Nawāz, Forughi, ’Attār: Three Sufi poets translated from Persian into English

ZP_Frozen Spheres by Frank Lloyd Wright, 1927

ZP_Frozen Spheres by Frank Lloyd Wright, 1927

Gharib Nawāz (born 1142?, died 1236)

“Make Way for the King!”


From spacelessness Love descends to lover’s heart;

So sweep yourself up for the King of the world

descends to this dust heap

and the soul becomes as flesh

when the Soul of soul plunges into the soul

– and why not?

If treasure is dug in ruins why not love in your heart?

Get out of the doorway!

The King of Love approaches the house:


All you nobodies – OUT!

The guardian of those who have no-one

approaches the house and

once the house is vacant of others

the mercy will descend…


A King is lurking in my closet

but the whole world cannot contain him.

Once he gets here both worlds will implode into dust

and atoms –

for he descends no where but



What is the heart?

The hawk of

High Holy Heaven.

How can it bear to nest in the




is dust on the stoop…

Where else would you expect to find him?



*Mo’in is the poet’s pen-name.

.     .     .


Abbas Forughi Bastāmi (1798-1857)

“Lover’s Craft”


Again and again I polished my eye – now look:

it’s become such a mirror that with a single glance

I can make you fall in love with yourself.  Now look,

look deep into this glass and be aware

of other worlds.

.                              Now like a drunken reveler

pass by the monastery and the mosque:

you will be worshiped as the niche for prayer

by Muslim and Christian alike.

Some night I’ll strip the veil from your face

and you’ll become Sun of the Kaaba,

Moon of the Church.

.                               If your braided tresses fell

In my hands I could forge a thousand chains for your feet;

if they gave me the Trees of Paradise on Judgement Day

I’d trade them both to ransom

one rare embrace.


In Love’s atelier my craftsmanship

reaches an unearthly beauty when

I contemplate your face.

.                                 The whole world knows

I am a reprobate in love – but God forbid

I ruin your reputation as well, my love.


.     .     .


Faridoddin ’Attār (died around 1230)

“The Dullard Sage”


Lost in myself

…I reappeared

……I know not where

a drop that rose

…from the sea and fell

……and dissolved again;

a shadow

…that stretched itself out

……at dawn,

when the sun

…reached noon

……I disappeared.

I have no news

…of my coming

……or passing away –

the whole thing

…happened quicker

……than a breath;

ask no questions

…of the moth.

……In the candle flame

of his face

…I have forgotten

……all the answers.

In the way of love

…there must be knowledge

……and ignorance

so I have become

…both a dullard

……and a sage;

one must be

…an eye and yet

……not see

so I am blind

…and yet I still



…be on my head

……if I can say

where I

…in bewilderment

……have wandered:


…watched his heart

……transcend both worlds

and under its shadow

…now is gone mad

……with love.



Translations from Persian into English:

© Peter Lamborn Wilson and Nasrollah Pourjavady

– in their anthology of Persian Sufi Poetry entitled “The Drunken Universe”

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From the Authors’ Introduction:

“Of all the strands of thought, tradition, and belief that make up the Islamic universe, Sufism in its doctrinal aspect stands out as the most intact, the most purely Islamic:  the central strand.  Opponents of Sufism often charge it with having originated outside Islam, but a close study of the various schools of philosophy and theology, and a comparison with “primordial” Islam as revealed in the Qu’ran and hadith (authentic sayings of the Prophet Mohammad), will vindicate the Sufis’ claim of centrality, of strict adherence to the original purity of the Revelation. … Sufism – always insisting on a return to the sources of the Tradition – can be seen to have functioned at times as a positive and healthy reaction to the overly rational activity of the philosophers and theologians.  For the Sufis, the road to spiritual knowledge – to Certainty – could never be confined to the process of rational or purely intellectual activity, without sapiential knowledge (zawq or “taste”) and the direct, immediate experience of the Heart…”

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