Baba Zahin Shah Taji

I was recently introduced to this amazing 20th-century Urdu Sufi poet and scholar (he translated and Ibn al-‘Arabi’s Fuṣūṣ al-Hikam and Futūḥāt al-Makkiyya and al-Ḥallāj’s Kitāb al-Ṭawāsīn into Urdu) in these beautiful translations by Amer Latif from this article:

Latif, Amer. “Ẕahīn Shāh Tājī’s (d. 1978) Signs of Beauty (Āyāt-i Jamāl).” Journal of Sufi Studies 10, no. 1-2 (2021): 215-233.


Something Else!

(Har chand kisī shay meyṅ nahīṅ jalwa kunāṅ awr)

Though there is no one else
Manifesting in all that there is;
In everything, those looking
fancy seeing something else.


You are not other, I am not other
“No” is not other, “Yes” is not other;
The Lords of certainty are one thing,
The companions of surmise something else.


Whom else will they seek,
Whom else will they find?
They will leave your door,
But can they go anywhere else?


The people of the garden are busy
Remembering the garden, but friend:
The language of flowers is one thing
The language of thorns something else.


Lower your eyes, bow down,
Ask for vision, ask for a heart;
The eye that sees is one thing,
The heart that sees is something else.


Look at the scattered pieces of the self:
The body is one thing,
the soul something else;
The heart is one thing,
the tongue something else.


With the wood of reason,
Feed the fire of love.
Sit and watch for a while:
The smoke from the blaze is something else.


All the drunks, Zaheen, live in different worlds;
Though the wine is not different,
The wine cup is not different, and
The wine giver is not someone else.





Listen to an even more incredible performance of the poem here


This is It!

(Jō jalwa gāh-i yār hay wōh dil yahī tō hay)

The heart where the friend is manifest, this is it;
The place at which we are, the destination of beauty, this is it.


To not see oneself is the condition for seeing you;
The veil that is the barrier between us, this is it.


Every particle heart-ravishing, each manifestation soul-soothing;
At every step, the thought: “The destination, this is it.”


The one carried away by the slightest of smiles,
That heart, that ocean without a shore, this is it.


Now every gesture of beauty makes me imagine
That the one who stole my heart away, this is it.


My heart speaks to me of what is in your heart,
A mirror face-to-face with a mirror, this is it.


To forget, in your love, both of the worlds,
If there’s a thing worth remembering, this is it.


I do recognize, O friends, the attribute of Zaheen:
The one apart yet mingled with everyone, this is it.




The qibla of love

Qu’ran 2:144

We have seen the turning of thy face to heaven. And now verily We shall turn you toward a qibla [direction of prayer] which is dear to thee. So turn thy face toward the Inviolable Place of Worship, and ye, wheresoever ye may be, turn your faces toward it. Lo! Those who have received the Scripture know that is the Truth from their Lord. And Allah is not unaware of what they do.

Qur’an 10:87

We revealed to Moses and his brother, “Appoint houses for your people in Egypt and make your houses a qibla [direction of prayer], and establish worship. And give good news to the believers.”


Qur’an 2:155

To god belong the East and West, and wheresoever you turn, there is the face of God.


“Do you think my qibla is only here [before me]? By God, your bowing and prostrating are not concealed from me; I can see you even though you are behind my back.”




Since the qibla of the soul has been hidden

everyone has turned his face to a different corner

(Masnavi 5:328-337)


قبله‌ی جان را چو پنهان کرده‌اند
هر کسی رو جانبی آورده‌اند



The Kaaba of Gabriel and the celestial spirits is a Lote-tree;
the glutton’s qibla is a cloth laden with dishes of food.
The qibla of the Knower is the light of union with God;
the qibla of the philosopher’s mind is fantasy.
The qibla of the ascetic is God, the Gracious;
the qibla of the flatterer is a purse of gold.
The qibla of the spiritual is patience and long-suffering;
the qiblah of form-worshippers is an image of stone.
The qibla of those who live in the inward is the Bounteous One;
the qibla of those who worship the outward is a woman’s face.
(Masanvi 6, 1896–1900)



کعبه‌ی جبریل و جانها سدره‌ای ** قبله‌ی عبدالبطون شد سفره‌ای
قبله‌ی عارف بود نور وصال  ** قبله‌ی عقل مفلسف شد خیال
قبله‌ی زاهد بود یزدان بر ** قبله‌ی مطمع بود همیان زر
قبله‌ی معنی‌وران صبر و درنگ ** قبله‌ی صورت‌پرستان نقش سنگ
قبله‌ی باطن‌نشینان ذوالمنن ** قبله‌ی ظاهرپرستان روی زن


By virtue of that Light the calf becomes a qibla of grace;
without that Light the qibla becomes infidelity and an idol.
The licence that comes from self-will is error;
the licence that comes from God is perfection.
In that quarter where the illimitable Light has shone,
infidelity has become faith and the Devil has attained unto Islam.


عجل با آن نور شد قبله‌ی کرم ** قبله بی آن نور شد کفر و صنم
هست اباحت کز هوای آمد ضلال ** هست اباحت کز خدا آمد کمال
کفر ایمان گشت و دیو اسلام یافت ** آن طرف کان نور بی‌اندازه تافت

(Masnavi 6: 2073)



Within the Ka‘ba the rule of the qibla does not exist:
what matter if the diver has no snow-shoes?
Do not seek guidance from the drunken:
why dost thou order those whose garments are rent in pieces to mend them?
The religion of Love is apart from all religions:
for lovers, the (only) religion and sect is God.



در درون کعبه رسم قبله نیست ** چه غم ار غواص را پاچیله نیست‏
تو ز سر مستان قلاووزی مجو ** جامه چاکان را چه فرمایی رفو
تو ز سر مستان قلاووزی مجو ** جامه چاکان را چه فرمایی رفو
ملت عشق از همه دینها جداست ** عاشقان را ملت و مذهب خداست‏

(Masnavi 6:1768-1770)



Since the Hand of God has made the Qibla manifest,
henceforth deem searching to be disallowed.
Hark, avert your face and head from searching,
now that the Destination and Dwelling-place has come into view.
If you forget this Qibla for one moment, you will become in thrall to every worthless qibla (object of desire).
When you show ingratitude to him that gives you discernment, the thought that recognises the Qibla will dart away from you.



قبله را چون کرد دست حق عیان ** پس تحری بعد ازین مردود دان
هین بگردان از تحری رو و سر ** که پدید آمد معاد و مستقر
ک زمان زین قبله گر ذاهل شوی ** سخره‌ی هر قبله‌ی باطل شوی
چون شوی تمییزده را ناسپاس ** بجهد از تو خطرت قبله‌شناس




Amīr Khusrow

Every sect has a faith, a  Qibla to which they turn,
I have turned my face towards the crooked cap (of Nizamudin Aulia)
The whole world worships something or the other,
Some look for God in Mecca, while some go to Kashi (Banaras),
So why can’t I, Oh wise people, fall into my beloved’s feet?
Every sect has a faith, a Qibla.



هر قوم راست راهي، ديني و قبله گاهي

من قبله راست كرديم ،‌بر سمت كج كلاهي


Har qaum raast raahay, deen-e wa qibla gaahay,
Mun qibla raast kardam, bar samt kajkulaahay.
Sansaar har ko poojay, kul ko jagat sarahay,
Makkay mein koyi dhoondhay, Kaashi ko koi jaaye,
Guyyian main apnay pi kay payyan padun na kaahay.
Har qaum raast raahay, deen-e wa qibla gaahay…


Mirza Ghālib

The one to whom I bow is beyond senses’ boundaries

The qiblah itself’s a pointer for those who can see



ہے پرے سرحدِ ادراک سے اپنا مسجود

قبلے کو اہلِ نظر قبلہ نما کہتے ہیں




Ibn ‘Arabi:

Contemplate the house: for sanctified hearts,
its lights shine openly
They look at it through God, without a veil,
and its august and sublime secret appears to them.


and famously:

My heart has become receptive to every form
A meadow for gazelles, and a cloister for the monks
A house for the idols, and the pilgrim’s Ka’aba
The tablets of the Torah, pages of the Qur’an
My religion is love’s own and wheresoever turn
Her caravan, that love is my religion and my faith
We have an example in Bishr, lover of Hind and her sister,
And Qays and Layla, and Mayya and Ghaylan*


لقدْ صارَ قلبي قابلاً كلَّ صورة ٍ                فمَرْعًى لغِزْلاَنٍ وديرٌ لرُهْبانِ
وبَيْتٌ لأوثانٍ وكعبة ُ طائفٍ،                 وألواحُ توراة ٍ ومصحفُ قرآنِ
أدينُ بدينِ الحبِّ أنَّى توجَّهتْ                   رَكائِبُهُ فالحُبُّ ديني وإيماني
لنا أُسْوَة ٌ في بِشْرِ هندٍ وأُخْتِهَا               وقيسٍ وليلى ، ثمَّ مي وغيلانِ


Also see:

P | A | Chodkiewicz: The Paradox of the Ka‘ba


Charles Long, Siginifcations:

“”For my purposes, religion will mean orientation—orientation in the ultimate sense, that is, how one comes to terms with the ultimate significance of one’s place in the world.”

David Foster Wallace, “This is Water”:

“Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship–be it JC or Allah, be it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles–is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. On one level, we all know this stuff already. It’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.

Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they’re evil or sinful, it’s that they’re unconscious. They are default settings.

They’re the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that’s what you’re doing.

And the so-called real world will not discourage you from operating on your default settings, because the so-called real world of men and money and power hums merrily along in a pool of fear and anger and frustration and craving and worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the centre of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talk about much in the great outside world of wanting and achieving…. The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.

That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.”

-David Foster Wallace

I am the smoke of a blown out candle

Another beautiful death poem, so good it deserves its own post


Poetry by Ali Akbar Natiq, sung by Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

Translation by A. Changezi:

I am the smoke of a blown out candle, returning to my source
My heart’s desires erased, I now efface my existence
Last night, your lost remembrance came into my heart
Like the silent arrival of spring in the wilderness
Like the soft movement of the morning breeze in the desert
Like an ailing man finding stillness, without a reason
How You have changed, like the times
Whenever we have met, as if for the first time
Should I call it your cruelty – or your favor, this?
That even grief comes to me like a precious souvenir
When the fires of sorrow were stoked in the heart
We cried the way water bursts from the sky
What offerings could we have made to your Beauty?
There is only this one life, received like charity
I am the smoke of a blown out candle, returning to my source
My heart’s desires erased, I now efface my existence
Solely to see Your face, I bring forth images of idols
That I may collect their various splendours, into a likeness of You
I have hidden myself in a shroud, so trouble Yourself not with concealment
In creating a cloak for myself, it is your Veil that I lift
There, You have already departed home – here, my breath is departing
Lord, what is this calamity? You approach just as I am leaving
Love is man’s nature – where is the possibility of abandoning it?
The more I try to forget, the more You are present in my remembrance
“Here I am” on every tongue, on every breath – my brow in prostration at every step
You travel to the home of idols, Naatiq, as if you were journeying to the House of God

بجھی ہوئی شمع کا دھواں ھوں اور اپنے مرکز کو جا رہا ھوں
کہ دل کی حسرت تو مٹ چکی ھے اب اپنی ہستی مٹا رہا ھوں

تیری ہی صورت کے دیکھنے کو بتوں کی تصویریں لا رہا ھوں
کہ خوبیاں سب کی جمع کر کے تیرا تصور جما رہا ھوں

کفن میں خود کو چھپا لیا ھے کہ تجھ کو پردے کی ھو نہ زحمت
نقاب اپنے لیے بنا کر حجاب تیرا اٹھا رہا ھوں

ادھر وہ گھر سے نکل پڑے ہیں ادھر میرا دم نکل رہا ہے
الہی کیسی ہے یہ قیامت وہ آ رہیں ہیں میں جا رہا ہوں

محبت انسان کی ھے فطرت کہاں ھے امکان ترک الفت
وہ اور بھی یاد آ رہے ہیں میں ان کو جتنا بھلا رھا ھوں

زبان پہ لبیک ہر نفس میں جبیں پہ سجدہ ہے ہر قرم پہ
یوں جا رہا بت کدے کو ناطق کہ جیسے کعبے کو جا رہا ہوں

بجھی ہوئی شمع کا دھواں ھوں اور اپنے مرکز کو جا رہا ھوں
کہ دل کی حسرت تو مٹ چکی ھے اب اپنی ہستی مٹا رہا ھوں