Skip to main content

Seda: Voices of Iran

Nasir Khusraw (1004-1008)

Nasir Khusraw is acknowledged as one of the foremost poets of the Persian language. Born in the Balkh district of Central Asia in 1004, Nasir was inspired from an early age by a tremendous thirst for knowledge. His intellectual abilities brought him much fame, a promising career in government service, and a life of ease and pleasure. But he was always dissatisfied by a lack of meaning and purpose in his life until one day, at the age of 42, he was dramatically transformed by a visionary dream. He converted to Ismailism, renounced his worldly life and embarked on his famous seven-year journey to Egypt.

He was appointed to a high rank in the Fatimid da'wa organization, and was later regarded as the hujja of greater Khurasan. When he returned to Transoxania, Nasir established his residence at Balkh, from where he began to propogate the Ismaili faith in the surrounding provinces. But Nasir's success provoked the local people to burn down his house and compel him to seek refuge in Yumgan, a remote mountainous region of Badakhshan, today situated on both sides of the Oxus river in Tajikistan and Afghanistan.

Nasir spent the remainder of his life there, writing his philosophical works and composing poetry until his death after 1072. He is venerated to this day in Central Asia as a great saint, poet and philosopher.


The Eye of the Intellect    

Do you not see that God   
is inviting you to heaven?   
Why do you throw yourself   
into the pit of hell-fire?  

In order to ascend to   
the abode of the righteous,   
make knowledge your feet   
and obedience your wings.  

In the battleground of   
our demented world,   
make a sword from patience   
and a shield from the faith.  

Pluck the bud of wisdom   
from the branch of religion;   
graze the hyacinth of obedience   
from the fields of knowledge.  

This world is not the abode   
of people who are wise;   
it is but a passage for us;   
therefore traverse it.  

Of what use is the branch   
which yields no fruit,   
whether it belongs to   
a fruit-bearing tree or not?  

In the sight of God,   
the Absolute Sovereign,   
this world has not the value   
of even an atom.  

Had it any value in His   
reckoning, do you think   
the unbelievers would get   
even one sip of water?  

This world is only a place   
of attainment for us;   
therefore gather quickly   
provisions for the Return.  

In fact, this world is   
a book in which you see   
inscribed the writings   
of God the Almighty.  

O do not reject these  
allusions of the hujja,   
because truth should never   
become an abomination. 



The Momentum of Time 

0 you who have been 

sleeping at night! 

If you have rested,  
do not think that time  
too has been resting. 

Consider that your  
personality is always  
on the move - do not  
think it eats or sleeps  
even for a moment! 

The momentum of time  
and the turning sphere  
draws all animals,  
by night and day,  
to ceaseless motion. 



The Sovereign of the Time

The soul of the universe  
is the sovereign of time,  
for God has raised up  
the body through the soul. 

When the auspicious Jupiter  
saw his face, it became  
the source of munificence,  
the mine of good fortune. 

As long as the clouds  
of Navroz wash all quarters  
of the garden with  
showers of lustrous pearls; 

and the nightingale laments  
the rose at the break of dawn,  
like a grieving soul  
separated from its lover: 

may the authority of  
the sovereign of time  
prevail over space and time  
and the denizens of the world! 

prevail over space and time  
and the denizens of the world!

Journey to the Light

My heart is filled with the slander of the people;   
I am therefore separated from them in speech and action.  

As long as my heart was blind like that of Zayd and Amr,   
no one could find fault in me, wherever I went.  

Sometimes burning with passion I followed beautiful maidens;   
sometimes out of greed I sought the philosopher's stone,  

I did not fear that my life was being wasted, nor was I   
ashamed that I had vulgar or evil thoughts.  

During autumn my heart was dissipated with wine; in the   
springtime I happily looked for water and pasture.  

Complacently I sat in the midst of the watermill turning,   
until the hair on my head turned white as snow.  

I thought that the world had become my meadow, until like   
the cattle I became fodder for the world.  

If it injured me in any way, I returned to it yet again like   
a drunkard always drawn towards goblets of wine.  

The world kept me firmly under its control; thus sometimes   
I became prosperous and sometimes a pauper.  

And when my soul was worn out with the afflictions of time,   
I went to the door of the king to bestow praise on him.  

I was prepared to seek justice from the devil of the time,   
but all I found in the king's service was enslavement.  

I had to perform a hundred acts of servitude to him before   
I was able to fulfill even a single hope of mine.  

I gained nothing at all except toil and suffering from   
the one to whom I had gone for the sake of healing.  

When my heart became disappointed with kings and princes,   
I turned to the people of the mantle, turban and cloak.  

I told myself that they would show me the path of religion   
because the people of the world had tormented my heart.  

They said: "Be happy, you have been delivered from your burden"  
so my soul became happy and I prayed along with them.  

I told myself that since these were men of knowledge, I would   
be released from the grip of ignorance and poverty.  

Therefore I wasted some years of my life with them in a lot   
of empty prattle and useless disputations.  

But their wealth and piety was only corruption and hypocrisy,   
and I said: "0 God, why have I become afflicted again?"  

It was as if by going from the king to the jurist, I had   
entered a dragon's mouth for fear of an ant!  

Time had countless ruses and pretexts to entrap me; I became   
caught in just such a pretext, such a deception.  

When it betrayed me and no escape was left to me, at last   
I went to the progeny of Mustafa for help.  

I found help against the devil's persecution and cunning   
when I entered the sanctuary of the Imam of mankind.  

Shall I tell you what happened to me when I fled the devil?   
Suddenly I found myself in the company of angels.  

When the light of the Imam shone upon my soul, even though   
I was black as night, I became the shining sun.  

The Supreme Name is with the Imam of the time; through him,   
Venus-like, I ascended to the heavens. 


←  Go back                                                  Next page