Jul 06 2012

Fakhurddin Iraqi – As sunlight is attributed to the moon

Published by at 9:26 am under Poetry

As sunlight is attributed to the moon, so is the Beloved’s form ascribed to the lover; but in truth
by Fakhruddin Iraqi

English version by William Chittick and Peter Lamborn Wilson

As sunlight is attributed to the moon, so is the Beloved’s form ascribed to the lover; but in truth

each image painted
      on the canvas of existence
is the form
      of the artist himself.
Eternal Ocean
      spews forth new waves.
“Waves” we call them;
      but there is only the Sea.

— from Fakhruddin Iraqi: Divine Flashes (Classics of Western Spirituality) , Translated by William Chittick / Translated by Nasr Seyyed Hossein

This brief poem is a beautiful metaphor illustrating how the fragmented, separated sense of existence is finally recognized as numberless expressions of the Eternal Unity.

What is he saying, first of all, when he suggests that “sunlight is attributed to the moon”? In reality, the moon has no light of its own. The light we call moonlight is actually reflected sunlight. This was understood by the Persian world, which had an advanced understanding of astronomy at the time.

The full moon, therefore, is sometimes used to represent the individual awareness matured into enlightened awareness. The individual mind, full and pure, comes to reflect the eternal light of Spirit.

And so it is with all of existence… The lover, the one who has awakened through eternal love, is a reflection of the Eternal Beloved. This is why all the great wisdom traditions instruct us to “Know Thyself.” When we look deeply within, we come to know the artist behind the canvas.

Eternal Ocean
      spews forth new waves.

We like to imagine we are separate creatures, separate expressions of life. But there is really only one life, with myriad points-of-view. Each individual being claims a vantage point and calls it “self,” but when we investigate deeply, we discover that the point-of-view is not fixed and neither is the self. There is just the one ocean of life with many peaking waves…

“Waves” we call them;
      but there is only the Sea.

Fakhruddin Iraqi

Iran/Persia/India/Turkey (? – 1289) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

Fakhruddin Ibrahim ‘Iraqi (sometimes written Araqi or Eraqi) was a fascinating figure who bridged several Sufi traditions and traveled through much of the Muslim world.

‘Iraqi was born near Hamadan, in what is today Iran. (The name ‘Iraqi does not refer to the modern country of Iraq, but to the local region around Hamadan.) While still a young boy, ‘Iraqi gained local fame for having memorized the entire Koran and reciting it aloud. He went on to acquire an impressive education in his teens.

This properly devout young man surprised everyone when he joined a group of traveling Kalandar dervishes. Kalandar Sufis had a bohemian, some would even say heretical, lifestyle and expression of the Muslim faith.

The young ‘Iraqi eventually ended up in Multan in what is modern day Pakistan. There he received formal initiation into the Sufi way under Shaykh Baha’uddin, the head of the Suhrawardiyya Sufi Order, one of the most influential Sufi groups in the Indian subcontinent. ‘Iraqi lived in Multan for 25 years, composing poetry. As the shaykh was dying, he named ‘Iraqi to be his successor. But some in the order became jealous and denounced him to the local sultan who sought to have ‘Iraqi arrested.

‘Iraqi fled the area with a few close companions, and they eventually made their way to Mecca and Medina. Later they moved north to Konya in Turkey. This was Konya at the time of Rumi. ‘Iraqi often listened to Rumi teach and recite poetry, and later attended Rumi’s funeral.

Although ‘Iraqi was nominally the head (in exile) of a large and respected Sufi order, he humbly became the disciple of another Sufi master — Sadruddin Qunawi, who also lived in Konya at the time. Qunawi was the son-in-law of the recently deceased Sufi philosoper Ibn ‘Arabi. Although less known in the West today, Qunawi was perhaps the preeminent Sufi teacher in Konya at the time, even better known than his neighbor Rumi.

‘Iraqi was deeply devoted to Qunawi and to the teachings of Ibn ‘Arabi. It was a series of speeches Qunawi delivered on the esoteric meaning of Ibn ‘Arabi’s great works that inspired ‘Iraqi to compose his own masterpiece of commentary and poetry named the Lama’at or Divine Flashes.

When Fakhruddin ‘Iraqi died he was buried near Ibn ‘Arabi’s tomb.

More poetry by Fakhruddin Iraqi

One response so far

One Response to “Fakhurddin Iraqi – As sunlight is attributed to the moon”

  1. Annaon 08 Jul 2012 at 6:50 am

    Time to take a minute to tell you, again, how very much you are appreciated. I love your emails and drink them up and write them out in my journals and share them and read them over and over and over. Your words are such a gift and have enriched my life. Thank you, thank you. I love your book and am so pleased that it became a reality for you. I have given several as gifts already. Each time I pick mine up I love it even more. Bless you, Ivan – Love to you and your wife and your precious new dog – you are each blessed to have each other.

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