Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Sufi Poetry of Shaikh Abu Sa'id Abul-Khayr

Shaikh Abū-Sa'īd Abul-Khayr (967-1049) was one of the earlier Sufi poets and is considered one of the great medieval Persian poets.. He was from what is modern day Turkmenistan, just north of Iran and Afghanistan in Central Asia. He lived more than two centuries before Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi yet, like Rumi, much of his mysticism follows a similar path of annihilation in divine Love. Abu-Said's poetry ranges from the ecstatic and celestial, to struggles with abandonment. His poetry has an immediacy and even a sort of devoutly wry petulance that can draw comparisons with the great Bengali poet, Ramprasad.

While virtually unknown in the West, Abu Sa'id Abul-Khayr is one of the most revered of early Sufi masters.  Abul-Khayr is considered as the "Father of Persian Sufi Poetry". Abul-Khayr is even ranked, amongst the Persian speakers, above the three well-known Persian Sufi masters , Sanai, Attar, and Rumi. Abul Khair's poetry had such a huge influence on later Sufi poets that the great Persian Sufi, Attar had referred to him as his spiritual teacher. Heavily influenced by the 9th century "Ecstatic Persian Sufis", Bayazid Bestami and Mansur Hallaj, Abul-Khayr was the first Sufi writer to extensively use 'Love-themed' poems in conveying his mystical messages.

Abul-Khayr was the contemporary of the great Persian philosopher and scholar, Abu Ali-Sina Balkhi (Avicenna). A Persian legend has it that after their very first meeting, Avicenna and Abul-Khayr meditated for three days in seclusion, exchanging philosophical ideas and mystical poetry. After the meditation, Avicenna was asked what he had thought of Abul-Khayr. He replied: 'Whatever I know, he can already see!'. Abul-Khayr was asked what he had thought of Avicenna. He replied: 'Whatever I can see, he already knows!".

He referred to himself as "Nobody Son of Nobody", as his expression of the reality that his life was subsumed in the Divine, and that the individual self had disappeared in the heart of God: 'Under this cloak is nothing but God. Introduce me as Nobody, Son of Nobody.'

Abul-Khair's mystical poems deal with the longing for union with God, the desire to know the Real from the False, the inexpressible beauty of Creation when seen through the eyes of Love, and the many attitudes of heart, mind and feeling that are necessary to those who would find the Beloved-The Friend-in this life." (credit)

His mysticism is a typical example of the Khorasani school of Sufism. He extracted the essence of the teachings of the past Sufis of this school (and to some extent other schools as well) and expressed them in a simpler, and in a sense deeper, form without the use of philosophy.

He held a special reverence for earlier Sufis, especially Bayazid Bastami and Hallaj. Moreover, in Asrar al-Tawhid, Tazkiratul Awliyā and Noorul Uloom it has been written that Abū-Sa'īd went for the visit of Shaikh Abul Hassan Kharaqani and got deeply influenced by his personality and state.

His system is based on a few themes that appear frequently in his words, generally in the form of simple emotional poems. The main focus of his teachings is liberation from “I”, which he considered the one and only cause of separation from God and to which he attributed all personal and social misfortunes. His biography mentions that he would never call himself "I" or "we" but “they” instead. This idea of selflessness appears as Fotovvat (also written as Futtuwah, a concept very near to chivalry) in his ethical teachings and as Malaamat, a kind of selflessness before the Beloved which he considers a sign of perfect love in his strictly mystical teachings.

Both of these concepts in a certain sense are spiritual forms of warrior ethics. Despite their simplicity he believed that the full application of these teachings to one's life requires both divine grace and the guidance of an experienced Sufi, and is impossible through personal efforts alone. His picture as portrayed in various Sufi writings is a particularly joyful one of continuous ecstasy. Other famous Sufis made frequent references to him and many miracles are attributed to him in Sufi writings.

His love for poetry can be seen from the fact that he usually used love poetry written by non-Sufis in his daily prayers. Even his last words were a poem, and at his funeral instead of the recitation of Qur’anic verses, he requested the following poem.

    What sweeter than this in the world!
    Friend met friend and the lover joined his Beloved.

    That was all sorrow, this is all joy
    Those were all words, this is all reality.

Abil Khayr's poetry is ever fresh, ever evoking that nostalgic longing of the Beloved that never passes away from the heart-ache of the lovers of God. Here are selection of his beautiful poetry which were written originally in Persian and these English renditions are beautiful work of Vraje Abramian.


If you do not give up the crowds
you won't find your way to Oneness.
If you do not drop your self
you won't find your true worth.
If you do not offer all you
have to the Beloved,
you will live this life free of that
sweet pain which makes it worth living.


If you are seeking closeness to the Beloved,
love everyone.
Whether in their presence or absence,
see only their good.
If you want to be as clear and refreshing as
the breath of the morning breeze,
like the sun, have nothing but warmth and light
for everyone.


Be humble.
Only fools take pride in their station here, trapped in
a cage of dust, moisture, heat and air.
No need to complain of calamities,
this illusion of a life lasts but a moment.


Suppose you can recite a thousand holy
verses from memory.
What are you going to do
with your ego self, the true
mark of the heretic?

Every time your head touches
the ground in prayers, remember,
this was to teach you to
put down that load of ego
which bars you from entering
the chamber of the Beloved.

To your mind feed understanding,
to your heart, tolerance and compassion.
The simpler your life, the more meaningful.
The less you desire of the world,
the more room you will have in it
to fill with the Beloved.

The best use of your tongue
is to repeat the Beloved's Name in devotion.
The best prayers are those in
the solitude of the night.
The shortest way to the Friend
is through selfless service and
generosity to His creatures.

Those with no sense of honor and dignity are best avoided.
Those who change colors constantly
are best forgotten.
The best way to be with those
bereft of the Beloved's qualities,
is to forget them in the
joy of silence in one's corner of solitude.


Let sorrowful longing dwell in your heart,
never give up, never losing hope.
The Beloved says, "The broken ones are My darlings."
Crush your heart, be broken.

 Beloved, show me the way out of this prison.
Make me needless of both worlds.
Pray, erase from mind all
that is not You.

Have mercy Beloved,
though I am nothing but forgetfulness,
You are the essence of forgiveness.
Make me needless of all but You.

# Further:
* Poetry of Abil Kheir via Poetry-Chaikhana
* Rubaiyat of Abu Saeed Abil Kheir
* More Sufi Poetry at Wahiduddin
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