Resist the calls of wrangling talk (from The Poem of the Sufi Way)

by Umar Ibn al-Farid

English version by Th. Emil Homerin
Original Language Arabic

Resist the calls of wrangling talk,
     and save yourself
          from false claims and their assaults,
               which truly aim only to be heard.

For the tongues of those called
     "gnostics most eloquent"
          said all that could be said,
               then fell silent.

You are intimate, akin to what
     you do not say, but speak of it
          and you are a stranger,
               so, shut up!

In silence is nobility,
     a place of strong and sound restraint,
          but he is slave to dignity
               who is silent for thought of rank.

So be sight and see,
     be an ear and hear,
          be a tongue and speak,
               for union is the truest way.

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

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

Here Umar Ibn al-Farid extolls silence. "You are intimate, akin to what / you do not say..."

But notice that he also talks about people trapped by silence: "but he is a slave to dignity / who is silent for thought of rank." Ibn al-Farid is pointing out how silence too can become a way to get attention. Silence can be one more way to appear to know more than you know in order to be thought holy or profound or wise.

He concludes by saying, "be a tongue and speak." So after all this talk of silence, why is he telling us to speak? In effect, what he is saying with this excerpt is to be silent when speaking is to affirm the little self, the limited view of the world and the ego's desire to be its center. But be the willing tongue of the Divine. When speech comes, let it come through you and not because of you...

Become a selfless expression of the Divine, rather than constantly expressing the little self. This is the way a "gnostic most eloquent" can speak and fall silent at the same time. This is the way of true union, and "union is the truest way."

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

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