The Ode of the Nightingale (Qáá¹£ídíy-i-Varqá'íyyih):
Its Significance and Similarities with Tá'íyyih Ibn-i-Fárid

By Foad Seddigh

First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #128
Louhelen Bahá'í­ School: Davison, MI
October 9–12, 2014
(see list of papers from #128)


    The Ode of the Nightingale (alternatively, The Ode of the Dove) is unique among the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh for a number of reasons. First, this Sacred Scripture is entirely in Arabic and in the form of poetry (qáá¹£ídíh). Second, it is among His earliest Writings after He was entrusted with His Mission in the Síyáh-Chál (Black Pit). Third, it is the product of His soul searching servitude in the mountain wilderness of Kurdistán (three days walking distance from Sulaymáníyyih in 'Iráq near the border of Iran) and in praise of the Maid of Heaven (Hourí Ilahí), personifying the Great Spirit of God, and the Primal Will of God. Fourth, it was revealed in response to a request from Shaykh Ismá'íl and other divines who asked Him to write a poem in the same rhyme and meter as that of Qáá¹£ídíy-i-Tá'íyyih by the celebrated mystic Egyptian poet, Ibn-i-Fáriḍ known as the 'King of Lovers' —an exercise that no one was able to adequately accomplish until then. Shaykh Ismá'íl was the leader of the Khálidíyyih Order (a branch of Naqsh-banddíyyih Order of Sunní sect of Islam) and became intensely attracted to Bahá'u'lláh. The original poem of Bahá'u'lláh consisted of two thousand verses, nearly three times the size of the work of Ibn-i-Fáriḍ, from which one hundred and twenty seven verses were selected and the rest discarded and destroyed. These one hundred and twenty seven verses are the ones that were allowed to be transcribed and distributed. In the history books of the Faith, there are records of great influences which the Ode of the Nightingale has exerted on the hearts of believers in the early years of the Faith.

    Bahá'u'lláh Himself has written a short commentary of about three to four pages on His Ode of the Nightingale in order to clarify certain phrases or words. This commentary is in Persian and was written in Baghdád after His return from Sulaymáníyyih. It seems that this commentary clarifies only a small fraction of many puzzling phrases and references in the Ode. Several commentaries have been written on the Tá'íyyih of Ibn-i-Fáriḍ by Muslim scholars but published material explaining complex phrases in this Ode of Bahá'u'lláh is far from adequate. Since, the Ode of the Nightingale is revealed in the pattern of the Tá'íyyih of Ibn-i-Fáriḍ, and after giving consideration to the background information given above, this paper tries to identify that pattern, draw comparison between the two Odes, and explain some of the complexities of the Ode of the Nightingale within the constraints of space.

    The Ode of the Nightingale describes the relationship between the Manifestation of God, who has not yet made any claims, and the Primary Will of God which is also called the Holy Spirit, while the Tá'íyyih of Ibn-i-Fáriḍ expresses his journey towards a beloved who is intentionally left vague, and may be interpreted to be The Essence of Divinity. We note that Tá'íyyih of Ibn-i-Fáriḍ is comprised of numerous conversations between Ibn-i-Fáriḍ and his beloved and a description of the journey he is undertaking to join the beloved. For this reason it is called the 'Poem of the Wayfarer'. From the onset, we note that both Odes are expressing spiritual sentiments but entirely of different nature. One approach for comparing the two odes is to divide each of the two odes into their sub-sections and then find similarities between sub-sections. We note that the Ode of the Nightingale may be divided into six different sections. The first section consists of verses one to nine which describes the beauty and splendor of the Maid of Heaven. In the Poem, Bahá'u'lláh describes her as the most exalted being possible - as the source of revelation and creation. He states that the light of her beauty darkens all other stars, or in verse nine He states:

      The heart of hearts embraced Her eyelid's dart.
      For Her locks' lasso, Being's head was bent.

    The second section consists of verses ten to thirty- six which describe the feelings of love towards the Maid of Heaven that sustains Bahá'u'lláh. The third section includes verses thirty-seven to sixty-one which is the response of the Maid of Heaven to Him. She rebukes Him, explaining that the path of love is rough and may cost one's life. Section four includes verses sixty-two to ninety-seven which is in fact the statement of Bahá'u'lláh's sufferings in the path of His beloved. Section five includes verses ninety-seven to one hundred and twenty-four in which the Maid of Heaven acknowledges His sufferings and encourages Him to continue in this path. Finally, section six consists of verses one hundred and twenty-five to one hundred and twenty-seven which is an expression of bidding farewell and a conclusion for the Ode.

    The sentiment of Divinity had been expressed by Bahá'u'lláh in poems revealed prior to writing this Ode, in particular in the Ode of Sprinkling of the Clouds (Rashḥ-i-'Amá) which was revealed immediately after He had the vision of the Maid of Heaven. The first verse of the Ode of the Sprinkling of the Clouds is:

      On account of Our Rapture the Sprinkling of the Cloud of Unknowing raineth down;
      The Mystery of Fidelity poureth forth from Our Melody.

    Such Odes can shed some light on the meaning of some of the lines in the Ode of the Nightingale, and its comparison with the Tá'íyyih of Ibn-i-Fáriḍ. These issues have been identified and discussed in this paper.

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