Songs of Presence: Qasidas of the Shadhili Path
In Arabic and with explanatory notes in English
From the Foreword by Shaykh Nuh Ha Mim Keller:
“The aim of Qasidas or spiritual odes, of which this manual is a compendium, is to worship Allah, by turning men’s hearts to the Divine, who says, ‘And when My servants ask you of Me, truly I am close’ (Koran 2:186). The purpose of qasidas in the Sufi path is to convey the experiential gnosis of forebears to subsequent generations, for what comes from the heart goes into the heart, and most of the poets who wrote them were sheikhs of the tariqa who addressed their words to those with experiences like themselves, or to aspirants. My own sheikh, ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Shaghouri (Allah be well pleased with him), was a poet and the leader of his sheikh’s vocalists at the hadra or ‘public dhikr’ in Damascus for decades.
He once told me that the content of a qasida first comes as an experience from Allah, which the Sufi poet afterwards tries to clothe in words. A poet thus distills the concentrated essence of his particular experience, from a lifetime of spiritual endeavor, into the words that make up the qasida. To borrow a metaphor from the poets themselves, just as the universe is a ‘goblet’ for the beginninglessly eternal ‘wine’ of the Divine Oneness, which it conveys to human hearts by denoting, signifying, and portending it; so too does the goblet of a qasida convey to the heart of hearers the ‘wine’ experienced in the author’s highest apprehension of the Divine.”