If They Only Knew

by Mansur al- Hallaj

English version by Michael A. Sells
Original Language Arabic

What earth is this
     so in want of you
they rise up on high
     to seek you in heaven?

          Look at them staring
               at you
          right before their eyes,
               unseeing, unseeing, blind.
. . .

          I was patient,
               but can the heart
be patient of
     its heart?

               My spirit and yours
          blend together
               whether we are near one another
          or far away.

          I am you,
you,
     my being,
          end of my desire,

     The most intimate of secret thoughts
          enveloped
and fixed along the horizon
     in folds of light.

               How? The "how" is known
          along the outside,
               while the interior of beyond
     to and for the heart of being.

     Creatures perish
          in the darkened
blind of quest,
     knowing intimations.

                    Guessing and dreaming
          they pursue the real,
               faces turned toward the sky
     whispering secrets to the heavens.

          While the lord remains among them
               in every turn of time
abiding in their every condition
     every instant.

               Never without him, they,
          not for the blink of an eye --
               if only they knew!
          nor he for a moment without them.

-- from Early Islamic Mysticism: Sufi, Quran, Miraj, Poetic and Theological Writings (Classics of Western Spirituality), by Michael A. Sells

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

This is a great poem by the Sufi mystic and martyr, al-Hallaj.

A reminder to us all that, wherever we look, we are always staring at the face of God, "right before [our] eyes." Everyone, knowingly or unknowingly, is always searching for the Eternal, but too easily we become lost in our search. The idea of a search is already to be lost -- "a blind quest." We imagine that the Goal will be found elsewhere, somewhere that we are not, and so we rush about looking, looking. "Guessing and dreaming," looking for God in some distant heaven instead of beneath our feet and between the span of our arms, we blindly have our "faces turned toward the sky." But doing that, we never recognize that "the lord remains among [us]" in our "every condition / every instant." We are never without the Divine Presence, "not for the blink of an eye!"

Hallaj says it very simply, speaking to God as the Beloved who is everywhere and, at the same time, the heart of the heart:

               My spirit and yours
          blend together
               whether we are near one another
          or far away.

          I am you,
you,
     my being,
          end of my desire.



Recommended Books: Mansur al- Hallaj

Perfume of the Desert: Inspirations from Sufi Wisdom Music of a Distant Drum: Classical Arabic, Persian, Turkish & Hebrew Poems Islamic Mystical Poetry: Sufi Verse from the Early Mystics to Rumi Early Islamic Mysticism: Sufi, Quran, Miraj, Poetic and Theological Writings (Classics of Western Spirituality) Sufi Poems: A Mediaeval Anthology
More Books >>





If They Only Knew