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Sufi Poets and Poetry | The Classical Masters

The Esoteric dimension of Islam which often termed as the way of the Sufi and the encounters that Sufism facilitates - encounters with God, love, and the deepest aspects of human consciousness. Sufism is like a holy well of sacred experience and has inspired some of the finest mystical poetry given to the world.

Here is a list and links of some of the most prominent and classical Sufi Poets. Poetry Chaikhana that brings Sacred Poetry from Around the World has a comprehensive list of classical sufi poets, their brief biographical sketch and selected poems. The following list is adopted from Poetry Chaikhana.

Abu-Said Abil-Kheir (967 - 1049)
born in Mayhana, modern day Turkmenistan. lived more than two centuries before Rumi yet, like Rumi, much of his mysticism follows a similar path of annihilation in divine Love.

Ahmad al-Alawi (1869 - 1934)
an Algerian saint considered by many to be one of the greatest Sufi Masters of the 20th century.

Abu 'l-Husayn al-Nuri (? - 908)
was a native of Baghdad. He was a friend of al-Junaid and a leading figure of Sufism in the region.

Sheikh Ansari (1006 - 1088)
was born and died in Herat, northwestern Afghanistan and his burial place in Herat is still a place of pilgrimage for thousands of Sufis every year.

Farid ud-Din Attar (1119? - 1220?)
was born in Nishapur, Persia (Iran) and is traditionally said to have been killed by Mongol invaders. About thirty works by Attar survive, but his masterpiece is the Mantic at-Tayr (The Conference of the Birds). Attar's poetry inspired Rumi and many other Sufi poets.

Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia (1238 - 1325)
Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia, affectionately known as Mehboob-i Elahi or "Beloved of God," was born in Badayun, India, east of Delhi. He showed profound spiritual realization and was a master of the Chishti Sufi order.

Sultan Bahu (? - 1691)
one of India's most enduringly beloved and influential Sufi poets. A respected scholar from what is today the nation of Pakistan, Bahu became famous worldwide for his eloquent and inspirational Punjabi poetry and prose, which constitute a central pillar of the Sufi religious and literary tradition of northern India. So popular is his poetry in Pakistan and India even today that illiterate Punjabis can recite it by heart.

Abdul-Qader Bedil (1644 - 1721)
his family originally came from Afghanistan and at some point moved to India as part of the Muslim Moghul court. Abdul-Qader Bedil wrote extensively - poetry, philosophy, wisdom stories, and riddles - and most of his writings remain with us today.

Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai (1689 - 1752)
Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai (sometimes written Bhittai or Bhittaii) was a devout Muslim Sufi, but his spirituality was broad and welcoming, making room for Muslim and Hindu alike. He is one of the most revered poets and saints of the Sindh region of what is today Pakistan.

Bulleh Shah (1680 - 1758)
is considered to be one of the greatest mystic poets of the Punjab region, India-Pakistan. Bulleh Shah was a respected scholar, but he longed for true inner realization. Later he became a disciple of Inayat Shah, a famous master of the Qadiri Sufi lineage, who ultimately guided his student to deep mystical awakening.

Yunus Emre (1238 - 1320)
a Sufi dervish of Anatolia, Emre is considered by many to be one of the most important Turkish poets. He was a contemporary of Rumi, who lived in the same region. While Rumi composed his collection of stories and songs for urban circle of Sufis, writing primarily in the literary language of Persian; Yunus Emre, on the other hand, traveled and taught among the rural poor, singing his songs in the Turkish language of the common people. His poetry expresses a deep personal mysticism and humanism and love for God.

Baba Sheikh Farid (1173 - 1266)
was a Sufi saint from Multan, Pakistan, who is considered by many to be the first major poet of the Punjabi language. Later, when the Sikh holy book the Adi Granth Sahib was compiled, many of Baba Sheikh Farid's poems and couplets were included.

Seyh Galib (1757 - 1799)
was born in Istanbul and was a sheikh of the Mevlevi order. He is considered to be the last of the great classical Ottoman poets.

Mirza Ghalib (1797 - 1869)
is the pen name of Mirza Asadullah Beg Khan, Indian poet of Turkish ancestry. His best poems were written in Urdu and are still widely sung.

Hafiz (1320 - 1389)
whose given name was Shams-ud-din Muhammad, is the most beloved poet of Persia. Born in Shiraz, he lived at about one hundred years after Rumi. When he died he was thought to have written an estimated 5,000 poems, of which 500 to 700 have survived. His Divan (collected poems) is a classic in the literature of Sufism.

Mansur al-Hallaj (9th Century)
was born in the province of Fars, Persia (Iran). He later moved to what is now Iraq, where he took up religious studies, particularly the Sufi way. He is one of the more controversial figures of Sufism. Considered by many to be a great poet-saint, he was executed for blasphemy.

Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi (1165 - 1240)
born in Murcia, in Moorish Spain, Ibn 'Arabi is considered by many to be the greatest Sufi philosopher. Among his many writings, perhaps his most influential philosophical works are Spiritual Conquests (al Futuhat al Makkiya) and Facets of Wisdom (al Fusus al Hikam).

Umar Ibn al-Farid (1181 - 1235)
The poetry of Shaykh Umar Ibn al-Farid is considered by many to be the pinnacle of Arabic mystical verse, though suprisingly he is not widely known in the West. Ibn al-Farid's two materpieces are The Wine Ode, a beautiful meditation on the "wine" of divine bliss, and The Poem of the Sufi Way, a profound exploration of spiritual experience along the Sufi Path and perhaps the longest mystical poem composed in Arabic. Ibn al-Farid's Poem of the Sufi Way refers to the Beloved - God - as "Her," rather than in the more traditional masculine gender which was a revolutionary vision in his contemporary time.

Ibn Ata' Illah (1250 - 1309)
was a Sufi saint and was an early spiritual leader of the Shadhiliyyah Sufi order in Egypt. His Kitab al-Hikam (The Book of Aphorisms) is his most widely read and memorized work, a rich, poetic collection of spiritual maxims composed in majestic Arabic.

Allama Muhammad Iqbal (1877 - 1938)
was born in what now is Pakistan, is considered one of the finest poet from Indian subcontinent.

Fakhruddin Iraqi (? - 1289)
born in Kamajan near Hamadan, was a fascinating figure who bridged several Sufi traditions. His own masterpiece of commentary and poetry named the Lama'at or Divine Flashes.

Ahmad Jami (1048 - 1141)
was born in Namaq and later settled and also buried in Jam (near the present-day Afghan border).

Kabir (15th Century)
was born in Varanasi (Benares), India. Kabir can not easily be categorized as a Sufi or a Yogi - he is all of these. He is revered by Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs. He stands as a unique, saintly, yet very human, bridge between the great traditions that live in India.

Baba Afzal Kashani (13th Century)
was a respected Sufi philosopher and poet who lived in the Kashan region of Persia (Iran). The popular image of him is as an ecstatic and his mystic poetry is celebrated today for that reason.

Omar Khayyam (11th Century)
was best known in his time as a mathematician and astronomer. As a poet his masterpiece is the Rubaiyat.

Najmoddin Kobra (1145 - 1221)
he became a disciple of Abu JaJib Sohrawardi's disciple Ruzbehan al-Wazzan al-Mesri. Najmoddin himself became a great Sufi shaykh and founded the Kobrawi order.

Niffari (? - 965)
is considered to be an early sufi. Niffari's Book of Standings (Kitab al-Mawaqif) is a fascinating collection of visionary poems.

Qushayri (? - 1074)
is from Nishapur in what is today Iran. His "Risala ila al-sufiyya" or "Epistle to the Sufis" is so widely read in Sufi circles that it is often called the "Treatise of Qushayri" or simply "Treatise," no other name required.

Jelaluddin Rumi (1207 - 1273)
was born in Balkh, in what is now Afghanistan. Rumi's most extensive work is Diwan-i Shams-i Tabrizi. His most famous work is without doubt the Mathnawi, dubbed by Jami as the "Koran of the Persian language". Another major poetical work of Rumi is the Ruba'iyyat.

Saadi (1207 - 1291)
was born and died in Shiraz, Persia. Two best known works are the Bustan (the Garden), composed entirely in verse, and the Gulistan (the Rose Garden), in both prose and verse. He was particularly known for the wry wit he injected into his poems.

Hakim Sanai (1044? - 1150?)
is one of the earlier Sufi poets. He was born in the province of Ghazna in southern Afghanistan. Rumi acknowledged Sanai and Attar as his two primary inspirations, saying, "Attar is the soul and Sanai its two eyes, I came after Sanai and Attar."

Mahmud Shabistari (1250? - 1340)
lived in Persia (Iran). Shabistari's Secret Rose Garden (the Gulistan-i Raz, which can also be translated as The Rose Garden of Mystery) is considered to be one of the greatest works of Persian Sufism. In it Shabistari expresses a viewpoint of Sufi realization similar to the perspective of the great Sufi philosopher Ibn Arabi, but expressed through the rich Persian poetic tradition. The work was regarded as one of the central works of Sufism.

Sultan Valad (1240 - 1312)
was Rumi's son, his biographer, and his spiritual successor. He formally founded in the Mevlevi Order of Sufis following his father's teachings.

Other resources to explore
:: Poet Seers has a good list of classical masters in sufi poetry
:: Dr. Alan Godlas has a compiled page on Sufi Poets and Sufi Poetry
:: Poetry Chaikhana's Links on Sufi Poetry and Poets
:: Wahiduddin's Web | Living from the Heart has few poems from each of the classical sufi poets as examples of the amazing depth and variety of Sufi poetry. visit his site.
:: Study Guide for Poetry of Mystical Love

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