Jan 21 2020
Rise early at dawn, when our storytelling begins
by Abu-Said Abil-Kheir
English version by Vraje Abramian
Rise early at dawn, when our storytelling begins.
In the dead of the night, when all other doors are locked,
the door for the Lovers to enter opens.
Be wide awake in the dark when Lovers
begin fluttering around the Beloved’s window,
like homing pigeons arriving with flaming bodies.
— from Nobody, Son of Nobody: Poems of Shaikh Abu-Saeed Abil-Kheir, Translated by Vraje Abramian
/ Image by legends2k /
As I get older I more easily rise at dawn. Sometimes I am trying to sleep in, but the dawn insists. Reading these words by Abu-Said Abil-Kheir, however, makes me want to wake up full of energy in the middle of the night. That’s when our storytelling begins.
Actually, let’s not hurry past that reference to storytelling. It’s in the darkness that we tell stories. In a world before electricity or gas lights, nighttime is the end of activity. So we tell stories. Nighttime is when we normally sleep, and dream.
But most of us do this rather passively. We listen to another person’s story. Or in the modern world, perhaps we watch television. We go to sleep, we dream, we wake up, we forget.
Not so for the seeker. The stories we tell ourselves are the stories of the soul, the way the self understands itself. In dreams and stories we reformulate our perception of the world, deepen it. And in doing so the psyche becomes more dynamic and alive to its own possibilities.
Most people imagine life shuts down at night, but a lover knows better. When the rest of the world rests, the lover finds those sweet illicit moments with the Beloved. Even if it’s just a glimpse, a smile through the window’s lattice, that is what the lover lives for. We light up, we catch fire in the night.
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.