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Unfaithfulness of the world


The following poem is extracted from the Book of the Kings of Truth, written in 1919 by Ostad Elahi’s father, Hadj Nemat. Composed from more than 15000 verses, this book recounts the life of the saints, prophets, and great spiritual figures of humanity. Narrative sequences alternate with more meditative passages in the form of prayers, recommendations or invocations. An expression of Hadj Nemat’s mystical personality, of his unconditional love for the Divine and his relentless quest for the knowledge of spiritual truths, the Book of the Kings of Truth also tells something about the particular atmosphere which characterised Ostad Elahi’s early years.

In the poem entitled “Unfaithfulness of the World”, Hadj Nemat speaks his heart on the impermanence of the world.

I have reason to complain of this world that turns
Of the noise and the clamor that rises as it churns

Of its countermovements that deceive
And the shifting fluctuations we perceive

What can I say about this world, so crooked and bent
At times it appears lovely, at times beyond contempt

Fortune and glory it bestows on some
And lifts them higher than the lofty sun

To others it feeds toil and blood
A makeshift bed of soil and mud

To some it gives joy, a cause for celebration
Others it condemns to grief and lamentation

I know not the riddle of this ancient vale
That makes both men and women wail

A world in upheaval, a world that destroys
Nothing remains amid this ominous void

The heart of time and space it rends
So the pain within them never ends

Rust and dust cover this world of old
Its gloomy months and years, its days so cold

O how many luminous prophets and seers
How many saints with illustrious careers

How many kings glorious and heroic
How many sages, wise and stoic

How many mystics absorbed by God’s presence
How many lovers in search of His essence

How many men and women throughout the ages
Advanced in their years or at their younger stages

Have come into this world to be put to the test
All of them perished and were laid to rest

None of them could find any comfort here
What they found instead was turmoil and fear

All who come here suffer some measure of pain
For none can escape the trap of this ephemeral plane

An instant of happiness is chased by a hundred ills
A year’s worth of sorrow follows a moment’s thrills

In this world in which no desire can be realized
In this world in which no problem can be neutralized

He who rode horseback did so for a day
And thereafter walked the rest of the way

No one here has seen the least stability
This world grants nothing but infidelity

Now it’s the spring, now it’s the fall
So it’s always been, for one and all

Though the world constantly changes its hue
Shades of pain is all that it yields for you

Many have journeyed down this trodden lane
They lie beneath the earth, having lived in vain

And you, my heart, do not allow this world to catch you unaware
For it knows full well how to entrap you in its snare […]

In the end, all that remains is a person’s name
The memory of his beneficence or his ill fame

The benevolence of the good remain with them eternally
The malevolence of the bad will accompany them perpetually

O heart, devote yourself to beneficence with all your might
For it will deliver you here and in your eternal plight

Such goodness will endure in the people’s memory
And in the other world bring you joy and prosperity

This poem was published in French in Orient, Mille ans de poésie et de peinture, Diane de Selliers éditeur, 2004.
Translation from Persian into French by Leili Anvar-Chenderoff; translation from French into English by Martin Hoffman.

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  1. Niki Feb 28, 2011 4:30 pm 1

    thank you . what a beautiful start of my day. It touched my heart with the feelings of joy and happiness. Haj nemat devoted his entire life to fulfilling his objectives. his quest for divine attributes, his constant practice of charity, and the strength of his faith shows here and in the book of the kings of the truth. even hearing his name gives me a feeling of strong faith and detachment from this world. it always puts tears in my eyes.

  2. MA Mar 01, 2011 11:48 am 2

    It’s so true! But unfortunately hard to get detached from it! Hope to get into the right balance of it!

  3. pam Mar 05, 2011 9:43 am 3

    Wonderful poem. Although it seems to create a feeling of melancholy within me (because of the realization that the world that I live in and all its material pleasures are empty and transient), still these things are not without purpose. After the initial melancholy, I became hopeful that one thing will always remain stable: My true character and the pursuit of beneficence. This world can be used to pass through trials and tribulations, thereby strengthening my character. For this, I feel a sense of purpose.

  4. star Mar 05, 2011 2:16 pm 4

    How hard it is to constantly remember that our long term fate in another dimension is completely dependent on the short term thoughts, actions, intentions that we have in this world…this poem reminds me of this important notion.

  5. JW Mar 05, 2011 6:03 pm 5

    By far this has to be the most beautiful and meaningful poem I have ever read!

    How timely could this poem be or better yet how timeless can this poem be? Resided by Haj Nemat over 100 years ago yet it stands as a mirror of our life and times when I stand for a moment to ponder about the current and past events of my life and times on this earth, personal, social, economical and political every word drips with the “truth” and stands as a testament to our fragile existence while passing through this unfaithful world these moments of time! I find it “amazing” how the words of truth remain true to its essence no matter the language (translation from its original language to English) and its place in time, food, medicine and vitamin for the soul!

    I thank you for this timely post for once more it helped put my thoughts in the right perspective.

    I would like to also thank those who invested great time and energy in delivering such a fantastic and flawless translation of this poem from the book of kings, practically speaking this is a wonderful example of how one can be of beneficence and provides me for plenty of food for thought.

    Thank you.



  6. maxfarsh Mar 08, 2011 8:07 pm 6

    The Shahnaameyeh Haqiqat (Book of Kings of Truth) is a very complex yet accessible book which discusses some aspects of the Path of Perfection in more detail. Prof. Henry Corbin, the great expositor of the philosophy of illumination has called it “A Bible unto itself”. Indeed, the book starts from Creation, the purpose of earthly lives and the final gathering. Ever since I was 18 or so and I read this book, I fell in love with both the author and the book. I feel like this work states the same concepts as those of Ostad Elahi’s but Ostad Elahi was able to present them in a logical and rational fashion while the Book of Kings of Truth explains them from the viewpoint of detached mystic.

    I specially enjoy the last chapter of the book which is a spiritual autobiography of the author himself. Three points (among the many) emphasized by the author is detachment from material desires (not to be mistaken with detachment from duties but rather not to get lost in material desires), Truthfulness/Sincerity and also being content with what we have.

    An interesting episode is reminiscent of Dante’s divinine comedy and the Arda Viraf Nama, when the narrator is being punished (described in horrific graphical detail) for what he considers a small duty that he has neglected. As implicitly implied by the author, the higher the spiritual station, the more one must be wary of the smallest neglect. Well, in this episode, while the author is being tormened for what he considers a neglect, a man comes to his rescue and intercedes on the author’s behalf. The man states that he is ready to takeup the punishment and asks God to let the author go. The reason is that the man, while on his way for a spiritual pilgrimage, had met the author and the author, without knowing the man, had shared his food with the hungry traveller. Just because of this sincere act, the punishment of the author is lifted, his neglect forgiven and of course, divine justice would not allow for the punishment of the traveller. From this small episode, there are many lessons to be learned. One profound but simple lesson is that:
    1) A small sincere act towards fellow human beings can make up for an unintentionally neglected duty.
    2) Even the unintentionally neglected duties could be judged despite the fact that intention is more important than action.

    This book of some 15000 distiches deserves a more thorough study from many perspectives. For example from the viewpoint of ethics, religion, interfaith dialogue, cosmology, the ontological spiritual hierarchy, and mysticism. The commentary of Ostad Elahi explaining some of the more difficult passages sheds light on some of these matters.

  7. Peter Windsor Mar 19, 2011 3:23 pm 7

    What a great poem – and oh so true. Amazing that it translates so well into English. A wonderful way to remember that we should be hard-working and diligent in this world while at the same time always remaining aware of its fragility

  8. Hm Mar 26, 2011 1:58 pm 8

    How satisfying to read the truth about this world. I feel a certain peace when Reading it and motivation to battle on. It reminds me to be aware of my real goal here and feel the pains are worthwhile if endured for the right reasons.

  9. Eileen Apr 10, 2011 4:37 am 9

    I am also amazed at how masterfully this poem was translated into English. What a magnificent poem and what a magnificent job in translation, in my opinion. I was reflecting on what Ostad Elahi was quoted as saying in “Unicity”, a Collection of Photographs of Ostad Elahi, 1895-1974, if my memory serves me correctly, that when he left his home in Jeyhounabad and went to live in society, so to speak, outside of the home and area in which he grew up, he was horrified to see what a garbage can this world is, because of people telling so many lies. He hadn’t known or experienced knowing people with such bad behavior. In my opinion, this poem reflects how unpleasant this material world is, and that answers the question for me as to why we can never be happy here. I like the advice that Hajj Nehmat gives when he says, quote: “O heart, devote yourself to benificence with all your might, For it will deliver you here and in your eternal plight”, end quote. Reading on, I feel that the last two sentences give me a great feeling of hope that it is possible for us human beings to experience true joy and happiness in the other world.

  10. NN May 30, 2011 4:41 pm 10

    This poem is truly excellent! Goodness will remain eternal, this world is not what counts, it’s what we do that will carry over with us.

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