al-Ma`rifa

I went over to the Translator, opened the tray, fed it the piece of paper. I waited, nodded to one of the bin men, who scuttled silently past, and then took the translation and the original, stuffing them in my pocket almost furtively. On the steps of the Library, I pulled out the translation. I read it standing still, the way one does with a love letter, checking that all is well and keeping it to savor in detail later. The translation read:

The blessed Imam al-Junayd–peace be upon him!–has said: If I knew that under the sky there was a science in this world nobler than that in which seekers of ma`rifa contemplate, I would have engaged myself to buy it and would have toiled in the best way to acquire it until I had done so.

There followed some coding and the word ma`rifa repeated in Arabic and in Roman script, indicating that the word was not within the structuring of the Translator. I smiled at this. I pocketed the papers again and ran lightly down the steps of the Library…

(Dallas, Ian. The Book of Strangers: A Novel, New York: State University of New York Press, 1988)

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Filed under Islam, Poems/Quotes, Religion, Tasawwuf

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