Jun 03 2013

Bibi Hayati – Before there was a hint of civilization

Published by at 8:41 am under Poetry

Before there was a hint of civilization
by Bibi Hayati

English version by Aliki Barnstone

Before there was a hint of civilization
I carried a memory of your loose strand of hair,
Oblivious, I carried inside me your pointed tip of hair.

In its invisible realm,
Your face of sun yearned for epiphany,
Until each distinct thing was thrown into sight.

From the first instant time took a breath,
Your love lay in the soul,
A treasure in the secret chest in the heart.

Before the first seed shot up out of the rose bed of the possible,
The soul’s lark took wing high above your meadow,
Flying home to you.

I thank you one hundred times! In the altar
Of Hayati’s eyes, your face shines
Forever present and beautiful.

— from The Shambhala Anthology of Women’s Spiritual Poetry, Edited by Aliki Barnstone

/ Photo by ninjanell902 /

What is it that Bibi Hayati is telling us here?

Before there was a hint of civilization…

From the first instant time took a breath…

Before the first seed shot up…

These all take us back not to the beginning, but to a time before beginnings.

And it is there that she discovers divine awareness, of the soul’s love for the Beloved.

From the first instant time took a breath,
Your love lay in the soul,
A treasure in the secret chest in the heart.

Most seekers secretly fear that their yearning for the Divine is anemic, and so they drive themselves into extreme practices and Herculean efforts of prayer and meditation. Bibi Hayati’s truth cuts through all that: When we dig into the core of awareness, we discover a love too immense to describe. That love is the “memory,” the connection to the Eternal.

And that love-memory is primordial. It is not something that is built through actions and effort. It is not dependent on one’s history. It exists “before there was a hint of civilization.” It is the soul’s very nature.

We don’t have to train ourselves to that divine love, we simply uncover it within ourselves.

This then tells us the real purpose of spiritual practice: Not so much to develop qualities we lack, but to stop obstructing the soul’s true nature, to uncover it and let it take wing.

Ultimately, we don’t find God’s shining face where it was not before, we discover that blissful radiance is always and has always been “forever present and beautiful.”

Bibi Hayati

Iran/Persia (19th Century) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

Bibi Hayati Kermani was born into a Sufi family in the early 1800’s in the Kerman province of Persia (Iran). She was raised by her brother, who guided her in the early stages of her spiritual life.

When she was older Bibi Hayati was formally initiated into the Ni’matullahi Sufi order by the Sufi master Nur ‘Ali Shah, whom she later married. They had one child together.

At the request of her husband, Bibi Hayati published her poetry, and during her lifetime she became well-known for her passionate mystical poems.

She was also known for her practice of cooking for and feeding the people of her community.

More poetry by Bibi Hayati

3 responses so far

3 Responses to “Bibi Hayati – Before there was a hint of civilization”

  1. maryann moonon 03 Jun 2013 at 12:24 pm

    This Monday for some reason did need the healing breath of some poetry Would it not
    have been a grand experience to know this Bibi Hayati ? We do need some guidance to
    know how to uncover the layers and veils that hide the Divine within that she must have
    taught, along with her cooking and feeding the people of her community.

    I’m going to be moving up to San Francisco in a few days, and because I seem to find myself
    once again surrounded by a sea of packing boxes, and I don’t know anymore where anything is, this poem of hers brings me the solace I need.

  2. Pegon 04 Jun 2013 at 6:24 am

    Well, what does God’s face look like? To me it’s floating in the cosmic sea. One day I might be the color pink, the next riding a flying carpet of light (literally).

  3. jim carlinon 04 Jun 2013 at 10:42 am

    celebration of discipline-by richard foster is about teaching and practicing-disciplines
    odly-i have always believed we have all we need but are constantly instructed
    we have to see hear witness do more
    oh– for a time to just be
    that is enough
    even if the entire world doesn’t accept that

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