When I first heard this song I felt utterly transfixed by the male voice and the vibrations of each word that filled me. I discovered the voice came from the wonderful (مُعجِب) contemporary Jordanian musician Mohannad ‘Atallah (of the group Faraqa Shark, “East”), and the words from the 10th century Sufi mystic Mansur al-Hallaj. Desire for complete unity with God, leading to an utter annihilation of the self, where human nature becomes divine nature through ecstatic trance –this is the state of marvel described in this poem.
Two becoming one is a common theme in Mansur al-Hallaj’s writing on mystical love for God. Yet it is impossible to not think of profane love, especially when hearing Mohannad ‘Atallah’s rendition. Though he calls ya Allah, ya Allah at the end, the longing in his voice is the longing of passionate love songs (حنين). For to be one with the other, for both bodies to be so close that they form one single body, to lose all sense of separation, is the ultimate fantasy of desire. Psychoanalytically speaking, Lacan mentioned that the child’s relationship with the mother is one of identification idéale, d’une expérience de l’unité; our sexual impulses during adulthood come from a desire to return to this loss unity. We, as humans, feel incomplete, and need to experience the “other” (be it the sense of divinity or another human) for completeness. Sufis and hopeless romantics are really seeking the same thing.
عجبتُ منكَ و منـّـي يا مُنـْيـَةَ المُتـَمَنّـِي
I was marvelled by you and by me
Oh destiny of desire
أدنيتـَني منك حتـّـى ظننتُ أنـّك أنـّــي
You drew me closer to you until
I thought that you were me
وغبتُ في الوجدِ حتـّى أفنيتنـَي بكَ عنـّــي
I disappeared in ecstasy until
You made me vanish from myself into you
يا نعمتي في حياتــي و راحتي بعد دفنـــي
Oh my blessing during life
and my rest after my burial
ما لي بغيرك أُنــسٌ من حيث خوفي وأمنـي
Other than you, I have no companion
Whenever I am in fear or at peace
يا من رياض معانيـهْ قد حّويْـت كلَ فنـّـي
Oh from the garden of his meanings
I gathered all the arts
وإن تمنيْتُ شيْــــاً فأنت كل التمنـّـــي
And if I desire anything
Then it is you, who are all desire.
The poem’s first verse calls the addressee مُنـْيـَةَ المُتـَمَنّـِي, muniya meaning “fate, destiny” and even “death”, and mutamanni “the object of desire”– both come from the root mana, meaning to afflict or to desire. This root returns in the last verse with the verb tamanit (“I desired”) and tamanni (“object of desire”). “Destiny of desire” may sound strange; it means that which desire would drive the poet towards, as if by divine will. Is this desire the ultimate “death of desire”, which is another meaning that can be extracted from muniya? This is possible, especially since the poet invokes dafn, a burial.
The phrase “garden of meanings” may also strike one as non-sensical, but in medieval Arabic writing “meanings” are things that are spoken of as if one could hold them in one’s hand. Hallaj has written in other verses: “In him all of the supreme meanings: and then/this man will understand.”