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Figures of the Beloved in the works of Malak Jan Nemati (1906-1993)

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Poésies des Suds et des Orients

Malak Jan Nemati was Ostad Elahi’s sister, but also his most brilliant student and the most passionate one. She found in him a way to connect to the Divine, a figure of the Beloved, inspiring the images and metaphors that filled her poetry. Leili Anvar analyses the meaning of these images and metaphors in the following article published in the 42nd issue of the French literary review Itinéraires et contacts de cultures. Leili Anvar is a lecturer at the Institut national des langues et civilisations orientales (INALCO) in Paris. She is the author of the book Malak Jan Nemati, published in English by Arpeggio Press.

Not much is known about Malak Jan Nemati’s works, because before being a poet, she was a spiritual figure considered as a saint in her community and sometimes beyond. As such, she assiduously practiced humility and self-effacement to the point where she was not concerned about leaving a collection of works behind. She thus did not publish anything during her lifetime and today still, her works have remained manuscript in their original language and have only been very partially published in French in 2007[1]. All the issues that are inherent to working with sources that are exclusively manuscript therefore come along any research on her works, even more so considering the fact that she has not written any of these manuscripts herself. Indeed, she gradually lost her sight between the age of 14 and 20. The body of her works (which comprises a vast corpus of oral spiritual teachings and a few pages of poetry) thus consists of notes taken people around her. We will not address these issues here and will take as read the authenticity of this body of works, by referring to the cross-checking process that produced the basis for the French translations cited above. The available biographical information also mostly stems from field research and the collection of numerous oral testimonies. We do not intend either to cover here all aspects of the life of Malak Jan, who was a woman of contemplation, science and action all at once, nor to give a detailed account of the way she practiced prayer and ethics, her charity and her involvement in spiritual and social action. These aspects are presented in the biographical part of the above mentioned publication[2] that can be referred to for additional details.

We will nonetheless mention a few aspects of her biography that are indispensable to grasp the nature of her relation to the divine and the figures of the Beloved as they appear in her works.

Elements of Malak Jan’s biography

Malak Jan was born on 11 December 1906 in a small village of Iranian Kurdistan. Even though she was a woman she received a classical education from a very young age. This fact that deserves to be emphasised: it was an exceptional fact at the time, specially in a rural environment. She was the daughter of a great mystic revered as a saint during his lifetime: Hadj Nemat (1871-1920). This father who cared for the education of his daughters and of his son alike, was also a man of letters and a mystical poet. The corpus of his works remains manuscript, with the notable exception of The book of the kings of Truth (Mokri-Jayhunabadi, 1985) in which he related (in 15,000 distichs) the spiritual history of humanity and of the successive envoys who received the mission to instruct human beings through the means of revealed religions and various spiritual doctrines. His works, his personality and his universalist philosophy had a profound impact on Malak Jan, even though her father passed away when she was only 14. At that same age, she was struck by an incurable eye disease that gradually took away her sight. This blindness which was considered a real handicap in her community (for example, it rendered marriage impossible) did not stop her from continuing throughout her entire life to study and to live independently. After her father’s death, her older brother Ostad Elahi (1895-1974) [3] took over her education. Most importantly, he became the determining factor in her training, as well as the source of inspiration for her spiritual practice, her teachings and her poetry. His biography has been widely documented and does not belong here. Let us simply note that he was a magistrate, a philosopher, a spiritual thinker, as well as an undisputed and unequalled master of the tanbur (a traditional Kurdish luth). In her eyes, he was the older brother she loved, but also and most importantly a spiritual pole and an accomplished wise man. Beyond her intelligence, he also very early on detected in her a real spiritual potential. She became his student and she considered him as her guide on the “path of perfection”:

A few years after my father’s passing, my [exploration of the] spiritual worlds began. At the time, I would try to manage on my own, but the spiritual worlds are so complex and vast that I would become disoriented. I was constantly searching for a guide who could help me reach the destination. This sense of disorientation stayed with me until the age of 35 or so. Thereafter, I found this guide in the person of my brother. Everything I have understood or later taught is from his teachings and guidance. Everything that I know is from him; how elated I became that he accepted me as his student.[4]

The notion of “student” is very important, because Malak Jan always considered herself a student searching for truth, even when, in turn, she herself became responsible for the education of “students”, and because in her view, spiritual practice is a dynamic and constant journey toward knowledge. For Ostad Elahi, the spiritual journey fundamentally consists in gaining awareness of the nature and destination of the soul. It means knowing oneself through the inner analysis of the workings of the self and the fight against the “imperious self” (the agent of our impulses or “id”[5]). It is a matter of knowing one’s nature and of transforming it through the means of willpower, exercises (such as prayers, devotion and asceticism) and ethical work (practicing charity, fighting against the impulses of the ego). Ostad Elahi comprised all of these aspects in the concept of “correct education of thought”, which consists in implementing the “original” divine principles.

In order to be properly directed in this journey, Malak Jan felt the need to turn to an experienced guide having already completed this journey. She found this guide in Ostad Elahi:

An experienced guide is necessary to take a student’s hand and lead him to the destination. That which Ostad has told us he has personally experienced. I have labored a lifetime on these […] points, and only recently have I reached them. (MJN: 48)

The meditative tendency that characterises her—the way she reflects deeply on things in order to assimilate them and make them hers—is apparent here. As she admits it herself, her soul “knows no calm” (MJN: 45) in the sense that it is in constant demand of knowledge and understanding. She was thus a particularly brilliant student, always aspiring to learn and progress further under the supervision of the one she considered to be both her guide and her pole. And for the rest of her life, even long after Ostad Elahi’s passing, she felt connected to him, as if “inhabited”. Ostad Elahi was undoubtedly the major figure of the Beloved in Malak Jan’s life and works.

The Beloved as theophany

In Persian mystical literature, the Beloved—or the Face of Beauty that inhabits the whole imagery of mystical poetry—always has a theophanic character in the sense that this representation consisting of form, light, image and the quintessence of beauty is a manifestation of God.[6] This theophanic approach to envisioning and representing the divine Beloved accounts for the visionary character of spiritually inspired Persian poetry (in particular Attar in the twelfth century, Rumi in the thirteenth century and Hafez in the fourteenth century, to only mention the greatest). For even the eyes of the soul cannot sustain direct vision of God. The image of beauty irradiating God’s light is thus an indispensable intermediary. In this regard, Malak Jan explains the following:

[Concerning the philosophy behind “knowing the Essence in human form”]: As long as human beings do not love something, they cannot fully benefit from it. This love is based on the material senses, yet God cannot be seen, so how then can we love Him? Even if He were to fulfill our needs, we still could not love Him. Therefore, God manifests in some ‘form’ so that we can see and love that form. Then that ‘form’ begins to gradually fade until He alone remains.
When a person is in love, he becomes attentive, he worships, he develops an affinity […] these are experiences that I have acquired in the midst of action.
Until you reach that point, knowing God is not something that can be conveyed through words. You have to reach that point and understand what it is to know God. The more your soul becomes familiar, the more you will know Him; that is something that can no longer be spoken.
(MJN : 115)

The visionary character thus prevails. The soul “sees” a form that guides it toward the truth of the theophany, and thus to the essence of God that words cannot convey. In this regard, the fact that Malak Jan’s poetry (as explained below) was so strongly visual (even though she was blind) is particularly striking.

The theophanic character of the figure of the Beloved is an abiding feature of Persian mystical poetry, which strongly inspired Kurdish poetry (Kurdish being the language of Malak Jan’s poetry, though her oral spiritual teachings were usually in Persian). The most emblematic example is that of Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī (1207-1273) [7] who saw a theophanic manifestation in the figure of his spiritual companion Shams (whose name literally means the sun). The entirety of Rumi’s poetic works is dedicated to him and celebrates him as the sun of truth. Most importantly, faced with the Sun of the Beloved, Rumi considers himself as nothing. The pen name he chose (khâmush, the silent one) indicates that in his view it is not him speaking in his poetry, but rather this other who inhabits him (Anvar, 2004: 146). Malak Jan, who appreciated the true value of Rumi’s poetry and enjoyed having it read to her, had chosen for herself the pen name “kamineh” (“the lowest”). Indeed, self-effacement is essential to theophanic experience. One must efface oneself for the sight of the Beloved to occur. Hence the importance of the theme of burning—to love is to burn because there is no true love without some form of annihilation of the self. The soul must become aware that it is nothing and that it cannot do anything, for only then can it let itself be guided:

Unless and only if
With the help of Ostad
The Beloved were to be pleased with me
Perhaps then might He grant my liberty

On this path that we travel
Ostad Nour Ali is my guide
Draped in sin from head to toe
He is the sanctuary in whom I confide

Jani was a lifeless life
A corpse among the dead
Ostad resurrected me
And by His grace exalted me

The theme of effacement translates here into the need for the Beloved as a rescuer, who may only be reached through the guidance of another (the guide here, clearly identified as being Ostad Elahi, merges together with the Beloved—the source of life—at the end of the poem). But effacement also means humility, recognising oneself as a sinner, weak and minuscule to the point of being “lifeless”. It is important to note too that there is a wordplay on “Jani” (the nickname Ostad Elahi had given to his sister) referring to the word “jan”, which means life, the soul and the loved one. Jani as a “lifeless life” then resurrected therefore refers to the paradox contemplated by mystics of all religions: the fact that one must “die before dying”[8] in order to awaken to one’s true self and gain true life, that is, survival of the soul rather than exile in this world “among the dead”.

Images of the Beloved

What are these images through which the Beloved appears to the mirror of the soul? Far from being illusions, the images used in mystical poetry reflect a reality that is more intense and more authentically real than the ordinary material world. They originate from what Iranian spiritual thinkers call the imaginal world (‘âlam-i mithâl), a dimension brilliantly explored by Henry Corbin, who describes it as follows:

[…] [it is] an intermediary world… ‘âlam-i mithâl, a world of the Image, mundus imaginalis: a world as ontologically real as the world of senses and of the intellect; a world that requires a faculty of perception of its own, the cognitive function and the noetic value of this faculty being as real in their own right as those of sensory perception or intellectual intuition. This faculty is the imaginative power, which shall not be confused with imagination that so-called modern man identifies with “fantasy” and the product of which, according to him, is only “imaginary”. (Corbin, 1964:8, translated from the French)

It is this noetic faculty that mystics develop through the practice of meditation and inner purification. Indeed diligent spiritual work is necessary to awaken the soul’s perceptive faculties. Such awakening was not a goal for Malak Jan but rather a natural corollary of her spiritual venture. Her poetry shows that the inner world she travels in is filled with imaginal visions that she attempts to put into words. Poetic language, based on metaphors, is traditionally used to give the closest possible account of this inner dimension and thus visually reveal the imaginal. In that sense, Malak Jan’s work, which she exclusively considered as a form of meditation, testifies to the paradox of this “visionary” poetry (in the sense that it expresses an experience of spiritual vision) composed by a woman who had lost her sight:

Wherever I look, there is no one but You
O Unique, Peerless, Saviour, You!

The door, the ceiling, the veranda, all You
No one is there other than You!

Every manifestation past, and those that come anew
When are you apart from You, O You who are You!

You are the one who rid these eyes of their duplicity
You are the one who revealed the station of Unicity

This world and next, the earth and heavens too
O Peerless Unique, they are all but You!
(MJN : 97)

Thus, deprived of the “eyes of the body” and their inherent “duplicity”, which separates the reality of the Creator and the reality of the creatures, she can “look” anywhere with the wide opened eyes of the soul and contemplate the unicity of existence: the imaginal dimension testifies to the absence of discontinuity between the spiritual and material worlds. This dichotomy is but an optical illusion, for what holds the world together and makes it be is, precisely, the imaginal world. Indeed, all archetypes originate from this imaginal world which englobes all strata of reality. For Malak Jan, all forms, internal or external, are nothing but manifestations of the totalising reality of the Beloved in all its diversity. It is with the eyes of the soul that she looks at the images of the spiritual world reflected in the mirror of her own being. In another poem, she says:

You are the match
and the lamp
The gardener
and the garden

You are the nightingale
and the song
The flower
and the fragrance

You are hundreds of colors
every hour
You are war and peace
both at once

You are the mirror
of wonders
Present and absent
together at once
(MJN : 99)

The theme of light is classically associated with theophanic apparition. The apparition itself is luminous and, at the same time, it shines onto the world with new light and sheds new light on all forms and all beauty in which it manifests itself. The theophanic image is not only an object for contemplation: its function is to shine through the darkness of the world. Here, the poet herself lights up the torch of vision through a mere enumeration, in order for the protean Beloved to be seen. Every image she suggests actually corresponds to a metaphorical constellation in Persian classic poetry (which constitutes her esthetic reference). The fire of the match and the lamp refer to the Mazdean mythological background where light and fire are home to the appearance of the supreme soul of the world. That same lamp is also a transparent allusion to the following verse (24:35) of the Sura An-Nur (The Light) which, to this date, has been a constant source of inspiration for mystical poetry in the land of Islam:

Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The Parable of His Light is as if there were a Niche and within it a Lamp: the Lamp enclosed in Glass: the glass as it were a brilliant star: Lit from a blessed Tree, an Olive, neither of the east nor of the west, whose oil is well-nigh luminous, though fire scarce touched it (…) (as translated by Abdullah Yusuf Ali)

Similarly, in Persian poetry, the garden represents the imaginal place par excellence, the ideal place where Spring (the time of renewal for the soul, invigorated by the breath of the Beloved) deploys the thousand colours of the infinite manifestations of the Beloved. At the heart of this garden of marvels, which represents the time and space of the Beloved’s manifestation, the central characters are the rose and the nightingale. The red rose is the ideal metaphor for the Beloved because of its perfect shape, its colour (red is one of the manifestations of divine light) and its suave fragrance. In a famous text entitled “The Secret Rose Garden”, Mahmud Shabistari (fourteenth century) writes:

This bouquet of scented blossoms
I have plucked from that garden,
And have called it “The Secret Rose Garden.”
In it are blooming
Roses of the mysteries of the heart
Untold before ;
In it the tongues of the lilies are all singing,
And the eyes of the narcissus behold all, far and near.
Gaze on each one of these with your heart’s eyes
Till your doubts melt away.
(The Secret Rose Garden of Sa’d Ud Din Mahmud Shabistari, translated by Florence Lederer (1920), p. 92)

As for the nightingale, it represents the “intoxicated” lover (MJN: 89) awaiting the red rose so it may cherish and sing it, immersed in the beatific intoxication of its vision. The melodic and amorous singing of the nightingale thus also becomes a metaphor for poetry, sealing the intimate link that brings together the experience of love and the poetic experience. In Malak Jan’s works, the nightingale is a figure of the soul itself, both loving and source of the poetic singing:

May your bird alight on a flower’s stem and sing (MJN: 89)

In the particular poem of “the match and the lamp” however, it is the Beloved Himself who is at once “the flower” and “the nightingale”, as if to better signify the effacement of the lover and the poet. The singing itself only comes from the Beloved who englobes, in one single unifying movement, everything that is.

Another characteristic of the Beloved as he appears to the soul is that he is both “passive” in the sense that he is an image to be contemplated or grasped, and “active” in the sense that he is the one who makes things be, in particular the images of himself that make him a multiform or protean being (“hundreds of colours”, “wonders”, “mirror”) in endless renewal, his form and colour changing “every hour”. He is also paradoxical in that he brings together opposites: war and peace, presence and absence. As it happens, these characteristics are also those of poetic metaphor. Indeed, of all tropes, metaphor is the one that most fully expresses both presence and absence. As Paul Ricœur puts it: “… is not the proximity between enigma and metaphor founded completely on the odd name-giving, ‘this (is) that,’ that simile develops and depletes at the same time but that metaphor preserves by the brevity of its expression? Deviation in the use of names proceeds from deviation in attribution itself – from what the Greeks call para-doxa, that is, a divergence from pre-existing doxa.” (Ricoeur 1986: 27)

The metaphor is an image for the inexpressible; it invites to contemplation of the beyond and its pure beauty. Hence its central place in mystical poetry. For the mystic, the image/metaphor is the reflection of an inner vision, and, at the same time, a place for what in inexpressible and hence a place of paradox. Because this experience of love, of the apparition of the Beloved in the mirror of the heart and of the world cannot be “told”, or at least not as anything else than a manifestation in the image that reunites opposites. It is striking that this image then becomes “noetic”—it becomes source of knowledge and access to the truth.

With feeble mind the reason for this I have construed
And convey it here to those who thirst for the Truth

[…]

[…] the ignorant soul is led astray, wandering to no avail
Unless divine mercy intervenes and removes the obscuring veil

Only then can the soul acquire correct evidence in hand
To overcome the barren nafs and its imperious command

O seekers, take refuge in that unique Essence
Should you wish to behold His luminescence […]
(MJN : 77)

We can see how here, in the realm of contemplation, vision becomes “argument” of truth. The truth imposes itself as obvious knowledge, through its mere imaginal presence that “removes the veil” of illusion. At the same time, the reference to the “barren nafs”—those impulses that only knowledge can control—highlights the interrelations between the visualised beauty, knowledge and the fight against anything that prevents this beauty revealed to the soul to be seen. God appears as an abstract entity who “makes visible” his Essence, thereby causing contemplative adoration. Here, the process of spiritual vision requires receptivity, but it does not depend on the one who receives it. In that sense, it is a grace. And the words of the poem are the product of this grace: inspiration in its literal sense.

The vision can also appear in the form of a specific spiritual entity, as in the poem entitled “Leyli” for example. In Persian classical literature, Leyli (or Leyla, in its Arabic pronunciation) is the figure of the theophanic Beloved par excellence[9]. Her name, which refers to the night, and her black hair, come with a corollary of harsh cruelty, the sole purpose of which is to bring the lover to surpass himself in order to come through the night of the world and reach the theophanic light of dawn. Loving Leyli means accepting oneself as Majnun, the lover-poet who loved, as his name indicates, to the point of madness (majnun literally means “possessed by demons” and therefore mad). It is classic for a woman to see the reflection of the beloved Being in a feminine representation to the extent that Leyli is not a woman but an archetype of theophany. Malak Jan introduces her as a “name” that appeared to her and a manifestation of the beloved. It should be noted that in Islam’s spiritual tradition, God’s names are themselves objects of contemplation in their calligraphic form as well as objects of inner listening through the practice of zikr (recollection of God’s name). All divine names are attributes that reveal the infinite variety of His facets. The following are excerpts from this poem, preceded by an explanation given by Malak Jan:

In December 1955 (or January 1956), I experienced a joyous spiritual state in which the true beloved came to me and introduced itself as Leyli; not that it was truly Leyli, but this was the name it had chosen for itself.

[…]
O Leyli, my beautiful and beloved Leyli
At turns harsh and indulgent with me

O Leyli, whoever has seen but a lock of your hair
Has been driven to madness, no religion can he bear

[…]

O Leily, let me drink that rousing potion, I pray
Let your light chase the dark of the shadows away

[…]

O Leyli, why have you cast your frown my way?
What have I said now to make you turn away?

O Leyli, I implore you to remove this veil
So the perfume of the rose might fully inhale
(MJN : 107)

As we can see, what is at stake in the dialogue with the Beloved, in the supplication the poem becomes, is indeed the beatific vision of unveiled beauty. This unveiling becomes, through an oxymoron with the very name of Leyli (“the nocturnal one”), a solar illumination. The vision of the Face of beauty is thus again associated with inner knowledge. When the Beloved appears to the mirror of the heart, no shaded areas remain, provided that the surface of the heart is smooth, that the heart is purified from all illusory passions. But before manifesting itself, the Beloved imposes a form of cruelty on the lover, such cruelty being one of its traditional attributes. For the suffering inflicted by the Beloved to the lover is meant to prepare him, to polish his inner mirror with the fire of pain and desire. Manifestations of the Beloved are not granted at the outset: one must deserve them by going through a long inner journey during which all egoity must disappear to leave place only to love.

Perfume of the Beloved

The evocation of Leyli’s perfume (“perfume of the rose”) indicates that theophanic manifestations are not only “visual”. Just like images, perfumes are manifestations of the spiritual in the physical world. Perfumes occupy a very important place in Malak Jan’s works. Some have reported that she used to indicate sometimes that she had detected perfumes during a session of mystical listening and that every one of these perfumes was the sign of one form of divine manifestation. She also enjoyed surrounding herself with scented flowers, especially roses.

May its fragrant core your heart’s desire bring
Behold the flower’s core, so fragrant and sweet
From dawn till dusk, sacred chants gently repeat
This fragrant core to the nightingale’s intoxication leads
(MJN: 89)

Like a metaphor, a perfume is the presence of an absence. The palpable sign of a presence that can only be grasped through its effects—here, sweetness and intoxication. Yet this presence is so intense that, just like the image, it becomes a “point of convergence” and focus for the soul. Far from a vague and dispersed impression, the function of the perfume is just as iconic as that of the image. These perfumes have, of course, the same quality as imaginal apparitions, in that they are more real than perfumes of the material world of which they are ultimately the archetypes. The theme of the perfume is also a classic in Persian literature, where the personified zephyr plays an essential role in invigorating the soul by bringing it the perfume of the Beloved, like a messenger of love, invisible yet saturated with the sweet presence of the Beloved.

Sometimes though, the expression of the inexpressibility of the presence may require to renounce all images and all perfumes:

Without scent
Without color
My Beloved is One
Without scent or color

No wrath or affection
No temperament or mood
No time or place
Neither ancient nor new

Ascribing any quality to the Beloved
Is blasphemy through and through
Rendering me blasphemous
And ignorant too

O heart, won’t you stir yourself to join the Beloved
Cease your diversions with these scents and colors!
(MJN: 78)

Thus, the numerous images and perfumes of the Beloved that were tangible signs of its presence end up becoming a veil themselves, thus preventing one from apprehending Him as pure Essence. Here lies the eternal paradox of the attributes and the Essence: without the attributes, the Essence cannot manifest itself, yet when it does manifest itself, its very manifestation contradicts its essence which stands beyond all representation and perception. Mystical poets have incessantly underlined this paradoxical tension that embodies their perceptions and expression. It is probably for this reason that they oscillate between words and silence. Because ultimately, the only way to evoke the Beloved is to say, like here, what He is not; to say that He cannot be spoken of in terms of colours, images or perfumes; to say that He is, but that His presence is impossible to formulate.

This might be the very function of poetry: to create a language that could convey what is beyond words and reality. But only “inspired” beings can carry on this function by giving an account of certain inner experiences they have lived through images and words, through successive touches that outline the various nuances of visionary experience. For Malak Jan though, poetry is not a major form of expression. Of all the texts she composed for herself, as a sort of inner meditation, only very few are left. It appears that for her, poetry served the same purpose as music, which she also practised (she played the setar, an instrument of Persian classical music, and the tanbur or sacred Kurdish luth): prayer, praise, effusion of the soul in an intimate dialogue with the Beloved. A very small part of it was saved by a few wise individuals who were among the people around her. The little that is left testifies to the way she apprehended this imaginal world, the source of inspiration of visionary beings and poets. Moreover, this type of inspiration is only granted to those who have polished the surface of their heart so that it may be receptive to the numerous images of the One and to the radiance of His beauty. It is almost no longer a matter of will, but rather a way to let the Beloved act in those words, without ever wanting to be oneself or set a goal for oneself. Simply let the events occur while immersed in contemplation: “Don’t concern yourselves with ‘reaching God’; He is within us, He’s not far from us. Don’t set a goal for yourselves—perform your duties and entrust the result to Him.” (MJN: 119)

Leili Anvar, INALCO

Bibliography:

  • Anvar, Leili, Rûmî, Paris: Entrelacs, 2004.
  • Anvar, Leili, Malak Jan Nemati, “Life isn’t short, but time is limited”, New York: Arpeggio Press, 2012
  • Boubakeur, Cheikh si Hamza (trad.), Le Coran, Paris: Fayard, 1979.
  • Corbin, Henry, « Mundus Imaginalis », in Cahiers internationaux du symbolisme, 6, 1964, p.3-26.
  • Corbin, Henry, Le Jasmin des Fidèles d’amour (Introduction), Paris: Verdier, 1991 and C-H. Fouchecour de, Charles-Henri, Le Dîwân de Hâfez (Introduction), Paris: Verdier, 2005.
  • Elahi, Bahram, The Path of Perfection, New York: Paraview, 2005.
  • Elahi, Ostad, 100 Maxims of Guidance, Paris: Robert Laffont, 2000.
  • Elahi, Ostad, Words of Faith: Prayers of Ostad Elahi, Paris: Robert Laffont, 1995.
  • Lâhiji, Mohammad, Sharh-e Golshan-é Râz, Teheran: Mahmoudi, 1959, p. 717.
  • Miquel, André et Kempf, Percy, Majnûn et Laylâ: l’amour fou, Paris: Sindbad, 1984.
  • Mokri-Jeyhounabadi, Hâji Ne’mat, Shâhnâme-ye Haqiqat, Teheran: 1985.
  • Ricoeur, Paul, The Rule of Metaphor: Multi-disciplinary Studies of the Creation of Meaning in Language, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1986.

[1] ^Anvar, Leili, Malek Jân Ne’mati, “La vie n’est pas courte mais le temps est compté”, Paris: Editions Diane de Selliers, 2007. The book is divided in three parts: a biography of Malak Jan Nemati, the translation of 19 poems with illustrations, the translation of excerpts of her oral teachings. All citations of Malak Jan’s works in the present article are taken from this book and referenced as “MJN” followed by the page number. Translator’s note: the above-mentioned book is now available in 3 other languages in addition to French, namely English, Persian and Italian.
[2] ^See note 1.
[3] ^Nur Ali Elahi or Ostad Elahi (1895-1974), Jani’s older brother, played a determining role in her spiritual education. She considered him, as her poetry testifies, as her master, her guide, her pole and her spiritual companion. For an overview of his works, see Unicity, Paris: Robert Laffont, 1995, as well as Ostad Elahi, 1995 and 2000.
[4] ^Extracted from www.saintejanie.com; see also www.malakjan.com.
[5] ^For further developments on the “self” and its functioning, see Elahi, 2005: 33-44.
[6] ^Any study of Persian mystical poetry requires this question to be addressed. See, in particular, Corbin, 1991 and Fouchécour, 2005.
[7] ^See Anvar, 2004.
[8] ^A famous saying of Prophet Muhammad upon which all Iranian mystics have meditated, but the idea of which already appears in Pato’s works, when he states that “those who go about philosophizing correctly are in training for death”.
[9] ^For a full account of the origins of the legend of love in Arabic literature, see Miquel, 1984. In Persian literature, the history of love has acquired a resolutely mystical dimension with Nizami Ganjavi’s brilliant novel in verses Layli o Majnun (twelfth century), currently being translated into French by the author of this article.


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1 comment

  1. mahnaz Dec 10, 2015 7:09 pm 1

    Thank you so much. I really learned a lot from Malak Jan Nemati and her biography.

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