Jul 01 2013

Fakhruddin Iraqi – It speaks to me

Published by at 9:58 am under Poetry

It speaks to me in the silence of this one
by Fakhruddin Iraqi

English version by William Chittick and Peter Lamborn Wilson

It speaks to me in the silence of this one
then through the words of that one speaking;

it whispers to me through an eyebrow raised
and the message of an eye winking.

And do you know what words it breathes into my ear? It says,

      “I am Love: in heaven and earth I have no place;
      I am the Wondrous Phoenix whose spoor cannot be traced.

      With eyebrow-bow and arrow-winks I hunt
      both worlds — and yet my weapons cannot be found.

      Like the sun I brighten each atom’s cheek;
      I cannot be pinpointed: I am too manifest.

      I speak with every tongue, listen with all ears,
      but marvel at this: My ears and tongue are erased.

      Since in all the world only I exist
      above and below, no likeness of me can be found.”

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


/ Photo by Gabi Agu /

It has been nearly a year since I last featured a poem by Fakhruddin Iraqi — far too long! I feel a sort of personal sense of discovery, since, for some inexplicable reason, he is not widely known in the West.

You know what I like about this poem? It suggests to me that the facade of daily experiences and physical reality is really a game of hide-and-seek with the Eternal Beloved. Anything, everything, when we really pay attention, reveals a hint of the Beauty playfully hiding beneath the surface.

We seekers think we are “It,” searching for those hidden glimpses, then we realize, no, we are the ones being hunted, we are the ones doing the hiding, and that stunning Smile will eventually claim us. The Beloved whispers to us–

With eyebrow-bow and arrow-winks I hunt
      both worlds — and yet my weapons cannot be found.

Each glimpse brings us closer to capture.

I think one of my favorite statements in the poem is the next couplet:

Like the sun I brighten each atom’s cheek;
      I cannot be pinpointed: I am too manifest.

Why is this game even taking place? Why can we not see the One we seek… or Who seeks us? The reason is that we are not looking in the right way; to catch that full vision requires a profound shift in how we look.

The Beloved, God, is not a thing among things. The Eternal is not an object or being to occupy a specific point in space or time. All objects, all things are a part of that Whole, and it is the fullness of reality that is the Face we seek. Yet every person or thing, no matter how small, does indeed reflect some spark of that divine presence, as each mote of dust floating through a shaft of light reveals something of the sun.

In other words, the Beloved is everywhere present, always, including right here and right now. We inhabit the Eternal, we breathe the Eternal, we endlessly touch the Eternal. The Beloved we seek is so present, so obvious, that we don’t see. We reflexively filter out the interconnected and the hugely obvious in order to function effectively in the mundane world.

You know how to win this game of hide-and-seek? Allow yourself to be caught! And how do you do that? Relax, yield up the internal monologue, give up the stories you tell yourself about the reality immediately in front of you. Stop filtering. Stop imagining even what “God” is. Just fall silent, and see. Finally, the vision becomes a great wholeness, and it wraps itself around you, whispering in your ear, “Gotcha!”

Since in all the world only I exist
      above and below, no likeness of me can be found.






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

10 responses so far

10 Responses to “Fakhruddin Iraqi – It speaks to me”

  1. ebrahimon 01 Jul 2013 at 2:08 pm

    We can say one thing for sure though, no dull moment is there with God. Loves roller coaster sees to it. It has been said, that he is the seeker and you the sought after, he the lover and you the beloved. (Muhammed means beloved, signifying this)

    The ‘it’ in the commentary is a double edged sword. For just as we oppose and deny the self initially, ultimately we are obliged to come by it.

    That lovely words on the card says it all…wisdom teaches me I am nothing while love teaches me I am everything.

  2. bob knabon 01 Jul 2013 at 8:47 pm

    thank you
    blessings ———– boK

  3. deepikaon 02 Jul 2013 at 1:05 am

    dear Ivan,
    Thanks for such a beautiful poem. I loved the lines ” Like the sun I brighten each atom’s cheek;I cannot be pinpointed: I am too manifest.” Your commentary on poem is also awesome.

  4. marrobon 02 Jul 2013 at 6:33 am

    I find it an excruciatingly sublime paradox
    that it takes words to speak of silence.

    But there it is.
    So, for that rapturous beauty of
    ‘eyebrow raised’, ‘winking eye’ & Wondrous Phoenix
    I give thanks.

  5. Pegon 02 Jul 2013 at 1:16 pm

    I spent many years attempting to not call up the white hair grandfather figure when God was discussed. It wasn’t until I was knee deep in the terror and awesome power of kundalini that I could relinquish that false image I grew up with.
    I speak with every tongue, listen with all ears,
    but marvel at this: My ears and tongue are erased.

    Since in all the world only I exist
    above and below, no likeness of me can be found.”

    Much love and light, Peg

  6. Francine McGovernon 02 Jul 2013 at 3:02 pm

    Thank you for the beautiful poem and reflection which calls me forth into the Great Reality.

  7. Carolon 03 Jul 2013 at 5:29 am

    Beautiful poem, Ivan And commentary was lovely. Thank you.

  8. simonbaghon 03 Jul 2013 at 7:16 am

    one in all and the all in one is image of being
    not of an specific shape for it you may think

  9. Therese Monaghan O.P.on 03 Jul 2013 at 7:58 am

    After reading your poem and commentary I am
    urged to take more notice-seeing, hearing, and the rest of my senses– to go beyond the surface and be caught by the Beloved–as Julian of Norwich did when
    she picked up an acorn–and experienced the Divine
    everywhere.
    Thank you, Ivan.

  10. Mariaon 16 Aug 2013 at 5:25 pm

    We are all one. No subject, no object, no form, one presence. This is the presence of indescribable eternal love. We are alive to realise who we essentially are and to live accordingly. When unity is achieved, we ask for nothing and give everything. Conflict, drama, dissolves and creation in all its magnificence is born. Just imagine a whole world of fully awakened beings, imagine that kind of a world. Imagine it. Wow. We are all on a path to knowing who we truly are. Only then will there be a new heaven and a new earth.

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