of creation.

7. 'O dove of the arák trees': he addresses holy influences of Divine pleasure which have descended upon him.

'Have a little pity on me!' i.e. pity my weakness and inability to attain unto thy purity.

'For parting only increased thy moans': he says, 'Inasmuch as thy substance only exists through and in me, and I am diverted from thee by the dark world of phenomena which keeps me in bondage, for this cause thou art lamenting thy separation from me.'

8. 'And thy lamentation,' etc., i.e. we who seek the unbounded freedom of the celestial world should weep more bitterly than thou.

'Excites the jealous': jealousy arises from regarding others (###), and he who beholds God in everything feels no jealousy, for God is One; but since God manifests Himself in various forms, the term 'jealousy' is applicable to Him.

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10. 'Death,' i.e. the station in which the subtle principle of Man is severed from its governance of this dark body for the sake of the Divine subtleties which are conveyed to it by the above-mentioned holy influences.

11. 'Ḥájir' denotes here the most inaccessible veil of the Divine glory. No phenomenal being can attain to the immediate experience thereof, but scents of it blow over the hearts of gnostics in virtue of a kind of amorous affection (###).

'Rain-clouds,' i.e. sciences and diverse sorts of knowledge belonging to the most holy Essence.

13. 'O watcher of the star,' in reference to keeping in mind that which the sciences offer in their various connexions.

'O wakeful spy on the lightning': the lightning is a locus of manifestation of the Essence. The author says, addressing one who seeks it, 'Our quest is the same, be my comrade in the night.'

14. This verse may be applied either to the heedless (###) or to the unconscious (###).

15. 'The fond maiden,' i.e. the Essential subtlety which is the gnostic's object of desire.

'Through her': although She is unattainable, yet through her manifestation to thee all that thou hast is baptized for thee (###), and thy whole kingdom is displayed to thee by that Essential form.

16. 'Conversing secretly with the suns,' etc., in reference to the Traditions which declare that God will be seen in the next world like the sun in a cloudless sky or like the moon when she is full.

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