Abu Said A'bil Khair and His Rubaiyat
by Dr Zahurul Hasan Sharib
See Sharib Press for publication details
Hazrat Abu Said bin A'bil Khair was born in 967 AD in Mayhana, (modern Turkmenistan*)
and was buried there in 1049 AD Dr Sharib says:-
"Abu Said is one of the most fascinating and original of poets. He was destined to lay the
foundation of a new school of thought in Persian poetry. He made the rubaiyat (quatrains
conveying a single sustained thought) the vehicle of his message and mystical
utterances.He was a contemporary of the famous philosopher Avicenna but he did not feel
interested in philosophical discussions. Abu Said's rubaiyat are the cry of the soul longing
to serve, surrender, sacrifice and submit to the Friend. Some of his rubaiyat assure the
Friend of service. Some of them are in the nature of supplication and others of adoration.
Some are simply prayers which are still recited in times of stress, strain and strife - to
ward off and avert disaster, trouble, catastrophe, trial or tribulation. Some of them serve as
a code of life for the seeker treading on the path of sufism.Some of the poems serve as a
sign for those lost in the labyrinth of sweet love. Some of them express grief at the
separation from the Friend. Some of them reflect the feelings of a lover who, in his love for
his Friend, is restless and uneasy. Some stress the importance of love, which alone
matters as nothing else does. In short some are the voice of the soul and some are the
voice of the heart and some are the voice of the dumb, inarticulate to many, but
understood by a few."
Dr Sharib has recorded some important anecdotes and discourses from the sheykh's life
that reveal something of his mystical mode of thought and action. Here are some
examples which have been abbreviated for the purpose of this article.
One day a man approached Abu Said and expressed his sense of amazement and
bewilderment at having seen someone walking on water, flying in the air and moving about
from one place to another in an instant. Abu Said said that in this was nothing marvelous
since ducks also swim on the water, birds fly in the air and Satan is able to move from the
east to the west in an instant.He paused and said:"The things which really matter are not
those things. Such things are of no value and consequence. The man who should deserve
your honour and respect is the man who, in spite of everything, is in the sunshine of
society, having social dealings with others, partaking in their joys and sorrows, marrying
and giving in marriage and never thinking of withdrawing from the world but still not
unmindful of the remembrance of God even for a single moment."
A person who had stayed long with Abu Said was intending to travel to Baghdad. He
asked the Sheykh how he should reply to questions about what benefits he had obtained
from his stay with the Sheykh. Abu Said then suggested that he recite the following
quatrain to those asking such searching questions:
Prior to becoming a disciple of Hazrat Shaykh Abu'l Fazl the following happened to Abu
Said.It so happened one day that whilst on his way to somewhere he suddenly saw, sitting
on the top of some sand dunes near Sarakhs, an absorbed saint named Luqman Majnun.
Abu Said climbed to the top of the mound and found that the saint was mending his shirt
made of animal skin. Whilst he stood watching the shadow of Abu Said happened to fall
on the shirt. When Luqman Majnun had finished mending the shirt he smiled and
addressed Abu Said thus:
"O, Abu Said, with this patch on the shirt I have also sewn thee."
With this he took the hand of Abu Said and took him to the convent of of Hazrat Sheykh
Abu'l Fazl. On reaching there Luqman Majnun called to the Sheykh and entrusted Abu
Said to him, saying:
"O, Fazl, keep him with you, he is yours now and forever".
Explaining the implication of the expression; "The remembrance of God is the highest",
he said that it is not meant in the sense that you remember God but in the sense that He
Here are just a few of the famous quatrains (rubaiyat):
As long as I was a lion, chasing the leopard was my way;
I overcame all that I thought I may;
But since I gave place to Thy love in my heart,
Then a lame fox drove me out of the forest, strange to say.
Ta shir budam, shikar-i man bud palang;
Piruz budam ba har-chi karfdam ahang.
Ta 'ishq-i tura ba-bar dar awardam tang,
Az bisha burun kard ma-ra rubah-i lang.
I, due to the fear of a rival, do not go round Thy lane,
Nor talk of Thee, due to the fear of people vain;
I have tied my lips and sit quietly,
But It is impossible that in Thy love I may not desire to be slain.
In the ocean of belief many are the pearls of certainty;
But there is also the self, drawing breath in whirlpools aplenty;
Every oyster is a circle of the eye filled with tears,
And every wave points to the Beloved's eyebrow - the symbol of reality.
illustration of this poem in the Art Gallery
The personality absolute, manifest in all creation fine,
If thou desire to know of His pervading the universe, the reality and sign;
Go! And on the surface of wine observe the bubble, see how,
The wine is within the bubble and the bubble within the wine.
illustration of this poem in the Art Gallery See also the article : 'A Brief Reflection' for an exploration of this verse.
Those who have attained divine reality and with enlightenment are fraught,
From all creation have turned both their their face and their thoughts;
The illumined men from the bowl of Looks beg for rays divine,
By close attention (to God) they acquired whatever they sought.
illustration of this poem in the Art Gallery
*(thanks are due to Dr Alan Abdul Haq Godlas for this information)
Thou art such that from heaven a relic thou dost carry,
And also thou dost carry the decoration of heaven and a season merry,
From China and Turkestan drawings and paintings thou dost carry,
In Iran, from thee they take the prophecy for the future, bleak and merry.