Shatranj Irfani: A Sufi Game

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Instructions on how to play:

Each player must have a ‘moving piece’ placed originally at the square 0 or the state/realm of Non-Being. Roll a single die until the number 5 is obtained, if 5 is not obtained pass the die to other players and stay in 0 (Non-Being) until the next turn to roll the die. Once the 5 obtained, move to the square 1 or Birth (pass the die to other players). (After Birth) Roll the die once, and no matter what number obtained, move the die that many squares forward. Roll the die until you reach to the Arsh (Divine Throne) and there the game ends (players take turn and each player rolls the die once). On the way, there are many perils i.e. snakes devouring and pushing the player downwards e.g. greed, deception, and evil companion and so on. And there are other elevating short-cuts in shape of a ladder e.g. mercy for the poor or good companion.



0: ‘Adam, Non-Being, Arabic

1: Wilādat, Birth, Arabic 

2: ‘Aql, Intellect or mind, Arabic, see Also:

3: Mihnat: Severe Affiction, Arabic

4: Tahta Al-Tharā: Qur’anic Terminology [20:6], under the surface of the earth, refers to the lowliest of places.
تَحْتَ الثَّرَى

5: Jahārat: Bodily beauty or raising of the voice, Arabic.

6: Luyyam: Accuser, Arabic


7: Khiānat: Betrayer, Arabic

8: Zillat: Lowness, vileness, Arabic 

9: Sha-hwat: Carnal Appetite, Desires, Arabic 


10: Bi-Din: Without any religion, Farsi expression
 بى دين

11: ‘Infi’āl: Becoming ashamed, Farsi.

12: Fi’l Zamimah: Blameworthy Action, Arabic 
 فِعْلِ ذَميمِه


13: Wasāwis: Whispering instilling evil. Arabic


14: Duzakh: Hell, Farsi

15: Hasrat: Grief, sorrow, distress, Arabic

16: Ghamm: Sadness, worry, distress, Arabic

17: Ghadhab: Anguish, Arabic


18: Ta’nih Khulq/Khalq: Scolding others
 طَعْنِه خلق


19: Khushi: Happiness, good times, Farsi 


20: Masti: Durnken-ness, intoxication, Farsi

21: Tama’: Greed, Arabic 


22: ‘Ishq Majāzi: False-love, or the love that is mixed with desires and lusts
 عشقِ مَجازى

23: Dar-yā: Sea, Farsi, it is a Sufi code-word that means the human Wujud (Being) or the absolute existence which is also called Insan Kamil (Perfected Pupil/Eye) a sea since the rest of all other beings are the waves of this absolute Wujud (Being). Dar-yā-yeh Muhit or ocean is the heart of the believer  or the heart of the Insan Kamil. Dar-yā-yeh Nur (Sea of Light) the Batin (Inmost Concealed Core) of absolute Wujud (Being) is the sea of Light. Nasafi (Book Insan Kamil): O Dervish you must reach to this Light, and one should look at this world under this Light to emancipate from the Shirk (Polytheism). Our Sheikh said I reached to this sea of Light and all sleeping eating financial worries and aspirations left me. O Dervish as long as the Salik (Traveler) does not reach this sea of Light and does not drown within it, can never get a whiff of the Maqam (Rank) of Wahdat (Divine Oneness). And whomever did not reach the Maqam (Rank) of Wahdat (Divine Oneness) shall not be ennobled meeting with Allah, and shall not understand and shall not see things as they are, came blind and left blind. O Dervish the sign for the person who is drown within this sea of light are these: In peace with all creation, loves and befriends all, shall not forsake anyone in need of help, misguides no one, beholds everyone upon the path towards Allah.

24: Zamin: Earth, crust of the earth, Farsi. Refers to humility e.g. biting the Zamin or kissing the Zamin.

25: Khauf: Dread, fear, Arabic. This is a Sufi code word: Khashani said that Khauf is one of the Maqam (Ranks) of Tariqat (Way towards Allah) which is when the heart loses the tranquility and confidence envious of befalling of punishments and hardship from Allah. This Maqam (Rank) follows that of the Shukr (Gratitude) when the slave sees that all blessings are descended from Allah, and therefore is certain that also the same way can also send hardship and torment from Allah. Sajjadi: It is narrated from Abu-Umar Damashqi that ‘The person with Khauf is the one who fears his own Nafs (Self) more than the Shaitan (What places distance between the slave and Allah).

26: Wah-shat: Estrangement, loneliness, Arabic.

27: Lāf, Farsi. Self-admiration, Self-worship, Farsi.


28: Daghā Bāzi, Deceit as a practice e.g. a con-artist, Farsi.
 دَغا بازى


29: Suhbat Bad, Bad companion or bad conversation, Suhbat Arabic for company, Farsi for conversation and Bad is Farsi for bad or evil.
  صُحْبَتِ بَد


30: Sah-rā, Desert, Arabic which is a Sufi code word: the spiritual realm (Malakut). Sah-ra-yeh Azal (Sempiternal Desert) is the place where the slaves love Allah and Allah loves them, free of the rest of the creation and the transience of this world. Sah-ra-yeh Hayrat (The desert of bewilderment) the Maqam (Rank) of being perplexed facing the Divine Presence.

31: Aql Bad, Evil mind or evil thoughts, Aql is Arabic for intellect and Bad means evil in Farsi.
 عَقْلِ بَد

32: Bi Ilm, Free of Knowledge. Bi is Farsi for free or without and Ilm is Arabic for knowledge.
 بى عِلْم

33: Hasad: Envy, Arabic. 


34: Falak, an Iranian form of punishment where the feet are tied to a long stick and the soles are beaten.

35: Kūh Tūr, The mountain of Tur. Kuh is Farsi for Arabic Jabal which means mountain. Kuh Tur means a Muzhir (Place for Manifestation) where in Allah does do manifestations ‘You cannot see me, however look at the mountain (Kuh, Jabal) [Al-A’araf:143]. Kuh can also mean the human body and physiology that is the veil for Haqiqat (Reality and Absolute Truth) and at the same time it is the Muzhir (Place of Manifestation) for Allah. In Ghurbatul Ghrabiya Kuh Tur means Mount Siani or this world of the human life.
 كُوهِ طُور

36: ‘Ajz, Arabic for weakness, incapacity or failure, Arabic.


37: Pul-eh Sirāt, Farsi expression for a bridge between the hell and paradise narrower than hair and sharper than a blade. In Irfani (Gnostic) literature it refer to the hardships of the Suluk (Voyage).
 پُلِ صِراط

38: Mercy for the poor.
 رَحْمْ بَرْ فَقيران

39: Suhbat Nik, Good company or goodly conversation, Suhbat in Arabic is company and in Farsi means conversation and Nik in Farsi means goodly.
 صُحْبَتِ نيك

40: Bishārat: Glad tidings, Arabic. In Irfani (Gnostic) literature it means lover’s reaching arriving at That Divine Beloved.

41: Āvāz-eh Khush, a nice song, Farsi.
 آوازِ خُوش

42: Samā’, Arabic for listening or auditioning, it is the songs and dances of the Sufism in their private gatherings.

43: ‘Ishq Haqiqi, the True Unrestrained Love, and that is the love from Allah and for Allah.
 عشْقِ حَقيقى

44: Kharābāt, Arabic for ruins but it is a Sufi code-word which means: Originally it means the ruined houses that served as taverns for serving alcoholic around the Mulims towns. However in Irfani (Gnostic) literature it means the cessation of the human attributes and evanescence of the physiological body. Kharābāti is a person whom through which Ma’refa (Divine Gnosis) emanates beyond his control and volition.

Note: There are many dangers for the person in this loacation:

45: Mahab-bat, Divine Love, Arabic please see:       

46: Aql-eh Nik, Aql is Arabic for the intellect and Nik is Farsi for goodly.
 عَقْلِ نيك

47: Tahqiqāt: Arabic Sufi code-word when the slave is burdened to uncovering the Haqiqat (Absolute Truth and Reality). Also it means the appearance of Haqq (Absolute Reality, Allah) within the Divine Names.

48: Dil Āzāri: Breaking people’s heart and hurting their feelings. 
 دِلْ آزارى


49: Sa’y Bi Kāri Allah, diligence and effort for affairs that deal with Allah.
 سَعْىْ بِكارِ الله

50: Ridhā’: Assent or contentment, Arabic and a Sufi code-word: A Maqam (Spiritual Rank) which is after the rank of Tawkkul (Reliance upon Allah) wherein all the bitterness of the hardship of the Divine Decree is removed. Some said it is finding pleasure within the tribulations and afflictions. Some others said Ridha is exit from the contentment of the Nafs (Self) and entrance into the contentment of Allah.

51: Khāk: Dust or soil, Faris which is also a Sufi code-word which refers to the attribute of un-worldliness and spiritual death prior to the biological cessation.

52: Āb, water, Farsi and it is a Sufi code-word for the deep inmost Ma’ref (Divine Gnosis) a form of knowledge free from all learning, endowed for the human being and found within each person. For more details please see Sajjdi:  

53: Ārām reposed or tranquil Farsi equivalent of the Arabic word Tuma’nina.

54: Shujā’at, bravery, Arabic. The Murids (Seekers of the Divine) step upon the path with utmost of bravery and selfless-ness. The Path is for no coward.

55: ‘A’rāf Khush, Araf is Arabic which means a wall or bridge between the Paradise and Hell. It is a Sufi code-word which is the Maqam (Rank) of Shuhud (Observation) of Haqq (Absolute Reality and Truth, Allah) wherein the observer sees Allah in every object’s potentialities and transience. Khush is Farsi for goodness and niceness.
 اعْرافِ خُوش

56: Mizān, Arabic Sufi code-word for weighing scale. There are scales for different things e.g. there is a scale between the soul and the Nafs (Self) and there is a scale between the heart and the ‘Aql (Intellect). The person uses the scale to ‘balance’ the feelings and actions.

57: Ātash, Farsi Sufi-code word for fire which means the flaming fervor of ‘Ishq (Unrestrained Love) for the Divine Presence. 

58: Havā, Aloft or the attribute of the expanse of atmosphere 

59: Taqwā and Salāhat, both Arabic words which Taqwā means warding off against the Divine Wrath by preemptive measures avoiding that which angers Allah. Salāhat means persistence upon what is dictated by the ‘Aql (Intellect) and Shariat (Prophetic Mannerism). 
 تَقوى وَ صَلاحَت

60: ‘Ilm, Arabi for Divine Knowledge please see Kashani: 

61: Murshid Kāmil, both Arabic which Murshid means the spiritual guide and Kamil means perfected. Ma’sūm Ali Shah in his book Tarā’q said: Murshid is the Muzhir (Place for manifestation) of the ‘Aql (Intellect) and Dalil (Guide) is the Muzhir for the Nafs (Self). Sabziwāri in Sharh-eh Manzūmeh p. 24 said: Kamil is the person within the Suluk (Voyage) has reached a Maqam (Rank) that has cut off all the links and relationships to other than Allah.
 مُرْشِدِ كامِل

62: Bā ‘I’tiqād wa Bandegi: Someone who sincerely and firmly believes in Allah and considers himself or herself a slave devoted to Allah. Ba is Farsi means the possessor of an attribute, ‘I’tiqad in Arabic means someone with firm belief, and Bandegi in Farsi means someone feels willingly or unwillingly the subjugation and submission to a powerful master/owner. 
 با اِعْتِقاد

63: Fa’l Hassana: Good deeds and actions, both Arabic.
 فِعْلِ حَسَنِه

64: Yaqin: Certitude in Arabic, a Sufi code-word for a Maqam (Rank) where all doubts about Allah is removed from the person’s heart and mind.

65: Ālam-eh Bālā: Alam is Arabic which means realm space or universe and Bala is Farsi for high or above. The term refers to the other universe, or heaven.
 عالَمِ بالا

66: Ridhwān: Arabic Consent and Assent, for both Allah accepting and being pleased with the slave and vice-a-versa the slave removes all traces of unhappiness and resistance to Allah’s Decree and Will.

67: Hisāb Dārain: Judgment and accountability for both worlds.
 حِسابِ دارَيْن

68: Sāhib-eh ‘Ilm: Possessor (Farsi meaning of Sahib) of Ilm or Divine Knowledge.
 صاحِبِ عِلْم

69: Iman, Arabic for faith, in absence of knowledge the slave still believes in what is told to him or her by Allah.

70: Shari’at: Arabic for the place for providing drinking water for the thirsty, which also refers to what was placed upon the tongue of the Prophets to guide the people during the daily affairs e.g. commerce, marriage and so on.

71: Tariqat: Arabic for a specialized Suluk (Voyage) e.g. forsaking this life, perpetual Dhikr (Remembrance) and Taharat (Purity and Cleanliness), continuous truthfulness and sincerity. Shari’at is the crust or the skin and the Tariqat is the inmost core.

72: Thawāb ‘Azim: Arabic for Immense rewards and recompense. 

73: Bihisht, Farsi for Paradise.

74: Fanā Fil Wujud, Arabic phrase and a Sufi expression meaning Evanescence within the Existence. This term means the total evanescence and shattering of all else that is not Allah in Presence of Allah, and the disappearance of all else than Allah, and evanescence of Kathrat (Multitude) in presence of rays of Tauhid (Divine Oneness). 
 فَنا في الوجود

75: Fanā Fi Al-Sheikh: This is not a Sufi term best I know.????

76: Mulk-eh Ibādat: The realm or dominion of servitude for Allah. Both words are Arabic but it is a Farsi expression. 
 ملك عبادت

77: Sakhāwat, Arabic for generosity.

78: Haqiqat, Arabic for Absolute Reality i.e. that which cannot be evanesce or destroyed even if the entire cosmos and all humanity perish. 

79: Ma’refa, Arabic for Gnosis and means to get to know Allah. It is not a knowledge or ability that is achieved or learned, it is a given an endowment from the Lord of the Multiverse for each and every human being. 

80: Rūh, spirit or soul, Arabic. 

81: Lāhūt, A realm within which the life flows like a current within all the potentialities. 

82: Jabarūt, Arabic for the buffer between the physical universe and the spiritual realm. Some said that Jabarut is the realm for all Aql (Intellects). Please see Nasafi's:  

83: Fanā Fi Allah, Arabic Sufi expression for evanescence of the slave in presence of Allah.
 فَنا في الله

84: Fanā Fi Al-Rasūl, Arabic expression for evanescence of the slave by means of the Prophet, peace be upon him. Not a common Sufi usage. 
 فَنا في الرَّسول

85: Nubuwwat: Arabic Prophethood. Nabi in Arabic means the one that brings the news i.e. news from the other universe where the souls are.

86: Wilāyat: is Arabic Sufi expression for the evanescence of the slave from all that is his own Nafs (Self) and complete reliance and subsistence upon Allah.

87: Malakūt, Arabic for the universe of the souls and the realm of Ghayb (The Unseen).  Please see Nasafi's:  

88: Nāsūt: related to the 81 Lahut. Lahut is the flowing of life as in currents in all potentialities and Nasut is its space where it flows. If Lahut is the river the Nasut is the river-bed.

89: Shahādat, Arabic for the universe of all observables or our physical realm, which is really not a real place and has no Haqiqat (Reality). 

90: Ghūrūr: Arabic Deception and Delusion, deceiving people or worse deceiving one’s own Self. In Farsi this word also means arrogance or pride specially when the person feels s/he is better than the others.


91: ‘Isrāfil: Arabic the name of a renowned angel; however in Irfani (Gnostic) literature it is also the name of the Insan Kamil (Perfected Pupil). This angel is in charge of giving life to all the living. Insan Kamil also has been coined as the name of other angels as well.

92: Jibri’il: Arabic the name of renowned angel Gabriel. This angel is carrier of the Divine Words to the Prophets. Some said the later stages of the descending of the Divine Words are called Jibri’il.

93: Haqiqat Muhammadi: A form of reality which is the connection between this world and the Ahadiyat (Extreme Divine Oneness). Without Haqiqat Muhammadi there was no way to connect this world to the realm where there is Allah and nothing else. Please see Shams Maghribi's:   
 حَقيقتِ مُحَمَّدى

94: Sidratil Muntahā: Quranic Phrase [53:14]
 سِدْرَةِ الْمُنْتَهَى 

A tree in the 6th heaven (stretched?) to 7th heaven. All things that rise from the earth end at this tree, all things that are sent down also stop at it.

تفسير الجامع لاحكام القرآن/ القرطبي (ت 671 هـ)
 والسِّدْر شجر النَّبِق وهي في السماء السادسة، وجاء في السماء السابعة. والحديث بهذا في صحيح مسلم؛ الأوّل ما رواه مُرَّة عن عبد الله قال: لما أُسْرِيَ برسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم ٱنتهي به إلى سِدرة المنتهى، وهي في السماء السادسة، إليها ينتهي ما يعرج به من الأرض فيقبض منها، وإليها ينتهي ما يهبط به من فوقها فيقبض منها،

95: Bābil ‘Arsh: The Gate to the ‘Arsh (Divine Throne).
 باب العَرْش

96: Mulk Ibrahim: The Abraham’s Kingdowm. 
 ملك ابراهيم

97: Mikā’il: Arabic for the name of a renowned angel. 

98: ‘Izrāil: Arabic for the name of the renowned angel, the giver of death. 

99: Shaitan La’in: The cursed Satan.  
 شَيْطانِ لَعين


History of this board

This particular board for Sufi Muslim Snakes and Ladders Game is found in the collection of Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, similar boards are found, in London and Cambridge collections. We took the Maqams (squares) from early 19th-century Sufi Muslim board, original texts was in Persian and translated from Persian to English. 

I want to offer my gratitude to people who for many years explored with us this tradition of spiritual games: Andrew Topsfield (Ashmolean museum. Oxford), Irvin Schick (Harvard/MIT), Chhote Bharany (India, New Delhi), Vinita Sidhartha (India, Madras) Alim Vosteen (Netherlands, Den Haag).
Sergey Moskalev 
"Science and Religion" Magazine  May 1, 2008
Moscow, Russia

© 2008-2002,  Dara O Shayda