Islamic Poetry & Philosophy

This site contains mystical poetry of Rumi, Hafiz, and Mansur al Hallaj, plus an article by a Muslim scholar on the meaning of 'Jihad.'

The Sufi sect of Islam grew out of the mystical love poetry of Rumi and Hafiz, written in Pharsee, the ancient Persian language. This sect has deep affinities with mystical Christianity and Hinduism, and its love poetry shares the same symbolic language that we have seen in the poems of Hindu Bhakti and the Song of Songs of the Bible.

Sufism is very popular in America today and offers a loving, spiritual, open-hearted form of Islam that we usually don't see in the media. It is quite opposite in spirit to the fundamentalist Islam that breeds terrorism. Sufis were often persecuted by more conservative fundamentalist Muslims. Al Hallaj was publicly tortured and crucified for proclaim, "I Am the Truth!" (an'l Haqq) The picture above portrays one of the spiritual practices of the Sufis, a dancing meditation.
Poetry of Rabia Al Adawiyya (8th C.)
(She was one of the first Islamic mystics)
Brothers, my peace is in my aloneness.
My Beloved is alone with me there, always.
I have found nothing in all the worlds
That could match His love,
This love that harrows the sands of my desert.
If I come to die of desire
And my Beloved is still not satisfied,
I would live in eternal despair.

To abandon all that He has fashioned
And hold in the palm of my hand
Certain proof that He loves me---
That is the name and the goal of my search....

Sufi Poems of Rumi (1217-1273)
There is some kiss we want
with our whole lives,
the touch of Spirit on the body.
Seawater begs the pearl
to break its shell.
And the lily, how passionately
it needs some wild Darling!
At night, I open the window
and ask the moon to come
and press its face against mine.
Breathe into me.
Close the language-door,
and open the love-window
The moon won't use the door,
only the window.

Look at Love...
how it tangles
with the one fallen in love
look at spirit
how it fuses with earth
giving it new life
why are you so busy
with this or that or good or bad
pay attention to how things blend
why talk about all
the known and the unknown
see how unknown merges into the known
why think separately
of this life and the next
when one is born from the last
look at your heart and tongue
one feels but deaf and dumb
the other speaks in words and signs
look at water and fire
earth and wind
enemies and friends all at once
the wolf and the lamb
the lion and the deer
far away yet together
look at the unity of this
spring and winter
manifested in the equinox
you too must mingle my friends
since the earth and the sky
are mingled just for you and me
be like sugarcane
sweet yet silent
don't get mixed up with bitter words
my beloved grows
right out of my own heart
how much more union can there be?

The sound of salaams rising
as waves diminish down in prayer,

hoping for some trace of the one
whose trace does not appear.

If anyone asks you to say who you are,
say without hesitation, soul

within soul within soul. There's a pearl diver
who does not know how to swim!

No matter, pearls are handed him
on the beach. We lovers laugh

to hear, "This should be more that
and that more this," coming

from people sitting in a wagon
tilted in a ditch. Going in search

of the heart, I found a huge rose
under my feet, and roses under

all our feet! How to say this
to someone who denies it?

The robe we wear is the sky's cloth.
Everything is soul and flowering.

I start out on this road, call it love
or emptiness, I only know what’s not here—

resentment seeds, back-scratching greed,
worrying about outcomes, fear of people.

When a bird gets free, it doesn’t go back
for remnants left on the bottom of the cage.

Close by, I’m rain; far off, a cloud of fire.
I seem restless, but I’m deeply at ease.

Branches tremble, the roots are still.

I am a universe in a handful of dirt,
Whole when totally demolished.

Talk about choices does not apply to me.
While intelligence considers options,

I am somewhere, lost in the wind.

No one knows what makes the soul wake up so happy!
Maybe a dawn breeze has blown the veil from the face of God.

A thousand new moons appear. Roses open laughing.
Hearts become perfect rubies like those from Badakshan....

There's no answer to any of this. No one knows the source of joy.
A poet breathes into a reed flute, and the tip of every hair makes music....

What is praised is one, so the praise is one too,
many jugs being poured

into a huge basin. All religions, all this singing,
one song.

The differences are just illusion and vanity. Sunlight
looks slightly different

on this wall than it does on that wall and a lot different
on this other one, but

it is still one light. We have borrowed these clothes, these
time-and-space personalities,

from a light, and when we praise, we pour them back in.

On the day I die, when I'm being carried
toward the grave, don't weep. Don't say,

He's gone! He's gone. Death has nothing
to do with going away. The sun sets and

the moon sets, but they're not gone.
Death is a coming together. The tomb

looks like a prison, but it's really
release into union. The human seed goes

down in the ground like a bucket into
the well where Joseph is. It grows and

comes up full of some unimagined beauty.
Your mouth closes here and immediately

opens with a shout of joy there.

Sufi Poems of Hafiz (Persia, 1320 - 1390) 

"You are dawn: I am only a candle!"
I have learned
So much from God
That I can no longer
Call myself
A Christian, a Hindu, a Muslim,
A Buddhist, a Jew.
The Truth has shared so much of Itself
With me
That I can no longer call myself
A man, a woman, an angel,
Or even pure
Love has
Befriended Hafiz so completely
It has turned to ash
And freed me
Of every concept and image
My mind has ever known.
The earth braces itself for the feet
of a lover of God
about to dance.
The sky becomes timid
when a saint starts waving his arms
in joy;
for the sun, moon and planets
could all wind up
rolling on the floor.

My dear, the world and its laws
are such a minute part of existence,
should not all our suffering be like this:

Something just dropped
from an infant's palm,
sleeping against the breast
of God?


If I've left the mosque for the tavern,
don't preach to me:
the ceremonies go on far too long,
and life is short!

Now its Spring:
the gentle breeze
will scatter seeds in the barren earth
and the old will become young again!

Minstrel, sing your melodies
for this feast of love.
No more chatter of the past or future:
only Now!


The real Love I always kept a secret,
all my words sung quietly at night,
outside her window.

And when She let me in,
I took an thousand oaths of silence.
But then She said,

O yes, God said,
"What the hell, Hafiz!
Why not give the whole world
my address?"

Don't surrender your loneliness so quickly.
Let it cut more deep.
Let it ferment and season you....

Something missing in my heart tonight
has made my eyes so soft,
my voice so tender,
my need for God
so absolutely

I have a thousand brilliant lies
For the question:

How are you?

I have a thousand brilliant lies
For the question:

What is God?

If you think that the Truth can be known
From words,

If you think that the Sun and the Ocean

Can pass through that tiny opening
Called the mouth,

O someone should start laughing!

Someone should start wildly Laughing -
There is a Beautiful Creature
Living in a hole you have dug.

So at night
I set fruit and grains
And little pots of wine and milk
Besides your soft earthen mounds,

And I often sing.

But still, my dear,
You do not come out.

I have fallen in love with Someone
Who hides inside you.

We should talk about this problem -

I will never leave you alone."

~ Hafiz ~

Mystic Poetry of Mansur al-Hallaj, Translated by Bernard Lewis

1. 'I am the One whom I love'

I am the One whom I love,
and the One whom I love is myself.
We are two souls incarnated in one body;
if you see me, you see Him,
if you see Him, you see us.

2. 'Your spirit is mingled with mine'

Your spirit is mingled with mine
as wine is mixed with water;
whatever touches you touches me.
In all the stations of the soul you are I.

3. 'Kill me, my faithful friends'

Kill me, my faithful friends,
For in my being killed is my life.

Love is that you remain standing
In front of your Beloved
When you are stripped of all your attributes;
Then His attributes become your qualities.

Between me and You, there is only me.
Take away the me, so only You remain.

4. 'You glide between the heart and its casing '

You glide between the heart
and its casing as tears glide from the eyelid.

You dwell in my inwardness,
in the depths of my heart,
as souls dwell in bodies.

Nothing passes from rest to motion
unless you move it in hidden ways,
O new moon!

Jihad in Islam
By Dr. Mohammed Ahmad

(This article was presented at the Symposium on “Islam and World Peace” held in Columbus Ohio, July 31, 2004)

“There shall be no compulsion in religion” (Koran 2:256).

The True meaning of Jihad

If one were to pick up an ordinary dictionary of the Arabic
language, the meaning of the word Jihad could have been
easily understood. Imam Raghib (famous lexicologist)
explains that the word Jihad is derived from jahd or juhd
meaning ability, exertion or power. Jihad and
Mujahida mean the exerting of one’s power in repelling the
enemy. The same authority then goes on to say: “Jihad is of
three kinds; viz., the carrying on of a struggle: 1. against a
visible enemy, 2. against the devil,and 3. against self (nafs).

According to Lane’s Lexicon, jahada properly signifies the
using or exerting of one’s utmost power, efforts, endeavors
or ability in contending with an object of disapprobation;
and this is of three kinds, namely a visible enemy, the devil,
and one’s self; all of which are included in the term as used
in the Kuran. The word Jihad is, therefore, far from being
synonymous with the word war. The meaning of Jihad
as “war undertaken for the propagation of Islam”, which
is supposed by many Western writers to be the primary sig-
nificance of the word, is unknown equally to the Arabic lan-
guage and the teachings of the Holy Qur’an.

We will discuss this subject in light of the Quran and
Hadith to clarify this misrepresentation.

Jihad in The Holy Quran

It is clear from the Qur’an that the word jihadhas has been
used therein to mean ‘striving’ or ‘exerting’. For instance:

“Those who strive (jaahada) for Us, We guide them
in Our ways”(26:69). Here the meaning is to carry
on a spiritual struggle to attain nearness to God.

• “Whoever strives (jaahada), he only strives for
his own self” (29:6). The meaning here again is
struggle for self-purification.

“We have enjoined on man to do good to his par-
ents. But if they strive (jaahadaa) with you to
worship that of which you have no knowledge
[i.e. false gods], then obey them not”(29:8). Here
the meaning is that of ‘arguing’ or ‘disputing’
with unbelievers.

“Strive for God a true striving (jihad).”(22:78);
“Obey not the unbelievers and hypocrites, and strive against
them a mighty striving (jihad) with it [i.e. the Qur’an]”(25:52).
Both of these verses give the command to conduct jihad. The first
refers to a jihad for attaining nearness to God. The second mentions
a jihad against the deniers of Islam, not by the sword, but by means of the
Qur’an itself. It is called a “mighty jihad”, and is a constant duty.

Example of The Holy Prophet At Makka

The Holy Prophet Muhammad had received revelations
ordering jihad while he was still a resident of Makka and
before the emigration to Madina [“Strive for God a true striving
(jihad)”(22:78); “Obey not the unbelievers and hypocrites,
and strive against them a mighty striving (jihad) with it
(i.e. with the Qur’an)”(25:52)]. But Mohammed did not raise the
sword against the unbelievers who were bitterly persecuting him
and his followers. Yet he was certainly conducting a jihad in Makka
in obedience to these verses. This was a jihad of following the word
of God and propagating the message of Islam. This mode of conduct
clearly proves that jihad was not equivalent to war in the Holy
Prophet’s eyes. During this period of persecution at Makka,
when some of his companions asked permission to fight, the
Holy Prophet said: “I have been commanded to forgive, so do
not fight” (Hadith collection Nasa’i, Book of Jihad).

Example of the Holy Prophet At Madina 

The Muslims emigrated to Madina and took refuge there,
yet their enemies from Makka did not leave them alone.
They threatened the then chief of Madina, Abdullah Ibn
Ubayy, in a letter as follows:

“O people of Madina, you have given refuge to our
adversary. We swear by God that if you do not fight
them or expel them, we shall come against you and
kill your fighting men and capture your women” (Abu
Dawud, vol. ii, p. 495).

Then the unbelievers of Makka decided to attack Madina
and annihilate Islam and the Muslims by the sword. It was
then only that God permitted the Muslims to conduct jihad
with the sword, because not to do so would have meant
suicide for the Muslims.

Therefore, in year 2 of the Hijra (emigration to Madina)
the following Quranic verse was revealed:

“Permission to fight is given to those upon whom war
is made, because they have been wronged — and
God is well able to help them: those who have been
expelled from their homes unjustly, only for saying,
‘Allah is our Lord’. And if God had not allowed one
group of people to repel another, then there would
have been pulled down cloisters and synagogues and
churches and mosques, in which God’s name is
remembered” (22:39, 40).

Four Conditions for Permitting Jihad by the Sword 

Four conditions are given here for allowing jihad by
the sword: 1) Fighting has to be initiated by the unbelievers,
as is clear from the words “those upon whom war is
made”; 2) There has to be extreme persecution of the
Muslims — “because they have been wronged”; 3) The
aim of the unbelievers has to be the destruction of Islam
and Muslims’ freedom of worship, as is clear from
the words “there would have been pulled down cloisters
and synagogues and churches and mosques in which God’s
name is remembered.”; 4) The object of the Muslims must
only be self-defense and protection, as shown by the words
“if God had not allowed one people to repel another”.

The only other verse allowing fighting in the Quran states:
“Fight in the way of God those who fight you, but do not
go over the limit”(2:190). Hence, the command in the Holy
Quran to fight, or conduct jihad with the sword, is subject to
the above conditions.

Jihad in The Hadith (Holy Sayings of the Prophet)

Just as the Holy Quran has used the word jihad in a very
wide sense, so too is it’s use in Hadith. For instance:

• The Holy Prophet said: Do jihad against the idolators with your wealth,
lives and tongues (Mishkat, Book of Jihad, ch. 1, sec. 2).

• A group of Muslim soldiers came to the Holy Prophet [from a battle].
He said: Welcome, you have come from the lesser jihad to the greater
jihad. It was said: What is the greater jihad? He said: The striving of a
servant against his low desires (Al-Tasharraf, Part I, p. 70).

• The Holy Prophet said: The greatest jihad is to speak the word of truth
to a tyrant (Mishkat, Book of Rulership and Judgment, ch. 1, sec. 2).

• The Holy Prophet said: Do jihad against your desires as you do jihad
against your foes (Mufradat, under root j-h-d, p. 100).

• The most excellent jihad is the Hajj (Pilgrimage to Mecca).
(Bukhari, Book of Sacrifices, 25:4)

• The mujahid [one engaged in jihad] is he who strives against
his own self to obey God.

These hadith make it clear that jihad means to exert oneself to the utmost,
whether by means of one’s wealth or tongue or hands or life, whether it is
to God or to propagate the word of God. To summarize, the Holy Quran
of jihad: 1) A great jihad; 2) The greatest jihad; 3) A lesser jihad.
The first two are to be undertaken constantly, while the third,
which includes jihad by means of the sword, is only undertaken
if specific conditions are satisfied.

Hadith to be interpreted in light of the Quran

Misinterpretation of Hadith has occurred due to the disregard of the
most fundamental rule of Hadith interpretation; that is, interpreting it
himself laid down this rule: “My sayings do not abrogate the word of Allah,
but the word of Allah can abrogate my sayings”(Al-Mishkat al-Masabih 1:6, iii).

Disregarding this principle rule can lead to misinterpretation and misdeeds.
This is well illustrated by the Bin Laden statement referred to earlier:
(Quotation from “Unveiling Islam”) “Considering the fate of one of the
willing martyrs of that operation, Bin Laden quotes the Hadith: ‘ I was ordered
to fight the people until they say there is no god but Allah, and his prophet Muhammad.”

Let us closely look at this Hadith and then study it in light of the Holy Quran.
The Hadith states:

“Ibn Umar reported, The Messenger of Allah (peace
and blessings of Allah be on him) said: ‘I have been commanded
that I should fight these people till they bear witness that there is
no god but Allah and keep up prayer and pay zakat. When they do this,
their blood and their property shall be safe with me except
as Islam requires, and their reckoning is with Allah’ (B.2:16).”

It should first of all be noted that the hadith begins with
the words, “I have been commanded”, and the command to
fight is contained in the Holy Qur’an in the following
words: “And fight in the way of Allah with those who fight
with you and do not exceed this limit”(2:190 Holy Qur’an).
Muslims, therefore, could not resort to fighting unless an
enemy was the first to assume hostilities. Keeping this in
mind clearly indicates that what the hadith means is that
fighting begun under these conditions is to cease when the
enemy accepts Islam. Bukhari himself hints at this when he
quotes the hadith under the heading: “But if they repent and
keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, then leave their way
free,”i.e., cease fighting with them.

Misinterpretation of this Hadith clearly shows the willful ignorance
of both parties, i.e., Bin Laden and the hostile evangelical composers
of the Book, “Unveiling Islam.”