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In the course of preparing the new CD ROM - called
'From the Garden of the Sufis' - I have been
revisiting the rubaiyat of the famous sufi
poet/saints. Here is a short reflection based on one
poem from the great saint, Hazrat Abu Sa'id bin
Abi'l Khair.
A Brief Reflection (2)

Born and buried in modern day Turkmenistan, Hazrat Abu Said bin Abi'l
Khair (937 A.D.-1049 A.D.) undoubtedly belongs amongst the first rank of
the Sufis. His profound rubaiyat (four lined poems) express deep mystical
truth with utmost economy of language and most signal benefits to those
who take the time, and make the effort, to absorb them. In the East they are
still used as efficacious prayers.

Dr Sharib has made a great contribution to modern day Sufism by
translating them from the original Persian into English with an eye to the
veracity of their inner meaning that perhaps could only come from a Sufi
sheikh of his calibre. Here is an example of one of the translated verses to
demonstrate this.

A Rubai of Hazrat Abu Said Abi'l Khair

Mansur Hallaj, was a crocodile in the river of unity, still
Effacing his self, mixed himself with the Absolute, with utmost skill,
One day he pronounced, and proclaimed, 'I am God',
Where then was Mansur, and where then was the All-mighty of mighty Will.

Abu Said bin Ab'il Khair

Mansur Hallaj is a Sufi saint of the highest renown and undoubtedly
immersed himself in the Divine. His stature became sealed when he was
executed cruelly - martyred for uttering the expression 'an'al Haqq' (I am
God, or more literally - 'I am Truth') which deeply shocked the clerics of his

Evoked in this verse is the crocodile's ability to swim or float silently,
stealthily, mostly submerged - disguised from his prey and foes alike. He
appears indistinguishable from the river itself in the same way that the
mystic consciousness becomes hidden within the Divine unity. Dr Sharib
introduces the word still at the end of the first line to convey the stillness of
thought and feeling that this state requires, and then deepens it even further
as he 'effaced himself' and then mixed himself with absolute. In the
extended metaphor we recognise the crocodile submerging himself,
disappearing briefly from sight altogether. Thus Mansur is hidden in the
unseen - a feat requiring utmost spiritual skill. But the submerging of the
crocodile often precedes its striking. The conventional story teller's device
'One day' lulls us into a false sense of security, to be followed by 'he
pronounced' carrying with it in English a resonance of 'he pounced'. The
crocodile has emerged, suddenly, swiftly, his great jaws wide open. 'He
proclaimed.' This followed by the shock expression - 'I am God'. This
statement which divided even distinguished Sufis of the day has echoed
down the corridors of time. Truly the crocodile has struck.

To follow the metaphor of the crocodile in the river the next line could imply
that the strike having been made, the crocodile becomes submerged
leaving only the ripples as evidence of the drama. In the verse we can also
understand that the last line evokes the defence of Hazrat Hallaj that, his
having become indistinguishable from God, we cannot distinguish the
boundaries between the human and the all pervading Divine. It opens up
scope for profound reflection in the reader.

As Mevlana Rumi declares 'the sip of water is an index of the pool.' We
hope this short example will wet the reader's appetite to digest and absorb
these verses for themselves so that they may be benefited by Dr Sharib's
tireless labours, and the awesome insights of Abu Said Abi'l Khair.

Jamiluddin Morris Zahuri (Southampton. June 2003)