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New lessons in Old Beirut: a primer on Turkish Dancing

September 25, 2010

After having seen “First Kid” starring Sinbad (Note: Probably not a real Turk) like fifteen years ago, I kinda figured I knew everything there was to know about dancing. Like ol’ Sindbad said to the president’s son right before the big school dance, “it’s just moving your hips.” Check! I can do that. In fact, after spending a year in Morocco, where I danced away my boredom, I picked up the talent of moving my hips and my shoulders simultaneously! Don’t think that these skills went unnoticed, either. I have literally been tripping over hot babes since I first started shaking my rad hips, to the point where I don’t even notice if the babes are hot anymore, and instead have to concentrate on their  personalities or distinguishing vocal tics. As any other tall dude who can dance knows, life is perfect.

Then I moved to Istanbul. I can’t say I noticed the strange dancing vibe immediately, but that’s just because I’m dense. Still, by my first weekend here, I had heard tales of obscure black sea dances where everyone holds pinkies and shivers together. I had even seen cabbies do a strange circle dance where they appear to just bounce, but not in like a cool hip-hop way, or like how lame dudes do at parties with their heads; I mean seriously, bounce. Despite such warning signs, I assumed that dancing in Turkey was just like in America; improvised and with low expectations for the men. The Black Sea Shiver and the Cabbie Bounce I treated as mere anthropological curiosities, lingering relics of culture before TV taught us that being different sucked. Interestingly enough, it turns out that it was I who sucked.

Last Friday night started off swimmingly; after paying our landlord, he insisted on cooking dinner for us and taking us out for beers (We might have mentioned that we haven’t got paid yet. Or found jobs). He took us to Eski Beirut (Old Beirut, for the more west-centric of our readers), a popular student bar, which had the brilliant idea of selling liquor very cheaply, and playing music loudly. By about 10:30, the bar was full of Turkish hipsters strutting their stuff in skinny jeans, tortoise-shell Elvis Costello glasses, and those stupid Asics that everyone has to wear here. The dj ascended to his podium thing, and ruined my life.

For two and a half hours, my date and I sat aghast, watching our Turkish equivalents preform actual super complicated dances, linking arms, stepping in unison, and doing awesome whirling movements- perfectly. Halfway through the set, the dj, trying to throw us a bone, played “Blue Suede Shoes”- unfortunately, the young Turks totally killed that one too, breaking into “Twists”, the like of which haven’t been seen since our parents started listening to English bands. The night ended with a fabulous display of Salsa skill, as my date was literally absconded with by my landlord, who spun her around effortlessly, looking like a swarthier and skinnier version of those old gap commercials. On the plus side, the bartender made a mean cocktail that was one half beer and one half Raki, so, that was cool.

Since that night, I’ve been conducting a lot of informal interviews with the coolest Turks I can find: everyone from the Simitci at this weekend’s Simit festival to my private language students (don’t tell them they paid me to do research!)- according to my 100% accurate and scientific study, all the cool kids here know actual dances, with steps and stuff. More importantly, they can’t really conceive of not knowing them- it’s like knowing how to put “not” at the end of a statement to make an awesome joke- it’s just ingrained in their culture.

This, of course, has a tremendous effect on the ex-pats who live and work (almost entirely illegally, btw) in this fair city. On any given occasion, your Turkish companions may break out into absolutely mind-bogglingly cool dance moves in perfect unison, leaving you holding their coats and crying. It will be like suddenly forgetting the “electric slide” at your best friend’s wedding, but in an alternate universe where you talk really stupidly and without precision as well. For those of you who are dating/married to Turks, this would be a good time to have a talk- very carefully, without letting them know how terribly inept you are, ask your chosen Turk to just give you a “refresher course” in basic Turkish steps. Practice for the rest of your life, and keep your potentially life-ruining handicap secret.

For the rest of you ex-pats out there, I suggest you just stop dancing. Get/fake an injury (depending on how cool you are), or just avoid any areas that might have music. You can hang out at home and read, study Turkish, paint, cook, or even do yoga! Just give up the passion and excitement of the night, and turn inwards; cultivate your own garden, if you will. As for me, I’m going to start an aggressive campaign of requesting the Macarena when I go out. I won a contest in the fifth grade, so I think that Team USA still has something to prove out on the dance floor.

John McCarroll is new to both Istanbul Alti and the city itself. He lives in Cihangir and doesn’t speak enough Turkish to write about anything important. If you have any relationship or lifestyle questions you’d like to see answered in an upcoming column, you can contact him at

4 Comments leave one →
  1. johnamccarroll permalink
    September 25, 2010 8:00 pm


  2. October 2, 2010 8:57 am

    Thankx Man (:

  3. Ernest Hunter permalink
    October 11, 2010 11:02 pm

    Love this Website!

    Also, D&D 4ever!

  4. March 13, 2011 5:11 am

    The Seventeenth Word

    In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.

    That which is on earth We have made as a glittering show for the earth, in order that We may test them, as to which of them are best in conduct * Verily what is on earth We shall make but as dust and dry soil.1 * What is the life of this world but play and amusement? 2

    [This Word consists of two elevated Stations, and one brilliant Addendum.]

    The All-Compassionate Creator, the Munificent Provider, the All-Wise Maker made this world in the form of a festival and celebration for the World of Spirits and spirit beings. Adorning it with the wondrous embroideries of all His Names, He clothes each spirit, great or small, elevated or lowly, in a body decked out with senses, suitable to it and appropriate for benefiting from the innumerable, various good things and bounties in the festival; He gives each a corporeal being and sends it to the spectacle once. And He divides the festival, which is most extensive in regard to both time and space, into centuries, years, seasons, and even days and their parts, and makes each an exalted festival in the form of a parade for all the groups of His creatures with spirits and for His plant and vegetable artefacts. And especially the face of the earth in spring and summer, it is a series of festivals for the groups of small beings so glittering that it attracts and draws the gazes of the spirit beings and angels and the dwellers of the heavens in the high levels of the world. And for those who think and contemplate it is a place for reflection so wonderful that the mind is powerless to describe it. But in the face of the manifestations of the Divine Names of Most Merciful and Giver of Life in this Divine feast and Dominical festival, the Names of Subduer and Dealer of Death appear with death and separation. And this is apparently unconformable with the all-embracing Mercy of,

    My Mercy encompasses all things.3

    However, in reality there are several ways in which it is conformable, and one of these is as follows:

    After each group of beings has completed its turn in the parade and the desired results have been obtained from it, in a compassionate way the Most Generous Maker and Compassionate Creator makes most of them feel weariness and disgust with the world, and bestows on them a desire for rest and a longing to migrate to another world. And when they are to be discharged from their duties of life, He awakens in their spirits a compelling desire for their original home.

    Moreover, it is not far from the infinite mercy of the Most Merciful that, just as He bestows the rank of martyrdom on a soldier who perishes on account of his duty while fighting, and rewards a sheep slaughtered as a sacrifice by giving it an eternal corporeal existence in the hereafter and the rank of being a mount for its owner on the Bridge of Sirat like Buraq, so too with other animals and beings with spirits who perish while performing the Dominical duties peculiar to their natures and in obeying the Divine commands, and who suffer severe distress, – it is not unlikely that there should be for them in the inexhaustible treasuries of His mercy a sort of spiritual reward and kind of wage in accordance with their capacities. And that they should not be unduly troubled at departing this world, indeed, that they should be pleased. None knows the Unseen save God.

    However, although man, the noblest of beings with spirits and the one who benefits most from the festivals with regard to both quality and quantity, is captivated by the world and absorbed in it, as a work of mercy, the Most Merciful gives him a state of mind whereby he feels disgust at the world and a longing to travel to the eternal realm. A person whose humanity is not plunged in misguidance profits from that state of mind, and departs with a tranquil heart. Now, by way of example, we shall explain five of the aspects which produce that state of mind.

    The First: By showing with the season of old age the stamp of transience and decline on the beautiful and inviting things of this world, and their bitter meaning, it makes a person feel disgust at the world and causes him to seek a permanent beloved in place of the transient.

    The Second: Since ninety-nine per cent of all the friends to whom a person is attached have departed this world and settled in another, impelled by that heart-felt love it bestows on him a longing for the place they have gone to, and makes him meet death and the appointed hour with joy.

    The Third: By means of certain things, it makes a person realize the infinite weakness and impotence in man, and understand how heavy are the burdens of life and responsibilities of living, and awakens in him a serious wish for rest and a sincere desire to go to another world.

    The Fourth: Through the light of belief, it shows to the heart of a believer that death is not being executed, but a change of abode; that the grave is not the mouth of a dark well, but the door to light-filled worlds; and that for all its glitter, the world is like a prison in relation to the hereafter. For sure, to be released from the prison of this world and enter the gardens of Paradise, and pass from the troublesome turmoil of bodily life to the world of rest and the arena where spirits soar, and to slip free from the vexatious noise of creatures and go to the Presence of the Most Merciful is a journey, indeed, a happiness, to be desired with a thousand lives.

    The Fifth: Through making known the knowledge of reality which is in the Qur’an and the world’s true nature through the light of reality, it explains to a person who listens to the Qur’an that love for the world and attachment to it are quite meaningless. That is to say, it says the following to man, and proves it:

    “The world is a book of the Eternally Besought One. Its letters and words point not to themselves but to the essence, attributes and Names of another. In which case, learn its meaning and obtain it, and leave its decorations, and go!..

    “The world is also a tillage; sow and reap your crop, and preserve it. Throw away the chaff, and give it no importance!…

    “The world is also a collection of mirrors which continuously pass on one after the other; so know the One Who is manifest in them, see His lights, understand the manifestations of the Names which appear in them, and love the One they signify. Cease your attachment for the fragments of glass which are doomed to be broken and perish!…

    “The world is also a travelling place of trade. So do your commerce and come; do not chase in vain the caravans which flee from you and pay you no attention. Do not weary yourself for nothing!…

    “The world is also a temporary exhibition. So look at it and take lessons. Pay attention, not to its apparent, ugly face, but to its hidden, beautiful face which looks to the Eternal All-Beauteous One. Go for a pleasant and beneficial promenade, then return, and at the disappearance of scenes displaying fine views and showing beautiful things, do not weep like a silly child, and do not be anxious!…

    “The world is also a guest-house. So eat and drink within the limits permitted by the Generous Host Who made it, and offer thanks. Act and behave within the bounds of His law. Then leave it without looking behind you, and go. Do not interfere in it in a delirious or officious manner. Do not busy yourself for nothing with things which part from you and do not concern you. Do not attach yourself to passing things and drown!..”

    This Fifth Aspect shows the secrets in the world’s inner face through apparent truths like these, and greatly lightens the parting from it. Indeed, to those who are aware it makes parting desirable for them, and shows that there is a trace of Mercy in everything and every aspect of it. And so, just as the Qur’an indicates these Five Aspects, so too its verses point to other particular aspects.

    Woe to that person who has no share of these five Aspects!…

    The Second Station

    of the Seventeenth Word4

    Cry not out at misfortune, O wretch, come, trust in God!

    For know that crying out compounds the misfortune and is a great error.

    * * *

    Find misfortune’s Sender, and know it is a gift within gift, and pleasure.

    So leave crying out and offer thanks; like the nightingale, smile through your tears!

    * * *

    If you find Him not, know the world is all pain within pain, transience and loss.

    So why lament at a small misfortune while upon you is a worldful of woe?

    Come trust in God!

    * * *

    Trust in God! Laugh in misfortune’s face; it too will laugh.

    As it laughs, it will diminish; it will be changed and transformed.

    * * *

    Know, O arrogant one, happiness in this world is in abandoning it.

    To know God is enough. Abandon the world; all things will be for you.

    * * *

    To be arrogant is total loss; whatever you do, all things will be against you.

    So both states demand abandoning the world here.

    * * *

    Abandoning the world is to regard it as God’s property, with His permission,

    in His Name…

    If you want to do trade, it is in making this fleeting life eternal.

    * * *

    If you seek yourself, it is both rotten and without foundation.

    If you seek the world outside, the stamp of ephemerality is upon it.

    * * *

    That means there is no value in taking it; the goods in this market are all rotten.

    So pass on… the sound goods are all lined up beyond it….


    [The Old Said spoke this with the tongue of the New Said

    under the blessed mulberry tree.]

    The one I’m addressing isn’t Ziya Pa_a, it’s those enamoured of Europe.

    The one speaking isn’t my soul, it’s my heart in the name of the students of the Qur’an.

    * * *

    The previous words are all truth; beware, don’t lose course, don’t exceed their bounds!

    Don’t heed the ideas of Europe and deviate, or they’ll make you regret it!

    * * *

    You see the most enlightened of them, in brilliance their standard-bearer,

    Exclaim in bewilderment: Of whom, to whom can I complain?

    * * *

    The Qur’an says, and I say too – I won’t hold back:

    I lodge my complaint with Him. I’m not confused, like you.

    * * *

    I cry out to the True God; I don’t slip away, like you.

    I shout my cause from the ground to the skies; I don’t flee, like you.

    * * *

    For all the Qur’an’s cause is light upon light; I don’t renege, like you.

    In the Qur’an is truth and wisdom; I’ll prove it. I count as nothing hostile philosophy.

    * * *

    In the Criterion are diamond truths; I take them to myself, not sell them, like you.

    I journey from creation to Creator; I don’t lose the way, like you.

    * * *

    I pass over thorny paths, I don’t tread on them, like you.

    From the earth to the Throne, I offer thanks; I don’t neglect it, like you.

    * * *

    I look on death and the appointed hour as a friend; I am not frightened, like you.

    I’ll enter the grave smiling, not trembling, like you.

    * * *

    I don’t see it as a monster’s mouth, a beast’s lair, descending to nothingness,

    like you.

    It joins me with my friends; I’m not vexed at the grave, like you.

    * * *

    It’s the door of Mercy, gate of Light, portal of Truth; I am not discomforted by it;

    I won’t retreat.

    Saying: In the Name of God, I’ll knock on it.5 I’ll not look behind me nor feel terror.

    * * *

    Saying: All Praise be to God!, I’ll lay down and find ease. I’ll suffer no trouble

    nor remain solitary.

    Saying, God is Most Great!, I’ll hear the Call to the Resurrection and rise up,6

    I won’t hang back from the Great Gathering, or the Mighty Mosque.

    * * *

    I’ll feel no distress, thanks to Divine favour, the Qur’an’s light,

    and the effulgence of belief;

    Not stopping, I’ll hasten, fly, to the shade of the Most Merciful’s Throne.

    God willing, I won’t go astray, like you.



    [That is, since this supplication occurred to my heart in Persian, it was written in that language.7 It was first included in my published work, Hubab.]

    O my Sustainer! Heedlessly not trusting in You but in my own power and will, I cast an eye over ‘the six aspects’ searching for a cure for my ills. Alas, I could find no cure for them, and I understood it was being said to me: “Are your ills not sufficient as cure for you?”

    Indeed, in heedlessness I looked to past time on my right to find solace, but I saw that yesterday appeared in the form of my father’s grave and past time as the huge grave of all my forbears. It filled me with horror rather than consolation.(*)

    (*) Belief shows that horrific vast grave to be a familiar and enlightened meeting and a gathering of friends.

    Then I looked to the future on the left. I could find no cure. Rather, tomorrow appeared in the form of my grave and the future as the vast grave of my contemporaries and the forthcoming generations; it afforded not a feeling of familiarity, but one of fright.(*)

    (*) Belief and the peace of belief shows that terrible huge grave to be a feast of the Most Merciful in delightful palaces of bliss.

    Since no good appeared from the left either, I looked at the present day, and I saw that it resembled a bier. It was bearing my desperately struggling corpse.(*)

    (*) Belief shows the bier to be a place of trade and a glittering guest-house.

    Thus, I could find no cure from this aspect either, so I raised my head and looked at the top of the tree of my life. I saw that its single fruit was my corpse; it was looking at me from the tree top.(*)

    (*) Belief shows the tree’s fruit to be not the corpse, but the worn out home of my spirit, which will manifest eternal life and is destined for everlasting happiness, from which it has departed in order to travel among the stars.

    Despairing of that aspect too, I lowered my head. I looked and saw that the dust of my bones underfoot had mixed with the dust of my first creation. It afforded no cure, but added further pain to my ills.(*)

    (*) Belief shows the dust to be the door leading to Mercy and a curtain before the halls of Paradise.

    I turned away from that too and looked behind me. I saw a transient world without foundation revolving and departing in the valleys of nothingness and darkness of non-existence. It was no salve for my ills, it rather added the poison of horror and fright.(*)

    (*) Belief shows the world revolving in darkness to be missives of the Eternally Besought One and pages of Divine inscriptions, which, having completed their duties and expressed their meanings, have left their results in existence in their place.

    Since I could see no good in that either, I switched my gaze to my front, before me. I saw that the door of the grave stood open at the end of my road, and the highway leading to eternity beyond it struck my gaze from afar.(*)

    (*) Since belief shows the door of the grave to lead onto the world of light and the road to lead to eternal happiness, it was both a salve for my ills, and a cure.

    Thus, rather than receiving consolation and a feeling of familiarity, I felt only horror and fear at these six aspects. And apart from the faculty of will I had nothing in my hand with which to withstand them and act in the face of them.(*)

    (*) Belief gives a document for relying on an infinite power in place of the power of choice, which is like the smallest indivisible particle; indeed, belief itself is a document.

    But the human weapon called the faculty of will both lacks power and its range is short. And it is inaccurate. It cannot create, and apart from acquiring, can do nothing.(*)

    (*) Belief causes the faculty of will to be employed in God’s name, and makes it sufficient before everything it may face. Like when a soldier employs his insignificant strength on account of the state, he can perform deeds thousands of times greater than his own strength…

    It can neither penetrate the past nor discern the future, and in regard to my hopes and fears concerning these, was of no benefit.(*)

    (*) Belief takes its reins from the hand of the animal body and hands them over to the heart and the spirit, and may therefore penetrate the past and the future. For the sphere of life of the heart and spirit is broad.

    The arena of the faculty of will is brief present time and the passing present instant.

    Thus, despite all my needs and weakness, want and poverty, and my wretched state due to the horrors and terrors arising from the six aspects, desires stretching to eternity and hopes spreading through eternity had been written clearly on the page of my being by the Pen of Power, and included in my nature.

    Indeed, whatever there is in the world, there are samples of it in my being. I am connected to all of them. I am caused to work, and I work, for them.

    The sphere of need is as great and extensive as the eye reaches.

    In fact, wherever the imagination goes, the sphere of need extends that far. There is need there too. Rather, whatever man does not have, he is in need of. That which he does not have, he needs. And what he does not have is endless.

    Whereas the extent of his power is as narrow and short as his short arm reaches.

    That means my want and needs are as much as the world.

    Whereas my capital is something insignificant like an indivisible particle.

    So, what is the faculty of will which is worth twopence in relation to the needs that extend to the world and can only be obtained with millions of liras? They cannot be bought with it, and cannot be gained by it. In which case, one has to search for another solution.

    And the solution is this: to forego one’s own will and leave matters to the Divine Will; to give up one’s own power and strength, and seeking refuge in the Power and strength of Almighty God, to adhere to the reality of trust in Him. “O my Sustainer! Since the way to be saved is this, I forego my own will in Your way, and I give up my egotism.

    “So that Your grace may take my hand out of compassion for my impotence and weakness, and Your mercy may take pity on my want and need and be a support for me, and open its door for me.”

    Yes, whoever finds the boundless sea of Mercy, surely does not rely on his own will and choice, which is like a mirage; he does not abandon Mercy and have recourse to his will.

    Alas! We have been deceived. We supposed the life of this world to be constant, and so have lost everything. Yes, this passing life is but a sleep; it passes like a dream. This unsound life too flies like the wind, and departs.

    Arrogant man, who relies on himself and supposes he will live for ever, is doomed to die. He passes swiftly. The world, too, man’s house, falls into the darkness of non-existence. Hopes do not last, while pains endure in the spirit.

    Since the reality is this, come, O my wretched soul, which longs for and desires life, is enamoured of the world and afflicted with endless hopes and pains! Awake and come to your senses! Just as the firefly relies on its own miniscule light and remains in the boundless darkness of the night; and since it does not rely on itself, the honey bee finds the sun of daytime, and observes all its friends, the flowers, gilded with the sunlight, so too, if you rely on yourself and your being and your egoism, you will be like the firefly. Whereas if you sacrifice your transient being in the way of the Creator Who gave it to you, you will find an unending light of being. Sacrifice it, for your being is a trust given to you for safekeeping.

    Moreover, it is His property, and it is He Who bestowed it. So do not scorn it, sacrifice it unhesitatingly. Sacrifice it so that it will be made permanent. For negation of a negation is an affirmation. That is, if non-being is not, there is being. If non-being is negated, existence comes into being.

    The All-Generous Creator buys His own property from you, and gives you a high price like Paradise in return. Also, He looks after that property well for you, and increases its value. And He will return it to you in both enduring and perfect form. And so, O my soul! Do not wait! Do this trade which is profitable in five respects, and be saved from five losses; make a fivefold profit all at once.

    * * *

    In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.

    But when it set, he said: “I love not those that set.” 8

    The verse, I love not those that set, which was uttered by Abraham (Upon whom be peace), and announces the universe’s passing and death, made me weep.

    The eyes of my heart wept for it, and poured bitter tear-drops. And like the eyes of the heart wept, each tear-drop was as bitterly sad. It causes others to weep, and as though weeps itself. And the tear-drops are the following lines in Persian.

    Thus, those tears are a sort of commentary of some words present within the Divine Word of God’s Wise One, the Prophet Muhammed.

    A beloved who is hidden through setting is not beautiful, for those doomed to decline cannot be truly beautiful. They may not loved with the heart, which is created for eternal love and is the mirror of the Eternally Besought One, and should not be loved with it.

    A desired one who is doomed to be lost on setting; such a one is not worthy of the heart’s attachment, the mind’s preoccupation. He may not be the object of desires. He is not worthy of being regretted with the sorrow and grief that follows. So why should the heart worship such a one and be bound to him?

    One sought who is lost in ephemerality; I do not want such a one. For I am ephemeral, I do not want one who is thus. What should I do?

    A worshipped one who is buried in death; I shall not call him, I shall not seek refuge with him. For I am infinitely needy and impotent. One who is impotent can find no cure for my boundless ills. He can spread no salve on my eternal wounds. How can one who cannot save himself from death be an object of worship?

    Indeed, the reason, which is obsessed with externals, cries out despairingly at seeing the deaths of the things it worships in the universe, and the spirit, which seeks for an eternal beloved, utters the cry: I love not those that set.

    I do not want separation, I do not desire separation, I cannot abide seperation…

    Meetings followed immediately by separation are not worth sorrow and grief, they are not worthy of being longed for. For just as the passing of pleasure is pain, imagining the passing of pleasure is also a pain. The works of all the metaphorical lovers, that is, the works of poetry on love, are all cries at the pain arising from imagining this passing. If you were to constrain the spirit of all the works of poetry, from each would flow these grievous cries.

    Thus, it is due to the pain and tribulations of those meetings stained with transitoriness, those sorrowful, metaphorical loves, that my heart weeps and cries through the weeping of, I love not those that set.

    If you want permanence in this transitory world, permanence comes from transitoriness. Find permanence with regard to the evil-commanding soul, so that you may be enduring.

    Divest yourself of bad morals, the basis of the worship of this world. Be transitory! Sacrifice your goods and property in the way of the True Beloved. See the ends of beings, which point to non-existence, for the way leading to permanence in this world starts from transitoriness.

    The human mind, which plunges into causes, is bewildered at the upheavals of the passing of the world, and laments despairingly. While the conscience, which desires true existence, severs the connection with metaphorical beloveds and transient beings through crying like Abraham, I love not those that set, and it binds itself to the Truly Existent One, and Eternal Beloved.

    O my ignorant soul! Know that the world and its beings are certainly ephemeral, but you may find a way leading to permanence in each ephemeral thing, and may see two flashes, two mysteries, of the manifestations of the Undying Beloved’s Beauty.

    Yes, it is within the bounty that the bestowal is to be seen and the favour of the Most Merciful perceived. If you pass from bounty to bestowal, you will find the Bestower. Also, each work of the Eternally Besought One makes known the All-Glorious Maker’s Names like a missive. If you pass from the decoration to the meaning, you will find the One signified by way of His Names. Since you can find the kernel, the essence, of these ephemeral beings, obtain it. Then without pity you can throw away their meaningless shells and externals on the flood of ephemerality.

    Indeed, among beings there is no work which is not a most meaningful embodied word and does not cause to be read numerous of the Glorious Maker’s Names. Since beings are words, words of Power, read their meanings and place them in your heart. Fearlessly cast words without meaning on the winds of transience. Do not concern yourself looking behind them, needlessly occupying yourself.

    Since the chain of thought of the worldly mind, which worships externals and whose capital consists of ‘objective’ knowledge, leads to nothingness and non-existence, it cries out despairingly in its bewilderment and frustration. It seeks a true path leading to reality. Since the spirit has withdrawn from ‘those that set’ and the ephemeral, and the heart has given up its metaphorical beloveds, and the conscience too has turned its face from transitory beings, you too, my wretched soul, attract the assistance of I love not those that set, like Abraham, and be saved.

    See how well Mevlana Jamî expressed it, whose nature was kneaded with love and who was intoxicated with the cup of love:

    (6)ÈuÖvJ_ (5)Ê«ÏvJ_ (4)5_vJ_ (3)Èu_ÇvJ_ (2)Ê«u__«u_

    That is,

    1. Want only One; the rest are not worth wanting.

    2. Call One; the others will not come to your assistance.

    3. Seek One; the rest are not worth it.

    4. See One; the others are not seen all the time; they hide themselves behind the veil of ephemerality.

    5. Know One; knowledge other than that which assists knowledge of Him is without benefit.

    6. Say One; words not concerning Him may be considered meaningless.

    Yes, Jamî, you spoke the truth absolutely. The True Beloved, the True Sought One, the True Desired One, the True Object of Worship is He alone…

    For, in a mighty circle for the mentioning of the Divine Names, this world together with all its beings and their different tongues and various songs declares, There is no god but God; together they testify to Divine Unity. And binding the wound caused by I love not those that set, point to an Undying Beloved in place of all the metaphorical beloveds, attachment to whom has been severed.

    * * *

    [About twenty-five years ago on Yûşa Tepesi (the Hill of Joshua) above the Istanbul Bosphorus, at a time I had decided to give up the world, a number of important friends came to me in order to call me back to the world and my former position. I told them to leave me till the following morning so that I could seek guidance. That morning the following two Tables were imparted to my heart. They resemble poetry, but they are not. I have not changed them for the sake of that blessed memory, and they have been kept as they occurred to me. They were added to the Twenty-Third Word, and now have been included here on account of their ‘station’.]


    [The Table depicting the reality of the world of the heedless.]

    Don’t call me to the world; – I came, and saw it was bad.

    Heedlessness was a veil; – I saw the light of truth was concealed.

    All the beings in existence, – I saw were ephemeral, harmful.

    If you say, being, I dressed in it; – Alas! It was non-being; I suffered much!

    If you say, life, I tasted it; – I saw it was torment upon torment.

    The mind became pure torture; – I saw permanence to be tribulation.

    Life became pure whim; – I saw attainment to be pure loss.

    Deeds became pure hypocrisy; – I saw hopes to be pure pain.

    Union became parting itself; – I saw the cure to be the ill.

    These lights became darkness; – I saw these friends to be orphans.

    These voices became announcements

    of death; – I saw the living to be dead.

    Knowledge was transformed into fancy; – I saw in science a thousand ailments.

    Pleasure became pure pain; – I saw existence to be compounded


    If you say the Beloved, I found him; – Alas! On separation I suffered

    grievous pain.

    * * *


    [The Table indicating the reality of the world of

    the people of guidance, those with easy hearts.]

    Then the heedlessness passed, – And I saw clearly the light of truth.

    Existence became the proof of God; – See, life is the mirror of God.

    The mind became the key to treasuries. – See, transience is the door to permanence.

    The spark of perfection died, – But, see the Sun of Beauty.

    Separation became true union; – See, pain is pure pleasure.

    Life became pure action; – See, eternity is pure life.

    Darkness became the container of light; – See, there is true life in death.

    All things became familiar; – See, all sounds are the mentioning of God.

    All the atoms in existence – – See, each recites God’s praises

    and extols Him.

    I found poverty to be a treasury of

    wealth; – See, in impotence is perfect strength.

    If you find God, – See, all things are yours.

    If you are the slave of the Owner of

    All Things, – See, His property is yours.

    If you are arrogant and claim to

    own yourself, – See, it is trial and tribulation without end;

    Experience its boundless torment; – See, it is a calamity most crushing.

    If you are a true slave of God, – See, it is a limitless pleasure and ease.

    Taste its uncountable rewards, – Experience its infinite happiness…

    * * *

    [Twenty-five years ago in Ramadan after the Afternoon Prayer, I read Shaykh Geylanî’s composition in verse of the Most Beautiful Names. I felt a desire to write a supplication with the Divine Names, and at that time only this much was written. I wanted to write a supplication similar to that of my holy master. But, alas! I have no ability to write poetry and it remained deficient. Nevertheless, the supplication was added to the Thirty-Third Letter of the Thirty-Third Word, known as the Thirty-Three Windows, then was included here on account of its ‘station’.]

    He is the Eternal One

    The Wise Judge of affairs, we are under His decree;

    He is the Just Arbiter; His are the heavens and the earth.

    The One Knowing of the secrets and hidden matters in His dominions;

    He is the All-Powerful, the Self-Subsistent; His is the Throne and the ground.

    The Perceiver of the fine points and embroideries in His art;

    He is the Creator, the Loving One; His is the beauty and the splendour.

    The Glorious One Whose attributes are reflected in the mirrors in His creation;

    He is the Lord, the Most Holy; His is the might and the grandeur.

    The Originator of creatures; we form the embroideries of His art;

    He is the Constant, the Eternal One; His is the dominion and eternity.

    The Munificent Bestower of gifts; we are the caravan of His guests;

    He is the Provider, the Sufficer; His is the praise and laudation.

    The Beauteous Granter of gifts; We are the weavings of His knowledge;

    He is the Creator, the Faithful; His is the munificence, the giving.

    The Hearer of plaints and supplications in His creation;

    He is the Merciful, the Healer; His is the thanks and the praise.

    The Pardoner of the faults and sins of His servants;

    He is the Oft Forgiving, the Compassionate; His is forgiveness and acceptance.

    O my soul! Together with my heart, weep and cry, and say:

    “I am ephemeral; I do not want one such as that.

    “I am impotent; I do not want one such as that.

    “I have surrendered my spirit to Most Merciful; I do not want another.

    “I want one, but I want an eternal friend.

    “I am a mere speck, but I want an eternal sun.

    “I am nothing, but nothing, but I want these beings, all of them.”

    * * *




    [While being a part of the Eleventh Letter, this has

    been included here on account of its ‘station’.]

    One time during my captivity while gazing at the majestic and wonderful forms of the pine, cedar, and juniper trees on the mountain top, a gentle breeze was blowing. Transforming the scene into a magnificent, delightful, and clamorous display of dancing and a rapturous performance of praise and glorification, the enjoyment of watching it became instruction for the eyes and wisdom for the ears. I suddenly recalled the Kurdish lines of Ahmed-i Jizrî, whose meaning is:

    “Everyone has hastened to gaze at You and Your Beauty; they are acting coyly before Your Beauty.”

    My heart wept as follows, expressing their instructive meanings. The meaning of the verses in Persian written at Tepelice in the mountains of Barla about the fruit of the pine, cedar, juniper, and black cypress trees is this:

    The living creatures have all appeared from everywhere on the face of the earth, Your art, to gaze on You.

    From above and below they emerge like heralds, and cry out.

    The herald-like trees take pleasure at the beauty of Your embroideries, and they dance.

    They are filled with joy at the perfection of Your art, and utter most beautiful sounds.

    It is as if the sweetness of their own voices fills them with joy too, and makes them perform a delicate melody.

    And as a consequence these trees have started dancing and are seeking ecstasy.

    It is through these works of Divine Mercy that all the living creatures receive instruction in the glorification and prayer particular to each of them.

    After receiving instruction, on high rocks the trees raise their heads to the Divine Throne.

    Each, like Shahbaz-i Kalender,10 stretches out a hundred hands to the Court of God, and takes up an imposing position of worship.

    They make their small tassel-like twigs and branches dance, so both they and those that watch them express their fine pleasure and elevated delight.

    They give voice as though touching the most sensitive strings and veins of the veils of love: “Ah! It is He!”

    From it a meaning such as this comes to mind: they recall both the weeping caused by the pain of the fading of metaphorical loves, and a profoundly sorrowful moaning.

    They make heard the melancholy songs of all lovers parted from their beloveds, like Sultan Mahmud.

    They seem to have a duty of making the dead hear the pre-eternal songs and sorrowful voices, who no longer hear worldly voices and words.

    The spirit understands from this that beings respond with glorification to the manifestation of the Glorious Maker’s Names; they perform a graceful chant.

    And the heart reads the mystery of Divine Unity from these trees, each like an embodied sign, from the elevated word-order of this miraculousness. That is, there is so wonderful an order, art, and wisdom in the manner of their creation, that if all the causes in existence had the power to act and choose, and they gathered together, they could not imitate them.

    And the soul, on seeing them, sees the whole face of the earth as revolving in a clamorous tumult of separation, and seeks enduring pleasure. It receives the meaning: “You will find it in abandoning worship of this world.”

    And the mind discovers from the chanting animals and trees and the vociferous plants and air, a most meaningful order of creation, embroidery of wisdom, and treasury of secrets.

    And the desirous soul receives such pleasure from the murmuring air and whispering leaves that it forgets all metaphorical pleasure, and through abandoning these, which give it its life, wants to die in the pleasure of reality.

    And the imagination sees that appointed angels have entered these trees like bodies, from whose branches hang many flutes. It is as though an Eternal Monarch has clothed the angels in the trees for a splendid parade with the sounds of a thousand flutes. Thus the trees show themselves to be not lifeless, unconscious bodies, but most conscious and meaningful.

    And the flutes are pure and powerful as though issuing from a heavenly, exalted orchestra. The mind does not hear from them the sorrowful plaints of separation, that foremost Mevlana Jelaleddin Rumi and all lovers hear, but Dominical praise and laudation and grateful thanks offered to the Most Merciful One, the Ever-Living, the Self-Subsistent.

    Since the trees have all become bodies, all their leaves have become tongues. And at the touching of the breeze each recites over and over again: “It is He! It is He!” Through the benedictions of their lives they proclaim their Maker to be Ever-Living and Self-Subsistent.

    With the tongue of disposition they continuously declare: “O God!”, and seek the necessities of their lives from Him, from the treasury of Mercy. And through the tongue of their manifesting life from top to bottom, they recite His Name of, “O Living One!”

    O Ever-Living and Self-Subsistent One! Through the Names of Ever-Living and Self-Subsistent, endow the heart of this wretched one with life, and bestow sound direction on his confused mind. Amen.

    * * *

    [One time at night in a high spot on Çamdağı (the Pine Mountain) near Barla I was looking at the face of the heavens when the following lines suddenly occurred to me. With the imagination I heard the speaking of the stars through the tongue of disposition, and that is how they were written. Since I do not know the rules of versification, they were not written accordingly, but as they occurred to me. The piece is taken from the Fourth Letter, and the last part of the First Stopping Place of the Thirty-Second Word.]


    Then listen to the stars, listen to their harmonious address!

    See what wisdom has emblazed on the decree of its light!

    * * *

    Altogether they start to speak with the tongue of truth,

    They address the majesty of the All-Powerful One of Glory’s sovereignty:

    * * *

    We are each of us light-scattering proofs of the existence of our Maker;

    We are witnesses both to His Unity and His Power;

    * * *

    We are subtle miracles gilding the face of the skies

    For the angels to make excursions on;

    * * *

    We are the innumerable attentive eyes of the heavens

    That watch the earth, that study Paradise;11

    * * *

    We are the innumerable exquisite fruits that the hand of wisdom of the Beauteous One of Glory has fastened

    To the celestial portion of the tree of creation, to all the branches of the Milky Way;

    * * *

    For the inhabitants of the heavens, we are each of us a travelling mosque,

    a spinning house, a lofty home,

    Each is an illumining lamp, a mighty ship, an aeroplane;

    * * *

    We are each of us a miracle of power of the All-Powerful One of Perfection, The All-Wise One of Glory;

    Each a wonder of His creative art, a rarity of His wisdom, a marvel of

    His creation, a world of light;

    * * *

    We demonstrated to mankind innumerable proofs, we made them hear with these innumerable tongues of ours;

    But their accursed unseeing, unbelieving eyes did not see our faces, they did not hear our words; and we are signs that speak the truth;

    * * *

    Our stamp is one; our seal is one; we are mastered by our Sustainer;

    We glorify Him through our subjugation;

    We recite His Names; we are each of us in ecstasy, a member of the

    mighty circle of the Milky Way.

    * * *

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