SUFI Poetry

In Sufism, it is love that guides and paves the seekers’ path to union with God.

Through the intoxication of love, Sufis learn to let go of their ego and open their heart to the truth that binds all creation. In reaching for the essential nature of this divine love, the Sufi poets evade fixed ideas, embrace paradox and turn to intricate metaphor and allegory that ring more truthful that the everyday reality that blinds us to the ineffable experience of love and the divine.

Sufi poetry is delivered in song, music, written and spoken form in cultures across the world. The Persian poets Rumi, Hafiz, Abu Sa’id Abu-l-Khair, Farid al-Dun Attar, Iraqi are still as relevant today as they were when they were originally penned, speaking directly to the heart of the seekers and lovers everywhere. Here we offer a selection from the Sufi poetry canon.


By Dr Javad Nurbakhsh

How lovely, how beautiful Your face!
What coyness lies in those eyes and eyebrows!
Once I saw Your countenance
I could never become intimate with anyone else.

I desire only You;
I utter only Your name.
I see but One, say but One, and
want but One.

On Your path,
I have given up both head and soul,
and could never take offense or turn away
from Your direction.

I embrace both Your grace and Your wrath:
for me, Your harshness is sweet and pleasant.

I have erased all traces of self
from my heart’s slate,
and in their place have inscribed,
“Everything is He.”

Through Your love
I have forsaken self-existence and have become tranquil,
no longer rushing in
every direction.

Whether You bestow light or not,
all night and day
our zekr will be this:
“He is Hu.”

The Alley of the Traceless — Feiz Kashani

The Alley of the Traceless

By Feiz Kashani

I asked “Why is your beautiful face hidden from me?”
He replied “My face is revealed to all.
It is your self that has created a veil.”

I asked “From whom do I ask directions to your district?”
He replied “Why do you ask directions?
I reside in the alley of the traceless.”

“Your sorrow is more pleasant to me than being happy.” I said.
“In the path towards me no difference exists between sorrow and happiness.”

“My soul has burned up from the hidden fire inside.” I said.
“The one who is burned doesn’t not cry or moan.” He replied.

“How long will I be separated from you?” I asked.
“As long as you exist.” He replied.

“Is this the final word?” I asked.
“There is no other way.” He replied.

“I have a request.” I asked.
“State your question.” He replied.

“Increase my sorrow for You.” I said.
“You will have my sorrow for free.” He replied.

“Please accept from Feiz this half life of mine.” I said.
“Your soul is the place for my sorrow. Keep it.” He replied

Idol Breaker — Alireza Nurbakhsh

Idol Breaker

By Alireza Nurbakhsh

I have come to cherish the love for You
like a precious pearl in my heart and soul,
And to lay down my head at Your threshold
and to make fruitful the love for You.

I will avert my eyes from my self and turn my gaze to You.
I am lost in the cupbearer’s beauty.
How can I behold any but You?

I have come to defeat and abolish both faith and unbelief,
and empty my head of any though of other than You.

I have come to break idols and to break into songs of love,
To prostrate myself before you, and to fill my chest
with the fire of love.

I will set up taverns everywhere, and make wine lawful to all.
I will make everyone drunk and will take to the road once more.

I will repeat your name and breath the sorrow of love for You.
I will sacrifice my self to you and leave behind this ‘I’ and ‘We’.

You are love, and the light bestower of the soul,
I have a sign from You, I have come to announce Your grace to all the world.

The Cupbearer — Alireza Nurbakhsh

The Cupbearer

By Alireza Nurbakhsh

Cupbearer be generous – make me drunk
Let me be a moth circling around your face.

Make me a stranger to I and we.
Let me share my abode with your love.

Oh beloved! Gaze upon me.
I am your guest
Show your face! Make me crazy!

If you do not give me wine, I will not complain.
If you bestow wine, I will become the goblet.

If you burn my heart and soul in fire,
I become a legend in love and fidelity.

Oh beloved! Be merciful. Revive my heart.
Make me a pearl in the ocean of nothingness.

Every moment you bestow light upon me
To turn me into a beloved out of your generosity.

I Love You — Ali Mazhari

 I Love You

By Ali Mazhari

On the soft silk of a blossom, the white dawn of love wrote:
“Oh You! Always lovely as a flower. I love You. I love You.”

On the sands of a calm sea, with the pen of kindness and the ink of tenderness,
In a special and secret language, it wrote again:
“Oh You who have turned into a mythical bird
and lived in a legendary mountain. I love You. I love You.”

The sands flee suddenly as the breeze appeared. A flower dropped from the branch.
The gust made a wailing sound, and a bird began to sing:
“As long as I exist – everywhere and at all times – no matter where You are,
I remain the dust of Your lane, because You know. I love You. I love You.”

Door of the Tavern — Hafez

Door of the Tavern

By Hafez

Thank God the door of the Tavern is open
and I am needy at His door.

The vats are all boiling and crying out of drunkeness.
Only the wine of truth can be found there.
Not that of falsehood.

From Him comes drunkeness, pride and aloofness.
From us comes helplessness, self-effacement and neediness.

The secret, which I’ve never told anyone, and will never share with anyone,
I shall reveal to the friend – my only confidant.

The tale of the twist and wave of my Beloved’s curl cannot be abridged.
It is indeed a long story.

I have stopped looking at the entire world
Since I have gazed upon your beautiful face.

Whoever comes to the district of your Kaba
Will begin praying immediately upon beholding the qiblah of your eyebrows.

Oh, people of the assembly! If you are interested in the burning of Haze’s heart,
Ask the candle as it burns and thaws away.

Mirror — Maghrebi


By Maghrebi

Your beautiful face needs a clear mirror
That can truly reflect You and Your beauty to you.

When I glance at Your lovely visage
I behold the beauty of the entire world.

Nothing but my eyes are the beautician of Your visage,
It is the sight that presents the splendour of Your face.

The eye will have no regard for the beautiful ones of this world
If it ever caught a glance of Your beauty.

I feel You become lovelier all the time,
Since my love for you increases with every moment.

The attraction of Your beauty intensifies every instant,
Snatching me from myself, from this world and the hereafter.

Our eyes are unfit to behold You,
Only Your eyes are worthy of witnessing you.

Maghrebi! As long as the dark night of your self-existence remains
You will not see the day of my sun rising from the eastern horizon of the soul.

The Love for the Friend — Alireza Nurbakhsh

The Love for the Friend

By Alireza Nurbakhsh

There is no story as beautiful as the story of love for the Friend.
Intimacy with the Friend is the most blessed good fortune.

Those enslaved by the self can never approach him.
That is only possible on the wings of aspiration from the Friend.

If you suffer a hundred thousand afflictions on the path of love,
Have reverence and respect the Friend’s sanctity.
Do not breath a word of complaint.

When the master of love called me to the sanctum of the Friend,
The flames of Her love burned away my heart and soul.

He poured a new wine into my weakened body and soul,
And pulled me to the Friend’s presence with half a glance.

I was rendered drunk and unconscious from Her manifestation,
and my heart became a mirror for the visage of the Friend.

When He bestows light on me out of generosity and kindness,
He empties my chest from all but the love for the Friend.

I Cannot Go On Without You — Rumi / Divani Shams

I Cannot Go On Without You

By Rumi from the Divani Shams

I can live without others, but I cannot go on without you.
My heart yearns for you. It cannot go anywhere else.

The intellects eyes are intoxicated from you.
The revolving firmaments are insignificant before you.

My joyfulness is in your hands. I cannot go on without you.
My soul simmers from you. My heart drinks a sweetness from you.

My intellect laments for you. I cannot go on without you.

You are my wine – my intoxication – my garden – my spring.
You are my sleep – my refuge – I cannot go on without you.

You are my glory – my majesty – my kingdom – my wealth.
You are my clear water. I cannot go on without you.

Sometimes you move towards fidelity.
Sometime you shift towards infidelity.
You are mine, no matter where you go.

You’ve plundered my heart and broken my repentance.
You are behind all deeds. I cannot go on without you.

If I could live without you the peak of the cosmos would heave turned into its base.
The heavenly garden would have turned into hell. I cannot go on without you.

You have taken away my sleep, you have washed away my image.
You have separated me from all. I cannot go on without you.

If you cease to be my beloved for a moment I’ll be all ruined.
You are my confidant and companion. I cannot go on without you.

Without you, life is not enjoyable.
Without you, death is not enjoyable.
How can I flee from your sorrow?
I cannot go on without you.

The Illusion of “I” and “YOU” — Dr Javad Nurbakhsh

The Illusion of “I” and “YOU”

By Dr Javad Nurbakhsh

O You, the source of all existence,
Without You there is only destitution.

With You I am above all that exists;
without You, who am I? Nothing!

In this twisted and convoluted world,
You are my beginning and my end. I am nought.

Believe me when I tell You that I am bewildered—
O my existence, without You I am less than nothing.

This illusion of  “I” and “you” was only a dream;
anything other than You is only a mirage.

What can I say? You transcend all words;
You are beyond letters, sounds and any poem of mine.

It is best if I keep my lips sealed and not utter a word,
You are all that exists and I am just an illusion.

One Breath — Dr Javad Nurbakhsh

One Breath

By Dr Javad Nurbakhsh

From pre-eternity to post-eternity
is but a single breath,
A breath free of all these melodies
high and low.

Treasure this breath,
this moment you now enjoy,
Spending it in happiness: there is
no time for sorrow.

Once this moment has passed,
it is gone forever.
Your time is less
than the very least you can imagine.

If you spend this moment laughing,
the world will be all laughter.
But if you fall into depression,
the world will be all sorrow.

Don’t give your heart to this unstable,
transitory world
With all its ups and downs,
its twists and turns.

Lighten another’s heart;
be light of heart yourself,
For the highest gain in the world
is this.

Take care, Nurbakhsh,
not to hurt any heart,
For this is more valuable
than any crown or throne.

Sama — Dr Javad Nurbakhsh


By Dr Javad Nurbakhsh

It’s the time of sama!
Clap your hands happily!
All who have escaped from self
will get drunk tonight!
It is God’s decree! Allah! Allah!

How long will you sit
and suffer in seclusion?
Rise on the feet of aspiration
and turn towards service instead.
It is God’s decree! Allah! Allah!

Rise and beat the frame drum!
Come, join the ranks!
Clap your hands drunkenly!
Now make a target of your self.
It is God’s decree! Allah! Allah!

Humbly and with love
you may escape
from the bonds of existence
and self-worship!
It is God’s decree! Allah! Allah!

Spend this moment in pure joy,
observe love and good faith.
Pledge your very existence,
annihilate your self in God!
It is God’s decree! Allah! Allah!

The lover is silent,
with no intellect or consciousness.
He has been bubbling within like a vat of wine.
It is time now to roar!
It is God’s decree! Allah! Allah!

If you are discerning,
then seize upon this moment,
for this transitory life
lasts only a short while.
It is God’s decree! Allah! Allah!

In the proximity of the Beloved,
do not bother with cures;
freely offer upyour distracted soul!
It is God’s decree! Allah! Allah!

We worship wine.
As long as we exist,
we are drunk and delivered
from our selves.
It is God’s decree! Allah! Allah!

We are light-headed,
drinkers of the dregs.
We have no distinct features;
we behave as Sufis.
It is God’s decree! Allah! Allah!

Where are You, O Beloved?
Have You no concern for us?
We are just beggars
looking for provisions.
It is God’s decree! Allah! Allah!

You are the soul’s nourishment;
You are the heart’s serenity.
You are both pain and cure;
You are both grace and what is given.
It is God’s decree! Allah! Allah!

The Circle of Unity — Dr Javad Nurbakhsh

The Circle of Unity

By Dr Javad Nurbakhsh

As long as you are not bound to a Beloved
through loving-kindness
your soul will never experience the delight
of liberation.

Your notebook of knowledge
is but a toy of your imagination —
reading it in the beginning causes suffering,
in the end fatigue.

In truth, whatever you see other than love
is false.
You will never again hear Truth’s secret
this concisely.

Unconsciousness and humility,
lowliness and nothingness
are a few signs of the lover’s

In love’s battleground
the selfless rend
receives the rank of commander
from the Sultan of Beauty.

Cling to the circle of Divine Unity,
for this solid foundation
grants safety from faltering,
error and dispersion.

Aided by the heart, we climbed beyond
the limits of space and creation.
While seated here, we made many journeys
beyond the horizons.

We drank just a mouthful and
have remained drunk.
Since the day of the pre-eternal covenant,
our wine has been perpetually intoxicating.

O Nurbakhsh, I see you are undisturbed
by the flood of events;
though you may be a drop,
you are joined with the Ocean.

A Sufi Poem — Iraqi

A Sufi Poem

By Iraqi

Oh, the comfort of my soul
I am wretched without you.

Come! Allow me to cast away my life at your feet.
Let me die in desire for your face.
As there is no reason to go on
If I don’t see that beautiful face.

Wake up Oh hidden fortune and behold my state!
Come back Oh long gone life and hear my constant wailing.

Oh Friend! Cast your glance upon me every now and then.
Remember that I am as weak as your drunken eye.

It is strange that you’re constantly with me.
Yet like a shadow I continue to chase you everywhere.

Oh Beloved! It is time for you to find out about my state.
Remember me! I am nothing without your remembrance.

At this moment Iraqi feels ill and dejected.
Bestow your mercy upon his heart
And transport him beyond his imagination.

Come — Rumi


By Rumi

Photo © Elena Ray

You’re my feet, You’re my hands,
You are the essence of my intoxication.
O’ drunken nightingale come to the garden.
You’re my ears, You’re my eyes,
You are the chosen one.
You’re the missing Joseph.
Come to the market place
You’re hidden from peoples eyes.
You’re the soul.
You’re the world.
Come back to me crazy and perform Your dance of Love.
You’re the brightness of the day.
You’re the joy that burns all sorrow.
You’re the moon that brightens the night.
You’re the cloud that carries rain.
O’ destitute heart come along.
O’ torn liver you come too.
If the path is closed, don’t stop,
climb your way over the wall.
O’ scattered night and unwanted sorrow, go away.
O’ slumbering intellect disappear,
let the awakening love, come through.
O’ the breath of Noah and the desire of every soul
O’ the cure of the unwell and the medicine of the sick

Transfixed by Idols — Dr Javad Nurbakhsh

Transfixed by Idols

By Dr Javad Nurbakhsh

You have become a selfless
enraptured lover — I know,
You have become totally helpless
on my path — I know.

Desiring madness you have relinquished
religion, heart and reason;
it is not for nothing
that you are disgraced — I know.

Since you left your self
in the tavern,
you have become free
from the shackles of desire — I know.

When you built an idol-temple
in the Kaaba of the heart,
you became transfixed
by idols — I know.

I have news from you
that you have no news of your self;
you have become free
from the need for news — I know.

“I” and “we”1 is the source
of all agitation and misfortune;
you have become free
from self — I know.

Nurbakhsh, this poem
is not based on erudite style.
Yes, you have become freed
from the chains of the intellect — I know.

A Sufi Poem — Rumi's Masnavi

A Sufi Poem

From the Rumi’s Masnavi

If your sweetness comes from sugar, then it is only temporary.

But if you turn into sugar through your fidelity to the Friend,

then your sweetness is as permanent as the Beloved.

The lover acquires his sustenance from Love, but the intellect

is lost and bewildered at the lovers’ game. The petty intellect denies

the existence of Love, though it may pretend that it knows many secrets.

Though intellect is clever and knowledgeable, it hasn’t annihilated itself

in the Friend. Until the angel becomes nothing, it is no more than the devil.

Know that whoever is summoned by the Friend becomes free from the business

of this world. The one who receives his job and sustenance from the Friend,

he is allowed at the Friend’s throne, becoming free from worldly business.

Those whose only mode of understanding is their intellect walk on a wooden leg.

It is foolish to embark on a long journey if your legs are made of wood.

A blind man’s guide is his cane, it helps him to avoid hidden obstacles.

Your reasoning and argumentations are no more than a cane, but a cane

is never a true substitute for the light of sight.

O blind one, your very cane is the instrument of war and hatred.

Come to your senses, smash your cane of reasoning into pieces.

Do not aspire to join the circle of the blind.

Bring a seeing man amongst yourselves to show you the path.

Grab the garment of the one who has given you the cane.

Beware of what happened to Adam who relied only on his cane.

The Basis of Creation — Dr Javad Nurbakhsh

The Basis of Creation

By Dr Javad Nurbakhsh

Without love, the world is a tribulation, altogether,
a place of affliction and disappointment, altogether.

Whoever is unacquainted with love
is a stranger to us, altogether.

Love is the basis of creation,
through which everything exists, altogether.

Without love, life is empty and meaningless,
a senseless farce, altogether.

A heart not burning from love’s sorrow
contains only lust and desire, altogether.

If you’re a person of heart, turn towards love;
a heart not burnt in love is a torment, altogether.

Nurbakhsh’s heart spent a lifetime with love,
away from other than the Beloved, altogether.

I Swear By You — Rumi / Divan-i Shams

I Swear By You

By Rumi from the Divan-i Shams

I am all in a frenzy again,
That way I swear by you.
I tear off the bounds you bind me with,
I swear by you.

I am crazy enough to tie up demons.
I speak to the birds, I am Solomon.
I swear by you.

I do not want this fleeting life.
You are my precious life.
I do not want a gloomy soul.
You are my soul.
I swear by you.

When you hide from me I am all darkness and unbelief.
When you reappear, I am a believer.
I swear by you.

Drinking water from the jug, I saw your image
And regretted every breath I took without you.
I swear by you.

On the highest heaven, without you
I am broody like a gloomy cloud.
In a rose garden without you, I am in a prison.
I swear by you.

Let me declare in love
That He is the lion and I am the deer.
But a deer that guards lions.
I swear by you.

The Sama to my ear is your name.
That, to my brain, is your cup.
Build me up, for I am in ruins.
I swear by you.

In church and mosque, you are my aim.
Wherever you turn, I turn.
I swear by you.

My Master, my guide, my pain and my cure.
I live in your love.
My Master.
My God.

A Sufi Poem — Muhammad Shirin (Shams-i) Maghrebi

A Sufi Poem

By Muhammad Shirin (Shams-i) Maghrebi

Smash the jug;
you’re the water, not the jug.

Let go of yourself;
you are the ocean,
not the stream.

Take a journey beyond your self;
you will see Oneness.

Leave behind “I” and “you”;
you will see you are Him.

How long do you continue to travel around the world?
Start your journey from your self,
and travel within.

Though you have been a seeker for years,
you have never sought Him
in yourself.

Take a step beyond your self,
and you will find the crown of spiritual poverty
on your head.

How could you travel towards His District?
You are still a child chasing the bat and the ball.

Become polished like a mirror
to reflect the Friend;
don’t be a hypocrite with two sides,
like a piece of paper,

Oh Meghrebi, you will not gain the bounty of His union
until you let go of your self,