Rabi’ al-awwal: Burda and Fiyashiyyah


A beautiful performance of two of the most beautiful poems from the North African tradition.  The first is from the first lines of the famous Qasidah al-Burda of Shaykh al-Busiri, while the second is from the beloved Fiyashiyyah of Sidi Bahloul Cherki.

Listen to them back to back, the transition is lovely.

The Burda:

02 Muwal Al Burda


Is it from remembering the neighbors at Dhu Salam that you mingle with blood tears shed from your eyes

Or has the wind blown from before Kāẓimah, and lightning flashed in the darkness of Iḍam

What ails your eyes, that when you bid them cease they weep still more? What ails your heart, that when you bid it wake, it wanders

Reckons the lovelorn that his love may be concealed, when part of him’s a torrent, and the other is a blaze?

But for passion, you wouldn’t weep at an abandoned camp, nor lie awake at night recalling the willow and the mountain

So how can you deny your love, when the witness of tears and sickness have testified against you?

Love has carved upon your cheeks two tracks of tears like yellow spice and red ‘Anam fruit

Yes, my loved one’s spirit haunted me, and denied me my sleep. For love ever obstructs pleasures with pain.

You who blame me for this chaste love: I seek your pardon! Yet had you judged fairly, you would not have blamed me at all.

May you be spared my state! my secret not hidden from the haters—my sickness will not leave me

You offer me advice, but I hear it not. The lover is to all reproachers deaf

I suspect the advice of even the white-haired in their censure, even though their advice is far from suspicion



أمن تذكــــــر جيــــــرانٍ بذى ســــــلم مزجت دمعا جَرَى من مقلةٍ بـــــدم

َمْ هبَّــــت الريـــــحُ مِنْ تلقاءِ كاظمــةٍ وأَومض البرق في الظَّلْماءِ من إِضم

فما لعينيك إن قلت اكْفُفاهمتـــــــــــــــا وما لقلبك إن قلت استفق يهـــــــــم

أيحسب الصب أن الحب منكتـــــــــــم ما بين منسجم منه ومضطــــــــرم

لولا الهوى لم ترق دمعاً على طـــــللٍ ولا أرقت لذكر البانِ والعلــــــــــمِ

فكيف تنكر حباً بعد ما شـــــــــــــهدت به عليك عدول الدمع والســـــــــقمِ

وأثبت الوجد خطَّيْ عبرةٍ وضــــــــنى مثل البهار على خديك والعنــــــــم

نعم سرى طيف من أهوى فأرقنـــــــي والحب يعترض اللذات بالألــــــــمِ

يا لائمي في الهوى العذري معـــــذرة مني إليك ولو أنصفت لم تلــــــــــمِ

عدتك حالي لا سري بمســــــــــــــتتر عن الوشاة ولا دائي بمنحســـــــــم

محضتني النصح لكن لست أســـــمعهُ إن المحب عن العذال في صــــــممِ

إنى اتهمت نصيح الشيب في عـــــذلي والشيب أبعد في نصح عن التهـــتـمِ

في التحذير من هوى النفس

translation from :

Khanqah E Shaikh Zakariya





I don’t have any cares

What could cares have to do with me?

Why worry about my livelihood,

While Creator provides it for me?

I am a servant of my Lord, His is the Power

Before which every difficulty vanishes.

Although I am weak servant,

My Lord is powerful over everything.

In the darkness of the womb,

He formed me from a drop,

And started all kinds of blessings for me.

Having nothing but my nakedness,

Not knowing this from that

The Bountiful God covered me

And made the earth a bed for me

Earth he made my bed, and the sky a solid roof.

My heart, do not worry about anything,

Leave them for the Inward,

Fate is decreed, look at its traces and providential blessings

He who lives by the heart’s strength

Is happy in this world.

I, my friend, I have a doctor whose medicine cures me.

My heart follows after the beloved, my lord, the Messenger of God.




انا ما لي في اش         أش عليّ مني
نقلق من رزقي لاش      والخالق يرزقني


انــا عبـــد رب لــه قــــــــدرة          يهـون بها كـل امر عسيـر

فان كـنت عبدا ضعيف القوى        فربي على كل شيء قديـر

في ظلمة الارحام                 صورني من نطفة

و بدا لي بالانعام                 نعـم مـن كـل صنفـا

ما زدت الا عريان                 ما نعرف ذا من ذا

ستر الله المنان            جعل لي الارض فراش

جعل لي الارض فراش              و السماء سقفا مبني

يا قلبي لا تهتم                و اترك هم الباطن

المقدور محتم               شوف اثرا و انعاين

من قوى قلب عاش              في الدنيا متهني

*و انا سيدي عندي الطبيب       وعلجني بدوان

قلبي متوال بالحبيب       سيدي رسول الله



other versions:






Love and Beauty, Unity and Multiplicity, Realization and Reason

Three of my favorite verses of Arabic poetry (the last of which is from Ibn al-Farid) form a lovely meditation on these three topics (Love, Unity, and Truth), when taken together. 


“Various positions have those who love from (mere) passion
But I have a unique place, in which I dwell alone.”



مذاهب شتى للمحبّين في الهوى            و لي مدهب فرد أعيش به وحدي


Our expressions our many,
and your beauty is one
And it is to your beauty
that all of them allude

عباراتنا  شتّى و حسنك واحد      و كلّ إلى ذاك الجمال يشير


How often argument creates disputes amongst the clever
and how often beauty mediates between the lovers


فكم بين حذاق الجدال تنازع                وما بين عشاق الجمال تنازع


Cups and wine and vine-Hafez

Last night I saw the angels
tapping at the wine-shop’s door.
And kneading Adam’s dust,
and molding it as cups for wine;


And, where I sat beside the road,
these messengers of heaven
Gave me their wine to drink,
so that their drunkenness was mine.


The heavens could not bear
the heavy trust they had been given,
And lots were cast, and crazed
Hafez’s name received the sign


Forgive the seventy-two
competing factions- all their tales
Mean that the Truth is what
they haven’t seen and can’t define.


But I am thankful that there’s peace
between Him now, and me;
In celebration of our pact
the houris drink their wine-


And fire is not what gently smiles
from candles’ flames, it’s what
Annihilates the flocking moths
that flutter round His shrine.




دوش دیدم که ملائک در میخانه زدند
گل آدم بسرشتند و به پیمانه زدند


ساکنان حرم ستر و عفاف و ملکوت
با من راه نشین باد مستانه زدند


شکر ایزد که میان من و او صلح افتاد
صوفیان رقص کنان ساغر شکرانه زدند


آسمان بار امانت نتوانست کشید
قرعه فال به نام من دیوانه زدند


آتش آن نیست که از شعله او خندد شمع
آتش آنست که در خرمن پروانه زدند


جنگ هفتاد و دو ملت همه را عذر بنه
چون ندیدند حقیقت ره افسانه زدند


ما بصد خرمن پند و اندرز ره چون نرویم
چون ره آدم خاکی بیکی دانه زدند


کس چو حافظ نگشاد از رخ اندیشه نقاب
تا سر زلف عروسان سخن شانه زدند



When you drink wine, sprinkle
A few drops on the ground—
What’s there to fear from sin
That spreads much joy around?


Go, drink up all you have,
Drink now and don’t delay—
Death’s dagger won’t delay
Dispatching you one day.


My cypress-slender love,
By the dust on which you tread,
Don’t hesitate to visit
My dust when I am dead


In heaven or in hell,
For angels or for men
In every faith — to hold back
Counts as a mortal sin.


The architect of heaven
Who gave the world its shape
Has sealed its six directions
So that there’s no escape.


The daughter of the vine
Leads Reason all astray—
May the vine’s trellis stand
Unharmed till Judgement Day!


And may your dear friends’ prayers,
Hafez, when you depart
Via the wine-shop’s door,
Accompany your heart.


                  اگر شراب خوری جرعه‌ای فشان بر خاک
از آن گناه که نفعی رسد به غیر چه باک
                 برو به هر چه تو داری بخور دریغ مخور
که بی‌دریغ زند روزگار تیغ هلاک
                       به خاک پای تو ای سرو نازپرور من
که روز واقعه پا وامگیرم از سر خاک
                   چه دوزخی چه بهشتی چه آدمی چه پری
به مذهب همه کفر طریقت است امساک
                            مهندس فلکی راه دیر شش جهتی
چنان ببست که ره نیست زیر دیر مغاک
                      فریب دختر رز طرفه می‌زند ره عقل
مباد تا به قیامت خراب طارم تاک
                      به راه میکده حافظ خوش از جهان رفتی
دعای اهل دلت باد مونس دل پاک



Good wine, that doesn’t stupefy
That’s served by someone pretty—who
Among the wise men of this world
Escapes the snares set by these two?


It’s true I’m dissolute, in love,
Known as a shiftless miscreant…
A thousand thanks, then, that this town
Provides friends who are innocent.


If you should step inside our wine shop,
Look to your manners while you’re there—
The crowd that hangs around its door
Are the king’s cronies, so take care!


Cruelty is not the way of pilgrims,
Poor men who seek their journey’s end;
Bring wine! These “pilgrims” here are going
Nowhere, for all that they pretend.


But don’t despise the beggar’s lost
In hopeless love, don’t put them down—
They’re kings, though this one has no scepter
Monarchs, though that one has no crown


Don’t mar your loveliness, don’t let
The glory of your charm be shattered—
You’ll find your servants and your slaves
And all your retinue have scattered


I am the slave of those who drink
Life to the dregs, but not of those
Who hide a blackened heart beneath
The showy splendor of their clothes


Be ready, for a winnowing wind
Will blow—none of us sha;; remain,
And all devotions’s thousand harvests
Will not be worth a barley grain.


Love is the nobler task—up then,
Hafez, and seek it while you may,
For lovers will not let the timid
Amble beside them on love’s way.



Translations from Dick Davis. Faces of Love: Hafez and the Poets of Shiraz. Mage, 2012.



شراب بى غش و ساقى خوش دو دام رهند               كه زيركان جهان از كمندشان نرهند
من ار چه عاشقم و رند و مست و نامه سياه               هزار شكر كه ياران شهر بى گنهند
جفا نه پيشه ء درويشى است و راهروى                 بيار باده كه اين سالكان نه مرد رهند
مبين حقير گدايان عشق را كاين قوم                       شهان بى كمر و خسروان بى كلهند
به هوش باش كه هنگام باد استغناء                       هزار خرمن طاعت به نيم جو ننهند
مكن كه كوكبه ء دلبرى شكسته شود                     چو بندگان بگريزند و چاكران بجهند
غلام همت دردى كشان يك رنگم                      نه آن گروه كه ازرق لباس و دل سيهند
قدم منه به خرابات جز به شرط ادب                       كه سالكان درش محرمان پادشهند

جناب عشق بلندست همتى حافظ
كه عاشقان ره بى همتان به خود ندهند


And my own Hafez-style poem…

If you see cup and wine as two, you haven’t drunk enough
In this tavern, we drink love’s molten glass, served by the cup


And when the sparkling wine is swirled and left still to breathe well
That’s just the glass-blower whispering his secret sculpting spells


Not only does this wine redden cups’ sweet cheeks and their lips
Its pouring gives them lovely shapes and their bright translucence


The heavens are but spinning glasses cast from frozen wine
How strange that they all seem to fit within this cup of mine


Inside my glass, last night, I saw your face, mingling with mine
In drunken clarity, I sipped myself in your outline


The fine lines of your lips are just the rippling of this wine
And so we drink and kiss ‘till I can’t tell what’s yours from mine


Last night, I got so drunk I sold my soul for cups of wine
I’m back to see what I can get for my body this time


My heart’s the secret flask of that most thirsty of madmen
Who drained the wine, drank the dry glass, then downed the whole tavern


Bilqis thought our way was water, but soon learned this glass held wine
Sulayman’s tricked many spirits into these bottles of rhymes


Though everyone loves wine’s bouquet, who likes the drunkard’s belch?
Be quiet, hold your drink, and keep its secrets to yourself.

Points of Ink, Gasps of Breath

“All that is in the Revealed books is in the Qur’an, and all that is in the Qur’an is in the Fatihāh, and all that is in the Fatihāh is in ‘Bismi ‘Llāhi ‘r-Rahmāni ‘r-Rahīm.’

“All that is in  ‘Bismi ‘Llāhi ‘r-Rahmāni ‘r-Rahīm’ is in the letter , which itself is contained in the point that is beneath it.”

-Prophetic traditions
qtd. in Lings, M. A Sufi Saint of the Twentieth Century.  Islamic Texts Society, 1993 p. 148


Because the people of this world are in the station where forms are gathered and meanings are separated, they witness various letters as unified and letters which are of one species as numerous individual parts.  Thus when they look at the the letters:

يحبّهم و يحبّونه

(He loves them and they love him, Qur’an 5:54)

they see a unified species which is divided in its parts.  However, those who have divested themselves of this world—for whom the veil has been lifted and the clouds of doubt and blindness have dispersed from the face of their insight—[they] see these letters through inner sight in this way:

ي ح ب ه م

Then, when they ascend from this station to a higher station, they see them as tiny dots.

-Mulla Sadra Shirazi, quoting ‘Ayn al-Qudat Hamadani

qtd. in Rustom, M. The Triumph of Mercy. SUNY, 2012. p. 124





“The point and the ink are interchangeable as symbols in that writing is made up of a series of points of ink…”


The Letters are the signs of the ink: there is not one,
Save what the ink hath anointed; their own colour is pure illusion.
The ink’s colour it is that hath come into manifest being.
Yet it cannot be said that the ink hath departed from what it was.
The inwardness of the letters lay in the ink’s mytery,
And their outward show is through its self-determination.
They are its determinations, its activities,
And naught is there but it.  Understand thou the parable!
They are not it; say not that they are it!
To say so were wrong, and to say “it is they” were raving madness.
For it was before the letters, when not letter was;
And it remaineth, when no letter at all shall be.
Look well at each letter: thou seest it hath already perished
But for the face of the ink, that is, for the Face of His Essence,
Unto Whom All Glory and Majesty and Exaltation!
Even thus the letters, for all their outward show, are hidden,
Being overwhelmed by the ink, since their show is none other than its.
The letter addeth naught to the ink, and taketh naught from it,
But revealeth its integrality in various modes,
Without changing the ink.  Do ink and letter together make two?
Realize then the truth of my words: no being is there
Save that of ink, for him whose understanding is sound;
And wheresoe’er be the letter, there with it is always its ink.
Open thine intellect unto these parables and heed them


– ‘Abd al-Ghani an-Nabulusi qtd. in A Sufi Saint of the Twentieth Century p. 150-1


In one of his best known explications of the nature of things, Ibn al-‘Arabî looks at God’s creativity as an analogue of human speech. Just as we create words and sentences in the substratum of breath, so God creates the universe by articulating words in the Breath of the All-Merciful (nafas al-rahmân), which is the deployment of existence (inbisât al-wujûd); indeed, existence itself is synonymous with mercy (rahma).


From : Chittick, William, “Ibn Arabi”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2008 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.),



Let not the lies of teeth and tongue
Or dancing lips distract you from
The union of all speech in breath
A music from behind our death
All that’s spoken or that’s heard
Is but that wind inside the words
That howling, longing sigh that stirs
Our soul’s flames to ascend like birds
So this is all we have to say:
A fiery sigh when we’re apart
A gasping cry when the bright ray
Of your dark eyes pierces my heart



The echo of that sigh born from
the pregnant silence of your mouth
Flows through the world like wind and fire
Breathing all sounds in and back out
Souls like whisps of bright desire
Curl round your lips like your dark hair
Swimming in your voice’s choir
We’re all just breath, words of your prayer


Hallaj-The sun doesn’t rise or set…

Translation (sung portion in bold):

 I swear by God, sun riseth not nor setteth,
But in each breath I breathe my love for Thee
Nor go I e’er apart with friends for discourse
But Thou, as I sit with them, art my theme;
Nor dwell my thoughts on Thee, sadly or gladly,
But Thou art in my heart, I murmur Thee.
Nor have I mind to drink of water in thirst,
But I behold Thine image in the cup.
And could I come to Thee, then speed I would
Upon my face, or walking on my head.



From Martin Lings.  Sufi Poems.  The Islamic Texts Society, 2004.


والله ما طلعت شمسٌ ولا غربت …. إلا و حبّـك مقـرون بأنفاسـي

ولا خلوتُ إلى قوم أحدّثهــم …. إلا و أنت حديثي بين جلاســي

ولا ذكرتك محزوناً و لا فَرِحا …. إلا و أنت بقلبي بين وسواســـي

ولا هممت بشرب الماء من عطش …. إلا رَأَيْتُ خيالاً منك في الكـــأس

ولو قدرتُ على الإتيان جئتـُكم …. سعياً على الوجه أو مشياً على الرأس