Jābir Ibn Samura, one of the Companions of Muhammad, described the Prophet’s face as like the Full Moon in the night sky and this allegory reappears in the following devotional poem by Shaykh Ibrāhīm Niasse (1900–1975). The poet, inspired by a night of reciting and chanting poetry until tears flowed from his eyes, praises the Prophet and the illumination of his message as his neighbours sleep.
Shaykh Ibrāhīm was one of the leaders of the Tijāniyyah (a Sufi path originating in the Maghreb but now more widespread in West Africa and some parts of Sudan) in the twentieth century. He was also an ally of many Independence leaders in Africa, such as Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana), Ahmad Sekou Touré (Guinea) and Gamal Abd al-Nasser (Egypt) and served as the Vice President of the Muslim World League with King Faisal of Saudi Arabia as President.
This poem was translated by Zachary Wright of the Tijani literature initiative, a collaborative research project aiming to produce a full translation of the collected poetry of Shaykh Ibrāhīm Niasse.
Tears into Pearls
Enslaved in love, the heart turns away from everything else
Bound in longing for the Prophet, bewildered
I spent an entire night sleepless, singing poetry
In remembrance of him who was pure goodness from beginning to end
So I write these verses at night, while my neighbours sleep
And from my eyes, tears rain down.
Describing him is like arranging pearls to form words
A pearl perfectly formed: he is the full moon (1)
Muḥammad is the key to all illuminations, my master
He is the seal of all Messengers, their end and their predecessor
By him did all Prophets obtain their needs
By him are the cosmological presences adorned, so venerate and exalt him!
He was a messenger from the Patron Lord, when Adam did not exist
And he will remain a messenger, forever magnified
His formation was as a treasure of the Real, the One
And from this treasury he came to us as a distributor and apportioner
Every Prophet’s miracle is the miracle of Muhammad
All affairs emerge from him and return back to him
Ṭā Hā, Muḥammad (2)
He is the sum of all bounties bestowed by the enthroned Lord
And the mercy of the Merciful, so honor him!
Bearer of glad tidings and a warner, equitable in distribution
Generous, noble, open-handed benefactor
The most trustworthy exemplar, the elect of all divine messengers
The beloved of God on the Throne, from the beginning to the end of time
The clouds rained from the brightness of his countenance
By him was the night’s dark ignorance illuminated
His light enlivened the hearts of all creation, and animated their tongues
And he purified and taught them
By God, there is no other like the Prophet Aḥmad
Aḥmad is a unique jewel that can never be reproduced
On him be God’s blessing, then His peace
And on his family and honorable companions, ever increasing
If you should ask concerning my beloved and my master
Surely it is Ṭā-Hā, the beloved of Allāh, and none other
My moments and hours I’ve spent in remembrance of him
Invoking blessings and praise; so from him I became illustrious
Who competes with me in ardent love for our Prophet
Has desired a thing impossible and forbidden
Like the one who wanted to bring back yesterday today, or sought
A stairway to take him to the moon or to the midday sun. (3)
by Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse,
from Taysir al-Wusul
Translation by Zachary Wright
for Tijani Literature Online
- The symbolism of the moon gradually increasing in illumination over the lunar month was used by the 13th-century Andalusian mystic and poet, Ibn al-ʿArabī, as a metaphor for the stages of spiritual illumination undertaken on the Sufi path.
- Ṭā Hā: One of the names of the prophet Muhammad.
- Esmé L.K. Partridge examines Sufi references to the Moon as a metaphor for man becoming illuminated by the light of the Sun (God) in a paper for the Journal of The Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi Society, (Vol. 68):
“In this schema, the Moon is a representation of Man (and the Sun a representation of God), with the astronomical phenomena of gradual illumination paralleling the process of taṣawwuf. Just as the Moon traverses from its station in the penumbra of the Earth to an elevated position where it can fully reflect the Sun, the mystic overcomes the shadows of the world (dunyā) and transforms into an individual gleaming with the splendour of God’s attributes (embodied by the paradigm of the Insān al-Kāmil). The mystic, like the Moon, becomes a ‘polished mirror’, in which the light of God is reflected.”
The Celestial ‘Polished Mirror’: The Mystical Dimension of the Moon according to Muhyiddin Ibn ʿArabī by Esmé L.K. Partridge