Life – An Exalted Destiny – Aga Khan III

Life - An Exalted Destiny - Aga Khan III Life is a great and noble calling; not a mean and grovelling thing to be shuffled through as best as we can, but a lofty and exalted destiny.

Nasir-i Khusraw Poetry — Nasir Khusraw Shia Ismaili Muslim Dai and Poet

Mowlana Hazar Imam Golden Jubilee 2007

Mowlana Hazar Imam Golden Jubilee 2007


Nasir-i Khusraw Poetry

Nasir Khusraw is acknowledged as one of the foremost poets of the Persian language. Born in the Balkh district of Central Asia in 394/1004, 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. Nasir arrived in Cairo in 439/1047, where he stayed for three years and became acquainted with Ismaili dignitaries such as Al Muayyad Fi Din Al Shirazi.

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 465/1072. He is venerated to this day in Central Asia as a great saint, poet and philosopher. The following poems are from his Diwan, ed. N. Taqawi (Tehran, 1925-28), also edited by M. Minuwi and M. Muhaqqiq (Tehran, 1974).

The Eye of the Intellect
The Momentum of Time
The Master and the Disciple
The Esoteric and the Exoteric
The Sovereign of the Time
Journey to the Light
The Candle of Intellect
Pearls of Heaven
Speech and Silence


The Eye of the Intellect

By Nasir-i Khusraw

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

By Nasir-i Khusraw

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 Master and the Disciple


By Nasir-i Khusraw

The master turned
my night into broad daylight
with proofs as clear as
radiant sunlight.

Since he made me
drink from the water of life,
death has become quite
insignificant to me.

When I looked
from the corner of his eye,
I saw the earth rotating
beneath my feet.

He showed me
the visible and hidden worlds,
both located in one place,
my own body.

I saw the two
guardians of paradise and hell
inhabiting the same place,
my own breast.

He pointed to one
who is the keeper of paradise
and said to me: “I am
his disciple.”

I saw eight gates,
closed in the same place,
and seven other gates open,
one above the other.

He said to me:
“If you wish to enter a gate,
you have to obtain his
permission first.”

When I asked him
to explain the secret to me,
he recited its story from
beginning to end.

The master said:
“He is the Lord of the time, (Imam-e Zamaan)
chosen by God from
men and jinns.”


The Esoteric and
the Exoteric

By Nasir-i Khusraw

The exoteric of revelation
is like brackish water,
but the esoteric is like pearls
for people who are wise.

Since pearls and jewels are
to be found on the sea-bed,
look for the pearl-diver
instead of running on the shore.

Why does the Maintainer
of the world keep so many
precious pearls concealed upon
the bottom of the sea?

He kept them for the Prophet
with the instruction:
“The esoteric is for the wise,
the exoteric for the ignorant.”

You will get nothing but mud
and salty water from
the pearl-diver because of
your animosity towards him.

When you are searching for
the meaning of revelation,
do not be content with speech
like a donkey braying aloud.

On the Night of Power,
when you kindle the lamp,
the mosque is filled with light,
but your heart remains pitch-dark.

Whether you kindle the lamp
or not, understand that
it will not dispel the darkness
of ignorance in your heart.


The Sovereign of the Time

By Nasir-i Khusraw

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!

Journey to the Light

By Nasir-i Khusraw

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.


The Candle of the Intellect

By Nasir-i Khusraw

Kindle the candle of intellect in your heart
and hasten with it to the world of brightness;
If you want to light a candle in your heart,
make knowledge and goodness its wick and oil.

In the path of the hereafter, one should not walk
on foot but with the soul and the intellect,
and for provisions, you must fill the tablecloth
of your heart with obedience and knowledge.

0 son, your mind is the garden of intellect,
turn it not into a furnace with fumes of wine;
your heart is the blessed mine of knowledge,
why have you planted a perverse hardness in it?

Let your heart become soft because a shirt of
dusky soft silk does not befit a heart of stone;
cast away ignorance from your mind because
celebration does not befit a house of lament.

Comprehend well the wise poetry of the hujja,
for it is elevated and powerful like Mount Qaran,
and with the needle of reflection, prick his
excellent words in your subtle heart and soul.


Pearls of Heaven

By Nasir-i Khusraw

Above the seven spheres are two precious pearls whose light
illumines the world and mankind.

In the placenta of non-existence, from the sperm of existence,
they form images but themselves have no form.

Not contained by the senses, they are not sensible; neither
dark nor bright, they are not visible.

Reared in pre-eternity by the holy wet-nurse, they are not
pearls but have the attributes of pearls.

From this side of creation and that side of the universe,
within and beyond time, they are always together.

They are not in the world and yet they are in it; they are not
within us but nurture the soul in our bodies.

It is said that they are both the worlds; therefore they are
in the seven climes but not in the seven climes. 49

This one is the Holy Spirit and that one the Spirit of Gabriel;
they are flying angels but have no wings.

In the nest of the lower world they appear with open wings,
but in the higher world they fly without wings.

They are friends with the hot and the cold, the dry and the wet,
as are earth and air with fire and water. 50

In the treasure-houses of pre-eternity and post-eternity, they are
not pearls but recognized by the name of pearl.

They are both the world and mankind, paradise and hell; they
are absent and present, poison and sugar.

They come from light to darkness, from heaven to earth, from
the west to the east, from ocean to land.

Existent and non-existent, hidden and manifest, they are
without and with you in the same house.

In the next world which is their forge and furnace, they are
the destroyers of the building and the builder.

They are the chiefs of the nine spheres and the seven planets;
they give sustenance to the five senses and the four natures.

Around their home, there are ten witnesses, of whom five stay
inside and five stand at the door.

The shopkeepers of heaven come before them in order to
purchase what they have to sell.

They are not substance, for substance takes accident from them;
they make an axis for accident, but they are not the axes.

They read to you the book of secrets without letters; they
know your deeds without having to see them.

They appear because they are hidden; they are without head or
body because they are in the head and body.

Their attribute is that they are not contained in the world,
but they are hidden in our head and body.

They have made this world a place for you to inhabit, but for
them there is no place, for they are beyond space.

They come to you from a place which is not a place; there they
are angels and here they are messengers.

In rank, they are higher than the angelic world; like God’s
essence, they are neither element nor substance.

Even though both the worlds are in the possession of this and
that, if you wish, they can be subjugated to your soul.


Speech and Silence

By Nasir-i Khusraw

O eloquent one! Why do you remain silent?
Why do you not string pearls and corals together?

If you are a rider on the mount of wisdom,
why do you not come to the racecourse of men!

You have seen and experienced the world;
You have heard the sayings of Arabs and Persians.

You have become famous in the Science of Geometry,
from Sind and India to the borders of Khorasan.

And when you are counting, the created world is
like a grain of wild rue in your thinking.

There are many people in the East and the West
who have witnessed your claim to this Science.

Now that you are happy to be among the best,
you should have pride over your fellow men,

Since from the heart of the master Mu’ayyad,
God has opened the door of wisdom to you.


Source: Shimmering Light – IIS Publication Translated by Faquir M. Hunzai, a research associate at the Institute of Ismaili Studies and a former university lecturer in Arabic and Persian at a Pakistani university. He earned his Ph.D. from the Institute of Islamic Studies at McGill University.


Ismaili Poetry Page 1
Ismaili Poetry Page 2
About Nasir Khusraw Ismaili Dai
Al Muayyad Ismaili Dai
Poetry in the honor of Imam-e-Zamaan The Present Living Imam
Verses from the Holy Quran pointing to Imams


Please leave your comments

Quran, 13:28

ألا بِذِكْرِ اللهِ تَطمَئِنُّ الْقُلُوبُ

“Verily! In the remembrance of Allah do hearts find contentment.” - Quran, 13:28

Prophet Muhammad

Prophet Muhammad:

‘Ali is ‘as my own soul’ (ka-nafsi).

He said to ‘Ali, ‘You are from me and I am from you (anta minni wa ana minka).’

‘Truly, ‘Ali is from me and I am from him (inna ‘Ali minni wa ana minhu), and he is the wali (patron/spiritual master) of every believer after me.’

Hazrat Ali

12. When some blessings come to you, do not drive them away through thanklessness.

13. He who is deserted by friends and relatives will often find help and sympathy from strangers.

Imam Ali Sayings

Imam Jaffer Sadiq

لاَ يَكُونُ شَيْءٌ فِي اْلاَرْضِ وَلا فِي السَّمَاءِ إِلاَّ بِهذِهِ الْخِصَالِ السَّبْعِ: بِمَشيئَةٍ وَ إِرادَةٍ وَقَدَرٍ وَقَضَاءٍ وَ إِذْنٍ وَكِتابٍ وَأَجَلٍ. فَمَنْ زَعَمَ أَنَّهُ يَقْدِرُ عَلى نَقْضٍ وَاحِدَةٍ، فَقَدْ كَفَرَ.

“Nothing occurs in this earth and in the heaven except with the following seven stages: Will, intention, destiny, decree, permission, book and implementation. Then whoever thinks that he can reduce any of these stages, then indeed he has disbelieved.”

- Imam Jaffer Sadiq, Usul al Kafi, vol. 1, p. 149

Rumi on Ramadan

The month of fasting has come, the emperor’s banner has arrived; withhold your hand from food, the spirit’s table has arrived. The soul has escaped from separation and bound nature’s hands; the heart of error is defeated, the army of faith has arrived. Fasting is our sacrifice, it is the life of our soul; let us sacrifice all our body, since the soul has arrived as guest. Fortitude is as a sweet cloud, wisdom rains from it, because it was in such a month of fortitude that the Koran arrived. …Wash your hands and your mouth, neither eat nor speak; seek that speech and that morsel which has come to the silent ones.


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Aga Khan jokes

Aga Khan Speech Brown University May 1996:

"Looking around this colorful gathering, I recall helping in the choice of the Aga Khan University's regalia. Our research into Islamic traditions of academic dress revealed that an academic's rank determined the height of his hat. The higher the rank, the taller the hat. The senior most professors therefore appeared taller than their students even when sitting down. I have just learnt that my friend Neil Rudenstein, the President of Harvard has given instructions that all Harvard hats are to be heightened by at least a foot. This has caused havoc in the Ivy League which is now debating resolution MAHH96, standing for Maximum Allowable Hat Height. My academic standing and that of President Gregorian, should be evident from the hats that we are presently wearing!"

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