Did Lightning Flash?


Ibrahim Niasse



Did lightning flash towards the meadows, gleaming?
O grant me a person that when the lightning flashes, he weeps
You only glimpse it weakly, woe to you, and you are inflamed with love
And glistening tears are stilled in the hour of Life
Recalling the days of youth which have passed
And nothing remains save agony and pain
May God pour out rain on a land in Madina for indeed she is
The travellers’ halt, in it, tattered rags are mended
Home of the beloved of God and he is His entrusted one
Residing in it [al-Madina], surrounded by all his followers
Home to the one whose heart is preoccupied with his love
For his remembrance is to the heart is like a meadow and grassland
Home to the most exalted of creation, beautiful of character and form
Home to he who, in creation, gives and holds back
And [he is] the best of them in himself, in relation by marriage, and in descent
In knowledge and in manners,  most mindful and most reverent
Indeed, he is the best of creation in absolute magnificence and splendour.
Awe-inspiring,  in his gait, he strides powerfully
[He is] Rosy of colour and black of eye
putting to shame the eye of the wild cow grazing in the bush
Large-eyed, with long lashes, and broad of brow is the Messenger of God,
and his character is more expansive
with eyebrows fine and curved, the face of TaHa is round
and his beard is thick, and his chest, wide
His shoulders are broad, and his bones large
and of stocky build is the sublime TaHa
Likewise his biceps are large, and large are his forearms
His palms are welcoming/generous and shine with lights
his fingers were long and unclipped
and thick, these are among his sublime features
his teeth are white, and they shine forth when he smiles
like grains of white clouds or the flashing lightning
The hair on his head is luxurious and manly
and he is soft-spoken and silent, for he is reverent
and his sorrows are connected to his contemplation
and if he speaks, he speaks goodness and the truth that is due
he but glances and he prevails over the earth
he leads his companions and the angels follow him
And the neck of the Messenger of God resembles a doll
When he separates his hair, it [neck] shines and glows
Like the hidden pearls, and its smell is like musk
for there is none altogether like the Messenger of God in fortune
the Most clement of God’s creatures and most just of His creation
Among people, most generous is he, [and] even the bravest [of them]
He serves families, mends [sews] his sandals
He cuts meats and he patches clothes
So modest, that he answers to whoever calls upon him
For his anger is only for his Master (Mawla), and he returns to The Truth 
He never refrained from that which is lawful even if it were pleasant
And he was not consumed, in most times, with satiating his appetite
Sometimes he rides on horses، at times
On donkeys, and sometimes on foot he walks, striding briskly
And likewise his clothing was fragrant with perfume
He sits with [different] groups, while voices are yet raised
Sometimes he jokes, at other times, he creates bonds of friendship
Never did he fear any king, for indeed his state is lofty
He never despised the poor, but invited them all
And by God, the Master of creation, he brings together creation
The Master honoured him with the greatest of honours
And He singled him out as the one who benefits creation
Upon him be the blessings of God as long as [the sun] shines forth from the East
And [as long as] the doves sing on the branches cooing
And as long as the dust of time is repelled from the place which
adorns his praises with song and rhyme
And upon his family and companions as long as the words of the longing lover [ask]
Did lightning flash towards the meadows, gleaming?






Ibn al-Fāriḍ


1. Is it a flash of lightning that shone over the mottled mountain, or did Layla lift, from her face, the veil?

2. Yes, she unveiled her face at night, and made it day with the light of her shining beauty

3. O rider of the strenuous she-camel—mayest thou be protected from destruction!—if thou shalt cross o’er rugged land, or make thy journey through torrent-bottoms

4. And if thou passest along Na’man of the thorn-bush, turn thou aside unto a valley there I have known of old, wide spreading,

5. Then at the right of al-‘Alaman, skirting Na’man to the East, incline, and repair to its sweet-scented arin

6. And when thou hast reached unto long mountains opposing the sandy stretch, inquire after a heart that has perished in that dear torrent-bed

7. And recite a greeting unto the dear folk dwelling there on my behalf (and say, ‘I left him thirsting passionately for your presence’):

8. ‘O inhabitants of Nejd, is there no compassion for one a prisoner to a loved companion, who desireth not release?

9. Why have ye not sent a greeting to the impassioned one, in the folds of the dust-free winds at evening,

10.’Whereby he may live anew, who supposed your shunning him to be but a jest, and yet believed jesting far removed from your wants?’

11. O thou who reproachest a passionate heart, ignorant of what he has long been enduring—mayest thou never achieve success!—

12. Thou hast wearied thyself in counseling him whose determined view it is, that he will not look upon prosperity and good fortune:

13. Refrain—may I have naught of thee!—and reject thou him whose bowels have been mercilessly wounded by wide-eyed enchanters.

14. Thou wast the truest of friends, before thou didst offer thy counsel to one passionate with love; and hast thou ever seen amorous swain friendly disposed to counsellors?

15. If thou seekest my reformation, for my own part, I never desired any reformation for the ruin of my heart in passion

16. What is it that the reproachers desire, in reproaching one who has clothed himself in profligacy, and taken his rest and is at repose?

17. O people of my affection, is it possible that he who hopes for union with you should attain his ambition, and so his mind enjoy rest?

18. Since ye were absent form my gaze, truly my sighing fills all the quarts of Egypt with lamentation

19. and when I remember you, I sway with emotion as though I have been given to drink of wine, because of the fragrance of your memory

20. And when I am urged to feign forgetfulness of my bond with you, I find my bowels are very jealous of that bond

21. Fresh forever be the recollection of those days passed by, with neighbors in whose company our nights were festivals indeed

22. When the tribe’s enclosure was my homeland too, and the dwellers of al-Ghaḍa were my heart’s whole comfort, and when I came down as I pleased to water there freely;

23. And its dear people were my desire, and the shade of its palm-trees my joy, and the sands of its twain valleys my place of repose.

24. Alas for that time and its sweetness, days when I ever found rest from weariness!

25. I swear by Zamzam and Abraham’s station, and he who came to the Sacred House crying, ‘Labbayk, to Thee I come, O Lord!’ a journeyer in the land:

26. Never did the breeze wafting from the East sway the sweet-scented wormwood of the sand-hills, but that it brought new life from you to the lovers slain by passion

Translation modified from The Mystical Poem of Ibn al-Farid by A.J. Arberry




أبَرْقٌ، بدا من جانِبِ الغَورِ، لامعُ،                  أم ارتَفَعتْ، عن وجه ليلى ، البراقِعُ
نعم اسفرت ليلى فصار بوجهها                         نهارا به نور المحاسن ساطع
أنارُ الغضا ضاءتْ وسلمى بذي الغضا                          أمِ ابتسمتْ عمَّا حــكتهُ المدامعُ
أنشرُ خزامي فاحَ أمْ عرفُ حاجرٍ                     بأمّ القُرى ، أم عِطْرُ عَزّة َ ضائِعُ
ألا ليتَ شعري هلْ سليمي مقيمة ٌ                      بِوادي الحِمى ، حَيثُ المُتيَّمُ والِعُ
وهلْ لعلعَ الرَّعدُ الهتونُ بلعلعٍ                    وهلْ جادَها صَوبٌ من المُزنِ هامِعُ
وهلْ أردنْ ماءَ العذيبِ وحاجرٍ                    جِهاراً، وسِرُّ اللّيلِ، بالصّبحِ، شائِعُ
وهل قاعَة ُ الوَعْساءمخْضَرّة َ الرّبى ؛               وهلْ، ما مَضَى فيها من العيش، راجعُ
وهلْ، برُبى نجْدٍ، فَتوضِحَ، مُسنِدٌ                          أُهَيلَ النّقا عمّا حَوَتْهُ الأضالِعُ
وهلْ بلوى سلعٍ يسلْ عنْ متيَّمٍ                          بكاظمة ٍ ماذا بهِ الشَّوقُ صانعُ
وهلْ عذباتُ الرَّندِ يقطفُ نورها                             وهلْ سلماتٌ بالحجازِ أيانعُ
وهلْ أثلاثُ الجزعِ مثمرة ٌ وهلْ                       عُيونُ عَوادي الدّهرِعنها هَواجِعُ
وهل قاصِراتِ الطّرفِ عِينٌ، بعالجٍ،                      على عهديَ المعهودِ أمْ هوِ ضائعُ
وهلْ ظبياتَ الرَّقمتينِ بعيدنا                               أقمنا بها أمْ دونَ ذلكَ مانعُ
وهَل فَتَياتٌ بالغُويرِ يُرينَني                              مرابعَ نعمٍ نعمَ تلكَ المرابعُ
وهلْ ظلُّ ذاكَ الضَّالِ شرقيَّ ضارجٍ                           ظليلٌ، فـقَدْ رَوّتْهُ منّي المَدامعُ
وهلْ عامرٌ منْ بعد ناشعبُ عامرٍ                          وهل هوَ، يوماً، للمُحبّينَ جامِعُ
وهلْ أمَّ بيتَ اللهِ يا أمَّ مالكٍ                          عريبٌ لهمْ عندي جميعاً صنائعُ
وهلْ نَزَلَ الرَّكبُ العِراقي، مُعَرِّفاً،                          وهلْ شرعتْ نحوَ الخيامِ شرائعُ
وهلْ رقصتْ بالمأزمينِ قلائصٌ                             وهلْ للقبابِ البيضِ فيها تدافعُ
وهلْ لي بجمعِ الشَّملِ في جمع مسعدٌ                          وهلْ لليالي الخيفِ بالعمرِ بائعُ
وهلْ سلَّمتْ سلمى على الحجرِ الَّذي                           بهِ العهدُ والتفَّتْ عليهِ الأصابعُ
وهلْ رضعتْ منْ ثديِ زمزمَ رضعة ً                     فلا حُرّمتْ، يوماً عليها، المَراضِعُ
لعلّ أُصَيحابي، بِمكّة ، يُبْرِدُوا،                          بذِكْرِ سُلَيْمَى ، ما تُجِنّ الأضالعُ
وعلَّ الُّلييلاتِ الَّتي قدْ تصرَّمتْ                                تعودُ لنا يوماً فيظفرَ طامعُ
ويَفْرَحَ محْزُونٌ، ويَحيَا مُتَيَّمٌ،                                 ويأنسَ مشتاقٌ ويلتذْ سامعُ



Did Layla’s fire shine at Dhu Salam
or did lightning flash at al-Zawra and al-Alam?
Oh breezes of Na’man, where is dawn’s breath?
Oh water of Wajrah, where is my first draught?
Oh driver of the howdahs rolling up the perilous deserts
aimlessly like a scroll, at Dhat al-Shih of Iḍam
Turn aside at the sacred precinct—May God preserve you!—
seeking the thicket of lote trees possessing sweet bay and lavender,
And halt at Sal’ and say to the valley:
“Were those dear tamarisks at al-Raqmatan
watered by flowing rains?”
adjure you by God! if you cross al-‘Aqiq
at forenoon, greet them boldly
And say: “I left him stricken, lying in
your encampmentsliving like the dead,
sickness infecting disease!”
My heart is flaming like a torch,
my eyes awash in endless torrents.
This is the lovers’ law: bound to a fawn
every limb is racked with pain.
Fool blaming me for loving them, enough!
Could you love, you wouldn’t blame.
By sacred union and noble love,
and by the steadfast covenant of
have not broken from them 
seeking solace or another; I’m not like that.
Return sleep to my eyes—perhaps your phantom
will visit my bed in the darkness of dreams.
Ah, for our days at al-Khayf—had
they been ten—but how could they last?
If only grief could cure me,
and remorse recover what has passed.
Fawns of the winding valleys, leave me alone—please.
I have bound my eye to face only them,
Obeying a judge who decreed a wondrous thing: 
the shedding of my blood in unhallowed and
sacred grounds.
Deaf—he did not hear the plea—dumb—
he did not answerblind to the case of one bound by desire
Translation from E. Homerin Form Arab Poet to Muslim Saint


هلْ نارُ ليلى بَدت ليلاً بِذي سَلَمِ،             أمْ بارقٌ لاحَ في الزَّوراءِ فالعلمِ
أرواحَ نعمانَ هلاَّ نسمة ٌ سحراً                 وماءَ وجرة َ هلاَّ نهلة ٌ بفمِ
يا سائقَ الظَّعنِ يطوي البيدَ معتسفاً         طيَّ السّجِلّ، بذاتِ الشّيحِ من إضَمِ
عُجْ بالحِمى يا رَعاكَ اللَّهُ، مُعتَمداً          خميلة َ الضَّالِ ذاتَ الرَّندِ والخزمِ
وقِفْ بِسِلْعٍ وسِلْ بالجزْعِ:هلْ مُطرَتْ                   بالرَّقمتينِ أثيلاتٌ بمنسجمِ
ناشَدْتُكَ اللَّهَ إنْ جُزْتَ العَقيقَ ضُحًى            فاقْرَ السَّلامَ عليهِمْ، غيرَ مُحْتَشِمِ
وقُلْ تَرَكْتُ صَريعاً، في دِيارِكُمُ،                حيّاً كميِّتٍ يعيرُ السُّقمَ للسُّقمِ
فَمِنْ فُؤادي لَهيبٌ نابَ عنْ قَبَسٍ،              ومنْ جفوني دمعٌ فاضَ كالدِّيمِ
وهذهِ سنَّة ُ العشَّاقِ ما علقوا               بِشادِنٍ، فَخَلا عُضْوٌ منَ الألَمِ
يالائماً لا مني في حبِّهمْ سفهاً               كُفَّ المَلامَ، فلو أحبَبْتَ لمْ تَلُمِ
وحُرْمَة ِ الوَصْلِ، والوِدِّالعتيقِ، وبالـ           العهدِ الوثيقِ وما قدْ كانَ في القدمِ
ما حلتُ عنهمْ بسلوانٍ ولابدلٍ             ليسَ التَّبدُّلُ والسُّلوانُ منْ شيمي
ردُّوا الرُّقادَ لجفني علَّ طيفكمُ            بمضجعي زائرٌ في غفلة ِ الحلمِ
آهاً لأيّامنا بالخَيْفِ، لَو بَقِيَتْ             عشراً وواهاً عليها كيفَ لمْ تدمِ
هيهاتَ واأسفي لو كانَ ينفعني        أوْ كانَ يجدى على ما فات واندمي
عني إليكمْ ظباءَ المنحنى كرماً              عَهِدْتُ طَرْفيَ لم يَنْظُرْ لِغَيرِهِمِ
طوعاً لقاضٍ أتى في حُكمِهِ عَجَباً،          أفتى بسفكِ دمي في الحلِّ والحرمِ
أصَمَّ لم يَسمَعِ الشّكوَى ، وأبكمَ لم        يُحرْجواباً وعنْ حالِ المشوقِ عَمِي


Buṣīrī’s Burdah



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 written 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.


fkayfa tankiru



أمن تذكــــــر جيــــــرانٍ بذى ســــــلم
مزجت دمعا جَرَى من مقلةٍ بـــــدم

َامْ 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




Ibn ‘Arabi

He saw the lightning flash
and yearned toward the East.
If it had flashed West
west he’d have turned.

I burn for the lightning,
for the flash,
not for this or that – 
some piece of ground.

The East wind told me
a tradition about them, from
the wreck of my heart, from
ecstasy, sorrow, my disarray

From drunkenness, reason,
longing, the wound of love,
from tears, my eyelids,
the fire, my heart:

He whom you desire
is between your ribs,
turned side to side
in the heat of your sigh.

I told them tell him
he’s the one
who kindled the fire
blazing in my heart.

It is extinguished only
in our coming together. If
it burns out of control,
who can be blamed for loving?

From: Stations of Desire: Translations from Tarjuman al-ashwaq by Michael Sells


رأى البرْقَ شرقيّاً، فحنّ إلى الشرْقِ،                         ولو لاحَ غربيَّاً لحنَّ إلى الغربِ
فإنّ غَرامي بالبُرَيْقِ ولمحِهِ                          وليسَ غرَامي بالأماكِنِ والتُّرْبِ
رَوَتْهُ الصَّبَا عنهُمْ حَديثاً مُعَنْعَناً             عن البثّ عن وَجدي عن الحزْن عن كربي
عن السكرِ عن عقلي عن الشوق عن جوًى                 عن الدَّمعِ عن جفني عن النَّارعن قلبي
بأنّ الذي تهواه بينَ ضُلوعكم                              تقلِّبهُ الأنفاسُ جنباً إلى جنبِ
فقلتُ لها: بلِّغ إليهِ فإنَّهُ                          هو الموقِدُ النّارَ التي داخلَ القلبِ
   فإن كان إطفاءٌ، فوَصْلٌ مُخلَّدٌ                 وإن كان إحتراقٌ، فلا ذنبَ للصّبّ      


Whether lightning flashes at al-Himā
or you watch for it, cast off restraint
Say to whomever finds in it a bad omen:
I was happy, when I saw the lightning.
When it appeared over the high place of worship,
it taught the morning to shine
When a wanderer came in the darkness,
it turned his night to day
His sun rose from his deepest self to the summit of perfection,
leaving him perplexed.
Drunkenness afflicted him from what he saw and
the kindness of the cupbearer rounding  toward him
He poured for him a convivial old vintage,
the choicest wine, an overpowering drink.
His intoxication made him stagger, and he called out:
“Friend don’t abandon the great ones
Be wanton, like me.
Drinking this has left me with no choice.”
Through it, the moment is purified, since it passed ’round
to the builder of the wall.
How odd: Layla’s Qays
complains that the one who visited him fled.
Layla did not leave him
instead she put a veil on her face.
When she came before him without it
her Majnun called what he saw a disgrace


translation from: Abu’l Hasan al-Shushtari Songs of Love and Devotion by Lourdes Maria Alvarez


إذا  بُرَيْق  الحمى   استنارَا        أو   شمته   فاخلع   العذَارَا
وقلْ    لمنْ    شامه     فإنيّ        آنست   لمّا    رأيت    نارَا
لمَّا بَدت في  رُبيَ  المُصَلَّى        علمت  الصبحَ     الاسفرارَا
ومُدْلِج  في   الدجى     أتاهَا        قَد   صيرت   ليله    نهَارا
وأشرقت    شمَسه     بأوج        الكمالِ   من   ذاتِه    فخارا
يميلَ   من   سِكر    ماتراه        منْ لطف  ساق  علِيه    دَارا
سقاهَ  من   خندريس   أنْس        سلافة      تعقر      القفارا
رنَّحَهُ      سُكرهُ      فَنادى        ياصَاح  لا  تترك     الكبَارَا
وكنْ   خليعاً   كما    ترَاني        لم يُبْقِ  لي  شربها  اِختيارا
بها صَفَاَ الوقت حين دارت        عَلى الذي قد  بنَى  الجدارا
يَا   عجبا    مَالقيس    ليلى        يشكو الذَّي  وصْلُه    النّفارا
لمَّا   بدت    دونَه    تَسمَّى        مَجْنَونها   ما   رآه    عَارا
لَيلاه    مَا    باعَدْتُه    لكن        أرْخَتْ عَلى وجهِهِا   الخمَارا



Imru’l Qays

Friend, do you see yonder lightning? Look, there goes its gleam
flashing like two hands now in the heaped-up, crowned stormcloud:

Its glimmer illumining the sky, or like the flicker of a monk’s lamp
When, tilting it, he soaks with oil the tightly twisted wick.


أصاحي ترى برقا كأن وميضه           كلمع اليدين في حبي مكلل
يضيء سناه أو مصابيح راهب        أهان السليط في الذبال المفتل


A lightning flash from Layla’s house at dawn,
Goodness knows, what it did to the love-torn heart of Majnun.


برقی از منزل لیلی بدرخشید سحر
وه که با خرمن مجنون دل افگار چه کرد