Oct 11 2017

Abu-Said Abil-Kheir – The sum total of our life is a breath

Published by at 7:46 am under Poetry

The sum total of our life is a breath
by Abu-Said Abil-Kheir

English version by Vraje Abramian

The sum total of our life is a breath
spent in the company of the Beloved.

— from Nobody, Son of Nobody: Poems of Shaikh Abu-Saeed Abil-Kheir, Translated by Vraje Abramian


/ Image by Cochalita /

I find it fascinating that “breath” and “life” and “spirit” are synonyms in many languages and cultures. When you read sacred writings and the word “spirit” is used, substitute the word “breath” and see how the meaning changes and expands.

This connection between breath – life – spirit is much deeper than the simple observation that the living breathe and the dead do not.

We tend to think in terms of borders and boundaries, constantly noting what separates ourselves, mentally and physically, from everything else. But the reality is that there is a constant flow of awareness across those borders. Every one of us has the unseen movement of the breath. Through the breath, what is outside becomes inside; what is non-self becomes self. And what was self is released again out into the world. This is communion, nothing less.

That inbreath of yours is the outbreath of another. The air we breathe is the breath of all.

A deep breath opens the chest and expands the heart. A full breath requires us to feel. We feel ourselves, and we feel others. Feeling, too, is communion. When feeling is shut down, the breath is shut down, and life has become limited.

The current of the breath continuously teaches us that the boundaries of self exist only in the mental map. In reality, we flow out into the universe, and the universe flows back in. The only way to secure our borders is to stop breathing, which is, of course, death. Life requires breath, and we live in each other, in the same breath.

When we really breathe, with a sense of the fulness of life, we might just come to the same conclusion that Sheikh Abu-Said Abil-Kheir came to: An individual’s lifetime may be brief or long, the experiences of life may be tangible or fleeting, but this communal breath – life – spirit in which we participate, is the very breath of the Beloved.


Recommended Books: Abu-Said Abil-Kheir

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) The Drunken Universe: An Anthology of Persian Sufi Poetry Nobody, Son of Nobody: Poems of Shaikh Abu-Saeed Abil-Kheir Love’s Alchemy: Poems from the Sufi Tradition The Mystics of Islam
More Books >>


Abu-Said Abil-Kheir

Turkmenistan (967 – 1049) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

Sheikh Abu-Said Abil-Kheir was one of the earlier Sufi poets. He lived more than two centuries before Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi, yet, like Rumi, much of his mysticism follows a similar path of annihilation in divine Love.

Abu-Said’s poetry ranges from the ecstatic and celestial, to struggles with abandonment. His poetry has an immediacy and even a sort of devoutly wry petulance that can draw comparisons with the great Bengali poet, Ramprasad.

Abu Said referred to himself as “Nobody, Son of Nobody,” to convey the mystic’s sense of having completely merged or disappeared into the Divine, leaving no trace of the ego behind.

He lived in Mayhana in what is modern day Turkmenistan, just north of Iran and Afghanistan in Central Asia.

More poetry by Abu-Said Abil-Kheir

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “Abu-Said Abil-Kheir – The sum total of our life is a breath”

  1. Amardeep Singhon 11 Oct 2017 at 9:01 am

    Beautiful couplet!

    Beautiful commentary!

    Thank you, Ivan.

  2. Carole Ellisonon 12 Oct 2017 at 12:28 am

    This is such a beautiful poem – it touchs my heart and soul. Thank you for putting on your wevsite Ian!

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