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Imam Khomeini’s whispers of immortality

By Ibrahim Usman
At the 2009 Imam Khomeini conference in London, His Eminence Shaikh Ibraheem Zakzaky pointed out that there are so many aspects of the Imam to talk on, his poetry being one of them. Prompted, I take on this rarely discussed aspect, to present a Gnostic’s communion with his Creator and his hidden secret messages imbued with unfathomable mysteries.

With his tongue and pen, Imam Khomeini had during his blessed life delivered to humanity all that he had received from the divine source of grace up to the final days when he proclaimed, “I have done my duty”.

Mystic words and terms used in his poems were figuratively well chiseled and carefully placed, dotted with gnostic expressions that people infer different meanings based on their capacity to comprehend the Imam’s spiritual station. Real meaning of his poetry are not found on the surface but hidden; the reality is understood through allegory.

Imam Khomeini’s poetry is full of unspoken secrets, knitted with passionate and lyrical words and phrases that could not be easily discerned by a hasty and worldly attached mind. However, through Odes and lyrical poetry, the reader is presented with ocean of insights and wealth of meanings into the compendium of his personality and the secret between him and that “Unique Friend” (the Creator), for Whom he lived and in Whose grace he drowned completely. The Imam hinted this in a poem, Love’s Glance:

“O my love, my world begins  

And ends at your door

 If my life be spent here  

 I need nothing more…”

Imam Khomeini was consumed in the heat of divine love and “drunk” with ecstasy of the “wine” which Allah has promised His pious saints in Heaven. For so much desire of that final abode, he sees this world as a cage:

 How crave I from my love’s hand

To drink a cup of wine

O with whom to share this secret

Where to take this grief mine I gave away life in hope

That I could see the Friend’s face

 ‘Am butterfly making rounds of lamp

‘Am seed burning in fireplace.’’

Citing the poem, Lover’s Rapture, Martyr Ayatollah Seyyed Muhammad Baqer Sadr was immensely influenced by Imam Khomeini’s viewpoint that he said: “Melt away in Imam Khomeini even as he melted away in Islam.’’

“Oh for the heart-raptured lover

Rapture’s all that’s in thy wine

For me save this rapture alone

What else has this life’s confine?

If they are a heart-raptured lover;

Put soon then thyself aside

Twixt you and him there’s none.

But wall of your self-pride.’’

To Imam Khomeini, life and existence are worthless if not tied to the stake and under spell of the One and Only Divinity. Man can only attain real freedom and bliss by seeing nothing at long and close range, but the face the Supreme Being, the Constant Companion.

“I have shunned myself love,
So do I now exist?
O have your gracious look at me
This insignificant gist.’’

Completely submersed in unquantified love for the Creator, Imam Khomeini saw as null and void and without glamour, anything that lacks the true love for Allah; even in the mosque, the minaret, the school and the books. This was graphical captured the poem Mass of the Drunk:

“In circles mystic I found not

The pleasantness I sought

In monastery was not audible

The music which love wrought

In school I did not find to read

Any book to be from the friend

In minaret it was hard to find

The voice to be of him to tend

 In love of books I could not see

That veiled beauty’s face

In sacred writs I could not get

The destination’s trace

In idol-house my life’s span

Was wholly spent in vain

 In rivals’ gathering I saw

Neither remedy nor pain

The lover’s ring now must I join

Haply to find for solace

From the rose- garden of the beloved

A pleasing breeze or a trace.”

When other great poets such as William Butler Yeats would in his famous poem, The Lake Isle of Innisfree, would rather see freedom and tranquility in physical movement and complete bodily seclusion in Lake Island against the city pavements, Imam Khomeini prepares souls for a spiritual journey to the platonic station of the Master.

In proclaiming his love for Allah (SWT), the Imam remained brave and fearless. He carries his gallows and cross with every word he penned down, and like Mansoor (Hallaj), cries out: “Anal Haq” (I am the Truth), even if he be hanged.

 “I have shunned myself love
Now truth is none but me
I, too, will see the gallows
As Mansur did see.”

Through articulated arrangement of stanzas, laced by rhythm and well-knitted by somehow ecstatic use of allegorical references, the reader is taken on a spirit journey where only the self and soul are both narrators and audience. Allusions in Imam Khomeini’s poetry are never product of what T. S. Elliot refer to as “tradition and the individual talent”, where the writer is guided by the spirit of his ancestors and his inherent talent. The case of Imam Khomeini is totally different. He was an expert beyond experience, guided by the radiance of the Supreme Being in which he completely melted.

What great poet, the Imam! Contrary to Percy Shelley’s view that, “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world”, the world acknowledged Imam Khomeini as a poet-philosopher, scholar and saint who through sublime verses legislated over people’s divine journey towards the ultimate station. His voice in verses has echoed throughout the world, and will continue to echo forever.