Mar 05 2021
by Fakhruddin Iraqi
English version by William Chittick and Peter Lamborn Wilson
by Your own Face
You are hidden from the world
in Your very manifestation.
Look where I will
I see Your Face alone;
in all these idols
I see only You.
Jealous lest You be recognized
at every instant
You dress Your Beauty
in a different cloak.
— from Fakhruddin Iraqi: Divine Flashes (Classics of Western Spirituality) , Translated by William Chittick / Translated by Nasr Seyyed Hossein
/ Image by nasrul ekram /
Even amidst terrible suffering and devastation, we have the opportunity to glimpse the face of God. Sometimes it is in a helping hand or a healing voice. A kind gaze that doesn’t turn away is often the most powerful thing of all. A heart that breaks, yet remains engaged, that is what the world is always yearning for. To see, to feel, to care– these require courage and the willingness to face pain rather than run from it. But, when we do that, and breathe through it, we discover our deep humanity… and perhaps something of our shared divinity.
A broken heart, a willing hand, and a clear seeing eye, these are the pathways to God.
Iraqi suggests to us that all of life, all of reality is a game of divine hide-and-seek.
Reading this poem raises a question– As we walk daily through the world, do we merely look, or do we see? And when we truly see, how can we not occasionally pause in mute wonder and melt?
Look where I will
I see Your Face alone
|Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty||The Drunken Universe: An Anthology of Persian Sufi Poetry||Fakhruddin Iraqi: Divine Flashes (Classics of Western Spirituality)||Love’s Alchemy: Poems from the Sufi Tradition|
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, he gained local fame for having memorized the entire Quran 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 supposedly 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 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 philosopher 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.