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Translation of the first poem from the Discloser of Desires, a sample translation and expounding from:

The Precious...
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Expounding
The Discloser
of Desires

by
Ibn al-Arabi

translation and annotation by
Mohamed Haj Yousef

Copyright © 2014 Mohamed Haj Yousef
All rights reserved.
ISBN-10: 1499769865
ISBN-13: 978-1499769869




1- I lost my mind
 

أَيَّ قَلْبٍ مَلَكُوا   لَيْتَ شِعْرِي هَلْ دَرَوْا 1
أَيَّ شِعْبٍ سَلَكُوا   وَفُؤَادِي لَوْ دَرَى 2
أَمْ تُرَاهُمْ هَلَكُوا   أَتُرَاهُمْ سَلِمُوا 3
فِي الْهَوَى وَارْتَبَكُوا   حَارَ أَرْبَابُ الْهَوَى 4

Translation:

1 If only they know what heart they possessed!
2 If my heart only knows what route they followed!
3 Are they safe, or are they lost?
4 I lost my mind in love, and become entangled.
 

 Depiction:
This four-verse poem is composed on the partial light meter (majzouå al-khafîf), which goes like this: (|o||o|o, |o||o) or (|o||o|o, |||o) on both lines; where the streak denotes vowel sounds and the circle denotes consonants, or: (xu—x-u-) according to the hendecasyllable system. The light meter is suitable for singing and chanting, because it is soft and easy to follow.
It is amazing how this short poem actually summarizes Ibn Arabi's dramatic love story with Nizam, although it was the very first occasion that ignited his attachment with her, as though he had felt deep in heart the tragic end of the story that is about to shudder, so he started to chant these verses. Perhaps this is what he was describing (in his introduction above) that he felt an idiosyncratic spiritual state that forced him to leave the crowds and walk on the sands, so that no one could hear him, but he was actually rambling towards his own fate.
It can fairly be said that most of the rest of the sixty poems are based on this general scheme of unexpected parting and separation without knowing what is happening with his beloved, his wife Nizam.
On the inward spiritual level, however, the reference in this poem is to the exalted scenes at the highest station (maqâm) where subsists the sweetest potion for the hearts of Gnostics in which they are passionately enamored, and by which their spirits are distraught, and for whose sake the godly workers perform their works of devotion.
So the poet is wandering here if these exalted scenes know that they have possessed such a perfect Muhammadan heart of the Gnostic that is otherwise not limited by any particular station. Nevertheless, this heart is possessed by these exalted scenes, because they are his definite purpose, though they cannot know that they possess his heart, because they actually belong to his own essence, inasmuch as he beholds in them nothing except his own actuality; thus he indeed regards himself and loves and adores none but himself. This is also in accordance with the verse in Koran: (So whoever is guided is only guided to himself) [10:108, 17:15, 27:92], as normally interpreted by the Sufis. So when these scenes vanished from his heart, what route did they follow and to what other heart they did enter!
However, these exalted scenes do not really exist by themselves, but only with relation to the existence of the seer; but by themselves they are nonexistent inasmuch as there is no one to behold them. So are they still safe when they vanished from his own heart, or are they lost when no other heart is beholding them!
The answer, I think, is the first; because Ibn Arabi always emphasizes that divine knowledge is never lost because it is always contained in the hearts of Gnostics, and for this reason if a Gnostic characterized with certain station(s) dies, Allah instantly promotes others to inherit him. This explains why, universally, there is always at least 124,000 saints at any given time, according to the number of prophets, and we say at least because maybe more than one saint share the inheritance of some prophets [futûhât, IV.398, III.207]. Therefore, we can now understand Nizam’s argument when she discussed this poem with her future husband, and she said at this particular verse: “They are safe! Don’t ask about them, but ask about yourself; are you safe or are you lost?”
In the last verse, Ibn Arabi uses the word: hawa, which is translated above as: "love", but it actually means: "fancy". By virtue of its nature, fancy causes confusion between two opposite things, because the lover wishes to be in accord with the beloved and also wishes to be united with him or her, but if the beloved wishes to leave the lover, the lover then falls in a real dilemma. Yet, fancy is the first phase of love, when love first enters the heart, but when the heart is dedicated, it can then be called love, and when it is persistent it is called attachment, and finally its concluding phase is affection, when it supervenes at all levels throughout the body, the heart and the thoughts.


Expounding the first verse:
1 If only they know what heart they possessed!
He says: I wish I felt “if they know”, and the pronoun here refers to the higher scenes – at the highest station, by the sweetest source – of which the hearts are fond, and in which the spirits wander, and for which the pious devotees labour. (I wish I know whether those higher scenes know) “which heart they possessed!”: refering to the perfect Mohammadan heart, for his independence above the restrictions of stations (maqamat, s. maqam), nevertheless those higher scenes have possessed it. But why not they possess it! Since they are his desire, but it is impossible for them to know that because they only belong to his own essence; he only witnesses them according to his own nature. Thus he is only looking inside himself, and he loves and adores none but his own identity.

Expounding the second verse:
2 If my heart only knows what route they followed!
He meant by the “route”: the way to the heart, since the route is a mountain pass; thus he is saying: when these higher scenes departed me, I wondered which “route they followed” to the hearts of those other knowers who pursued these ways. He intended to mention the route specifically because it is related to the mountain, which is like a hard wedge (watad), relating to the station (maqam); because it is permanent, whereas states (ahwal, s. hal) do not have this stability, though if stability and permanence are ever attributed to them it is due to their recurrence on the hearts, nothing more [see the Turjuman Terminology: “stations and states”].

Expounding the third verse:
3 Are they safe, or are they lost?
The higher scenes – being scenes - do not exist without the presence of the beholder, like (the spiritual) stations; they exist only when someone occupies them, if there is no occupant there is no station, and if there no beholder there is no scene, from the aspect of its being beheld. Therefore, their (possible) loss is due to the loss of the beholder; that is what is meant by his saying: “Are they safe, or are they lost”.

Expounding the fourth verse:
4 I lost my mind in love, and become entangled.
Since “love” (i.e. fancy) demands the thing and its opposite, the lover is confused and perplexed, because some of its demands is to favour whatever the beloved desire, while his desire is to unite with the beloved, but if the beloved desires to retreat, the lover, who has fancy, is then confronted with the two opposites; he must like both of them! This is the confusion compelled by fancy; it is the characteristics of every lover who has fancy.
Fancy (Hawa), for us, is when love just falls in the heart, in its early rising in the heart of the lover, nothing more. It is called Love (Hubb) only when it is pure, sincere, and not shared by any other matter. Then, when it is affirmed, it is called Attachment (Wudd). Subsequently, if it embraces the heart and the innards and the thoughts, and if the heart is attached to everything in the beloved, then it is called Affection (Ishq), derived (in Arabic) from the Ashaqah, the twining Convolvulus (tree).