« As for him that desires the life to come and strives for it as he ought to,
being a true believer, his endeavours shall be recompensed by God.»
Koran, 17: 20 The Night Journey
‘Prise be to God, Lord of the Universe,
The Compassionate, the Merciful,
Sovereign of the Day of Judgement!
You alone we worship and You alone
We turn for help.
Guide us to the straight path,
The path of those whom You have favoured,
Not of those who have incurred Your wrath,
Nor of those who have gone astray.’
Koran 1:1-17 In The Name Of God The Compassionate, The Merciful
Come into my heart, Angel of Clear Light,
On this day of bitter affliction,
In this year of stifled sorrow,
In this final hour of weeping,
Shining messenger of the Beautiful Knowledge,
You, celestial arch-strategist of the hierarchies of Heaven,
Guide and defender of untainted,
You who dictated in a voice like the song of a thousand rivers,
You who etched onto the estimable lips the Prophet
The immortal Words of sacred Book!
Come, Angel, between the setting of the Pleiades and the rising of the Sun,
Touch the surfeit of my mouth with your dazzling eyes!
Remember the servant of God, al-Khidr,
And the Holy Night, the Night of Power, laylat al-qadr,
In the luminous month of Ramadan.
The Night when the melodious branch
Swoons asleep on its melodious sister,
That Night when the mild air sings no more,
When slow rivers stop flowing,
And the wind abandons itself to the serene kisses of silence!
That Night, O my Soul, when you hear the tall palms shudder
and the fine grasses grow tall under the immense breath of the Moon!
That Night which created from carefree breezes and burning sands
The agile, the swift Bedouin,
And from the quick arrow, a singing spear
The untameable horse, the courser disobedient and rebellious as lightning!
That Night which saw Haven, instantly become Word,
Pour into the ear of the Chosen One, like a glistening thread of honey,
The mystery of mysteries!
O Angel of harmonious dreams,
Transform my faith, straight as the edge of a sword,
Into a vibrating resonant harp, into a zither of brightness,
Into a beauty inscribed in every seed,
Into a radiant lake, pure landscape of the soul, of the spirit, of time,
Into a translucent spring, into words without stain,
Into sentences that are not broken or do not treacherously wither away!
Let its careful strings resound!
Let them tell afflicted souls,
Hearts lacerated by grief
On this day of lamentation and mourning,
How he went away,
In the infinite peace of the fulsome warmth of this month of June,
The Divine Messenger, the Friend of Man, the Faithful One, Al-Âmin,
The gentle Just knight!
Angel, tell of delirious tremors of the Earth,
The unstoppable frenzies of tears,
The mournful intoxicated weeping,
The dizzying lullabies of sadness!
Tell, tell Angel of all angels, how he rose, composed and calm,
From his dreadful agonies,
How, his head bandaged in a fine white scarf,
He stumbled out, suffocating with pain,
To bear witness to the sacred tombs of the martyrs
Who fell at Uhud, whose blessed bodies, asleep for eternity,
Found shelter in the cemetery of Baqi!
How, prostrated on the loving earth, the faithful earth,
He cried with just and proper tears
For his great friends, his courageous comrades,
Moistening with the flowing tenderness of his wondrous eyes,
His eyes anointed with kohl and unguent of antimony,
Their pure and noble final resting place!
Tell, O Angel of the Dawn, how he asked the people for
Seven buckets of fresh water from seven different wells
To cool him, one last time,
Near the point of collapse, his fragile body
Like a stalk of desert narcissus,
Like the branch of a pomegranate!
Tell how he walked, with unsteady steps, to the mosque of Medina,
With his brothers and disciples, the blameless Ansâr,
And the sorely tested exiles from Mecca,
How he ascended into the pulpit
And, having recited the prayer,
Pronounced these terrifying words:
’One among us will soon be with the Creator.’
Ah, words which will grow for ever, like the wild ivy in the woods,
In the hearts of men who will love them for ever
With every drop of their blood!
Tell, Angel of the ether, how he asked,
In a wonderful voice full of sweetness and love,
In a voice overflowing with absolute trust
In the very great and very tender
In the very certain and very beautiful goodness of our Lord God,
For the forgiveness of the people crushed by grief,
Imploring his friends not erect his tomb
As a place of pilgrimage and worship
Nor to make his house a place of prayer!
Tell, Angel of God, how with the last breath
That remained in his failing breast,
He asked his wife, so loved and cherished,
‘Â’ishah, the pure and gentle, the mother
Of the numberless community of the faithful,
To give to the poor of the city,
To give to them as sublime alms,
The last seven dinars he possessed,
The sole, the only remaining treasure of whole life
Of extraordinary sacrifices, tears, agonies, wounds,
Of scars, hunger, thirst, hard work
And immense selflessness!
How he expressed with an incomparable grace,
With the noblest kindness,
His last wish for purity:
Yes, he begged, O my soul,
That he should be washed meticulously,
That, before his eternal departure,
As a courtesy his teeth should be scrubbed clean,
His teeth, white as spring daisies,
Glistening as flint in the dunes.
Reveal, O my song, how at the very moment
He rendered up his humble soul to the Angel Gabriel,
The heavenly seal of high prophecy, the stellar sign
With which God had marked him between his shoulder blades at birth
Suddenly, abruptly faded
As a chilling dream disappears in the warm brightness of morning,
As a loud sigh lets itself be stifled by the breeze,
As a daydream is diluted in the moist caress of a kiss!
And then, how in his very modest house,
In his dwelling simple as divine mercy,
There fell the immutable silence of a perfect summer,
How the venturesome sea of the great aromatic heat of the South
And the crystal clear ardour of the air numb with sadness
Lay themselves down in the doorway of that inconsolable house!
Tell, Angel of the Milky Way,
How they washed his body, now for ever asleep
In the arms of tearful angels,
How they dressed him in a white gown
Strewn with jasmine branches,
How they wrapped him in the red carpet
Woven by the loving and bronzed hands of faithful Bedouins!
Tell, tell, O Angel of the Final Hour,
How they lay him in the tomb full of wonder,
His face turned towards Mecca,
Towards his painful, burning, cruel, tender native land,
The harsh native land of his destitute childhood,
Bathed by so many tears of solitude,
Covered in so many scars and wounds!
How they left bare
His right cheek, his soft and pearly cheek,
So that the earth could touch it with its grateful lips,
So that the sand could caress
His sleep with its warm and fulsome kindness!
Tell how they planted on his fresh grave
A branch of green date palm
As a sign of perpetual rebirth!
Tell, O my sad song, O my inconsolable soul,
Tell if you still can,
How, when men left
This immortal burying place,
The radiant legions of the prophets and the saints
Descended from the heavens
To welcome the luminous soul of the Friend of God!
How the higher angels, their bodies woven with stars,
Their bodies trembling with the inexhaustible youth of eternal life,
Lay on his heart fleur-de-lis picked
From the Lord’s gardens!
Those angels who had seen him once
Ascend rapturous into the Seventh Heaven,
Reaching Sidrat-al-Muntaha, the Tree of Pure Light,
The Lotus of Brightness!
O silent night, night of all miracles,
Inscribe my sorrowful poem
On the black velvet of your eyelids,
Embroider it in golden letters on your mauve breast,
Hang it in the sanctuary of your heart!
O beautiful night, vast Arabian night,
Itinerant garden full of living holiness,
Pour the balm of peace,
The Eucharistic coolness of impalpable dreams
Into the radiant sleep, into the divine slumber
Of being for ever
Good, just and pure!
Recite, glorious night!
Famous night, night of miracles,
The glorious surrender of the soul
To the unfathomable, to the holy, to the benevolent will
Of God, our benevolent Lord
Who sets the rhythm of the flow of timeless time
And sanctifies with his Song
The song of his noble Glorifier and Friends!
‘I seek refuge in the Lord of Men,
The God of men,
From the mischief of the slinking prompter
Who whispers in the hearts of men;
From jinn and men.’
Translated from the French by Norton Hodges