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Canvas of the Soul: Mystic Poems from the Heartland of Arabia Paperback – June 16, 2012
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The present book is significant in that it reflects something of that classical expression of spiritual beauty in a contemporary language expressed by a female poet who hails from the land where the Blessed Prophet was born, carried out his prophetic mission and died."
- Seyyed Hossein Nasr
From the Inside Flap
- Tayyibah Taylor
Publisher & Editor-in-Chief of Azizah Magazine
"Nimah is such a questing spirit. We will probably never find the thing we seek, but the quest is validated by the love and desire we put into it. This is the joy of the seeker who never finds and, not finding, finds. These poems are echoes of the Feryad, the spirit's cry: "Help me! I am here, find me!" Read the poems and be there too."
- Mohamed Zakariya
A preeminent ambassador of the art of Islamic calligraphy in USA
"Echoing the traditional Arabic devotional poetry and song of an Ibn al-Farid or Ibn al-'Arabi, Nimah Nawwab's heartfelt, spare, and moving English verses recreate the fire, longing, inspiration, and piercing metaphysical insight of those spiritual classics in a fresh and distinctive contemporary voice, like the intimate yearning heart of the mystic's solitary night-vigil."
-Prof. James Morris
Department of Theology, Boston College and President of the Rumi Institute's international advisory council
"In the days of old, merchants, mystics, and travelers traveled via caravans in quest of riches from this world and the Beyond. They would stop periodically in "stations" to lighten their load, refresh their spirits, and prepare the journey ahead. In this magnificent collection of inspired and inspiring poetry, we as readers are taken along such a journey. Every poem of the remarkable poet Nimah Nawwab, who hails from the land of the House of God and carries the fragrance of the Blessed Prophet, serves as a station for readers to pause, reflect, and replenish our heart and souls. As is befitting of the poetry of the classical Sufi tradition, these poems use the richest of daily symbols to beckon us to return again and again to that majestic and celestial Home that is at once our Origin and our Destination."
- Omid Safi,
Professor of Islamic Studies, University of North Carolina
Author of Memories of Muhammad: Why the Prophet Matters
Top Customer Reviews
Now having read her poems, I take Nimah Niwab's socially-inscribed title as "poetess" to serve as a short hand for "poet-essence," since each phrase on its own and in its synergy is an adhan (call to prayer) of the heart. These are poems that Saint Francis, Saint Therese de Avila, and Saint John of the Cross would have wanted to write. Each of these poems reflects a courageous open-hearted soul-baring courage to share the inner states and stations of the soul. It is fitting that Nimah Nawwab carries the middle name of Isma'il because, as the name means, she is a "listener." She hears the music of the subtle spheres and listens to the signs of God in the most intimate places. The title poem gives one good example:
Rising up from the scorched ground
rise up, rise up
in the raindrops of blessings
step out into the rainbow of serenity
and inhale the aroma of blossoming acceptance
as the canvas of your soul
explodes in radiant colors
beyond our unseeing eyes.
These poems celebrate (as one poem is titled) "the power within," while also honoring the beauty that is without and within. Often she speaks of the "core;" and it is to this core her evocations take us. (Dare I say that this is a work of "Core-an?") This is a book that expresses the courage to seek to see the Prophet (S.A.A.W.S.). And I am personally gratified to see the balance in the subtle-sphere experiences maintained between vision and audition. These poems "...resolve the Final Riddle of the Essence / as you step into the Homeland of Certainty." (p. 89) In this poem there is the perfect balance of attraction to God (majzub) and wayfaring (salik) and the continued meditation, sustained throughout the book on the relationship between salat/namaz and the ascension of the soul as the Prophet Muhammad ascended:
The Inner Tablet
Do you see the writing on the inner tablet of the soul
where knowledge of the intangible resides
where the darkest darkness dissipates
where the cruelty of the friendless world dissolves
As we pass through the nine spheres
entering a nascent threshold
where realities turn and spin
with the turning of the stars
in the sought horizon of Ultimate Unity.(p. 56)
And how refreshing to hear here a message to `be yourself.' (p. 94) Both Saint Francis and Sri Ramakrushna taught that the reason people do not become saints is not so much that they sin, but rather that the carry a sense of "shame" for being who they are: i.e., that one needs to learn how to be oneself, and devote what one can do for God and people, not what one thinks one "should" do for God and people.
This book reflects on the integral relationship between salat/namaz and the blessed Prophet's ascension. This relationship, which deserves to be retained and remembered is done so on pp. 96-97. Reading this verse reminds me of reading Rumi with its pithy wisdom and adventurous metaphors.
The turning of the planets
In the upper realm are but a minute happening
When the angels look down
And dive through the worlds to listen to souls
Speeding on a flight of Devotional Rapture. (p. 97)
I expect that my future immersions (which I already plan) in this masterpiece will yield more wisdom, context, and perspective
And this book itself is a work of art in the art of bookmaking. I am so extremely impressed with how this bookmaker has crafted and illuminated illustrations, illumination, and settings in a way that complements and accentuates the message -- and is in fact a dimension I feel integral to the experience of the poems. The illuminated pages evoke the classical courtly texts of Islamic scholarship and Islamic arts. Not only is Canvas of the Soul: Mystic Poems from the Heartland of Arabia, (Tughra books) a text with a beautiful message, but this book is also an objet d'art to be treasured for one's own experience of beauty and a perfect gift to be given and to give to people who care about beauty and to whose lives you would want to add such aesthetic beauty that advances an important spiritual message while contributing an aesthetically rewarding work of art.
Nimah Nawwab's book is a service to humanity. Imagine if this book were someone' first introduction to Sufism. One would immediately know that God is Beautiful and loves Beauty (inna Allahun Jami wa yuhibbu Jamal.) This is a book that attracts people to advance in their absorption in beauty and aspire "Toward the One, the Perfection of Love, Harmony, and Beauty," as Hazrat Inayat Khan taught us is the nature of God.
Review by H. Talat Halman,
Assistant Professor, Religion,
Central Michigan University
While reading this book, I was going through a difficult time in my life-a divorce. Times such as these, we look for comfort and peace so that everything can make sense. The poetry touches one's heart in a spiritual way that helps through whatever we may going through or perhaps just to find peace in our busy days.
My favorite poem thus far is The Arena. It reflects so much of my life at this time.
Come, come face to face
rekindle the flame of truth.
Look past the frayed, the marred
the stain of imposed dictated musts
let the chambers, walls and doors
implode into a new arena
where the face to face
brings forth a rebirth
and the Path Maker supersedes all.
This is simply one of the poems. I highly recommend everyone to buy this book. This is not a book that you will easily "misplace" or "forget" about. You will be changed. The artistry inside the book is also amazingly captivating.
Thank you for writing such masterpieces that they could change someone's life by a simple moment of peace.
Go seek a love like this, if you truly live,
Or else remain the slave of time,
And whatever state you seek,
Your lips so dry, must always drink,
Drink up and up,
Till dry lipped still, you reach the source.
For all your skills here given wealth,
Your quest, you handicrafts and works,
Don't they begin in thought,
Begin beside the river?
A beautiful beginning, indeed.