Layla's beauty is the full moon and women are stars,

For what a far cry between stars and the full moon [1].


They he is a crazy man hallucinating of her memory,

But by God, I practice neither sorcery, nor delusion.


For were I to not write my poetry in her memory,

I would refuse, refuse you over my poetry any rule.


For after me, she found no pleasure, and I lived none,

And as such life continues for us till the day of doom.


For nights, I have let idleness be what is steering me,

The night pass and the years pass, and I know none.


It has been some time, that were I to choose

Between it and eternal life in perpetuum.


I would say leave me an hour of idle gossip with her,

Then my life you may well remove.


Were it that her saliva could cure the dead,

Then they would rise up from the tomb.


If Layla is mentioned, I tremble by her memory,

Like how a bird shivers from the rain’s dew.


By loving Layla, I was cured of Layla’s love

Like how a wine-drinker’s cure is more booze.


Did Layla claim I do not love her? Nay!

By the last ten, the odd and even, nights of Ramadan.


Nay! And by he who none knows the unknown ‘cept he,

And by he who in his power the ships in the sea run.


Nay! And by he who called his servant from clay

By he who made the days of sacrifice august.


For like Laylat Al-Qadr [2] over a thousand months,

Such has my Layla been preferred over every human. 


هي البدر حسنا والنساء كواكب

!فشتان ما بين الكواكب والبدر


يقولون مجنون يهيم بذكرها

.وولله ما بي من جنون ولاسحر


اذا ما قرضت الشعر في غير ذكرها

.أبى وأبيكم أن يطاوعني شعري


فلا نعمت بعدي ولا عشت بعدها

.ودامت لنا الدنيا إلى ملتقى الحشر


ليالي أعطيت البطالة مقودي

.تمر الليالي والسنون ولا أدري


مضى لي زمان, لو أخير بينه

.وبين حياتي خالدا أبد الدهر


لقلت: ذروني ساعة وكلامها

.على غفلة الواشين, ثم اقطعو عمري


مفلجة الأنياب, لو أن ريقها يداوى به الموتى

.لقاموا من القبر


اذا ذكرت ليلى أسر بذكرها

.كما انتفض العصفور من بلل القطر


تداويت من ليلى بليلى عن الهوى

.كما يتداوى شارب الخمر بالخمر


ألا زعمت ليلى بأن لا أحبها

.بلي والليالي العشر والشفع والوتر


بلى والذي لا يعلم الغيب غيره

بقدرته تجري السفائن في البحر


بلى والذي نادي من الطور عبده

.وعظم أيام الذبيحة والنحر


لقد فضلت ليلى على الناس

.مثلما على ألف شهر فضلت ليلة القدر


[1] While in the western tradition the full moon portends bad, and especially supernatural, events it is mostly seen as positive symbol in the Islamic tradition. There are ahadeeth or prophetic traditions comparing the noor or light radiating from the prophets face to the brightness of the full moon. The reference here is almost certainly to the brightness of the full moon.

[2] Laylat Al-Qadr, or the night of power, is the night in which the Quran was first revealed to the prophet. It falls on one of the odd nights of the last ten nights of Ramadan, thereby bringing circularity to the sequence began three couplets above. In the eponymous ninety-seventh verse of the Quran, we are told that it (and the blessings earned in it) are better than a thousand months.


Qais Ibn Al-Mullawah, more well known as “Majnoon” or “Majnoon Layla,” was the inspiration for one of the greatest love stories of all time. Living in 9th century Arabia, he fell in love with a girl of his tribe named Layla and wrote her some of greatest love poetry of all time. Having his marriage proposal to her refused by her father, he spent the rest of his life writing her poetry and eventually going mad, the meaning of his name, spending the rest of his days wandering the desert. His story fulfills much the same role in the Islamic/ate world that Romeo and Juliet does in the English-speaking world. As far as the translator can tell, these lines have never been translated to English before.


Thomas Parker is a Muslim-American poet, writer and translator from Texas. He writes his own poetry in English as well as translating from Turkish and Arabic. He is the co-founder and poetry editor for the Bosphorus Review of Books and is currently at work on a debut novel.