Visitation to the Spirits of Jamal al-Din Afghani
and Sa‘ id Halim Pasha

A handful of dust so carried forward its task
to the contemplation of its own manifestations:
either I fell into the net of being and existence
or existence became a prisoner in my net! 960
Have I made a chink in yon azure curtains?
Am I of the skies, or are the skies of me?
Either heaven has taken my heart into its breast
or it is my heart that has seized heaven.
Is this external then internal? What is it? 965
What manner of thing is it the eye sees? What is it?
I beat my wings towards another heaven,
I see another world rising before me,
a world of mountains and plains, seas and dry land,
a world far more ancient than our earth, 970
a world grown out of a little cloud
that has never known the conquest of man—
images as yet unlimned on the tablet of existence
where no critic of nature has yet been born.
I said to Rumi, ‘This wasteland is very fair, 975
very fair the tumult of the waters in the mountains.
I find no sign here of any living thing,
so whence comes the sound of the call to prayer?’
Rumi said, ‘This is the station of the saints,
this heap of earth is familiar with our dust. 980
When the father of mankind departed out of Eden
he dwelt in this world for one or two days;
these expanses have felt the burning of his sighs,
heard his lamentations in the hour of dawn.
The visitors to this honourable station 985
are themselves pious men of lofty stations,
pious men such as Fudail and Bu Sa‘id,
true gnostics like Junaid and Ba Yazid.
Rise up now, and let us pray together,
devote a moment or two to burning and melting.’ 990
I went on, and saw two men engaged in prayer,
the acolyte a Turk, the leader an Afghan.
The Sage of Rum, in rapture continually,
his face radiant with an ecstasy of joy,
said, ‘The East never gave birth to two better sons— 995
the plucking of their nails unravelled our knots:
Maulana Jamal, Sayyid of all Sayyids,
whose eloquence gave life to stone and sherd,
and passionate Halim, commander of the Turks
whose thoughts matched the loftiness of his station. 1000
To offer prayer with such men is true devotion,
a labour else whose hoped-for wage is Paradise.
The recitation of that vigorous elder,
the Chapter of the Star in that silent plain—
a recital that to move Abraham to ecstasy, 1005
to enrapture the pure spirit of Gabriel;
the heedful heart becomes restless in the breast,
the cry ‘No god but God’ rises from the tombs;
it imparts to smoke the quivering of the flame,
bestows on David ardour and intoxication; 1010
at his recital every mystery was revealed,
the Heavenly Archetype appeared unveiled.
After prayer I rose up from my place
and kissed his hand in all humility.
Rumi said, ‘A mote that travels the skies, 1015
in its heart a whole world of fire and passion!
Only upon himself he has opened his eyes,
yielded his heart to no man, is utterly free;
swiftly he paces through the expanse of Being—
jestingly, I call him Zinda-Rud.’ 1020


Zinda-Rud, tell us of our terrestrial world,
speak to us of our earth and sky.
A thing of dust, you are clear-eyed as the Holy Ones—
give us some tidings of the Mussulmans!


In the heart of a people that once shattered the world 1025
I have seen a conflict between religion and country.
The spirit is dead in the body through weakness of faith,
despairs of the strength of the manifest religion;
Turk, Persian, Arab intoxicated with Europe
and in the throat of each the fish-hook of Europe; 1030
and East wasted by the West’s imperialism,
Communism taken the lustre from religion and community.