Shabistari: This Handful of Dust

Here is a portion of Mahmud Shabistari’s subtle and profound answer to the sixth of fifteen inquiries, collected in the book Gulshan-i raz or Garden of Mystery. For more about Shabistari and this work, see this post. The inquiry asks why, if God is all, the human being is ‘agitated,’ or in a condition of un-rest.  Shabistari replies that the answer is in the covenant made before we were ever born, now written as a lesson of faith within the human heart.

The Sixth Inquiry

If Known and knower are both pure Essence,
what is the agitation of this handful of dust?


Don’t be ungrateful of the blessings of God
since you may know God by His light.

There’s no knower or known except the Real,
yet dust finds itself heated by the sun.

Isn’t it a wonder that bits of dust have hope
and desire the sun’s light and warmth?

Recall the state and condition of your original nature
and regain the source of God-contemplation.

Why did God say, “Am I not your Lord?”?
Who answered in that moment, “Yes!”?*

On that day when man’s clay was mixed,
the lesson of faith was written within his heart.

If you would read that script just once,
you’d know everything that you desire.

*This refers to a widely quoted verse in the Koran, known as the ‘Covenant of Alast,’ which says that when humanity was subsisting within God before the moment of Creation, God asked the assembled souls, “Am I not thy Lord?” and the souls answered, “Yes! We testify!”

Tr. Robert Abdul Hayy Darr

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