Deep in our hearts the Light of Heaven is shining
Upon a soundless Sea without a shore.
Oh, happy they who found it in resigning
The images of all that men adore.
Blind eyes, to dote on shadows of things fair
Only at last to curse their fatal lure,
Like Harut and Marut, that Angel-pair
Who deemed themselves the purest of the pure.
Our ignorance and self-will and vicious pride
Destroy the harmony of part and whole.
In vain we seek with lusts unmortified
A vision of the One Eternal Soul.
Love, Love alone can kill what seemed so dead,
The frozen snake of passion. Love alone,
By tearful prayer and fiery longing fed,
Reveals a knowledge schools have never known.
God's lovers learn from Him the secret ways
Of Providence, the universal plan.
Living in Him, they ever sing His praise
Who made the myriad worlds of Time for Man.
Evil they knew not, for in Him there's none;
Yet without evil how should good be seen?
Love answers: "Feel with me, with me be one;
Where I am nought stands up to come between."
There are degrees of heavenly light in souls;
Prophets and Saints have shown the path they trod,
Its starting points and stages, halts and goals,
All leading to the single end in God.
Love will not let his faithful servants tire,
Immortal Beauty draws them on and on
From glory unto glory drawing nigher
At each remove and loving to be drawn.
When Truth shines out words fail and nothing tell;
Now hear the Voice within your hearts. Farewell.
~ R.A. Nicholson, excerpted from "An Autobiographical Sketch by the Late Professor A.J. Arberry" contained in"Mystical Poems of Rumi 2" (translated by A.J. Arberry).
In celebration of the 800th anniversary of Rumi and a tribute to Nicholson, the scholar who was instrumental in first introducing Rumi to the Western World.
The following is a reflection on Nicholson's poem by Karim Maherali which he considers as an esoteric interpretation of the al-fatiha par excellence. He elaborates on each verse of al-fatiha as reflected in the poem which will have overlapping references across verses.
In the name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful
The poem begins with the phrase:
Deep in our hearts the Light of Heaven is shining Upon a soundless Sea without a shore.
The Light of Heaven alluded to above is the Universal Intellect and the soundless Sea is the Infinite Divine Essence. We can also say that the Light represents 'God with attributes' and the Sea represents the Limitless Divine Essence. The Sea in esoteric traditions is also a symbol of the limitless reservoir of the Ameeras (the Water of Life) which sustains the worlds. Hence Light in conjunction with the Sea represents the most compassionate divine attributes of the Most Beneficent and the Most Merciful.
All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the worlds, the Most Beneficent the Most Merciful
One of the verses of the poem states:
Living in Him, they ever sing His praise Who made the myriad worlds of Time for Man
There are degrees of heavenly light in souls
According to the esoteric cosmology, the universe is not out there but the projection of our consciousness out there depending upon the degree of heavenly light endowed upon us - a Perfect Man would perceive the entire universe in it's totality whereas an ordinary mortal would have a limited perception. Hence there are many worlds according to the degree of individual souls - an act of highest mercy by the Lord of the worlds, each soul having his/her personal Lord according to his/her understanding and capacity of worship.
The Lord of the Day of Judgement
The Lord of the Day of Judgement according to an esoteric understanding is not someone out there waiting to punish an individual soul but rather it is our own inner conscience driving us to regret and curse as eluded in the following phrase of the poem.
Blind eyes, to dote on shadows of things fair Only at last to curse their fatal lure
Thee alone we worship and thee alone we seek support
The poem states:
God's lovers learn from Him the secret ways Of Providence, the universal plan. Living in Him, they ever sing His praise Who made the myriad worlds of Time for Man. Evil they knew not, for in Him there's none
Existence in Him as alluded to above means total submission and reliance - a sense of total providence and protection resulting in gratitude and praise.
Guide us to the Right Path, the Path of those whom you have bestowed favours, not of the cursed ones, nor of those who have gone astray.
The poem states:
There are degrees of heavenly light in souls; Prophets and Saints have shown the path they trod, Its starting points and stages, halts and goals, All leading to the single end in God
In esoteric tradition the Right Path is the path in which the Lord is constantly experienced as an ever presence as per living in Him above. The Prophets and Saints where blessed with the constant presence and they are referred to as those upon whom 'you have bestowed favours'. Hence submission to the command of the living Saints comprises the Right Path and they guide individuals according to their capacities.
The cursed ones and those who have gone astray are those who do not feel the presence and hence are led to the clutches of 'The frozen snake of passion' and in 'ignorance and self-will and vicious pride Destroy the harmony of part and whole' as mentioned in the poem.snake of passion as mentioned in the poem.