The passage was taken from Perfect Harmony, a Sufi poem by Ibn ‘Arabi (1165-1240). Sufi poetry is the written exemplification of a Muslim’s journey to find divine love and knowledge through a direct, personal experience of God. The poem is a testament to the poet’s transcendent love affair with a young Persian woman named Nizham, which means “Hamony. ” Throughout the poem Ibn ‘Arabi symbolically describes the beauty of Nizham and his quest to find her in a series of allusions to nature, describing her in the dazzling sun, in the cool East wind, in the swaying of camels, in the full moon.
The poem is consistent with the style of Sufi literature, which is generally written using figurative language and allegory. The particular section quoted describes the manner in which Nizham has transformed Ibn ‘Arabi. Because of her wondrous beauty and great love, his heart has become able to take on all forms. His heart has been opened and enlightened. His heart is as a pasture for gazelles – peaceful and nourishing to both his body and soul. His heart has become as an abbey for monks – a place of peace, respect and worship. This passage is particularly important because it explains the profound impression left on the heart of Ibn ‘Arabi.
The transformation of heart he describes is more than his love for a woman, but is also a moving spiritual experience that has brought him closer to God. A Perfect Harmony is a beautiful example of Sufi poetry, as Ibn ‘Arabi’s subtle intimations between his love for the exquisite Nizham and the beauty of the movements of the natural world allow the reader to empathize with the poet. In appreciating the language and understanding the true meaning of the poem, the reader is given the opportunity to follow and appreciate the poet’s spiritual journey and is left inspired to embark on a quest of his own to deepen his relationship with God.