Shamas Nanji: Ballad for Bistami

Ballad for Abu Yazid Bistami

Asking his disciple to take heed
There’s a little story of Abu Yazid
“Stand your guard on the lip of hell
Make sure its numbers don’t swell

“Each approaching soul accord respect
And to heaven’s straight way direct
All doubts in your heart do quell
And take yourself, instead, to hell”

It’s a tale that’s been around
Since Bistami was earth bound
A legend of hidden treasure
From the vale of Sufi measure

“Nothing but the divine in here”
He claimed, finger to his attire
Causing so many consternation
They had a different orientation

Constantly springing surprises
Deliberately provoking crises
He created initial opprobrium
Forerunner of a new equilibrium

His retort to one seeking Abu Yazid
Went, “I search for him too, indeed
In all these years seventy and five
Not have I found him to be alive”

Oh yes, the guy had an attitude
That didn’t brook any latitude
But enormous longitude had he
To uncover one-dimensionality

Heard to utter, “Glory be to me”
Found him claiming the identity
Of a world differently made up
From this here material set up

What more is there to say
About a heart given away
A commitment so utterly complete
To nothing did his desire deplete


Ballad for Bistami

One of the earliest and best-known ecstatic Sufis who breathed his last in 874, Abu Yazid al-Bistami’s utterances – meant to disturb the common and taken-for-granted understandings – are legendary in the mystical/spiritual tradition. Some of these are woven into the fabric of the poem.


Other works of Shamas Nanji published in this website:

Shamas Nanji: “Abraham” and “Abraham’s Land” (includes profile)
Shamas Nanji: Light-Speed Web
Shamas Nanji: Fana and Baqa

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