The following excerpt is from the forthcoming book, Civilization of Paradise, Revelation Poems (Fons Vitae 2014), by Asad Ali. The book contains 90 poems, each associated with a Surah of the Qur’an, as well as 60 pages of introductory materials, including transcripts of three nights during which Kabir and Mahmoud Mostafa visited Dr. Ali’s home in 2005. This long awaited book completes the cycle of 114 Poems that began with Happiness without Death (Threshold Books, 1991), by Assad Ali. Annemarie Schimmel, one of the greatest scholars of Sufism of the 20th Century, wrote of Assad Ali’s poetry: “if carefully read as it deserves, it can help Westerners understand the grandeur and power of pristine Islam.”

Civilization of Paradise Web

Damascus Night 3

A healer through Source of abundance (Kawthar), the one of the lights, heals me,

and Saleh, through the seven binary opposites, gives me to drink.

Allah is the Light and is the Bestower. His smiles are like an olive.

 The camel of the signs brings me to life.

“What relationship do we have with Rumi?” Dr. Ali asks us, “Badiuzaman Faruzunfar is considered the foremost interpreter of Jalaludin Rumi. He produced 12 volumes about Jalaludin. But unfortunately he doesn’t like Muhiyudin Ibn Arabi!” he says with a chuckle, “I like Sheikh Muhiyudin, so I asked him why he doesn’t like him and he told me he just doesn’t, he likes Jalaludin. He was my advisor for my doctorate work, ‘Art and Gnosis’. When I was defending my thesis he wanted to take it to look at it but I wouldn’t let him. He was of penetrating intelligence and he understood that I wouldn’t let him touch my work because I thought he could not sense the meaning of my work. I was talking about Rumi when he suddenly interrupted me, ‘Ah you said Ushq!’

I told him that if he heard me say this then I did say it. ‘You said Ushq not Ishq.’ He repeated and he called for a dictionary and looked up the word and it was Ishq. He called for another dictionary and another and all of them said Ishq. ‘Young man you said Ushq and all the Arabic dictionaries say Ishq!’ He wanted to exact revenge from me for not letting him look at my work. In the world of spirit, in my unseen world I started calling Rasul Allah, because in Iran they used to say to me that I was the son of Rasul Allah. So I was beseeching him in my secret to please save me from the bind I was in with my professor! I didn’t want to be the Arab who does not speak correctly before him. Suddenly my heart opened up and the answer came to me. So I opened my eyes and said to him, ‘Yes it is Ushq,’ this is what I said. But he protested that all the Arabic dictionaries say Ishq. I told him all the dictionaries are wrong!” he recalls laughing,

“Now at that time I was just a young student and entirely under his authority. He said to me ‘It is so strange, sir. How can you say such a thing?’ so I asked him if Umar Ibn Rabia was an erotic poet and he said, yes he was indeed. So what did he say about his love for women? He said immediately, ‘Ishq’ so I told him that Jalaludin Rumi and Muhyidin Ibn Arabi and all the other Sufis are talking about love for God, so shall we call this Ishq too? Is love of God the same as earthly love? He said, no. So I told him that what is for the lower world is said with the sound Eee (diacritical mark below the letter) and what is for the higher world is said with the sound Uuu (diacritical mark above the letter) this is why for Rumi it’s Ushq and for Ibn Rabia it’s Ishq! And at this explanation Faruzunfar exclaimed, ‘Subhanallah, subhanallah! You are our master, sir! You are our master! We are truly amazed by your eloquence.’ What we mean now about the weave of heaven and the places of the stars, the places of the Ayats, the places of the Nafs, meaning the connection between the selves.

Badiuzaman Faruzunfar loves Rumi and Kabir loves Rumi and also loves Ibn Arabi even though his school is from Rumi. I combined Rumi and Ibn Arabi since both are beloved to me, so now both of them I have in America now the school of Rumi and the school of Ibn Arabi. At Berkeley there is the Ibn Arabi Society which commemorates Ibn Arabi every year. And in Washington, Hammil named her home The Ibn Arabi House. What I mean is how the places of the stars can be read in the Ayats of the Quran and the Ayats can be read in the places of the stars on the pathways of the heavens and also the relationships between people can be read in accordance with the places of the stars, in accordance with, in resonance with the places of the stars. The Quran brings together the horizons and the selves and considers these two paths to Truth: We shall show them Our signs on the horizons and in their selves until it becomes evident to them that He (It) is the Truth” he recites from the Quran as he hands it to Kabir to read the English translation and then he says, “Our Master Abraham commanded us to take special care of him today! I saw him today and he gave me special instructions for his sake,” he says referring to Kabir. “Consider how amazing it is the way our relationships with each other came into being. What brought us together? It is God who made the heaven’s pathways, its cables and lines that are all interconnected so he made the stars bring one person to know another and so on in order that Truth will become manifest to us. All the signs, the Quran, the stars, our souls, everything affirms one thing in the end: The Truth (Al Haqq). The top, the summit; we say Glory be to God the Most High, why? Because when we remember the Most High we are closest to Him, the Most High.

The Prophet said, ‘The closest a servant is to his Lord is when he is prostrate.’ From this idea came the summit or top and the seventh heaven is known as Tuba. In Surah Al Raad, which is the neighbor of Abraham, this is mentioned: Those who have attained faith and whose hearts find tranquility through remembrance of Allah. Indeed, it is through Allah’s remembrance that hearts become tranquil. For those who have attained to faith and do good deeds there is bliss (Tuba) and a beautiful return. Tuba is the seventh heaven; Firdaus (Paradise) is the third heaven. The words of the Quran are precise and profoundly deep. The translators use Paradise but there are seven different heavens there is Eden (Adan), there is Repose (Qarar) there is Paradise (Firdaus) there is Bounty (Naim) there is Immortality (Khulud) there is the Abode (Ma’awa) and then Bliss (Tuba). Jesus says know Truth and Truth will set you free. It is through purity that we can traverse in an instant the light years from one heaven to the next.”

At this point someone asks about the spirit and the heart. “The heart is a container, a mold, a place, an airport, it is art: HE-ART. Whereas the spirit is living, it is life in this atmosphere. When you turn the word spirit (RUH) over in Arabic it becomes HUR. Spirit is a word with a single meaning on the surface but when you enter into the inner meanings you find that it is many words, many states. You know what HUR means?” he asks and someone gives the usual answer about the beautiful women of Paradise. “No, no. HUR, which is the heart of the spirit, means the divine capacities that form the Most Beautiful Names and what is manifest through them in this world. It is the expansive divine capacities. We see a star and it looks like a small dot, but when you come near it you see how tremendous it is! So this is why I love both Jalaludin and Muhiyudin, they are majesty and beauty and we believe that majesty and beauty complement each other.”

Now Dr. Ali changes the course of the conversation, “Who is the King of Humans and Jinn? For us it is Ali, Zain Al Abideen (son of Imam Hussein) who said when he left the field of Karbala, ‘If everyone between East and West dies, I would not feel lonely because I have the Quran with me.’ So we are tranquil and secure as long as we are with the Quran. So if you are serious, Kabir, you will roll up your sleeves and enter the contest with Barbara Cartland[1]. You have to write a book that will sell to the whole country!

But now we have to go back and memorize the quatrain!” he commands with a clap.

 

A healer through abundance (Kawthar), the one of the lights, heals me,

And Saleh through the seven binary opposites gives me to drink,

Allah is the Light and the Bestower. His smiles are like an olive,

 the camel of the signs brings me to life.

 

 

“We’ll see today who memorizes this first, Kabir or you!” he says to me as he asks me to recite. “Fantastic! When we re-evaluate this quatrain we see how it has taken the juice of the four Surahs of today[2] because the seven binaries are in Hijr, light is in Nur, abundance is Kawthar, and we will see how He pointed to Abbasa with His smiles.

“The Ayat says Allah is the Light–what number is it? Thirty four, it’s the 34th Ayat of Surah Nur. This is a very important number. It is the one after 33, meaning, it’s the second life of the Messiah. Allah wants to bring light through music, because the dance of light, the vibration of light, is a sound movement. It is a wave, they call light a wave. Observe! Count with me, God is the light of heavens and earth. OK, this may be clear. It is understood by the majority, but now explain to me how, the likeness of His light is as a niche within which is a lamp, the lamp is in a glass, the glass is like a jeweled star lit from a blessed tree, an olive not of East or West its oil almost lights up though no fire touches it. This is 1-Do (the niche) 2-Re (the lamp) 3-Mi (the glass) 4-Fa (the star) 5-Sol (the tree) 6-La (the olive) 7-Si (the oil) these are the musical scales of light! Now the next Do is Light upon Light,” he exclaims as he claps his hands together for emphasis.

“We’ll see how He brought to existence the relationships that are equivalent to music. In Ayat 87 of Hijr: And verily We have brought you seven of the binaries and the tremendous Quran. The Quran is the new DO, the seven binaries, and the eighth is light upon light. The whole of the Quran is light upon light because the words are lights and lamps that take you to the greatest light! This is in Hijr. In Nur we see the seven similitudes of light and light upon light. Notice the correspondence of the seven in Hijr and the seven in Nur. The niche corresponds to the first binary.”

“This is the new Do, it is still Do, Do, Dieu. Light upon light means that the relative ascends to reach the absolute. He has passed on to the new ladder to the new scale. Light upon light that’s 8. Are any of you jealous of eight? Do you want an explanation for eight? From now until a million light years later we will not get to the end of explaining eight! Light upon Light. God guides to His light whomever He wishes and God strikes similitudes for people. He explains to us for thousands of years His names and attributes and then He says this is just a similitude! And God has knowledge of everything. This Allah, the Light,” he concludes as his voice lowers as if in awe of the words. “Hence in The Lights of the Qur’an[3] this is the music, this is the sound of the lights. Have you ever heard anything like this?” he turns to ask and laughs, “It’s a new wine and a new light, I mean it’s a new music and a new music of light.”

 

* * *

 

Addendum

Civilization of Paradise is the most complete translation of The Lights of the Qur’an so far. Happiness without Death, published in 1992, presented 30 poems corresponding to the first 30 Surahs revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. Civilization of Paradise completes a cycle of poems corresponding to the 114 Surahs of the Qur’an, plus five poems corresponding to the five times of Islamic worship.

* * *

From Civilization of Paradise:

Birthing

Sürah al-Inshiqaq (84)

I am the Earth.

My letters emerge from contentment split open,

and with contentment I split open my breast

so gardens will grow.

Fragrance, melody, and nourishment gather in these gardens.

What compelling beauty sings here,

its lips like virgin fruits?

The tree trunks pull in the wind

A wind that is the voice of many hearts.

Gladness fills me,

whenever seekers travel through my lands.

Whenever they bring forth my plants

and my daughters, I abide and go nowhere.

By Your awesome power

letters are born from letters.

Pine seeds birth a forest,

and smiles turn into children.

You hide secrets from Your own sight through Yourself

and through Your tender sight

You conceal secrets from Yourself.

This is why You are the able one, the concealer.

I love You, but I won’t divulge how.

I stand steadfastly for You like the letter Alif,

and I manage the wilderness.

So make me firm through You,

with firm words and deeds,

O Able One!


[1] This is something of an “inside joke.” Ms. Cartland is an author who has sold hundreds of thousands of romance novels, who Dr. Ali cites as an example of the popular interest in the subject of love, a subject to which he feels the Sufis have a superior claim.

[2] This refers to a system of assigning to each day four surahs: one being the day in the Islamic calendar and its number equivalent among the Surahs; two being the Surah equivalent in the order of temporal revelation; three being the day in the conventional Western calendar and its corresponding numbered Surah; four being the corresponding Surah in the temporal order of revelation.

[3] The three books translated here, which comprise The Civilization of Paradise, are taken from Dr. Ali’s masterwork, The Lights of the Quran.