Aug 21 2013
From his light (from The Poem of the Sufi Way)
by Umar Ibn al-Farid
English version by Th. Emil Homerin
From his light,
the niche of my essence enlightened me;
by means of me,
my nights blazed morning bright.
I made me witness my being there
for I was he;
I witnessed him as me,
the light, my splendor.
By me the valley was made holy,
and I flung my robe of honor —
my “taking off of sandals” —
on those summoned there.
I embraced my lights
and so was their guide;
how wondrous a soul
I set firm my many Sinais
and there prayed to myself;
I attained every goal,
as my being spoke with me.
My full moon never waned;
my sun, it never set,
and all the blazing stars
followed my lead.
— from Umar Ibn al-Farid: Sufi Verses, Saintly Life, Translated by Th. Emil Homerin
/ Photo by Roaring Jellyfish /
Sending thoughts and blessings to Egypt right now.
This poem is a reminder to us of the light of wisdom that still shines from that ancient land and its people…
|Umar Ibn al-Farid|
The poetry of Shaykh Umar Ibn al-Farid is considered by many to be the pinnacle of Arabic mystical verse, though surprisingly he is not widely known in the West. (Rumi and Hafiz, probably the best known in the West among the great Sufi poets, both wrote primarily in Persian, not Arabic.) Ibn al-Farid’s two masterpieces are The Wine Ode, a beautiful meditation on the “wine” of divine bliss, and The Poem of the Sufi Way, a profound exploration of spiritual experience along the Sufi Path and perhaps the longest mystical poem composed in Arabic. Both poems have inspired in-depth spiritual commentaries throughout the centuries, and they are still reverently memorized by Sufis and other devout Muslims today.
Ibn al-Farid’s father was a judge and important government official in Cairo.
When he was a young man Ibn al-Farid would go on extended spiritual retreats among the oases outside of Cairo, but he eventually felt that he was not making deep enough spiritual progress. He abandoned his spiritual wanderings and entered law school.
One day Ibn al-Farid saw a greengrocer performing the ritual Muslim washing outside the door of the law school, but the man was doing them out of the prescribed order. When Ibn al-Farid tried to correct him, the man looked at him and said, “Umar! You will not be enlightened in Egypt. You will be enlightened only in Mecca…”
Umar Ibn al-Farid was stunned by this statement, seeing that this simple greengrocer was no ordinary man. But he argued that he couldn’t possibly make the trip to Mecca right away. Then the man gave Ibn al-Farid a vision, in that very moment, of Mecca. Ibn al-Farid was so transfixed by this experience that he left immediately for Mecca and, in his own words, “Then as I entered it, enlightenment came to me wave after wave and never left.”
Shaykh Umar Ibn al-Farid stayed many years in Mecca, but eventually returned to Cairo. He became a scholar of Muslim law, a teacher of the hadith (the traditions surrounding the sayings and life of the prophet Muhammed), and a teacher of poetry. Unlike many other respected poets of the age, Ibn al-Farid refused the patronage of wealthy governmental figures which would have required him to produce poetry for propaganda, preferring the relatively humble life of a teacher that allowed him to compose his poetry of enlightenment unhampered.