Ruba‘iyat [Quatrains] Poetry

Precious Pearl

Fati, your nature with light is adorned!
Bonds of the intellect's veil have been shorn!
As though from an ocean of light and of grace
This precious pearl so pure has been born!

Ordibehesht 1367 AHS
[April-May 1988]


While the above expresses something of the rhythm and rhyme of the original, a more literal rendering of this quatrain is as follows:

Fati, as the light of your nature adorns you
You have become beautified from the bonds of the veil of the intellect
It is as though from the sea of the dominion of light and eminence
This precious pearl so pure has been raised

Like so much of Imam's advice to his daughter-in-law, the idea that intellectual pursuit can be an obstacle to communion with one's divine nature recurs in this poem.
The words for dominion and eminence (grace), Sultani and Sadr, are family names which allude to Fatimah Tabataba'i's genealogy.

The Path

Fati who treads the path of the angelic domain
Wants to pass from the state of the noetic domain
She is blind who from the well of the sensible domain
Would go without a guide toward the divine domain

May 29, 1984

The Absolute Beauty

Fati, uproot your heart from worldly interests
Withdraw your heart from befriending this and that
Opt for only the one Friend who is the absolute beauty
Withdraw your heart from the being and space of this world

June 3, 1984


According to the mystics of Islam, the lowest level of being is the sensible world, nasut. Above this is the angelic domain, malakut, which Henri Corbin has called the mundis imaginalis. Higher still is the world of the intellect, the noetic domain, jabarut. Finally, there is the divine domain, lahut.
The phrase ‘being and space,’ kown o makan, is an idiom commonly used in poetry to indicate the physical world.


Fati, what does it mean, you and the reality of gnosis
What does it mean to comprehend the essence without attributes?
Having not read the A you shall not find your way to Z
Having not read the path, what does it mean to be gifted?

The Friend

As long as you have the Friend, you shall suffer no harm,
As long as He exists, there is no dust of quality and quantity
Abandon whatever there is and choose Him
There is no advice more excellent than these two words

May 25, 1984

Wake Up

Other than the way of the Friend, where can you go?
Except for His homage, what can you say?
Whatever homage and tribute you say is His homage
Wake up, O pal, how long will you sleep?

The Sun of the World

Wake up, O friend, from this heavy sleep!
Behold the face of the beloved manifest in every particle
When you are asleep you are hidden in your selfhood
The sun of the world is hidden from your eye
June 7, 1984

Affliction of the Heart

One who is not softened by a sigh is steel hearted,
Or who is not warmed by the moaning of the heart burned,
He has cast a lasso of cruelty about his neck
The affliction of my heart causes him no shame


O sun! Rise, for we are all sleeping!
We are glowing with the fever of separation from your face
Every quarter and rooftop is enlighten by your face,
But we are like bats and are veiled

February-March 1984

A Sleeping Heart

What is the world illuminating sun compared to your eye?
Where is the memory of the face of the beloved in a sleeping heart?1
With your clay body you shall not become an angel
O my friend! Where is the dust and the Lord of Lords?


Arise because those who tread the path are all on the way,
Constantly they move on toward the dwelling,
There, where there is no memory save that of the Friend,
The depressed hearts are all black faced
July 15, 1984

Think of a Way

If we cannot be obedient we shall sin
We shall turn from the seminary to the khanaqah2
The cry “I am the Truth” was the way of Mansur3
Oh Lord, aid me so I might think of a way

Mt. Sinai

O Friend, take me to the service of a Pir4
Defender, take me to be initiated5
My desire is to reach Mt. Sinai by this long way
Befriend me and send me a bosom friend

February-March 1985


To whom should I complain of separation from you?
My Defender! To whom should I go with my case against you?
The tempest of your sorrow would snap asunder the thread of existence
Your memory shall go, and I shall even forget the memory of myself


Oh Pir, I desire the khanaqah
Obedience is of no benefit, I desire sin
The companions have all departed for the Ka'bah
I complain of myself for I desire the place of sin

February-March 1985

Face of the Beloved

Oh meadow lark, get out of this cage!
Paradise seeks you, become enchanted!
You are a peacock who has come from the quarters of the beloved
Remember the face of the beloved and become mad!


O you whose memory is a comfort to the hearts of the dervishes!
O you defender of the dervishes from difficulties!
There is Sinaiand the tree and there is the vision of epiphany of the face
O friends! This is what is obtained by dervishes!

March 5, 1985

No Respite

O Pir! Take me to the khanaqah!
All the companions have departed. Take me to the path
I can bear it no longer. There has come no respite
Give me refuge oh you who give aid!


It is an honor to me to become impoverished by you,
To become cut off from myself and to become your captive,
To be tempest stricken and afflicted by your dominion,
Singly to become the target of your bow and arrow

February 23, 1985


Fati! One must journey toward the Friend
One should transcend the self
Every knowledge with the scent of your being
Is a devil on the way of which one must beware

The Cup

You are not a lover if you have a name
You are not mad if you have a message
You have not tasted drunkenness if you are sober
Be gentle with us 'till you have the cup

April 29, 1984


O charisma of Homa!6Cast your shadow over my head!
Come to my aid, extract my existence!
The noose which has been put around my neck by desires,
Cast it round the necks of the base, O my Beloved!

Hidden Cry

Who is aware of my heartache but you?
Who is with me, the madman on the roof and at the gate?
Of my interior rebellion, in whom may I confide?
Where is the heart this hidden cry affects?

March 11, 1985


Open a chapter with the description of your face,
Let it begin a lock of your hair
Roll up the scroll of the science and philosophy
Cast a glance toward me, O Beloved that my path may be toward you

A Novice of the Way

O Pir of the Way! Initiate me!
I am a novice of the Way. Be my Pir!
I am worn out; I've gotten nowhere on the path
O you beloved! Be my commander on this path7
March 5, 1985

A Glance

O you my joy, my grief, my sorrow!
O my inner wound and my salve!
Cast a glance upon this worthless bit
So my banner may fly over the horizons!


I am a gnat who by your favor shall become a peacock
I am a drop from your sea, who shall become an ocean
If you show favor toward me, I shall open my wings like an angel
I am ready to kiss the feet of the King of Tus8

February-March 1985

The Madman

Become mad; take off the shackles from your feet!
O peacock! Slander the raven by showing off
Don't ask the madman about the state of his heart or intellect,
Find one who is enchanted by the shackles of intellect

That Day

That day when I shall make my way to tavern,
I shall entrust all the friends to the Sufi robe and to the seat of the Pir9
I shall tear up the scrolls of the sage, the philosopher and the gnostic
While crying and beating my feet

March 5, 1981

The Sun's Glory

Take away the veil so you may see His beauty,
So you may see the glory of His unrivaled essence
O bat! Come out of your skin
So you may see the manifestation of the sun's glory!



O peacock! Homa! Cast your shadow over my head
Befriend me and open my wings and feathers
O rescuer! Liberate me from my bonds
By your star, make my star auspicious

January-February 1985

What do to?

I am Farhad,11 I have the burning of the love of Shirin in my heart
I hope to meet my old Companion
I've lost all patience, I don't know what to do
All night I have her memory in my sorrowful heart

Thirsty for Reply

O Friend! Whatever there is, is a light from your face
The succor of this heart is your propitious glance
The night of separation came to an end, but dawn never arrived
O Beloved! The dead heart is thirsty for your reply

March 6, 1985

Quarter of the Friend

If I find a way to the quarters of the Friend,
If I find in the shelter in the shadow of her kindness,
There would be no sorrow, for the way to come and go is free.
If I am not obedient, I am a sinner

Your Memory

Oh! Your memory is the source of my sorrow and my joy
The cypress of your stature is the sapling of my liberation
Take away the veil from your face and open your countenance!
Oh! You are the principle of my destruction and of my flourishing

February-March 1985


If you are not one of the people, do not find fault with the people
of the Truth
O dead ones! Do not take the living hearts to be as dead as you
Arise from this heavy sleep, O you who are forlorn!
Do not take the wakeful hearts to be in heavy sleep


With the eye of I-ness one cannot see His beauty
With the ear of thou-ness no one can hear His melody
The we-ness and thou-ness is the cause of blindness and deafness
Break this idol so that the Friend may appear!
June 23, 1984

The Holiday

This felicitous holiday is the most felicitous
The community is in the shelter of the mercy of Ahmad
On the banner of our Islamic Republic
Is the blessed portrait of Muhammad

This felicitous holiday is the holiday of the Party of Allah
Our enemy is aware of its defeat
Because the banner of our Islamic Republic
Is preserved by the greatest name: Allah!

March 6, 1985


These quatrains were written two weeks before the Persian New Year holiday. Ahmad is one of the names for the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah to him and to his progeny). The 'Party of Allah' is an expression used in the Qur'an (5:56; 58:22), in Arabic hizbullah:

Whoever takes as his guardian Allah and His Messenger and those who believe: indeed, the Party of Allah shall be victorious. (5:56)


The secret of my heart is manifest to the Friend,
Along with perplexity of heart and fruitless suffering
An increasing tempest is within our hearts
O Lord! With what dust have you kneaded my clay?


The night when all the saloons are open
The companions of the tavern sing together
Quit of the rival, beside the Beloved,
The scroll of separation closed, they share secrets

March 6, 1985

  • 1. There is a saying in Arabic: Aynaturab wa rabb al-arbab? (Where is the dust and the Lord of Lords?) This phase is used as an exclamation to indicate infinite difference or contrast.
  • 2. The khanaqah is the Sufi meeting place.
  • 3. Mansur is Hallaj, the martyred Sufi who was convicted of blasphemy for his utterance, “I am the Truth.” See note 40, p. 30. (Eds.)
  • 4. A Pir is a Sufi master. See note 5, p. 6. (Eds.)
  • 5. Initiation is induction into a Sufi order.
  • 6. In ancient Persian legends the Homa is a bird, sometimes identified with the Phoenix, sometimes taken to be an osprey, which would fly over the head of a candidate to the throne and thereby bestow a kind of royal charisma upon the new king.
  • 7. Among the Sufis the contrast between the exoteric and esoteric aspects of the religion is often spoken of as a contrast between shari‘ah and tariqah. Both words literally mean a path, way or road, but the term shari‘ah also signifies Islamic Law, while a Sufi order is referred to as a tariqah. Sufi initiation is called dastgiri, literally, taking of the hand; so, ‘initiate me’ could also be translated as ‘take my hand,’ or ‘give me a hand.’ The word translated here as ‘novice’ literally means infant, or toddler.
  • 8. The King of Tus is a reference to the eight Imam from the Prophet’s progeny, Imam ‘Ali ar-Rida (peace be with him), whose shrine is in Mashhad near the ancient city of Tus.
  • 9. ‘Sufi robe’ translates dalq, which is a coarse woollen garment traditionally worn by the Sufis. The ‘seat of the Pir’ is masnad, the place in the khanaqah reserved for the Pir, often covered by a lambskin.
  • 10. See note 75, p. 67. (Eds.)
  • 11. See note 41, p. 33. (Eds.)