Poems: Reflection / The White Deer

white deer

(Note: I’ve been invited to present a series of eight sessions on poetry, I’m calling The Ecstatic Exchange Seminars on Poetry: Intuitions & Enthusiasms. As a foundational text, I’m using this song from the Diwan of Shaykh ibn al-Habib (raheemullah), which has struck me as being, as well as an all-encompassing directive toward sublimest gnosis, a wonderful Ars Poetica for creative contemplation and heart’s action, as well as writing devotional poetry, or poetry of any kind… )


by Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib
(may Allah be pleased with him)

Reflect upon the beauty of His artistry on land and sea
And journey through God’s attributes both obvious and hidden

The greatest signs of God’s limitless perfections are found
Within our souls and on the horizons spread across the world

Contemplate all physical forms and behold their structural beauties
In exquisite order like pearls threaded on a string

Journey through the mysteries of human languages and speech
That give voice to what’s hidden deep within our hearts

Contemplate the mysteries of the body’s flexible limbs
And how our hearts command them so often and so easily

As well as the mystery of how our hearts may turn obediently
But then fall back into creeping darkness and transgression

Journey through the earth with all its varieties of plant life
And note how vast are its flatlands and how many its steep ascents

Fathom the mysteries of all the oceans and their fishes
And their numberless waves held back by an unbreachable barrier

Note the mysteries of the winds and how they bring
Both misty fogs and rain clouds streaming down in drops

Travel through the mysteries of all the starry heavens –
The Throne the Footstool and the Spirit sent by God’s Command

Then you will affirm God’s Unity with the totality of your being
And turn away from illusion and vain doubt and all otherness

You will say, “Dear God, You are what I seek!
My impregnable refuge from wrongs injustices and deceit

You – my only Hope in answering all my needs
You – the One who saves me from every evil and every harm

You – the Compassionate One Who answers all who call
You – the wealth that provides the needy in their need

O Sublime One to You I raise my voice in prayer –
Hurry to me the Opening and the Secret O dear God

By the honor of that sublime one all our hopes depend on
On the Day of Distress when we’re assembled at the Gathering

Upon him God’s blessings as long as Gnostics journey
Through the lights of God’s Essence in His every Self Revealing

And his People and Companions and all those who follow
The Divine Commandments by the sweet nobility of his Way.

(version from translations by Aisha Bewley and Abdurrahman Fitzgerald)


(Since this is all a new venture for me, I can only go by stepping stones laid before me, one at a time. This week we watched a nature program in which an actual white (albino) deer appeared. This reminded me of the great poem of Petrarch (July 20, 1304 – July 19, 1374), in which the white deer appears as a symbolic vision. The first example is in prose translation, the second in a version I’ve made from existing translations from the Italian, and the final one a sonnet from Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503 – 11 October 1542), which is based on Petrarch’s sonnet.)


A white doe on the green grass appeared to me, with two golden
horns, between two rivers, in the shade of a laurel, when the sun
was rising in the unripe season.

Her look was so sweet and proud that to follow her I left every
task, like the miser who as he seeks treasure sweetens his trouble
with delight.

“Let no one touch me,” she bore written with diamonds and
topazes around her lovely neck. “It has pleased my Caesar to
make me free.”

And the sun had already turned at midday; my eyes were tired
by looking but not sated, when I fell into the water, and she

(translated by Robert M. Durling)


A white doe on green
grass appeared to me with two gold horns
between two rivers in a laurel’s shade,
the sun rising in embryonic season.
Her look was so superbly sweet
that I dropped everything to follow her,
like a miser whose trouble seeking treasure
is made easier by deep delight.
The words “Don’t Touch Me” around her beauteous neck
were written in diamond and topaz.
“My Caesar was pleased to set me free.”
The sun was already halfway through its turn,
my eyes were strained by looking, but not done,
when I fell into the water and she was gone.

— Petrarch
(Rime Sparse 190)

Whoso list to hunt, I know where is an hind,
But as for me, hélas, I may no more.
The vain travail hath wearied me so sore,
I am of them that farthest cometh behind.
Yet may I by no means my wearied mind
Draw from the deer, but as she fleeth afore
Fainting I follow. I leave off therefore,
Sithens in a net I seek to hold the wind.
Who list her hunt, I put him out of doubt,
As well as I may spend his time in vain.
And graven with diamonds in letters plain
There is written, her fair neck round about:
Noli me tangere, for Caesar’s I am,
And wild for to hold, though I seem tame.

— Sir Thomas Wyatt


(Finally, a poem of mine inspired by the notion of a white deer, and its enthralling magnetism to the Unseen and the Real…)


It’s even closer than our fingertips
what we’re longing for
and travel for in search of
closer than our jugular

Shangri La lies languorously
always out of reach
its silver trays heaped high with
succulence its windows basking in
perennial sunlight

Darkness wraps the dearness of the
depth we fathom but not distance
and the rhythm of it singing in our
eardrums brings it even closer to us

Can’t call it can’t name it
loss is often the way toward it
less is often more in its regard
as we face the chalk snow always
falling across it

And make the face that was ours before birth
come alive in our eyes then our
nose and mouth and the rest
as if clouds were evaporating away from it
leaving it clear

See the white deer standing so close
on the shore bending to drink then
standing still head held high
before leaping away
its reflection in the water writing in
silvery light our most secret name His
answer to our deepest call?

A moon lightens the picture
and where it was a moment ago
fills with light
I can’t explain why the journey takes us
to the place it does
only to find it’s taken us to our
starting place

A ball of concentrated matter
tightens itself to a point
that speeds through space so fast
it goes nowhere is nowhere then is
all and we liken our destiny to its
fall but it doesn’t fall

I can’t explain why that tiny point soon
covers us over all or
why as we age we haven’t gone
anywhere at all

The white deer bounds through the end of space
faster than light can follow her
and comes up in front of us again to drink
our blood’s clear nectar

Sweet as a vapor trail
flicking its deer’s tail
as we also disappear to be more
tangible to ourselves after all

Closer in a mysterious visibility
to our initial caul


1/28/2003 (from Psalms for the Brokenhearted)

About danielabdalhayymoore

Poet, artist, collagist, publisher, hoping to save a little bit of the world through ecstatic utterance... ordered in balanced lines and unpremeditated images...
This entry was posted in ABDAL-HAYY'S POETRY, amazement, ISLAM/SUFISM, Light, Love of God, Muslim Poetry, POEMS, POETRY, signs of allah, stars and the moon, Sufi Poetry, The Path. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Poems: Reflection / The White Deer

  1. Malika Moore says:

    Thank you for this exquisite beauty!


  2. Maha Khan says:

    i can read this Million times and its still not enough. This is utterly beautiful Subhanallah


  3. joymanifest says:

    Reblogged this on JoyManifest's Blog and commented:
    Brother Daniel Abdul Hayy Moore is a blessed poet indeed. On reading the below, I am honored to be able to reblog it. Especial thanks to him for sharing the deep piece on ‘tafakkur’ = reflection, written by Sheikh Muhammed ibn al-Habib (raheemahullah alai, May Allah bless him with His mercy)


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