Jul 30 2012

Shah Nematollah Vali – The Point of the Circle

Published by at 9:01 am under Poetry

The Point of the Circle
by Shah Nematollah Vali

The point appeared in the circle
And was not;
But it was the dot
That the circle begot.

The point appears
As a circle, as it revolves
In the eyes of him
Who a circle draws.

When the point
Completed the circle
Its beginning and end
Were one.

When the compass
Did the circle complete
It was wrapped up
And rested its feet.

Without existence
Not-being are we;
We who are Not
And You existence free.

I said the whole world was His dream;
Then I saw His dream was He.
Sweeter than the words of our guide,
Nimatullah knows no other words.

— from Islamic Mystical Poetry: Sufi Verse from the Early Mystics to Rumi, Translated by Mahmood Jamal


/ Photo by Lady-bug /

I like the geometric meditations of this poem.

When I was in high school I loved geometry. Something about the visual, spacial nature of geometry just clicked for me. This poem reminds me of the way I’d get lost in geometrical contemplations on hot afternoons in the classroom…

The point appeared in the circle
And was not;
But it was the dot
That the circle begot.

The point appears
As a circle, as it revolves…

In geometry, a point has no dimension. It has no diameter, no depth. It does not really exist in space; it is really only an idea. Yet when you start to move it, its trail creates a line. Move it around another point, you create an arc. Continue describing that arc, and its end will eventually meet its beginning, and form an endless circle.

From nothing, something has taken form. From the point, a circle emerges. It is the existence of the circle that proves the existence of the point. The point is not-being; the circle is being.

Here’s another image: A circle encloses a limited area. We can calculate the area with the formula pi * the radius squared. Yet, although the area is limited and specific, you can still fit an infinite number of points within the circle. Since a point does not take up space but can still have a location, its possibilities within the circle are unlimited. Let’s expand and meditate on this for a moment. Imagine that you are that point and the circle is your life. Your life has a limited number of years to it, a limited number of places you can go, people you will meet, experiences you will have. Being human, we instinctively rebel against that feeling of limitation. But within the limited area of our personal circle, the possibilities are without limit. So, is our limited life really limited?

These are the sorts of things nerdy teenaged Ivan used to daydream about in geometry class…

I said the whole world was His dream;
Then I saw His dream was He.






Shah Nematollah Vali, Shah Nematollah Vali poetry, Muslim / Sufi poetry Shah Nematollah Vali

Iran/Persia (1330 – 1431) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

Shah Nematollah Vali (or Nimatullah Wali) was born to a Sufi family in Aleppo, Syria. He travelled widely through the Muslim world, learning the philosophies of many masters, but not at first finding a personal teacher he could dedicate himself to. During this time, he also studied the writings of the great Sufi philosopher and mystic, Al Arabi.

Shah Nematollah finally met Shaykh Abdollah Yafe’i in Mecca, and became his disciple. He studied intensely with his teacher for seven years until, spritually transformed, he was sent out for a second round of travels, this time as a realized teacher.

He temporarily resided near Samarkand, along the great Central Asian Silk Road. It was here that he met the conqueror Tamerlane, but, to avoid conflict with the worldly ruler, he soon left and eventually settled in the Persian / Indian region of Kerman.

When Shah Nematollah died, his fame had spread throughout Persia and India, and it is said he initiated hundreds of thousands of followers. Today the Nimatullah Sufi Order is one of the most important Sufi orders of Iran.

More poetry by Shah Nematollah Vali

6 responses so far

6 Responses to “Shah Nematollah Vali – The Point of the Circle”

  1. yohannanon 30 Jul 2012 at 12:54 pm

    This matematic thing was never my favorit thing indeed.I remember at scool,In front of any kind of problème,I was feeling blank like cloudy sky,looking for solutions,they never comes.And miracle!Space Geometrie!Loved that stuff.Yees!I could finaly accept and love myself,Iwas good in something!
    May God help our brothers and sisters in aleppo and elswhere right now.

  2. Glendaon 30 Jul 2012 at 12:57 pm

    Ivan,

    Well of course you would be brilliant and creative in geometry as well as your other achievments. So why does this not surprise me?

    Your comments truly bring meaning to Nimatullah Wali’s words. I enjoyed this one a lot, but mostly because of your insights.
    Thank you,
    Glenda

  3. jim carlinon 30 Jul 2012 at 3:20 pm

    my point is a spiral
    a snail
    the cochlea
    pi
    the formula
    for building
    the nautilus
    art
    the recurring circle
    life

  4. Nasseron 31 Jul 2012 at 12:00 am

    Dear Ivan,
    Thanks for selecting this poem of Shah Nematullah Wali and of course e very profound contemplation of yours.
    In some part of his poetry, Shah Nemattullah has given a kind of prediction and prophecy. Many Iranians believe in that prophecy as they find many examples proved to be true from old times from Safavids to Qajars and the to Pahlavies and finally to Imam Khomeini and the Iran revolution in 1979 and after.
    I would be grateful receiving any comment on this prophecy.
    Thanks,Nasser

  5. Nasseron 31 Jul 2012 at 12:01 am

    Thanks for selecting this poem of Shah Nematullah Wali and of course e very profound contemplation of yours.
    In some part of his poetry, Shah Nemattullah has given a kind of prediction and prophecy. Many Iranians believe in that prophecy as they find many examples proved to be true from old times from Safavids to Qajars and the to Pahlavies and finally to Imam Khomeini and the Iran revolution in 1979 and after.
    I would be grateful receiving any comment on this prophecy.
    Thanks,Nasser

  6. rena navonon 31 Jul 2012 at 2:09 am

    My Poem

    The hypotenuse is a broken arm
    It means to stretch, that’s how I broke
    It and here it clings to my sling

    My whole body feels like a broken thing
    Rough with the plaster of Paris, heavy as
    an eagle’s wing. The arm I feel
    is me back in geometry

    I can’t take notes: the hypotenuse
    has subdued my writing hand
    I haven’t a clue how I will pass
    this useless hour of lecturing

    The broken arm is me in the angle
    where old age is reserving my place
    Smaller and smaller I become
    My head bends to rest on my arm

    Rena Navon

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