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Aziz Mahmud Hüdayi’s Way To Spirituality: A Sampler

Poems chosen, introduced & commented by Emir Abdülkadir İnanç, and translated by Beliz Demircioğlu & Emir İnanç from the original Turkish. Photograph by Beliz.



Here are three poems from Aziz Mahmud Hüdayi. His poems, beautiful and eloquent in their simplicity, can be taken as literary edifices that continue the “aşık” tradition of Yunus Emre (note 1); however, beyond this they also serve as spiritual guides, or manuals for the Sufi way-farer. The meaning behind these poems are not conceptual but experiential in nature, thus Hüdayi continuously exhorts and guides the attention of the reader through statements like “do, look, perceive, understand”. On another tone, Hüdayi earnestly asks assistance from higher spiritual authorities so that they can bestow their blessing upon Hüdayi as he threads the way. This, alongside the encouragement to take action, is another important aspect of the Sufi way: do what you can do, but be open to grace so that Creator Almighty can deliver the finishing touch. As Yunus Emre says “Hak nasip etmeyince, sen derviş olamazsın / If the Haqq does not bestow it upon you, you will not attain dervishood.” Al-Haqq (note 2) is one of the divine names that symbolises truth and reality, and here it stresses again that without the drop from this ocean the Elixir will not come about.

There are also many Zen-like qualities in his poems; the moment you think you grasp the meaning of the poem, the meaning shifts. It is very hard to say “this” is what Hüdayi meant, and it is this unqualified, unknown, uncertain thread that offers the possibility of a personal understanding, meaning and transformation. For instance poem 145 begins with “Tahkîk eder tasdîkini .. imana ermek isteyen” which might be roughly translated as “Who wants to attain faith, should question and analyze what they believe” and seem as if Hüdayi is speaking about some mental operation. However this would not be the case if we would consider the divine name, al-Haqq mentioned above. “Tahkîk” (note 3) derives from al-Haqq, and it is closer to mean in the tradition to make real, and manifest rather than philosophical analysis of the Sufi creed. What would then be to make real, and manifest? Hereon the rest of the poem begins to flow:

Poem 145

Tahkîk eder tasdîkini
Îmâna ermek isteyen
Bulur hayât iklîmini
İrfâna ermek isteyen

Cânına çok cebr eylesin
Cismin ana kabr eylesin
Eyyûb-veş sabr eylesin
Dermâna ermek isteyen

Kullukda hoş zahmet çeker
Derd ü belâ mihnet çeker
Yûsuf gibi fürkat çeker
Ken’â’a ermek isteyen

Cânın bu yolda hâk eder
Varlık hicâbın çâk eder
Kalbi sarayın pâk eder
Sultâna ermek isteyen

Geçip kamudan mutlakâ
Bulur fenâ-ender-fenâ
Bin kerre cân eyler fedâ
Cânâna ermek isteyen

Her kim dilerse bula yâr
Varlığını eyler nisâr
Cânın verir İsmâîl-var
Kurbâna ermek isteyen

Ol mecmau’l-bayreyn olur
Mûsâ ile Hızır’ı bilir
Her katrede deryâ bulur
Ummâna ermek isteyen


Whoever wants to find faith in its fullness
Experiences the essence of their affirmation
And whoever wants to embody the knowing
Locates the milieu and temperament
That enable Life

Whoever seeks the cure
Tempers their desires and inclinations
Enshrines the now in their body
Practices Patience like Job

Whoever yearns for Canaan
Feels the pain of separation like Joseph
Rejoices in the hardship of servanthood
Suffers the test of tribulations

Whoever yearns to reach the mighty King
Brings to fruition the seed of their soul
Pierces the cover of appearances
Purifies the palace of the heart

Whoever yearns for the Beloved
Transitions from the relative to the absolute
Perishes and perishes again
Sacrifices each bit of the ego
for the greater One

Who wants to come closer
Whoever so sought,
Sanctifies every bit and inch of their existence
Surrenders their life and soul like Ishmael
They shall find their beloved

Whoever yearns for the sea
Becomes the crossing*,
The isthmus between two seas
Knows the reality of Moses and Khidr
Contemplates the sea in each drop

Translation of the Turkish footnote: [mecmau’l bayreyn in Arabic] means “where the two seas meet”. The expression is from the Surat-al Kahf 18 ayat 59: “And remember when Moses said to his young companion, ‘I will never give up until I reach the junction of the two seas, even if I travel for ages.’” This is the station of “qaba qawsayn”, the uttermost union with the Divine at the highest level of Miraj (Ascension).


Poem 86

Ârif ol âyîne-i insâna bak
Anda aks-i Hazret-i Rahmân’a bak

Ko harâbât ehlinin vîrânlığın
Anda mûda’ kenz-i bî-payana bak

Sûretinde Âdem’i halk eyleyen
Şibh ü misli olmayan Sultân’a bak

Semme vechullâh’ı fehmi etdinse ger
Şeş cihetten bî-cihet Cânân’a bak

Keşf olunca sırr-ı tahbîb-i Habîb
Terk-i gılmân et yeter vildâna bak

Fürkat ehline yeter kıldın nazar
Aç gözün vâsıl olan yârâna bak

Geç Hüdâyî sûreti ma’nâyı gör
Katreyi ko lücce-i ummâna bak


Be wise and gaze into the substance of Humanity
Perceive the manifestation of the Rahman
As it is reflected in the now

Let go of the destitution of those who perish
Entrusted to you in this moment
Treasures of His Infinity,
Gaze into it

Contemplate the mighty King
To whom there is nothing similar
He who created Adam in His own Image.

If you have understood
“Wherever you turn, the Face of God is unto you”
From all six-directions look unto
The directionless Beloved

Once the beloved secret of the Friend is unveiled
Let go of the smooth-faced boys
Feel the eternal youth of the reborn

You have watched long enough
Those subjugated by separation
Open your eyes and see the Friends

To perceive the meaning hidden within
Leave the world of appearances oh Hüdayi
Let go of the drop, and gaze upon the great Sea.


Poem 175

Kudûmun rahmet ü zevk u safâdır ya Resûlallah
Zuhûrun derd-i uşşâka devâdır ya Resûlallah

Nebî idin daha Âdem dururken mâ’ ü tin içre
İmâm-ı enbiyâ olsan revâdır yâ Resûlallah

Kemâli zümre-i kümmel senin nûrunla bulmuşdur
Vücûdun mahzar-ı tâmm-ı Hudâ’dır yâ Resûlallah

Seninle erdiler zâta dahı envâ-ı lezzâta
İşin erbâb-ı hâcâta atâdır yâ Resûlallah

Hüdâyi’ye şefâ’at kıl eğer zâhir eğer bâtın
Kapına intisâb etmiş gedâdır yâ Resûlallah


Thy ancient origins bring sweet dew and compassionate rain
oh Bearer of the Unique One
The dawn of your Presence mends the hearts of lovers
oh Messenger of the Unique One

You were a prophet even when
Adam rested in between water and earth
It befits you to be the leader of the Prophets

All who are mature found Maturity in your light
Your Presence fully instantiates the perfection of the Lord
oh Bearer of the Unique One

They experienced Unicity and
The variety of spiritual taste through You
Your activity is a blessing for all those in need
oh Messenger of the Unique One

Manifestly or in secret,
Gift your redeeming touch to Hüdayi
All who are in communion at your door,
Spiritually poor are they
Oh Bearer of the Unique One

visit the link to listen to the poem as performed by Kani Karaca



Note 1, the aşık tradition

Aşık means “lover” in Turkish. It stands for divine love more than the wordly one;  however, the aşık is not a hermit. Their version of divine love is through musical instrument, the metered word, and dialogue. This tradition is one of the marvels of Anatolian culture where many ethnicities and religious creeds came together on the commond ground of divine love. See for instance the book by Mehmet Bayrak, Alevi-Bektaşi Edebiyatında Ermeni Aşıkları (Armenian Aşıks in Alawi Baktashi Literature). Also see the wikipedia article and the unesco page on “Aşık”.

Note 2, al-Haqq

In the book Physicans of the Heart by Meyer et al. the chapter on ya Haqq (ya as an imploration) write:

Throughout his famous book Fusus al-Hikam, ‘ibn ‘Arabi consistently uses the word Haqq instead of “Allah,” and it has driven scholars crazy. Why doesn’t he say Allah instead? In this, his most famous book, he hardly mentions Allah. It is all about Haqq. Haqq does this; Haqq does that. Why he chose to write in this fashion is a fascinating question.

One explanation for this is that the name “Allah” is the all encompassing, ultimate divine name that is beyond any qualification. As human beings, we do not experience him directly but indirectly through our experinece and imagination in this world where we are embodied. The divine name, al-Haqq, on the other hand constitutes a bridge, a transition between what is ultimately unknowable and how it cames to be known through manifestaion. In the English version of the Fusus al-Hikam translated by R.W.J Austin as Bezels of Wisdom, the divine name Haqq is translated as Reality, and the whole book could be taken as an unfolding of the al-Haqq through the reality of the prophets. Consider this excerpt from the opening chapter on Adam:

The Reality wanted to see the essences of His Most Beautiful Names or, to put it another way, to see His own Essence, in an all-inclusive object encompassing the whole [divine] Command, which, qualified by existence, would reveal to Him His own mystery. For the seeing of a thing, itself by itself, is not the same as its seeing itself in another, as it were in a mirror; for it appears to itself in a form that is invested by the location of the vision by that which would only appear to it given the existence of the location and its [the location’s] self-disclosure to it.

The Reality gave existence to the whole Cosmos [at first] as an undifferentiated thing without anything of the spirit in it, so that it was like an unpolished mirror. It is in the nature of the divine determination that He does not set out a location except to receive a divine spirit, which is also called [in the Qur’an XXI:91] the breathing into him. The latter is nothing other than the coming into operation of the undifferentiated form’s [innate] disposition to receive the inexhaustible overflowing of Self-revelation, which has always been and will ever be. There is only that which is receptive and the receptive has been only from the most Holy Superabundance [of the Reality], for all power to act [all initiative] is from Him, in the beginning and at the end. All command derives from Him [Quran II:210], even as it begins with Him.

Al-Haqq, unknowable in itself, expounds and makes it Self present in the mirror of the cosmos. The undifferentiated mirror could be compared to the primary slime, the prima materia; a feminine, watery unity that could be glimpsed at the arcana XVIIII the Moon, that is yet to unfold onto the cosmos, and mature into existence. The center, or say substance of the mirror, is Humanity:

The [above-mentioned] formation is called Man and Vice-Regent [of God]. As for the first term, it stems from the universality of his formation and the fact that he embraces all the realities. For the Reality, he is as the pupil is for the eye through which the act of seeing takes place. Thus he is called insan [meaning both man and pupil], for it is by him that the Reality looks on His creation and bestows the Mercy [of existence] on them. He is Man, the transient [in his form], the eternal [in his essence]; he is the perpetual, the everlasting, the [at once] discriminating and unifying Word. It is by his existence that the Cosmos subsists and he is, in relation to the Cosmos, as the seal is to the ring, the seal being that place whereon is engraved the token with which the King seals his treasure.

Emir Abdelkader also discusses the Mirror of God, and calls the mirror by another name: the Muhammadan Reality. This is an important aspect because as you’ll see in poem 175 it constitutes the basis of the supplication made by Hüdayi to awaken his original nature or as its called in the tradition his fitra.

Note 3, tahkik

The meaning of “tahkik” in the tradition means “to make it Real, experience” rather than to “analyze” as such see Chittick.

Aziz Mahmud Hüdayi: All Poems, published by Kapı Yayınları More about Aziz Mahmud Hüdâyî:
Aziz Mahmud Hüdayi’s Way To Spirituality: A Sampler

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