Compared to my dawn (from The Poem of the Sufi Way)

by Umar Ibn al-Farid

English version by Th. Emil Homerin
Original Language Arabic

Compared to my dawn,
     the long day's light is like a flash;
          next to my drinking place,
               the wide ocean is a drop.

So the whole of me
     faces and seeks my all,
          while part of me with bridle and reins
               draws my other part.

One who was above below --
     while above was below him --
          every direction submitted
               to his guiding countenance.

Thus earth's below is ether's above
     because what I split is closed,
          though splitting the closure
               is my obvious way.

There is no ambiguity --
     union is the source of certainty;
          there is no where
               as space only separates;

There is no number,
     for counting cuts like the blade edge,
          nor is there time since limit
               is a timekeeper's idolatry;

There is no equal in this world or the next,
     who could decree to raze what I raised up
          or command to carry out
               the decree of my command.

There is no rival in either place,
     and due to harmony,
          you will not see disparity
               in humanity's creation.          

-- from Umar Ibn al-Farid: Sufi Verses, Saintly Life, Translated by Th. Emil Homerin

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

This selection is a delightfully disorienting game of words, for what else can words do when trying to describe Union? Words, by their nature, represent units of meaning. Each unit of meaning is a mental concept that assumes separation. Words are tools that can only describe a reality separated into countless units of meaning.

When one witnesses the vision of Wholeness, can any single word or string of words expand to encompass it all? Of course not. So mystics are left with a choice to struggle with limited words to at least suggest the undivided Whole... or fall silent... Or, like Umar Ibn al-Farid, we can tease and taunt with the inadequacy of description, playing with words to befuddle the mind and hopefully free the deeper awareness from their limitations.

Recommended Books: Umar Ibn al-Farid

Umar Ibn al-Farid: Sufi Verses, Saintly Life Sufi Poems: A Mediaeval Anthology From Arab Poet to Muslim Saint: Ibn Al-Farid, His Verse, and His Shrine The Wine of Love and Life: Ibn Al-Farid's Al-Khamriyah and Al-Qaysari's Quest for Meaning

Compared to my dawn