Jul 18 2012

Ummi Sinan – The Rose

Published by at 8:17 am under Poetry

The Rose
by Ummi Sinan

English version by Jennifer Ferraro and Latif Bolat

I dreamt I came to a magnificent city
      whose palace was the rose, rose.
The crown and throne of the great sultan,
      his garden and chambers
            were the rose, rose.

Here they buy and sell but roses
      and the roses are the scales they use,
Weighing roses with more roses,
      the marketplace and bazaar
            are all roses, rose.

The white rose and the red rose
      grew coupled in one garden.
Their faces turn as one toward the thorn.
      Both thorn and blossom
            are the rose, rose.

Soil is the rose and stone is the rose,
      withered is the rose, fresh is the rose.
Within the Lord’s private gardens
      both slender cypress and old maple
            are the rose, rose.

The rose is turning the waterwheel
      and gets ground between the stones.
The wheel turns round as the water flows.
      Its power and its stillness
            are the rose, rose.

From the rose a tent appears
      filled with an offering of everything.
Its gatekeepers are the holy prophets.
      The bread and the wine they pour
            are the rose, rose.

Oh Ummi Sinan, heed the mystery
      of the sorrow of nightingale and rose.
Every cry of the forlorn nightingale
            is for the rose, the rose.

— from Quarreling with God: Mystic Rebel Poems of the Dervishes of Turkey, Translated by Jennifer Ferraro / Translated by Latif Bolat

/ Photo by Jay Khemani /

Can’t you smell the perfume of roses in the air after reading this poem?

Ummi Sinan gives us a vision where all the world is filled with roses. A world made of roses. Not just roses, but “the rose” — The Rose.

In Sufi mystical language the Rose is often used as an image of God, and the heart — God as the true Heart of Being.

The rose unfolds in a gentle circling that invites one to yield inward. The rose is a symbol of lovers and of union. The rose resonates strongly with the gently awakened heart.

The rose grows from a bush of thorns yet reveals a delicate inner beauty and shares an intimate, sweet wine-like fragrance, symbolic of how the soul emerges from the tribulations of worldly difficulty and, in so doing, recognizes its innate beauty.

When Ummi Sinan recognizes the Rose everywhere, it is the mystic’s recognition that God has taken up residence within the heart (or, rather, that the Divine presence has finally been recognized there) — and it’s the further recognition that all of creation is somehow within the awakened heart. Everything encountered is encountered in the heart.

Let’s get a little more specific with some of the sacred imagery here…

Ummi Sinan gives us an image of “the white rose and the red rose” that grow “coupled in one garden.” This is an important pairing of colors that appears in esoteric traditions all over the world, in Sufism, in western alchemy, as a sign of rank in the Catholic Church, painted on Hindu and Buddhist temples. The colors white and red represent the masculine and feminine energies on all levels — white is male and red is female. The white represents purity, essence, divine spirit; the red is the power of manifestation and awakening life. So when Ummi Sinan tells us of a white rose and a red rose that are “coupled” in the divine garden, he is giving us an image of the fundamental polarities in natural, eternal balance in the divine garden. Recognizing this harmony on all levels is a prerequisite to entering the rose garden.

In the closing lines, Sinan reminds himself (and us) to “heed the mystery / of the sorrow of the nightingale and rose.” In Sufi poetry, the nightingale is said to sing such an enchanting, mournful song because it is hopelessly in love with the rose. The rose is the Beloved, the Heart of hearts, and the nightingale is its lover, the seeker — the Sufi. “Every cry of the forlorn nightingale / is for the rose, the rose.” Every yearning in the world, every cry of longing and desire in the world is really the crying out of creation for the Beloved. It is the crying out for the intoxication of unity.

The wheel turns round as the water flows.
Its power and its stillness
are the rose, rose.

You can hear this Sufi song performed on Latif Bolat’s website.

Ummi Sinan

Turkey (16th Century) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

The pen name “Ummi” means “illiterate.” Not much is known about the life of Ummi Sinan, but from his poems we know he was not only literate, but probably well-educated. Using “illiterate” as a pen name suggests the Sufi virtue of simplicity and, on a more esoteric level, approaching reality with a pure vision, uncluttered by mental definitions.

Sinan was connected with the Helveti Sufi order which originated in Azerbaijan but became influential in the Anatolia region of Turkey, where Sinan lived.

Ummi Sinan’s wrote two books, one on mystical philosophy, the other a collection of poetry. Both books were influential for many later Sufis.

More poetry by Ummi Sinan

5 responses so far

5 Responses to “Ummi Sinan – The Rose”

  1. Gregory Travison 18 Jul 2012 at 12:42 pm

    Oh, my god. I have only read the first two stanzas and am thinking, “This is the greatest poem I have ever read”.

    Nice find, Ivan!

  2. yohannanon 18 Jul 2012 at 2:28 pm

    Oh yes,nice find Ivan’you find the rose,but rose, in the roses garden!I remember looooongtime ego,when I was a child, reading Sinai at the class room,at scool,in Istanbul.What a fantastic souvenir!And yes I remember,even then,the smeling of the rose,filling the air!Unforgeteble!Thank you Thank you.

  3. franon 18 Jul 2012 at 4:47 pm

    ditto here, I read the poem out load, not sure of the Rose reference, pardon my ignorance.
    But reading your comment grateful and filled with the beautiful imagery, connection and transportation out of this world, or my situation into a realm of divine love and a garden of possibility to plant in my “real /life” world …….thank you and awesome thought for the day too! namaste

  4. Nasseron 18 Jul 2012 at 9:36 pm


    For me dealing with Sufis and their school of thought has always been mystical and at the same time enchanting. Poets like Hafiz, Molana and Saadi in my country Iran reflects the same picture as Ummi Sinan does.
    I would like to learn more about Ummi Sinan. Can you give me some leads?

  5. Shubaon 24 Jul 2012 at 7:48 am

    I absolutely love this poem – and I had no idea the rose stood for so much. Your words are beautiful, especially, ‘The rose unfolds in a gentle circling that invites one to yield inward. The rose is a symbol of lovers and of union. The rose resonates strongly with the gently awakened heart.’.

    I also wanted to say that your book is an inspiration. It moved me to publish my own words through my book titled ‘the year of the rose: reflections of a new mother and lessons in mindfulness and loving-kindness’ – perhaps why this poem speaks so much to me.

    Blessings, and wishing you beauty and joy,

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