Miscellaneous verses by
Jamiluddin Morris Zahuri
Solomon and the Queen of Sheba (retold) 12
Solomon, to Bilqis, gave the command, ‘Come to me!’
Now a Queen, such as she, does not obey so easily.
The threats that he made to invade her domain,
Made her prevaricate, and in Saba to remain.
She was a woman of renowned feminine allure,
But he was a man who by Allah was made pure.
She offered him gifts of jewels and much gold,
In his gold and jewelled palace, this left him cold.
Her idolatry was limited to only worshipping the sun,
He wanted her to see, that the sun is a created one.
She was far from being a fool, and counsel she took,
But the call from Solomon made her in to herself look.
She abandoned pride and vanity, and left her realm,
Did she secretly seek a true man to take her helm?
Now Prophet Solomon knew intuitively what to do,
And he identified the one thing she was attached to.
It was a throne of most intricate intertwined filigree,
Though to Solomon a mere bauble it appeared to be.
By the power Allah had given to him especially,
Asaf had the throne transported miraculously.
Now Solomon did not rely on argument with Bilqis,
Better than debating, a demonstration surely is.
Instead he showed her the wealth and power,
That the One True God on him did shower.
Seeing her unique throne reproduced that way,
Destroyed her attachment to things made of clay.
Then he showed her just how deluding perception can be;
A great pool of water lay before her, she could clearly see;
And abandoning any last pretence of a royal dignity,
She began to wade through, lifting her skirts for all to see.
Then the skirts of illusion were lifted too, from her mind,
As, underfoot, marble, polished to perfection, she did find.
Now she could see, that in praying to the shining sun,
She had been diverted from worshipping the True One.
The queen in her, in Solomon’s royalty melted away,
And, girl like, she begged him to show her the Way.
Great Solomon was a true man in every respect,
So the woman in her was overcome too, I suspect.
Soul and body integrated in perfect unity,
She knelt silently before him with sincere piety.
The ground at his feet received the impress,
As into it, her forehead and face she did press.
‘I submit my whole being, to the One True God’, said she,
‘May His Prophet Solomon, in eternity, my witness be'.
The gates of heaven and all beyond, now opened to her,
That the submission had been accepted, one must infer.
Her outward and inward faculties, now all in accord,
She tied herself to the Prophet with Love’s silken cord.
This may appear to be just an ancient tale to you,
But it has a deeper dimension for us today too.
The worshipper of delusion, enthroned in the heart,
Must yield to wisdom and from ignorance depart.
Beneath the shiny illusions find the hard marble floor,
Then maybe you will enter through heaven’s open door.
(From) Time to Time
Time came round to my house today,
He said, ‘Hi, sorry I really can’t stay’.
I know him well of course, it his way,
To drop in unannounced, never to stay.
‘Hi, it’s high time you came round’
I joked. He sort of half frowned,
Then he got the point and smiled a bit.
‘Tea, a bun? Well at least have a sit.’
‘You know I actually never stop,’ replied he,
‘Though slower or faster I appear to be,
Really I just keep sort of moving along.’
I knew he wouldn’t be here very long,
So I asked him outright, what he was doing
That kept him always coming and going.
‘It’s like this, I am really trying, you see,
To catch up with myself’, he said to me.
I was puzzled, but he always was a mystery.
‘When I last saw you, you left by the back way’:
‘Yes that will be me!’ he said, and off he went to try
To catch up with himself. I gave up wondering why.
As soon as he left there was a ring at the door,
Yes it was Time. One day I swear that poor
Guy will meet himself either going out or
On the way in, or coming through the door.
But as I understand it the natural laws say
If he didn’t leave he couldn’t come in, anyway.
Coming and Going
I thought that a walk might do me good,
So I set off to shop in the neighbourhood.
The weather was fine, but the forecast said rain,
So I took my umbrella – using my brain!
I knew something unusual and strange was happening,
When I met someone with a bag of shopping.
That in itself, all that strange may not seem be,
But what was strange, was that the man was me!
He wasn’t an hallucination, or a delusion or the like,
Nor a doppelganger, nor a double, nor a look-alike;
From the top of his head to the tip of his umbrella,
It was me, or I, or myself and definitely not any other.
The etiquette if you meet yourself somewhere,
Has not been written as far as I am aware,
So I said rather lamely, ‘How are you?’
Well tell me what else should I do?
‘I am better than you!’ he quickly replied,
This was something I felt should be denied.
So I said, “And what makes you think that is true?”
‘Well you see, I have been where you are going to,”
He adroitly replied, “and to prove it true
Look I have got this bag of shopping too”.
Well I could see he was smart alright,
But I thought I’d show I was also bright.
‘Ah, true, but I more recently got out of bed,
So I guess I’m a lot fresher than you’ I said.
He became friendlier then, and heavily sighed,
‘That I want to get back home can’t be denied’.
I could see he spoke from a sincere heart,
So of course I had to let him depart.
Well I got to where I was going to,
And completed all my shopping too.
Half way home, I met myself, complete with umbrella,
And as we spoke I thought, ‘He’s really not a bad fella’.
So this time we had a much longer talk together,
Well of course we knew everything about each other,
But we talked and talked about all of this,
And about the life we both knew so well.
Somehow talking to him things began to make sense,
All those apparently meaningless random events.
Then it dawned on us both at the self same time,
In this moment, life reveals all its rhythm and rhyme.
All of us are always on the way somewhere,
Or else we are returning home from there.
But let’s not indulge in time’s complex fantasy,
Except to say somehow all gets subsumed in unity.
The message in this is more simple and neat,
Live in such a way that the fellow you meet,
Coming back from the shop, or going there,
Is someone you’re happy to meet anywhere.
So that when you meet yourself you don’t feel critical,
And you know in your heart you have met a good pal.
The Futility of the Intellect
Sailing on a very large lake one day, I saw
Rowing a dinghy, I thought for the shore
A man, whose posture displayed intent;
Then I saw he was not for the shore bent.
I saw him the next day’ and the next as well,
He was there every day as far as I could tell.
That, in itself, is not very exciting for sure,
But I wondered what he was looking for.
Then one time I stopped to ask if he was lost.
He was all skin and bones, a virtual ghost.
He said; ‘Well I have rowed for many a day
As far as I can tell there is absolutely no way
To the shore, this ocean is surely infinity.’
I could see he had forgot that his boat and he,
To be launched, must have been once on shore.
He continued ‘Now I have a purpose that’s more
Important to me - to find the very centre of infinity’.
I must admit for a moment I was more lost than he.
Still, he had books and papers, wore glasses,
and had so
Many letters after his name I thought I’d better let him go.
The upshot was I left him with food and supplies
To row round in the circles of his mind’s own lies.
You know The Merciful sets the example of charity
It’s incumbent on you and it is incumbent on me,
But His Mercy beyond understanding is,
Indeed it is the only sure way to His bliss.
He took mercy on this ascetic’s plight
Leading him from darkness into the light.
I never ever saw him again, except once in a dream,
He told me what happened, and this was his theme.
I will try to be brief: the end of his story
Is that one day his circling seemed to be
More rapid somehow, till it became far too fast
Puzzled, he laughed, then understood at last
He’d been caught in whirlpool of immense size,
And knew for certain he would soon capsize.
In the reality of the whirlpool he gave up the fight
Of thinking he could find truth with his pitiful might.
He earnestly prayed, then prayed more earnestly still,
And said ‘Now I know, I know nothing, and my little will
And intellectual skill, is nothing but complete vanity:
Open the gates of Thy Mercy, O All Powerful, see
My plight is so dire. The prayer was made so sincerely
That His Mercy was stirred and came flowing to me.
The watery world seemed to be spinning around,
In the centre, me, with my feet on the ground!
‘So this is what its like’ something inside me said,
And I was flung upward; it was like nothing I ever read.
The next thing I knew I was kissing the shore
Thanking Him. But there is something more.
My mission is now crystal clear to me
To others an example I will always be
God’s infinity our intellect cannot know, for sure
Do good works for your soul, here on the shore!”
Love and Reason Confer
Love came in, and to love reason said,
“Your way causes me to lose my head“,
Love replied, “I do not doubt what you say
But still Love you know must have its way.”
So reason sighed and spoke again,
“Still my concerns let me explain,
To blindly follow the impulse of the heart,
Can lead to difficulties, its not smart”,
‘Ah this I don’t deny, but that is lust’,
Love said, ‘Not my way at all, be just.’
‘But people confuse you two for sure,’
Came the retort, ‘Most are not that pure’.
‘What you say is right enough’, love averred,
‘Some clear distinctions may be preferred’,
‘But The Merciful draws such a fine line,
To Him the problem must be referred’.
‘Though twins to a stranger both alike seem,
Familiar friends do not this a problem deem.
So here is the key to open this difficult door,
Be familiar with us both – that’s the scheme’.
‘So if lust answers the door instead of me,
You can just turn away quite easily.
My follower for him will have no time,
So know us enough, the difference to see!
Retelling of Masnevi Story
A beggar came to a house and at the door said,
‘Sir, Can you kindly spare me a piece of bread’.
The owner asked him if anything he could see,
Made the house resemble any kind of bakery.
So he asked instead for just a little piece of fat,
‘This is no butcher’s shop!’, the owner told him flat.
The beggar switched his plea, and asked for flour.
‘Not a mill either!’ said the owner, sounding sour.
‘At least some water, sir’ came the urgent plea,
‘Can you see a river here?’ the owner said, with irony.
Whatever was asked for was not to be had
And further the owner’s manner was very bad.
The beggar pushed passed that man so obdurate,
And once inside the house he began to urinate.
The owner, almost speechless with shock, shouted ‘hi!!',
‘Since this place is clearly a ruin,’ came the gruff reply,
‘Where nothing is to be found of any worth at all,
It will at least serve to answer nature’s call!.
The message here I will make quite clear to you.
Since not a falcon, royally trained hunting to do,
Nor a peacock designed to please and charm the eye,
Nor a parrot gifted with speech that makes one sigh;
Nor a nightingale in the garden making lover’s cry,
Nor a messenger hoopoe, nor stork nesting on high;
Then exactly what quality is it that you posses,
That anyone would wish from you to purchase?
O leave behind this market place of competitive greed,
Go to the shop where God’s Bounty meets every need.
Where He purchases rubbish without hesitation,
Because the making of profit is not His intention.
The Tailor’s Tale
(commentary on the book 6; 1720 and 1834, in the Masnevi of the tailor
who represents worldly vanity who filches cloth from his customers whilst
distracting them with idle tales.)
Mevlana’s tailor was very, very, shrewd,
His poor customers he certainly screwed;
While he regaled them with an entertainment,
To relieve them of their cloth was his intent.
The cloth represents the precious time left,
Before we, of the breath of life become bereft.
This precious gift we can use, eternity to gain,
Or fritter it away and in idle pleasure remain.
The question we must ask is surely this,
(If we wish to find that isle of eternal bliss);
How exactly should we foil the subtle ploy,
That miscreant tailor did so cleverly employ.
Simply deciding, like the fool in the tale,
That we have the skill is, like him, to fail.
It seems there are two courses we can take,
That will avoid that customer's fatal mistake.
One is to set ourselves to earn by following,
The rules the holy texts are plainly showing.
By this means we have not the time to stop,
Listening to fantasies in that deceptive shop.
The second is to take to the shop a true friend,
Who will either alert us and a sharp look send,
Each time we become forgetfully beguiled,
Or in the heart’s mirror show why the tailor smiled.
Deep in the desert three men, in days of old,
(At least that is how the story is usually told),
Found themselves in dreadful predicament,
Gone was the water for the journey meant.
Stumbling around, held in thirst’s firm grip,
Desperately seeking something to sip.
A mirage appeared in the sight of the three,
A hundred metres ahead it appeared to be.
A fresh water oasis with ease all could see;
The first of the three shouted in ecstasy,
And ran forward with every kind of haste,
Not deterred when with each step placed,
The mirage the same distance seemed to be.
The second man shouted, ‘Brother can’t you see,
This is a mirage and of thee it is making a fool’.
So he picked up the nearest available tool,
Which happened to be a sword, flashing bright,
To his brother’s help he charged - a fearful sight.
He slashed to the left and slashed to the right,
The mirage retreated as he thought it might.
Sad to say he kept cutting his brother accidentally,
‘That is but a small price to pay’ thought he.
So off the two men ran to embrace their destiny;
One to grasp and one to destroy, an unreality.
The third man in some distress all this did see,
‘Those two fools,’ he said, ‘a mirage will not gull me.
To destroy or embrace a fantasy is just stupid.’
Now I expect you are wondering what he did.
His mind was of a fatalistic bent, he had been taught,
‘If it is God’s Will there is nothing to do,’ so he thought,
I will ignore this illusory image and then it will go away.
Now you might think he would at least to God pray,
Or some other effort would make to change his plight:
But he just sat and sat lacking a guiding light.
Years later three skeletons were found in the sand,
Destiny had surely destroyed this hapless band;
Sad to say, a very short distance away was concealed,
By a single sand dune, a Well where real water flowed.
Now in case you think you are not of these three,
Examine this story more closely and see.
The mirage some call the ‘American dream’,
Though it is actually a universal scam.
If chasing it, then you are like the first man,
For to catch happiness this way, no one can.
If you think that with bomb or bullet to destroy,
An illusion, is in some way a sensible ploy,
Then you are acting like the second man,
Find a better use of your energy if you can.
If to fatalism and a shoulder shrug, you incline,
Your thinking you really need to refine.
Take a few steps, and to help yourself, strive,
Then for sure the help of God will arrive.
Some say there was a fourth with the three,
Who, the well found, if so a seeker was he.
For such the help of God is always at hand,
O reader, may you be the fourth of the band.
The Language of Heaven
Two Muslim men were engaged till late
In an ardent and very heated debate.
One, knowing Arabic well, said, to enunciate
‘Allah’ was all. The only name one had to state.
The one of English descent declared
‘‘God’ would do very well, to be uttered!
That night they met in a dream state,
Standing outside of a heavenly gate.
The sign, in Arabic, on the marble lintel
Read, (translated so you understand well),
In a beautifully written naksh inscription
‘Enter if love of Allah is your intention!'
Despite their fight, the Arabic scholar felt sorrow,
For his friend, whose arguments were so hollow.
Meanwhile, however, the other had read
The same sign, which in perfect English said,
(Without any kind or sort of encryption)
‘Enter, if love of God is your intention!'
An angel suddenly appeared and said
(Knowing full well what each had read!)
“Are you coming in to the light?
There’s permission for one more tonight’.
The two debated what they should do
And argued again, since neither knew
That the other had perfectly understood
What the sign meant, and how it was good.
Suddenly a third appeared from nowhere,
Marched past the two, without turning a hair,
(You would have thought he was very late
As he entered through that blessed gate).
The friends asked the angel how this could be
In what language and script the stranger did see;
Arabic, or English, or a language neither knew?
‘I will ask’, the angel said, ‘give me a minute or two’.
When he came back he told them very straight
The words of the one who went thru the gate.
Saying: “What that man said, and I well understood it,
Is that in the open door there was something implicit,
That said, without words, ‘Please come and visit!’
I really don’t know how it could be more explicit’
I visited an art gallery just the other day,
And had a strange meeting that went this way;
In the corner surrounded by many pictures,
Sitting so still he seemed like one of the fixtures,
Was a man who looked alone and dejected,
Like a lover who had just been rejected.
He glanced at me from across the room,
And I had to wonder just why so much gloom.
Pity and curiosity got the better of me,
And I walked over to him just to see;
And without too much preamble asked him ,
Just why he looked so sad, pale and grim.
Ah - he replied I am the artist you see,
And these pictures were done by me!
Then sir I said this should be the cause of joy,
For the crowds words of appreciation employ.
Ah yes what you say is true said he
But the praise is not intended for me,
They all study the frames with evident pleasure,
But the pictures whose creation left me with no leisure,
They appear not to see at all or just ignore.
This lack of appreciation I did duly deplore
And we talked about the lack of insight,and more,
Till courtesy and time meant I had to withdraw.
Now I mused on this curious little incident,
For it seemed to me no meaningless accident.
The Artist who in non existence drew and said Be ,
Gave each a frame - this tangible physical reality,
Absorbed in this the crowd seem always to be,
Not in the marvellous expresion of His personality,
Ah a good frame is fine and enhancing can be,
But the picture He drew with such ingenuity,
In this the Hand of the artist we must strive to see.
One must wonder surely what it was about that tree,
That caused so much ruckus for our parents, so sadly.
So here is a thought about the cause of that famous fall.
Perhaps seeing that tree Adam in a flash saw all.
Unity was so natural he never did before!
The tree trunk divides, and divides again that’s for sure,
One branch then two then four, now eight and hey,
Soon thousands of branches and twigs are there on display.
The intellect is inclined to a pattern like this;
Multiplicity takes us out of unity and bliss.
So now he saw a difference between him and her,
Between dark and light, this and that, imply and infer,
Old and new, me and you, big and small, wet and dry,
Earth and sky, proton and neutron, a bee and a fly.
Subdividing endlessly, hypnotic in effect,
The tree is known of course as the partial intellect;
A single tree in the garden of Universal Reason;
To fall under its spell seen as an act of treason.
Now stuck with this tool it became, for Adam and Eve,
Obligatory the paradise of unity to leave!
Now that tree still stands inside the heart of everyone;
It brings us cars, planes, and in fact civilisation.
It also leaves us in misery and unhappiness,
Unless the Maker gives us a way out of the mess.
The tree remains of course veiled from open awareness,
Subtly hid, a voice drawing us into this wilderness.
To return to that bliss just pass that tree quietly by,
And leave all the questions of who, how, where, what and why!
If you happen to be stuck on a branch of that tree,
Climb down and then the rest of the garden you can see.
There unity is, and a wondrous home in which to rest,
Our father, in repenting, showed of all ways, the best