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


1. God save a bird on a bán tree, a bird that has revealed to me the true story

2. How the loved ones bound the saddles on their camels and then gat them away at dawn.

3. I journeyed—and in my heart for their sake was a blazing fire because of their departure—

4. Striving to outpace them in the darkness of the night, calling to them, and then following their track.

5. I had no guide in pursuing them except a perfumed breath of their love.

6. The women raised the curtain, the darkness became light, and the camels journeyed on because of the moonshine.

7. Then I let my tears pour in front of the camels, and the riders said, 'When did this river flow?'

8. And were unable to cross it. I said, 'My tears rolled in streams.'

9. ’Tis as though the thunderclaps at the gleam of the lightnings and the passing of the clouds at the fall of rain

10. Were the palpitation of hearts at the flash of teeth and the flow of tears for travellers who rode away.

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11. O thou who likenest the lissomeness of the tall forms (of the loved ones) to the softness of the fresh verdant bough,

12. If thou hadst reversed the comparison, as I have done, thou wouldst have taken a sound view;

13. For the softness of the branches is like the lissomeness of the tall forms, and the rose of the meadow is like the rosy blush of shame.


1. 'A bird on a bán tree,' i.e. the Prophet's spirit in his body.

'The true story,' i.e. the Tradition concerning the descent of God to the terrestrial heaven.

2. 'How the loved ones,' etc., i.e. how God descended into the night of phenomenal forms and 'gat Him away at dawn', that is, manifested Himself in the intermediate world, which, like the dawn, is light mingled with darkness; for this manifestation is impure in comparison with the purity and holiness of the Godhead per se.

4. 'Following their track': he refers to the investiture with Divine qualities.

5. 'A perfumed breath,' alluding to the habit of guides, who on losing their way in desert places try to recover it by smelling the earth.

6. This verse refers to Kor. xxxiv, 22: 'when the terror shall be removed from their hearts,' etc.

7. 'The riders,' i.e. the angels mentioned in Kor. ii, 206.

8. 'And were unable to cross it,' because these tears were shed in the grief of parting, and the Heavenly Host lack this emotion, for they are not veiled from God: hence they are not allowed to traverse this station.

11-13. The author says that, in accordance with the real relation subsisting between God and His creatures, they should be connected with Him, not He with them. Thus the supple bough should be compared to the form of the Divine Beloved and the rose to His cheeks, not vice versâ, as

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happens in those Traditions which attribute human qualities to God, although in reality He is the eternal source of such qualities and therefore incomparable.

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