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


1. O mouldering remains (of the encampment) at al-Uthayl, where I played with friendly maidens!

2. Yesterday it was cheerful and smiling, but to-day it has become desolate and frowning.

3. They went far away and I was unaware of them, and they knew not that my mind was watching over them,

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4. Following them wherever they journeyed and pitched tents, and sometimes it was managing the beasts of burden,

5. Until, when they alighted in a barren wilderness and pitched tents and spread the carpets,

6. It brought them back to a meadow verdant and ripe which erstwhile had been an arid desert.

7. They did not halt at any place but its meadow contained forms beautiful as peacocks,

8. And they did not depart from any place but its earth contained tombs of their lovers.


1. 'Al-Uthayl,' i.e. the natural constitution. Its remains are described as 'mouldering' because they are changed by the various spiritual emotions (###) which pass over them.

'Friendly maidens,' i.e. forms of Divine wisdom by which by the gnostic's heart is gladdened.

2. 'Desolate and frowning,' because he has returned to the world of sense and consciousness.

3. 'And they knew not,' etc.: as, when a man leaves a place, he remains there in imagination and keeps the picture of it in his soul.

4. 'It was managing the beasts of burden,' i.e. he was influencing them by his thought, so that their thoughts turned to him. This was the result of his sincerity; for the inferior, if he turn sincerely to God, may influence the superior, as often happens with sincere novices and their spiritual directors.

5. 'In a barren wilderness,' i.e. the station of absolute and abstract unification.

'And spread the carpets,' in reference to the Divine favours which they received on reaching the abode of the Truth.

6. In this verse he points out that no reality except the Divine substance can subsist together with abstract unification. Hence, when they gained this station and realized it and knew the meaning of God's word, 'There is nothing like unto

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[paragraph continues] Him,' He brought them back to the unification of their own essences in respect of their oneness, which is incomparable in respect of the Divine substance contained in its essence.

'To a meadow verdant and ripe,' referring to the Divine mysteries which the Truth conveyed to them by the realities of the Names.

7. 'Forms beautiful as peacocks,' i.e. their lovely spiritual states, actions, and dispositions.

8. 'Tombs of their lovers,' i.e. the realities which desire that their traces should be manifested in gnostics. These objects of knowledge only exist through those who know them, and therefore they love the existence of the gnostic, in so far as he knows them, more intensely than they are desired by him. Accordingly the author describes them as dying when the gnostics depart.

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