Feb 21 2014

Niffari – Stand at the throne

Published by at 9:46 am under Poetry

Stand at the throne (from The Standing Of the Presence Chamber and the Letter)
by Niffari (Muhammad ibn al-Hasan an-Niffari)

English version by Michael A. Sells

He said to me:
      Stand at the throne.
      I saw the sanctuary.
      No gaze attained it.
      No cares entered it.
      In it I saw the doors of every reality.
      I saw the doors on fire.
      In the fire was a sanctuary.
      Nothing could enter it but the sincere act.
      When it entered, it came to the door.
      When it came to the door, it stood for the reckoning
      I saw the reckoning
            single out what was for the face of God
            from what was for the other-than-him.
      I saw the reward was other-than-him.
      I saw that the act, sincere in him and for him alone,
            raised from the door to the highest plane of vision.
      When it was raised, there was written upon the door:
      “It has passed the reckoning.”

Eat from my hand,
Drink from my hand
      Or you will not be equal to my obedience.

If you do not obey me on my account,
      You will not be equal to my worship.

If you cast off your fault
      you will cast off your ignorance.

If you recall your fault
      you will forget your lord.

In the garden
      is everything thought can bear
      and behind it more.

— from Early Islamic Mysticism: Sufi, Quran, Miraj, Poetic and Theological Writings (Classics of Western Spirituality), by Michael A. Sells


/ Photo by red twolips /

There is so much to explore in this “standing” that I leave it with you to contemplate. Just a few of my own thoughts…

Nothing could enter it but the sincere act.

I love that.

I saw the reckoning
single out what was for the face of God
from what was for the other-than-him.

The day of reckoning, Judgment Day, is when we are sifted to discover what in us is a pure reflection of the face of God from that which is “other-than-him.” But Niffari sees that even the “reward” is “other-than-him.” He seems to be reminding us that to truly pass the “reckoning,” we must seek the Eternal not for the sake of a promised heavenly reward, but for the Eternal alone.

I saw that the act, sincere in him and for him alone,
raised from the door to the highest plane of vision.
When it was raised, there was written upon the door:
“It has passed the reckoning.”

A sacred puzzle: The reward is not the reward; God is the reward.

Eat from my hand,
Drink from my hand
      Or you will not be equal to my obedience.

This is a statement of inner mystical initiation. Depth here to explore…

If you cast off your fault
      you will cast off your ignorance.

If you recall your fault
      you will forget your lord.

I love these lines too. A reminder to us that obsessing on faults, imperfections, or sins keeps us cut off from the Divine. The proper approach is not to linger on one’s personal or spiritual failures; that simply strengthens the illusory walls between the individual awareness and the Eternal. No, one must see those “faults” clearly, and seeing them clearly no longer cling to them, allowing them to simply fall away without self-condemnation.

We define ourselves by our faults, and create spiritual separation through self-condemnation. When we let them simply fall, the walls we imagined separating ourselves from the Eternal show themselves to have never been. “Ignorance” finally disappears and we we have all along been standing in the presence of the Divine.

In the garden
      is everything thought can bear
      and behind it more.






Niffari (Muhammad ibn al-Hasan an-Niffari)

Iraq (? – 965) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

Little is known about the life of Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Jabbar ibn al-Hasan an-Niffari.

He is often considered to be an early Sufi, though his name does not formally appear in any of the Sufi lineage charts.

Niffari was from Mesopotamia (the broad region that makes up modern day Iraq and Iran), but he wrote primarily in Arabic and he died in Egypt.

Niffari’s Book of Standings (Kitab al-Mawaqif) is a fascinating collection of visionary poems. The “standings” referred to in the book has a rather subtle meaning in that each poem or chapter refers to a unique way in which he is made to stand before God. By this, Niffari seems to be suggesting that he is made to be present, straight, alive in the Real.

More poetry by Niffari (Muhammad ibn al-Hasan an-Niffari)

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “Niffari – Stand at the throne”

  1. Carolon 23 Feb 2014 at 5:07 am

    Thank you Ivan. This poem is very healing, as often your selections are.
    My daughter has been in a car accident (not seriously injured, thank goodness)
    and two caregivers at my workplace are sick, requiring more work from
    the healthy ones (smile) so this poem lifts me up, helps me realize what is
    important.

  2. Therese Monaghan O.P.on 23 Feb 2014 at 8:00 am

    There is much to ponder in this poem.
    I just came back from a walk in the fields, thinking–what does it really mean to surrender to God’s will. When I read Naffari’s lines I felt the answer in his images–
    eat from my hand,
    drink from my hand. . .
    Accepting everything that comes to us is to eat and drink what the Divine is offering! Then we will be equal to God’s obedience, to God’s worship . .
    Thank you Ivan. More reflection when I walk to the fields.

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