Qasida e Mi´raj
The Ode of the Ascension by Ala Hazrat Imam Ahmad Riza Khan
translated by Asif Jehangir
When the Chieftain of the land of Prophethood ascended to the Divine Throne
New and novel instruments of merriment were laid before the guest from Arabia.
“Congratulations to the springtime, felicitations to the garden!“
Angels, the Empyrean, in their own style, repeated this song of the nightingales!
There in the heavens, here on Earth, there was joy and commotion
From there lights descended, laughing, from here buds of fragrance, ascended!
A single flash from his face sent moonlight radiating up to the Throne
How brilliantly that night shone, as if reflecting mirrors were scattered everywhere.
The Ka’aba was, in its loveliness, bedecked like a new bride
The Black Stone, alone, glistened in a thousand hues, a mole adorning the Ka’aba’s side.
On catching a glimpse of the beloved Bridegroom, the niche lowered its head from bashfulness,
A veil was created when light from his countenance fell upon the face of the black covering.
Clouds of joy came abounding, hearts danced like peacocks aflutter.
It was a moment of divine favour, the Holy Mosque itself was in ecstasy!
The golden funnel swayed like a bridal ornament, moving from head to ear
A sudden shower sent raindrops scattering pearl-like into the Hateem’s lap
The bride´s clothes were intoxicated from the bride’s fragrance; the breeze from the corners of her veil
As the musk-scented curtain furled in the wind, musk deer rushed forward to fill their musk pods.
The beauty of the mountains, the high peaks, what pride and grandeur!
The mountains´ verdure fluttered in the morning breeze, grass swaying like a bridal headscarf.
Streams bathed and dressed themselves anew in robes of flowing water,
Waves rose, streams twisted and turned, glistening bubbles, waterfalls.
The old one was black and blue, stained, the silver floor was lifted up
Weaving together threads of light from countless angelic eyes a novel floor of brocade was laid.
May we be sacrificed for him as motes of dust, where now can we find that traveller?
Where our hearts, the eyes of the houris, wings of the angels, were spread.
May God alone give you forbearance O’ sorrowful soul, how can I show you that occassion?
When, surrounding him, the angelic host were parading him as the Bridegroom of Paradise.
The radiant light falling from his countenance was distributed as charity
For the Moon and Sun were fervently begging for these alms from his brow!
It is that which is glittering till this day, that radiance alone which is sparkling:
The water the stars collected in jars as it fell from him when he bathed!
The leftover water when he washed his feet was used to decorate Paradise
The flowers which gathered the Bridegroom´s splashes of water were from a garden of light.
The news from the Sun as it traversed the Heavens was that such an auspicious occassion would come again:
For the Prophet had put on a heavenly shirt and had outgrown his earthly attire.
The diadem of Divine Theophany on his head, a shower of blessings and salutations;
On either side stood angels, wings spread, in order to salute him as he passed.
If I too had been there, O’ dust from the rosegarden, I´d take some wash-water from his feet
Alas! What can I do? These days of ill fortune were written in my Fate!
He had hardly mounted the saddle that he was given tidings of forgiveness
Intercession cried out,“congratulations!“ , sins were dancing in ecstasy.
The startling of his steed was not strange, nor its trembling like a frightened doe.
Rays of light were dancing all around, lightning flashed near its eyes.
Full of hope a multitude has gathered, lessen it, tell him your desires and move on.
Whilst holding onto the reins of etiquette, such a commotion was amongst the angels.
When the dust from his radiant path arose, such light fell that
Clouds gathered, both land and sea were full, jungles overflowed to the point of bursting.
What ill luck, how foolish was the Moon, the dust from his path
She didn´t gather and rub on herself. All would´ve seen her markings disappear!
May I be sacrificed for the hoove prints of the Buraq! Such flowers it spread that all along its way;
Fragrant gardens, glittering bowers, fresh and verdant, were blooming.
The secret behind the prayer at al-Aqsa was that the meaning of First and Last be known:
For standing, with folded hands, behind him in prayer were those who reigned in earlier times!
This was all due to the awe induced by his arrival, everything was made to look its best
Stars and skies, wine and goblets, were being polished, cleaned!
When that Radiant Sun removed his veil, the majesty of his face was at its zenith:
The skies became feverish from terror, the stars got blisters which burst and fell!
Such was the effect of this brilliant light that pearly water shone as the moon,
The stars, they slipped time and again from their rows and fell at his feet!
The Ocean of Unity surged forward in such a manner, all signs of Diversity were extinguished.
What is the reality of the celestial dunes when the Divine Throne and Footstool appeared as two bubbles?
That Shadow of Mercy, those flashes of his face that made the stars unable to hide nor show themselves!
Golden brocade or purple satin, in comparison were pieces of cloth, of shade and sunlight.
That cypress of the flower-garden moved forward with stately grace, not even the Lote Tree could halt his pace
The Lote Tree was left blinking its eyes for he had left ‘how and why’ well behind.
A flash appeared to the angels, other than that they felt not even the wind of his robes
The Bridegroom’s steed reached far away, the bridal procession had lost its mind!
Gabriel´s arms felt tired , he let go of the Prophet´s robe, what a scene:
The reins fell from his hands, his hopes were dashed, his desire-filled eyes full of fervour!
Whoever thought about the speed of his journey a bubble burst in his brain
In the jungle of the Intellect a flower glittered, in every world trees were aflame.
In this radiance when the Birds of Rationality tried to fly, they fell to the ground in disgrace.
They remained behind at the Lote Tree, tired, out of breath, exhausted!
The wings of the Birds of the Imagination were stronger yet, and tried to fly further a mere step
Such a blow did they recieve that they spat out the Blood of Possibilities and fell!
Then the Divine Throne heard a cry, “Congratulations! Those feet
Which wear a crown have come again which previously were thy crown of honour!“
Upon hearing this it called out, “May I be sacrificed! Where is the Master? I again
Wish to kiss his feet, my eyes´ good fortune has returned again!“
The Most High Throne bowed low in a dance of ecstasy, the Heavenly host fell in prostration
It was rubbing its eyes on his feet, they encircled him, enamoured!
His radiance illuminated the Throne in such a manner, that all the lights flickered.
How could they shine in the presence of this Sun, the lamps looked astonished!
At that moment a messenger of mercy brought this news,“Let´s go, Your Presence,
Those paths which were closed for Moses have been opened up for you!“
“Go forth O´ Muhammad, come hither O´ Ahmad, closer O´ chief of the glorious!“
May I be sacrificed what a cry this was, what a moment, what joyousness!
Blessed be Your Glory O´ Allah, You alone are without want, doing as You please!
Sometimes the command is, “You may not see Me!“ , at others the desire is for Union!
Tell the Intellect to lower its head, the Traveller travelled beyond the reach of Possibility
Here, Direction itself is directionless, whom can it tell wither he went?
There was no sign of ‘this’ or ‘that’, no trace of ‘how?’ and ‘why?’
There was no guide, no companion, no milestone, nor any halting place!
From there came successive urges to come nearer, here difficulty in stepping forward
Majesty and Awe held him back, Beauty and Mercy drove him closer.
He stepped forward but slowly, fearful, bowed low from shame, haltingly out of respect;
It was a journey of a million stages if it were measured in the respectful manner he moved.
But his going forward was in name only, in reality it was an Act of the Divine Will.
He advanced further from all those ‘who were descended’ in a manner related to the command, ‘come closer!’
It happened at last that a barge emerged from the billowing Ocean of “Hu!“
Which took the Prophet into the lap of ‘danaa‘ (closer) and raised the anchors of ‘fanaa‘ (annihilation in the Divine)
How can anyone know the shore where it docked? Where it went and where he alighted?
When it sailed at full speed, like eyesight, he became hidden from his own eyes!
When the veils of, ‘Two bow lengths or less’ were lifted, what more can anyone say?
There, there is no place for duality yet do not say the Prophet was not present, indeed he was!
That garden blossomed in such a manner that it removed the difference between bud and flower,
In the buds of petals whole gardens bloomed, yet the flowers themselves were still buds.
It became difficult to tell apart the centre of the circle from its circumference; similarly the distance between two joined lines.
Arcs bowed their heads in astonishment, circles were in a dazed state!
A million curtains there were between the lifting of His veil, between each curtain millions of radiant veils of light!
A wondrous sight it was indeed when Union and Separation embraced as if separated from birth!
Showing their parched tongues the waves were restless to find water,
The whirlpool was so weak from thirst it had circles beneath its eyes!
He is the Alpha and the Omega, the Hidden and the Manifest
It was His light which went to meet Him, from Himself towards Himself!
Oh false points on the arc of possibility who are still argueing over First and Last
Ask the curvature of the circumference from where it starts and where it ends?
Here were gifted to the King, prayers, there, kingly rewards he recieved!
Garlands of salutations and mercy were placed around the neck of light!
The tongue was waiting to speak and the ears were hoping to hear!
Here, whatever he wished to say, he said; whatever he wished to hear, he heard!
Then that full moon of Medina was taken on a tour of Paradise
Was the star of heaven at full brightness or was the radiance due to the feet of this Moon?
Such was th exhiliration at his arrival that from the flashes of this Arabian Moon
The gardens of Paradise became lustrous and all the heavenly flowers transformed into lotuses!
Such bliss in this merriment that he swayed, yet such good ettiquete he did not move!
He was still struggling between these opposites when he found himself beneath the saplings of Iram (?)
Glory be to the power of God that the Moon of Truth after shining at a billion places
Arrived back in the early morning yet the shadow of the stars had not lengthened one bit!
O’ Prophet of Mercy, Intercessor for his Community, by God, bestow your blessings on Riza!
Give him a small share from those special gifts which were distributed during this journey!
Praise of the Prophet is my only litany, my hope is only that he will accept it!
I have no such desire for poetry, nor do I care about my poetic refrains!